Imagine you live in a place where most of your community consists of people who have been torn from their original homes due to civil war in their own country. Say the wealth of the people where you live is literally nonexistent and most live by subsistence farming. Each day is filled by working the land as long as the sun is providing enough light to see. Of course, you want more for your child so you send them to school, and since you don’t have a car or motorbike, they live there during the week instead of working on the farm. But because you love your children, you accept the extra work happily. School is the pathway to opportunity for them.
Now imagine your child returns home for the weekend and tells you the school took a day off from formal education to play games and watch a drama program by a bunch of college kids from the “big city” and some strange looking people who traveled all the way around the world to help. How would you feel?
Then your child tells you that the reason for the special day was so the entire school could learn about human trafficking, and that the students belong to an organization that exists to protect children and families. Oh, and you haven’t told your child yet, but the stranger who had come to you during the week promising a “well-paying hotel job” for your child perfectly fits the description of what these students told them to look out for....
Now, imagine there hadn’t been a program and you send your child because working at a hotel sounds like such a great opportunity.
Your Zoe team spent the past two days in the Mae Hong Song region of Thailand. It is along the border between Cambodia and Thailand and is deep in the “Golden Triangle”—the center of the Burmese and Cambodian refugee crises. People in this area exist in extreme poverty and are prime targets for traffickers. They prowl throughout the area as wolves in sheep’s clothing, promising hope, opportunity, and money to people who are devoid of all of these things. They may offer a “job” at their hotel or restaurant, and if successful in their deceit, then extort the child for forced labor, organ harvesting, prostitution, and other unimaginable evils.
I’d like to introduce you to a man named Wit (picture attached). The ZOE prevention team is his brainchild. His life mission is beautiful in its stated simplicity: to end human trafficking. The logistics are another story entirely. As the lead for ZOE prevention outreach, and soon to be promoted to head of ZOE child rescue, he is in a position to give skeptics a serious run for their money. His is a tireless job, constantly developing relationships with schools and communities prior to planning outreach events (give and take in Thailand all revolves around relationships), executing outreach, and following up in order to maintain these relationships, along with his work with the Child Rescue arm of ZOE. His faith in Christ demands such tireless devotion.
Under Wit’s direction, the ZOE prevention team and ministry school students perform outreach events at least twice a month, traveling through the region to spread knowledge about the ways traffickers take advantage of people’s trust and sharing the news that they have a Creator who loves them and cares for them. This is a program for Thai people, organized and executed by Thai people, and presented in a way that is accessible to Thai people. This is Thai people giving hope to their brethren who fall outside the caste system (and are hence forgotten by society), and showing God’s unconditional love. And you get to support this work through the team you’ve sent.
I’d also like to introduce you to a young man named Yaw. He is 19, and a student at ZMS (Zoe ministry school). He is from an ethnic minority in Thailand called the Karen people (like many of the ZMS students) and aims to return to his village to teach and care for children once he graduates. Even though many of his classmates seek to be pastors, businessmen, or work in government, his heart is for kids and the community he came from. After all, the people he loves need Jesus! Like all the ZMS students, he lives on site, wakes up every morning at 4AM for devotional time, and studies hard at his classes when he isn’t away on outreach trips (during which he piles into an open air van with the other 35 students and sleeps on the floor at night). He also constantly welcomes short term missionaries to his school with a smile that transcends language and a love for God that he wears on his sleeve. His faith in Christ demands such tireless devotion.
Wit suffers from back pain and sciatica. A Thai doctor told him he needs surgery, but Wit doesn’t have time to be laid out by surgery and can’t risk a bad outcome. He was resigned to live his life in pain. Yaw had lung surgery and a tracheostomy as a child and now has a narrow windpipe that makes it hard to breathe when he is tired (not that he ever has reason to be tired). Since he is from a village in the jungle, no one ever told him he has options to make his breathing easier.
These guys are doing Kingdom work. These men are giants in the faith who can use our church's prayers as they take up arms in the battle against evil. And I’m put upon because today forgot my face wash in the last hotel, and then got bitten by a red ant.
In a very small way, though, I get to be a part of these men’s work. As part of the Evergreen medical team, I was able to give Wit a program for stretching, counsel him on back hygiene, and present the option of physical therapy (his Thai doctor did not offer him any of these things). I was able to tell Yaw that there are things that can be done to relieve the tightening of his windpipe. I also let him know that he still has most of his right lung (he had been told it was totally removed).
Now, every time they see me, they thank me and refer to me in Thai as “sir doctor”. These are mighty Christian warriors who live out the gospel with their every breath. Somehow I deserve their gratitude because...? Oh yeah, I traveled to a different country where I found a dead beetle next to the bathroom sink. And the urinals at the gas stations are outdoors.
You have sent your ZOE team to Thailand to walk among giants. They are doing God’s work, and in some small way we are able to bind their wounds to help edify them to continue on in the battlefield.
Oh, and during today’s outreach event, 103 students expressed new faith in Christ.
All for His glory,
Jason (on behalf of the Thailand team)
PS we’ve spent most of our time with ZOE’s rescue arm (the most dangerous part of fighting trafficking) and prevention (the most effective). Tomorrow we start with restoration (the hardest part), as we will be visiting the children’s home for the first time. Please be praying for the children and house parents. Also, today was the official halfway point of our trip. Please be praying for continued health and unity, and that we would be able to finish strong!