All Posts in ZOE International

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.

May 1, 2019 - No Comments!

Double Impact

ZOE United States

Impact = to have a strong effect on someone or something.

“Impact” is a great word for the month of April for ZOE. We had a “Double the Impact” campaign where gifts would be doubled up to $50,000. We had close to $49,000 come in and an amazing couple who loves God, is kingdom-minded and generous--hearted is donating the full $50,000 matching promise! This campaign will yield close to $99,000. This came at the right time for ZOE as we are expanding our work rapidly in Los Angeles and resources are needed to support the expansion. We are finishing grading the land to prepare to build our first home servicing Los Angeles. Additionally, we have been asked to serve not just one but two large service areas of Los Angeles County in the First Responder’s Protocol which means ZOE will be on scene within 90 minutes of law enforcement rescuing or identifying a child or youth trafficking victim in these areas. Once on scene, we will begin the process of care and restoration of these precious youth and will aid and follow their first months of healing and transition.

What excites us more than the dollars that came in, is the fact that God is propelling His work through generous partners of ZOE. We see everyone who gives as true ministry partners and part of our ZOE family. Each partner is making an impact. Each gift is making an impact. And each partner has a part in all that God does through the work of ZOE.

God is on the move! He is opening doors of opportunity for kids and youth who need it the most. When Jesus came to earth, paid the ultimate price and rose from the grave He made the greatest impact the world has ever seen. The world has never been the same. 2000 years later, He is still touching lives. He is doing this through the ministry of ZOE. He is doing it through strategic partnerships that are making a difference…making an impact in Los Angeles and beyond.

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 19, 2019 - No Comments!

Can You Stop Trafficking in Your Travels?

By Andrea Cross

Increased Awareness
Awareness is one of the greatest weapons against human trafficking. When airport, taxi, Uber, hotel, convenience store, truck stop, rest area, welcome center, job center, and emergency room staff are aware about the signs of trafficking they are better equipped to recognize when they have contact with both victims and perpetrators of human trafficking. As more people become aware, the better the chance of stopping human trafficking and impacting the lives of millions around the world.

The United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that 42% of victims were detected from outside of their borders. This makes places like airports, bus stations, and train stations, prime locations to spot human trafficking. (CBTravel)

Around the globe, the fight against human trafficking is bringing multiple partners together in unprecedented ways to combat the evil of modern day slavery.

Michael Hart, CEO of ZOE International, reflected on his experience with partnering across public and private sectors by saying, “Together as the good guys, let’s fight; and together, as the good guys, we are destined to win.”

ZOE International, has been combating human trafficking on the ground for 15 years in Southeast Asia and is active in Thailand, Japan, Australia, Mexico, and the United States.

Know the signs
ZOE has a short video that explains the signs to look for to protect yourself and others. Watch it here!

What to do
If you do suspect a case of trafficking or you see someone in danger please use the following country numbers to notify authorities:

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888 or Text “HELP” to 233733

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1300
Or call the ZOE Child Rescue Team 0801 318 108

Australian Federal Police on 131AFP (131237) or email AOCC-Client-Liaison@afp.gov.au

Polaris Japan: 0120-924-839
Lighthouse Center for Human Trafficking Victims: 0120-879-871
Yorisoi Hotline Helpline for Foreigners: 0120 279 338

National Helpline Against Trafficking in Persons: 5533-5533

Airline Industry
The Airports Council International has produced a free “Combatting Human Trafficking Handbook” for its staff along with other companies within the travel industry such as Grab and various hotel chains, who have also begun training their workers on what to look out for in regards to identifying a trafficking victim.

Taxi Drivers
What is the first thing most travelers do when they leave an airport? That’s right, look for a taxi - or maybe even get an Uber or a Grab.
Drivers who "often unwittingly become the first point of contact for traffickers or victims, at airports or bus terminals" may prove to be very helpful in the detection of criminal activity.”

Individual Travelers
From the moment travelers leave their homes, they can be on the lookout for signs of trafficking within airports, at stations, and all around them. Travelers, cross paths with all walks of life on business trips and when traveling for leisure. When made aware of how to identify suspicious behavior, they could be able to help put a stop to trafficking attempts.

Sight Magazine recently reported, "From airlines to hotels, the travel industry is on the front line of the fight against trafficking.”

December 17, 2017 - No Comments!

Compelled to Give

by Hanne Fellers

December is so many things.  It can be extra busy with finals, extra holiday activities such as plays and events, gift shopping, decorating and more. But December is also such a month of joy, festivities and family. My heart feels many different things in December. I often reflect on the year. It’s a time of reminiscing and thanking God for His continued blessings. Feeling grateful to not be doing this work alone, but to work in partnership with Him who holds our souls.
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March 27, 2017 - No Comments!

See. Care. Act.

Between 2013 and 2015, over 1,000 children were referred to government officials as confirmed or suspected victims of human trafficking – right here in Los Angeles County.

God sees each precious child who is being harmed. He hears every cry.

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January 4, 2016 - No Comments!

Leaving A Legacy

Our Fight to End Child Trafficking

What You Can Do to Help

Last year was busy at ZOE! Throughout 2015, we were able to share with thousands of people about the work we are doing to fight child trafficking worldwide. In the fall, we hosted two major events, the ZOE Fundraising Gala and the 4th Annual Rescue Walk. We believe whatever you do in love as you give in this fight to end child trafficking will contribute to rescuing children from human trafficking, educating someone at risk of being trafficked or helping a human trafficking survivor heal and grow.

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December 14, 2015 - No Comments!

The Gift of Giving

Give the Gift of Christmas to ZOE Children in Thailand

Have you ever given a gift during the holidays that was simply amazing? A gift where the reaction of the recipient would have made a great YouTube moment? Any gift when purchased with thought and given with love is appreciated, but what if you can give the gift that continues to give? You may have heard this phrase used before in a commercial or an ad, but what does this mean exactly?

A gift that continues to give. Could it be a gift that literally continues to give like a tree that perhaps bears either fruit or flowers? Or perhaps the companies that have subscription product sites that will send you a new item every month?

 Though these types of gifts can be very exciting, what if you had an opportunity to give a gift that is not only tangible, but could also provide long-lasting emotions, such as hope, faith, and love? Choosing an item from ZOE’s Online Giving Tree provides just that. Items on the tree for the U.S. are gift cards, socks, school supplies, and more. In addition, we are collecting funds to give Christmas to the children in Thailand. Though these items may seem quite basic to us, to the children being blessed by your generosity, it will go a long way. Hope, faith, and love will arise in their hearts knowing that someone is out there. Someone who believes in the gift that continues to give.

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.