Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How Hurting Women Are Finding Hope

Leslie Basham: Susan Henson reads the words of a young Thai woman called Ning.

Susan Henson: “At seventeen years old, my aunt—with my parent’s permission—sold me! I was brought to America to marry a much older man whom I did not know or love. After all, I’m just Ning, born to do what I was commanded to do.”

Leslie: Today we’ll hear more of Ning’s story. This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe, for July 31, 2019. 

All this week we’ve heard from Al and Susan Henson in a series called “Compassionate Hope.” Nancy’s here to pick up the conversation.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If I say, “Proverbs 31,” what do you think of? Well, of course you think about the virtuous wife—the woman of virtue. That’s a big part of Proverbs 31. But what you may not remember is that before it starts talking about that virtuous wife, verses 8 and 9 of Proverbs 31 say this . . .

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (NIV). 

I hope you’ve been listening for the last couple of days to the conversation I’ve been having with Al and Susan Henson, my longtime friends who are doing just this.

Al and Susan, I don’t think you ever dreamed when we first met back in the early eighties that you would be traveling around the world in Southeast Asia, ministering to the widows and children of martyrs, the persecuted church, and then also to these children and families where their children have been abandoned, abused, child brides, sex trafficked, labor trafficked. You give them a hope and a future in these Homes of Hope. 

We talked about that in yesterday’s program, but I wanted to just unpack a little bit more of what God is doing through that ministry and how our listeners can get involved and have the joy of being a part of what you’re doing.

Revive Our Hearts supports this ministry monthly, so that comes through gifts that are given to Revive Our Hearts, but I’d love to see so much more happening from our listeners. So first, let me say, “Welcome back to Revive Our Hearts!”

Al Henson: It’s good to be back. Thank you, Nancy.

Susan Henson: Thank you, Nancy.

Nancy: And thank you on your travels around the world for finding your way here to Niles, Michigan. 

Susan: For me, it’s like coming home!

Nancy: We feel that about you; that we are family together. Susan, you’ve told me for a long time about a woman named Ning that you want us to meet. I’m hoping we do get to meet her some day here in this country. She’s one of these young ones that has been ministered to through these Homes of Hope.

Let me just say that the ministry that you serve with is called Compassionate Hope. We’ve linked to that website on our website, so you can learn a lot more about this ministry. I hope these stories are stirring people to get involved, to see what God is doing.

Tell us a little bit about Ning, and maybe just read for us a letter that she wrote that tells some of her story.

Susan: Yes. When I think of Ning, I think of the word “redeemed!” I sometimes shake my head in wonder at what God has done in her life. Roy Hession has a statement . . . I cannot quote it perfectly, but he says, “Redeemed means to buy back that which was lost or forsaken or caused or occasioned by our sin or by the sin of others.”

He goes on to say, “Many times God gives back to us far more than that which was lost.” And then he puts the question, “Why?” And that’s what I think of Ning. I think, How does He do this when there’s been such pain and loss in her life. 

Roy Hession says, “. . . so that we can be lost in the wonder of who God is and what He has done.”

Nancy: Yes.

Susan: When I hear Ning’s story and I walk life with her, I really marvel at that—to see the redemption part of her life, and not only the redemption, but the forgiveness that she’s been able to offer. So if you don’t mind, I would like to read her story and be her voice, as you shared earlier about “speak up.” I want to speak up for Ning and be her voice for a moment.

Nancy: So this is Ning’s story in her words

Susan: Yes, in her words. It begins:

Ning: I am Ning. I am twenty-seven years old. I was raised in a very poor family in a small village in an undisclosed country. As a little girl, I grew up full of fear. My father was an alcoholic. He constantly brought conflict. He abused and beat my mother. When troubles started, my sister and I hid because we knew we would be next.

When I was eleven, I became a very beautiful young girl and men began to want me, even my teacher. At twelve years old, my mom and dad pulled me out of school and sent me to work in a candy factory in Bangkok, Thailand. They falsified my papers to make me older. The next few years were very fearful and confusing. I just tried to do what I was told.

You see, I was just Ning, a poor village girl who was born only to do what others commanded me to do. My beauty grew, and to my family, it was an asset. My beauty could provide for my family. At seventeen years old, my aunt—with my parents’ permission—sold me! I was brought to America to marry a much older man whom I did not know or love.

After all, I’m just Ning, born to do what I was commanded to do. The next three years were beyond difficult and lonely! At times I was locked away for weeks. I often felt hopeless and wished not to live. It was horrible! Words cannot express the abuse and hopelessness I felt.

Eventually, I was made to work in a restaurant. It was there I met an Asian man who knew a Thai pastor who called Brother Al [or now we call him “Papa Al”] with Compassionate Hope. When they heard my story, together they arranged for my escape by plane to Bangkok.

The Thai pastor and his wife took me into their home as a daughter. They helped me to come to know Jesus! I remember feeling loved by God. I fasted for twenty days to draw near to Him, and I sensed His forgiveness and cleansing.

Instead of becoming bitter, I deeply felt so thankful for all that had happened in order to bring me to Jesus! When I first returned to Thailand, my parents and aunt were all very angry at me. They did not speak to me nor try to help me for several years. 

Words can never express how deeply this hurt me, so I just clung to Jesus and hoped that He would heal my heart. I found great joy in serving people, especially children and young girls that were like me. 

Then one day, I heard Papa Al speak in our city. I was drawn to his wisdom and love of Jesus. Later I realized that he was the one that arranged the funds for my escape! Because I could speak English, we talked. He listened to me and truly cared about who I was. He saw me! Through him, a deeper healing and restoration began.

He encouraged me to consider the Lord’s purpose for my life based upon all I had experienced. I began to believe I was significant and that God had a special plan for my life. With his help, I was able to touch my passion to help young teen girls who were in danger and trapped like I was. 

And with encouragement, I began to believe that with God’s grace—along with the encouragement of others—I could make a difference in other young ladies’ lives. Others said I was weak and just a young, poor female and I could not do this. However, Papa Al believed in me and said, “Yes, you can! You may make mistakes, but you will learn. You have God’s heart, and God’s hand is upon you.” 

They committed to help me fulfill my dream to help other girls. We celebrate today because since we have given girls a home of love, preventing them from going through many of the hurts and pains that I experienced, I helped them to find the love of Jesus much younger in their lives than I did.

Through this home of love, through this home of hope, they have a wonderful and different future! Please pray for us. In the last few weeks we have rescued two more girls. Please encourage us; please love them. Please love me. I now know that I am not “just Ning.” I am a princess. I am a daughter of the Most High King. I’m set free to free others!

Nancy: Wow . . . “set free to free others.”

Al: It’s hard for me to . . . I’m weeping for joy, for thankfulness. You see, I know her deeply. There is such power of the gospel! I just think of someone listening. There are so many women in America who have been traumatized or abused in so many ways. My heart was just thinking, God knows! God sees!

God can help. Come to Him, and He can help heal that. The shame, perhaps, that sin has brought upon your soul, or the fear or the bondage that you feel as a consequence of this, like Ning, you feel insignificant. All of that is a lie, by the way. It’s a lie! 

It’s the truth of the gospel. It’s experiencing of the love of God and finding the forgiveness of God. It’s then the ability to forgive others and receive healing. Just like Ning has been set free to free others, so can you! 

You don’t have to live a life like this. That’s why He loved you and died for you, to set you free. The Scriptures are so full of that power of the gospel, of the love of Christ!

Nancy: If that’s speaking to you right now, just lift your heart, your voice, your face up to the Lord and say, “Lord, I want to be set free!” Only Christ can do that for Ning or for you.

Al: Part of the story here, Nancy, is that all of Ning’s family who, as she said, were so bitterly angry with her they wouldn’t even talk with her for a couple of years . . . They said, “How could you be so stupid that you would give up this money and things for us and our family!?”

Now she has led her dad to Christ, her mom to Christ, her sisters, and recently her aunts and family. Everyone is reaching back to her. And I told her recently, “One day you’ll become the matriarch of this family! One day you will become that.”

I thought of Joseph, whose family turned against him. And yet God said, “They meant it for evil,” but God actually is raising her up. All of that’s possible because she has really turned to the Lord, fully and completely, in her life.

Susan: Nancy, we were just with her not long ago. She was our translator for two weeks, traveling with a team of ladies that were with me. One of the things that I marveled at as we went into these Homes of Hope to visit, each of us ladies on the team would share a little bit.

In the end we would always ask Ning to share her story, in the appropriate way that she could share with the children. I want to tell you, there was not a dry eye in that place! She just challenged those children to forgive and that they had a future and a hope! We just marveled at how God was using her to impact the children in all the other Villages of Hope and Homes of Hope!

It was a powerful thing to witness! She has such a passion for children not to face what she had, and to give them an education, and to give them a hope and a future. God’s hand is on her in a mighty way! I mean, there is an anointing upon her when she stands and she shares with these children . . . and with such passion!

Nancy: And that is redemption. 

Al and Susan: Yes, it is!

Nancy: It’s God recovering and overruling the losses occasioned by our sins or the sins of others. You know, I think today in the West, we’re so of a mind to become identified by our past, by the things that have been done to us, or in some cases, the things that we have done. We get locked in that.

We get imprisoned in that emotionally, mentally, spiritually. We may sit in church every Sunday, but there’s not hope. And these stories are not just for young women in Thailand or in the Philippines. We need that no less in our lives here! We need to know that God has a plan, a purpose, a future.

He wants to use that very thing that could have taken you under and would have destroyed your life, had it not been for the grace of God! He wants to redeem it and use it as a means to make Christ and the gospel known!

Al: We don’t have to persuade Him to do that. We just need to come to Him and trust Him and allow Him to do that. Everyone’s journey of healing and restoration and freedom is somewhat different, but somewhat similar.

I would just encourage everyone out there: you don’t have to find God. He’s there, just turn to Him!

Nancy: He’s the search-and-rescue God!

Al: Yes, He’s there. He’s present with you, waiting for you to just turn to Him and trust Him.

Susan: Another thing: it’s important, too, for us to be aware of those around us. Sometimes we may be that one that can be that come alongside someone, or we can be the one to get in the pit with them to help to see that there’s light. It’s important for us to just be aware of those around us.

Nancy: And that girl was in the U.S., working in a restaurant. One of us may have been in that restaurant! We can’t be responsible for what we don’t know, but I wonder how much more we might know if we were just sensitive to who the Lord is putting around us and how He wants us to get out of ourselves and open our eyes to those around us who are poor and needy or imprisoned or in some way need of being rescued. 

How much more of this would be happening—the grace-of-God-redeeming stories—if we were willing to be that person. We might say, “Some other ministry’s going to do this,” or “Al and Susan Henson are going to catch them with their ministry.”

No, God has put you and me in places where Al and Susan Henson and Compassionate Hope will never be! He wants our lives to be compassion and hope for others. He wants our lives, our homes, to be homes of hope for others in our neighborhood. 

It may be neighborhood kids; it may be people in our churches. How many people’s stories do we not know? We don’t ask, and we don’t listen, and we don’t look and say, “Who are you putting here, Jesus, who needs Your presence?” 

Al: One little step of obedience brings clarity to the next several steps of obedience. This is why I think that many believers are not being as fruitful and effective. It is because they can’t understand, “Just take the first step of obedience and just obey. That obedience will bring you down a path that you never dreamed!”

It’s like for Susan and I. We had our own thoughts forty years ago of how God would use us. God used us in that kind of way, but we never dreamed that in our sixties we would be in this beautiful work of the Lord.

Sometimes I carry young people with us, and they say, “Can we take a break?” And they say, “How can you do this, Papa? How can you have the energy?” 

And I say, “It’s the joy of the Lord that is my strength—the joy of being used by God in this kind of way and in intimacy with God in this way.” It’s just beautiful.

Nancy: I want to share with our listeners how they can get more involved in the Homes of Hope, but first I want just hear a little nutshell version of a story that I think is so precious. That is, your youngest son—Al Stephen is what I always knew him as, but I think maybe now he goes by Stephen . . . How old is he now?

Susan: He’s thirty-four.

Nancy: I remember when he was a baby. Susan, you and I were friends. He was born with multiple congenital defects. For the first dozen years of his life, you had to stay awake by his bed at night to keep him breathing! I mean, this was day-in, day-out . . . really, really hard stuff. You had a special needs child, and that’s a long story.

But when I asked you earlier today, “How is Al Stephen doing?” you told me that in the last few years the Lord has really captured his heart in a deep way. Just bring us up-to-date on what he’s doing and how it ties into Homes of Hope.

Al: Stephen never allowed his suffering and medical issues to embitter him. He literally, by God’s grace, let that form his character. He became a successful young businessman. He still has health issues. But about three years ago, Susan and I both knew; we had this sense of a greater work God wanted to do in him and through him.

So three years ago he came to a place of deep brokenness and just said to the Lord and then to us, “I’ve given my life! I want to follow God like my dad does, like my mom does.” So he stepped away from his job. It’s interesting. I never had to help him raise support. He is such a young man of character, and many couldn’t believe that he would take this step of faith.

All of those he had been in business with, in three months they had underwritten his missionary support to go to the other side of the world!

Nancy: With his wife and two young children.

Al: Yes, Nancy. This is the beauty of God, when we walk with God. I have some deep relationships in the Philippines. Eight days before he was to go, the leaders of IJM [International Justice Mission] and Compassion International called and said, “Brother Al, have you ever thought about coming to the Philippines?” 

I said, “We’re on our way. In eight days we’ll be there. Why are you asking?” 

Well, IJM, with the government, is rescuing OSEC children. What’s OSEC stand for, Honey?

Susan: Online Sexually Exploited Children.

Al: So they’ve rescued in the last couple of years a hundred-and-fifty children ranging in age from three months to eighteen years old. But once they rescue them, the mission of IJM is basically finished. They’re putting them in poor housing conditions with and no future. So they were hoping we would come. 

Now our son is there, and we’ve just been able to purchase the property. They’ve just finished the first Home of Hope and within a matter of weeks or months. We’ll be taking in these OSEC children. Just right at the heart of God and the heart of the mission that God has given Compassionate Hope foundation.

It’s just amazing to watch our young son and his wife and two children. God writing their story.

Nancy: And lots more to that story! But in just the moment we have remaining here . . . There are churches and families and small groups and even corporations that are adopting these Homes of Hope around the world. Just give us a glimpse of what that could look like. Some of our listeners may feel prompted of the Lord to do that.

Al: Yes, a lot of people ask, “How can we be involved?” These are God’s Homes of Hope, and I know He wants a “we” involved. They’re very holistic: from the gospel to education to family, food, college, vocational school. It’s a whole package. We plant a church along with the Home of Hope . . . it’s then a church-planting movement.

Often I see young churches—or smaller churches—think, How can we be involved? We couldn’t. We’re just too small! But Homes of Hope gives an opportunity for a small local church to adopt a home.

Nancy: Or a Sunday School class could do this or a small group.

Al: You know, there’s some sister listening in and saying, “Oh, I wish I had the money so I could do this!” We have someone like that, and we just say to her, “Go find eight or nine of your friends and come together, and together you can adopt a Home of Hope.”

I think anybody could actually adopt—working and serving the Lord—one of these Homes of Hope. We have a corporation that has adopted one—their employees and everyone. They have a Wall of Hope now with the children and a picture of the home. They’re in regular communication. 

Their business, they’re thinking, Our business is God’s business! Thank God that we can have our own homes and food, but we’re also underwriting the lives of these “least of these” that have been rescued. So anyone listening, make sure you get in touch with us if you have any interest whatsoever in becoming a part of this holistic work of a Home of Hope.

Nancy: There are some smaller ones, some larger ones. You said that even three- or four-hundred dollars a month could underwrite some of the smaller ones . . . and larger ones more than that. 

We’ve posted a link to Compassionate Hope foundation on our website. I’d love to see God raise up a lot of support for the Homes of Hope, just as a result of these conversations we’ve had over the last few days.

Al: I promise you that anyone that gets involved, it will change your life! For the good!

Susan: And it also offers the opportunity for people to go and love on these children.

Al: And meet Ning! 

Nancy: I want to do that! What a precious story! Al, I’d love for you to just close this conversation in prayer, and let’s ask the Lord to anoint this ministry, this effort, and to multiply beyond what you and Susan can do, to what He wants to do in our world today!

Al: Ah, yes. Thank you, Lord, that You’ve set Your love upon us, and we trust You We submit to you—Susan and I—afresh and anew. And everyone listening, Lord, we just posture ourselves in worship before You. We trust You, God, that in Your wisdom and in Your love and Your righteousness, You will pour Yourself out in us and through us into the lives of others! 

Lord, bring inner healing today where it is needed. Set the captives free today, for those who are listening. Give hope where there’s hopelessness, we pray O Father . . . not only for those that we’re rescuing on the other side of the world. But I pray today You might rescue someone that’s listening in to this broadcast, Lord, we pray!

Do your work, God. You’re so powerful, all-seeing, and all-knowing. Do Your work, Lord; go forth now. Thy will be done right now in a listener’s life on earth as it is in heaven. In the name of Jesus we trust You to do that, and bless each listener. And we ask You to call others in to join hands with us to rescue the least of these, one leader at a time. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Leslie: That’s Al Henson. He and his wife Susan have been telling us how bleak life is for women involved in sex-trafficking around the world. But more importantly, they’ve shown us how God is offering these women hope. If you’ve missed any of the conversation with Al and Susan this week, you can hear it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

The book of Esther tells us about another young woman kind of like the ones we’ve heard about from Al and Susan. In the eyes of some people, she was only valuable for her outward beauty, and that led to a form of imprisonment and abuse. But God had a plan for Esther. No matter what you’re going through, He has a plan for you.

We’d like to help you explore the story of Esther so your faith in God’s goodness will grow. Revive Our Hearts has released a new Bible study called Esther: Trusting God’s Plan. It’s a six-week walk through the book of Esther, part of our series of studies called Women of the Bible. 

When you get your copy of the Esther study, you can listen along with a podcast called Women of the Bible. There’s a new season just being released, all about Esther. You can go through the study and then listen to the related group discussion each week.

When you support this program with a gift of any size, we’re going to send you the study, Esther: Trusting God’s Plan. You’ll find that offer at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can ask for Esther: Trusting God’s Plan when you call with your gift. The number is 1–800–569–5959.

Now, our friend Mary Kassian has a new book. It’s called The Right Kind of Strong. She’ll be here to tell you about it starting tomorrow. Please be back here again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help your compassion and action to grow! It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.