Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Feliz Navidad Cambodian Style

Now that's something that I never expected to hear—the song Feliz Navidad sung in Khmer (Cambodian).

Just before Christmas, my wife and I talked via Skype to some of our girls in our program. Our translator said that they wanted to sing us a song. We agreed. And that's when it happened. The girls broke out into their rendition of Feliz Navidad. Amazing.

What else was amazing is the gratitude that the girls expressed for the small Christmas gifts they received. Many of them said that this was their first time ever to receive a Christmas gift. That's humbling.

It's nearing the end of the year, and we're asking you to consider making more small miracles like this to come true.

You can help us purchase the land for our second safehouse in Cambodia. All it takes is $7 per square meter to purchase a piece of freedom for a girl who has been rescued from trafficking.

For the past few years, we have been renting facilities for our second safe house. This rented facility cannot fully meet the needs of our children. So we are turning to you for help.

Recently, God opened a door of possibility for us in this location. Land prices in this high tourist destination are extremely high. And we knew that without a miracle we would never be able to afford property there. But it looks like we have our miracle. Another Christian organization that loves our work has offered to sell us a parcel of their land at a reduced price. The cost is $70,000. So for $7 per square meter, you can help us purchase this 100m x 100m piece of property. Purchase a piece of freedom. Invest in the lives of our Rapha girls. They’re worth it!

1 square meter = $7
5 square meters = $35
10 square meters = $70
100 square meters = $100

We need to raise enough money to purchase all 10,000 square meters. And with your help, we can!

We offer you two secure ways to give using our website or our Mogiv page.

Feliz Navidad. Prospero año y felicidad!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Two Monkeys

We received this cryptic message from our Cambodian Director the other day: “The little monkey is now at the safehouse with the big monkey; they are very happy.”

Insiders know what he’s talking about. Let me explain.

“Monkey” is the nickname of the girl that’s featured in our prison visit video. Perhaps you saw it at

In that video, you see Monkey’s little sister. She was living at the prison where her mother is incarcerated for human trafficking of children.

It took the intervention of a human rights organization. But the “little monkey” has now been set free and is reunited with her big sister.

Currently, we are looking for a foster family in Cambodia to raise this precious little girl. Pray that we’ll be successful.

With the holiday season upon us, consider giving the gift of freedom. We are purchasing a $70,000 parcel of land for a permanent home for our second safehouse in Cambodia. We need $200,000 for land for our Thailand operations. And $180,000 is needed to start construction of the Cambodian facility. Every dollar you give to these projects is a long-term investment in freedom. And few gifts are more precious to give.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Flood Disaster

Special Message from Stephanie Freed, Executive Director

Hello friends—I am here in Cambodia with the Rapha House Kid’s Club Program Manager, Chris Wheeler. You will be hearing more about this prevention outreach project in the near future. In an effort to combat the selling of children into slavery, we have targeted an area of the capital city where children are highly trafficked. The slums of this district of the city are hard to describe. Thousands of people live in situations of extreme poverty and desperation. 
Yesterday morning, it began raining. This is not uncommon this time of year. It is the end of monsoon season here, and we often experience hard tropical downpours. The strange thing about this rain is that it did not stop. The storm lingered all morning, and we found it difficult to see while driving through the city on our way to the prevention project area. Before we knew it, we were driving through deep water. We noticed a current running through the water and realizing that the situation was growing dangerous, we pulled our small car off the street onto the higher ground of a gas station. Unable to sit in the car in the stifling heat, we exited to stand on the higher ground alongside hundreds of other people who were already mid calf deep in water. Just a few feet from us, down in the street, it had become a river where people were walking waist deep in water—evacuating with their belongings carried on their heads. This surreal scene escalated as we watched a baby in a large mixing bowl floating past, being navigated by his father.  his kind of flooding here in the streets of Phnom Penh has not occurred in more than ten years. 

We found ourselves trapped only for a few hours in this very unsanitary water which was a mix of rain, river and sewer, but many families in the city lost everything they owned—which was little to begin with. Many of the families we work with in our prevention project live in meager bamboo and cardboard homes which washed quickly away taking the little food that these families had. 
I know that I cannot adequately explain the desperation which many children in our area are facing right now. We are facing an emergency need for food and medicine. Please consider helping us in this real time of urgent need. Working in a grass roots effort, we will be able to get the food and medicine directly to the people who need it. 
Navigating mud and water yesterday, Chris and I walked down one alley where naked children begged us for something to eat. One mother carrying a baby approached us and, with tears in her eyes, thanked us for providing their family with some rice. Please help us be the hands and feet of Jesus to these desperate people.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Check It Out!

Our latest video

Prison Visit

Help spread the word about Rapha House. Share this video with others!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sopheap: A Re-entry Success Story

I first met Sopheap many years ago on my first visit to Rapha House. She was living there with her siblings.

We didn't find Sopheap, she found us. She sought us out when her father was preparing to sell Sopheap's younger sister to traffickers. Maybe you remember seeing the story of Sopheap's sister. We showed her rescue on DVD.

Now Sopheap is living independently with her husband and son. She also cares for her younger brother and another sister who recently reintegrated from Rapha House.

Sopheap was our very first micro-credit project. She faithfully repaid her loan and owns a small clothing shop in the marketplace.

During my last trip to Cambodia, I approached Sopheap about becoming a wholesaler distributor to other business owners in her area. It seemed like a real opportunity for her and a good way to provide employment for our reintegrated girls, if this project succeeds.

We don't know if it will, but here's the latest. Sopheap took our seed money and went to Phnom Penh to shop for items that she thought business owners in her area may want. She returned home. And within two days, she had sold everything that she bought!

We're smart enough to know that one success doesn't build a business. But we're also smart enough to back a winner. Sopheap is a winner. So we're going to provide her with business coaching and the financial resources to see if we can build a wholesale distribution business that will provide economic opportunity for other reintegrated girls to come.

Want to get in on the action? Make a donation to Rapha House and mark it "Sopheap."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Religious Freedom at Rapha House

At Rapha House, we believe in religious freedom. All Rapha girls equally benefit from all our programs and services regardless of what they believe. We value religious freedom. And we practice religious freedom.

However, we understand that there is another side to the freedom coin. Our girls are also free to decide to become Christians, if that's what they want. And many choose to do so.

When they learn about the God who values them as women; when they learn about the incredible love that He has for them; when they learn that they did not cause their abuse, it had nothing to do with bad karma; then many Rapha girls choose freely to follow Christ. They learn that the Cross proves their tremendous value to God. The Cross shows how far the God of all creation will go to rescue them. And the Cross promises them a purity than no man can take from them. So our girls are freely drawn to God by the Cross of Christ.

During my most recent trip to Cambodia, I had the awesome privilege of participating in mass baptisms on two separate occasions. And during those events when hundreds of Cambodians freely chose to follow Jesus, some Rapha House girls and staff were included in that number.

Freedom is important to us because freedom is important to God.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Five Faces of Jonti

Five faces of the trafficked girl Jonti are represented in this artwork. It is a story of life and death.

The lower left background face is obscured by the large foreground image of Jonti. The obscured face represents that portion of Jonti's life hidden from our view when she was a flower girl in Thailand and worked as a beer girl in a karaoke bar in Cambodia.

As a flower girl, she woke up at six in the morning and began selling flowers to tourists and men in nightclubs and bars. She worked all day and early into the morning of the next day, subsisting on one bowl of noodles a day. About three in the morning, she would then go to bed, only to arise again at six o'clock to start her workday over.

The Thai authorities arrested Jonti and put her in jail. She was nine years old. Upon her release, she was gang-raped at knifepoint by three teens.

Eventually, she returned to Cambodia and was sold by her mother to a karaoke bar. There she worked as a beer girl, serving drinks and servicing men.

Jonti's smiling face in the upper left corner of the art piece is from a photo taken of her after she arrived at Rapha House, where she experienced safety and her first glimmer of hope. But as your eye follows her image clockwise, her face deteriorates. Despite our best efforts, Jonti did not emerge from her woundedness and returned to the streets.

The foreground image is from a photo taken by the artist when he found her on the streets again. She was invited to enter our extension program. But again, she slipped away.

Her body eventually gave out. Her parents took her to a hospital in Vietnam. And her last words are seen faintly in the lower right-hand corner of the art piece—God help me.

Her mother tells the story of Jonti's death. It was early in the morning. Jonti's father was in the room with her. Jonti began speaking. Her father called to the mother to come. "Listen," he said as Jonti faintly cried, "God help me" and then died. She was seventeen years old.

Embedded in this artwork is a cross. It represents hope in this tragic story. One is reminded of the occasion when Jesus granted grace to the dying thief on the cross. He had done nothing to merit salvation but was welcomed into God's kingdom that very day simply by turning to Christ and asking for help.

Jonti now rests beyond the reach of any perpetrator.

See the original artwork at our gallery in Joplin, Missouri. Visit for times.

You may purchase Rapha House a 16" x 21" signed limited edition aluminum print, mounted for hanging for $200.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Religion At Rapha House

People often say that all religions are essentially the same. But think how that sounds to the ears of a girl at Rapha House.

Take the eastern doctrine of karma, for instance—the inexorable law of cause and effect. So what does karma say to a Rapha girl? You got what you deserved. It was because of some sin from this or a past life that caused your abuse. The explanation is karma. So ultimately you're to blame for your own suffering.

Imagine when a Rapha girl hears about the God of love—the God who values her and is willing to die in order to rescue her. How might that sound to her ears?

It's no wonder that many Rapha girls freely decide to follow Jesus. We don't require any Rapha girl to convert to Christianity in order to benefit from our services. As a matter of fact, even the girls who don't become Christians receive the same care, education, and opportunity as those that do.

This is certain at Rapha House. Respect for others and equality of treatment are important to us. But we understand that not all religions are essentially the same. Differences do make a big difference.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Difference Can I Make?

Elizabeth had fun at the car show that Grandpa Bill and Grandma Sharon organized at Pathway Christian Church in Riverside, California. Her whole family is nuts about cars, as are a lot of people at Pathway. After all, Riverside once was the home of the Riverside Raceway. And now the track in neighboring Fontana hosts some of the great NASCAR events.

So what does all this have to do with Rapha House and human trafficking? It was Grandpa Bill and some of the guys at Pathway who dreamed up the idea of hosting a car show charity benefit to help Rapha House. And the community responded. With the receipts from the food, car show entry fees, and Rapha House product sales, they brought in over $2,300 in a single day to help the girls at Rapha House.

All over the country, churches, youth groups and organizations are pulling together to make a difference for trafficked and exploited children. Maybe your group has a story to tell. Let me know. Email me at I may just feature it in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, little Elizabeth is enjoying her childhood. And some girls at Rapha House are recovering lost moments from theirs thanks to folks like Grandpa Bill and Grandma Sharon—people who are making a difference.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Aiden!

Aiden Palmer just celebrated her eleventh birthday. It wasn't your typical party for an eleven-year-old. But, then, Aiden is not your typical eleven-year-old.

The invitations to her party read: "My WISH is for a brighter life, not for me but for the victims of human trafficking." And her guests were instructed not to bring any gifts but only donations to benefit Rapha House.

Leading up to her party Aiden wore a different Rapha House tee shirt to school every day for a week. She called it "Impact Week" and wanted to tell as many people as possible about Rapha House and human trafficking. (Once she even wore her Rapha House tee shirt to the doctor's office and had a chance to talk her doctor about human trafficking.)

On the day of her party, Aiden wore another Rapha House tee shirt as she greeted her guests. During the party, they laughed and ate some cake that displayed a Rapha House logo. Then the girls watched a short homemade video about life in Cambodia.

My daughter Karen Johnson shared a little about Rapha House with the moms who attended. Altogether about $450 was raised at Aiden's birthday party to benefit the girls at Rapha House.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

He Saved My Life

[Thanks to Pam Epperson for relating this story.]

Recently, a team from Illinois returned from Cambodia and reported about their experiences. They had the chance to visit our second safehouse where trafficked girls get a new start on life.

One member of the team brought taped questions that his junior high Sunday school class wanted to ask the girls. It was a labor-intensive exercise. He would play a portion of the tape then our translator would translate it for the girls. Then the girls would answer, and their responses were taped and translated, so the kids in the Sunday school class could understand what they had to say. The group whiled away an afternoon with this project.

For the most part, the questions were pretty general: What's your favorite sport? How do you say "hamburger" in Khmer? The girl who caught this particular question easily fielded it by saying, "Hahmbooguh." Uproarious laughter broke out in the room. But the mood shifted when Nepa was asked a question.

Maybe you've read about sixteen-year-old Nepa in one of our recent mailings. At the time of this group's visit, she was about to give birth to her baby—the child of one of her rapists. The question was What is your favorite thing that you've learned about God so far? The translator primed Nepa with some possible answers, but Nepa rejected her help. As she began formulating her response, she went to a nearby cabinet and tore off a small piece of cardboard to write down her thoughts so she wouldn't forget them when it came time to speak. Her favorite thing that she has learned about God: "That he saved my life."

Her gratitude was deep and unaffected. Pure and simple. Maybe these girls have something important to teach us. He saved my life.

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. (Psalm 40:2)

Update on Derek Anthony Sath
As of our last report, little Derek Anthony Sath was hospitalized and is recovering after undergoing treatment for a head wound. We found his mother, and she signed the legal papers of abandonment, making it possible for us to place him in a good home upon his release. A loving family and home are awaiting him.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Boy With No Name

Sometimes our work with trafficked girls in Cambodia takes unexpected turns. Currently, Stephanie Freed is on assignment in country. She took a film crew to Women's Island, a former detention center where women and children were exiled and executed during Pol Pot's regime.

"While there, she saw a little boy sitting naked in the dirt yard nearby a shanty house. She relates the story:
As I approached him, he turned his head, and to my horror, I saw a huge protrusion from the side of his little baby head. I thought he had a horrible birth defect—it honestly looks like another small head… Then I realized it was oozing and there were flies in it.…

"His father abandoned his mother. His mother is prostituting in Phnom Penh, and nobody knows if she will ever come back. His grandmother is a drunk and supposedly beat his head…So he survives by crawling around from shack to shack looking for food. He looks to be about one and cannot walk, but the neighbors who began to gather said he was probably closer to two years old. I asked his name. Everyone agreed that he had NO NAME! So here is a baby who is malnourished and pulling himself naked through the dirt with an open fly infested wound with no caregiver in the world and NO NAME!"

From there, Stephanie took the boy to the children's hospital in Phnom Penh where he will receive proper medical treatment. The goal is to get him placed in a good children's home. Pray for little Derek Anthony Sath—the little boy without a name now has one. The three workers accompanying Stephanie gave him each one of theirs. Perhaps this unexpected turn will lead to a whole new start for the boy with a new name.

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14)