Category "ZOE International"

Christmas Around the World

November 15, 2020

Prior to moving overseas in 2010 to work cross-culturally, I had only ever ‘missed’ being with my family on Christmas Day once. On December 24th, 2003 my husband and I were traveling through Rome and spent a wonderful (freezing cold) Christmas Eve at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. We woke up in Florence on Christmas Day and then went on to Nice in France. It was our first experience of Christmas in winter. 

In Australia

Growing up in Australia, December is summer time. It’s our big school break and Christmas Day is usually hot! Many people attend or watch on television Christmas Carol events in the lead up to Christmas Day. Typically on the 25th, my extended family would have a hot roast for lunch and then enjoy either BBQ meats or cold meats like ham off the bone, seafood and salads for dinner. Christmas crackers would be found at each person’s table place. After cracking them open with the person sitting next to you, we would pull out a colored paper crown to wear during dinner, a small toy, and a joke on a small strip of paper. Jokes would be shared across the table and after eating, everyone would gather around the decorated Christmas tree to exchange gifts.     

In Thailand

In Thailand with just over 1% Christians, Christmas is very different. For the majority of Thai people, who are Buddhists, rather than Christmas, the coming of the New Year is celebrated. You will see some Christmas decorations in the malls here, and occasionally even hear Christmas carols playing but Christmas Day is a regular day (not a holiday) and if it falls on a weekday, you’ll still see public schools in full swing. 

When you think about Christmas, what images come to your mind? Depending on where you live in the world, your experiences of Christmas will vary according to your country’s religious beliefs, culture, traditions and climate.

ZOE works in America, Thailand, Australia, Japan and Mexico. All very different nations! So we wanted to find out what Christmas is like for people living in those countries. This month on social media, you’ll see our staff from all around the world sharing their personal memories and experiences in the country they grew up in, or live in now. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to hear whether or not there’s any truth to the notion that Japanese people enjoy KFC on Christmas Day!

-Andrea Cross

ZOE Japan to Meet with Government Officials

October 14, 2020

On October 29th and November 30th, ZOE Japan will have the unique opportunity as JNATIP members to meet directly with various government officials to discuss policy reforms and various anti-trafficking initiatives.

There are several topics on the agenda to be discussed with different government departments; and all of them are very important for the purpose of protecting children and people in vulnerable positions.

One of the main agenda items is related to simulated and virtual child sexual abuse material (child pornography). In Japan, possession of child sexual abuse material  became illegal in 2014, but it excludes simulated or virtual child sexual abuse material  such as anime, manga, child sex dolls, and virtual reality. Those in favor of continued freedom to produce these kinds of materials argue for freedom of expression in the arts, and that no real children are being harmed in the production of these materials. There are also arguments that it could prevent pedophiles from committing crimes against children in real life.

However, according to the book Pedophilia Disorder – It Is Not Love written by Akiyoshi Saito, a psychiatric social worker and the Director of a rehabilitation clinic for people with various forms of addiction, the majority of patients who have been charged with a crime and being treated for pedophilia at his clinic had the regular habit of watching or looking at child sexual abuse material multiple times a day. This indicates that the contents were not keeping them from committing a crime, but the material might be increasing their desire to abuse a real child instead of providing an outlet.

The real concern is not whether the child is real or not, but instead the intention of the material to sexualize children, potentially leading to more abusers and victims in our communities. We need to make every effort to eliminate content that could place children at risk.

We are hopeful for an open discussion with the government representatives that will lead to   tangible action points to modify the law to protect children from being sexualized or objectified in any form.

The second topic that we will address is the age of sexual consent.†During the Meiji era (1880s), the age of consent was set at 13 years old, and remains valid until this day. This has been a hindering issue when identifying human trafficking cases and punishing child traffickers. When a 13-year-old child has the legal authority to consent to sexual activities, it creates a huge challenge to provide evidence of exploitation, with abusers simply claiming that that child consented and receiving very light penalties if convicted.

For example, if an abuser connects with a minor through a social media platform and they develop a “romantic relationship,” often, it turns into a sexually abusive relationship which can also be filmed, photographed, and uploaded online. In addition, there are cases in which accommodation and food are provided to runaway children, and sexual activity is required in return. Such cases clearly fit the definition of human trafficking, but if the victim fails to legally prove that it was clearly nonconsensual by use of means of threat or violence, this often leads to very light sentences for perpetrators (if convicted) and a high rate of repeat offenses.

This age of consent not only fails to deter crime and exploitation but also provides legal advantages to traffickers and abusers.

In the upcoming meetings, we will have the opportunity to discuss the possibility of raising the age of consent to 16 to protect young people from sexual crimes at a fundamental level and to punish child sex offenders.

As we are taking these bold steps to be a voice for the voiceless children of Japan, please pray that we will experience God’s favor at the meetings, and that the decisions made will reflect His perfect will for Japan!

Written by Yuri Osborne (Japan Regional Manager)

Hi-rise building

A New Aquarium: Delivering Health and Wellbeing Benefits

October 1, 2020

I remember that my grandmother used to love to sit and stare at the aquarium my older brother kept at home. As a teenager, I never really understood how she could just sit there and watch the fish swim for hours. Have you ever done this? Just sit and watch fish swim? Or have you ever been to a large public aquarium and spent way too long in the darkened room with that huge tank holding all the different species of fish and other sea creatures?

Aquarium of gold fishIt is captivating and actually very relaxing and calming.

Recently, we installed a fish tank at our Child Rescue Center in Thailand. When the girls heard about it they were so excited. In fact, one of them asked if she could purchase her own pet fish to raise in the aquarium. With much joy and anticipation she and one of our ZOE moms bought a fish each to raise in the tank together.

close up view of aquarium of fishIt is a simple aquarium with a good number of fish but it has been so LIFE-giving and restorative for our youth. Not only are they able to sit and enjoy watching the fish, they are also taking ownership and caring for the fish and working together to clean the tank regularly. It’s become a fun family activity that they do together.

child looking at an aquarium of fishFun fact: Did you know that there are studies that show how watching fish swim in an aquarium can actually help reduce stress and anxiety and help with relaxation?

– Written by Lori-Ann Tsang

LINK to study

ZOE Means Life!

September 9, 2020

Did you know that the Greek word for ‘life’ is ZOE? It’s no coincidence that founders Michael and Carol Hart chose the name with this in mind when they began fighting child trafficking back in 2002.

Most people who know about ZOE are aware of the trafficking side of our work. 

But have you ever wondered why a name that means ‘life’ was selected? 

In the Bible, the word zoe ζωή refers to eternal life with God but in fact, it changes our earthly lives in every good way too, and is offered free for all who believe and accept Jesus. 

As a Christian organization, we want the whole world to have the opportunity to have this kind of abundant LIFE with God. It’s why ZOE exists!  

So how do we actually bring this ‘zoe-life’ to the world?

We reach people who do not yet know about God’s love, or the gift of eternal LIFE. 

Oftentimes this looks like bringing practical help, meeting physical needs and sharing God’s plan with people in remote, small, vulnerable and unreached places. 

But we also rescue children who are orphaned, trafficked, or abandoned. 

We fight child trafficking through prevention, rescue and restoration. 

When we see freedom and healing, it brings us so much joy of course, but when we see people choose to receive God’s ‘zoe-life’, we know that they will experience freedom and life forever!

At ZOE, we are on a mission to show people God’s love, and have them experience His LIFE, for themselves.     

Fighting On Our Knees

June 23, 2020

The recent suicide of TV star and pro-wrestler, Hana Kimura, sent a shock wave through Japan. Kimura, only 22 years old, was the target of cyberbullies. Before her death, she published several messages on social media, but it was already too late before anyone took notice. The story has lifted the veil on a huge cyberbullying problem, encouraging society and the government to take action.  

In Japan, it is extremely important to blend in or, more specifically, to not stand out. There is even an expression that says “the nail that stands out, must be hammered.” Those who do not conform to group expectations, or even look different, often become the targets of bullying by their peers.  

In fact, Japan is seeing a rapid increase in the number of bullying cases in schools, with more than 540,000 cases reported in 2018, a 30% increase from 2017. Many children are simply not able to handle this pressure on top of academic expectations already imposed by their families, and sometimes revert to extreme measures such as taking their own lives. Statistics show that suicide is the leading cause of death for children aged 10-19.  

It is hard not to be overwhelmed by these statistics. Not only do our hearts break for their families, but we get upset by the deception of the enemy, somehow convincing these children that they have no value and no purpose, that there is no hope. This lie from the enemy sharply contradicts the truth we find in Scripture.  

Psalm 139:13-14:  

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

How amazing to see every child through God’s eyes! At ZOE Japan, we are convinced that God wants us to invert the lies of the enemy, show every child that he/she has VALUE, is LOVED and has a PURPOSE. By helping them to recognize their identity in Christ, we can bring healing to bullies and victims!  

An analysis of child suicides for the period 2006-2015 by the Japan Support Centre for Suicide Countermeasures shows a significant peak in suicides of 6-18 year olds at the end of August/beginning September, right before the new school year starts.  

The time for us to take action is NOW.  We call on every Christian to stand with us in prayer as we fight on our knees for the life of every child in Japan.  

Please pray that: 

  • Children will not be deceived by the lies of the enemy 
  • The Body of Christ will actively engage in sharing HOPE through the Good News
  • Government Childlines will have resources and wisdom to provide counselling and support for children who are being bullied or abused
  • Parents and teachers will have a sensitive spirit to identify vulnerable children and the wisdom on how to support them.

Written By: Annerie Van Wyk, ZOE Japan Missionary

Letter From A Child Trafficking Survivor

June 18, 2020

First, I thank God for bringing me to ZOE. My life and heart have been changed by Him. Second, I am so thankful for each of you. I am thankful for all ZOE leaders and staff. I feel grateful that I was rescued and brought to ZOE. 

Thank you for creating a new world with great love for me and all kids here. Thank you so much for loving me and many other kids. It has helped me understand the value of my life. It helps me to be bold and not give up no matter what comes into my life. I have gained understanding and wisdom. 

Thank you for introducing me to new things and for taking care of me to the best of your ability. Thank you for assisting me in every area of my life. I feel warm because of you and this is a feeling I never had in my life. 

It’s been just a short time that I got to know everyone at ZOE but you all became my family as we spent time together as a family. I can now say that I have a warm and loving family! I am so happy to have met and to know you all. Thank you for loving, caring, listening to what I say, and understanding me. You are my family. 

Before, I never knew what true and beautiful love was, but now I realize how beautiful it is. You have shown me through your love, care, and doing what’s best for me. You are my brothers and sisters, my mom and my dad who love me sincerely. Your love is a great inspiration. 

You give me confidence to overcome this hard life with God and your love. You all are my heroes and I know there are many children out there who need your help. Without you all, I may not have today. I might not know how precious my life is. I might not be able to move forward. Without you, my face would not be filled with such a big smile. 

You have shown me and other kids how to exit from darkness. We used to live in the darkness and you all have rescued us and given us wings to fly away. Now we can fly in the sky with your love. 

I cannot stop saying “THANK YOU” to you all. I have realized and seen how hard you work for all kids. You all are merciful. Thank you so much for loving me. I may leave ZOE soon, but I am not alone. Now I have God and ZOE who will walk alongside me. 

Thoughts From A ZOE Social Worker During Covid-19

May 8, 2020

While the world is confronting crisis, God’s blessing is still present. His helping hands are with His children as He promises.

When we were first told that we would need to work from home, I began brainstorming… How could we work efficiently and how could we plan, manage, and assign a tasks to each other? God has shown me new ideas and helped me realize that my work should be run well everywhere! If we still need to work from home, our work performance should still be professional. My home can become a home office.

During a quarantine time, I’ve had the chance to think on God’s mercy and blessing in my life. Many times God shows me the face of our ZOE leaders and I am thankful for them. They are great blessings, good role models, and have servants hearts like Jesus.

I feel grateful to be able to serve Him together with ZOE. Thankful for God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Many people are crying for help during this time, and God allows us to be the answer. The coronavirus may lock us at home, but it cannot stop us from serving our almighty God!

Thankful for all ZOE leaders and our supporters so we can continue serving children and others in many areas.

– ZOE Social Worker

#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.”

Still Fighting

April 3, 2020

Despite the fact that many of our team are working remotely, we are still able to advocate for children, raise public awareness, and support trafficking survivors in both Thailand and America. 

We remain committed to our goals of reach and rescue. We do not see the current limitations, problems, or obstacles as constraints, but rather as pathways – to form new ways of doing things. Maybe even better ways.

According to psychologists, when you have less to work with, 
you actually begin to see the world differently.

At ZOE we choose to see the current constraints as advantages in disguise. We are asking ourselves, how can we use constraints to be creative and innovative in each of our jobs? How can these obstacles inspire better thinking? 

Through this indefinite time, we will find ways to use our resources differently because we have to. This situation is causing us to creatively plan, dream, and orchestrate ideas that would otherwise have remained untapped.

We remain steadfast in our determination to ensure that child trafficking is ended, justice brought, and lives rebuilt. While we are shifting the way we work and live worldwide, child trafficking has not gone away. In the face of the Covid19 virus, we will continue to fight! 

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.

Instant Gratification & the Dangers of It

March 13, 2020

“A nice hot cup of tea would be nice,” I thought the other day while at work. Rather than going through all the trouble, I put a coin in the vending machine and out came my instant gratification.

It is beyond description how highly “convenience” is valued in our culture. You can get almost anything from vending machines, stores, and the Internet.

And this is what sex has become.

In Japan, you can scroll through your phone and select a girl to be delivered to your place in less than an hour. Pornographic sites are just a click away, easy even for a child to access.

Sex became such an accessible, disposable product in our culture. Like fast food, it’s ready for you as soon as you crave it. Such disposable consumption makes us grow numb to true satisfaction.

In the process of numbing our senses to the sacredness of sex, human trafficking begins to creep into our society. There are sex traffickers who dare to think that they are “helping” their victims by providing a job. There are even pedophiles who believe that they are “educating” children when they are horrifically abusing them.

A person does not become a sex trafficker overnight. It is through the process of devaluing sex and numbing their senses to true satisfaction that lead to exploitation of others for their selfish gains.

As long as society makes sex a convenient disposable product, vulnerable people and children will be objectified for exploitation and human trafficking will continue.

We must emphasize the importance of teaching the youth about the true value of sex. Because once it violates boundaries, it doesn’t stop. Sex is never a vending machine product that we purchase and dispose of on our way through life.

It is God’s beautiful design, meant to be cherished, protected, and sacredly valued as we see in the Bible.

This is an extremely important and urgent subject to teach especially young generations because they have the potential to become both victim and perpetrator.

At ZOE Japan, we have the opportunity to share a love and ultimate true satisfaction through Jesus Christ with a nation that is 1% Christian, shedding light that instant gratification will never fully satisfy our soul.

Newly Rescued Teen Girls Cry Being Able to Make Their Own Choices

February 20, 2020

By Ben Wood, Field Worker, Thailand

One day I was at the Child Rescue Center (CRC) for a meeting. Two girls had just arrived. They had only been at ZOE for about 30 minutes when they were taken to the ZOE “store” by one of our mothers. I was sitting at a distance and watched as both girls proceeded to sit down on the ground and cry. I didn’t know what was happening.

After about a minute of being comforted, they stood up and went into the store. I was curious why they were crying and walked over and asked the mother what was happening.

She told me that it was okay. That their tears were happy tears. They were moved by our love for them and allowing them to take whatever they needed from our store. They also told her that they felt honored that they weren’t being told what to do but instead they were given the power to make choices. 

At that moment, I was also moved to tears. I realized that our little store was more than just a room full of stuff but instead it was an opportunity for us to empower the children we rescue and to show them love as they start their restoration process.