Author: Kimberly Wheeler

Working in Juvenile Detention

We’ve been working toward this day for a long time. We’ve talked about serving in the Guilford County Juvenile Detention Center for what feels like forever. We’ve completed our background checks, we’ve been fingerprinted, we’ve studied the trafficking safety curriculum, we’ve visited with the staff – we’re ready.

At least we thought we were.

I didn’t expect the nervousness I felt in the pit of my stomach as I walked through the heavy steel door of the classroom. My senses were temporarily overwhelmed. The grating whir of the electronic deadbolt disengaging, the voice over the intercom directing us when to enter, the crash of the heavy door sealing us in.

This is…a prison. I suppose we knew that, but somehow it all seemed less real until now. Here the kids are not free to leave at the end of the day. They are locked in cells at night. They wear matching clothes. They must never walk behind the guards. The pencils are all trimmed to about four inches…

This is not the world we normally live in. But it is a very real place, and the kids before us were equally real.

As I looked into the dark brown eyes of the boy in the front row, a deep sadness overcame my disorientation. Suddenly I was focused on this young man, wondering how he came to be in this place.

What was his childhood like? Had he sat with a loving mother as she read stories to him at night? Did he fingerpaint at the kitchen table and play on swings in the park? Did his father tuck him in at night and remind him how very loved he was?

Or, did he hide behind the couch as his mother was knocked around by her boyfriend? Did he cover his ears to block out the yelling? Did he go to bed hungry because there were no adults sober enough to feed him? Or maybe his single mother had to work three jobs, and despite loving him she just wasn’t there to help guide his development at an early age.

Is it possible that he has a strong, loving family behind him, and he just found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, making wrong decisions despite knowing better? Sure, of course that’s a possibility. But that would be a rare exception to the general rule.

We’ll never know exactly what circumstances may have led to their presence in that classroom, but when I looked in each of their eyes I couldn’t help but wonder if somewhere along the line things had broken down for them. These sure didn’t look like evil thugs. They’re just kids. And like all kids, they’re dealing with the life that has been dealt to them.

Ethan and I exchanged a quick nervous glance before diving into our first lesson. Would this curriculum even work here? Was the material too naive? Too innocent and simple? Would they just roll their eyes over these clueless, sheltered people who had never experienced the fear of growing up without safety and a solid foundation?

Much to our relief, the kids were polite and receptive. They asked questions and wrote notes on the handouts. At one point one after discussing the difference between prostitution and trafficking, one of the boys asked, “but what if they like it?”

We’ve heard that sentiment before, from men in Thailand defending the culture of abusing and devaluing women that exists there. That culture exists in large part because of like-minded men who live in a fantasy-land of denial, believing that their patronage of the sex industry is noble and helpful to families in poverty. It must be good, because the girls seem very happy.

We explained that looking happy and appearing to “like it” is all part of the job. Not much different from the slimy brand of salesman, who acts like your best friend long enough to manipulate you into the deal he wants. No one actually believes that guy really cares, right? It’s all about the money. In the same way, a sad or reluctant prostitute isn’t going to earn as much money as one who appears to “like it”. 

The idea that girls might not be choosing that life seemed foreign to them, but we could see the light going on.

This is one of the most foundational concepts, critical to understanding and ultimately fighting the scourge of sex trafficking. We must understand the circumstances that lead to a girl selling her body, even when it appears to be consensual.

Unless we change that mindset, we are literally choosing to believe that these girls woke up one morning and thought, “You know, I think I’ll let a greedy, abusive pimp control every minute of my life, while disgusting men use me like an object, because at the end of the day I might get a small cut of the profits.”

Are there cases of women consensually and independently abandoning freedom to become sex workers? Sure, it happens. But it’s almost always a response to trauma or circumstances beyond their control. An abusive home life, extreme poverty, abandonment, hopelessness, depression, manipulation, or force. Some become addicted to drugs and have no other means of supporting their habit. Does that sound like something you’d do because you like it?

Understanding the reality of their circumstances changes the way we see people in the commercial sex industry. Boys and girls alike are trapped without hope and without options, because no one has ever helped them to see their true potential and value. 

Jesus taught us to look past the “yuck”. The things that offend our moral sensibilities, like prostitution. Imagine if he had avoided the woman at the well because she was a dirty sinner. But He didn’t avoid her, and neither should we. Underneath all the “yuck” is a soul in need of a savior. We need to see them as God sees them.

Give us Your eyes, Lord. 

Year In Review

Just one year ago we boarded the plane to America. Emotions were running high, and I recorded a little bit of that in a short Facebook post:

Perspective on our trip home:

Humor: When Delta Airlines announced (on our flight from Hong Kong to Seattle) that ALL the bathrooms on the right half of the plane had stopped functioning while simultaneously handing out giant water bottles. #thanksforthelaughDelta

Regret: Watching the emotional movie, Lion, on the airplane after we had to say goodbye to our precious foster son. (Praying for this to be temporary.) #wemisshim

Shock: Arriving to a very cold, windy Idaho in the month of June! #notpreparedforthat

Hope: After Isaac’s memorial service almost ten years ago we kept one plant to remember him by. Today, the morning after we arrived, it bloomed. #newstart


With the exception of Ethan, none of us have been on a plane in the last year. We have no complaints. 😉

We greatly miss our foster son Gohm. He went through a challenging time not long after we left when he lost his housing and once again, would have been out on the street. Thankfully we were able to find a place for him to rent with the help of some friends living in Chiang Rai. He is now sixteen. His (and Gunya’s) little sister, Dee, very recently moved in with him after the situation in their home required it. God continues to provide for these kids even when we aren’t certain how it will happen. Dee recently had to have an emergency surgery for a burst appendix, so we are thankful she is in the city and closer to medical care.

Concerning the weather: it WAS cold last June in Idaho! Here in the South, not so much. We’ve had more rain than usual this year according to all the locals, which causes flash flooding. It’s exciting driving home and wondering if you’ll be diverted to another street because your route is underwater. There’s definitely humidity, but nothing compared to Thailand.

It’s really strange to be back in the United States and unable to visit Isaac’s grave site. We are so much closer to our home state, but still so far! We felt this deeply recently when Ethan’s wonderful grandmother passed away. We’re so much closer to family than we used to be, but still much too far away to be with them during this time.

As for other updates, well . . . the kids have collectively grown several inches, it seems. We’ve forgotten some of our Thai words, but not our Thai friends. The ministry in Chiang Mai is growing every day, and Mari keeps us updated on what the girls are learning and doing. Gunya has moved there to serve as a “big sister” to all the girls and teach them Bible and English. She called us just a little earlier this week to chat and we got to see the girls working on music together.

Emotionally, it has been a hard year for everyone. Bubba has gone backwards in his behavior, unfortunately, and we see a lot more crying and struggle for him each day. It’s hard watching him regress, knowing how much he gained when we lived in Thailand. Calico cries every so often and asks if we can live in Thailand again, where she feels like she was “home.” As the youngest, Asia is the place of all her memories. We are learning much about teaching the kids how to draw closer to Christ and look to him when life isn’t easy.

God has been so faithful to continue to provide for our family through this transition to America. On paper it really never looks like we will be able to make it each month. Ethan has able to work on the side occasionally doing handyman work, and we’ve sold handmade items from our little shop, Chapter & Verse Studios. New friends here have helped us find furniture being given away, and our favorite furniture find was actually sitting on the side of the road. We are so thankful that we are still able to continue fighting child trafficking through this provision. One of my new favorite verses is Psalm 37:25.

“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”

All in all it has been a good year of moving forward. We can’t wait to see how God will continue to open doors in the year ahead!

The Incredible Strength of a Survivor

Due to the confidential nature of our work in counter-trafficking, many of the details of the following story have been intentionally omitted to preserve the privacy and dignity of those involved.

While we were in Thailand I had the opportunity to spend many hours with survivors of human trafficking. I don’t think I was ever able to fully grasp what they were going through because there was always a language barrier between us. That all changed in December of 2018, when we were contacted by a victim here in America who was looking for a way out.

Ask most people in America to describe a typical sex trafficking victim, and they’ll likely paint a picture of an immigrant or minority, living in poverty, with little or no support system or contact with the outside world. Our first USA trafficking case was none of these. She is a smart, successful, middle-class young woman with strong family contacts. But one mistake in a time of weakness set a series of events in motion that would pull her into a world she never imagined being a part of.

The story of her rescue is long, detailed and fascinating. But what ultimately drew me to the keyboard to share was the aftermath of her getting out. It almost didn’t seem real when it happened, and she was terrified that it might not actually be over.

Every day, multiple times of day, we’d talk.

I can’t do this anymore. It just hurts too much.

There were times when her comments made me afraid that she would try to end her life. I would pray fervently that God would intervene and pour out peace upon her. The next morning it was always a relief to hear her voice again and know that she was still with us.

When someone has gone through something as horrific as sex trafficking, it’s extremely important to respect their rights and their freedom. While I may sometimes want to tell her “You can’t do this!” or “I won’t let you do that,” she is now in control. She calls the shots when it comes to her body and her life.

But the demons of doubt and shame are always at work.

This pain is what I deserve. I don’t deserve friendship or anything at all.

She needed desperately to hear that she is loved. And you know what? I do love her. I see her beauty and worth and it brings me to tears when I know she doesn’t see it for herself yet.

She wonders if the nightmare will ever truly be over.

I can’t stop the flashbacks. I close my eyes and it’s like it’s happening to me all over again.

I shared the following verses with her from Psalms:

I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

The physical toll on her body has left its own lasting damage. Weight loss, memory loss, and seizures have affected her throughout the last several weeks. When she was first rescued her body was so beaten and bruised, I was scared to hug her. I didn’t want to make any of the pain worse.

From the time we met to now, I have marveled at her ability to wake up every day and go to work. She has had to undergo humiliating exams for evidence. She has conquered the formidable task of testifying against her traffickers., She lives daily with  the fear that they still know where she lives. On top of all of that, in order to preserve her privacy and dignity among her friends and coworkers she has to pretend that none of this has been happening to her for long hours each day.

Strength. This is what I think of every time I see her. I am in awe, and I pray that she will uphold that strength as she continues to heal. It will be a long road. Ultimately we pray that she will be able to draw on the strength of her creator, coming to know him as her Savior.

Being Home




the return of someone to their own country


Photo by Luke Stackpoole


One hundred seventy-four days. Our family has been on American soil again for one hundred seventy-four days. Emotions I fully thought would hit back in July are coming in waves. Grief, guilt and more. As much as I wish I could push through this stage clearly and bounce right back, I’ve learned that this is a normal and expected part of returning to your passport country.

Grief happens when you say goodbye to those you love. We loved hard in Thailand. Despite my desire to stay disconnected, knowing we’d be back home in two years (or so I originally thought,) it was impossible to not fall in love with our beneficiaries. Their shy smiles, their teasing of our language attempts, the simple gifts they gave to us that meant so much.

One of our girls made this and said it was me! Too cute.

Grief happens when you leave friends who have the same heart-calling as you. The ones who have sold everything they own to move their families to an unknown place, like you. The ones you laugh with and cry with and who become family.

During Songkran, the three-day New Year’s/waterfight celebration.

And the guilt. While we spent many months in prayer, seeking to do God’s will, I still doubt that we did the right thing sometimes. Even though we were having increasing struggles with our visas, I wonder. Even though we know our presence in the United States is vital in supporting our girls in Chiang Mai, I wonder.  And I believe this is normal feelings of guilt that happen to anyone coming off the mission field. We feel guilt over the fact that we are here and our foster son isn’t. As much as we have tried to overcome the obstacles and bring him here to be with us, it hasn’t happened and we’re not sure it ever can.

Saying goodbye to our boy at the airport. The smile on my face is not a true reflection of my feelings!

Returning to the States also brought about a feeling I wasn’t sure how to describe, but for lack of better words the fear of “selling out” and becoming the same person I used to be before. Wrapped up in my own world, not cognizant of the deep needs of those around me. Maybe thinking that luxuries are normal and expected, rather than good gifts we don’t deserve by our gracious father in heaven. I pray I don’t slip into complacency.

We have much to be thankful for, including new friendships and God’s blessing in ministry. And we’re doing well considering all the emotions. But we’re learning that transitions take a loooong time. When asked about our time overseas, we remember both the good and the bad and it can be overwhelming to talk about. But we do need to talk about it sometimes, because it’s part of the process of coming home.

So thank you to those friends who ask us how we’re adjusting to life here. It means more than we can express to hear that you care. Thanks to those of you who give us permission to just do what we are able to do today, knowing this has been a huge period of transition. Thanks to our supporters who are so faithful; because of you we can “keep on keeping on” with this fight against child sex trafficking! We are so grateful to all of you.


Driving Across the US: Part 2

After leaving our dear friends in Minnesota, it was back to the road and through Wisconsin. We stopped at a campground that night that turned out to offer the least amount of sleep we’d had so far, thanks to an extremely loud train roaring past once an hour all through the night.  It was also the campground with the nastiest outhouses. But on the bright side, we arrived early enough for the musicians to get out their guitars and get some worship on.

Monday evening we arrived in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to see some more dear friends whom we had served with in Thailand. There’s something about working as missionaries together, stuck in a foreign land with no one else, that strengthens relationships quickly. The Oyers were our adopted little brother and sister on the field! It was neat to spend time with them and we conquered the most difficult cargo trailer-parking moment so far when we arrived at their home.


While in Fort Wayne we were fortunate to be able to catch up with many friends we had served with overseas in addition to the Oyers, and even caught up with friends from many years ago from the Boise area.

After leaving Indiana, we passed through Ohio, where we had the hardest moments in our trip by far. While driving along an Ohio freeway our cargo trailer was hit from behind. It was all Ethan could do to safely bring us off the freeway, with the SUV swinging wildly back and forth after it was thrown violently forward. Ethan got out of the vehicle to find out what happened and all the kids were in tears. There was some screaming as well, and unfortunately Bubba thought the accident had been his fault so he was melting down. (We had discussed on the trip the importance of good behavior in the car to keep everyone safe, and he wrongly thought he caused a bad thing to happen.) Ethan discovered the other driver, a commuter who had fallen asleep at the wheel behind us.


The damage to the cargo trailer was extensive and three of us went to the hospital to be checked out for injuries. Thankfully we were able to leave that evening but it was far too late to make it to our planned campsite so we stayed in a hotel just down from the hospital. Evidence of God’s great goodness: within a couple hours of the accident there were multiple offers from friends for some kind of assistance. One of those couples were Eric and Sheila Ross, who we attended church with many years ago before they moved to Ohio. These sweet people got up at the crack of dawn the next day, bought donuts, and drove two hours to pick us up at the hotel and help us get our trailer back to their place. At their home we were able to rest a bit, let the kids swim, and thoroughly check out the trailer to see if we could continue driving with it. We were so blessed by these friends and their kindness!


We headed out that afternoon to make it to our next stop, which ended up being in West Virginia. What a beautiful place! We found a campsite off the beaten path and it ended up being a wonderful place to connect with new friends. (Shout out to John & Jessi, if you read this!)

Back on the road again meant eating our one millionth peanut butter sandwich, or so it seemed. 🙂 But as we drew closer to our new home no one seemed to mind.

What an amazing moment it was to cross that state line from Virginia to North Carolina! We camped for several days in Mount Airy, the town that The Andy Griffith Show was based on.

Everyone loved seeing the historic downtown and especially the candy shop!


After we stayed as long as we were able to stay in Mount Airy, we moved closer to our final destination and stayed in a state park. During this time we really felt the heat of a southern summer, but it only made getting into a home all the more sweet.


While it took quite a while to get into a home, we were blessed by the time spent growing closer as a family. It’s safe to say no one is eager to see the inside of an airport or drive across the US again anytime in the near future. It’s good to be home.

Driving Across the US: Part 1

It’s the completion of our first week on the road. I’m surrounded by the forest and breathing in the smells of campfire. We are somewhere in Wisconsin near a train, which is bringing all kinds of joy to Bubba.  

This trip wasn’t destined to start on time, or so we believed up until the last minute. A week ago we were standing on the street in front of Ethan’s parents’ house, feeling defeated while looking at the inside of our cargo trailer. It was the fifth time we’d packed it and we were still overweight. Somehow, in the next few hours, we were ready.

Monday morning we hit the road. We were blessed to have my dad in a second vehicle, as he was going as far as Jackson, Wyoming for a conference the same day. It gave us the welcome opportunity to stretch out a bit and take turns spending time with Grandpa. 🙂

Driving to Jackson was rough, with various transportation problems cropping up along the way. We pulled into a very full campsite that night and prayed there would still be a spot open. Thankfully there was and we started our first official evening setting up in the dark. We had Tex Mex Chicken for dinner. (Recipe here.)

We were all pretty exhausted the next morning and it took a while to get back on the road. As a result, we arrived at Yellowstone a bit later than planned, and were honestly all so tired we really didn’t appreciate the short amount of time we had there. We were motivated to get back on the road so we wouldn’t have to set up camp again in the dark.

Bubba sleeping on Greta through Yellowstone

Tuesday evening we pulled off in another part of Wyoming, at a quiet little campground with sites incredibly far away from the parking area. Feeling thankful that Bubba insisted on bringing his little blue wagon, we used that to haul all the things to the camp site. During one of the hauls, Bubba brought out his favorite sauce of all time; (Frank’s Red Hot) with the cap untwisted, leaving a trail of sauce in his wake. We laughed about leading the grizzly bears straight to us, which seemed much more funny during daylight. (During the night when I got up to the the bathroom it was kind of terrifying.)

Trail of hot sauce through the woods

Wednesday dawned with everyone feeling much more alive. It was a long day of driving through Wyoming and into South Dakota. The campgrounds in South Dakota were peaceful, with a chatty and kind camp host who was interested in hearing all about our ministry.




Thursday was Mount Rushmore Day! What had inspired the designer to create in that state, I wondered? As we grew closer to the site it was obvious by the huge rock cliffs surrounding us. Even the untouched parts looked like they had the potential to become faces, if that makes sense. It was incredibly awesome to see in person. After Mount Rushmore we needed some coffee. Of course we brought some with us for camping, but had a tip that there was a coffee shop in nearby Rapid City that imported beans from Doi Chang. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt about it, as this was the coffee plantation from our little town of Chiang Rai! The owner has been to Thailand and we have mutual friends in ministry there. It was a great stop!


Thursday night we finally stayed in a campground with showers! Let me tell ya, it was time. Seven people and a 130 lb. dog packed into an SUV for so long, well, you can imagine. There was also a playground. It was heaven.


We planned to make a rest stop for the weekend with our long-time friends, the Fischers, in New Prague, Minnesota. Along the way there *just so happened* to be a Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove. The girls and I were thrilled. For those familiar with the books, it’s the same town where their family lived in “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” If you are ever in the area I would highly recommend the museum; it’s well worth the price of a ticket. We attempted to see the dugout where the family lived but it was way back on a road and we weren’t totally sure there would be room to turn a trailer around.

  • Yes, the museum stop was totally planned weeks ago. I confess. 😉


Arriving in New Prague and seeing my friend Amber almost made me cry. Years ago in church, when I was a pre-teen, I prayed HARD for a friend. We had a small congretation and I just knew God had a friend out there for me. Amber’s dad moved their family  to Oregon to pastor the church and that prayer was answered! It’s hard to believe so many years had passed since we had seen them. It was fun to let the kids hang out together and catch up on everything. We also had the opportunity to share about The Phoenix Alliance and our work with their church Sunday morning. It was a much-needed time of rest before hitting the road again.

New friends


We’re now in Wisconsin. The hot dogs have been roasted and the s’mores are being devoured. It’s Sunday night, and the first week is down!



Preparing to Leave

I apologize ahead of time to anyone reading this blog post, as it’s more of a brain dump than anything else. But if you are curious to know what’s up in our corner of the world, read on!

The Phoenix Alliance. We’ve found that starting a foundation from the ground up is such a learning experience. We work late into the night after tucking the kids into bed, then upon falling asleep dream about things like ethical storytelling and beneficiaries needing a home and graphic design and everything else. When we wake up there always seems to be more work than the day before. Thankfully we have had several awesome people join our volunteer team lately and that has already helped significantly!

Homeschooling. We’re in the final stretch of our school year, and about to promote a ninth-grader, seventh-grader, fifth-grader, and second-grader. The last few weeks are always challenging, but through God’s grace we were able to get ahead in our studies this year and will not have to carry into the summer! The kids have all become passionate about languages thanks to living overseas, and between the three girls they are all working on improving their Thai and learning Lahu, Norwegian, Japanese, and Latin.

Packing. Oh the packing! It’s interesting what you find inside suitcases that have been sitting in the corner for a couple of years. Every single one had to be thoroughly cleaned from dust, spiderwebs, and gecko poop. We found THE most fantastic way to pack and move stuff overseas three years ago, with Walmart rolling storage crates. They are $20 each, and pretty much the maximum size “suitcase” that the airlines will allow. Some of them have been back and forth to the States a couple times and are still in pretty great condition. I can’t recommend them enough for travel.

Selling. If it’s too big to pack or not extremely necessary, it’s getting sold. There are days when I’d just like to put everything by the side of the road and let people help themselves! Not even kidding, in the last couple of weeks I’ve had people ask if I would deliver a 20 baht item to the other side of town, sell things for less than half of what we’re asking, mail 50 baht items to them, and more. We’re so thankful for the wonderful people who understand how busy you are when you are moving and come to us!

Our foster son. While I’ve wanted to give updates on our pursuit of bringing him home, it has been a long journey filled with discouragement. We are being helped by a local ministry that works with the Lahu tribe as we navigate the many requirements. He has a wonderful family to stay with while we continue to pursue every last option from the States. Please continue to pray for God to work in this situation.

Visa requirements. Our last visa was an education visa, and required me to take language classes several times a week. After our first year abroad several well-meaning friends asked, “So, you’re probably fluent now, right?” My only response to that was to laugh, probably  a bit hysterically. We’ve met plenty of people who have lived here for over ten years and still don’t speak the language. The Thai language is hard, people!


All the goodbyes. Ugh, goodbyes are the worst. And Thai people are so wonderful. It has been hard saying goodbye to so many who have touched our lives so much in the past three years. The picture below is with our mechanic. (It says a lot about the state of your car when you’re that close to your mechanic, am I right?) But it has seriously been like this with all of our Thai acquaintances and friends. Even the friend chicken ladies down the street cried. (Possibly because they’re losing a big portion of their income now that our gargantuan family is moving away, but we’ll pretend it’s for other reasons.) 😉


Tomorrow we will be down to two weeks left in our adopted country. We will try to do another update soon!


Twelve Books About Trafficking

*This post contains affiliate links, which can benefit our family if used to purchase anything on Amazon.

Our lives right now are all about setting kids free from the worst kind of pain imaginable. Sometimes it’s tough to make ourselves sit down and read more about what we deal with regularly, but we feel it’s important to continue to educate (and occasionally inspire) ourselves. Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing crime and we should all  learn more. So without further ado:

Nonfiction Reads

Only 13: The True Story of Lon

This heartbreaking memoir follows young Lon, who was sold into trafficking at the tender age of thirteen. This is a tough one to read and I feel it doesn’t offer much hope. While Lon eventually finds partial freedom, by the end of the book she still struggles to get out from under the massive weight on her heart and soul. If anything, this book demonstrates the importance of a relationship with Christ and continued discipleship for victims.

God in a Brothel: An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue

If you’ve ever desired to hear more behind the scenes of brothels from an undercover investigator, this book is for you.  The author is painstakingly honest about his own faults, and you see how he eventually crumbles under the pressure of his position. It does read more of a story from his own life rather than a large look at sex trafficking, but warns of the danger of not setting good parameters when working in this field.

Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal

What I love about this book is the author’s great sense of humor! On a whim, it seems, he goes to Nepal to volunteer at an orphanage. He does it for the wrong reasons, but the kids steal his heart. Along the way, he discovers that these children are not actually orphans, but victims of a trafficking scheme. An inspirational and thought-provoking read.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

While reading this comprehensive book I wanted to say yes, exactly! So much of the material in this book lines up with the situations we have seen while traveling in India, Cambodia, Nepal, Thailand, and Laos.  The true stories are interwoven with information about how victimization happens, successful efforts in changing lives, and more. It can be a bit overwhelming to read and take in the enormity of the problem.  Regardless, it should be on the list of every person who wants to understand more about the desperate plight of women all over the world.

The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Theives, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers

As indicated in the title, this book is about more than just human trafficking.  It’s brutal yet eye-opening to read about body parts that are sold in markets world-wide. The author explores everything from the above-board sales of human hair to the darker sales of body parts from kidnapped people.  This is a market that we don’t really think or talk about.  For an audio preview, there is also a podcast by Radiolab that mentions this book.

The Least of These: One Man’s Remarkable Journey in the Fight Against Child Trafficking

This inspiring story is about a man who was deeply burdened by the plight of children in many third-world countries.  He chose to go into some of the darkest places in Asia in order to help free women and children from their pain. I like the ideas the author gives for ways to join in the fight again trafficking.


Fiction Reads

The Earth Is Full (Child of Deliverance Series Book 1)

The Heavens Are Telling (Child of Deliverance Series) (Volume 2)

My sweet friend Bethany wrote these books, but the funny thing is I didn’t even know we were living in the same town and going to the same church until after I read the first one! (These books are published under B.D. Riehl, which was part of the reason I didn’t realize it sooner.) The first book follows the story of a young girl sold into sex slavery in Thailand, and a middle-aged mom and teen girl from America.  This inspiring story shows us God’s love and faithfulness.  The second book continues with characters we met in the first book as well as new characters.  I liked how much you could relate to the characters in each of these books.

Deliver Me from Evil (Freedom Series)

While it has been a while since I’ve read this, I still remember not being sure I would be able to handle the gritty story.  It follows Mara, a girl sold by her parents in Mexico into a life of sex slavery. A chance meeting with a Christian man takes both of their lives in directions they could never have imagined.  It’s hard as far as the subject matter, but has a good ending.

Stolen Woman (Stolen Series)

While I’m really not a fan of romance novels of any sort, this book had an interesting premise. Asha, an American adopted as a baby from India, goes back as an adult to the home of her birth to help at an orphanage, and meets her love interest there. She also meets a young girl trapped in slavery and decides to go against the warnings of the missionaries to save the girl. The storyline is compelling, yet I feel the part about a short-term volunteer not heeding the advice of seasoned missionaries is unrealistic. (Especially in India; you just don’t mess around as a woman there.)


This is a story about a young Nepalese girl who is sold by her family into prostitution.  She believes she will be working for a wealthy woman as a maid until she arrives at the “Happiness House” in India.  Trapped by her family’s debt, she feels she can never escape. Her determined spirit throughout her struggles is inspiring.

What I’m Reading Next

The Slave Across the Street

In this powerful true story, Theresa L. Flores shares how her life as an All-American, blonde-haired 15-year-old teenager who could have been your neighbor was enslaved into the dangerous world of sex trafficking while living in an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit. Her story peels the cover off of this horrific criminal activity and gives dedicated activists as well as casual bystanders a glimpse into the underbelly of trafficking. — excerpt from 

The White Umbrella: Walking with Survivors of Sex Trafficking

The White Umbrella tells stories of survivors as well as those who came alongside to help them to recovery. It describes the pain and the strength of these young women and those who held the “white umbrella” of protection and purity over them on the road to restoration.

This book offers principles and guidance to anyone with a heart for these hurting young women and a desire to help. It is an ideal resource for individuals or organizations seeking to learn what they can do to assist these victims in becoming whole again.  — excerpt from


Have you read any of these books? Tell us what you think!


News, Finally!

Nine days. That’s how long it takes to get biopsy results in Thailand. It could be the same elsewhere; I don’t know. But it has been a long nine days.

I knew right away when they said my appointment was between 1:00 and 3:00 today that I was most likely in for a long wait. We were shocked the first time we tried to go to a doctor here and realized it’s common to show up and be seen in the order you have arrived. Two hours waits are not unusual. With that in mind, I showed up at the hospital at 1:00 on the dot.  I started to feel hopeful when I saw no one else in the waiting area. After a quick blood pressure check I had to go sit back down in the waiting room, and waited, and waited some more. After a while a nurse came out and I thought This is it!  But no, she was only coming to ask me if I wanted to go home and come back in an hour. Yes, seriously. I couldn’t believe it. I told her we live too far away from the hospital to do that, and I’d just wait. She looked properly horrified by this, and told me that the doctor was eating lunch and would be gone for a long time.

Thankfully, within about fifteen minutes the nurses seemed to collectively take pity on the foreigner and one of them came over to me. With great trepidation I watched as she pulled the results out of an envelope and pointed to the three little words: no malignancy seen. It was a grand moment, one that definitely should have been celebrated with balloons and streamers and hamburgers (our biggest western-food craving most days). But instead I smiled at the nurse, texted our people, and gathered up my things to go.

We’re thankful for the prayers of everyone and especially just knowing that we weren’t alone, although we are physically thousands of miles away from home. I realize women everywhere go through this, but there was just something about it happening in a foreign country that made it more disturbing.  We’re thankful that God is always in control, he gives peace in all situations when we ask for it, and for good health!

Unexpected Biopsy in Thailand

We’ve been dealing with a fairly significant issue here behind the scenes in Northern Thailand. For the last several months I’ve had some concerning symptoms that I’ve been trying to ignore. But it finally got bad enough that I knew I had to address it, so I booked an appointment with a local doctor.  That appointment was last night.

Although I considered going into the appointment alone, Ethan came with me. I’m so glad he did. After the preliminary exam the doctor decided to do an ultrasound, and I started to get nervous as the ultrasound dragged on and she started printing out pictures.  Back in her office following the exam she told us she had found a tumor. She was sure this was the cause of the symptoms I had been experiencing and that removing it would alleviate those symptoms. But she also insisted on testing the tissue for cancer. The operation needed to happen quickly and was scheduled for early this morning, just 14 hours after the initial exam. Though the doctor speaks some English, her accent, limited vocabulary and general lack of fluency makes for a difficult and confusing conversation. In addition to language, there are some cutural tendencies with Thais that are endearing, until they aren’t. One such tendency is to answer “yes” to almost everything, even if “yes” is not the actual answer. Ultimately we gathered that she was concerned the tumor could be cancerous. These conversations go something like this:

Doc – You have tumoh(r) little big that cause problem now. And two very small. I want remove fix problem and leave other one and tes(t) for cancer.

Us – So there’s one tumor?

Doc – Yes

Us – But you mentioned something else?

Doc – Yes

Us – So…is there more than one tumor?

Doc – Yes (smiling and nodding now)

Us – Ah, ok. Where are they? The other ones?

Doc – Yes, the others very small not problem. We take big one and test, if ok then maybe ok. We remove small ones but maybe cannot because in wrong place for procedure. Take out different way but maybe not need.

Us – Okay…so we remove the bigger tumor now, and leave the others?

Doc – Yes.

Us – Yes, we leave the other two?

Doc – Yes because maybe cancer not normal.

Us – Not normal?

Doc – Yes, maybe not normal okay.

Us – Oh! Do you mean those type are not normally cancerous?

Doc – Yes

Us – But the other one sometimes is?

Doc – Yes

We left, minds reeling with an early surgery appointment suddenly scheduled for our Saturday morning. We hadn’t eaten dinner yet and it was late, so after leaving the hospital we stopped by a friend’s restaurant to eat before going home. I felt so disoriented and disconnected. It was hard to enjoy the food or the celebratory Friday night atmosphere, which included an amazingly talented 16-year-old local boy playing solo acoustic guitar. We texted both sets of parents and messaged our confidential prayer group during dinner to ask them all to pray for peace for the next morning.

This morning I packed everything I thought I might want for a hospital visit, including a blanket. From my visit the night before I had a feeling creature comforts wouldn’t be high on the list of patient needs. We’ve noticed in the past that much of the medical care in our part of Thailand tends to feel like it’s from the 1980’s, but had high hopes that going to the most popular hospital for expats in town would help.

After arriving at the hospital we did all the check-in procedures. Surgery was set to take two hours, during which time I’d be unconscious and Ethan would be missing breakfast. I encouraged him to find something to eat at a nearby cafe. So when I was called back into an exam room and it appeared I was all set for surgery, he left. You can imagine our surprise when the nurse asked for me to call my husband back fifteen minutes later. We were confused and at first thought they wanted him to push my wheelchair into the operating room. But no. Apparently they just didn’t want a crazy, doped-up foreign girl loose in the hospital without a responsible adult to keep an eye on her! They commanded Ethan to sit in a specific chair in the waiting area and insisted that he not move.

We went back to surgery and I quickly realized NO ONE back there spoke English. They tried to ask some questions but since I’ve not studied much medical terminology in Thai, I was pretty lost. They then left me sprawled out on the operating table, alone, for about twenty minutes. I texted Ethan, wondering if he knew what was going on, and he told me he had just seen my doctor from the night before shuffle-running through the hospital. It appeared she was late, or possibly forgot she had a patient waiting in surgery.

After reading about my specific surgery online, I had expected a lot of pain during the procedure. But there are some benefits of getting treated in a different country. The only real pain that happened was from the IV, and then they put me to sleep!

After the surgery I woke up in a huge room. There was nobody close by, but I was done with being in the hospital and ready to finally eat breakfast. I sat up slowly and the room started swimming, but still managed to call out “excuse me?” in Thai repeatedly until I got someone’s attention. While I couldn’t quite focus on the person’s face, I told them in Thai that I was hungry and ready to go home and eat rice. (This is the easiest way to convey you want to eat — to say you want to eat rice.) I think the person was amused at the crazy foreigner trying to get up and leave, but had mercy on me and took me out to Ethan.

 While medical expenses are quite a bit less here than it would have been in America, it still shocked us how quickly we were able to burn through baht. It’s the same adjustment we’ve been making for years now…things cost less, but you also have less to spend, and somehow in our heads we think “less” is just a little more than “free”, which is most certainly not the case. In the end we were thankful for that universally understood English phrase: You take Visa? We will find out the results of the biopsy in just over a week. It’s tempting to worry about this, not knowing the medical results or how deep the cost might extend from here. But I’m determined to keep my eyes on Jesus and the hope we have in him. He continues to give us new opportunities to trust in His provision, and we know that He will be no less faithful this time. Thanks for praying with us!