Day 288: Zoe and Sex Trafficking
This is my second post on victims of trafficking. By now you may have guessed that these men, women, and children have a special place in our hearts. The brutality they’ve had to endure, and the deep wounds their abuse has caused remains heavy on our hearts.
Our journey to Thailand was much anticipated. Yes, there are gorgeous beaches, so beautiful that Leonardo Dicaprio starred in a movie set on one of them (The Beach).
And the food is outstanding, with fragrant spices, savory meats, rich soups, and a variety of noodles to accompany them.
But those are not the things that drew us to Thailand. For years, we’ve read about sex trafficking around the world. The mere thought of what even one child has had to go through night after night, hour after hour, is horrific. But being horrified in and of itself is not enough. What can be done to actually make a difference? With statistics so high, it’s mind-blowing.
I liken it to the feelings we experienced in the slums of Kenya and South Africa. Standing in the midst of a sea of people, wave after wave of hopelessness and hunger, anger, or resignation reflected in the faces you meet or the listless eyes that stare back, you wonder what could ever be done to put even a dent in the pain, the suffering. And you realize that there is nothing you can do to change it all. Not a thing.
And yet…that is not what we’ve been called to do. If we can help just one person, reach out and change the life of one hurting soul, then we must do it. That is what Zoe International began doing many years ago. Zoe (Greek word for ‘Life’) was founded by Michael and Carol Hart, in response to hearing about the atrocities of modern day slavery. They gave up a very comfortable living to dedicate their resources and time to helping and serving victims of trafficking. Theirs is a beautiful story of love and dedication to God and to others, a story that drew us into the heart of Thailand!
Ryan, the kids, and I had an opportunity to meet with the Harts as well as their amazing staff. Out of respect for their work and the lives being impacted, as well as safety concerns, we can not share the location of their ministry, nor can we share any photos of our time there. Suffice it to say we were truly impacted by what we saw, heard, and experienced. While I could spend hours sharing the incredible stories of lives being touched, I will just give one example. Here is Her Story:
“She told us that there were whispers on the street amongst the children – trafficked children. They were saying that there’s a place called ZOE and if you can get there, you’ll be safe. She heard that ZOE was looking for kids just like herself.
Well, she told us she thought it was just a fairytale, something other kids dreamed up in their imagination. She didn’t believe it was a real place. But still it comforted her. It made her feel better. It gave her a glimmer of hope. She would dream about this place.
Then one night her traffickers told her that there were people in a certain section of town and it was our ZOE Rescue Team. And the traffickers told her, “Don’t go ANYWHERE near that place! If you do, you’ll be hurt or killed.” They threatened her life. But that night, she made a decision that she was going to run for it, even though the stakes were high. Before she left, though, she told another little girl that if it was true, if this place was real, she would come back for her.
So that night, she took off and she ended up in the arms of one of our child rescue team members. Safe at last!
During her first week at ZOE Children’s Home, this young child walked around wondering, “So this is the place that was created just for kids like me? I can’t believe it’s real. I can’t believe it’s real.” She hadn’t told us her story yet. We didn’t know about the whispers. We didn’t know that she had heard and dreamed about a place called ZOE.
And she kept her promise to her friend. It took us months to rescue the other little girl because the traffickers kept moving her. But we found her and we rescued her, too. Today, both youngsters are safe and flourishing at ZOE!”
If you’d like to be a part of the incredible work they are doing at ZOE, please take time to read more: ZOE International.
A special thanks goes out to Carol Hart, as well as her husband and lovely staff at ZOE International in Thailand. It was a pleasure to meet all of you and we were deeply impacted by all that you shared with us. We will continue to pray for your ministry and hope to one day return. Thank you!