Category "USA"

ZOE Los Angeles First Quarter Update

March 21, 2022

ZOE Advocacy Program

Thanks to you, our donors and partners, the children that ZOE serves in our Advocacy Program, and our ZOE Home for Youth experienced a wonderful Christmas, being reminded that they are loved and valued. More than 50 children in our Advocacy Program received items from their wishlists, gift cards, Christmas stockings full of gifts, and more, all donated! The holidays can often be a painful time for our children as they long to be with family they can’t be with or long to have a family of their own, often leading them to hurt themselves or engage in harmful activities. The youth were reminded by you how loved and precious they are. One child received a keyboard she requested to practice piano. Another child received a nail kit set to practice nail design, part of her future vocational goals. These are healthy activities to bring joy and positive coping skills. 

ZOE Home for Youth

At ZOE’s Home for Youth, the girls were all giddy for Christmas. “They asked if they could open their Christmas gifts at midnight instead of waiting until Christmas morning,” said Vickie McCoy, ZOE’s Residential Manager. As they opened the gifts they received, they screamed with excitement. The youth shared, “I have never received this many gifts before!” Material gifts cannot fill the pain and holes left by the trauma and abuse they have experienced, but celebrations with staff and each other, meaningful conversations, and messages of hope created a sense of family and belonging that they have not experienced in a long time or ever before.

Thank you to all our donors, churches, and partners who made this Christmas so special! 

Operation Reclaim and Rebuild

Operation Reclaim and RebuildAs part of the LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, ZOE partners with law enforcement, social workers, and other government and community agencies to help recover children from human trafficking and provide ongoing support to the children and families.

In February, ZOE took part in a week-long state-wide effort to combat human trafficking called Operation Reclaim and Rebuild. Sixty-five adult and 7 minor victims were recovered, 182 males were arrested for soliciting prostitution, and 30 suspected traffickers and exploiters were arrested.

We applaud the LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force for doing a great job arresting traffickers and recovering victims of human trafficking during this week-long operation. “We need our police force to help us end child trafficking,” said Dave.

Please join with us and pray the survivors get the support they need and those who exploited others get the justice and resources they need to stop hurting others.

ZOE East Coast Helps Launch Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Task Force

March 21, 2022

On January 11th, which was National Human Trafficking Awareness Da, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Task Force was launched. ZOE International is privileged to be a part of this task force. Our East Coast staff was a vital part of conducting the research and building the structure for the task force, which is composed of three components: 1. law enforcement and prosecution, 2. victim restorative services, 3. community outreach.

Lancaster County DA SealOver the past year, members of ZOE conducted interviews and garnished data from Pennsylvania human trafficking task forces and implemented ZOE International’s global best practices to craft the structure of the task force. Data from the US State Department’s Trafficking In Person’s (TIP) report and the Department of Justice/Office of Victims of Crime’s human trafficking task force suggestions were also implemented. The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Human Trafficking task force is a comprehensive array of supporting services with a victim-centered approach for trafficking victims. This task force also will be beneficial in prosecuting traffickers in Lancaster County.

ZOE’s Advocacy Program in Los Angeles

November 2, 2021
Through ZOE’s Advocacy Program in Los Angeles, we serve children and families who have been impacted by human trafficking or highly at risk of trafficking. We are so thankful for our amazing partners who provide opportunities and experiences for the children we serve. Recently, ZOE partnered with New Dawn Foundation to provide an experience with horses, which has been found to be therapeutic and healing for survivors of trauma and trafficking.
Most of the teens were excited to walk the ponies, pet and brush them, and even guide them through obstacles. Later, the group had time to process what everyone was feeling and thinking.
In one instance, a teen was hesitant to engage. A pony continued to walk over to her, brush up against her, trying to get her attention. Eventually, the teen pet it gently and participated in the next activity. At the end of the day, the youth whispered:
“I loved it.”
If you would like to learn more about how you can be a part of the healing and restoration of the children ZOE serves, contact info@gozoe.org.

ZOE USA receives license to open ZOE Home for Youth in Los Angeles

September 17, 2021

We are so excited to have finally received our license to open the ZOE Home for Youth (ZHY). “From 2016, when we closed escrow and submitted our plans to receiving our license to open, God has been guiding us, answering prayers and performing miracles along the way,” said Vickie McCoy, ZHY Residential Manager.

Eight Lancaster County Men Win the 2021 Ultra-Cycling Event, Race Across America

July 14, 2021

On June 25, 2021, eight cyclists from Lancaster County and twelve crew members, all representing ZOE International, finished first place in the non-stop, 3,000-mile transcontinental relay race from California to Maryland, Race Across America (RAAM).

The 2021 RAAM consisted of 7, 8-man cycling teams and 17 teams of 2, 4, and 8, along with 12 solo racers. The ZOE cycling team completed the race in 6 days and 27 minutes with an average speed of 21.03 mph while climbing over 100,000+ feet.

“After competing in 2019, we knew our limitations and capabilities and thought we might have a chance to win this year,” shared Brad. “We set out to do our race and not let the competitors set the race for us. We knew we couldn’t make a mistake. So we plugged all the gaps we had in 2019, and we trained a lot harder this year. Ultimately, we capitalized on the experience we had from 2019 to win the race in 2021!”

For 39 years, the RAAM has become a global icon, challenging ultra-cyclists from over 35 countries to push their physical and mental limits to the utmost. RAAM has also become an enormous platform for cyclists to raise funds for charities that they hold close to their hearts. Each year, RAAM cyclists raise over 10 million dollars in donations, dispersed to multiple charities.

In 2019, the 8-man cyclist team placed third and raised over $175,000 for ZOE International.

ZOE RAAM Team cyclists at the finish line winning first place

ZOE RAAM Team cyclists at the finish line winning first place

This year the team raised over $350,000 for ZOE International. The issue of child sex trafficking is an issue that is close to the team’s heart. “The idea to compete in this race all began when I first traveled to ZOE International in Thailand in 2014,” said Brad Ortenzi, ZOE International Eastern US Regional Director and Race Across America Director and Cyclist.

“While visiting the home for children who have been trafficked at ZOE Thailand, I was inspired by the children’s fight. Every one of them was a fighter – fighting to get their life back. Contact: Brad Ortenzi (717) 708-8109- cell brad@goZOE.org Lonna Gibson (661) 388-1295 lonna@goZOE.org – Continued – Lonna Gibson (661) 388-1295 lonna@goZOE.org Their fight inspired me and changed my life. Competing in the Race Across America allows ZOE to take this fight against child sex trafficking across the United States.”

The eight-man cycling team included Nate Eakin, Matt Lapp, Allen Fisher, Sam Lapp, Elmer Fisher, Jonathan Fisher, Allan Fisher, and Brad Ortenzi – all from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Many team members began training as early as the Fall of 2020, putting in the hours on stationary bikes, riding outdoors, strength training, and swimming.

Cyclist Allan Fisher added, “I wasn’t aware of human trafficking happening in the states. ZOE is bringing freedom to many children, and I want to stand with them because I believe in what they are doing.”

Not only do the cyclists compete in the race, but they also have a goal to raise $20,000 each for ZOE International.

“It costs about $70,000 for us to compete in the race, including the entrance fee, uniforms, helmets, fuel, and travel,” said Brad. “Any additional monies raised over the cost of expenses are donated to ZOE International to help rescue more children and care for and restore the rescued children entrusted in their care.”

Current sponsors for ZOE’s RAAM team are Breeo, Country Lane Gazebos, Weaver Construction, Lapp Structures, Sensenig’s Feed Mill, Select Carpentry, Earthsource, Fisher Brothers, Eagle Rental, Urban Southern, TLS Carpentry, US Boiler Company, Lititz VFW, Lancaster Bike Shop, Bicycle Barn and Campaign Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE).

Locally, Brad is also the Coordinator for the Lancaster County Task Force working alongside the District Attorney’s office and is a few months away from officially launching. The Lancaster County Human Trafficking Task Force will investigate, prosecute, and find restorative paths for trafficking survivors within Lancaster County. This will also include community outreach with prevention education and awareness of trafficking.

ZOE International was founded in 2002 with a mission to reach every person with God’s love and rescue every child from human trafficking through prevention, rescue, and restoration efforts in the USA, Thailand, Mexico, Japan, and Australia. More information about ZOE International can be found at goZOE.org and the 2021 Race Across America at www.raceacrossamerica.org.

Contact:

Brad Ortenzi (717) 708-8109- cell brad@goZOE.org

Lonna Gibson (661) 388-1295 lonna@goZOE.org

Lancaster Cycling Team Prepares for Race Across America RAAM

June 14, 2021

8 Lancaster County cyclists prepare for 3,000-mile bike race to raise $250K to fight sex trafficking

Erik Yabor – Staff Writer

A group of Lancaster County residents are preparing to set off on a 3,000 mile bike trek to raise money for an international nonprofit that combats child sex trafficking. An eight-man relay team and 12 crew members depart from Oceanside, California, on Saturday with a plan of arriving in Annapolis, Maryland, less than a week later as part of Race Across America (RAAM), an annual ultra-endurance cycling race that spans the United States. 

Brad Ortenzi and other ZOE bike riders“It is a race,” said team leader Brad Ortenzi, 53, a former Ephrata police detective who served for 20 years, “but it’s more of a platform for nonprofits and cyclists to either raise awareness for a project or to raise funds for charities.” RAAM cyclists raise more than $10 million each year for their charities of choice, according to the organization’s website. The Lancaster County team’s sponsored charity, ZOE International, is focused on helping survivors of child sex trafficking across the globe.

“ZOE is bringing freedom to many children, and I want to stand with them because I believe in what they are doing,” said team member Allan Fisher, 33, of Gordonville.

Ortenzi, ZOE’s Eastern U.S. Regional Director, has been involved with the faith-based international nonprofit with operations in five countries since 2014, when he visited their refuge house in Thailand to meet with child survivors of sex trafficking. “Every one of them was a fighter – fighting to get their life back,” he said. “Their fight inspired me and changed my life. Competing in the Race Across America allows ZOE to take this fight against child sex trafficking across the United States.” The Lancaster County team’s goal this year is to raise $250,000 for ZOE, with more than $198,000 already raised, according to ZOE International’s website.

Children’s stories motivate mission

Ortenzi had been working undercover online seeking out traders of child pornography, a job he described as “heartcrushing” work, when he began looking for a new career he could take on post-retirement. It was Ortenzi’s pastor who suggested that he reach out to ZOE, believing he would be a natural fit due to his background in law enforcement. “It was clear from the beginning that Brad has a passion for justice,” said Brian Flewelling, a pastor at Petra Church in Earl Township, which Ortenzi has attended since 2012. “He has a skillset that is unique to anyone else in the field.” Flewelling helped facilitate a meeting between Ortenzi and a person who was connected with leadership at ZOE’s Los Angeles campus.

“To see (Ortenzi) emotionally moved by the mission and mandate that ZOE was carrying, it was clear that something was happening in his heart and his spirit where their vision was being shared,” Flewelling said. “He really felt a need to be a partner in that.” From there, a trip to ZOE’s refuge for child victims of sex trafficking in Thailand was quickly arranged.

photo of Brad Ortenzi ZOE International Eastern USA Regional Director

photo of Brad Ortenzi
ZOE International
Eastern USA

 

“They were cared for, they were loved, and they were on their way back to a really healthy path,” he said. Ortenzi later wrote in his journal that “it seemed like they had a grasp on joy that I didn’t.” “Never being around trafficked children before, I expected the worst,” he said. “We just didn’t see that. These kids were really on a good path.” During one prayer session, an 8-year-old girl who had been rescued from sex trafficking offered a prayer. It was for Ortenzi. Though he didn’t understand the child’s Thai language, Ortenzi said the moment made Ortenzi and his wife feel he had a new calling in life.

“’You have skills right now that could help free rescued trafficked children, and there’s no amount of retirement that could add up to that,’” Ortenzi said his wife told him. Moving from Lancaster County to Thailand was a gargantuan undertaking, Ortenzi said, but “this was something we wanted to be a part of.”

Regional Director Ortenzi and his wife arrived to find what he described as a “first-class operation” consisting of about 100 Thai staff and another two dozen international missionaries, but what really impressed him was the bravery and resilience of the children.

“It was a culture shock, but we were both world travelers before,” he said. “In the military I was all over the place.”Now back in the U.S., Ortenzi has since been tasked with helping coordinate a new anti-human trafficking task force by the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, an effort ZOE is assisting by donating his time to the county.

Riding to raise funds, awareness

Ortenzi first came up with the idea to ride bicycles across the country to raise money for ZOE in 2018, when he and 46 others rode from Virginia to California, raising nearly $300,000 for the nonprofit, in an event unrelated to RAAM.“We realized we probably had a pretty good idea here,” he said. Ortenzi and his wife were in the process of moving back to Lancaster County from ZOE’s Thailand branch in 2019 when they learned about RAAM and decided to enter their own eight-member relay team, nearly identical in lineup to the team that’s competing this year. Some of the team members had been cycling with Ortenzi since that first cross-country trek in 2018. Others he knew from church, or from friends of friends. “They’re all just guys who love cycling and really connected with what ZOE is doing,” Ortenzi said.

The Lancaster County cyclists took their training and preparations seriously for the race, “but once we got on the road it was more intense than what we thought,” Ortenzi said. “We didn’t really know what to expect, and quite honestly we were sort of going naïve into the situation,” he said. “We trained hard and we tried to prep hard, but the logistics of this thing were almost astronomical.” The team was racing at a much faster rate of speed than what they were anticipating, throwing their lodging plans into disarray. “We were pretty much on the run and we had to make some major decisions and change things up,” Ortenzi said. Even with the logistical hurdles, the team placed third in its division, finishing with a time of six days, five hours and 52 minutes – an average of 20.3 mph.

cyclists in a hudle

cyclists in a hudle

“RAAM officials had mentioned that they don’t remember a rookie team ever being on the podium,” Ortenzi said. “They were pretty surprised, and we were pleasantly surprised as well.”More importantly, the team raised more than $175,000 for ZOE International.This year, team members are taking into account the lessons they learned in 2019 and are hoping to avoid some of the same mistakes they made.Training began at the end of last fall, with team members hoping to reach the peak of their cardiovascular fitness right as the race is set to begin.

Training can involve “a little bit of everything,” Ortenzi said, including swimming, weight training, running and meeting with personal trainers. Many of the more recent training regimens have taken place on bicycles, with team members riding at least four to six times each week, sometimes for hours at a time.The thousands of hours spent training for the race since the fall were made possible because of the race’s philanthropic focus, Ortenzi said.To that end, more than one dozen local businesses and organizations are backing the team.“Lancaster Countians really seem to rally around us and engage with what we’re doing,” Ortenzi said. “It became a really great awareness project for ZOE here in Lancaster County.”

People interested in donating to ZOE International’s cause can do so at https://gozoe.org/raam-2021/.

 

 

 

 

Cuties and the Exploitation of Children

October 20, 2020

On August 19, 2020, Netflix began promoting a French film called Cuties, which was set for worldwide release on September 9, 2020. The film (originally called Mignonnes) by French Senegalese director Maïmouna Doucouré and Netflix’s marketing campaign brought about worldwide criticism, petitions to remove the film from Netflix, and campaigns to #cancelNetflix due the public’s concerns that the film promotes the sexualization and commercial sexual exploitation of children and appeals to the appetites of pedophiles.

On September 23, 2020, a grand jury indicted Netflix for the “promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child.”

Although Doucouré has stated that her intention was “to show that our children should have the time to be children, and we as adults should protect their innocence and keep them innocent as long as possible,” in the making and promoting of the film, young girls were exploited in the process and continue to be exploited every time someone views the film. The lead actress is just 11 years old.

Legal Exploitation

Imagery in films like these normalize the sexualization of children and are legal forms of online child sexual exploitation. Individuals and companies are profiting from the exploitation of children in this film. Exploiters can easily take images and videos from this film and upload them to sites profiting from commercialized sexual abuse imagery of children. In addition, with children watching films like these, they are being exposed to and influenced by sexualized behaviors and media representations of children.

Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)

As a society, we need to take a stand and draw the line against media imagery that fuels the demand for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), their CyberTipline has received over 65 million reports of the online exploitation of children, 312 million images and videos have been reviewed, and over 18,900 victims have been identified by law enforcement. NCMEC further reports that survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) “speak to the long-lasting damage and impact of their images and videos being circulated on the internet.

Subscription-based Services

The lack of control of both the files’ existence and circulation leaves the survivors struggling in their recovery.” In 2018, “teen” was one of the Top 10 search terms from the most consumed pornographic website. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that “[s]ome child traffickers adjusted to the reluctance of buyers to meet in-person to engage in commercial sex. Some traffickers are now offering options for subscription-based services in which buyers pay to access online images and videos of the child.”

The sexual abuse imagery of children exists because there is a demand for it. Let us fight to protect the dignity of children, especially in media, imagery, and the internet.

#STOP247

April 29, 2020

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

– Carol Hart, ZOE cofounder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Steps to Keeping Your Child Safe Online During School Closures

April 1, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA

October 7, 2019

In 2016, it was estimated that there were about 403,000 victims of human trafficking in the United States. (International Labour Organization)

The United States is both a source and a transit country for trafficking. It is considered one of the top destinations for victims of child trafficking and exploitation. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 U.S. states.

In America, ZOE is working in the areas of prevention, rescue and restoration. ZOE raises awareness and funds to prevent trafficking through their annual Rescue Walk, student and community programs (like My Gen My Fight) and by providing trafficking awareness training and presentations to schools, churches, social workers, mental health workers, businesses, hotels, and community groups.

ZOE is contracted with Los Angeles County’s Department of Child and Family Services and Department of Probations to provide 24-7 crisis response and victim advocacy services when first responders recover a child from sex trafficking or when children are identified as victims of sex trafficking in Los Angeles County.

ZOE has purchased 50 acres of land in North Los Angeles County and is building a short-term residential therapeutic program (STRTP) for female youth who have been trafficked in Los Angeles. This home will provide holistic care to bring restoration and meet the physical, emotional, social, educational, vocational, and spiritual needs of these survivors.

You can read more about ZOE’s presence in America here or stay connected with their activities here.

A Glimpse of His Heart

October 2, 2019
Author Anne
Words cannot describe the supernatural experience I had on my Short Term Mission (STM) to Thailand with ZOE International.  From the first meeting I attended at the ZOE Santa Clarita office in preparation for the STM to the last day in Thailand were all so special and exceptional!  Everything that Betsy and Vickie advised us during the monthly meetings happened exactly like the way they described so there were no surprises, except for the incredible hotel accommodations we had, particularly the Horizon resort hotel — OMG the amazing botanical gardens with so many animal shaped topiaries and a zoo that would take three hours on a bike to explore! That was truly over the top.
The warm reception at the Chiang Mai airport by the Long Term Missionaries (LTMs) and the Leadership Training (LT) students were priceless. Carol and Mike Hart are God sent. The whole ZOE Family were all so very humble and kind. I went to Thailand thinking I would be working hard and roughing it for two weeks, instead, the LTMs, LT students, and the ZOE kids were the ones blessing me and serving me. The interactive dinners we had with the ZOE children reminded me of Psalms 23 — “2 He makes me lie down in green pastures… 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies… 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” I was humbled by the ZOE families’ meekness and how passionate they were about serving and worship. The children’s testimonies and the LT students’ drama performances were profound. Our STM team that I met for the first time, in person, were also so very special. Holy Spirit was definitely on our side.
To sum up my experience, our theme song “Our God” says it all. I prayed and asked my church to pray that I, too (like Betsy), would be able to see the people/children of Thailand through God’s heart and God afforded me a glimpse of His heart.
Water you turn into wine
Open the eyes of the blind, there’s no one like You, none like You
Into the darkness you shine
Out of the ashes we rise, there’s no one like You, none like You

 

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God you are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power, our God, our God