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All Posts in Thailand

May 7, 2019 - No Comments!

Parents’ Night Off

ZOE Thailand

Ever felt drained by the demands of parenting? I know I have. It can be easy to give every last bit of energy to your children and neglect the other important relationships in your life, or even taking care of yourself.

It’s really hard to find the balance between keeping your marriage strong, building external friendships, and having family time. Many parents become so focused on their children’s needs that they fail to recognize that their own marriage, personal time, or friendships are deteriorating.  

Whilst it’s true, children thrive when they receive lots of love from their mothers and fathers but parents also need to set aside time to recharge and focus on their other relationships like their marriages and friendships. This is why we regularly have a team of people to help organize parents’ nights off for the ZOE parents. Some of the team cook dinner for the parents, while the rest of them help to oversee activities for the kids to ensure that our hardworking parents regularly get a well-deserved break.

*** ZOE protects the identity and dignity of children and does not show children's faces. Faces shown in photos are Thai staff . ***

May 4, 2019 - No Comments!

Summer Workin’

ZOE Thailand
Brandon Kim

Don’t we all have fond memories of our summer break jobs? Working as a lifeguard at the community pool or helping an uncle install carpeting; we all have a special place in our heart for our first “real” job. This summer (summer break in this part of the world is mid-March to mid-May), eight of our vocational training students got to share in this milestone and memorable coming-of-age experience…

One teenage girl is serving delicious and healthy dishes at a popular farm-to-table restaurant. At the interview, she shyly described her previous experience as a hospitality intern two years ago through our vocational training program, and upon hearing the name of the reputable hotel she was hired on the spot!

One teenage boy is using his construction skills to make building improvements. Just a month prior, he saw a team of workers installing rain gutters on our campus and took the initiative to ask if he could approach and join them. Now, he travels daily with his crew to job sites around the city and has the callouses to prove it!

Six teenage girls are learning first-hand the behind-the-scenes operations of a large resort and conference center. From food preparation and beverage service to front office greeting and housekeeping, they are paired up with experienced staff who are guiding them through rotations in a four-week internship. One week down and three to go!!

Please keep these youth in your prayers. I can't tell if they love their jobs or hate them, but hey, that's all part of the experience, too, right?! 🙂

May 3, 2019 - No Comments!

The Mountain Before Us

ZOE International
Brad Ortenzi

I stood in the dark looking for the peak of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain. The 30-mile race to the top was about to start and 7,000 cyclists straddled their bikes, crowded together at the starting line. We all shared the same unspoken knowledge that the next few hours were gonna hurt. “What am I doing here?” I asked myself. I was about to cycle up an 8,000-foot mountain that punishes anyone wanting to reach its heights.  Some cars can’t make this climb.

This predawn experience reminded me of my first few weeks in Thailand when I asked myself that same question, ”What am I doing here?” Almost 5 years ago I had left people I loved and a career that was a great fit for me to come to Thailand to fight child trafficking with ZOE. We knew that God was calling us here, no doubt about it. But upon arrival when it came time to create goals to find children, I had a vision of a huge mountain in front of me. The mountain represented child trafficking and the hold the enemy had on enslaved children. I was daunted and fear began to fill my heart. I was called here to use what I had learned the previous 20 years to lead a team to help rescue enslaved children. Now when it was time to lock and load, I wasn’t sure where to begin. As I studied the mountain, I could hear the enemy laughing at me.

The next few months were the most difficult of my life. Not because that was God’s design but because it took me awhile to learn to be yoked with the Great Rescuer who was leading me in this fight. You see, I thought the abilities that had served me well in the past were the key to fighting child trafficking in Thailand. Nope. Instead, I learned that the key to climbing the mountain of child trafficking was first sitting at the feet of Jesus.  His presence emboldened my identity in Him, filling me with courage, inspiring me to serve, as I claimed the gift of joy of a life in the service of the King. As I learned to sit at His feet, the wisdom He gave began to bridge gaps, build relationships, create structure, and ultimately build teams that rescue children. And without me even realizing it, we began to climb the mountain.

This memory of my first few months in Thailand filled me with courage as the race started. The nervousness turned into determination and I slowly began to cycle up the mountain, one crank at a time. Five hours later I stood at the top of Doi Inthanon looking over Thailand’s beautiful jungles and thanking God for the journey. Not just the journey of the past five hours but the past five years. This journey was rugged, untamed, and difficult but most of all: amazingly beautiful, just like the jungle I was looking over. In this journey, I’ve been privileged to have had a front row seat watching the Great Rescuer fight for His children with a passionate love that is unstoppable. And after the rescue of children, watching the fearless Rescuer become the compassionate loving Redeemer who heals and restores. I wouldn’t trade this climb for anything.

As my time in Thailand comes to an end and I travel home to the East Coast, I’m excited to see what God has planned for ZOE. Most importantly, I am reminded of a lesson learned that all of us in this fight for the freedom of children need to remember: To conquer the mountain of child trafficking, we must start at the feet of Jesus.

April 30, 2019 - No Comments!

Mud Brick Making

ZOE Thailand
Andrea Cross

Do you have memories from your childhood of playing in the mud? I know I do. Fun times in the backyard making mud cakes - squishing and squeezing the sludge between my fingers and toes. And then my dad coming with the garden hose and squirting my sister and me until we were clean enough to come inside and take a shower.

As an adult, though I avoid getting dirty and I really don’t seek out the feeling of squishy mud between my toes anymore, in all honesty I do think there is some truth to the quote, “The most memorable days usually end with the dirtiest clothes.” It was true for me growing up, for sure.

This was also the case recently for some of our boys who got an opportunity to experience the initial stages of constructing a mud house as part of the new Clay House Project at Wycliffe Thai. Wycliffe is eager to develop and pass on the knowledge and skills involved in building these mud brick houses as a practical solution for a strong, durable, and low-cost housing.

The boys got to help with the process of making the mud bricks, and you can see from the photos that they had to get actually get down into it, to really be able to help. Stage one included preparing a stomping pit and filling it with soil and water. The soil and water had to be in the stomping pit for at least 2-3 hours to break down the hard soil and make it easier to mix. The stomping process lasts until the soil breaks down into small pieces and becomes smooth.

The boys’ responses confirmed that it was a really fun learning experience. They hope to go back soon to see the progress as the structure of the mud house takes shape.

April 30, 2019 - No Comments!

Discipleship in Action

ZOE Thailand
LoriAnn Tsang

During Thailand's summer break, our ZOE children and youth are given the opportunity to participate in two weeks of Bible camp, put on by our discipleship team.

Our team integrated fun activities, object lessons, team competition, and teaching to communicate God’s word.

The team built an obstacle course at ZOE so our children could physically experience obstacles they had to face and overcome. What an amazing representation of the challenges and obstacles that face us in life. It was the perfect introduction to the camp.

One of our missionaries shares:

“This year the Junior Highers were able to just BE Junior Highers...in all the glory & awkwardness that that brings!!! They were goofy, crazy, silly!!! It made me so happy to see that we had created an environment where they felt comfortable enough to just let loose and be themselves--an environment where they could laugh without holding back! And yet, when session or teaching time came, they were so focused and engaged, showing maturity too. It was special...Every moment felt like it had value. There wasn't any activity that the kids seemed uninterested or bored. They were excited about every little thing we did!”

After two full weeks of activities and teachings, they shared in a worship and testimony night.

Here are a few quotes from that evening:

"Thank God camp was so fun and had the best teachings this year."

"I grew in God and grew closer to God. My spirit grew."

"I complain a lot. But after hearing the teaching about thanking God, God is changing my heart to thank Him in everything instead of complaining."

*** ZOE protects the identity and dignity of children and does not show children's faces. Faces shown in photos are Thai staff or Leadership Students. ***

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 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 - 3 comments

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!

March 19, 2019 - No Comments!

Can we build it? Yes, we can!

ZOE Thailand

By Brandon Kim

A few months ago it was brought to our vocational teacher’s attention that when working on computers, the students’ posture could be improved with the correct ergonomics. This led to a search for the right monitor stand but ended with the conclusion, “We could make one just like that for 1/6 of the price,” and, “DIY projects are way more fun!”

Since that time, students have been building their confidence using the power tools necessary for any basic woodworking job and, more recently, have learned the technical skills of mechanical drafting and computer-based 3D modeling.

At the beginning of this month, with instructional support from trainers, the students drafted a design for a monitor stand by hand, created it using SketchUp, and then crafted it to specification. Though fairly simple, the construction process also allowed them to experiment with various jointing and finishing techniques. All in all, the students built eight matching stands and were thus inspired to create their own custom designs for larger full-sized tables.

March 11, 2019 - No Comments!

Longing for Home

ZOE International
By Lori-Ann Tsang

I’ve been contemplating the concept of “home” lately. What are ways we try to make a place feel more like home? In thinking about the structure and physical building itself, unless you are an architect or a builder, your first chance at this happens after the structure has been built and is completed. We bring in furniture, plants, rugs, shelves, and other personal belongings to help us feel at home.  

Long before any plans were drawn up or the first brick was laid for our ZOE home in Thailand, our leaders, planning team, and architects began thinking about this concept of “home.” They knew the building itself would need to be unique and special because of its purpose. It would be place where children rescued from human trafficking could feel safe, secure, and loved…a place they could call home.

The inside is beautiful and very livable!! I love the layout and the building very much. I want a house like this of my own, someday!"

~ Recently rescued youth about ZOE Thailand’s Child Rescue Center

So much planning, prayer, and preparation goes into the building of every structure on each ZOE campus. It is done with love and care, knowing that it will have a far-reaching impact on the precious children who come through the doors.

This reminds me that we have a perfect home being prepared for us. One that is beyond our wildest dreams. “... looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10, NIV).

Find out more about our newest HOME being built in LA: https://gozoe.org/our-work/los-angeles/