There is a scripture that says “A bruised reed, I will not despise.” I always thought that was beautiful, poetic and truly expressed the compassion of God. It felt very personal to me, because I came to the Lord many years ago with damaged emotions and a wounded heart. Now I know that all of us are bruised reeds in one way or another. It is impossible to navigate this world without battle scars. Fortunately He is Jehovah Rapha, the God that heals.
For some of us, our wounds are more apparent than others. Children are vulnerable and deserve protection from a world that is often full of peril and danger. Unfortunately that shield of protection is sometimes lacking, and the results can be unspeakable horror for the innocent, who are so very precious in the sight of God. Such is the case with the children at ZOE. I don’t know the personal history of each one of them, but I know they would not be in the ZOE home if they had not been in imminent danger. As a mother of four grown children and grandmother of three, how could I turn away from the cries of children who are in both emotional and physical pain? Oh, I know…we would lose our minds if we lingered on these thoughts constantly. The bible tells us to fix our mind on things that are pure and lovely, and yet to deny the existence of dark forces is to live outside the realm of reality and worse convince ourselves that we have no obligation to alleviate suffering.
I always wanted to be a part of healing a suffering world. I’ve known about sex trafficking for years, but I never quite knew what to do about it. It seemed so huge, so daunting, and it is, but our God is larger still. We may not be able to fix everything that ails the world, but we can all do something as God directs our paths. One little fire fly might not make much of a difference, but a multitude can light up the sky.
I learned about ZOE when I was attending the Sanctuary Church in Santa Clarita. It sounded like an amazing organization. I contacted them and learned about child sponsorship. It seemed like an ideal situation for me. I live in Los Angeles now and no longer attend the Sanctuary. In fact, I recently purchased a home out here. This house took a lot of renovation, and I had always wanted hardwood floors. I don’t think God has anything against us living in a pleasant environment, but as I was spending money on various upgrades, I thought “If I can spend money on renovations purely for aesthetic purposes, surely I can do something for a child who might otherwise be locked into a hopeless situation.” I thought of my own children, three of them girls, and imagined them as children in that type of situation.” Sponsoring a child was a no-brainer. I am grateful to be part of the ZOE family!
Written by ZOE Supporter Barbara Byrd
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Eph 3:20, NIV)
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly two months since I last saw the children, staff, missionaries and ZOE Ministry School students at Zoe Children’s Home, and that it’s been a full ten days since I arrived back home. I had been told that the time at Zoe would fly by, but I found that it moved beautifully slowly. Maybe that’s because I had nothing to do all day but marvel at God’s work and pour His love on those amazing kids and their caretakers. Here, my life is filled with work, Facebook, grandkids, volunteering, shopping … way too much stuff, and with few exceptions (n.b.: grandchildren), little of it seems to matter all that much. But on the mission field, everything matters. Because everything is about the mission – in particular, the missio Dei, the mission of God – unfolding in our midst.
For nearly two decades, I had dreamed of going to Thailand, and my dreams had become quite huge, unrealistic and unreasonable. But when by dreams finally came true, I found that they had in fact been pathetically puny. I began to see God’s dream unfold before me, and I watched how He was turning it into reality. His dreams are always “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”
For nearly as long, I had been telling myself that I was “in love with Thailand.” I now know that I was only in love with the idea of Thailand. But now that I have been there and seen the land, the people, the need and the fullness, the mission, the children, the miracles, the joy, the love, I can truly say that God has filled me with a love for Thailand that is, again, “immeasurably more that I ask or imagine.”
I know. You want specifics. You want stories. I understand, but one of the reasons it’s taken me nearly two weeks to write about my time there is that I simply can’t find the words to do justice to the experiences. You just have to, well, experience them.
But there is one thing that comes close to telling the story. ZOE Children’s Home exists to rescue and provide shelter, education, the love of a family, the good news of Jesus, and the joy of His healing to children who are either in grave danger of being trafficked, or who have been trafficked. Now, I don’t care how much of all things a deeply traumatized child receives, there seems to be some residual of that trauma that stays around for a very long time – years, decades, even a lifetime. On my way to ZOE and the months before going, I expected that there would be some of the children who would be battling behavioral and emotional issues stemming from their experiences. I knew it would be a good place, but not necessarily a happy place – not all the time, anyway.
But when I set foot in ZOE Children’s Home and saw the sparkle in those kids’ eyes, the smiles on their faces, the giggles from their mouths, and the unabashed joy pouring from deep within their being, I knew that I had found not just a “happy’ place, but — sorry Disney – the Happiest Place on Earth!
But then, it only gets better. Every Tuesday evening, the entire ZOE family – kids, staff, ministry school students – all gather for prayer meeting. It’s all done quite simply. Shortly before everyone begins to arrive, the lights are dimmed, and praise and worship music is played. There are no announcements; everyone just knows that, as they arrive, it is time to pray. We had been briefed ahead of time, and were told that, if we would find a place on the floor (there are not many places to sit other than the floor) and began to pray, we would receive a blessing. Oh, did I ever! As I sat there quietly, numerous people – staff, ZMS students, older children, little ones – would come up to me, set their hands on me, and pray for me. I had no clue what they were saying, but the honor that I felt was being bestowed on me in those moments, and the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in and through these children – keep in mind where they had come from! – was overwhelming. I knew that I was in the presence of spiritual giants, some of whom were under 4 feet tall.
What had made these little ones into such giants was the very thing that would have destroyed so many of us. They had started out with nothing, and then lost everything they had. They could not have been in a worse place. But Jesus came to them, first in the form of a person – or several – who rescued them, took them in, cared for them, and showed them real love for the first time in their lives. Then by His grace they began to see beyond those people to Jesus, Himself. And they saw in Him something far, far greater than all that they had ever lost.
I often speak of the time when his disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, and He grabbed a kid. Or when he pointed to the children who had gathered around Him and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus was telling us that our greatest, best, and most profound teachers are not the people with the seminary degrees, but children.
And here I was, sitting on the floor of the big meeting room at ZOE Children’s Home, being schooled by a bunch of these wise, experienced teachers.
Written by Craig Rasmussen (ZOE Short Term Mission Team Member)
On occassion, ZOE has interns from the local Masters College in Santa Clarita who assist us with varying projects around the US office. The interships are for class credit. This semester, we happily welcomed on board Lynlee Kumamoto from Masters. Lynlee was able to intern at the ZOE Children’s Home in Thailand this past summer with a group from her school. This group was stellar! They assisted our Thai staff with anything and everything. Many lives were changed. We were so grateful to have them and now Lynlee.
Name: Lynlee Kumamoto
How did you find out about ZOE?
This past summer I was able to go on a missions trip with my school and they actually partnered with ZOE, sending a team of 12 of us over to the ZOE Home in Thailand, so that was how I first heard about the organization.
What made you want to volunteer?
After spending 2 months over in Thailand, I absolutely fell in love with all of the people and with the ministry that they have established. Also, God has just given me such a passion for the fight against human trafficking, so it is my goal to do whatever I can to help out.
How long have you volunteered at ZOE?
It has been about 3 months now.
What type of tasks do you do at ZOE?
Right now I am finishing up a project for the short-term teams that go over to Thailand – compiling a book of ideas for their children’s programs that they put together. In addition to this, I just help out with anything that needs to be completed that day.
Tell us about your overall experience in the office?
I have loved every minute of it. Being able to come into the office and work with these women is always so encouraging and such a reminder of God’s love to me. I have enjoyed participating in each of the projects and being able to help out in this way.
Have you learned anything new while volunteering?
I have really been challenged to look out for the needs of others more. The women that I work with here in the office do an exceptional job at this and I have been learning so much from just watching them. They are all very careful to encourage and build up one another in Christ and that is something that I have been able to grow in more since being here. Also, I have just been so reminded of how important it is to have a global mindset, thinking about things that are going on around the world and praying for the Lord to work in miraculous ways to further the gospel, and doing so myself!
Thank you Lynlee for all your hard work and dedication. It has been simply a pleasure having you in the USA office and will miss you dearly when the semester is over.
This month, Chick-fil-A in Santa Clarita will bring awareness to child trafficking and ZOE, a Santa Clarita based non-profit organization in the fight against trafficking. For the entire month, when customers drive by the restaurant’s window or step inside, signage and posters highlighting ZOE and child trafficking awareness will be visible.
For almost a decade, ZOE has been caring for orphans as well as combatting child trafficking on the frontlines in Thailand. Through proven best practices, they have actively rescued children from begging rings, forced labor, and sex trafficking. Once rescued, ZOE Children’s Homes provides a family environment, full 24-hour care, and a life of wholeness and restoration for these children. Over the years, ZOE has gained generous support from partnering churches, businesses, and individuals throughout Santa Clarita. Chick-fil-A, a generous support to many organizations in the community, is an example of one such business lending a hand and offering support.
Chick-fil-A and ZOE will offer two special nights to the community this month. On Tuesday, October 9th, come out to Chick-fil-A at the Valencia Town Center for a special “Kids Night” with Hero the Frog, ZOE’s official kids’ program mascot. Kids will have the chance to meet Hero and fun activities will be available for the kids. Later in the month, on October, 18th, Chick-fil-A will donate 10% of sales purchases to ZOE.
On November 10th, Saturday, ZOE will host its first ever “Rescue Walk” to raise funds and awareness. Chick-fil-A will be a part of this event by making lunch available for participants. This special event is open to the public and will be enjoyable for all ages. ZOE is grateful for the support of the community this month, especially Chick-fil-A and continues to encourage community members to work to end human trafficking in our generation. For further information please contact email@example.com or call 661-255-7963.
Volunteering as a ZOE Table Bearer for the 2012 Global Human Trafficking Conference was a great experience. What made it great was meeting and connecting with so many wonderful people. First of all there were my fellow volunteers Sharon, Vicki, Shirley and Nicole. Sharon had the new ZOE Cookbooks so I was able to get a few. Vicki recently moved to Arizona and came up for the weekend to help out, so it was great to spend time with her and with Lauren, Marji and Betsy from the ZOE office. Betsy spoke on two panel discussions. She did an awesome job. It was inspiring to hear and see her up there with like-minded people from fellow organizations that are working to end human trafficking and turn victims into survivors.
What a great bunch of people! Our hosts, Jocelyn and Peter White of Slavery No More, introduced the daily sessions, speakers and testimonials. Peter got a bit chocked up at one point. Their compassion and hope that modern day slavery can be eliminated in our generation rings through. This is something that we hear from our ZOE Founders, Carol and Michael Hart – that we can see an end to it in our generation. It was wonderful to hear the good reports from so many organizations that are working on the frontlines toward this goal, whether they are doing prevention, intervention, aftercare – or like ZOE, doing all three.
Our booth was next to Treasures www.Iamatreasure.com. They reach out to workers in the sex industry and train people how to do so. On one panel a discussion about perpetrators (dare we say – consumers) came up. Treasures founder, Harmony Dust, shared about a new men’s program run by men volunteers who teach other men to value and respect women. Prevention.
It was great to help the ZOE Staff network. A Representative from A21 came by our table. They do good rescue work and have safe houses in Europe. (Intervention and Aftercare). They were glad to know what ZOE is doing in Thailand. Collaboration and partnership were key themes of the conference.
We came back from lunch and found a note on the ZOE table saying, “ I took a sweatshirt” with a name and organization so we could go to her booth and collect the 35$. What honesty and integrity! The air conditioning was very cold, so I can understand why she wanted it that bad. That’s one way to sell shirts!! For me personally, I couldn’t decide between the two women’s designed t-shirts, and I was taking so long, so I got both!
On my break, I visited the other tables. At met Eric of Finding Freedom. They are based in Bangkok and know about ZOE’s work in Northern Thailand. I bought a bracelet made by Jeit. Her dream to open a house for helping others is printed and contained in the charm. When I wear it I will remember the conference and to pray for those who need to be rescued and for those that are working to help them.