It all started when…
Penny Williams and her husband Chris Williams began bringing mission teams to Costa Rica in 2009. Their mission was to show impoverished children the love of God and to perform restoration projects on buildings such as an elementary school and a 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 about the problem of sex tourism in Costa Rica and the issue had been on their hearts. Before heading to Quepos, they stopped to pray and asked God to "open and close doors quickly" to show them what to do for their next project.
Forty five minutes later they stopped on the Tárcoles bridge, a tourist point for viewing crocodiles. Two American men in their seventies 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 used this opportunity to ask this man several follow up questions.
The reason that I look SO HAPPY is because this moment is a great example of why it has been worth it to me to give up so much to do this work. When this 10 year old girl named Nicole showed up with her sister at one of our clubhouses they were being sold for sex. God intervened. Child protective services put them in our care and asked me to find a home for them to live in. A wonderful couple here in Costa Rica answered the call and took them to be part of their family. In January 2019, five years later, I was honored to attend her Quinceanera. Seeing the joy in her face now, is unbelievable. No words can explain it.
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 at that time. 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.
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 12-18 are invited to come weeknights and weekends to learn. This allows the team to not only minister to children involved in sexual exploitation, but even greater, to create prevention for children who are at extreme risk. Coming into their neighborhood allows the staff to form relationships with the children and their families in order to have a more profound effect on the community.