Ardeth with her daughters Apple, who is now in college because of a sponsor, and Joella, a bright young girl. They all love Jesus and their lives are now filled with hope, making the girls immune to the deceptive lures that traffickers use to capture their victims. They are all “apples” in God’s eyes.
We all love to hear stories about a life that has been changed by God’s powerful love. They give us hope, and encourage us to keep going in our own faith. We’re even more excited when, like in a movie, our name shows up in the credits at the end of the story.
You can probably imagine then how I felt recently in the Philippines when I heard more than a dozen testimonies about how Hope House Cebu, a Heaven’s Family partner working in the slums of Cebu City, has made a difference with help from believers who have given to the Human Trafficking/Slavery Fund.
Hope House is in the business of building hope and a future into the lives of very poor, broken families. They do this by continuously pressing the love of God into the dark corners of that place. And the corners can be very dark. Their team—all volunteers discipled in large part by founder Dave Wilkerson—is rescuing women and girls from abusive situations and intervening to prevent abductions. And like Apple and Joella in the photo above, immunizing girls and boys with the gospel of hope to keep them safe from traffickers and enslavers who lurk poor neighborhoods in search of desperate victims.
Below are a few photos and success stories that I want to share with you…
Jovy, at left, is 15 years old and attends grade 7. Her sister Ivy, at right, is 14 and is in the 4th grade. Both were very withdrawn when Hope House began about 4 years ago, and lived with an older sister in a tarp-roofed shack with only partial walls. The sisters had no hope, making them prime targets for traffickers who offer false promises of “good” jobs in the capital city of Manila and overseas. But now they know Jesus and are filled with hope and joy. Jovy has a quiet confidence, while Ivy has become outgoing, funny and witty. They both serve Jesus during Hope House outreaches to other slums in the city, and are role models for the younger girls.
Seeing their desperate need, Hope House rebuilt the first level of Jovy and Ivy’s home, and added a second level. Having seen many of the other homes in this slum—most of which are at ground level where it’s cramped, dark, hot and prone to flooding—I can assure you that they are blessed!
Cielo, 9, and her sister Claire Anne, 6 are second-generation Hope House kids. Abandoned by their parents and now living with their grandmother, Jovy and Ivy noticed them wandering around the slums and brought them to Hope House. They now have sponsors and their needs are well cared for, and they are learning about Jesus. Camille, at right, has been coming to Hope House regularly for 4 years. She has given her heart to the Lord, and wants to become an architectural engineer, something she could never have dreamed of becoming a few years ago.
These two girls were rescued from abuse. Liza, at left, was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend from age 8 until she was 11, and was rescued from becoming trafficked by her own mother (see her story in the upcoming April magazine). Crystal was being molested by an older boy in the neighborhood, until Hope House intervened.
Contrary to what most people envision when they think of human trafficking, boys are also at risk. While less likely to be trafficked into the sex industry—but still are—they are often sold as slaves to work in factories or aboard fishing vessels. The boys at left, Rocky, Jaylord and John, helped carry sandwiches to give out in a new slum outreach. At right, 17-year-old Bochok, neglected by his parents, spent many years drinking and stealing, then quit school after the 6th grade. He began coming to Hope House last fall, and helps with construction projects. The Hope House staff have already seen big changes in Bochok. Earlier this year he was accompanying a pregnant neighbor to the hospital because she was in labor. They didn’t make it. Bochok ended up delivering the baby right in the street that day. Mother and baby are doing fine!
If you’ve given to the Human Trafficking/Slavery Fund, your name is in the credits of these stories. Thanks for being on our “production” team!
Because of Him,
Director, Human Trafficking/Slavery Fund
Here are some more beautiful faces that show what changed lives look like in the slums of Cebu.
…and here is the spitting image of Dora the Explorer (in her early years before she was famous, of course)! Although her shirt was cut off in this photo, it actually had Dora’s picture on it!