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All Posts in staff

September 17, 2018 - No Comments!

Support for Parents of CSEC

by Marji Iacovetti

This summer, LA County launched a pilot program to support parents of Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC). ZOE was privileged to support the county’s efforts.

The weekly meetings were held at a church and were led by two experienced and caring clinicians – one from the Department of Mental Health and another from an organization called Saving Innocence. Members of the church demonstrated God’s love as they opened their hearts as well as their facilities. They greeted the women warmly, served them dinner, and provided childcare.

Eight mothers attended regularly. These precious moms wept for their children, bonded with each other, and learned valuable information. It was an honor to serve them. Human trafficking not only brutalizes the victims, but also violates their families. Please pray for mothers, fathers, other caregivers, and siblings whose hearts ache over the harm experienced by their loved ones.

Community partnerships are key to healing for survivors and their families. If your church has capacity to be a resource and partner in the fight against child trafficking, please email info@gozoe.org.

September 10, 2018 - No Comments!

Efforts in Los Angeles

by Ester Yu

In July, an undercover human trafficking operation in Compton recovered 2 girls from commercial sexual exploitation and arrested 36 adults. The 2 girls were 16 and 17 years old and identified as victims of sexual exploitation. One woman who was arrested is actually from Santa Clarita and was trying to recruit an undercover officer to work in commercial sexual exploitation. Read more here: https://ktla.com/2018/07/20/36-arrested-2-girls-rescued-in-human-trafficking-bust-in-compton-lasd

Compton is part of a larger Service Planning Area (SPA) identified by Los Angeles County as having the highest number of referrals for suspected cases of CSEC. (Source: http://file.lacounty.gov/SDSInter/bos/supdocs/121549.pdf) ZOE values our partnerships with community groups, organizations, and churches all over Los Angeles County, especially in the Compton area. By expanding our network, we are able to broaden resources for the youth we serve while also supporting our community partners who serve the most vulnerable children.

For the past several months, ZOE has assisted Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services and Department of Probations in their pilot Parent Empowerment Program by supporting a Compton church partner to provide a nurturing, safe meeting space, child care, and food for the County to teach and lead a support group for parents of children who are survivors of human trafficking.

Recently, ZOE attended the Compton Human Trafficking Task Force meeting with guest Dr. Brenda Ingram who taught about the Intersection of Risk Factors for Black Boys in Sex Trafficking. Boys are at risk to become victims and/or exploiters of human trafficking. It is vital for our communities to invest and pour into the lives of our young men so that they can become allies and protectors of our young women. ZOE's USA Regional Director Dr. Jason Plunkett and Assistant USA Regional Director Ester Yu participate in a workgroup led by Los Angeles County Department of Probations to develop a CSEC prevention/intervention curriculum for young men. While interviewing former exploiters in Chicago, researchers discovered that most of the men who were interviewed were abused and trafficked as children themselves before becoming exploiters. (Source: https://law.depaul.edu/about/centers-and-institutes/schiller-ducanto-fleck-family-law-center/Documents/interview_ex_pimps.pdf)

We know that all of our current efforts, research, and collaboration are equipping ZOE's Los Angeles team to best meet the needs of our youth in Los Angeles County. Please partner with us in our efforts in LA: https://give2.gozoe.org/give/90447/#!/donation/checkout.

July 9, 2018 - 3 comments

The Last Two Miles

The Last Two Miles
A journey through the desert

by Betsy Meenk

Facing challenges in our lives are often the best times to learn valuable lessons for living life to its fullest.  It was during a recent 4-day cycling challenge that I learned lessons in selflessness that I hope will help equip me to overcome tests and trials in a God-honoring manner in the future.  

The organization I work for, ZOE International, conducted a 64-day coast to coast cycling challenge called Road of Justice in order to bring awareness to the issue of child trafficking.  The organizers of this event, Brad and Lori Ortenzi, took on this challenge with focus and determination that was inspirational. They road every inch of the 3,700 miles through all kinds of terrain, varying weather conditions, sore muscles and a host of other challenges.  Keeping them going when their bodies and minds were done was the thought of all the pain and suffering a child caught in the trap of human trafficking must endure. Bringing attention to this atrocity in order to end it was their singular focus.

I had the privilege of spending a week on the road with Brad and Lori and other cyclists who joined them along the way.   3 of those days were spent on my bike making our way from the Grand Canyon to Needles, California, approximately 245 miles (my 4th day was the last day of the ride; Fontana to Santa Monica).  It was the last 2 miles of that 3rd day near Needles, California that opened my eyes to a valuable principle I thought I knew but I discovered I still needed to grasp.  What follows are the lessons I learned from those last 2 miles.

It was the last day of a 3-day ride before we got a rest day.  The first two days had their challenges but this 3rd day pushed me both physically and mentally.   At about 50 miles in, we were faced with a 4-mile climb that had as much as a 7% grade at times.  The other riders in the group that day made this climb look easy as they all passed me struggling up this hill.  I am fairly new to cycling and I am not a good climber so this really pushed my limits. As I fought my way up the hill, my sister stayed with me cheering me on.   At one point Brad came back to ride with me pulling me up the hill with his words of encouragement. Either one of these riders could have made it up the hill much faster to get off their bikes for a much deserved rest but instead chose to stay with me!  At the top of the hill, I was met by a line of the other riders cheering me on.

I know I could not have made it up that hill without the motivation of the other riders.   It became very apparent to me that day that I was a member of a team and that the strength of the team was in each individual rider looking out for the others.  It reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s law of the jungle quoted in the jungle book: “the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack”.  I definitely got my strength from the pack on that hill. The reality of drawing strength from team members would set me up to learn a valuable lesson in selflessness.  That lesson would come at the last 2 miles of this 3rd day.  

After climbing that hill, we had the most amazing and exhilarating downhill that seemed to magically erase the pain of that 4-mile climb.  The rest of the ride that day should have been fairly easy but at about 10 miles out something began to happen in my body. Although we were on a flat road, I felt like I was climbing again.  It was hot (upper 90’s) and every pedal stroke became a mental exercise to keep going. Just before the California/Arizona border the group stopped for something. I was feeling a bit nauseous so I got off my bike to sit down in the shade for a minute to cool off while the group did whatever they needed to do.   Brad and my sister were close by and asked if I was okay. I told them that I was just a bit nauseous but that I would be okay. As I stood up to get back on my bike I felt a little light headed so I sat back down to try and clear my head. Seeing my condition, my sister dumped cold water on my head and Brad encouraged me to call it a day and take a ride on the van the final 2 miles.  My immediate thought was, “No way, I am not giving up with only 2 miles to go. I can push through.” My body and others on the team convinced me otherwise, sighting facts about the dangers of heat exhaustion and so in the van I went. I felt totally defeated as I sat crying in the van and trying to cool off while my teammates loaded up my bike. 2 stinking miles to go and here I am sitting in the van!  I was feeling quite sorry for myself! Before getting back on his bike to complete the day’s ride, Brad poked his head in the van to check on me. The two simple words he uttered at that moment would play over and over again in my head the next several days. He simply looked at me and said, “No pouting!”

No pouting?  But pouting is just what I wanted to do.  I failed. I didn’t finish. I was weak. What did the other riders think of me?  I was pouting because I was thinking of myself; not about the group of riders I was with; not about the children we were riding for; just me!  Why no pouting? Because this was not about me, it was a team effort that we were ALL doing for children who were suffering through the horrors of human trafficking.   It really didn’t matter if I rode my bike another two miles or not. This wasn’t about my personal goals or my achievements. It was about children who needed help! I had lost my focus.

I would like to say that Brad’s words snapped me out of my selfish stupor at that moment but that is not the case.  I continued to pout and regret my decision to get in the van and not finish those last two miles on my bike that day.  I thought ending my ride two miles short of the finish line would haunt me the rest of my life. But after a rest day it was my turn to drive the support vehicle which would help to form the deep and hopefully long lasting lesson of “no pouting”.  As the driver, it was my responsibility to be available to the riders to provide water, snacks, find rest stops or anything else they needed. I stayed behind the riders most of the time over the long and monotonous roads of the Mojave Desert and watched them work together to overcome some pretty daunting riding conditions.  There were six riders but after following and watching them work together for 3 days, I no longer saw six riders; I saw one unit. Because I was by myself in the van I had plenty of time to think and contemplate the selfless team effort that was unfolding before my eyes in comparison to my pouting episode in the van a couple of days earlier.  Oh, I had so much to learn from these determined individuals that I had come to admire so much.

Even now as I play those days over and over again in my mind, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: “You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.”  Then to the Philippians he wrote: “Work together with one mind and one purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out for your own interests, but take an interest in others too.”

I will never know if I could have done those last two miles.  But instead of that thought haunting me, it is teaching me a valuable life lesson:  This life is a journey we are on together. There are going to be hills to climb and challenging circumstances to face.  It is going to take all of us working together, encouraging each other to make it to the finish line. Along this road we may find ourselves out front leading.  Other times we may have to “sit on the van” for the benefit of the group. Either way, we travel together, we finish together, we win together.

To my fellow cyclists:  thank you for helping me climb mountains!  Thank you for teaching me to face challenges and conquer them selflessly.  Most of all, thank you for the sacrifices you made to help rescue more children and get them to the finish line!   

November 10, 2017 - No Comments!

Honest Reflection

Written By - Hanne Fellers

I’ve been in a season where I am reflecting and constantly being reminded of why I am in this work. Before I get into some of the things I’ve been reflecting on, I just want to THANK YOU, ZOE friends, for engaging with us. Without YOU, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We are so grateful for your support.
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March 1, 2017 - No Comments!

A Lazy Day at ZOE

staffplayingdominoes

Staff playing dominos.

Sometimes our kids just need some time to unwind and chill!  With school, homework, chores, special events, short term teams, visitors, intercessory prayer, weekly bible study, and more, it can get hectic for our kids. 

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February 29, 2016 - No Comments!

Education is Key to Ending Child Trafficking

Elizabeth Mackie's Path to ZOE

Guest blog post by Elizabeth Mackie.

As a retired Los Angeles police officer, who knew that 3 1/2 years ago I would become so vested in the cause of child trafficking? When the opening came up at ZOE for a bookkeeper, I was not actively looking for work and had no idea what the organization was about. I was intrigued by the opportunity, so I did a little research prior to my interview. I discovered an anti-human trafficking organization that was clearly led by God and does noble work. Needless to say, I received the job. To my surprise, I quickly discovered this was God's plan for me and I was, as usual, clueless.

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December 23, 2015 - No Comments!

An Unexpected Gift

ZOE Thai Staff Member Changes a Young Girl's Life

Wan is one of our talented Thai staffers who speaks Thai, English, and Burmese. A few years ago, she helped take care of a young girl who stayed at ZOE for a short time. Since this girl was Burmese, Wan was able to minister to her in her native tongue.

Wan led the girl to the Lord and she was eventually sent home after being with us for a short time. When this little girl returned home, she told her family she was a Christian. Her mother hit her and tried to convince her to be Buddhist. She was very obedient in every area EXCEPT she refused to worship idols.  Eventually, this girl converted her WHOLE family to Christ!

A few weeks ago, we sent out a ZOE team to check up on a different case. Our team also had the ability to check in on this little girl. She was as happy as ever and gave a gift to send back to Wan. Wan received the gift just before Christmas, and it was the softest and cutest stuffed bunny she ever saw! This was the little girl’s way of showing gratitude and thankfulness to Wan for sharing the gift of eternal life with her and her family!

February 12, 2015 - No Comments!

My ZOE Story | Good Plans…

by Karen Miyamoto, Donor Relations Manager at ZOE

ZOE holds a special place in my heart. It is the place of my work but more than that, I have come to know ZOE as a place of hope and dreams.  I have been a ZOE employee for a little over five years now but my journey with this organization doesn't just begin there.

Several months prior to being hired, I had gone on my very first short-term mission trip with my husband to Thailand with ZOE. Now, if you would have asked me prior to that about going on mission trips, I was one of those people who said that I would never go. I never had the desire nor saw the purpose.  But through a series of events and God working on my heart, I was blessed to join a team from my church to go to Thailand.  When I look back, it was all in God’s timing.  My heart was not ready early in my Christian walk to be effective while on a mission trip.  I definitely stepped out in faith and stepped up to the plate when the opportunity arose.  Isn’t it amazing how God's timing is always perfect?  He knows the best plan for us at the time but also for the future. 

I now understand the importance of missions after experiencing it firsthand. It is not just about spreading the gospel but planting seeds to those we encounter to give them a purpose and hope. I am so glad that God prepares the plans and that His plans are for good. If it were my plan, most likely, I would still not have experienced going on a mission trip but also would not be here at ZOE today.  Being on staff over the years at ZOE, you witness firsthand that God is good.  Children who once had no hope and no future are now living lives towards their destined purpose.  They can now smile and be all that they were called to be.  The love that overflows from the staff and missionaries here at ZOE is incredible and contagious.  What an amazing journey it has been for me, as well as a blessing! 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:11

If you have a ZOE story that you would like to share, we'd love to hear it! Email us and let us know!

May 10, 2014 - No Comments!

Happy Mother's Day!

Celebrating ZOE Mothers on Mother's Day

With very few exceptions, Mother’s Day is celebrated all around the world. No region or religion can claim the origin of Mother’s Day because recognizing and appreciating the work of a mother is foundational to being sons and daughters. Mother’s Day is a worldwide holiday because we owe so much to that one human being!

The house mothers at ZOE International deserve the same recognition. While they have not given birth to the children at ZOE, the love they have for them is just as significant. ZOE mothers have had to step into difficult situations to fill parental roles. Without their courageous commitment, the lives of child trafficking survivors would be drastically different.

Every day, our house mothers are there for the trafficked children at ZOE. They wake them up for school, help them with homework, provide a shoulder to cry on, and even make them brush their teeth before bed. ZOE mothers are not here for the paycheck, but rather because of the love they have for their kids and their belief that God has good things planned for their lives. Where difficult and varied circumstances have robbed children of a loving family, ZOE parents have stepped in and made it their responsibility to be that family for those without.

We thank God every day for the wonderful mothers and fathers He has sent to ZOE, but today, we will raise them up even further in acknowledgement and thanks for sacrificing their lives for the children at ZOE. Happy Mother's Day!

September 2, 2013 - 1 comment.

Our Newest USA Staff Member – Cole Jennerson

Cole Jennerson, ZOE Children

Cole at work

Cole first heard about ZOE from his church when they were doing their monthly missions focus. He was intrigued, but didn’t become passionate about ZOE until his sister went on a short-term missions trip with ZOE to Thailand. Her experience caused both of them to fall in love with ZOE’s pursuit of changing the lives of those who have been impacted by the evils of human trafficking.

“I have always felt called to be or do something more with my life. I worked in the fast food industry for well over a year and felt empty, as if I was missing out on something bigger than I could be a part of. I had talked to my family, my girlfriend and now one of my fellow employees about how I wanted to be a part of something more, as well as my passion for not only missionary work but also for what ZOE had been doing. In a bizarre turn of events God opened the doors for me to become a part of the ZOE team and I couldn’t be happier. “

Cole is a great guy to have around the office. He is the only male and gets to do all the “manly work” of hefting the water jug onto the water cooler and carrying boxes. There is always something for him to do! His role at ZOE is multi-faceted. His days are always filled with something different from climbing into the attic to retrieve spreadsheets, grocery shopping, sorting mail and data entry. Yet his main focus is video production and motion graphics. ZOE will be using these videos to reach people in a fresh, new way.

Cole Jennerson, ZOE Children

Cole at play

When asked about his overall experience at the office, Cole says that it is a huge change from being in fast food, but that he enjoys it. He is learning to appreciate the differences in people’s personalities and the way God uses diversity to bring everything needed together. Without an administrative person, nothing is organized or gets finished; yet without an artistic person, everything is only numbers and letters.  Cole enjoys the peaceful setting and loves the opportunity to make a difference in the world while pursuing his passion for the Kingdom, missions and video production.

We so appreciate all that Cole brings to ZOE!