When I was 8 I didn’t know God. I remember watching a broadcast from Feed the Children and it had these kids from Ethiopia. Their stomachs were protruded, flies were landing on their faces and their bones were sticking out of their chests. I remember them saying: “This Christmas these kids don’t want toys, they want food.”   

I’m from a Mexican background, so we have a lot of family at Christmas and the living room is filled with gifts. I remember crying in the dark under the Christmas tree and saying to my mum: “I want to send my Barbies to Ethiopia. I don’t want any gifts this Christmas.”  

Fast-forward about 20 years, and I was on the war zone border of Thailand and Burma around Christmas. I had brought a big tub of dolls, trucks, sweaters and cookies. We went to bed for the night, and all of a sudden I heard little voices outside our window and they were singing. They sounded so beautiful. And we were like: “Who is singing at this hour? It’s freezing cold outside. We’re in the mountains. We’re in the war zone.”   

We went out and saw these little kids in raggedy clothes. I couldn’t tell what they were singing because it was in their hill tribe language, so I asked my interpreter. She said: “These are war zone orphans, but they believe in Jesus, and so they’re singing. They don’t have anything to give this Christmas, so they go around Christmas carolling, giving their voices. That’s the present they give.”   

So we gave them the cookies, sweaters and toys. They were playing with the dolls in the plastic, and I said: “Please tell them it’s theirs. They can open it up.” Our translator said: “This is the first toy they’ve ever seen. They want to keep it for ever. That’s why they’re playing with it in the plastic.”  

I just couldn’t stop crying. And God spoke to me. He said: “Do you remember when you were 8 and you wanted to send your Barbies to Ethiopia? I never forgot that, and I put that dream in your heart. You didn’t know me, but I knew you. From now on you’re not only going to send Barbies to Ethiopia, you’re going to bring Christmas to children all around the world. You’re going to give them their very first gifts and tell them about me.”  

I had a dream to rescue children. I went straight from Bible school to the mission field and became mama to 52 kids. At that time God gave us a plan and a strategy: prevent, rescue and heal. Firstly, we prevent child exploitation by going to the places where the traffickers would go to get the children. If you give a child an education you can lessen by 50 per cent their chances of being exploited or trafficked. In our prevention projects we have 500 children. We keep their families together and we stop the parents from selling the children.  

We raise children up not only to know their rescuer, Jesus Christ, but to become rescuers for their generation 

In a slum in one of the migrant communities there were no children because they’d be in the field helping their parents. Then as soon as they turned 12 they were sold to Bangkok, so there were no kids over 10 at the school. Since we’ve stepped in we have 100 children in that school.   

Secondly, we rescue children out of their desperate situations. We’ve got 145 children in our rescue homes. There are up to ten children in each safe house, and we give them a mum and a dad. They see a mum that doesn’t sell them and a father that doesn’t abuse them. They see a loving family unit.   

Thirdly, heal is our aftercare, where we provide education and vocational training so children can have hope for their future. We teach the kids: “It’s not the missionaries who rescued you. It’s Jesus.” We say they are rescued to rescue. We raise them up not only to know their rescuer, Jesus Christ, but to become rescuers for their generation.  

I did not know one believer when I was growing up. My parents divorced at 13 and I was a very troubled kid. I was very angry. I had to change schools. My aunt became a Christian when I was 19, and she acted differently. Something drew my heart to call my aunt, and I asked: “Can I come over to your house and dye my hair?” When I pulled up they were leaving for church. I’d never been, so I was curious. I walked in and couldn’t deny what I felt. I felt peace. I felt whole. I felt love. The preacher said: “You’ve been trying to fill that hole in your heart with everything else, but only Jesus can fill that hole.” My 14-year-old cousin asked if I wanted to go up for the altar call, so I gave the mess of my life to Jesus. At that moment it was like warm honey from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, and I felt cleansed and whole.  

I remember calling my friends and saying: “I’ve just met the man of my dreams: Jesus.” They later said: “We didn’t know how you went from bar girl to Mother Teresa in two seconds, but if he could save you then he could save us.” And one by one I led my friends to the Lord, which was my prayer, because nobody had ever told me.  

I was also instantly healed of epilepsy. I haven’t had a seizure since I was 19. The first scripture I ever turned to was about Christ making us a new creation. That’s exactly what happened to me. I knew it was my second chance in life. I knew I would: one, fight child exploitation and two, tell as many people as possible about Jesus in my lifetime, because nobody ever told me.  

Children are God’s secret weapon. Firstly, I believe he wants children to fight for their own generation. Children are bold and they have faith. Children will speak up, and they won’t be embarrassed. They can advocate and be God’s voice. Secondly, I’ve seen children raise support. I’ve seen them fundraise. Thirdly, they can donate: a doll, a toy, a backpack. They don’t realise that their trash will be somebody else’s treasure. Fourthly, I think children can go. They can serve, they can volunteer. I saw a little girl in church yesterday and she’s a chaplain at her school. We need to not underestimate children. They are powerful.