November 17, 2022
New Life for Zoe
A teen’s escape from sex traffickers births new ministry
by Paul Overmoyer, an Inca Link Colombia team leader
When my wife, Lineth, and I first met Zoe (not her real name), the teen had been tricked by a male “friend” several years her senior into going with him to Bogotá from her small hometown. The idea was to earn money selling trinkets on buses—which is common in Colombia. Having lived in poverty with no prospects for her future, Zoe was eager for this opportunity to earn money.
Along the way, they met up with another man, and the two began to restrict Zoe’s communication with her mother. In time, they made Zoe cut off all contact with her mom and prohibited the girl from sending any money back home. Zoe eventually found herself begging on the streets to support the two men, going from town to town with them in Colombia before winding up in Ecuador.
A Narrow Escape
At one point, the men decided they should all go to Peru. While in a bus station, Zoe was able to get the attention of a security guard, who contacted police. They questioned the three, and Zoe told the officers her story, asking them to get her away from the men. Not long after, Ecuadorian authorities placed her in a Christian group home called Shekina, where she would live for the next several months.
Many of the kids staying at Shekina receive tutoring at Bonzai, an Inca Link program for marginalized children. Through this outreach, Zoe met the Wrights, who volunteer there. They came to love her and were active in her life while she was living in the group home.
Eventually, the Ecuadorian child services arranged for Zoe to return home to Colombia. They communicated to Colombia’s child services their belief that she was in the process of being sold as a sex slave, and the men needed to get her to the drop-off point.
Once Zoe was home with her mother, the Wrights were put in touch with us. They wanted to enroll Zoe in an online school and asked us to get her a computer.
When we met her, she and her mother were living in a bedroom that shares a kitchen with several other people. Her mom was unemployed, and there was no internet service and no chance of hooking it up at the house. The mother-daughter relationship seemed inverted, with Zoe caring for her mom. On top of that, she was living in the same town and the same house from which she was taken nearly a year ago. We all felt there was a chance the men might come looking for her.
Hope for a Future
At that point, how could we tell Zoe and her mother, “Good luck─we’ll be praying for you”? The Lord impressed upon us to find a safe place where Zoe could study and move on with life in security. In His sovereignty, He led us to a woman at a church who could provide a place for this young woman to live and study.
Throughout the course of the year, we met several other young people who found themselves in similar situations. We sensed that God was leading Inca Link Colombia to create a network of homes that can receive teens who don’t have a safe place to be at this point in their lives. A vision was birthed in our hearts to launch a ministry to see Colombian teens break out of generational cycles of spiritual and economic poverty while growing into independent young adults passionate about doing life with Jesus and impacting those around them to do the same.
We chose the name Zoe Homes for this ministry because “zoe” means “life” in Greek, and Christ is our life (see Colossians 3:4). In a God-sized “coincidence,” without knowing the meaning this word had for us, Zoe called Lineth and said she wanted to change her name. Lineth encouraged the girl to pray about what name the Lord might have for her.
Several days later, she called back and said, “I want to be called Zoe.” She has made a confession of faith, and Lineth and I are very excited about other discipleship opportunities that will result from this ministry. We believe there is enormous potential to pour into the lives of the teens who are placed in a Zoe home.
You Can Help Teens like Zoe
Zoe is currently living with us while we develop the program, raise funds, and recruit suitable couples whom the Lord may be calling to invest heavily in young people. As we do so, we covet your prayers. Ministries like these would not be possible without the faithful intercession and generosity of Alliance people like you.
It will cost $300 per month per teen in a home, which is a huge need. We can develop homes and place teens only as funds become available. You can change the legacy of darkness that plagues so many Colombian homes as the Father invites young teens into the Kingdom of the Son whom He loves. To learn more, visit our website.
Paul and Lineth are Inca Link missionaries who love to partner with Envision and other Alliance projects.