When ZOE Founders Michael and Carol Hart first moved to Thailand in 2002, their faith in the Lord was stretched. “I couldn’t see the beauty around me because I was so fearful,” said Carol Hart. “Everything, everywhere, every day was scary for me. At that time, my faith in God was weak. I was questioning, will God provide for ZOE and all that we need every day?”
Six months before the Harts started ZOE, the US State Department had just begun. Trafficking in Thailand was a criminal enterprise, and they didn’t have experience in law enforcement. Unfortunately, there was no one to learn from or follow, no experts to ask, or conferences to attend. “We had to figure out how to live in this extremely foreign country and learn quickly what human trafficking looks like. We had to learn how to find a child who is trapped in this situation and understand how we can legally do this kind of work in this country.”
The children’s home the Harts took over was on the verge of closing. “We had 47 teenagers in our care,” added Carol. “We were told so many scary stories from those who came our way currently doing what we were going to do. We didn’t know one Thai person.”
The Harts did not believe their purpose and mission was to help only a few and put band-aids on the child trafficking problem. “Since day one, we have prayed and agonized over this heinous crime against children. We studied ferociously with the ultimate goal to end child trafficking,” said Mike and Carol. “As we worked, we asked this question, ‘How can we end it in a developing nation like Thailand and someday prove how to end it in a developed nation like the USA?.'”
Michael and Carol’s hearts broke as they learned about the depths of sin and corruption centered around child trafficking. Each day they cried out to the Lord, face down, laying on the ground praying for guidance from Him.
“We built up our team in Thailand and began to work with the Thai Police and little by little rescue children,” said Carol. “As the rescues would happen, we learned that there wasn’t a place for the children to get help from the trauma that they experienced from being trafficked or even protected from dangerous situations. We began asking ourselves, ‘How are the traffickers getting these children?’ For years, it was as if we were in the river, pulling children to safety. But then, we began to look upstream asking, ‘Who is throwing these children in the river?’ This was when our eyes turned to prevention as well.
The Harts worked tirelessly for 2 1/2 years to establish ZOE Thailand’s non-governmental organization (NGO), granting them legal status by Thailand’s government, which enabled the foundation to own and operate ZOE Children’s Homes. Today, ZOE Thailand sits on a 35-acre campus, housing a home that can accommodate up to 250 children, a boys’ shelter, and a Child Rescue Center. ZOE also operates a 2-year, live-in leadership school for young adults, focusing on developing indigenous leaders, child advocates, and evangelists.
God’s favor has been on ZOE from the beginning with numerous miraculous stories of rescue and restoration, unsolicited generosity, partnership with local and federal governments, and gifted team members brought at just the right time.
“As we look back and reflect over the last 20 years, we are in awe at His promises and provision to us and all that God has done through ZOE,” shared Mike and Carol. “He has brought the people and provided the funding. We are indebted to our God who is FAITHFUL and REAL and TRUE and allows us to continue this work to fight to reach people with the gospel and rescue children.”