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Wrapping up 2015

Hello Prayer Team...

As we prepare for the coming celebration of Jesus' birth, my heart is overflowing with gratitude for you!  You are an encouragement to my heart in the ways you join with us in caring for the Orphan and the Poor through your faithful prayer support, encouraging words and sacrificial gifts.  Before the year comes to an end, I want to celebrate the work God is doing through you.  Here are just a few of His workings this past year:

  • Building of the new LandMine Design headquarters -- With profound gratitude, the Lord burdened a new friend's heart with the need for a proper workplace for the ladies in our job creation program (for the past two years, we had been meeting/working in the village's small medical clinic).  We can hardly believe the beauty of this building and pray that the Lord would expand the program in mighty ways so we may employ and educate many more women from within this new space.  Currently, we are so blessed to employ 12 women in the program as well as two indigenous managers and one driver/security guard.  How thankful we are to see this program growing and excelling. 
The new LandMine Design headquarters getting painted in September! 

The new LandMine Design headquarters getting painted in September! 

  • Diminished failure to thrive -- Thanks to many of you who sponsor kids in the MineField or give to the ongoing work, we have been able to provide lunch each school day to the 135 kids enrolled in the LightBridge school.  Not only are these kids receiving a top-notch education, they are doing so with full bellies, able and eager to learn.  Failure to thrive used to be so common in the village.  Today, we see kids growing into healthy bodies that empower intelligent minds to learn.
Failure to thrive was seen in this picture from 2012 when both our daughter, Jordan, and sweet Nik were 12 years of age.  The difference in body size was shocking to us then.

Failure to thrive was seen in this picture from 2012 when both our daughter, Jordan, and sweet Nik were 12 years of age.  The difference in body size was shocking to us then.

What a difference proper nutrition makes.  This picture was taken this past summer of the same two girls.  Due to increased nutrition, Nik's body is growing fast.  Both girls are now 15 years of age and the size gap has lessened significantly.  How grateful we are to see the amazing ways God has been at work! 

What a difference proper nutrition makes.  This picture was taken this past summer of the same two girls.  Due to increased nutrition, Nik's body is growing fast.  Both girls are now 15 years of age and the size gap has lessened significantly.  How grateful we are to see the amazing ways God has been at work! 

  • Orphans growing up -- Thanks to faithful sponsors who lovingly pray and give, the orphans in our LightBridge orphanages are growing up to know the love of their Creator, enjoy the safety of a loving home and receive an education through college.  Orphan care is an ongoing ministry that happens over years and years.  How grateful I am for so many of you who give and sponsor to see this ministry continue each and every year. 
  • Refugees returning to their homeland -- This year, we have been honored to continue providing sponsorship funds from many of you for Jury's Orphanage as they prepare to return to their home country of Burma to live in the jungle.  We trust the Lord to protect and continue to provide for Jury's Orphanage, through you, as they plan to move in the next few months.  Our hearts are burdened for their safety, but also challenged by their vision and obedience to bring the message of Jesus to their own country. 
Accessible only by boats (like this), Jury's new orphanage will be situated remotely in Burma.

Accessible only by boats (like this), Jury's new orphanage will be situated remotely in Burma.

I hope these snapshots give you a glimpse of the work God is doing through you in the LightBridge locations just this past year.  Would you continue to cover the work of LightBridge in your prayer support during this holiday season?  Here are some specific things to be praying about:

  • We will be leading a team of military members/families to a new village in Cambodia the day after Christmas.  The stellar education happening at the LightBridge school in the MineField has gained a strong reputation among other local schools, including the school at this new (to us) village located near the MineField.  As an organization, we seek to lead with relationship first before becoming involved with finances or resources.  Thanks to this team of military folks from Okinawa, Japan, we will begin to build relationships with this village by hosting a VBS for the children in the school.  Would you please pray for the Spirit to work through this time as it will be the very first time this village has heard the message of the Gospel?  Pray for clarity in teaching, safety for the team members and great movement in the hearts of the team as they love on the children of this village. 
  • Our family (Todd, Karla, Zach and Jordan) will be leading this team.  Please pray for all the logistics to fall into place, for our communication and working together as a family working together, for safety in all travel, and for a keen sense in leading this team well into understanding more of the heart of God for the Poor.  We are excited for the truly incredible privilege it is to return to Cambodia as a family and to be a part of leading this team into the new village. 
  • Shortly after the team from Okinawa returns to Japan, we will meet a second team from Colorado who will be working with us in all of our LightBridge locations.  We will also be doing a lot of sourcing work for our job creation program during this second team.  Please pray for covering from the Lord during this time as well.  I look forward to sharing the stories on that side of the ocean!

Finally, would you pray about the financial need at the year-end for LightBridge?  We are trusting the Lord to provide for the ongoing work during the final days of 2015 so that we may reach our budget goals for this past year.  We also are praying for the Lord to provide the remaining funds needed to build two schools: one in Cambodia and the other in Burma in 2016.  I know there are many places, people, and ministries you may give to; if the Lord is leading you to give a special year-end gift to LightBridge, I'd be so grateful for your investment and involvement in this way.  I hope you will join us in praying during this Christmas season and also consider giving a special gift, as the Lord leads you.  All gifts postmarked or given online by January 31, 2015, are tax deductible for this year. 

Thank you for standing with us again this past year!  I hope each of you has time this Christmas to savor the season with the Lord and with your loved ones.  I also pray that the celebration of the birth of Jesus holds many beautiful surprises for you...kinda like the many surprises His birth brought 2,000 years ago!

Merry Christmas, Friends!

Karla

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Two New Schools

Hi Prayer Team...

Starting tomorrow, we will be hosting The LightBridge Non-Event.  How I'd appreciate your prayer covering over this entirely online fund raising endeavor which will happen each day from October 20-27. 

Last year was our first try at such an event.  God was so faithful and galvanized an online army of individuals joining together and sacrificially giving to carry on the work He has been doing in caring for the Orphan.  

This year, we felt the Lord leading us in this direction as well and we are very excited about all that He has in store.  Instead of investing in a one-time banquet in one location, we've created a space online for partners, donors and friends from all over the world to participate, saving valuable resources and maximizing the opportunity for many people to join in the work God is doing to advance His Kingdom.

Each day, we will post stories (and videos) written by our staff unpacking and redefining the words "armed and dangerous".  Hopefully, the words alone are intriguing and draw you to join us in finding out their redefined meaning and how God is working to utilize these words in very different ways.  We believe He is asking us to partner together in raising the funds to build two schools in two different countries at two of our LightBridge locations.  Would you join us each day starting tomorrow, October 20 and ending on October 27?   

And would you pray?  We've been working for many weeks writing the stories, preparing the videos, and updating our Website in anticipation of this week.  I can't tell you how excited I am for you, and many others, to read and watch what God is doing and how He is directing for the coming months.  But, I wouldn't be honest if I didn't share the nervousness in my heart wondering about how these much needed funds will come in.  Our goal is $50,000...yes, it's a very ambitious goal.  In all honesty, my heart struggles to just simply trust His provision and faithfulness all the while knowing He is the Faithful Provider.  The tension is so real in my heart.  So, would you pray?  Pray for my heart to rest and trust.  Pray that many would join in the Non-Event; that many would read and watch the stories; that many would choose to give in surprising ways; and that God would provide exactly what we need to see these schools be built in the coming months.     

It's something I believe in deeply and think you will truly enjoy!  Again, the event runs from October 20-27 (I think I've mentioned this a few times) ;0).  May I also ask you to invite your friends to follow along as well.  I hope you enjoy reading a collection of stories that have the ability to touch your heart in a new way and participate in advancing God's Kingdom on the earth.  

Simply click this link each day starting tomorrow:  http://www.lightbridgeonline.org/

You can also follow and share our FaceBook, Instagram & Twitter posts each day, inviting others to journey during this week.  Simply type in LightBridge International and follow along. 

Thank you for praying and for joining us October 20-27! 

Grace,

Karla

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From the mud of a MineField...

Hello Prayer friends....

If you've been following my Facebook posts, you know that I'm back in Cambodia this week working with the sweet ladies in our job creation program, LandMine Design.  It has already been a very full week with lots of things happening, lots of difficulties, and lots of ways that God is faithful...again and again!  Thank you for praying over several things already during this trip.

Caught a ride on a villager's tractor this morning...what a blessing! 

Caught a ride on a villager's tractor this morning...what a blessing! 

It's rainy season here and that means mud...lots and lots and LOTS of mud!  The mud prohibits vehicles traveling from the main road into our village.  We instead have had to walk the mile into and out of the village (or catch a ride on a villager's tractor).  I don't think I can adequately describe the muck of trudging through mud that is never ending.  Each time I think about complaining, I look around and realize that I will leave the village in a few hours, return to my hotel room, and take a shower washing away the mud until I return the next day.  The sweet villagers who call this place home, don't have the privilege of washing the mud away in a clean shower.  It is a constant and never-ending battle until the sun reappears and dries the ground again.  Perspective. 

The main reason I am here this week is because of an order we received from a company called Sevenly (www.sevenly.org).  These amazing folks learned of our work and contacted us a couple months ago asking if they could include our little organization into their 'Causebox'.  The Causebox is sent out to 4,000 subscribers every quarter filled with various items from social enterprise agencies, like LandMine Design.  These subscribers receive their box and learn about so many organizations that are doing good work in all kinds of locations around the globe. 

We were absolutely shocked and honored that Sevenly wanted to partner with us in this way.  Of course, we said 'yes!' and began the preparations for the ladies here to create 4,000 (gulp!) lovely pieces of jewelry.  It has been quite an undertaking, to say the least.  But, what an incredible blessing from the Lord as we see His hand at work blessing our ladies with such an order and giving this program the opportunity for such visibility.  Our LandMine Design piece will be included in the Holiday Causebox...yet another huge blessing from the Lord!

Srey Roth working from her home to complete her assignments this week.

Srey Roth working from her home to complete her assignments this week.

I'm deeply thankful that the Lord allowed me to be here during this week as I am also able to see the nearly completed new LandMine Design headquarters.  This past summer, a generous donor was burdened that the ladies in our program didn't have a headquarters of their own.  She graciously gave the funds needed to build the amazing building you see below.  It is the newest building on our 'campus' and will be the home for LandMine Design.  To walk into this space is really like a dream.  I just don't think I can express how excited I am for what this means for our current ladies and all the ladies we hope to employ in the years to come.  What a gift from the hands of our Faithful God! 

There's much more I could write about while the rain continues to pour down outside my window this afternoon.  Let me close up with a few prayer items:

~ Praise the Lord with me that my co-worker, Amreitha, has recovered fully from a bout of food poisoning that happened our first day in country.  Amreitha is pregnant with her first baby, so we're deeply thankful for the protection for both her and her baby.  She's now able to work with me as we continue this week.  We won't be eating anymore omelets though...

~ Please pray for the ladies in our program as they work tirelessly this week to complete the 4,000 necklaces we will carry back with us on Sunday.  This is the largest production round they've had to do, and they are doing so well.  Please pray for their stamina, clarity, and joy even in the midst of the rain, mud, and endless crafting of jewelry.  They will be excited to be finished on Sunday and receive the pay for their incredible work! 

~ Please pray for the many conversations we are having and will continue to have.  So much is happening and there is so much we need wisdom about and clear thinking on as we consider things that could have effects for a long time. 

Thanks for praying with me and joining me on another journey to Cambodia! 

Grace...

Karla


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Deeper Meanings

Many of you know that we run a job creation program called LandMine Design (www.landminedesign.org). The sweet ladies from the program in the MineField Village roll beads out of paper and create lovely pieces of jewelry that we bring back to America and sell at various events and online. These sales generate the funds from which we are able to hire more women as well as pay the women a monthly wage so they may feed their families. This program is part of the holistic development God has graciously allowed us to do in Cambodia.

We began by employing six women two years ago, and have now grown to 12 women, two managers, and one driver/security guard.  In total, 15 Cambodian nationals are now employed and are able to feed their families through the sales of LandMine Design jewelry.  Even more exciting is how we are able to share the gospel and disciple the ladies in the program each week.  We are seeing Jesus change their hearts and their lives; we just couldn’t be more thrilled about all He is doing!

While LandMine Design is a program of LightBridge, we have many customers from all walks of life and from all religious belief systems.  Our heart is that customers experience a taste of the goodness of the Lord from what the jewelry represents as well as what is happening in the lives of women in a minefield.  The responses have been incredible; customers have purchased jewelry and have been so touched by the story that is happening out there.  How grateful we are for them!   

Since the beginning of this program, we’ve had several requests from men asking if we would produce a men’s line. We realized that men really want to be a part of the story God is writing for women through this program. So just last week, we launched a two-piece item that we’re calling The Fellow. We’re so excited about it! The Fellow includes a bracelet handmade by a woman in our program as well as a leather pouch which protects the bracelet. The leather pouch was handmade by a local leather craftsman and friend of ours who wanted to use his God-given abilities to help the work happening in LandMine Design.  

We decided to pair the leather pouch with the bracelet because of what each represents. The bracelet signifies the woman who created it, and just as the pouch protects the bracelet, so does the purchase protect a woman’s life. We began an initiative with The Fellow called The Fellowship of 52. For every 52 Fellows purchased, we are able to hire one more woman into the program in the MineField Village. You can read more about all of this on our website:  www.landminedesign.org.  

As a Christ-centered organization, I want to ask you to join us in praying over this new initiative. While we choose to not delve into the deeper spiritual meanings on the LandMine Design site, there is deeply rooted meaning behind the work of LandMine Design, including The Fellow and the Fellowship of 52. Our hope is that men rally around this initiative in earnest ways that go beyond just wearing the bracelet and using the case. I hope men who love Jesus purchase The Fellow and spend time praying over the woman who made the bracelet as well as the women we are able to hire because of the Fellowship of 52. The idea of a Fellowship of 52 men who band together for one woman is powerful to me and, again, has such significant spiritual meaning. Would you pray over this initiative with us? Pray that many would band together so that we are able to hire several women in the coming months. Also pray that God would be glorified and that many would come to a saving and life changing relationship with Him through Jesus!  

I also want to invite you to consider becoming a part of the Fellowship of 52. Perhaps you're a lady who knows of a particular gentleman you'd like to gift The Fellow to, we'd so love that.  We're well on our way to the first Fellowship of 52 being reached giving us the ability to hire one more woman in the village.  

Thanks for praying with us!!  

Karla

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Waiting...

Several of you have emailed or asked about Srey Mom.  First off, thank you for checking in and for praying.  I've waited to update you on anything as I've wanted to share progress and ways that the Lord has answered prayer.  Unfortunately, it seems that nothing has changed.  Srey Mom is still gone; no one has seen or heard from her. 

How I wish I could share great news of ways God has specifically answered our collective prayers.  There is no new news to share.  So with heaviness, I simply am writing to ask you to continue praying.  I sense that this is not over.  And I believe that our prayers still matter in Srey Mom's life. 

Thank you for continuing to pray with us.  I trust God's faithfulness and love for Srey Mom and am fervently praying that He works in powerful ways in her life!  And I'm so thankful for your faithfulness in praying with us!

Grace...

Karla

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A Prodigal Daughter

Srey Mom is on the left, and is pictured with Volek, another young woman in the program.

Srey Mom is on the left, and is pictured with Volek, another young woman in the program.

Thank you for praying for our sweet Srey Mom.  I'm writing to give you an update so you know how to pray as this saga continues. 

This week. we learned that Srey Mom went through with a shot-gun wedding and married her 17-year old boyfriend.  Sometime in the past week, Srey Mom decided not to wait for a month or two and has also left with her now-husband to work at a banana plantation in a remote part of Thailand.  As you can imagine, news like this is so hard to hear and process for us as a staff as well as for our in-country managers and ladies in our program.  We are all deeply saddened by it.

Today, our in-country program manager, Leakhenna, visited Srey Mom's parents in the village.  We were so thankful to learn that they are terribly upset about the situation and were not in favor of the marriage or Srey Mom going to Thailand to work.  Don't misunderstand me;  I'm not happy that they are so upset.  Too often, families in poverty situations such as this don't see the bigger picture.  They typically simply follow the same pattern that has been deeply rooted and the cycle of poverty is replayed over and over again for generations.  What I am thankful for is that Srey Mom's parents see a different future for her.  They hoped for something far beyond repeating the cycle of poverty. 

Srey mom on the left and her new husband on the right.

Srey mom on the left and her new husband
on the right.

Srey Mom's new husband.

Srey Mom's new husband.

We also learned that they are trying to contact Srey Mom and push her to return to the village.  Our in-country manager, Leakhenna, also will try to contact Srey Mom and let her know that we will hold her job with LandMine Design, if she will return. 

Now, I'm asking you to pray with us in this next phase.  Honestly, I just have a sense that God isn't finished with this story.  My son, Zach, shared that it feels like a Prodigal daughter story.  It does feel that way.  Would you pray with us about these things specifically: 

  • That Srey Mom's parents and Leakhenna are able to contact her.
  • That Srey Mom is seeing the reality of her choices and that she would desire to make different ones.
  • That the Lord would be her Protector (and her new husband's).  The ladies in the program informed us that they are very worried about the safety of these two.   Whether it's rumor or true, we've learned that the plantation owners often are cruel and create problems with their migrant workers so they don't have to pay them.  From what the ladies say, sometimes, these owners take drastic measures and injure the workers, or worse.  Please pray for Srey Mom and her husband's protection from harm. 
  • Srey Mom doesn't have a passport so is traveling illegally.  Without such documentation, she has no rights in Thailand and therefore can be easily taken advantage of. 
  • That Srey Mom and her new husband would return immediately. and seek to remedy the situation that they've created. 
  • That their hearts would be convicted of wrongdoing and that they would desire to be made right with the Lord, with their families, with their schools, and with the LandMine Design program. 

To be honest, I have great hope for what God can do...and I'm praying that He will!  The ladies in our program have been gathering together to pray over Srey Mom as well and that gives me such deep hope.  They are praying on their own, without the leadership of our staff or in-country managers.  How incredibly hopeful is that? 

So would you join us in continuing to pray?  Thank you for walking this road with us...the road of the Prodigal Daughter!  Together, let's pray her home! 

With Great Hope,

Karla

Srey Mom with Amreitha, our Director of Advocacy

Srey Mom with Amreitha, our Director of Advocacy

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ONE VOICE

Hello Prayer Team,

Today, I'm sending you an email from my dear friend and co-laborer, Amreitha Jeeva.  She is our Director of Advocacy for LightBridge International.  This week, we learned some difficult news about one of the ladies in our job creation program, LandMine Design (www.landminedesign.org).  We're asking our collective prayer teams to join us, as one voice, and pray over the situation.  We're asking the Lord to intervene and would so love for you to join us in this prayer covering.  Would you?  Read on for the story, and thank you for being a part of what God is doing.

"Wow, she is so beautiful!"
"Have you seen her smile in this photo?"
"It's like she's a natural model!"
"And beyond that smile, she's just so sweet and joyful!"
Srey Mom during our very first shoot.

Srey Mom during our very first shoot.

These are the comments made by our team during the very first photo shoot of the women in our job creation program, LandMine Design, two years ago. We were talking about Srey Mom.  She's 17.  When we met her she was 15.  Believe me when I say, she's a bombshell.  Absolutely gorgeous.  She has beautiful long black hair, straight like most women in Cambodia. Her smile is met with dimples on each side of her cheeks that just don't quit!  And most importantly, her personality is one that our team has fallen for.  Srey Mom is silly.  She likes to laugh and sometimes in the most awesome way, she can even be mischievous.
Two years ago during our first photo shoot, the women had completed their very first collection - one that feels ancient to our team now.  We wanted the women who spent hours rolling paper beads onto toothpicks, glue to seal, and lacquer for finish, to be the very first women who ever modeled the jewelry they created.  Srey Mom was a natural.  She hardly needed to pose, her natural physique was enough for such stunning photos. 

Since then, Srey Mom has been working at LandMine Design so faithfully.  Each week, she works hard, receives an income that helps provide food for her family, and most importantly she's receiving an education.  As one of our high school girls, she was required to attend school in order to be in our program.  We believe that education at her school and through our program is one of the greatest gifts we can give her as we work together toward full economic and holistic sustainability for her and her family.
 
Today across the world, 600,000 million girls in the developing world are not receiving an education.  The cycle of poverty continues.  Statistics say that girls with eight years of education are four times less likely to be married at a young age. The reality is, educated girls are a powerful force for change in their communities and their countries.
 

This is a photo of Srey Mom from June. The young man with his head turned away from the camera is her boyfriend.

This is a photo of Srey Mom from June. The young man with his head turned away from the camera is her boyfriend.

We recently got news that our dear Srey Mom is planning on leaving our program and quitting school.  She plans to be married and in order for that to happen, she and her future husband intend to move to Thailand where they will work menial jobs that often include some sort of slavery.  Culturally, this isn't a big deal to them.  This is what you do when you're poor.  You get married and work.  You have children, they work, get married and the cycle continues. The part of this mindset and lifestyle that's so difficult to swallow is that education is not important, and often non-existent. But, education would break that cycle.  Srey Mom could break this cycle for her family.  Education gives her opportunities for work without putting herself in danger.  Education gives her the ability to teach her own children in the future that there's more to life than merely surviving. Education gives Srey Mom a sense of deep value and purpose; that her life means something much more than what she's been told. 

In a moment of deep anguish over the reality of the choice Srey Mom is wanting to make, our fearless leader and boss Karla Tillapaugh suggested we pray.  Honestly, I was so sad that it hadn't crossed my mind yet.  But it's absolutely what could change everything.  Srey Mom is a believer!  Jesus lives in her heart and she is learning about who He is and what that means for her life during her time at LandMine Design.  Praying unceasingly that God would intervene and change the course of deep cultural realities is really what can turn this situation around.  At the end of the day, only Christ can save a life.  Our team can only do so much.  We recognize our deep dependency on the Lord to do the impossible.  

Our team at LandMine Design invites you to pray with us for Srey Mom.  The reality is, we've got two months to get on our knees on her behalf before a possible move to Thailand.  Will you join us in prayer that Srey Mom will change her mind?  Will you pray with us that Srey Mom would realize how important she is and that fighting for her education is worth it?  Pray that our dedicated in-country managers can have meaningful talks with Srey Mom that would persuade her to make a different decision.  

A single, handmade bead.

A single, handmade bead.

So to all of us who believe in the mighty powerful name of Jesus, let's humble ourselves and pray.  For God can heal a land!  And now I'm crying because this promise is true.  It's real.  It's for today.  It's for Srey Mom.  Her life could alter because of our diligent prayer.  2 Chronicles 7:14
 
If you would like to partner with us in prayer for Srey Mom, would you let us know?  Simply reply to this email and add your mailing address.  We would like to send you a bead from LandMine Design, made by the women in the program, that would remind you to pray for her each day. We believe that this one bead represents each of us joining together as one voice praying for one woman to end her cycle of poverty.  Today, this one woman is Srey Mom.
 
With love,
Amreitha Jeeva

Thanks for reading about Srey Mom and for considering being a part of the team of folks that prays over her faithfully in the weeks ahead.  I can't wait to see what God will do through the committed prayers on her behalf! 

Grace,

Karla


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Return...

How thankful I am to have returned to Colorado two days ago.  Even more, I'm so thankful for you...our prayer warriors!  Thank you for journeying with me/us as we have worked in Cambodia, Thailand and Burma this past month.  The last part of our trip and return to America has been a whirlwind.  But, I'm back now and am so excited to share more of the stories about what God is doing and how we can be proactive in praying to advance His Kingdom together! 

Thank you for your faithfulness in praying over the Jesus Film that we were able to show (for the first time, ever) during one of our last days in the village.  I know many of you probably saw my Facebook post about it as I wasn't able to get a prayer blog out about it at that time.  Here's what I wrote: 

Friends! Thanks for praying for the first-ever showing of the Jesus Film in the village. The rains poured down a couple hours before the movie began but then stopped for the showing. Our local leader decided we should go ahead with the plans. The back part of the village couldn't get in because of the rains and mud but we still had 60-70 people come. The technology worked great and the villagers were pretty riveted by the story of Jesus! Afterwards, many prayed to commit their lives to Jesus. Please continue to pray as our workers here follow up with these precious friends! It was a late night and our team has a full day of ministry today and tomorrow so pray for strength...for the villagers as well. God is good and we're so thankful for what He is doing here! Too dark for many pictures but here's one that I love! Thank you Jesus!

Here are a few more shots you might enjoy...

Waiting for show time...Coca Cola and snacks! 

Waiting for show time...Coca Cola and snacks! 

The muddy road meant we had to walk the mile into the village barefoot to keep from slipping.

The muddy road meant we had to walk the mile into the village barefoot to keep from slipping.

Would you continue to pray with us?  Pray especially for the ongoing discipleship happening in the village and for the new hearts that trusted Jesus as their Savior for the very first time.  We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to share the Jesus Film and can't wait for the next time! 

I'm excited to share more stories with you and more ways to pray in the days ahead.  Tomorrow, I plan to post another blog about a specific prayer need that has arisen in the past day.  How I appreciate your partnership in praying!  

Grace...

Karla

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A First....

Tonight, I’m so excited that we will be sharing the Jesus Film in the MineField Village!  It is the first time we’ve ever attempted such a feat.  Without electricity and the threat of rain, we’re asking the Lord to work in really wonderful ways.  Would you join us in praying?  

Many are praying here in Cambodia as well as folks, like you, who are praying an ocean away!  Come Lord Jesus, Come!! 

Many are praying here in Cambodia as well as folks, like you, who are praying an ocean away!  Come Lord Jesus, Come!! 

By the time you read this, we may be in the very midst of the showing.  It will start Tuesday morning at 6:30am Denver time, which is 7:30pm Tuesday night here.  We plan to project the movie on the outside white wall of the school building.  We’ve purchased some mats for all of us to sit on in the grass and are working right now to get the popcorn and coca-cola so it will have a real movie feel to it!  We’re so excited…and so are the villagers!  Here are some things to pray for specifically:

The school wall that will become a screen tonight...and the cut grass where we will sit and enjoy the evening with our village friends...

The school wall that will become a screen tonight...and the cut grass where we will sit and enjoy the evening with our village friends...

1.  That we’re able to figure out all the technical issues including the use of a generator, projector, computer and speaker.  

2.  That the rains will hold off…but only until around midnight.  The villagers need rain desperately, so it feels strange to ask for the rains to hold off.  So join us in praying the rains hold off until after midnight and then please pray that the rains come!  

3.  That many will come to the movie and that MANY will understand the gift of salvation that their Creator is offering them tonight.  Pray that MANY will commit their lives to Jesus and seek to follow Him…THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life!!  Amen!!!

4.  That our on-the-ground workers will have wisdom as to follow up with these precious villagers.  

Thank you for praying for our friends here! 

Thank you for praying for our friends here! 

Okay team!  Thanks for joining us in praying.  I CANNOT wait to see what the Lord does!!  

Grace…

Karla

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Emotion...

Her tiny frame caught my eye immediately.  The little girl hung on her mom’s back like a sack of potatoes wrapped securely in a raggedy scarf that knotted around her mom’s shoulders and belly.  As the knots were loosened, the little girl was carefully lifted to the bamboo floor where she sat in front of her mom.  I watched the exchange between mom and daughter and couldn’t help but sit next to them.  And the connection began.  

My family and co-worker and I traveled to the border of Burma and Thailand a few days ago to visit the new soon-to-be location for Jury’s Orphanage.  Accessible only by boat, it is a remote location inside the jungle of Burma.  We arrived to the welcome of 30 tribal villagers who live nearby.  They came to see Ga-Bleu, Jury’s orphanage director.  Her plans to move to this new location are giving hope to the villagers here.  They live on the edge of Burma, far away from the homes they once inhabited inside their own country.  The Burmese army on one side and the Thai river bordering the other, leaves them a small space in which they are sandwiched on the side of a hill.  It is here their huts are spread apart so as not to draw the attention of the Burmese army who attacks and burns down tribes of ethnic minorities.  They live subsistence lives.  There is no economy, no jobs, no clean water, no electricity, no development.   

Todd and Zach in the boat to Burma

Todd and Zach in the boat to Burma

As we sat among these people, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of smiles.  The faces of the villagers were void of emotion.  They don’t see white people here…in fact, I’m not sure most have ever seen a white person.  They came and watched us as we watched them.  Our smiles and greetings were met with shy responses, hand shakes, and just small hints of smiles.  The children stood at a distance; their deep brown eyes conveyed fear mixed with confusion.  It was in these moments that I noticed the emaciated little girl and her mom.  I took my seat next to them.  

Villagers who greeted our group...

Villagers who greeted our group...

What I learned about this little girl in those few minutes have left a mark on my heart.  It’s often like that.  The little things God uses to break my heart.  Named Pa-Reely, her body was the smallest I’ve ever seen for a 10 year old.  Her legs were sticks, mere twigs really, small bones covered with thin skin.  The same was true for her arms.  It was clear she was starving.  Pa-reely suffers from what appears to be Rett Syndrome, although that’s purely my guess.  She’s not able to talk, nor walk, nor feed herself, she wrings her hands consistently, and is incontinent.  She can’t chew and eat food like a normal 10 year old so her mom feeds her milk, when she can find it or trades the wild mushrooms she picks in the jungle for a few ounces of white treasure.  Milk is terribly hard to come by as is evidenced by the withering body of Pa-Reely.  

Pa-Reely sitting beside me.

Pa-Reely sitting beside me.

As I listened to their story, I picked up Pa-Reely and held her like a baby.  Her longer legs are the only things that make her not seem like an infant.  I loved on that sweet little girl and talked to her about Heaven and how I can’t wait for her to go there and enjoy a new body.  She just watched me as I talked to her.  Her deep brown eyes focused for short intervals; every once in a while a slight upturned smile graced her olive face.  That face is burned into my memory.  Her eyes are imprinted in my mind.  As I talked with her, rocking her and smoothing her short hair, a warm sensation filled my lap beneath her body.  Yep, she had pee’d on me!   

Loving on Pa-Reely. 

Loving on Pa-Reely. 

I’ve thought often about Pa-Reely since the short time we spent in that village.  To be honest, I don’t have a well-rounded conclusion to sharing this story.  I was able to leave some money for Pa-Reely’s mom to buy milk for the next few weeks, but that truly is merely a drop in the bucket.  Answers feel impossible for her or for this village that seems to be living without much hope.  Their lack of emotion conveys a depth of fear that we don’t see in our other work.  Development and sustainability feel like unrealistic dreams.  While there, we learned that many in this village know Jesus (praise the Lord), but I didn’t see a hope displayed.  They live in fear of the army that should protect them.  The Lord won’t let me forget this sweet tiny one.  My mind's eye sees her big eyes and faint smile many times each day.  And I wonder what the Lord has in store as we continue to support Jury’s Orphanage in the coming months.  The children and staff of this orphanage will move to the new location inside Burma and will live and minister with the villagers here.  They will care for each other and for sweet little ones, like Pa-Reely.  

Those eyes ...

Those eyes...

I am praying for clarity and direction from the Lord as we continue to support Jury’s Orphanage in their new location.  Would you pray with me?   I question what bringing His Kingdom to such hopelessness looks like.  It’s hard to see.  Support and development can, at any time, be destroyed by an army intent on ethnic cleansing of these very villagers.  Those sweet brown eyes keep appearing in my mind and I know God has us there for a reason.  He allowed that connection to be made…even being pee’d on!  So I trust Him.  I desire to continue finding ways to be a part of bringing His Kingdom to that place.  To see His will be done on earth…in Burma…as it is in Heaven.  Thanks for praying with us as ministry continues here.  

A hero to me, Ga-Bleu and her adorable son Jesu (Yes, like the spanish word for Jesus!)

A hero to me, Ga-Bleu and her adorable son Jesu (Yes, like the spanish word for Jesus!)

Jojo and one of the tribal kids.

Jojo and one of the tribal kids.

Heading back to the boat. 

Heading back to the boat. 

One final note, my husband, Todd, returned to the states just a couple days ago.  Boy do we miss him and his leadership and love of us all.  He is busy preparing for a Cadence mission-wide conference in Wisconsin the end of this month.  Our interns and staff return to Cambodia tomorrow to host our next team both at the MineField Village and at a new ministry location with the urban poor in the border town of Poipet.  Please pray for safety as we all make our way to that town.  And pray for strength, wisdom and engagement for this next round of short term missionaries coming from an international church in China.  How I appreciate your prayer covering over me, our family, interns, staff, and teams that continue ministering together.  

So grateful for you…

Karla

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The Gift of Sight...

Many team members have traveled with us to Cambodia through the years.  Most have never heard of the atrocities that happened here 40 years ago; they become heartbroken as they learn of it.  Virtually all of what they see and experience is new to their knowledge basis, and even their senses.  For one team member, this is not new information.  It is not a new cultural experience.  Rather, it is something he lived through.

Wills Vanray remembers many things about surviving the Killing Fields.  As a little boy, he and his mom were the only people in their family who managed to live and escape the horrors of the holocaust here.  His stories of sickness, death, loss, violence, grief and survival are riveting to hear.  Our team sat in silence as he recounted his childhood in Cambodia.  We were equally amazed to learn how he and his mom made it to a refugee camp and then found their way to the United States as refugees of war.  Once in America, Wills was enrolled in an American school and found great success in academics, leading him to become an eye doctor as an adult.  Wisely, Wills’ mom continued to speak Khmer (Cambodian) to him and taught him of his Cambodian culture throughout his growing up years, even as he was fully immersed in American culture and learned English at school.    

Wills became a Christian after he met his lovely to-be wife, Melissa, several years ago.  That story is truly amazing…you’ll have to ask them to share it sometime!  Wills and Melissa became a part of our church a few years ago and were pleasantly surprised to learn of our work in Cambodia.  It didn’t take them long to join us for their first mission trip last year where they began making plans to conduct an eye clinic in our village.  Both eye doctors, Wills and Melissa have spent this past year preparing for the clinic, collecting used eye glasses, and gathering the supplies needed to begin the work of caring for our sweet villagers.  

Wills and Melissa Vanray enjoying a few moments in the village before the eye clinic!

Wills and Melissa Vanray enjoying a few moments in the village before the eye clinic!

Fast forward to this past two weeks when our little village on the edge of Cambodia had its first-ever eye clinic hosted by Wills and Melissa.  To see these two in action is truly something to behold!  Their plan was to examine the children in our LightBridge school primarily, and only a few adults.  But, the lines of adults that formed each day in front of the eye clinic compelled the Vanrays to change their plans and welcome the couple hundred adults who were so hopeful to have eye exams.  I just can’t fully express in words the beauty of the smiles of those who walked out the eye exam room with brand new (to them) glasses.  Villagers who had never had their eyes examined were now wearing perfectly matched prescription glasses and seeing clearly for the first time.  Even as I write about it several days later, I have to stop and just marvel at what God did to bring the gift of clear sight to so many villagers.   

The line up of villagers one morning to see Wills and Melissa! 

The line up of villagers one morning to see Wills and Melissa! 

The story is even better when I think about how Wills, as a young boy, left his war-torn country so many years ago and has now decided to return, bringing the gift of clear eye sight…and the love of His Savior.  The day we left the village, Wills was the guest speaker at the village church.  It was a packed house as villagers came to hear the story of one of their own countrymen tell of his escape from Cambodia, and the even better story of how he gave his life to Jesus.  Wills was able to share how he chose to return to his country because he wants his people to understand the love of their Creator. I just can’t tell you how incredible it was to see him share his testimony in his native language with people who desperately need Jesus.  

Wills sharing his testimony at the village church...see the monk among the crowd?!

Wills sharing his testimony at the village church...see the monk among the crowd?!

I’m amazed at the full circle ways of God!  Bringing Wills back to his home country to share about Jesus.  It just doesn’t get much better than that!  

Wills treating one of the local monks who came to see...praying he 'sees' the goodness and love of Jesus and comes to know Him! 

Wills treating one of the local monks who came to see...praying he 'sees' the goodness and love of Jesus and comes to know Him! 

One of the sweet villagers enjoying his new specs!  You should have seen him jump for joy and smile from ear to ear when he first put the glasses on! 

One of the sweet villagers enjoying his new specs!  You should have seen him jump for joy and smile from ear to ear when he first put the glasses on! 

Thanks for praying over us during this team!  We sent the team back to the states a few days ago and are now working with our interns at our orphanages in Thailand and Burma.  We’d appreciate your ongoing prayers as we work here and then welcome the next team to Cambodia in just a few days.  God is so good and we are just so amazed to be able to see His work firsthand!

Grace…

Karla

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Fog Lifting

Thank you for praying for us and our team out here.  I have keenly sensed your prayer covering and have been so very thankful for your concerted efforts to pray over issues, even though you didn’t know what they were.  Thank you, prayer team!  And thank you to many who emailed and sent encouraging words!  You have no idea how much those words have meant to my spirit while we’ve pushed through the fogginess these past several days.  I feel as though the fog has lifted in tremendous ways.  God has been at work and I’m so thankful for His clarity, understanding and wisdom.  Again, thank you for praying.  

This week, our team has been very busy putting on a Bible school (VBS) for the children enrolled in our LightBridge school in the village.  Complete with Bible lessons, games, crafts, snacks, and lots of giggles and playing with the team, the kids have had a blast and are quite tired out from all the activity.  Our team is also quite tired and has been struggling with stomach issues.  Although a common problem, it’s no fun for anyone!   I’d appreciate your prayer covering for our team’s health struggles as we continue in the next few days.  

Ty found a sweet little friend!

Ty found a sweet little friend!

Coupled with the VBS, we’ve also been so blessed to conduct the village’s first-ever eye clinic.  Two eye doctors from the USA, Wills & Melissa Vanray, collected glasses and prepared in countless ways to bring an official eye clinic to our village.  Many of you sent or gave used eye glasses for this project.  I just can’t tell you how incredible it has been to watch this clinic in action each and every day!  Wills and Melissa and their team have seen over 200 patients so far!  The smiles on the faces of adults and kids who can now see has been absolutely priceless!  

Wills Vanray caring for one of the eye clinic patients. 

Wills Vanray caring for one of the eye clinic patients. 

John Guthrie and Neva Carlson doing initial vision testing.

John Guthrie and Neva Carlson doing initial vision testing.

Several on our team have also been working hard to collect sponsor updates on the children in our school who are sponsored and the ones who, prayerfully, will be.  They have spent hours and hours interviewing children and have stayed the course faithfully updating as many children as possible. 

Sponsorship team gathering updates on school kids.

Sponsorship team gathering updates on school kids.

What a privilege it has also been to send out a small census team each day to gather census information about the village.  This information is hugely beneficial to us as a ministry as we seek to come alongside the village in meeting needs and planning for future development out here.  

VBS parachute games! 

VBS parachute games! 

And the final group ministering this week is our LandMine Design team working with the ladies in our job creation program.  Teaching new designs for the jewelry as well as leading Bible lessons and working through relational issues has been pretty consuming.  But, it’s also been very good.  We just love what God is doing in the lives of these precious women.  

In the midst of the various teams, we've also had ongoing medical treatment happening for the minor scrapes, cuts and infections that are so rampant out here.  Lots of cleaning of wounds and bandaging up of injuries happens throughout our entire team ministry. 

Madeline & Molly treating kids at our makeshift medical clinic.

Madeline & Molly treating kids at our makeshift medical clinic.

Thank you again for praying!  I’m excited to share more stories in the days ahead as our month in Cambodia/Thailand/Burma continues!  How very thankful I am for your prayer covering!  

Grace…

Karla


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Pray!!

Hi Prayer Team…

It’s early Friday morning in Cambodia and I am writing to ask you to be praying.  As I wrote about in my last prayer blog, the fog has been thick for me out here.  On some levels, the fog has lifted a bit; in others, it has become even more dense.  The team has been incredible and is doing such good ministry.   However, there are some other significant issues happening on the ground here that seem to be rooted in strong and significant opposition from the enemy.  Unfortunately, I can't go into the details.  But I know we need even greater prayer coverage.  Would you pray with us?

Pray that we would be in step with the Lord and for His will for ministry in Cambodia.  Pray that we would hear His voice clearly.  Pray for grace for those on the ground to sense His presence with them and trust in the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Pray against confusion, miscommunication and mistrust.  Pray for understanding, wisdom and forgiveness.  Pray that God’s Kingdom would be advanced and no other.  

Thank you for covering us.  We recognize our constant need for Jesus in this work.  

Grace…

Karla

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The Fog

This morning was foggy in Cambodia, at least for me.  I was awakened to a pounding on my door that startled me from a deep slumber caused by the sleeping drugs I had taken the night before.  I had missed a meeting and was late for breakfast.  Yea, jet-lag can be brutal!  I was awake, but the fog was thick in my mind.  I hate that feeling. 

And it seemed like the fog just wouldn't lift no matter how many cups of coffee I drank.  It continued as I listened to issues from our on-the-ground managers and prayed with them about how to best handle the problems they are facing in our programs.  The fog didn't clear as we arrived at the village and saw that the water tanks are empty after a long dry season, leaving no drips for the children in our school to wash their hands, much less drink.  The haze intensified as I learned of issues with the bio-sand water filtration units at the villager's homes.  To be honest, it seemed that everywhere my eyes looked, I saw the fog.  Not only did I see it, my heart felt foggy; my focus felt clouded; my hope carried a heaviness that hung with the humid misty morning dew. 

All day I struggled with the feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy about the work before us.  Throughout the day, I tried to shake the fog.  I wanted to see clearly.  God has been at work here in mighty ways; but I couldn't see it through the haze that hung.  I longed to have sharp focus that could address the issues with clarity.  But clarity seemed to allude my grasp and the fog settled into my mind and my heart for the day. 

I am ending the day still feeling foggy.  Would you pray with me about the fog?  I know it's strange.  I am asking the Lord to blow the fog away.  I am asking Him to meet us in the midst of the fog and for His Spirit to be present in dynamic ways as we make our way through the fogginess of ministry right now.  Would you pray with me about that...even if sounds strange or is something that sounds irrational...I don't feel very rational right now.

The rest of our team arrives on Tuesday from the cultural training they have been a part of in Phnom Penh.  Please pray that the Lord powerfully moves in and through our team as ministry begins in the village.  We are excited to host VBS for the children and conduct the village's first eye clinic. 

Thanks for praying friends!  I'm thankful for the fog and so look forward to seeing how God will use it out here. 

Trusting in the fog...

Karla

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Stellar people

I've spent the past couple of days with this group of stellar individuals!  They are our summer interns for LightBridge International and are a pretty amazing group through whom, I believe, God will do great things!  They came to Denver early to be a part of our training for our summer teams to Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. 

I'm typing this minutes before we depart for the airport, early Friday morning, to begin our journey with 28 other team members (total of 35 from the USA) to Cambodia.  Will you pray for us?  Please pray for safe flights without delays or cancellations.   Also, pray for healthy bodies as we begin a month of serving together. 

There will be more updates to come!!  Can't wait to see what God has in store for this group and the rest of our teams this summer!  Thank you for praying over us as we begin!

So grateful for you...

Karla 

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Rules

I'm not one who likes rules too much.  Growing up, rules became frustrations to me.  And often times, they were meant to be broken.  I know...not a Godly perspective, but honest! 
In the past few weeks, we've had to establish some rules for our job creation program in Cambodia, LandMine Design (www.landminedesign.org).  I'm learning some things about rules even now...

Running a job creation program is...well...it's a lot of work.  None of us at LightBridge have business backgrounds.  None of us began this work with a vast understanding about development in a third world country.  By God's grace, much has been done and we've seen some pretty amazing progress.  We're learning a lot and daily realize how much there is still to learn in this work.  Case in point?  Establishing policies for a productive workplace in our job creation program. 

  During our latest trip to Cambodia, we worked with the women in our program to establish some rules for their work environment.  At their request, we set up contracts so that expectations and requirements were consistent and fair for each one.  The contracts included the consequence of losing a job should an offense happen too much.  Seemed like a great idea that would benefit all of the women, both current and future. 

One rule involved being late to work.  A consistent problem for one specific lady, we had to pull her aside to give her a stern warning.  She received it with a graceful and respectful attitude; and then shared how she didn't have a watch or clock so she was telling time by watching the sun.  She asked for forgiveness and promised to do better at watching the sun so she wouldn't be late anymore. 

This probably seems like no big deal to the normal reader.  To me, it was yet another reminder of the unexpected challenges that come up as we continue with this work.  Understanding the reason she was late gave me pause.  In fact, I felt like we were being pretty demanding and unruly bosses.  We set the 'being on time' rule without thinking about whether the women had the resources to follow this rule.  What seems like perfectly normal policies in a first world culture may not transfer as easily as it seems in a culture where telling time is based upon following the sun.  Who knew that we'd have to consider things like this as development of this village continues?!

New watches for our LandMine Design ladies...

New watches for our LandMine Design ladies...

Two of my staff, Kristie and Amreitha, are headed back to Cambodia this week.  They will be bringing something special for the ladies -- watches!   Not just any watches, solar-powered watches so that the ladies won't have to figure out how to replace batteries from a minefield! They will continue with training for this program as well as advancing all the initiatives that are happening out there. 

Amreitha successfully obtaining her international driver's license before leaving for Cambodia this week. 

Amreitha successfully obtaining her international driver's license before leaving for Cambodia this week. 

Kristie with our LandMine Design ladies in Cambodia!

Kristie with our LandMine Design ladies in Cambodia!

Would you join me in praying for safety, protection from the enemy, and health for these two?  Also, please pray for wisdom as they continue working with the MineField Village?  Please pray for clarity and understanding as they proceed to work through the new policies for LandMine Design.  More importantly, would you pray for receptive hearts as they share and teach about God's love and His Word with these precious villagers.  Evangelism, discipleship and development work doesn't just happen; it happens because God is moving.  He is attentive to our prayers.  Join me in praying, would you? 

Grateful for you...

Karla

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I Can See the Leaves...

I remember when we realized our oldest son, Caleb, couldn't see very well.  He was five years old when he had his very first eye exam.  Results showed that he definitely needed glasses which we promptly ordered. 

A week later, as we drove away from the eye doctor's office with the new glasses, Caleb sat in the back seat wearing those new specs and chattering about all the things he could clearly see.  "Mom, I can see the leaves!"  I turned to look at his smiling face and asked him about it.  His response was so cute:  "With these glasses, I can see the leaves on the trees from here.  Before, the leaves looked like shadows unless I was up close to the trees."  What a fun moment for him to have the ability to really see clearly for the first time in his life. 

Caleb with his cute Harry-Potter-style specs!

Caleb with his cute Harry-Potter-style specs!

This coming June, one of our LightBridge teams will include two ophthalmologists.  This husband and wife eye-doctor-duo are heading up plans to conduct the very first eye exam clinic for the children in our school.  Side note about this couple is that the husband, Wills, is Cambodian and survived the Killing Fields as a child.  Truly remarkable story.  Anyway, he and his American wife, Melissa, have such a heart for Cambodia and especially our little MineField Village.  They are working hard to prepare for the examinations and have begun collecting used glasses to give to the children who need them. 

In all the years we've worked at the village, I've never seen one child wearing glasses.  The villagers living there are far too poor to have the luxury of doctor's visits or eye examinations, much less to purchase eye glasses.  It makes me wonder just how many struggle to see the leaves on trees, or the writing on the chalkboard at school.  Maybe their eye sight is even worse than that...but they've never known otherwise. 

This summer, will be a summer of really fun change for the kids in our school.  Can you imagine how many kids might be able to see things they've never seen before because they are given a simple pair of appropriately prescribed glasses?  I honestly cannot wait to watch it all unfold.  I cannot wait to see the looks of surprise on these sweet kid's faces as they proudly wear their new glasses and see things for the very first time! 

Would you thank the Lord with me for the ways He has arranged for all of this to happen?  Would you also consider joining us in this venture?  From now until May 1, 2015, we will be collecting glasses of all sizes (especially children's) to bring to the village.  Our eye docs will identify the prescriptions on each pair and have the correct glasses ready to give to kids who need them.  If you have old glasses you'd like to donate, please drop them by our office or send them our way: 

PO Box 6007, Broomfield CO 80021

Finally, would you also join me in praying that the Lord would provide wonderful opportunities to share the gospel with these kids during this time?  Pray that the kids would see how a loving God loves them so much that He cares about their eye sight and sends a team to minister with them in this very specific way. 

I can't wait to share the stories this summer.  I'm praying many will be able to see the leaves (and begin to understand the love of the Creator of those leaves)...for the very first time! 

Grateful for leaves!

Karla

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He Even Cares about Teeth...

It didn't seem like a big deal to me when Laura Prather, one of the children's workers at our church, asked me if there was something their children's church could collect to help with our school in the MineField Village.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm so thankful for folks like Laura who resonate with our work and actively seek to support it in all kinds of crazy and wonderful ways.  That's a big deal!!!  What wasn't such a big deal was figuring out what they could collect.  After a quick thought process, I mentioned that our kids in the village always need toothbrushes and paste.  Dental hygiene is pretty non-existent there. 

Laura took up the charge and arranged for the kids in our church to collect bags full of toothbrushes and pastes.  I brought these items with me on our trip last month.  The day before our departure, one of my teammates, Cathy Wilson, emailed to see if she could bring a bunch of toothbrushes that her dentist had donated.  Of course, I gave her the thumbs up...but didn't tell her about the toothbrushes I was also bringing.  Little did I know that God was knitting together an even better thing than what I could see on the surface. 

I hadn't shared with our LightBridge staff about this little side thing that Laura and the children had done.  I simply brought all the items to the village.  Once in Cambodia, Amreitha (our LightBridge staff who, by the way, lives in Michigan) shared with me a couple things that a friend of hers (in Michigan) gave her to bring to the village.  She laughed at how crazy these things were and wasn't sure how we would use them.  Then she pulled out a huge fake    mouth -- with teeth, gums and all.  Additionally, she brought an enormous toothbrush to go along with the teeth.  We laughed at how big they were and how ridiculously out of place it seemed in our little village.  

Then, I shared with Amreitha about the toothbrushes and pastes that I had brought with me as well as the ones Cathy brought to give out to the kids.  We didn't know what the other had brought, but God knew! 

Team-member, Sharon Dunnigan, using the 'big mouth' to teach our village kids about oral hygiene!  

Team-member, Sharon Dunnigan, using the 'big mouth' to teach our village kids about oral hygiene! 

The thought popped into my mind:  God cares even about teeth!!!  Yes, the same God who knows the very number of hairs on our heads also cares about teeth!  I sat back amazed to know that God would arrange for three people to bring items that we didn't know related to each other.  These items arrived at the village together, at the same time, from three completely different sources.  I'm not sure that we could have planned it out any better! 

What joy it was to have a teaching time with the school children that next day where we were able to teach them about how to brush their own teeth.  Using that ridiculously out of place mouth, we were able to thoroughly explain how to brush teeth and give the kids their first lesson on oral hygiene.  Following the teaching time, we handed out toothbrushes and pastes to each and every kid in our school.  

What a great organizer God is!!!  In His compassion for these little kids (who often get abscessed teeth which cause such terrible pain), He arranged for our team to bring all the needed items to teach and hand out supplies so they could begin caring for their own teeth.  We had no idea what the other was bringing.  We didn't need to!  God took care of the details, supplies, and teaching aids to show His love to these kids.  Yes, He even cares about teeth!! 

Would you join us in praying for the kids in our village?  They are learning so much, but the most important is learning about the love of the One who created them and their little teeth!  We are so thankful to work with you in sharing the message of Jesus with these kids...and helping them know how to care for their teeth as well.  Thank you for joining with us! 

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The Definition of Freedom

As an American, I have a very clear definition of freedom that includes:

  • The power or right to act, speak, or think as one without hindrance or restraint;
  • The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved;
  • The state of being physically unrestricted and able to move easily;

Today, I understood a deeper definition from the life of a refugee who is giving her life away…and has been for 22 years.    

Ga Bleu is the orphanage director of the orphanage her mom started 22 years ago, inside a refugee camp along the Thai/Burma border.  Currently, there are 26 children in her care living  along with 50,000 other refugees.  They have found refuge and safety from the war in their home country of Burma.  This camp has existed for nearly 40 years.  The reality is not comprehensible to me.  How do you live in a refugee camp, behind barbed wire for 40 years? 

Ga-Bleu and her adoring husband, Manow

Ga-Bleu and her adoring husband, Manow

Ga-Bleu fled with her family to this refugee camp when she was 11 years old.  She’s now 33, so she has spent 22 years as a refugee.  Meanwhile the longest running civil war on the planet continues to be waged against tribal/ethnic minorities who have inhabited the jungles inside Burma.  For 60 years, the Burmese military junta has sought to rid the country of these minorities, burning villages, raping, killing, and savagely attacking defenseless villagers.   Don’t believe me?  Google it…read about it…learn about what is happening here.  A good place to start is www.freeburmarangers.org.   I am realizing that part of our role in this work is to help give visibility to the horrific war that has no end in sight.  It is a war Americans know little to nothing about….yet, it is happening.

Back to Ga-Bleu’s story.  In February, the Thai government will begin a census work (of sorts) of the refugees currently in the camps here.  It is believed that the Thai’s will begin deporting refugees (close to 150,000 scattered in camps) back to Burma soon.  With that reality approaching, Ga-Bleu has been preparing for the children in her care to return to the country from which they fled.  We came to visit her orphanage and also accompany her to the new location she is preparing inside Burma. 

While I can’t go into details about where or even how we went to the new location, I want to tell you what I learned about freedom.  We visited the new location, saw the lives of the villagers, witnessed the poverty and isolation.  They live in a jungle.  The nearest town is a three-day walk away.  They grow their own rice, fruit and vegetables.  They hunt their own meat.  They survive in the jungle, without knowledge of a world beyond their own.  Our visit was the first by white people, which was evident by the fear and tears of the village children upon seeing us.  It is in this new location that Ga-Bleu is preparing to move. 

Inside the new large hut/home Ga-Bleu has already built.

Inside the new large hut/home Ga-Bleu has already built.

I’m amazed to know that Ga-Bleu and the children in her care are moving to a place so remote, so detached from the outside world.  To me, it feels nothing like freedom.  But to Ga-Bleu, it is a freedom she hasn’t known for 22 years.  She will be exchanging life inside a refugee camp for life inside the jungle…

  • Barbed wire for expansive wilderness
  • Safety for potential attack from militants
  • Guaranteed rice rations for rice crops that may not produce
  • A system of commerce for living entirely off the land
  • Electricity and clean water for neither
  • Easy access to medical care for tribal remedies

Ga-Bleu and her kids will be living entirely off the land that the jungle provides and to her, that is freedom.  She would rather live with the possibility of attacks (which seem to be pretty minimal of a possibility) than remain behind barbed wire where the children in her care are not legally permitted to leave.  She would rather return to her country where she can help educate her own countrymen and prepare them for whatever the future holds than remain confined to a refugee camp. 

Freedom to Ga-Bleu includes an enormous responsibility that she carries like a mantle -- with dignity and humility.  She recognizes that God has placed a burden on her heart to return to HER country, to educate HER people, to care for HER countrymen, to provide safety for orphaned children from HER nation, and to be a part of hope for change for HER homeland. 

The pathway leading up to the new home.

The pathway leading up to the new home.

I don’t understand this kind of freedom, but I am so immensely honored to work with this faithful woman who does.  Would you join me in praying for Ga-Bleu and the children currently in her care as well as the orphans that will soon flock to her home in Burma?  Pray for wisdom, provision, safety and clarity as Ga-Bleu prepares their new home.  Pray that we are able to work out the new details of support for her and for her work as we continue.  We are honored to continue partnering with her in caring for the orphan and the poor from their new home in Burma. 

Grace…

Karla

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Memory...

Expecting blank stares this morning, I began my Bible lesson with the ladies who had gathered.  This past November, I had taught from Matthew 8 and decided I would continue teaching the things God has been working in my heart from this part of His Word.  The ladies in our job creation program (LandMine Design) plus several others had joined for our teaching time.  I casually asked if anyone remembered the story that I taught on back in November.  To my surprise, Volek immediately raised her hand and began telling the story as if she was reading it word for word from the Bible.  As she shared the story, I'm certain my mouth was hanging open, shocked at how well she remembered every detail.

We went on with the rest of the Bible lesson and plans for the day.  It was a really good and full day!  Tonight, I can't help and be amazed by Volek's memory.  Sure, it's impressive that she could remember a little lesson from two months ago.  But what tugs at my heart even more is the power of God's Word to hit its mark, especially in a place where people are so very hungry for it! 

Preparing to teach the lesson this morning, I happened to read these verses about Jesus:  "When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  He said to his disciples, 'The harvest is great, but the workers are few.  So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into His fields." (Matt. 9:36-38).  I'm seeing these words come to life in the hearts and longings of our villagers.  The hunger to learn about God is palpable here.  It's as if I'm seeing a new and deeper hunger that really hasn't been there before.  Or perhaps I haven't noticed it as strong as I do now.  

So tonight, I'm asking the Lord who is in charge of the harvest to send more workers to His fields.  Would you join me in praying this over our little village out here?  I see confusion and helplessness in our villagers.  But, I also see hope and longing in their eyes.  Some of them already know Jesus and are so very hungry to know Him more deeply.  Some are just tasting His goodness and discovering a thirst they didn't know existed in their souls.  All have a longing to know more...to grow...to deepen...to discover! 

Thank you for journeying with me.  Thank you for praying.  Thank you for asking the Lord of the Harvest to provide His workers here. 

Teaching this morning (with a few kid helpers!)

Grace...

Karla

 

 

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