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Student serves in Thailand with sex trafficking victims

January 4, 2016

From Corban College, Salem

Sophomore Jade Pham saw prostitutes on the streets of Hawaii growing up but first heard of sex trafficking when she attended a Hawaiian Islands Ministries (HIM) conference three years ago.

“I was frustrated and angry,” said Pham, who is a Political Science major and Intercultural Studies minor. “I had never considered that this behavior wasn’t their choice.”

Pham went home and did a lot of research. Since she’s been at Corban, she’s also aimed all of her research papers for classes around the topic in order to learn more.

The call to go

Recently, Pham served with an anti-human trafficking ministry in Thailand. The planning started in Corban’s classroom. Orin Kidd, professor of Pham’s Missional Living course, asked students to give a presentation on how their majors could fit in mission work.

Through contacting mission organizations to learn more, Pham connected with a missionary who, after hearing about her heart for victims of trafficking, encouraged her to take the trip with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM).

Pham was hesitant but felt God giving her the confidence to go while she was attending Corban’s Breakaway Retreat last February.

“God woke me up and gave me the desire to go,” she said. “I was worried God wasn’t actually calling me to Thailand, and that it was just my own desire. There were so many complications with my application that I almost gave up. So, I gave myself up to God.”

That same day, her application for the trip was approved and she received an email with all capitalized letters: “You’re going!”

“It all happened so fast,” she said. At first, she doubted her ability to fundraise but “God provided.” Kidd and many other professors supported her throughout the process.

Serving in Thailand

Pham visited her extended family in Vietnam for a month; it was the first time she had seen them in seven years. She then traveled to Thailand for a month of missionary service.

While in Thailand, Pham participated in a ministry for college students (Creative Center College Ministry), where they would cook and spend time together. Most of Pham’s time, however, was spent with two other ministry organizations: Khamsiri, a ministry serving the poor and marginalized children in a small neighborhood; and Garden of Hope, a preventative human-trafficking ministry that teaches English to at-risk children who come from vulnerable environments. The groups would go on outings, improve their English and play games together.

“In that room, they were normal children having fun,” she said. “You wouldn’t have guessed they came from impoverished communities.”

The trip wasn’t what Pham expected, and it was difficult to have confidence that she was directly helping end sex-trafficking, as she desires to.

“I didn’t feel I was doing anything but playing with them,” she said. “I didn’t feel I was really helping people since I couldn’t speak Thai, and with only a month, I doubted the influence I could have.”

An unexpected blessing

Just before Pham went home, she was able to share the gospel with her cousin, Hoang, for whom she had been praying for many years.

The two sat at lunch with their friend Arch. Arch would speak English to Pham. Pham would speak Vietnamese to Hoang, and Hoang would speak Thai to Arch.

Pham used the drawing of a cross as a bridge connecting sinners to God. Hoang respectfully listened but did only that.

“I said, ‘I know you don’t believe me right now, but one day you will,’” Pham said to Hoang. ‘”You’re going to call me, and you’re going to tell me you believe in Jesus.’”

Hoang did contact Pham, two months later, while she was in Algebra class.

“He explained how he felt after our conversation,” she said.

Pham said Hoang desires to learn more about Jesus Christ and what it means to follow Him.

“Even though he wasn’t directly in the ministry, he traveled with me, hearing Christian music and hearing me talk about my faith,” she said.

Pham is confident a big reason God gave her this opportunity was to share with her cousin, revealing His faithfulness.

“I had given up on praying for Hoang,” she said. “But God still followed through.”

Lessons learned

The trip overall grew Pham’s dependence on God. The WiFi rarely connected, Pham’s phone broke during the trip and she would often get lost.

“I want people to know that God can use us at any capacity, and we don’t have to understand it, we just have to go with it,” she said. “Oh, and Thai food is really good.”

Pham isn’t sure if, in the future, she would like to serve overseas or in the states–possibly returning back to her home state of Hawaii. However, she is confident she wants to be part of the big picture of social justice.

Pham feels limited with her age currently and continues to have nightmares about being kidnapped herself. Still, she’s unshaken.

“I’m not driven by fear,” she said. “I know God will protect me.

“I know this is what I want to do with my life,” Pham added. “I need to be a part of the solution.”

By Katrina Delamarter, Hilltop News

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