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Empowering Communities: Your Support Helps ZOE Combat Human Trafficking Locally

February 29, 2024

On February 14th, ZOE joined forces with the SCV (Santa Clarita, California) Human Trafficking Task Force to visit more than twenty local hotels and motels. Together, they shared vital information on raising awareness and protecting victims of human trafficking in the community.

The task force focused on endorsing and educating hotel managers and staff about existing laws on human trafficking of both adults and children. California Assembly Bill 2034, mandates restaurants, hotels, massage parlors and nail salons to inform employees and patrons about potential indicators of trafficking by hanging an informational poster in their lobbies or restrooms. Businesses are also required to undergo training to identify the warning signs. 

Before the team set out, SCV Human Trafficking Task Force Lead, Pastor Dan Broyles of Valencia Hills Community Church emphasized a crucial point. “The perception that Santa Clarita Valley is a safe, low-crime area often leads to the misconception that crimes like human trafficking don’t occur there,” shared Dan. “But that reality is quite the opposite. I receive reports of trafficking cases involving local victims on a monthly basis from my contacts within the county’s Department of Child and Family Services.” All the more reason to continue raising awareness and taking proactive measures to address human trafficking within the community.

ZOE Director of Development, Lonna Gibson added, “It was encouraging to see that many of the hotels we visited already knew about the law and had a poster hung in their lobby. The managers were very gracious and thankful to have the resources available to their employees and customers.”

 

 

 

ZOE provides free resources like posters, window clings and human trafficking training to churches and businesses. If you are in need of any resources for your business, please contact ZOE’s Assistant Western USA Regional Director, Ester Yu.

Other Resources:

  • Free Online Training: On March 14, 2024, you’re invited to a FREE online training called Protecting Kids Online, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm, PST, hosted by ZOE. In this FREE training, human trafficking experts from ZOE will share how you can protect kids from cyberbullying, sextortion, and exploitation. You will be equipped with practical resources that you can put in place today.
  • SCV Human Trafficking Task Force: Want to learn more about the Santa Clarita Valley Human Trafficking Task Force? Visit their Facebook page!

Witnessing Jesus in the Midst of Human Trafficking Investigations: A Testimony from Brad Ortenzi

February 28, 2024

During a recent church service at Petra in PA, ZOE’s USA Eastern Regional Director, Brad Ortenzi, had the privilege of sharing some insights gleaned from his experiences with ZOE International and on the heart of God: A Warrior Rescuer, Tender Father.

“I’m often asked what I’ve learned about Jesus through my involvement in child trafficking investigations. My answer remains consistent: Jesus has revealed to me a duality of His nature, manifesting as a fierce Warrior to rescue and a tender Daddy to restore. This revelation has been evident to me from the very beginning of my journey in this work. I’ve witnessed the transformative power of Jesus as He intervenes in the lives of trafficking victims, both rescuing them from their plight and tenderly restoring their spirits.

In CS Lewis’s book, The Chronicles of Narnia, there’s a memorable scene where Lucy observes Aslan walking away from a celebration. Feeling sad, she asks if he will come back. Mr. Tumnus assures her, stating that while Aslan is not a tame lion, he is good. This duality of Jesus—a gentle, loving nature combined with fierce strength—is beautifully exemplified in the work of ZOE International, an organization dedicated to rescuing children from trafficking and sharing the gospel.” 

One of the most emotionally moving moments of the service was when Brad reflected on real-life trafficking investigations that he was part of. He recounted an undercover operation in Thailand, where they awaited the delivery of two young boys to a client at a hotel. The team could feel the tension as they prayed for a successful outcome. Witnessing firsthand the rescue of these boys and their restoration at ZOE’s Children Home was a testament to Jesus’ unwavering commitment to rescue and restore the oppressed.

Other stories Brad shared from Thailand further highlighted Jesus’ tender care for the rescued children. Through corporate prayer sessions at ZOE Thailand, the ZOE team witnessed the transformative power of His love as children found healing and acceptance in God’s loving embrace. Each of their journeys from shame and brokenness to wholeness and joy serve as a powerful reminder of Jesus’ tender compassion and desire to restore hearts that are brokenhearted.

Near the end, Brad encouraged listeners that as followers of Christ, we are called to be His hands and feet in combating human trafficking. While every person has their role to play, the church has a unique responsibility to lead the charge. 

“The journey of combating human trafficking has taught me invaluable lessons about the character of Jesus. His duality as a fierce Warrior and a tender Daddy is evident in every rescue and restoration. As we continue to fight against this injustice, let us draw strength from the knowledge that Jesus is with us, leading the way with His unwavering love and compassion.”

Do you want to learn more about ZOE’s work on the East Coast? Click here! Or interested in having a ZOE leader come speak at your church or event? Fill out our Request a Speaker form and we’ll be in touch!

Transforming Lives: A Night of Worship and Hope with Jordan Feliz at In His Presence Church

February 26, 2024

Recently, In His Presence Church in Woodland Hills, CA held a worship night concert featuring American Christian musician, Jordan Feliz and ZOE’s work worldwide was highlighted as a ministry partner. This event was more than just a night of music—it was a soul-stirring experience filled with Spirit-led worship and a powerful message of hope!

Prior to the worship time, ZOE International’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Michael Hart, took to the stage to share how the invitation from God to rescue children began right in In His Presence Church. He recounted how God had called him and his wife, Carol, over 22 years ago to start ZOE International when a local missionary came to the church and shared about child sexual exploitation in Thailand. 

“We heard from a missionary that was visiting, that you could buy a little boy or a little girl off of a menu for the night,” shared Michael. “That just broke our hearts. We had heard about all kinds of exploitation of children, but that word human trafficking was new on the scene. We really crawled into God’s heart and prayed and asked him, ‘What can we do?.’ We heard God say, ‘I hear their cries and I need your life.’”

As Michael shared stories of redemption and restoration, tears filled the eyes of many in the audience. It was a stark reminder of the harsh realities faced by millions of children around the world and the urgent need to rescue them. But amidst the darkness, there was also hope—the hope that comes from knowing that God is at work, transforming lives and bringing light to the darkest places.

Michael also highlighted ZOE’s new initiative, the $10 to End campaign, and encouraged attendees to sign up to give just $10 a month to this important work. 

Before and after the concert, ZOE had a booth set-up where concert-goers could learn more about and support ZOE’s mission. It was heartwarming to see the generosity of those in attendance as they gave to support ZOE’s efforts in combating child trafficking and spreading the love of Christ.

On Saturday evening, several girls from our ZOE Home for Youth were able to attend.

“Thank you so much for being a part of this weekend,” said Dennis Dodd, In His Presence Church Praise and Worship Leader. “It was truly an honor to have ZOE there and to share both nights. We love ZOE and all of you and appreciate you so much.”

A special thanks to In His Presence Church for hosting us and for everyone who supported ZOE! To learn more about our new initiative, $10 to End, click HERE!

ZOE Japan Team Addresses Insights and Collaborates at Conference on Human Trafficking in Japan

January 29, 2024

Recently, The National Police Agency of Japan hosted its 19th Contact Point Liaison Conference on Trafficking in Persons.

During this bilingual event, valuable information and trends were shared by experts from the Community Safety Bureau of the National Police Agency, Tokyo Metropolitan Police, Immigration Services Agency and International Organization for Migration (IOM).

This year, ZOE Japan was blessed to be invited as a guest speaker for the event! Hiromi Hataji, ZOE Japan’s Regional Director, delivered a passionate presentation on the topic of “Protecting children against sexual exploitation.”

Her presentation included some of the alarming trends in online sextortion, tactics of perpetrators, and factors that make children more vulnerable to be targeted by traffickers. 

We are so grateful for God’s favor in giving us this valuable opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless, and to continue our collaboration with the National Police Agency in the fight against child trafficking.  



ZOE Thailand Supports Students Fleeing Burmese Conflict

January 8, 2024

Recently, the ZOE Thailand Team helped educate students at Mae Sot District, Tak Province, which is about 7 hours drive from ZOE Thailand. Most of the students are from the Karen tribe who fled the war in Burma and have come there to study. Since these students don’t have a Thai ID card, it makes life difficult as they miss out on many opportunities and basic needs (including food that is limited to 2 meals per day).

Some of the Thai students told our team that, since studying for more than two years, they haven’t had a chance to see their family. Even though they desire to, they’re not able to go back since they must finish their studies. 

Some of the students shared that even after graduating, they still don’t know what to do or where to go next. One ZOE team member reflected, “When we heard that, we felt sadness for them. And when we look back and think about ourselves it makes us see that we have a million more reasons to thank God for His blessings and grace in our lives.”

Youth in Vulnerable Communities Learn How to Protect Themselves from Human Trafficking

May 2, 2023

Awareness and education are critical to preventing human trafficking in the countries ZOE works in. That’s why our ZOE Australia team recently partnered with our Thailand teams to educate groups of students at schools within vulnerable communities about human trafficking. Both ZOE teams were able to join forces and put on fast-paced and engaging preventative workshops for students in northern Thailand.

ZOE Co-Founder and CEO Mike Hart shared, “We want to inspire and equip groups of people to end human trafficking together with us by giving them resources to do so. We do this by training community members across the globe to identify human trafficking and empower them to help end it.”

How does ZOE prevent human trafficking and exploitation? ZOE educates every sector of society and identifies and trains vulnerable children and communities about this issue. ZOE also equips local community advocates to provide protection and develops long-term solutions prayerfully.

During these interactive workshops, the ZOE team educated youth about what human trafficking looks like, how to stay safe online, and how to be aware of and respect physical boundaries. 

“The Thailand team did this impactful drama depicting the issue of human trafficking. It was so moving and effective – it stuck with me. I’m grateful to know that through this drama, and various workshops and activities with the students, they are equipped with knowledge about the issue of human trafficking and can feel empowered to reach out to safe people, be alert, and look out for their friends.” -Mareshah, ZOE Australia.

ZOE International Receives Accreditation for its Home for Youth

February 8, 2023

In January 2023, ZOE Home for Youth received a 3-year accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). 

CARF quality standards have been recognized as a roadmap for quality practices. Consumers, their families, and the public look for CARF accreditation as assurance that providers strive to offer the highest quality services.

“To receive a three-year accreditation of this caliber, ZOE put itself through a rigorous peer review process,” shared Melanie Bunn, ZOE Administrative Specialist, and CARF team member.

“This process included 1600 business and operational standards and demonstration to a team of surveyors during an on-site visit that our programs and services are of the highest quality, measurable, and accountable.”

This voluntary process means that a service provider, like ZOE International, must go the extra steps necessary to earn accreditation by meeting international standards for quality and excellence.

This accreditation decision represents the highest level of accreditation that can be awarded to an organization.

One of our surveys, who’s been doing this for 26 years, said, “ZOE stands out as one of the top organizations I’ve met with!”