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“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.” Psalm 10:17-18

Quotes:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” - Edmund Burke

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” - Steven Wright

“Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can.” - Lowell Thomas

“The Five S's of sports training are: Stamina, Speed, Strength, Skill, and Spirit; but the greatest of these is Spirit.” - Ken Doherty

“Justice is truth in action.” - Benjamin Disraeli

“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” - Mother Theresa

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” - Isaiah 40:31

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” - Psalm 91:1

Abby Cortez

This statement was one of the things I was reflecting on while I was on the plane to the Philippines. At that time, I really felt like I was stepping into the unknown! Here is a portion of what I wrote in my journal:

“Already missing my family...never thought this day would come...I'm sad that they couldn't be with me. I've never done any traveling without them. Lord help me to BE ALL THERE!! Please help me love those I encounter these next two weeks...whether it's the girls at My Refuge House, my teammates, or the new people I meet. Help me to show sincere love for them. Let this time away bring me back to YOU! Show yourself Lord and reveal to me what you would want me to receive from you this next couple of weeks. I know that these next two weeks will be full of 'stepping into the unknown' for me...but Lord I pray that in doing this, may YOU cause a growth that will change my heart for the better.”

I wasn't sure how God was going to answer my prayer, but as I look back and reflect on what's happened, God has answered my prayers in more ways than I expected or imagined. I think if I could sum up this trip in one word, I would use the word GRATEFUL! For over a year now, we, as a church and as a family, have been praying for My Refuge House. I remember thinking to myself when we first met the girls at the house, “WOW!! I'm here!! Look at them...these are some of the girls we have been praying for!! This was one of the reasons for this trip...spending time with the girls and somehow showing them that they are loved!”

We as a team went to MRH on a daily basis. As each day passed, I learned more and more about each girl and the journey they have been on. Despite the despicable events that have happened in each of their lives, I found it amazing that each one of them had some kind of idea that there is someone-- GOD-- that they can call on to help them. Each one of them talked about their most desperate of situations and how they called on Christ to help them through it. It is true that when we're at our lowest point, there is nowhere else to look but up. These girls are living examples of that!

On our last day of spending time with the girls, we talked about how we can be thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks to the Lord in every circumstance for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

As a reflection exercise, we all took turns and talked about what we were thankful for. They all pretty much shared how thankful they were that we came and that they learned a lot from us. Little did they know that I'm the one who's learned from them! In their short little life span, they've already been through so much and yet they can still be THANKFUL! I shared with them how thankful I was to be with them and to finally see them face to face! I told them how our family prays for them during our devotions. Even though my children have never met them, I told them that they are loved and prayed for every day. Of course I got teary-eyed and so did the girls...I just really wanted them to know and feel that there are people who truly love them!!

I am so grateful and blessed to have had this opportunity to take this trip. My teammates (Jessica, Nannette and Orange) and I have been forever impacted by the lives of these six young girls. I know that my journey with My Refuge House is just beginning and am looking forward to how God leads us.

By Abby Cortez

Jordan De Fiesta

The Philippines is definitely no LA. Everywhere you look, there is poverty which was something that I wasn't used to. I wanted so much to give everything I had to these poor kids. But we can only do so much. On the morning of the second day of the trip, we had already seen trafficking right in front of our eyes, in our hotel. That was the first of many that my eyes would see. But there were two situations that really opened my eyes and actually scared me. The first one was happening on our floor. I forget why we were leaving but as we were making our way to the stairs, in the room right on the corner , there was an older White man and a younger Filipino boy. Both me and my sister looked into the room at the same time was we walked by. Then the door shut. The other situation broke my heart. This one was happening in the lobby. Another man was in the process of purchasing a girl, she looked no older than 16, and the last thing he said to the pimp was “nice doing business with you.” At that point it hit me, the sex trafficking industry was everywhere, and I felt helpless. The following Sunday we had the privilege of meeting some of the girls that were rescued from the raid that the first team helped rescue. I remember watching the girls laugh, joke around, and just be teenagers. And it was hard to believe what they've been through. One of the girls actually sang a song of thanks to us. It was on that day that I realized that it's the girls like them that prove that there is hope for all of the boys and girls trapped in the industry. Even though I was scared most of the time and even though I could have died because of all of the crazy taxi drivers, I'd go back any day because there are children still out there who are being taken advantage of, and it's up to us to give them hope and get them out.

By Jordan De Fiesta

15 years old

Rebecca De Fiesta

Going to the Philippines and having the opportunity to be part of a team was definitely something I'll never forget. Before this whole trip I never really sat down and thought about what I was really getting myself into or even what our church was getting into. I guess I just saw it as an opportunity to call myself a “real missionary.” It wasn't until we witnessed transactions take place right before our eyes, that I knew I was there for a real reason. While we were there we had the opportunity to meet some of the girls who were rescued during our first team trip. That was amazing; they were amazing. Meeting them also made me realize what we were really getting ourselves into; changing lives for the better. The sad part was that even though we met some rescued girls, we still witnessed the nasty and disgusting reality everyday, even in our own hotel . And because of that I am motivated to keep returning to the Philippines and contribute to the growth of Refuge House. Overall this trip has taught me that I may not be old enough or even wise enough to try and fix our twisted world, but I do have a voice that could spread the word and help put an end to Human Trafficking. This trip also allowed me to meet new people, create lasting friendships, watch the house come together and ultimately put this ministry into the trust of God's hands.

By Rebecca De Fiesta

18 years old

Nannette Ricaforte

I witnessed Edward Everett Hale's words spring to life when the people involved with My Refuge House decided to rise up and do something. They heeded the call to venture out of their comfort zone and build a refuge for victims of sexual abuse, exploitation, child labor, and slavery. To build a shelter where the brokenness of lost souls finds healing through redemption, restoration and reconciliation meant sacrifice was needed to see the project come to its fruition.

The past year has been a flurry of volunteer meetings and fundraisers preparing for the grand opening of My Refuge House. The girls we envisioned residing in the house were faceless entities, prime targets for all our prayers. We knew there were countless girls in the Philippines that needed to be rescued from their hopeless situation and it was for them that we devoted our time, money, and effort into My Refuge House. When I learned that my first mission trip was going to take me to the Philippines to work with the residents of My Refuge House I didn't question my motive; rather, I answered the call of God on my life to be a laborer in a cause that broke his heart.

On April 21, 2009, I found myself flying on a huge plane with Jessica Kwon, Director of My Refuge House, Abby Cortez, and Orange Manalang heading toward the Philippines. The mission team comprises four women of various stages of life: a grandma, young mother of four children, a recently engaged pharmacist, and a 22-year-old pre-school teacher. Four separate hearts operating as one to bring hope and healing to the abused and exploited girls we've heard so much about.

Upon our first day at My Refuge House we were immediately welcomed with open arms by the staff and six residents. They were no longer the faceless entities of our prayers but living breathing human beings whose countenance radiated joy, laughter, and most of all, hope. Each face was a treasured gem and after hearing their stories we sat in humble awe at the enormity of God's grace. Three of the six minor girls were former sex workers in a brothel, two were sexually abused by family members, and one was locked in a cage with a dog by her employers for six years and was only let out to fulfill her job duties. Despite the shocking depravity and profound damage of their lives they clung to dreams and aspirations. Each girl taught me a lesson of courage, to remain optimistic in the darkness and never give up in the face of love. For a cynical woman like me, it was a valuable lesson that I did not expect, but one I continue to learn from today.

I am grateful to be surrounded by people who shirk complacency and rise up to be doers of the word. In the words of Gary Haugen, President of International Justice Mission and author of Terrify No More: Likewise when our grandchildren ask us where we were when the weak and the voiceless and the vulnerable of our era needed a leader of compassion and purpose and hope-I hope we can say that we showed up, and that we showed up on time. And that the very God of history might say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

By Nannette Ricaforte

Mark S.

Thinking about my past trip to the Philippines for My Refuge House brings to mind vivid pictures. There was so much to see in downtown Cebu. We went there primarily to help in the initial work of preparing the first facility to be used as a home for rescued girls. The work was an arduous task at first, but we were amazed by all the work that we accomplished during our short stay.

As we traveled around town, I distinctly remember many occasions seeing older non-Filipino men in the company of a young girl. Whether I was walking down a crowded street or sitting in a hotel lobby, I could easily identify these mismatched couples. It was obvious to me that one was a customer and the other was working. I recall one occasion at the mall where I saw a young Filipino girl no older than 15 getting into a taxi with three male foreigners all of whom were more than twice her age. The girl was not happy and the men all looked suspect. It brought up emotions that I cannot describe. It caused me to wonder what is going on here? Why aren’t people doing anything about this? How can this be stopped? I did not know what to do with those emotions.

Sometime during my trip, I also remember our group having an opportunity to have lunch and talk with a small group of girls that were currently in recovery. Meeting these girls was one of the highlights of the trip. We were able to get to know them and converse about their current life and their future. The girls were so precious and honest that it made me want to go out and rescue the girls that I saw earlier on the street and in the hotels so that they can tell similar stories of hopes and dreams. I was happy to have met the small group of girls, but I was heartbroken to think that there were more girls that were trapped in an existence of abuse and brutality that needed to be rescued. It’s a good thing to help transform lives that are trapped in abuse and hopelessness and help them find a life that is full of hope and a future.

By Mark S.

Ben Warner

I was first introduced the problem of children sex trafficking by a hip-hop video in 2006 by Mr. J. Medeidros called Constance. It disturbed me in the same way watching Dateline do a housetrap for men who want to have sex with 13 year olds disturbs you. That feeling lingers with you for a couple hours or a day, but then it slowly falls out of memory. So, I was pretty average for a white American man who knew about this problem and wanted to do something about it but didn’t know how.

A year later Jessica Kwon, invited me to a meeting to discuss the book Terrify No More which described the severity of the problem and what we could do to help. Here, she proposed the idea of an aftercare shelter, which later became My Refuge House. Since then, this organization has helped me find a practical way to fight against one of the world’s biggest evilsthe forced sexual exploitation of our weakest humanity.

After that meeting, my mind didn’t tune out the issue because we knew what we could do to help if we became connected to the right people. Luckily for us we already had a contact with the director of aftercare facilities for IJM in the Philippines and didn’t even know it! A couple months later I found myself going to the Philippines to help start an aftercare facility.

When we arrived what hit me first is how normal trafficking of girls is. It’s everywhere, and as an outsider maybe we pick it up more easily than the locals, at least in America when an adult tries to have sex with a minor they try to be inconspicuous about it! There, however, you can see a white middle aged man having breakfast with a 16 year old at a four star hotel, or walking in the mall. There’s no shame. I went back a second time and I was ready for that, but what I wasn’t used to was a middle age Brit acting like it was perfectly normal to be having a honeymoon with a boy, and then getting mad at me for invading his privacy when I asked him what was going on. Our goals isn’t just to rescue the young ones from sexual exploitation, it’s also to bring about a public transformation where this behavior isn’t tolerated in the open. Thailand and Cambodia have been able to bring public awareness to this issue, but the Philippines hasn’t had much success yet. That’s what shocked me the most. Hopefully, this is about to change.

I think my most important role when I visited was to be a male face of America that respected the people, especially the trafficked girls. To let them know not every white westerner is here to exploit you. The last night of my first trip, we helped look after about 30 young women and girls after they had been rescued. My friend and I couldn’t help try to comfort or calm the girls down because we were guys. Instead we we’re assigned to watch the doors and try to protect them if their perpetrators came looking for them. It must have been somewhat confusing to be rescued from a place where westerners only exploited you to being taken to a safe place where another westerner is there to protect. Hopefully my presence at the facilities we went to and the girls we met gave them hope too, that not all men are bad.

By Ben Warner

My Refuge House is currently accepting donations that will go directly to the new aftercare facility in the Philippines.

If you would like to make a donation, you may write a check to “My Refuge House” and send it to:

My Refuge House
P.O. Box 1657
La Mirada, CA 90638-9998
USA

or you can make a donation online through Paypal

link to paypal

My Refuge House respects and protects the privacy of our online visitors and donors. We will not share any personal information with third parties.

All gifts are tax deductible.

Special Requests

This is a list of items specifically requested by the residents and on-site staff at My Refuge House. If you are able to provide any of the listed items or if you have information that may assist us please contact us at info@myrefugehouse.org.

- a vehicle, like a van, to transport the residents to and from appointments in the community and in case of emergencies.

- donated office furniture such as file cabinets, conference table, desks to accommodate our staff operations

- donated furniture for the dorm rooms such as desk tables, lounging furniture, and sofa – to provide a place for our residents to hang out in.

- a digital camera - aside from taking photos for case documentation, a digital camera would give us an opportunity to teach creative things like printing out photos for their scrapbooks, bulletin boards, or send to family.

My Refuge House
P.O. Box 1657
La Mirada, CA 90638-9998
Tel 1.714.622.4902

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“ You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.” Psalm 10:17-18