Noah, Yumi (mother), Joe (father), Naomi and Emi. The Chongsiriwatana family plans to move to Thailand by June to minister to human trafficking victims. In February, OSU alumnus Joe Chongsiriwatana spoke at H2O, a weekly Christian church service on campus.
A software engineer and Ohio State alumnus has made it his life’s mission to raise American awareness of Thailand’s human trafficking issues.
“Thailand is a pedophile magnet and has become a destination of choice for people who prey on children,” said Joe Chongsiriwatana.
Most of the demand for sold children comes from tourists, including Americans, he said.
Chongsiriwatana, his wife Yumi, and their three children, 11-year-old Noah, 9-year-old Naomi and 6-year-old Emi, will move to Thailand by June to work in the ZOE Children’s Homes Ministry.
“We have an ordinary family and we just want to radically obey God,” Chongsiriwatana said.
A branch of ZOE International Ministries, ZOE Children’s Homes Ministry rescues sold or orphaned Thai children who are victimized in crime, abuse or prostitution slavery.
According to its mission statement, ZOE works to abolish child trafficking and provide Christian homes, academics, medical care and nutrition for these orphans.
Chongsiriwatana spoke to an H2O church service on Feb. 20 about his work with human trafficking. H2O is a christian church on campus that meets weekly.
Though he is an American citizen, Chongsiriwatana is from Thailand and can read and speak Thai. He said moving to Thailand with his family brings fear of the unknown.
Trying to learn ministry in a country outside of the U.S. comes with challenges because he worked as an engineer his entire adult life, Chongsiriwatana said.
“The transition from working in the U.S. to working in ministry in Thailand would be hard,” said Austin Crass, a third-year in consumer and family financial services who was at the service.
Before moving, Chongsiriwatana is trying to raise awareness of human trafficking in the United States.
“Americans know how to get things done,” Chongsiriwatana said. “When our support raising is complete, we will leave for Thailand.”
Crass agreed with Chongsiriwatana’s message about human trafficking.
“There’s a lot of need in the world and we need to get out of our comfort zone and provide service and support in a radical way,” Crass said.
Bringing Chongsiriwatana to speak at H20 exposed “OSU students to what God is doing overseas,” said David Luk, 26, a field staff member at Great Commission Ministries.
During his presentation, Chongsiriwatana clicked through a picture slide show portraying the human trafficking situation in Thailand.
Human trafficking “is a sensitive subject, so you don’t want to overwhelm people with the gravity,” said Kevin Cody, 19, an H20 small group director.
Chongsiriwatana lightened the mood when he said his wedding ceremony was held on the OSU campus. H20 attendees laughed when he displayed a large picture of his wedding day, taken at OSU, and said, “Top that!”
Chongsiriwatana’s audience was made up of about 500 OSU students and community members, who gathered in Hitchcock Hall, room 131.
Forty-five minutes following the H20 service, almost 100 people remained in the Hitchcock Hall lobby, conversing with each other and taking turns talking with Chongsiriwatana about his ministry.
About 15 people gave Chongsiriwatana their e-mail addresses, asking for further information about ZOE’s ministry and how they could contribute to its mission.
Chongsiriwatana’s three children were with him in the lobby, and he said their education would continue in Thailand, just as it has in the U.S.
“ZOE offers excellent schools at the missionaries and my children will attend school there,” Chongsiriwatana said.