Thoughts From A ZOE Social Worker During Covid-19

May 8, 2020

While the world is confronting crisis, God’s blessing is still present. His helping hands are with His children as He promises.

When we were first told that we would need to work from home, I began brainstorming… How could we work efficiently and how could we plan, manage, and assign a tasks to each other? God has shown me new ideas and helped me realize that my work should be run well everywhere! If we still need to work from home, our work performance should still be professional. My home can become a home office.

During a quarantine time, I’ve had the chance to think on God’s mercy and blessing in my life. Many times God shows me the face of our ZOE leaders and I am thankful for them. They are great blessings, good role models, and have servants hearts like Jesus.

I feel grateful to be able to serve Him together with ZOE. Thankful for God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Many people are crying for help during this time, and God allows us to be the answer. The coronavirus may lock us at home, but it cannot stop us from serving our almighty God!

Thankful for all ZOE leaders and our supporters so we can continue serving children and others in many areas.

– ZOE Social Worker

Evangelism Through English Ministry in Japan

May 7, 2020

Schools are still closed down in Japan. At the J.O.Y. Club staff meeting, it was decided that J.O.Y. Club would be closed until public schools are reopened.

Joy Tani, the ZOE missionary who oversees the J.O.Y. Club English teaching ministry reports that one fifth grade boy, “Taku,” who has been in J.O.Y. Club for only one year had some amazing questions about Jesus. As he was leaving J.O.Y. Club this year, we really felt he was ready to receive Christ and gave him the opportunity at his last class. What a joy to see him raise his hand and pray together with the Bible  time teacher to ask Jesus into his heart. 

We had 6 students leaving J.O.Y. Club this year and with every child, Joy was able to tell each one individually before leaving, “Remember, your teacher Joy loves, but Jesus loves you more!” 

J.O.Y. Club was started over 20 plus years ago. Each year we have seen children and even parents accept Christ in J.O.Y. Club classes and at our family outreaches. But in the past 2 years, we have never seen so many children so willing and eager to accept Christ in such a short amount of time.

At our last J.O.Y. Club family outreach, we had a J.O.Y. Club father accept Christ. He is now doing English classes with Joy and Bible time with Hiromi, a ZOE national missionary. It’s wonderful to see how open he is during the Bible time. 

As April is the start of the school year here in Japan, we have not been able to advertise about J.O.Y. Club as much as we normally do because of the Corona Virus.

Please join us in prayer that we would have more children and families to minister to this year once the pandemic is over.                                                                                

We so desire more opportunities to share about Jesus in this beautiful nation of Japan.

*header image taken before Covid lockdown

The Fight In Australia

April 29, 2020

ZOE’s work in Australia to prevent, educate, and bring awareness to trafficking continues. Although the corona virus has affected the movement of our team, and restricted school, church, and small group visits, each staff member is working from home, staying in contact with each other via video calls, and collaborating on projects in preparation for the future.

ZOE Australia team of men and women on ZoomBrett Gottle, our Development and Advocacy Coordinator, has been finding ways to connect with small groups online to pray, or bring awareness about, issues related to child exploitation both in Australia and overseas.

One of his highlights from last week was a ZOOM meeting with one of Petersham AOG’s connect groups. Let’s hear why!

There were a number of reasons why. First, I was able to share ZOE and my personal experiences of rescue, restoration, and prevention. There was a deeply moving moment when I shared the time when a little bunch of rescued children gathered around me to pray at one of our regular ZOE Prayer nights. I mentioned how for the first time I’d experienced the wholeness, the courage, and the trust of children who had been rescued and restored from serious abuse – this experience changed my life forever. Second, I talked about how I joined in with an American Police team to gain intel on a trafficker and how that information was then passed onto the Thai Police. Significantly, I was able to share how the relationship between ZOE, the Thai Police, and Thai Government is deeply respected and crucial for the process of rescue and restoration of children in Thailand. Not only that, this deeply trusted relationship resulted in the recent arrest of an identified trafficker and the rescue of a number of children.  We praised God for this wonderful relationship. And last, a significant highlight was being able to reveal that the exploitation of children is a very real Australian problem to solve and prevent.  With the self-isolating effects of the Covid-19, many Australians are being encouraged into pornography. Australians are currently spending 1.3 million dollars a year live-streaming children being raped and sexually exploited. Likewise, I shared how I am gaining an unquenchable sense that bringing awareness to Australains, stimulating prevention here in Australia, and activating rescue of Australians from pornography is a vision that’s being powerfully awakened within me. As it was with the group I met with from Petersham AOG, Australians are significantly unaware of our problems to solve and prevent. Through our ZOE family, I want to change this! Jesus is on the move and wants us to ‘set my people free both ‘here’ and ‘there’.

Brett is regularly meeting up with Australians to pray for ZOE’s work (as shown in the picture). We believe that God is breaking into dark places with a rescue plan – a plan to bring light, exposure, restoration, protection, and to release victory over darkness!

If you would like to join in and pray, please email Brett at brett@gozoe.org.au

#STOP247

April 29, 2020

“It was so intriguing and such a life lesson, I could not turn away from my screen.” 

– Carol Hart, ZOE cofounder

I don’t know about you, but watching the #STOP247 – Because Child Traffickers Don’t Do Social Distancing live feed over the past weekend was quite the experience. If you missed it, don’t worry, you can still catch parts of it on ZOE International’s Youtube channel

Afterwards, I was trying to put into words what this bike challenge reminded me of. It was like a cross between Big Brother and the Tour de France! Watching seven riders all stationed in their homes, battling to ride for 24.7 hours to raise awareness about child trafficking… there just doesn’t seem to be the words to describe just how fascinating and inspirational it was. But not only that, throughout the 24+ hours, so many guests came on to encourage, share their expertise, tell inspirational stories, sing, rap, and spur the riders on. After falling asleep at nearly 4am (my time), I missed the last 2 hours or so which I then caught up on once I woke up. And what could be better to bring the riders home than the words of ZOE’s amazing founders, Michael and Carol Hart. (1 hour 51 minutes)

If you didn’t get to hear them, this is part of what Carol shared and, I think, beautifully sums up what all those who had been viewing were all feeling. 

“I stayed awake all 24.7 hours staring at you… I watched you in pain, I watched you frustrated, I watched you fighting to finish and it was so beautifully brave.

We just witnessed you guys going to war. You fought for children who cannot fight for themselves. You just showed us how to fight for freedom. 

During this bike ride you screamed to us, this is how we fight our battles – we never quit! Your fierce sacrifice over the past 24 hours impacted our lives more than you know. 

You have been so amazing to watch. At about 4:30 a.m in the morning I was in tears on the floor as I was praying for you and for the kids that we’re waiting to rescue, and that are waiting for rescue.

Listen, what you just accomplished physically, we promise to focus our resolve the same way at ZOE. We believe the impossible, with God’s leadership, will end child trafficking.

You reminded us by example to never be afraid to try. Try for what’s worth fighting for – for the weak, for the vulnerable, to do the right thing, even if you’re not sure you can do it.

The most amazing relief we have as a group is that we don’t have to just talk about helping to end child trafficking, or just wish we could do something, or just hope that child trafficking will end. No, every day we get to wrap our hands around the throat of the problem, and actually do something.

We promise we will not let the bad guys win. Thank you for giving us a fresh fire. I promise… it was so shocking, you know, we’re working on our 18th year of fighting for children, and rescuing them out of danger and trafficking, and I have never needed encouragement to stay passionate, I’ve never needed it, but watching you – it was a whole other level of fire I have in my heart.

What it was… as I stared at you for 24.7 hours, it was a physical representation of what we have felt all these years and what we will continue to do all these years and when it’s hard, when you feel like you can’t make it, when you’re scared of failing a child, all the reasons you didn’t quit, and even those who had to get off because you would fall off if you didn’t get off for 5 minutes, or whatever it was, you got back on and you finished – you went to the finish line with your team.

So I just want to encourage you and tell you that for people that have never felt like we’ve never needed fresh passion or somebody to keep us encouraged because we do that in the heart of God every day, we crawl up in God’s heart and He gives us fresh passion but you took us to a whole other level of fire and a whole other commitment level to fight for children who you may never meet and so we just want to thank you so much for everything you’ve done.”

Still Fighting

April 3, 2020

Despite the fact that many of our team are working remotely, we are still able to advocate for children, raise public awareness, and support trafficking survivors in both Thailand and America. 

We remain committed to our goals of reach and rescue. We do not see the current limitations, problems, or obstacles as constraints, but rather as pathways – to form new ways of doing things. Maybe even better ways.

According to psychologists, when you have less to work with, 
you actually begin to see the world differently.

At ZOE we choose to see the current constraints as advantages in disguise. We are asking ourselves, how can we use constraints to be creative and innovative in each of our jobs? How can these obstacles inspire better thinking? 

Through this indefinite time, we will find ways to use our resources differently because we have to. This situation is causing us to creatively plan, dream, and orchestrate ideas that would otherwise have remained untapped.

We remain steadfast in our determination to ensure that child trafficking is ended, justice brought, and lives rebuilt. While we are shifting the way we work and live worldwide, child trafficking has not gone away. In the face of the Covid19 virus, we will continue to fight! 

6 Steps to Keeping Your Child Safe Online During School Closures

April 1, 2020

With even more time at home and the increase in use of internet devices, it’s important that we help keep our children safe. If your child is using devices for online school, has a mobile device, or uses gaming systems, it’s time to have a conversation with your family about internet safety. 

Here are six practical steps you can take as a parent to help protect your child!

  1. Keep connected. It’s so important your child feels safe and connected to family members. The more connected and safe they feel with family, the more comfortable they will be to discuss issues, including issues they encounter online. In contrast, the more disconnected they feel from parents/family, things have potential to start becoming secretive, and they may seek affirmation, connection, and relationships outside of the home for that connection.

  2. Have open conversations with your child about the dangers of the internet and how to practice online safety. 
    SMART acronym is a great place to start! 
    S – Safe – Stay safe by keeping personal information private! Location, contact info, passwords etc.
    M – Meeting – Don’t meet in person with someone you met online! Tell your parents if you would like to meet with someone you met online.
    A – Accepting – Do not accept friend requests or follows from people you don’t know! Don’t accept files, images, or texts from unknown senders! These could be viruses or contain inappropriate content. 
    R – Reliable – People online are not reliable, and can easily lie about who they are. It’s best to reserve your trust for people you know. If you are messaging with someone online, make sure it is someone you know!
    T – Tell – If something makes you feel uncomfortable, be sure to tell a parent or trusted adult. Parents, it’s important that if your child chooses to share something with you, that you remain a safe place, without judgement or punishment. Then together, you can report any illegal or inappropriate activity.

  3. Work together with your child to establish internet guidelines. Don’t just give a list of “don’t do this or that,” have a conversation with your child, teaching them why. You may consider signing a contract with your child about the agreed upon rules for online use. We suggest covering these topics: 
    • What apps/sites can be visited? What apps and/or sites are off limits?
    • Where can they use their devices? Should they limit their internet use to general spaces?
    • Who needs to be present when they use the internet? Do they need parental supervision?
    • When and for how long can they be on their device? Do they need to limit screen time to certain hours/times of day

  4. Utilize parental controls to help monitor and protect online activity. Regularly check posts, messages, texts, etc. This part takes a bit of research in the beginning and continued upkeep, but it is important to help our children navigate internet usage.
    To help you in the start of your search, one field staff shared, “Even though I have been working in this area for years, I recall that when we started this process, it was quite overwhelming. It takes time for you to establish guidelines, time to find software that helps show their activity, and time for you to monitor and check-in with your child…  No matter what software you use, it is not set and forget! Initially we used the free version of Qustodio to help us set up simple daily time time limits. Apple also has great parental control software.” 

  5. If you notice behavior changes in your child, such as isolating themselves, becoming secretive about their phone, or wanting to spend more time in their room with a device, ask your child what’s going on, without judgement or punishment. 

  6. If you discover your child has been interacting with a potentially dangerous person or content, don’t panic! Be a safe place for your child. Break off contact — stop talking and stop replying. Criminal activity, including explicit photos or text messages, should be saved and taken to the police for investigation. Report any illegal activity to law enforcement.

Transport

March 25, 2020

When you think about ‘transport’ in Thailand, you possibly picture chaotic cities, thousands of motorbikes, tuk-tuks, songthaews, and traffic pollution. You might also imagine four-wheel drive trucks navigating red, dusty tracks, or unmade roads leading to hidden rice fields and villages.

Our ZOE staff and families experience the extremes of both these types of transportation conditions regularly. From school drop offs, fact finding, meetings with the Police, shopping trips, village outreaches, hospital check-ups, awareness campaigns, visits to relatives, school trips, court appearances, church on Sunday, property maintenance (the list goes on)…ZOE’s fleet of cars and trucks get a lot of use!

In fact, it takes a small team of people to oversee the vehicles and make sure they continue to be in good working order. This team manages the vehicle registrations, insurance, and service appointments. They also coordinate what vehicle will go where, according to the day of the week, destination, number of people travelling, etc. It takes a lot of organization. 

This month in Australia, our focus is not only on vehicle transport, but also on just how far your generous donations travel. Our monthly impact giving, helps ZOE to fund all the areas of greatest need. Transport is just one of those areas!

Instead of spending the month highlighting our fleet of cars and trucks (although some people might enjoy this) our social media channels in Australia will cover a broad range of trafficking related content that links in with the both theme of transport, and being transported – ‘moving from one place to another’.

Think beyond just getting from A to B because we want to cover: how transport is used in trafficking, how to spot trafficking in our travels, how trafficking continues to travel during covid-19, just how far ZOE will go to reach and rescue, and the emotional journey from victim to survivor – the restoration process – the child trafficking survivor stories that happen every day. Plus more! 

Join us on Australia’s Facebook and Instagram pages to keep up with this month’s theme Transport-ed and please leave us a comment on social media so we know who’s ‘travelling’ along with us! 

ZOE Australia Facebook  Instagram

Seeing Changes of Character

March 20, 2020

“Life skills are abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life” (WHO definition). 

Helping children develop essential life skills is a big part of the restoration process at ZOE. It takes us being very intentional! Swimming, doing chores, managing money, and using a computer are just some of the useful life skills we teach. But we also value teaching emotional skills such as problem solving, perseverance, managing feelings, and making connections. 

Recently some of our girls shared testimonies about how they had noticed within themselves that their emotional skills were increasing. 

We wanted to share a few of their testimonies with you. 

“From being aggressive and having a hot temper, I can now calm down faster and can control my emotions better.”  

I was lacking discipline in many areas but now I can take care of the duties assigned to me.”

Before I had no target now I have started setting goals, writing them down, and trying to hit them.” 

“I did not care about my outlook before. Now I have learned to dress properly. I do not want to go back to my old life and I now understand my value.”

ZOE helps children develop interpersonal skills by providing healthy and safe environments to interact with other people. Listening and speaking, as well as the ability to control and manage emotions, are essential parts of being in a family, and necessary for life. We are so encouraged when we see and hear the positive developments that are occurring in their lives through the process of restoration. 

Good Drivers

March 20, 2020

Shortly after I was married, I was tidying up the study one day when I came across a checklist that my husband had filled out about me, during a marriage course. It was a list of different personal skills and attributes wives have so, of course, it instantly caught my eye!

Being young and still in the honeymoon-stage of marriage, I was keen to know what my husband thought about me. Poor guy, he had filled it in with no intention that I would ever actually read it! 

I scanned the list and felt pretty good about what he had checked off about me…until my eyes fell upon the words “good driver” and there was no tick beside it! The discovery that day led to a follow up discussion…and many jokes over the years.

But strangely enough, that checklist (missing the good driver tick) has stuck with me for some twenty something years now. I always drive as carefully as I can in the hope that one day I might hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful driver” from my husband!

Well, funny driving stories aside, since our ZOE staff need to drive thousands of hours a year, we need them to be good drivers. They drive to school drop offs, meetings with the Police, shopping trips, village outreaches, hospital check-ups, awareness campaigns, visits to relatives, school trips, court appearances, church on Sunday, and many more destinations.

What you might not know is that ZOE has a driving program for staff to utilize on a needs basis. If a department requires another driver, they come and talk to Transportation. Depending on what level the person is at, they begin training. Some drivers have never driven a car before, and others have their driver’s license, but need more training or practice. Parallel parking is just one of the skills they practice to help prepare to be licensed and certified to drive for ZOE. 

We want all our staff drivers to get a big tick for being “good drivers” next to their name! 

Supporting Local Pastors

March 13, 2020

Through our partnership with Children’s Hunger Fund, we partner with Thai pastors to help them to reach their communities with the gospel.

One of our partners is Pastor Songkran. Songkran moved to a small village many years ago that did not have a church. He has been slowly reaching this community and the church has grown. During this time he also felt that he and his family were called to help children who didn’t have the opportunity to attend school. These are children from villages that don’t have schools and the families don’t have the money to put them into school.

Songkran and his family take in kids each year to allow them to go to school. They take on the responsibility of feeding the children and paying their school bills. This year, they have 19 children living with them. They have done all of this through faith and trusting that God will provide. This year through the donations from Usana and Children’s Hunger Fund, we were able to help Songkran.

We helped him by building and stocking two fish ponds, a frog pond, and a mushroom hut, and we planted mango trees. Songkran’s plan for the fish, frogs, mushrooms, and mangoes is well thought out. He will use a third of the produce to help feed the children living with his family. He will sell a third of the produce to help pay for the school fees for the children. He will give away the last third of the produce to those in need in his community. This is a great project to help a hardworking pastor who partners with ZOE.  

Instant Gratification & the Dangers of It

March 13, 2020

“A nice hot cup of tea would be nice,” I thought the other day while at work. Rather than going through all the trouble, I put a coin in the vending machine and out came my instant gratification.

It is beyond description how highly “convenience” is valued in our culture. You can get almost anything from vending machines, stores, and the Internet.

And this is what sex has become.

In Japan, you can scroll through your phone and select a girl to be delivered to your place in less than an hour. Pornographic sites are just a click away, easy even for a child to access.

Sex became such an accessible, disposable product in our culture. Like fast food, it’s ready for you as soon as you crave it. Such disposable consumption makes us grow numb to true satisfaction.

In the process of numbing our senses to the sacredness of sex, human trafficking begins to creep into our society. There are sex traffickers who dare to think that they are “helping” their victims by providing a job. There are even pedophiles who believe that they are “educating” children when they are horrifically abusing them.

A person does not become a sex trafficker overnight. It is through the process of devaluing sex and numbing their senses to true satisfaction that lead to exploitation of others for their selfish gains.

As long as society makes sex a convenient disposable product, vulnerable people and children will be objectified for exploitation and human trafficking will continue.

We must emphasize the importance of teaching the youth about the true value of sex. Because once it violates boundaries, it doesn’t stop. Sex is never a vending machine product that we purchase and dispose of on our way through life.

It is God’s beautiful design, meant to be cherished, protected, and sacredly valued as we see in the Bible.

This is an extremely important and urgent subject to teach especially young generations because they have the potential to become both victim and perpetrator.

At ZOE Japan, we have the opportunity to share a love and ultimate true satisfaction through Jesus Christ with a nation that is 1% Christian, shedding light that instant gratification will never fully satisfy our soul.