Home for Child Sexual Trafficking Survivors

by Compassion First

For more than five years Compassion First has been engaged in a remarkable work in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is an organization that has quietly taken a leading role in the recovery and restoration of child victims of sex trafficking in Indonesia, a nation that faces complications unlike any other. It has been their desire to go where they are invited and to help those who would otherwise receive no help. There is no clearer example of this value than Sarah’s House in North Sulawesi and the outreach work now underway in the Yellow Flower Cemetery in Surabaya.

For those who have been so generous in their support of Compassion First’s efforts, it is a necessary question to ask if Compassion First’s efforts are actually working and making a difference. The answer is yes. In fact, the work is deeply successful, beyond just numbers. Prior to Compassion First’s law enforcement training in 2012, the police in North Sulawesi had recovered only 9 girls. Post training, there have been 31 rescues. The numbers are important, but the relationships and support of local law enforcement in Indonesia have been the driving force that has sustained the police effort.

In order to continue with this momentum, Compassion First must remain engaged and prepare for an expansion of the work. The nature of sex trafficking in this part of Indonesia has demonstrated that North Sulawesi and its surrounding communities have become a focal point of traffickers seeking to bring young girls into the sex trade. If Compassion First does not expand and work to counter this trend, then the effectiveness of the work will be sharply limited.

A proactive approach will increase Compassion First’s effectiveness and reduce the number of girls being removed from North Sulawesi to be held captive and exploited in other parts of Indonesia. The work here has identified Papua, and to a lesser degree Makassar, as destination points for girls being trafficked from the North Sulawesi area. A critical next step will be to target the primary destination point and begin the process of equipping law enforcement and support services in Papua to identify sex traffickers, the businesses/brothels being employed and the victims held in bondage. By training local law enforcement and prosecutors, traffickers will be held accountable and victims will finally be returned home to receive care by Compassion First’s care team.

Papua is an important extension of Compassion First’s work. It is not the end point but the beginning of the next step. During the third week of April, Compassion First will be sending a team to Jayapura, Papua to meet with law enforcement officials and church leaders. During this trip, the groundwork will be laid for a future training conference on the model of the work in North Sulawesi. The goal will be to equip officials in Papua and thereby link the efforts of officials in North Sulawesi province to that in Papua. The result will assuredly be more children freed, traffickers held accountable, and fewer brought into sexual servitude.  


As with any child you love, she looks older than you think she should. Her graduation cap is offset by a jeweled garland. Her makeup is applied tastefully and evenly and her long, dark hair assembled with the effortless intricacy that only an experienced stylist can accomplish. Her smile is no longer dopey and innocent but sure and genuine. The high-heeled gait now confident and controlled. It’s then that you realize she’s not a child anymore. She’s grown and accomplished. She’s weathered adversity and become stronger, become a woman. And you realize that she’s never been more beautiful and that you’ve never been more proud. And it’s then that the tears pull at the corner of your eyes.

This is how we feel to announce that Marsya* (pronounced like “Marsha”), one of our young residents at Sarah’s House, graduated from our program last year. This is a massive accomplishment and the culmination of so much hard work and heartache. She is doing exceptionally well, living with family and preparing for a promising career as a stylist with hopes of opening her own bridal shop.

We are extremely proud of Marsya and expect great things from her future look forward to celebrating her ongoing successes with you. And of course, we are very grateful to you for helping make all this possible.


*For the safety of the residents in our program, names are changed to protect the identy of the girls we serve.

Sarah’s House is full of excitement these days. Our friends John and Robin Vendelin have arrived at the shelter to support our clinical team to help them better serve the girls there. They will be staying for a couple months, and we are already encouraged by their reports.

We are excited to share that two of our residents are now enrolled in college and are working hard toward seeing their dreams come to fruition. These are our first residents to start attending college and they have shown great courage and determination to get to this place.

Additionally, we are preparing for the graduation of our first resident to fully complete the program. She is in the process of preparing her résumé and filling out applications. We expect that she will be rewarded soon with a great new job. She is currently working part time for Sarah’s House learning administrative skills while continuing to live at the house. Exciting days are ahead of her as she reintegrates as a strong and vibrant contributing member to her community. We are so proud of her.

The house has never been so full! While this brings all sorts of new joys and experiences, it also presents a new set of challenges to our staff. Having never managed this case load before, they are working hard to keep up with the girls and are also learning to adjust to the new life at Sarah’s House. God’s mercies, faithfulness, and joy are new every morning!

As we takeoff from Taipei, it has now been four days since we left Sarah's House. The emotions of wondering if we would be accepted are five weeks behind us and now we are only days removed from the hugs and hard goodbyes.


We restored friendships with two of the girls from two years ago and became “Oma” and “Opa” to the rest of the residents. We were there to greet the newest and youngest member of Sarah’s House as she was quickly adopted into the 'sisterhood'.


Falling into the daily routine meant greeting them as they finished breakfast and completed their morning chores. As we did our work and taught classes, each of the girls had their activities, whether it was school, crafts, computer instruction, preparing for home visits, doing their laundry, or learning to play the guitar. They are teenage girls with the same concerns as any teenager would have, and their house moms have to deal with the same challenges that other moms have to deal with. They want friendships and acceptance. They want to know what they will be doing in the next year.But they also have concerns that no teenager should have. They need to know that the God  whispered His love to them while they were babies, is a God that will still love them as they are dealing with a world that stole their childhood.


They are surrounded by staff who provide them with the resources to rebuild their lives. They have activities and worship time. They are constantly shown love, and I hope they can feel the power of the prayers that are sent up for them by saints that are now spread around the world.


Our small team was given the task of home 'beautification'. One of the projects was to build a fountain. The place we chose to build it was on a trash pile by the wall across from the entrance to the house. This area was the least likely space that could be 'beautified'. It seemed our best effort would fall short. Each shovel hit rock, ceramic tile, roots, or buried concrete. But eventually we scraped and dug and moved enough debris into a mound on the driveway--the size of a Volkswagen (which no one drives over here). We bought plants to surround the fountain, put steps up to it, and it actually was worthy of our project name. One of our team members saw a picture of the finished work since wasn’t able to stay; this is what he said when his responsed by saying, "That is so awesome! Just what the Lord likes to do…clean out the pile of junk and debris, replant, and build it into a fountain of bubbling living water for His, ours, and others enjoyment.”

At the moment, it is hard to know which world we are in… the one that we are returning to with our family or the one we just left.  We’re not omniscient but we have hearts that can love those in another world without diminishing the love we have for our family. And with all of our prayers we can help ‘beautify’ those who feel like they have lost their beauty.

On April 1st I boarded a plane for Indonesia to continue my internship with Compassion First at Sarah’s House. Nearly a month--plus the entire 24 hours of travel--was spent trying to prepare and anticipate what the shelter, staff, and girls would be like. Now, having experienced my first few weeks here, I can share that it is so much more than I ever expected.

I felt welcomed into Sarah’s House immediately; the girls even prepared a little cheer for my arrival. Every day the girls have planned activities and classes as part of their individual programs. I have been able to start teaching life skills and fitness, and the girls have been training me in guitar, the Indonesian language, and how to handle the spicy cuisine. We have set goals to improve morning workouts and to get my badminton skills up to par. I love that they are excited to share with me and am grateful to learn from each of them.

These girls are incredibly talented and smart, and have moved me daily with the happiness and hope they radiate. Each day is different, and no doubt hard times are felt here as well, but the sense of optimism never leaves. The ability for each one to wake up with a smile on her face and have ambitions for the day speaks volumes about the work of Compassion First and the environment at Sarah’ House.

The staff here truly gives all they have to support the girls through the program. Everyone works hard to ensure the success of each resident. Though the work is difficult at times, the same hopefulness felt throughout Sarah’s House exists in the staff office. Most days the hard work and focus is broken up by spontaneous lip-sync competitions and sharing some of the best snacks imaginable. Seeing the staff and girls approach each challenge with unfailing optimism and faith is what makes this such a special place.

Sarah’s House is constantly full of so much joy--music, laughter, and dancing are nearly constant. In my first weeks, I have realized the real magic is best seen through the small acts, done with great love. Moments like standing under a waterfall and having a girl lean in to express her happiness, or the whole group falling asleep in the van on the way home from a day full of swimming or simply eating fried bananas. Walking into the shelter each morning and sharing a joke or two with a few girls and house moms, and seeing two tables, full of smiles, on the patio at lunchtime are what turn the staff and girls at Sarah’s House into family.


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Organization Information

Compassion First

Location: Beaverton, OR - USA
Website: http:/​/​compassionfirst.org
Project Leader:
Mary Waldrip
Assistant to Bickey Lloyd
Beaverton, OR Indonesia

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