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What took so long for someone to find me and tell me about Jesus?

April 26, 2022

This was what we thought she would say. We assumed this was, understandably, going on in her heart when we saw her agitation build. But what she said when our caregiver spoke with her was much more profound. She said something that I will never forget, something that still echoes in my heart and mind years later and helps reinforce our purpose and focus.

“We learned about a 13-year-old girl in Thailand, a virgin, who was going to be auctioned off at a brothel; the police started planning her rescue and asked ZOE to get involved,” shared Carol Hart, ZOE Founder, and President. “The situation was complicated because of who owned this brothel. We had to proceed with extreme caution, yet quickly.”

When rescue day came, the team found the girl they knew would be there and found and rescued another young girl who had been in the brothel for months.

“The second girl we rescued had seen unimaginable horrors – daily, men would pay to torture her and rape her multiple times a day, realities that are hard for us even to wrap our minds around,” continued Carol. “Usually, in a situation like this, we prefer to separate the survivors right after the rescue to give them time to process and heal in the safest way possible. But with the complications of this specific situation and necessary increased security, we had to keep the girls in the same location and room, which was the safest place we had.”

When the girls arrived at ZOE, they spent time with our loving caregivers and staff, who loved them unconditionally.

After a few weeks, the girls learned who Jesus was by asking the question, “Why are you helping us?” After several weeks the girls asked if they could ask Jesus into their lives. AND they also asked, “CAN WE HAVE A BIBLE?”

“Both girls read their Bibles every day, but the second girl we rescued, who was at the brothel longer than the first and had endured great trauma, read her Bible voraciously,” shared Carol. “It was as if she was looking for something. She couldn’t get enough of what she was learning and discovering in the Bible.”

The concern with having both girls in the same room directly after rescue began to grow as the second girl who had seen horrors became agitated and angry. The team wondered if she would start comparing her experience with the other girl who had been rescued before being sold.

“Our caregiver saw her pacing, tears in her eyes from frustration. They slowly approached, preparing for what was going to be a tough conversation,” continued Carol. “But she said something shocking and unexpected.”

With passion, she exclaimed, “WHAT TOOK SO LONG FOR SOMEONE TO FIND ME AND TELL ME ABOUT JESUS! Why didn’t anyone tell me about Jesus sooner? For 16 years, I’ve had so many questions…Who made me, where am I going when I die? Does anyone see me? Is this going to be my life? Do I have a future? I’ve found my answers in the Bible you gave me!

After I gave my life to Jesus, I felt freer and lighter. The weight on my shoulders was gone! Why didn’t anyone tell me sooner? You are Christians, right?! What takes so long for you to share with others about Jesus – my whole life, no one ever told me about Jesus!”

This girl, who had experienced unimaginable emotional and physical pain and abuse day after day, was angry, but not for the reasons we assumed. When she gave her life to Jesus, that was the most important thing in her life. She said, “My rescue from the brothel is nothing compared to knowing Jesus, my eternal Rescuer!” She truly understood the power of the gospel.

Carol shared, “That moment and those words from her perspective changed me forever. Yes, we will work until our last breath to rescue children who are trafficked whether they want Jesus or not – that’s 100% their choice, but we are missing true HOPE and FREEDOM if we aren’t reaching people with the gospel.”

ZOE Australia Works to Bring Awareness to Human Trafficking

March 21, 2022

In Australia, it is estimated that for every victim of modern slavery who is detected, four victims go undetected.  In addition to this, the number of cases involving children reported is low when compared to other countries.

In Australia, child abuse and the spread of child abuse material is on the rise as more Australians access the dark web with Police reporting ‘a disturbing increase in Australians downloading and sharing illegal images (or children) during the coronavirus lockdown period.’

ZOE Australia is expanding our awareness and education in 2022 with plans to increase our school and community prevention programs.  ZOE Australia needs more staff to join us, so that we can work holistically to increase understanding of the problem of child trafficking in Australia. We know that as we enhance our prevention work, there will be an increase of victims identified and this will enable ZOE to provide restorative support services for children and their families in the future.

 

ZOE Australia Celebrates its Ten-Year Anniversary

ZOE Foundation Australia (ZFA) was established in 2011 and is part of the global movement of ZOE International. Last year ZOE Australia celebrated its ten-year anniversary. It was not possible to do an event due to the restrictions from Covid. The team chose to send out a candle as a symbol. The inscription on the candle read:

You have brought light into some of the darkest places imaginable and we want to take a moment to show you our gratitude for your support over the past 10 years.

As you light this candle, let it remind you what you have been a part of.

You have helped to prevent, rescue and restore children’s lives. And for that, we say thank you.

ZOE Mexico Brings Life to Children and Families

March 21, 2022

Six-year-old Juan* and seven-year-old Monica* live with their 24-year-old mom. Their home life involves violence, abuse, and extreme poverty. Their father is an alcoholic and works in a very poorly paid job in Mexico as a distributor of tortilla dough.

“Juan and Monica attend E-kids Global School,” said Mariela Ambrosio, ZOE Mexico Director. ZOE Mexico has partnered with E-kids Global School to provide free education for children who are at risk of human trafficking. “In only a few months, they have shown great interest in learning, and their lifestyle at home has changed.”

Their mother appreciates that now her children can go to school. She expressed her gratitude to us and said, “I no longer worry about what they are going to have for breakfast or lunch tomorrow.” 

Juan and Monica have received psychological and medical help at E-Kids Global School, and every day they show more affection with the other children. 

At ZOE, we believe every child should experience the abundant life Christ died for them to have. We are grateful to love and care for families just like Juan and Monica through the E-Kids Global School.

*Pseudonym: ZOE protects the identity and dignity of children and does not share actual names or show trafficked children’s faces.

 

ZOE Mexico Prevention Campaign

The ZOE Mexico team has been working diligently to provide sexual abuse prevention and awareness training, workshops, and conferences to select churches in Mexico. 

“In coordination with ‘Protect Me Project,’ the ZOE Mexico team researched and located churches in highly marginalized areas that we could work with,” said Mariela Ambrosio, ZOE Mexico Director. “Our team has been sharing with pastors and leaders of these churches the importance of being aware of the different strategies used by internet traffickers. Some of these activities included videos and interaction with muppets for children, interactive talks with teenagers and young people, and prevention talks for parents. It is our desire for these pastors and leaders to direct people who need advice on prevention issues to the ZOE Mexico team and provide support to all those interested in knowing more about Jesus.”

“I recognized that I was a victim of sextortion.” 

March 21, 2022

A Survivor’s Story

Kanako* is a typical teenager. She likes to hang out with friends and dreams about a steady boyfriend. She has been researching her options to go to a university in a few years. When the stress of upcoming exams and strained relations with her parents became too much, she was relieved to meet a young man online who she believed understood her. “I was nervous at first, but I got to know him through video calls,” said Kanako. “He reassured me that he was someone I could trust.” 

Soon after he began pushing Kanako to send nude photos and videos of herself, and she reluctantly agreed, afraid to lose the only steady relationship in her life. “Once he got the photos I sent, he stopped talking with me and started to cyberbully me before breaking all contact.”

At her lowest point of devastation and fear, Kanako came across ZOE Japan’s content on Twitter. Reading through ZOE’s prevention posts, she realized that she is not alone and that other girls have also gone through the same thing! “I reached out to ZOE via a LINE message and shared my story with the ZOE staff. I recognized that I was a victim of sextortion and that this guy was committing a crime!” With ZOE’s help, Kanako received legal advice at no cost and proceeded with the next steps to bring the perpetrator to justice. We praise God for the opportunity to bring hope and restoration to survivors like Kanako.

*Pseudonym: ZOE protects the identity and dignity of children and does not share actual names or show trafficked children’s faces.

Definition of sextortion: the practice of forcing someone to do something, particularly to perform sexual acts, by threatening to publish naked pictures of them or sexual information about them. (Source: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/sextortion)

ZOE Japan 2021 Quarter 4 Impact:

  • Japan’s Hotline – Our Japanese and English podcasts extend their reach and recently surpassed 1,000 downloads with listeners in 60 different countries.
  • 14 Presentations/Awareness Opportunities
  • 20 Outreach/prayer walks
  • 30 Interviews with survivors
  • 11 Schools distributed ZOE prevention materials
  • 41,000+ Social Media Profile Visits

ZOE Los Angeles First Quarter Update

March 21, 2022

ZOE Advocacy Program

Thanks to you, our donors and partners, the children that ZOE serves in our Advocacy Program, and our ZOE Home for Youth experienced a wonderful Christmas, being reminded that they are loved and valued. More than 50 children in our Advocacy Program received items from their wishlists, gift cards, Christmas stockings full of gifts, and more, all donated! The holidays can often be a painful time for our children as they long to be with family they can’t be with or long to have a family of their own, often leading them to hurt themselves or engage in harmful activities. The youth were reminded by you how loved and precious they are. One child received a keyboard she requested to practice piano. Another child received a nail kit set to practice nail design, part of her future vocational goals. These are healthy activities to bring joy and positive coping skills. 

ZOE Home for Youth

At ZOE’s Home for Youth, the girls were all giddy for Christmas. “They asked if they could open their Christmas gifts at midnight instead of waiting until Christmas morning,” said Vickie McCoy, ZOE’s Residential Manager. As they opened the gifts they received, they screamed with excitement. The youth shared, “I have never received this many gifts before!” Material gifts cannot fill the pain and holes left by the trauma and abuse they have experienced, but celebrations with staff and each other, meaningful conversations, and messages of hope created a sense of family and belonging that they have not experienced in a long time or ever before.

Thank you to all our donors, churches, and partners who made this Christmas so special! 

Operation Reclaim and Rebuild

Operation Reclaim and RebuildAs part of the LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, ZOE partners with law enforcement, social workers, and other government and community agencies to help recover children from human trafficking and provide ongoing support to the children and families.

In February, ZOE took part in a week-long state-wide effort to combat human trafficking called Operation Reclaim and Rebuild. Sixty-five adult and 7 minor victims were recovered, 182 males were arrested for soliciting prostitution, and 30 suspected traffickers and exploiters were arrested.

We applaud the LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force for doing a great job arresting traffickers and recovering victims of human trafficking during this week-long operation. “We need our police force to help us end child trafficking,” said Dave.

Please join with us and pray the survivors get the support they need and those who exploited others get the justice and resources they need to stop hurting others.

ZOE East Coast Helps Launch Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Task Force

March 21, 2022

On January 11th, which was National Human Trafficking Awareness Da, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Task Force was launched. ZOE International is privileged to be a part of this task force. Our East Coast staff was a vital part of conducting the research and building the structure for the task force, which is composed of three components: 1. law enforcement and prosecution, 2. victim restorative services, 3. community outreach.

Lancaster County DA SealOver the past year, members of ZOE conducted interviews and garnished data from Pennsylvania human trafficking task forces and implemented ZOE International’s global best practices to craft the structure of the task force. Data from the US State Department’s Trafficking In Person’s (TIP) report and the Department of Justice/Office of Victims of Crime’s human trafficking task force suggestions were also implemented. The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Human Trafficking task force is a comprehensive array of supporting services with a victim-centered approach for trafficking victims. This task force also will be beneficial in prosecuting traffickers in Lancaster County.

“Precious to God Just the Way We Are”

March 20, 2022

We recently finished the final touches and furnishings for our new Short-Term Protective Home for girls in Thailand. This home is a place of rest, healing, and restoration for girls who will eventually be reunited with their families after their cases are concluded. Every item in the home, the furniture, decor, and accents were all chosen and placed with care and love—all with the healing and well-being of these girls in mind.

The day before the home was opened and prayed over by our staff and leaders, some of our newly-rescued girls and ZOE moms came to help finish the preparations. As they headed into the space and began to explore the rooms, you could hear them exclaim, “This is so beautiful,” or, “This will be my room,” and, “I love my new home.” Then, as they began to help put things in place, one of them picked up the Max Lucado book, “You Are Special,” translated into Thai. She began flipping through the pages and looking at the photos and then flipped back to the beginning and read the story. She would stop to ask one of our moms a question, listen to the answer, and then continue reading. This went on until she finished the book.

A brief synopsis from Amazon reads, “You Are Special is a beautiful story that reminds us that we are precious to God just the way we are. It is through spending daily time with him that we begin to see ourselves through His eyes.” We want every child who comes to us to know this truth and know that they are precious and unique. Later we heard that the girl who read the book chose to give her life to God and ask Jesus into her heart.

Orphaned & Rejected – 2nd Child Rescued by ZOE in Thailand

February 22, 2022

*Busaba’s parents died when she was very young, and she went to live with her grandparents. Friends and people in her village made fun of her and called her “bad luck” because she no longer had parents. Rejected by all, she was vulnerable to being sold for trafficking.

Busaba came to ZOE’s home when she was 7 years old. “When she walked through we greeted her with a round of applause and cheers by the ZOE family,” said the ZOE Thai Staff. “It made her feel so loved and welcomed! She was impressed as a little girl.”

While living in the home, Busaba was constantly surrounded by people who loved her. Her ZOE parents became her true parents and showed her how to live in a godly way. From the time she first stepped into the ZOE home until now, Busaba feels like ZOE has given her everything she needed that she lost. She is loved and feels confident. She is thankful that she was able to receive her education and finish her Arts at the university.

“ZOE is a place anointed by God to help and rescue children,” said Busaba.

When Busaba finished high school, she prayed to God and said, “God, you are good, and I am here because of you. If you need me, use me. I will do anything for you or ZOE.” She wanted God to use her talents and giftings to her full potential. God answered Busaba’s prayers, and today she is working for ZOE.

“These kids need help and comfort from God – not only for their physical needs but also for their soul and spiritual needs,” said Busaba. “There is so much love poured out at ZOE. And you see the kindness and grace of God over this place. This is the place of hope for the children.

I pray for ZOE’s future – that it is full of happiness and that many more kids will be rescued. I pray God will bless them with more land to grow bigger and grow around the world. I am also praying for ZOE to be in many more countries. I pray for every person who walks onto the ZOE property – whether it’s a visitor or a rescued child – that ultimately, they will see and be touched by the love and power of God.”

The people in the villages who called Busaba “bad luck” now see her differently. After losing her parents, they see how God has worked in her life, and they are amazed at what God has done in her.

This year, ZOE International celebrates 20 years of reaching people with God’s love and a mission to rescue children from the horrors of human trafficking.

*Pseudonym: ZOE protects the identity and dignity of children and does not show trafficked children. Busaba permitted us to share her story to honor what God has done in her life while being under ZOE’s care.

Orphaned at 8 – First Child Rescued by ZOE

February 15, 2022

*Kulap experienced loss and trauma at a very young age. Most of her immediate family, including her parents, older brother and sister, and grandparents, died when she was young.

“I remember as a young child feeling so alone, and I missed my parents very much,” said Kulap. “I was very afraid all the time and had no self-confidence,” said Kulap. 

The one family member that was still alive was her aunt. She took care of Kulap but became mentally ill because of all the loved ones in the family whom she had lost. “She was absent-minded and could not care for herself,” said Kulap. “Every time I returned to the village, I would shower her and cut her hair and nails for her.” Young Kulap was highly at risk of being sold into trafficking.

Kulap was 8-years-old when she came to live at ZOE Children’s Home in Thailand. ZOE parents and missionaries made a significant impact on her life. “They worked so hard and devoted their lives to us,” shared Kulap. “They served tirelessly and instilled in me faithfulness and integrity.” Currently, Kulap is working at a jewelry exporting company where she must work with the highest level of honesty and integrity. Learning the value of integrity at a young age has helped Kulap keep her job while many of her coworkers were terminated because of their dishonesty. Kulap added, “I was also taught the value of humility by ZOE, which has helped me work well with others in my job.”

Kulap is now 27-years-old. As she has grown up and matured, she has overcome the fears she once had at an early age. “I am kind of proud of myself,” said Kulap. “I also have more self-confidence. I still cry sometimes, but I can work with various people in my current job. I am much better than when I was a child. I am very happy that ZOE continues to help more children who are in the same situation as I was. If there is no ZOE, many children living in the dark, hopeless world might not know how they will continue to live. ZOE taught me to walk on the right path. They always protect me, walk alongside me, love me, and keep me comforted. They gave me what was lacking in my life. ZOE trained me to grow up and become a quality leader. ZOE is a place that provides love and safety. It is a place that trains and teaches children like their own children. ZOE is a place that gives hope and a future. I pray that ZOE will receive abundant blessings and not lack anything. I pray for blessings over the staff and missionaries that are serving there now and in the future. I pray they will all be strengthened by God and He will continue pouring out blessings upon them.”

*Pseudonym: ZOE protects the identity and dignity of children and does not show trafficked children. Kulap permitted us to share her story to honor what God has done in her life while being under ZOE’s care.

God’s Favor Has Been on ZOE From the Beginning

February 8, 2022

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.”

“I hear their cries, and I need your life…”

January 17, 2022
Michael and Carol Hart first heard about human trafficking in 2002. “A visiting missionary spoke at our church and shared that people in Thailand are buying and selling children for sex and labor,” shared Carol Hart, ZOE Founder, and President. “We learned that day that a person can get a little boy and little girl MENU on the street corner and choose who they want for the night. I felt like I screamed out loud! I was so shocked, and I continued to scream inside as I heard that children were being enslaved in my generation. I couldn’t believe it!”
When Carol was a young child
When Carol was a young child, her parents shared with her and her siblings about slavery happening in the U.S. “I remember watching the mini-series Roots and feeling crazy mad at that part of our history,” shared Carol. “I felt so frustrated, and I cried and cried in anguish wishing I could help rescue just ONE person – to cover them with my body so they wouldn’t feel the whip or give them relief from the cruelty and pure evil they were experiencing. Even if I died trying to help them, I meant it. I thought to myself, where are all the Christians? I went to God in prayer, and I remember hearing Him say, it wasn’t my generation, so it’s not my fight. You can’t do anything about the past but learn from it. So, with God’s help, I let it go.”
Carol learned about the Holocaust from her parents
Later, Carol learned about the Holocaust from her parents as a young adult, and she felt the same fierce anger she experienced as a young child. “I was so angry to tears, and still today I cry about it,” said Carol. “I thought, where was everyone when this happened? And like before, I had to go to God to get relief from the pain and sorrow I felt because I would have given anything to save ONE innocent JEWISH man-woman-child. But like I heard God say before, there’s nothing you can do about the past – learn from it.”
It’s my generation, my fight
Fast forward to that day at church when Mike and Carol heard what was happening to children who were enslaved in other countries. “I ran to my office at the church where I was working and fell on my knees in tears and cried out to God, ‘I am alive, and this is my generation, and so it’s my fight,'” said Carol. “I know you are doing something about it because you are a good God. So Father, please allow me to help. Anything, anything I have, anything you ask. When I shared my anguish with my husband Michael, he felt the same way, and we both knew we needed to act. Together we crawled up into God’s heart in prayer and waited for a response. Five days later, we heard God say, ‘I hear their cries, and I need your life. Don’t worry about money. I have people who have my heart that will help you.’ ”
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.”