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All Posts in Child Trafficking Restoration

April 4, 2019 - No Comments!

ZOE Feels Like Home

ZOE Thailand
By: Alison Sauder
January 2019 Short Term Team

I didn’t want to turn around because I didn’t want the tears to keep coming. I threw my bags on the security belt, and snuck a glance anyway. Yup, there they were, still waving. The tears flowed down my cheeks, and my attempts to stifle them failed. I covered my face, and tried to regain my composure. I slapped a smile on my face, but instantly missed the people I had gotten to know in this beautiful country, in this beautiful organization. I looked one last time, positive that they had left by now. I was wrong. I smiled with teary eyes, and waved back to the missionaries who had shown me so much love, so much compassion, and so much joy the past 10 days.

I took my seat at my gate, and while waiting for my flight, I began to reminisce.

ZOE feels like home. It's incredible, because in fact, it is actually 8,357 miles from home. But pulling up, sitting in the transportation vans, I was filled with butterflies and excitement and peace. And then, I saw the house. I saw the kids, and I saw their smiles. Honestly, it just felt like home. Instantly, I was greeted with open arms, fully comfortable with these people and the space they were offering me.

Granted, I had been to ZOE before. However, I can’t say that the first time was much different. A few extra butterflies, maybe, but the same sense of peace and comfort was residing in my spirit. I am convinced it is a gift that God has blessed ZOE with, among so many others.

I checked the clock, and I still had an hour of stifling tears and remembering before our first flight. I pulled out my journal and began to make some lists, because I didn’t want to forget any person or any slightly butchered Thai phrase that I attempted to learn.

I cannot stress enough, ZOE is incredible, but the people that are involved in ZOE are what makes the experience so unforgettable. As a young adult, I’ve traveled around a bit in recent years, but also strive to build an impactful church community around me in my hometown. Interacting with the ZOE Leadership Training students was so meaningful to me. Considering we are relatively the same age, I began to compare the traits that make them so incredible, and find ways to apply them to my own life and the people around me.

These leadership students are devoted. They get up at 5am every day, they read the Bible for an hour, pray for an hour, and worship for an hour, all before their day full of business and Bible classes. They have homework in the evening, and still find ways to serve joyfully around ZOE and mentor the children. How many times have I cringed getting up at 7am to go to work, and then after my 8-hour shift, plopped down on my couch to relax for an hour before starting my next assignment, all with an impartial attitude? God, please PLEASE give me the joy and the dedication to love You the way You call us to.

By profession, I work with kids, and have for the past 6 years. Coming to ZOE, knowing what the children have been rescued from and the horrors that they've seen, it's almost unfathomable to think that they can still experience their childhood. They’re still children. They still love sports, trampolines, smiles, and movies. They have so much to offer, and so much to look forward to. The healing that they've experienced is most definitely a God-thing.

How many times have I been bound by unforgiveness, simply because someone canceled plans on me, or betrayed my trust? How could those children experience such healing, joy, and forgiveness after such unspeakable hurt, when I seem to be broken by such insignificant things? God, please give me a heart to forgive. Replace the bitterness with joy, love, and quite simply, YOU.

Going to the village with the ZOE Child Rescue Team and the leadership students was a major highlight for me. Sure, there were downfalls. A very long ride up the mountains with countless turns made even those who didn’t have weak stomachs, sick (however, to put it in perspective, we got to ride in those nice MILK vans I had previously mentioned, while the leadership students rode on the back of a truck).

These people are so willing to serve, constantly. They don’t often get a chance to sit down, and the smiles and laughter never leave their face. Honestly, I’m pretty sure they could’ve done a whole lot more without us Americans to slow them down, but it was a learning experience for so many on the team.

How many times do I take so much time making sure something looks perfect, or focus on completing the task instead of remembering the reason behind it? A perfectly orchestrated ministry without any heart or vision or JESUS, is absolutely nothing. God, please help me to always remember WHY You call me where You do, when You do, and how You do. Help me to complete even the most mundane tasks with joy, because You are behind it all.

I hear bells dinging in the world beyond my thoughts, and I see people shuffling around me. I realize that my flight is beginning to board, so I quickly pack up my things and get in line for the airplane. I let out a deep breath, filled with hope.

Not only am I returning home with new stories, new experiences, new memories, and plenty of pictures to prove it; I am returning home with fresh vision, newfound challenges, and renewed passions for the year ahead. Me and Jesus, we are going to try our best (well, let’s be honest, I’ll try my best. Jesus always comes through) to transfer these life lessons into the community around me and into my daily life. Oh Jesus, let it be so.

March 26, 2019 - No Comments!

ZOE Recognizes Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month

By Jessicah Ray, PA & Concussion SpecialistTraumatic Brain Injury Awareness for Survivors of Human Trafficking

Much advancement has been accomplished in the recognition of the comprehensive and trauma-informed health needs for survivors of human trafficking. However, publications and guidelines have yet to consistently include the consideration for traumatic brain injury (TBI) assessment and care. This can be a critical miss due to the high rate of abuse and secondary risk of head injuries in this population. In fact, over 92% of survivors of sex trafficking reported suffering from physical violence with most from direct blows to the head or face (Chisolm-Straker & Stoklosa, 2017). Such a high statistic is astonishing considering violence and abuse statistics are constantly underreported.

TBI research has confirmed that children and females are at increased risk of prolonged recovery from traumatic brain injuries. But unlike the general population, human trafficking victims are even more likely to not only sustain multiple TBIs, but also to not recover well from them because of the continued abuse and risk factors. Recovery from TBI is dependent on head injury education, proper rest, gradual return to activity, supportive care, healthy lifestyle choices, and access to medical care when needed.

However, survivors of human trafficking experience barriers in all these TBI recovery respects due to:·       High risk of sustaining multiple TBIs·       No opportunity to recover between injuries·       No available emotional support·       Little access to education or healthcare·       Forced to return to work immediately

·       At risk of malnutrition, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders

The real danger is that without proper diagnosis of TBI, the TBI remains untreated and many of the common symptoms of chronic TBI may be misattributed to other diagnoses.  These TBI symptoms include memory difficulty, disorganized thinking, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, vision problems, hormone changes, and in cases of children - developmental problems. Many of these symptoms can be mislabeled as secondary to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, personality disorders, addiction, or even behavioral problems. Misdiagnosis can also lead to new problems from the wrong treatment choice worsening the untreated TBI symptoms.

The great news is that treating TBI can reduce these symptoms and the recovery time, even if the head injuries were multiple and occurred years ago. In fact, because victims of abuse often have both TBI and PTSD, treating one often improves symptoms of the other. That is, treating the TBI can improve the PTSD, and vice versa. Most current evidence-based treatment recommendations for TBI, PTSD, and survivors of human trafficking endorse multi-disciplined trauma-informed care. Therefore there is a promising opportunity to integrate TBI assessment and treatment into health management recommendations for survivors of human trafficking, and we can be encouraged to use TBI care as a targeted way to enhance the recovery and quality of life of this vulnerable  population.References: Chisolm-Straker, M., & Stoklosa, H. (Eds.). (2017). Human Trafficking Is a Public Health Issuehttps://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47824-1

March 25, 2019 - No Comments!

Imagining Happiness

ZOE Thailand
By Andrea Cross

It was the last day of the art exhibition. One of our ZOE young adults had her final pieces of artwork displayed, along with the rest of her graduating Arts cohort.

The odds were against my husband and I making it; one of our children had a badly broken leg, another wasn’t feeling well, but we knew we wanted to go encourage, and celebrate, this gifted young woman who we have known and watched grow up over the past nine years.

Rushing and feeling a little disheveled, we set off.

As we arrived at the gallery, we saw her waiting. Her face lit up as she spotted us - filling our hearts with joy. This girl really is special.

We had watched her transition from living with her family at ZOE, towards  independence. We had seen her learn to ride a motorcycle, begin university, practice English, cook and manage a budget. We had met her university friends and admired many of their art projects, scattered around the transitional home. We’d watched her settle into her first dormitory room, but also seen the love she exhibited for her family and noticed the times she longed to be around people and her desire to remain connected.

This day was a momentous occasion and reason to reflect on just how far she’d come.

Of course, we wanted to go straight to her work and see what she had produced but her humble, sweet nature meant that she began showing off her peer’s art displays first.

As she led us around the gallery, I was filled with shock and amazement at how good the artwork was. I could not believe that these pieces were actually created by university students. Piece by piece we marveled and stood admiring the time, effort, and detail that was obvious in each different style of artwork.

That’s when we arrived at hers. “Imagining Happiness.”

Upon close inspection, we inquired as to what she had used to create her art pieces. There were five in total.

She told us that she had crushed egg shells and dyed them all different colors and then stuck each tiny piece in place to create the pictures. She explained that she didn’t have as big a budget to spend on her pieces as some of her peers. She needed to be resourceful as well as creative in her pursuit of producing her final art project. I mused that she must’ve eaten a lot of eggs but she told us that she had collected egg shells from wherever she could, including ZOE.

I really love to see things upcycled, recycled, and reused for a different purpose. It’s partly the way I have been raised but I also believe it’s God’s heart for us. Something once seen as waste, thrown out, not needed - He takes those. He repurposes them, He makes something new.

And here we were staring at these beautiful plaques that she had hand crafted but that also symbolized to us how God really can turn our lives around. He takes the parts that are broken and discarded and He pieces them together, maybe not how they were originally, but He makes something new and even more beautiful.

It is a process that takes time to piece together and carefully position. In the hands of the Creator though, He can transform us into something different, stronger, and better than before.

March 20, 2019 - 1 comment.

3 Reasons to Celebrate

ZOE Thailand
By Michael Hart

This month, ZOE’s founder Michael Hart shares 3 stories which show why the recent school graduations are cause for such celebration in Thailand.  

It was an extra hot day of 95 F (35 C) when 8 of our ZOE 6th graders graduated on March 12th. In addition to the heat, the air quality was at extremely dangerous levels over 300 AQI. Many of the locals stayed indoors that day or wore filtering masks in order to be protected from the hazy pollution created by the burning fields and forest fires. Yet this outside graduation would not be stopped. It was a time of celebration despite the foreboding elements. These 8 children have had previously experienced atrocities in their young lives that none of us can imagine. Yet, here they stood for over 3 hours in the sun and smoke, without protection, smiling away and enjoying their day of victory. We cheered them on and hugged them, telling them how much we loved them and were so proud of them for their achievements. It was not the weather we remember, but it was looking at them and beholding what God has done in their lives that captured our attention. God is truly “The Father to the fatherless.”

On March 15th, four of our sweet ZOE girls graduated from 6th grade at a different school. We thank God for their school because it is one of the few Christian schools in Thailand, where less than 1% of the nation are followers of Christ. Their school understands the backgrounds of many of ZOE’s children and for years have worked with us in helping to restore them. Education is an important part of preventing and ending child trafficking. These 4 girls were taught all the regular school subjects but in a Christian context. In addition, their school taught them many Thai historical and cultural skills. We think this is great for children to learn more about their own culture and to celebrate their national identity. It was a joy to see their proud smiles and to congratulate them for their achievements.

Also on March 15th, we arrived at 3pm in the hot sun and smoky air to celebrate the 12th graduation of one of our ZOE teenage girls. We were told that we would be able to meet the students for a photo at 3:30 pm. Instead the 300 graduates were escorted straight to their seats while the parents, friends, and families waited until the ceremony was over. Finally, after 6pm the festivities took a pause, so we could see our girl and congratulate her. She was so excited that we were present for her, because she did not have parents to greet her peers. Her ZOE mom lavished her with praise, while the rest of us hugged her and gave her gifts. After that, it was photo time. We stood by her and surrounded her for pictures, helping her experience that she was the most important person on earth in that moment. She graduated with a degree in Tourism, which will empower her to be able to take care of herself in a sustainable career. We are so proud of all our kids and thank God for His loving grace that He showers upon them. All great reasons to celebrate!

November 26, 2018 - No Comments!

So, Come

by Andrea Cross

After a hard day at school or work, the location where we are free to be ourselves: to laugh, to cry, to reflect, to process and acknowledge our emotions and thoughts, is our home.

Usually we can try to ‘hold it together’ when people are relying on us, when we need to get our job done, finish a test, complete an assignment or manage our everyday tasks.  But for most of us, ‘home’, is a place of safe refuge, unconditional love and limitless acceptance – well it should be, right?

I was reminded recently about the children who ZOE has helped to rescue. When they arrive, they’ve generally had little-to-no control over their environment and circumstances so, understandably, they experience varying emotions from distrust, fear, shame and grief. They may also have injuries, be unwell or arrive addicted to substances.  

For them to understand that they have reached a place where they are free to be who they were created to be, where they are loved and accepted for who they are, where wounds can heal and joy be restored…it’s an overwhelming experience and one that is often hard to believe.

As I stood in the Child Rescue Center recently, a place where the journey begins, I felt so tremendously grateful – not just for the beautiful buildings, gardens and facilities but for the amazing people who stand ready to embrace these precious children.

This poem is about them.

SO, COME

Come with your tear streaked eyes,
Come with your loneliness,
Come with your abandonment,
Bring it.
You are no longer alone.

Come with your hidden pain,
Come with your rejection,
Come with your silent anger,
Bring it.
You are no longer invisible.

Come with your shattered trust,
Come with your fears,
Come with your broken dreams,
Bring them.
You are no longer unheard.

Come with your scars,
Come with your shame,
Come with your unworthiness,
Bring them.
You will no longer be blamed.

Come with your silenced voice,
Come with your wounded heart,
Come with your numbing pain,
Bring them.
You are no longer imprisoned.

Come with your chaos,
Come with your loss,
Come with your rejection,
Bring them.
You are welcome here.

And the longer you stay,
The more you’ll begin to understand,
You are brave.
You are worthy.
You are incredible.
You are truly one of kind.
So, come.

By Andrea Cross

*This poem speaks of the love and kindness that the ZOE staff display day-in and day-out to the ones who have never known and experienced ‘home’ before and the beautiful freedom that comes from being accepted and embraced ‘just as they are’.

June 19, 2017 - No Comments!

We Need Each Other

“Not one of these kids who have succeeded has done it without connection to at least one supportive adult.”

     Nola Brantley
     Human Trafficking Survivor, Advocate, and Educator

An amazing survivor of child trafficking made this statement recently. Her words confirm a basic, well-known truth:

We need each other.

Read more

December 2, 2015 - No Comments!

Giving With No Regrets

Christmas at ZOE

A Story of a Young Girl Who Learns to Give

A little girl celebrated her very first Christmas at ZOE. Before coming to ZOE, she was living in a dark world of evil and greed. This appeared to be the legacy she was given and the path she would follow in her life. She was rescued and her young impressionable heart brought that greedy attitude to her first Christmas. She received a new toy along with all the other children. She seemed to embrace it until she saw another little girl get a different toy. She wanted it too and threw an ugly, angry temper tantrum when she could not have both toys. It was not simply a small child’s selfish tantrum. It was rooted in the evil and greed that had been her life before coming to ZOE.

Fast forward to her second Christmas at ZOE. During this year at ZOE, the ZOE family modeled unconditional love and joyful generosity for her. Would this Christmas be different?

Each year, ZOE selects a project to demonstrate God’s love to the community around them. It may be bringing Christmas to a poor children’s home, ministering at a blind school, or rebuilding a village home after a devastating flood. Whatever the project is, the children are given the opportunity to give toward this project with the little bit of Christmas money they receive to spend however they want. There is no pressure to give. The children simply write down on a slip of paper if they want to give any money to the project and how much they want to give. It is turned in anonymously and only two ZOE staff members see the slips of paper for administrative purposes. Many children are very generous and want to give all their money away. Others are more strategic, as they figure out what they want to buy and what they can give away.

As the two ZOE staffers opened the slips of paper, they discovered that this little girl wanted to give 100% of her Christmas money away! They couldn’t believe their eyes! This is the same little girl who threw an ugly fit just a year earlier. Maybe she didn’t understand, they thought. So they called her to the living room to ask her.

“Do you understand that you don’t have to give ALL your money? You don’t have to give ANY of your money.”
“Yes, I understand. I want to give it all.”

“All? 100%? You can keep some!” They continued to press her to make sure this was her decision and she didn’t feel pressured by anyone. She finally said she wanted to give all her money away because she wanted to learn to give with no regrets! Our two staff members hugged her, encouraged her, and celebrated her through tears of joy, as they witnessed an amazing transformation in this little girl’s heart.

The story doesn’t end there, however. Her resolve to learn to give without regrets was severely tested as she watched the other children take their Christmas money to the store to buy candy and small trinkets for themselves. It took everything in our staff not to give her money to go buy something. It would have been a reasonable reward for her generosity, but ZOE wants our children to learn to be givers and depend on God to meet their needs. So without regret and with joy, this little girl watched her friends freely spend their Christmas money. Then, a very special thing happened. All the other children seeing that she had no money began to buy little things for her! They too were learning to give with no regrets.

That was several years ago and this little girl, now a teenager, is still the sweet, kind, and generous girl who learned the value of giving with no regrets.

One little girl’s act of generosity impacted the lives of many. Will you give with no regrets this Christmas season and allow God to use your generosity to impact the people around you?

If you would like to give to ZOE children in Thailand or those in the foster care system in the U.S., donate here.

October 7, 2015 - No Comments!

Living Humbly for a Cause

ZOE Missionaries Help Victims of Child Trafficking

"The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one."  -  Mr. Antolini, Catcher in the Rye

This quotation makes me think of ZOE’s many amazing missionaries. Our missionaries are men and women with professional experience in law enforcement, banking, business, rocket science, teaching, social work, and administration in a state government department. These are people who were effective in their careers. They experienced success and carried influence.

In the midst of their success, they chose to change their professional trajectories. They chose to live humbly in the service of children unseen or discarded by others.

These gifted men and women have chosen to live humbly. As a result, victims of child trafficking are experiencing safety, love, family, education, and vocational training. They are experiencing God’s love. The impact of these humble lives is truly magnificent.

I am deeply grateful for the missionaries at ZOE. I also suspect that, in truth, they were never more successful than they are today.

August 19, 2015 - No Comments!

Well Beyond Our Control

Prayer for Better Memory

A young boy had been brought to ZOE for protection. He knew he would have to stand witness against and give testimony of what he knew and experienced. He understood his testimony would put a bad guy in prison. He knew if the bad guy were in prison, he couldn’t hurt anyone else. The only problem was this boy’s memory. When asked if he could remember information, he would think with all his might, but he just couldn’t remember.

At ZOE, we know that prayer is a powerful weapon in the fight against the enemy that often goes underutilized. Whether it’s because of the perceived lack of response or the clutter in our lives, prayer sometimes can take a backseat. The prayer ministry at ZOE understands the necessity of prayer, as we regularly encounter things that are well beyond our control. The only possible way for things to work out is if God intervenes in His characteristic and mighty ways.

We knew that the trial would surely fail without the boy’s testimony, so we joined in prayer for God to work in bringing about a favorable outcome. As the day approached, the boy still could not remember anything. His brain had created a mental block that disrupted his memory. Still ZOE prayed for better memory.

Finally, the day of the trial came. He was nervous he still didn’t know how he was going to answer the questions. He sat down timidly, not knowing that many people had been praying for him. Then, the time came for questions. One of the staff members felt compelled to sit with the boy. Because of the staff member, someone the boy trusted, things became clear in his mind and he remembered details that everyone thought were forgotten. Whenever the boy was asked a question, he remembered and spoke the truth. While there were still details that remained fuzzy, the boy was able to answer the questions much better than he ever had before.

Every day, ZOE has the privilege of seeing prayer at work in the lives of child trafficking survivors at ZOE. Whether they are working through inner turmoil or problems at school, we know firsthand that God responds to prayer in creative and miraculous ways.

Would you pray with us and for us, as we continue seeking God for wisdom and direction?

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. | James 1:5-6

June 29, 2015 - No Comments!

Honoring Dads at ZOE

ZOE Honors House Fathers

Our family structure at ZOE is one of the ways we make sure our kids are loved and cared for. As you may have seen from a past blog post, ZOE’s family units are led by at least two sets of house parents. Many of these couples have had kids of their own, yet some have not. These house mothers and fathers have never experienced a Mother’s or Father’s Day before coming to ZOE, and yet they are honored as mothers and fathers, especially on those special days.

With Father’s Day still on our minds, we are reminded of God’s heart as a Father. In fact, ZOE house fathers closely resemble the relationship all Christians have with our heavenly Father. Jesus is God’s “one and only son” (John 3:16, NIV), and yet Paul says in Galatians 3:26 that we are children of God through Jesus Christ. This means that God the Father has adopted believers, and while we are not begotten sons and daughters, we are made heirs of God (Romans 8:17). 

Of course, the ZOE house fathers have not legally adopted any of the rescued children at ZOE, but I know for certain that every one of the fathers loves his ZOE children at the same level he would his own flesh and blood. In this way, we honor the fathers today for their hard work and dedication to the child trafficking victims at ZOE.