Category "ZOE International"

Every country. Every day.

October 6, 2019

Confiscated passport…withheld food…no communication…physical abuse…isolation…threats of having to repay travel costs

These are just some of the challenges facing victims of trafficking. 

Just imagine a person living next door to you is a slave, has been trafficked, or is being exploited… It’s hard to conceive, right? And yet we know that human trafficking and slavery happens in every country, every day.

Anyone can be trafficked regardless of race, class, education, gender, age, or citizenship when forcefully coerced or enticed by false promises. (UNICEF USA)

ZOE International is currently working in 5 countries in different ways, and to varying degrees. They are: USA, Thailand, Australia, Japan and Mexico.

Over the next week, we want to explore both what trafficking looks like, and what ZOE is currently doing in each of these five countries.

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

Discipleship

August 30, 2019

Imagine for a moment, planting a seed in the ground and having to wait 150 years just to see it grow only 4 inches. This is what happens in Canada on cliff sides in the Great Lakes area when a white cedar tree is planted. Along it is the slowest growing tree, once it is fully grown, it can actually reach up to 50 feet high! 

All the work of planting and nurturing something that you will never see the full results of seems crazy but that’s what we do a lot of times as we care for and disciple the children and teens at ZOE.

When we think about discipleship, our main goal is to teach them about who God is, how much God loves them, and how they can be the change that their city, country, and the world needs. 

Like the white cedar tree though, it’s a slow process. Sometimes we think we see the seeds we planted start to break through the surface and  begin to sprout, and other times we just keep praying for the seeds that are still in the ground – even though we cannot yet see any signs of growth. 

Some of our kids are on fire for God. We see on a weekly basis how they are passionate about praying for their families and friends to get saved. 

In other children, who we do not yet see any signs of growth, we do not let ourselves get discouraged. We choose to give them more nourishment just like a plant or a tree would need. 

We teach them different lessons from the Bible or just about life in general. We pray with them weekly. Some of the ZOE staff are also part of our mentors group throughout the week, so they spend more 1-1 time with the kids. We select up to 12 kids every month to participate in a school outreach where we do dramas, dances, and songs, and present the gospel message in small groups. We also select some kids to volunteer at a children’s home in the city. This year we are sponsoring a school and village to bless them for Christmas.

Everything we do with the kids and youth through discipleship is about ongoing planting and watering of the “seeds.” We never know which ones will grow into tall strong trees. Our job is to keep praying that every single one of them takes that step in faith. 

Discipleship is an ongoing job. It usually involves a lot of sacrifice, and intentionality. It also means that as leaders, we must live out what we are hoping for them to become. We must continue to nourish ourselves to be tall, mature trees thriving in life so that they will also desire what they see on display through our words, actions, and lives. 

The Mountain Before Us

May 3, 2019

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.

ZOE Feels Like Home

April 4, 2019

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.