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Dance Performance, Note to God 

September 7, 2020

For some of the children at ZOE, dancing is one of their favorite ways to pass the time.  And dance has many proven benefits: It can help you to express your emotions, relieve stress, increase physical fitness, improve confidence and self-esteem, and encourage creativity and imagination. 

One of the positive outcomes of the recent COVID lockdown was a newfound collaboration with Prisma Dance.  This dance studio in Hawaii has a mission statement that shares ZOE’s heart: To fulfill the Great Commandment – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5) (Matt 22:37) and to fulfill the Great Commission – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you(Matthew 28:19-20a).  Their vision is Christ-centered dance training focused on glorifying and worshiping God, and sharing Christ with the world through dance.

What a perfect partnership for ZOE!

Nicole Lam, Prisma’s founder and director, volunteered to create a special dance just for our ZOE girls.  She made detailed videos to teach the girls and the girls practiced diligently on Saturday mornings to perfect their art.  The dance was choreographed to a song called, Note to God.  This song is an emotional prayer, a letter to God to mend the world of all the bitterness and hate.  It talks about finding love, granting faith and giving hope, even when it seems like all hope is gone.

Our 7-member dance team shared their powerful performance with the whole ZOE family at a recent worship night.  It was not only a chance to express their emotions but the girls also received encouragement from their family as they worshiped God in a unique way.  Thank you Jesus for our new friendship with Nicole and Prisma Dance.  May God bless their ministry abundantly!

Author – Cissy Boyer

 

Acts of Grace

August 23, 2020

ZOE has been blessed with many generous donors over the years. Whether through individuals, churches, businesses, or foundations, we have seen God’s hand of grace moving in our work.  One of our greatest joys is to share God’s abundant overflow with others who are doing His work to feed the hungry and care for the poor. 

ZOE has been working with two of our most generous donors – the Children’s Hunger Fund and USANA – to ensure that much-needed help gets delivered directly to those who need it most.

Hut in the slum village of Chiang Mai, ThailandThanks to Children’s Hunger Fund, ZOE has established the Mercy Network, 73 local churches that have been providing food and other necessities to families in their neighborhoods for years throughout Thailand. Recipients don’t have to be church members or even Christians: God is not a respecter of persons and neither is hunger!

One of the Mercy Network churches is Acts of Grace Church in the heart of Chiang Mai’s slum area. When USANA leaders visited ZOE, we took them to see the work that Acts of Grace was doing with the children who lived in the slum area. They were so moved that they wanted to get involved in that work. USANA committed to feeding 100 kids and to rent a soccer field every Saturday so that the children could have a safe place to play and nutritious meals. In addition, the program has been effective as an outreach to the families of the kids who come.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the church wasn’t able to rent the field but they continued to cook and deliver meals door-to-door in the slums every Saturday. Now, both the meal and soccer field programs are back in full swing!

We are so thankful for partners like USANA and Children’s Hunger Fund. They are true examples of acts of grace!

– Written by Ron Boyer

rice fields and hills in ThailandMercy Network is a regional network of like-minded churches committed to gospel-centered mercy ministry. ZOE partners with local churches who have a passion to reach the lost with the gospel of Christ. ZOE provides food boxes to the local churches for them to use as a means of building relationships within their respective communities.

Something to Smile About

July 29, 2020

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? James 2:15

Thanks to quick action by the Thai government, imposing a travel lockdown and other measures in the early days that continues until now, Thailand has had low numbers of COVID infections and deaths. But the Land of Smiles has been hard hit economically during the pandemic. Prior to COVID, 20% of the Thai economy was dependent upon tourism. With hotels, restaurants, tour buses, and tourist attractions empty, the impact has been magnified, rippling across all sectors of society from farmers to furniture makers, truck drivers to tour guides.

For the past decade, ZOE has partnered with the Children’s Hunger Fund and Life Impact International to get food, shoes, and other necessities into the hands and onto the feet of thousands of the most needy families in Thailand. Over time we’ve developed a widespread network of more than 70 local churches in some of the poorest communities here. Thus, when COVID collided with the economy, we were ready to pick up our pace and roll! Our partners stepped up with extra resources and ZOE’s team loaded up our 4-wheel drive trucks with food and supplies and hit the roads and the mountain trails.

ZOE Thailand man and woman team proving food to a villager

In just two months, July and August, we delivered 4,635 mercy boxes to many of the churches in our network where pastors and congregants distributed them to hungry neighbors, providing much-needed food and supplies to over 800 families. Now that’s something to smile about!

ZOE Thailand men team proving food to a villagers
Mercy Network is a regional network of like-minded churches committed to gospel-centered mercy ministry. ZOE partners with local churches who have a passion to reach the lost with the gospel of Christ. ZOE provides food boxes to the local churches for them to use as a means of building relationships within their respective communities.

-Written by Ron Boyer

 

Fighting On Our Knees

June 23, 2020

The recent suicide of TV star and pro-wrestler, Hana Kimura, sent a shock wave through Japan. Kimura, only 22 years old, was the target of cyberbullies. Before her death, she published several messages on social media, but it was already too late before anyone took notice. The story has lifted the veil on a huge cyberbullying problem, encouraging society and the government to take action.  

In Japan, it is extremely important to blend in or, more specifically, to not stand out. There is even an expression that says “the nail that stands out, must be hammered.” Those who do not conform to group expectations, or even look different, often become the targets of bullying by their peers.  

In fact, Japan is seeing a rapid increase in the number of bullying cases in schools, with more than 540,000 cases reported in 2018, a 30% increase from 2017. Many children are simply not able to handle this pressure on top of academic expectations already imposed by their families, and sometimes revert to extreme measures such as taking their own lives. Statistics show that suicide is the leading cause of death for children aged 10-19.  

It is hard not to be overwhelmed by these statistics. Not only do our hearts break for their families, but we get upset by the deception of the enemy, somehow convincing these children that they have no value and no purpose, that there is no hope. This lie from the enemy sharply contradicts the truth we find in Scripture.  

Psalm 139:13-14:  

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

How amazing to see every child through God’s eyes! At ZOE Japan, we are convinced that God wants us to invert the lies of the enemy, show every child that he/she has VALUE, is LOVED and has a PURPOSE. By helping them to recognize their identity in Christ, we can bring healing to bullies and victims!  

An analysis of child suicides for the period 2006-2015 by the Japan Support Centre for Suicide Countermeasures shows a significant peak in suicides of 6-18 year olds at the end of August/beginning September, right before the new school year starts.  

The time for us to take action is NOW.  We call on every Christian to stand with us in prayer as we fight on our knees for the life of every child in Japan.  

Please pray that: 

  • Children will not be deceived by the lies of the enemy 
  • The Body of Christ will actively engage in sharing HOPE through the Good News
  • Government Childlines will have resources and wisdom to provide counselling and support for children who are being bullied or abused
  • Parents and teachers will have a sensitive spirit to identify vulnerable children and the wisdom on how to support them.

Written By: Annerie Van Wyk, ZOE Japan Missionary

Letter From A Child Trafficking Survivor

June 18, 2020

First, I thank God for bringing me to ZOE. My life and heart have been changed by Him. Second, I am so thankful for each of you. I am thankful for all ZOE leaders and staff. I feel grateful that I was rescued and brought to ZOE. 

Thank you for creating a new world with great love for me and all kids here. Thank you so much for loving me and many other kids. It has helped me understand the value of my life. It helps me to be bold and not give up no matter what comes into my life. I have gained understanding and wisdom. 

Thank you for introducing me to new things and for taking care of me to the best of your ability. Thank you for assisting me in every area of my life. I feel warm because of you and this is a feeling I never had in my life. 

It’s been just a short time that I got to know everyone at ZOE but you all became my family as we spent time together as a family. I can now say that I have a warm and loving family! I am so happy to have met and to know you all. Thank you for loving, caring, listening to what I say, and understanding me. You are my family. 

Before, I never knew what true and beautiful love was, but now I realize how beautiful it is. You have shown me through your love, care, and doing what’s best for me. You are my brothers and sisters, my mom and my dad who love me sincerely. Your love is a great inspiration. 

You give me confidence to overcome this hard life with God and your love. You all are my heroes and I know there are many children out there who need your help. Without you all, I may not have today. I might not know how precious my life is. I might not be able to move forward. Without you, my face would not be filled with such a big smile. 

You have shown me and other kids how to exit from darkness. We used to live in the darkness and you all have rescued us and given us wings to fly away. Now we can fly in the sky with your love. 

I cannot stop saying “THANK YOU” to you all. I have realized and seen how hard you work for all kids. You all are merciful. Thank you so much for loving me. I may leave ZOE soon, but I am not alone. Now I have God and ZOE who will walk alongside me. 

Self Sustainability and Covid19

May 25, 2020

What new hobbies have you picked up while remaining at home in self-quarantine? 

Research by a U.S. culture website indicates that some of the most popular hobbies picked up during the coronavirus outbreak include reading, working out, yoga, and baking. But a new wave of home gardeners has also emerged. Interest in gardening and farming is experiencing a boom among people around the world and is one of the more positive trends to emerge from this crippling pandemic.

People around the world are turning to gardening as a soothing, family friendly
hobby that also eases concerns over food security as lockdowns slow the
harvesting and distribution of some crops. Fruit and vegetable seed sales are
jumping worldwide.” (reuters.com)

The number of people wanting to grow their own food, become more self-sufficient, healthy and sustainable has increased substantially during the pandemic. It has also highlighted how reliant many of us are on imported foods – including fruit and vegetables. 

In Australia, plant nurseries around the country are reporting a significant increase in vegetable seed sales. Andrew Clark, a nursery owner in Tasmania said, 

The seedling area and vegetables have been completely depleted over the
weekend and we’ve sold in a week what we typically sell over a month.
Consumers are certainly showing more interest in self-sufficient gardening,
and they’re also looking at projects to keep them busy if there are further
lockdown regulations.”

But unlike this new wave of ‘hobby’ gardeners, ZOE’s agriculture team has been sowing into the goal of self-sustainability in Thailand for many years now. Well before anyone could imagine a time of lock-down, closed international borders and a worldwide pandemic, planning and preparation began for several self-sustainability projects that are now proving to be very significant in terms of satisfying the food needs of our Thai families. 

Our self-sustainability program sits on a 35-acre property and includes a fish farm, water conservation, organic vegetable gardens, green houses, mushroom and garlic huts, cornfields, a rice warehouse, pig farm, and many fruit trees. 

One of the greatest benefits of moving towards self-sufficient living is that it has reduced ZOE’s operating costs. Growing some of our own food is just one way that we can help save money and is important because it has direct implications for ZOE’s ability to independently meet the dietary needs of those for whom we care, regardless of external circumstances. 

As a foundation, we are prohibited from creating a for-profit enterprise. This means everything we grow is for our personal consumption only. To create variety in our diets, we grow smaller crops and vary what we grow. Our staff and children prefer eating our personally-grown food because it’s organic and we harvest everything at the peak of ripeness.

In this time of uncertainty, ZOE Thailand’s self-sustaining projects have been a huge blessing! We have approximately one year’s worth of stored rice for our ZOE family and six months’ worth of stored corn to feed our pigs. Our pig and fish farms have produced all the protein needed. Our two water reservoirs have helped keep our agricultural projects going so that our fruit and vegetables can provide essential vitamins and minerals. Both our green house and aquaponic farm provide environments for growing vegetables in Thailand all year round … and all of this has offset our costs so that we can continue to rescue and care for children.

Author- Andrea Cross

Nobody Cares

May 21, 2020

Nobody cares about me,” one lady sobbed outside a government building before swallowing pills of poison, falling to the ground and needing to be taken to hospital. This is just one of the many tragic stories circulating through news channels in Thailand – telling of individuals who feel the only answer to their hopelessness and desperation is to take their life. 

The growing number of people who have been desperately crying out for relief, has contributed to the number of suicide attempts drastically increasing in what is being reported as “a worrying trend.” The ongoing suffering, caused by this year’s job losses and inability to work, has led to millions of people living in a critical state of anguish and despair. 

With 54.3 percent of Thailand’s workforce being classed as “informal workers,” meaning they have irregular income, low wages, and are unprotected by the social security system, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the accompanying economic devastation, have felt like the final blow for this group, who were already facing hardships.

Aside from the fact that each of these stories – each life alone – represents a heart-breaking scenario; what is it that makes all of us at ZOE feel so compelled to step in and help these people – the most desperate and needy?

For 17 years now, knowing that traffickers exploit the vulnerable, ZOE has worked to provide necessary food, education, resources, and training to families who are the most likely targets for traffickers, in both city and rural communities. These most “at risk” groups are often where children are taken from through the process of using violence, deception, or coercion, and exploiting them for financial or personal gain.

So it’s what ZOE has always done! It’s what ZOE will continue to do…

But now, throughout these especially desperate times, we’re increasing our support. Because of generous donations from ZOE staff, volunteers, and supporters, we are currently able to make over 1,000 food packages. Hundreds of these have already been handed out, and hundreds more are on their way! Being delivered right now

Please be praying that we can continue to reach these precious families who are feeling left alone, helpless, and desperate. If you feel able to help us supply more food packs to these vulnerable people, please contribute. *In the box that says how did you hear about ZOE? Type “Thailand Hunger Relief Assistance.” Donations are tax deductible. 

Author – Andrea Cross

Feeding the Hungry During Covid-19 Crisis

May 19, 2020

Feeding the Hungry During Covid-19 Crisis

You don’t have to go far in Thailand to come face-to-face with the devastating reality that the Covid-19 virus has inflicted on people. And I’m not even referring to the disease itself.

The aftermath of the pandemic – the loss of jobs, zero income and dwindling resources, have left countless families and communities hungry, hopeless and desperate.

Trucks in Thailand full of boxes of foodStories of people having only the remainder of the fruit left on their tree to eat, families sharing one egg, many without anything left to eat, and no idea how they will provide for themselves and their children. Food lines stretching for kilometers down city streets.

While making sure our former ZOE young adults are being taken care of, we’ve also been scrambling to raise more funds, buy supplies and make food packs fast enough to reach those who are hurting the most.

Our network of pastors is directing us to the most needy. The ones tucked away in small villages, and tiny huts. The ones who can’t access the government handouts or food lines. The elderly, the disabled, the poorest of the poor.

One family that our ZOE team came into contact with, as they went door-to-door reaching the families who needed food packages the most, moved them to tears.

A fourteen-year-old girl caring for her father who had been left paralyzed after an accident, and her mother who struggles with mental health issues. No money for school, let alone food. This young girl, with the weight of responsibility on her small shoulders, was overwhelmed, welcoming the supply of rice, oil, noodles and canned fish with deep gratitude.

ZOE Thailand team of men dropping off bags of food

Our staff feels so happy to be a part of this project and serve others and God. To be able to see others who need help, those having to fight for food and struggle to make ends meet, has been very eye opening.

So far ZOE has prepared 560 relief bags and we are about to purchase the supplies to double that!

Please be praying that we can continue to reach these precious families who are feeling left alone, helpless and desperate. If you feel able to help us supply more food packs to these vulnerable people, please contribute. *In the box that says how did you hear about ZOE? Type “Thailand Hunger Relief Assistance†Donations are tax deductible.

Author – Andrea Cross

 

Family Relationships Key In Preventing Trafficking

May 15, 2020

In every country in the world, including Japan, the COVID-19 lockdown is challenging traditional perspectives and, to a certain extent, even redefining the values of society.

Japan is famous for its hard-working culture; with fathers, mostly employed as so-called salarymen, working excessive overtime – often just to live up to society’s expectations. 

There is even a term, karoshi, which means to literally work yourself to death. Although hard work is admirable, it presents the danger of a generation of children growing up with a father who is basically invisible. He is often just the tired man in the dark suit who comes home late and leaves again early.

The absence of fathers creates an open door for the enemy to attack children. Many young boys don’t have a role model to teach them the meaning of being a real man who values women. Instead, they absorb and mimic whatever the media feeds them. Many young girls learn about life and love from friends, movies or online.

To fill the emotional void, children often turn to a popular networking app where they can interact with randomly selected strangers, ignorant of the danger of traffickers just waiting to take advantage of their vulnerability. What starts as a seemingly innocent online friendship soon leads to a face-to-face meeting with the trafficker during which the child is sexually abused. Photos and video footage taken during the abuse become key weapons that the trafficker uses to instill fear and force the child into further submission and continued abuse. Without the safety net of strong family relationships, children simply don’t have the courage to turn to their parents for help.

Government reports show that “the number of people under 18 who fell victim to social media-linked sexual and other crimes in Japan in 2019, rose 271 from the previous year to a record 2,082 cases.” These are only the reported cases; the tip of the iceberg. But there is always HOPE.

And your life will be brighter than the noonday;
its darkness will be like the morning.
And you will feel secure, because there is hope:
you will look around and take your rest in security.
Job 11:17-18

Just observing the parks in our neighborhood during the lockdown, COVID-19 is clearly bringing families together – perhaps for the first time. The previously invisible fathers are suddenly popping up everywhere! They are pitching to their future baseball-hero sons, or jumping rope with their daughters. We see them climbing trees, creating memories together, sometimes even crying and just being vulnerable together. We truly believe that these restored relationships are not only a blessing to all family members, but also serve as a natural prevention strategy against child trafficking.

“Many times it takes just one member of a family to initiate the action to bring a family back together again.” – Billy Graham

As their hearts are softened by the joys of being part of an earthly family, may they also discover the love of our Heavenly Father and open their hearts to Him.

Written By: Annerie Van Wyk, ZOE Japan Missionary

Providing Crisis Response to Former ZOE Children

May 11, 2020

Payton Foundation, which is already committed to supporting ZOE’s Vocational Training Program and Learning Centre, reached out to us recently to see if we had ‘more immediate’ needs, given the Covid-19 pandemic. ​

Our City Centre coordinators were so relieved to get word that extra funding would be sent. They had already started to help our former ZOE kids (now adults) during this time by buying rice, oil, noodles, milk, etc. with some provisions from a local church but knew that they had stretched that money as far as it could go. With approximately 30 young adults contacting ZOE desperate for assistance, our City Centre team wasn’t sure what it was going to do.

Here’s just a few of the wonderful testimonies that are emerging as ZOE has been able to reach out and help.

One former ZOE youth who is currently attending college in Bangkok lost her part-time job because of the COVID lockdown and was trying to make ends meet by selling her clothes. Because of Payton’s generous donation, we were able to make sure her rent for the month was covered and that she has funds for food. When she found out about the help she would be receiving, she broke down in tears and is so very thankful.

Another adult (former ZOE youth), who is just starting his adult independent journey also lost his job because of the lockdown. He has no parents and therefore no one to help him. ZOE is his family. We were able to make sure he has food and is safe and doing well.

Two of our former ZOE children are now married and have 2 young children of their own, one just a newborn. They too have been affected and not able to work as many businesses have closed during quarantine. Through this funding we have been able to help this family care for and feed their two young children. They are extremely grateful for the food and supplies.

We were also able to purchase lots of food to help many other former ZOE children. They come to our City Center to pick up supplies as they have no other source of help. Some of them have driven 2 hours to come and get essentials (rice, canned fished, oil for cooking). They are also caring for those around them as their neighbors and friends are in need. What they receive they share with others.

We will continue to help, following up with all our former youth and checking what they need assistance with. We will make sure they have the food and supplies they need to make it through this difficult time.

Author – Andrea Cross

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