Penny Williams and her husband Chris Williams had been bringing mission teams to Costa Rica. Their mission was to show impoverished children the love of God and to perform restoration projects on buildings such as an elementary school and the pediatric ward in Quepos.
In November of 2011 Penny came to Costa Rica with Melinda and Johnnie, two college students from San Diego, in search of their next project, possibly a skateboard park. They had heard a little bit about the problem of human trafficking in Costa Rica so it was on their radar. Before heading to Quepos, they stopped to pray and asked God to "open and close doors" to "quickly" show them what to do for their next project. They only had ten days. God moved fast!
Forty five minutes later they stopped on the Tarcoles bridge, a tourist point for viewing crocodiles. Two American men in their late sixties were also there and they began a casual conversation. One of the men openly shared that they were from Colorado and that they loved Jaco because of the girls. Penny jumped on the opportunity to ask this man several follow up questions.
He revealed that they had been with girls from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Netherlands that week. He shared details on where to find girls, the prices, and even the fact that some of the girls were under age. Penny quickly realized that this was a Divine Encounter and God was "opening doors". She had no idea what this door was leading to.
Later that week in a meeting with Dr. Aldo the head of the pediatric ward in Quepos, the Chief of the OIJ (Costa Rican FBI), the Director of PANI (Child Protective Services) and the Minister of Health, Penny presented them with the idea of opening a shelter for girls who have been sexually exploited. The officials encouraged Penny to move forward with this project, explaining that there was no housing, programs or shelters available to children rescued from sexual exploitation in Costa Rica. The best they could do was take them to the hospital for one or two days before they had to return them to the streets. They promised to support her in this endeavor and have followed through with their commitment.
Penny moved forward with God's plan and created Seeds of Hope. Seeds obtained licenses from these agencies. They opened a shelter in 2013, but quickly learned that this was not a practical solution in Costa Rica because of the way sexual exploitation occurs there. Often times children are sold by their mothers but will not leave them to live in shelters. Child protective services (PANI) does not typically make the children leave their homes under these circumstances, and the children choose to stay in their homes.
Seeds learned that it is far more effective to go into the communities that are known to have sexual exploitation, drugs, alcohol and violence and open ambulatory services in the form of clubhouses. All teenagers ages 12-17 are invited to come weeknights and weekends to learn. This allows the team to not only minister to children involved in sexual exploitation but to create prevention for children who are at extreme risk. Coming into their neighborhoods allows the staff to form relationships with the children and their families in order to have a more profound effect on the community.