A heart for Thailand
Jeremy and Jennifer Kraus are preparing for a journey of epic proportions.
But before they pack their lives and hop on their one-way flight to Thailand, the Florida couple traveled to Perham to share the message of their mission: fighting child trafficking with the power of God's love.
The two are the founders of Thrive Rescue, a soon-to-be home in Pattaya, Thailand devoted to the restoration of young girls rescued from the sex trafficking industry.
Rather than serve as the front line rescuers, the couple plans on working in partnership with such operations to provide a safe place for girls, once rescued.
The call to drop everything and head to Thailand came after the two visited a rescue shelter in Cambodia while on a mission trip. It was there they were exposed to the heart-wrenching realities of the industry -- and they knew they had to be a part of its eradication.
While that might seem like a lofty goal, Jeremy said it is, in all honesty, what they hope to see.
With connections now in the area, the couple has a house waiting for them, where they will set up in the hopes of creating a real home for the girls.
In essence, they want to be the girls' caregivers. They'll provide medical care, spiritual support and education.
"We want to take care of these girls like they're our own," Jeremy said.
In the process of doing that, the couple said it's not their goal to Americanize the girls, which means Jeremy and Jennifer will do what they can to understand and honor their culture. That could mean hiring Thai women to help out with the home, possibly as it expands, and learning how to cook authentic Thai food.
To start, they're planning for eight girls per house, as they want to be sure to not institutionalize them, but create a comfortable living environment.
And just as a parent would nurture his or her own children before sending them off into the big world, Jeremy and Jennifer will do the same. Education is a top priority, and the two have already started making connections with American business professionals who are willing to coach the girls along in their quests to become self-sustaining adults.
"We want to empower them as women of God to do what God wants them to do," Jeremy said.
In the future, the hope is to create more houses. In order to do that, the couple is accepting partnerships with people throughout America, through donations, mission trips and prayer requests.
Through their website, www.thriverescuehome.org, people have the opportunity to give on a monthly basis or a one-time donation.
The issue of trafficking children in the sex trade was quite foreign to Jeremy and Jennifer before traveling to Thailand and Cambodia. But once they were there, they saw it -- everywhere.
Pattaya, Thailand is considered the capitol of the world for the sex trafficking of children. And while some might think it's a problem that's quite far away, Jeremy and Jennifer don't see it that way, as they've witnessed the large percentage of Western men seen in open city bars with young Thai prostitutes.
During their visit to the rescue home in Cambodia, Jennifer said the two learned of shocking stories regarding parental dealership -- including a mom who had sold her daughter for $100, enough to buy a television.
Many times, Jennifer said, such young girls are found in the slums surrounding Pattaya, and are preyed upon because of their economic vulnerability.
Rescue missions in Thailand typically come in two forms, according to Jennifer. In some cases, organizations will pay girls' debts to "pimps," or "thugs" who 'own' the girls. In other cases, government police will conduct raids, in which girls will be rescued.
However, Jennifer said that type of action isn't typical. Government action to stop trafficking is compiled into a report, which is submitted to the United Nations. In Jennifer's opinion, it's done possibly to make it look like the country is doing something.
For Jeremy and Jennifer, they don't want to make it look like they're doing something -- they want to do.
And so they're going. The couple departs March 15 to Thailand with a one-way ticket. Once they land, they'll begin their work.
To stay updated on their journey and Thrive organization, you can follow Jeremy and Jennifer on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thriverescuehome) or Twitter (twitter.com/#!/thriverescue).