Jeremy Kraus listened to the call of God and started Thrive Rescue ten years ago. It is now one of the best aftercare facilities in Thailand for children rescued from sexual abuse and human trafficking.
"We got on this ferry, to get to this island, and we met this pastor on this island. And when we got there the pastor began to tell us the story of a young girl– we don't know to this day if it was her mother or grandmother, but, they were selling her to big cargo ships," he said.
"This pastor had just rescued this girl, and she was safe now, but he didn't know what to do with her. We told him: 'that's why we're here!'"
"Gosh, it must have been about 10 years ago," Kraus recalled. "I began to pray and just say, 'God, where – like what do you want me to do?' And I felt like the Lord said, 'Go to Thailand.' "
"So I came out here and spent three months. The last week I was here was in Pattaya, Thailand," he explained. "And I was speaking at a pastor's conference, and my heart just connected with the city. I didn't know anything about human trafficking. Didn't know anything about this city, really."
"So my heart really was for children that were being trafficked," he continued. "And I would tell these pastors, 'Look, I really want to do something here,' and they would say, 'this is the Sodom and Gomorrah of Thailand. Why would you want to do something here?'"
"Human trafficking is a massive source of criminal revenue here. It is second only to the drug trade," Sonthaya Maenpuen, anti-human trafficking police senior sergeant major, told CBN.
"Care for victims after rescue is one of the most important parts of fighting this problem," he said. "But it is very difficult to find organizations that provide quality long term care."
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"If you don't have aftercare where are we going to put the kids? How are they going to recover? How are they come out of the crisis and become crowned?" Kraus asked.
"I began to look for an organization that uh that specifically took in children, like under 13 that had been sexually trafficked and abused," he told CBN. "And so, I thought, you know, we need to start something."
Stepping out in faith, Kraus moved to Thailand. He bought a house and started Thrive Rescue.
"We furnished the home the way we wanted it. I got downstairs. I was sitting in the office, and I sat down and I said, 'Alright God. We're ready for the kids.' I felt like he just spoke to my heart and he said, 'You think the devil is gonna give you these kids?' And I felt like that was my cue in to get up and go find 'em."
"You know, it's not like we just got here and people were lined up to give us kids. It was a lot of meetings with pastors at first and meeting with police and meeting with government social workers, and just letting everybody know, 'Hey this is what we are here to do.'"
"I got a call from a pastor one day, and he said: 'I have a friend who's a pastor on an island, and he has rescued this girl,'" he explained.
"One of her family members was taking her out to a cargo ship. So, they'd get on a boat. They would go out to a cargo ship, and they would drop her off. And the guys would pay money. And then they would come back and pick her up hours or maybe a day or two later," Kraus continued.
"I had never heard anything like that before. It was just so like gut-wrenching and-and like just – almost like just unbelievable, but it was literally happening in front of us," he said.
"The pastor said, 'Let me come to your home with my wife, with the girl that I've rescued so she can see the home and we can know that you're real,' Kraus recalled. "She had never stayed in a room with air conditioning before. She had never slept on a mattress with springs in it before. I remember she went over to a mattress and she pushed on it and she said, 'Spring?' and we were like, 'Yeah, and that's yours!' and she was like just blown away."
"And they asked her if she wanted to stay and she was like, 'yes!' and so that was our first girl'," he recalled.
Detective Maenpuen, who was working with Kraus and his wife, asked if they could talk to them for a minute and told the couple the police had been watching them for the last two years.
"We really looked deeply at Jeremy and into Thrive Rescue and found that they took excellent care of their kids, so, we felt great about working with them moving forward," Maenpuen told CBN.
"They said, 'In fact, you have one of the best homes that we've seen in Thailand,'" Kraus recalled. "They said: 'From now on, every child that we rescue that meets the criteria to come into your home, we're gonna bring to you.'"
As Thrive Rescue took on more kids, Kraus hired Thai staff and house parents.
"Our Thai staff has been amazing. They love God and they love our kids," he noted. "When I get out of the way and let them take over the care of the children, you see recovery and you see things speed up because they are speaking their language. They're the same culture."
"I always tell to the team, 'We are not working here. We are serving. And we serve the most high God," Sulky Vallee, the program manager at Thrive Rescue, told CBN.
"You know sometimes it just very tired. But at the end of the day they come and hug me and say, 'Mom, I love you.' You know it change my world," she said as she began to cry. "God gave me only one daughter, but now I have 18 more. "
"When they first come into our home, we have a big sign on the wall that says, 'Thrive Rescue Goals.' And so, we have in English and in Thai to keep her safe. To make sure she's physically, mentally and emotionally well," Kraus said.
"We give them a tour of the house. We show them their bedroom and we let them know, this is your space. Nobody is ever going to take this from you," he explained.
"I am a teenager and sometimes I just need my space. I get that here," said Suda, a trafficking survivor. "I feel loved and respected at Thrive."
"As they realize that they're free. As they realize that they are loved. As they realize that they are safe. It's just amazing to see the expression on their face, and the way they begin to talk and walk and carry themselves," Kraus described.
"I was very afraid when I first came to Thrive. But after some time, when I saw how they loved me, the fear just left," said Sangdao, another survivor. "I learned about Jesus here and my life has totally changed. I am so happy to be in a safe home. I am very thankful to them all and I know I have a bright future ahead.
"When we bring them in, we don't say, 'Hey, we're Christians. You have to be Christian,'" Kraus told CBN. "After they get their bearings, like after a week or two, it's like, 'Why are you doing this?' and we just tell them, 'Because we're Christian, and because we love you, and God loves us, and he loves us the same. So why shouldn't we do this for you? God did this for us.' And they just want to know more about God."
"I think what makes Thrive unique and stands out a little bit is that each home is really like a family," Kraus said. "When our kids turn 18, they don't age out."
"We're raising them as victors, not victims. Yes, they were victims, but now they've been redeemed," he noted.
"For me, it's just what we have to do as Christians," the Thrive founder said. "I'm not qualified to do any of this. But yet God in his infinite wisdom says, 'I'm going to take your unqualification and I'm going to turn you into a qualified person to do what I've called you to do."
"Whatever they do in life, it's our job to make sure that they thrive," he said.