In the mountains of northern Thailand hilltribe families in abject poverty often have multiple children. To facilitate day-to-day communication, sometimes they simply number their children—1 to 12, for example. It’s not that the children don’t have names, but they essentially live as if they didn’t. Every time someone needs something, all they need to do is yell a number: “Number 12, go fetch me some water!”
Ironically, for the predators from the cities who have designs on these virtually nameless ones, learning their names is perfected to an art. They come from big cities to try to take little kids with them, especially prepubescent girls, promising jobs and more. The girls’ eyes light up at the sight of candy, fine silk, and hair accessories, and they feel special when they hear someone call them by name. Parents often fall for the lure of the little money they can get. But once the girls get into the fancy SUV’s, if they return at all, it is because they no longer serve the purposes of their captors—they are either diseased or crazed and once again are reduced to a mere number, a casualty in the war against sexual exploitation.
Sadly, every 15 minutes in Thailand a woman or child becomes a victim of violence, and when the victim is under 18, in the majority of the cases, we are talking about sexual violence. That is 87 cases per day according to the Public Health Ministry of Thailand. Think about this: that is a little over 3.6 cases per hour, a staggering number. Sometimes, the victims are children from hilltribes, like the ones G.R.O.W. has sought to rescue.
And the main reason we have been successful in this work is that there is another one to whom the kids’ names are not just numbers. He is their Creator and He knows each of them by name. This belief has motivated G.R.O.W. to plead with parents for the chance to have their children come to us so we can help restore them to the special place God has always intended for them. And that’s exactly what we have been doing for the last 10 years—to help at-risk, minority children see that they are not a mere number but precious human beings, no matter what others may say.
And now we invite you to celebrate this great milestone with us as we kick off a year of celebrations with a Gala in Wooster. What is more, next year we are planning to bring 10 of our children to the U.S. to share their story about how God rescued them from being just a number to being someone who is known to God by name. I trust you will join us at the Gala so you can learn more about how you can get involved in bringing our children here next year.
Beyond the joy of restoring children to their families and helping them get a chance at a meaningful life here, we also hope that many of them will one day hear the Father welcome them into the eternal dwellings by calling them by the new name He has assigned them as they have become followers of His Son Jesus. And you will be able to humbly say: God allowed me to have a little part in that!
Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade
Lead Pastor, Hilltop Community Church