ARMED & DANGEROUS
Welcome to the 2nd annual LightBridge Non-Event! We’re so glad you’re here! We truly are honored that you stopped by and hope that you join us each day, from October 20-27.
DAY 8 - OCTOBER 27
Not too late
Can you imagine the conversations we'll be having one day? Maybe that day will be far from now and even after our time on the earth, but we can imagine each of you, partners, donors, those who chose to participate this week with us in this event saying...
"One time, I read a collection of stories that compelled me to do something. It compelled me to participate and give on behalf of children I never knew personally, and yet, I cared so deeply for. Little did I know back then that by giving to build a school in Burma and Cambodia, it would educate today's future president that ended the horrific war in Burma! Or educated the first woman doctor that grew up on a MineField in Cambodia!"
Can you imagine how great that day will be?!!!
We don't say these things to brag about us or you; but to recognize what God is doing and continuing to do through individuals who generously and sacrificially give. Because we understand that for many of you participating this week is a sacrifice; an offering to the Lord that in turn will arm children to become difference makers in their corners of the world.
This imagination exercise simply reminds us that our giving, our investment of building these schools and educating children isn't about money as much as it is the nation changing realities that await.
This week, you've read stories of children who had never seen a crayon before being educated up to third grade. You've heard about war-torn orphans in Burma, who within the dangers of Burma are moving back to their home country hoping to be educated and make a difference. You've heard about a little boy who went from having a blood disease death sentence to the miracle working power of God to save his life so that he could go to school, be a normal kid and become an adult that loves Christ.
We’re so thankful to share that we have raised enough funds for one school building. Thank you to all who have donated and prayed with us this far! There’s still one more school that needs to be built.
We’re praying and trusting for another $18,000 today to reach our ultimate goal for this non-event.
It’s not too late to give! Join us and donate for the completion of the second school. Thank you for your partnership and faithfulness to see this through with us.
A VIDEO FROM THE DIRECTOR - KARLA TILLAPAUGH
DAY 7 - OCTOBER 26
The Great Commission
I'll never forget the answer to the question I posed to Ga Bleu, director of Jury's Orphanage located in Burma.
During a scouting trip to Burma to see where the new orphanage would be located, I asked her, "What is the future for these orphans in Burma?"
I had to ask because the realities of these orphan's lives is much different than the orphans we shared about earlier this week. In Burma, a country STILL at war, a country still dominated by authority killing ethnic tribal people, what really was the future for these kids? Aren't their lives constantly at risk? There is no guarantee for their safety, no protection, no rest in my heart that they would be okay.
Ga Bleu's answer was simple, "They will become teachers, doctors and ministers of the Gospel.
They will help those who are still alive in neighboring villages in Burma."
It was in this moment that I realized Ga Bleu had no other plan for these orphans than the same one Christ gave to each of us - "to go and make disciples of all nations." None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, whether we live in a first world nation at peace or a third world nation at war. Ga Bleu's heart for these children was to arm them with strength and power through education to fulfill the great commission! Her deep understanding of Christ led her to none other than Jesus' original mission for these children, which is to share His Gospel and make disciples. Ga Bleu understood that Plan A for expanding God's Kingdom on the earth is each of us, including these beautiful orphans, no matter their difficult circumstance. She never lost site of this call - all she was able to see is what God COULD DO through each of them. Arming these orphans, ones who've lost their very own mothers and fathers, with an education of reading, writing and math in addition to an education about Jesus Christ, was really the only answer to my question.
That answer immediately changed my hopeless heart to a heart that began dreaming about the possibilities! Let's really think about this...
What happens when children, the ones with the most innocent faith, begin to be armed with education? What about when they have an understanding that their purpose is to be the very nation-changers their nation needs? What happens when these children become adults who care about their own people, the ones that are being oppressed and the ones that are oppressing? What happens when they learn to forgive and love and begin shaking the very foundation of evil in their society? I'll tell you what happens....
They become dangerous.
These very children could change the future story of the nation of Burma; change it's history and it's course entirely.
All we're being asked to do is build a school. A school that would arm these children to become difference makers and influencers.
How can we not join GaBleu in this vision? The money being raised this week for Jury's orphans has HUGE implications!
This school will be built in the middle of a hot zone, exactly where we as followers of Jesus Christ want to be building schools! This school will not only bring education to Jury's orphans but it will educate village children from around theregion. It will arm each child with education that can pull that nation out of war and poverty. It starts here, with the investment of children.
We don't send soldiers into a battle without armor. So too, we arm these children for battle: A battle for their nation's peace. Education is the first and crucial step.
Don't miss out on the opportunity you have this week to be apart of this. I'm telling you, it's one of the most amazing efforts we can participate in. Your giving is valuable to the hearts and minds of children who, I believe with all my heart, can change the world.
Director of Advocacy
JURY'S ORPHANAGE - BURMA
The orphans of Jury's are refugees from the longest civil war in history. Most of these orphans belong to the Karen ethnic group - of whom hundreds of thousands have been killed in the conflict which started in 1949. Ga Bleu, the leader of Jury's Orphanage is Karen and has lived inside of the refugee camp for many years. She fled her home in a terror with her family when she was young, praying they would not be found and killed by the Burmese army. After several days of running for her life through the jungle after her village was attacked and burned to the ground, she finally reached a refugee camp in a country that begrudgingly allows the Karen people and other tribal groups to stay. As a refugee family, they had nothing except the clothes on their backs. Instead of caring only for themselves - a very understandable reaction in such a horrifying situation, Ga Bleu's parents were moved with compassion for the many orphans of this terrible conflict entering the camp daily. There was hardly any food to feed them, but her parents took them in and trusted God with the details. God came through time and again, and even when food was scarce, there was enough for every mouth. The number of orphans depending on Ga Bleu's family climbed steadily, and there were often as many as 50 children living in what became Jury's Orphanage.
Ga Bleu was 29 years old when her mother's heart condition worsened, forcing her parents to seek medical asylum in the United States.
When this happened, Ga Bleu did one of the most extraordinary things I've ever heard of - instead of leaving with her parents for the comfort of America, she stayed. She decided to tie her fate to that of the many orphans who had found a family at Jury's Orphanage, and stay to care for them. I remember her passionately saying, "These are my brothers and sisters. My place is with them, to take care of them. We trust God for all that we need". The level of Ga Bleu's faith in God has been an arrow to my heart on more than one occasion. She trusts God with an intimacy and quiet ferocity that I am in awe of.
Ga Bleu has always desired to move back to Burma with the orphans in her care. Though it continues to be a country at war, it is their home. In discussions with our staff, she was never sure when that move would be right. Then, we started to hear that the Thai government was considering sending all of the refugees back in Burma, and closing the refugee camps. This was a major catalyst in the decision to move ahead with plans to relocate Jury's Orphanage. The first step was to construct a dorm for all of the orphans to live in. Thanks to generous LightBridge donors, Ga Bleu was able to save and raise enough funds to construct this building. It is the first step in their move back to Burma.
The next step is a school. Ga Bleu showed us the site during our time in Burma in June. It will be just behind the orphanage - a short walk up the steep hill near the river. It impacted my heart to witness many of the poor villagers from the surrounding area come to see Ga Bleu, and to talk to her about education, and how they desire, more than anything, to see their children educated. To see their children rise up with the hope and opportunity that education brings. To see that hope in their eyes, instead of despair.
DAY 5 - OCTOBER 24
SUCCESSS IN EDUCATION
Nine years ago, our little organization had our beginnings. With great hope, and a fair amount of fear, we began engaging individuals to care for orphans half a world away. Back then, the oldest child in our orphanages was in high school and the youngest, just a baby. We were delighted to join with compassionate people who became sponsors for these children. Sponsors who had a like-minded vision for seeing them grow into adulthood to be influencers for Christ in their corner of the globe.
Fast forward nine years and the work God has involved us in spans from Orphan care to community development, educational systems, clean water initiatives, feeding programs, health and hygiene training, and job creation. How deeply honored we are to journey with many of you, our friends, donors, champions, and sponsors, in following God’s call to care for ‘the least of these’.
So what does success look like in our world of caring for the Orphan and the Poor? Sometimes, I’m asked that question and it often catches me off guard. To be honest, the successes we’ve seen in this work have come about frequently in spite of our best efforts…as well as our well-processed decisions, the grit of hard work, outright misunderstanding of needs, or at times poorly executed plans. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing the work God has done; rather, honestly appraising success. The truth of the matter is we aren’t experts in raising children (neither our own nor the orphans and poor children we care for). But, God has entrusted this work to our oversight. He has given us the vision to engage with people, like you, in carrying out this mission of caring for the Orphan and the Poor.
What does success look like?
In the middle of writing this post, I took a break and visited my personal FaceBook page where a slew of pictures filled my feed. Thanks to social media, I’m friends with many of our orphans in Thailand. This past Saturday, one of these sweet orphans posted pictures to my page of the special event that happened that day. These shots have become my pictures of success in finishing this post. This is Lema, beaming with pride and looking so lovely in her graduation gown. Lema just graduated from college with a bacherlor’s degree in community development. What you don’t see in these photos is the story that led up to this amazing accomplishment.
You don’t see the fact that Lema was an exploited child and came to live at Huen Nam Jai Orphanage in Chiang Mai, Thailand when she was just nine years of age.
* You don’t see her shame when she began 1st grade as a nine year old because she was never given the freedom to learn before she came to the orphanage.
* You don’t see her complete lack of confidence as she struggled for years with a learning disability drastically slowing her academic progress.
* You don’t see the intense effort it took her to stay the course in school, even though she was years behind.
* You don’t see the heartache at being an orphan, yet searching to understand the intense love of her Savior.
* You don’t see the birth of her dreams to complete a degree and have a job from which she may sustain herself.
* You don’t see the heart of an orphan who began believing God had a plan for her life.
The success I see in these pictures is truly overwhelming when I remember the things you can’t see. For it is in what is unseen that showcases the beauty and celebration of the amazing success Lema achieved last weekend.
The timeliness of these photos couldn’t be more appropriate as we host the LightBridge Non-Event this week. For our staff, sponsors, donors and prayer warriors, pictures like Lema’s help give visions for success. Lema is just one of several LightBridge Orphans who have completed college and through whom God has worked to become armed and dangerous in their worlds. Success can be seen in lives transformed by Jesus and armed with education. I believe that the transforming work of Jesus is the key to success in any one’s life. I also believe that education unlocks the potential for incredibly dangerous individuals to impact, influence, and change their communities for the Kingdom of God.
This week, we’re raising funds to build two new schools in two different locations - in two entirely different countries. Our goal of $50,000 is frighteningly ambitious. What we’ve seen as success in educating at our orphanages in Thailand is in the process of being successful in Burma and Cambodia as well. The work is far from over. Together, we have an opportunity this week, TODAY, to empower children in two different countries to be armed with an education that can impact generations in both countries. I hope you’ll join us in arming these children to be dangerous ambassadors for Christ who make enormous impacts on their countries.
Oh, and I have one more success story to share…take a look at the video below. How we celebrate the ways God has worked and continues to work in lives like Japu.
DAY 4 - OCTOBER 23
FEED THEIR BODIES, FEED THEIR MINDS
The other day as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, I saw the sweetest picture a mom had posted showing the lunches she had prepared for her kids to take to school that day. She had written a small note on the outside of each brown bag and a heart to represent her love and thoughts for her kids during their day at school.
Something all of us had growing up in school. Whether your mom prepared it for you at home or you ate cafeteria food, we could always count on lunch time.
Soon after LightBridge International built the very first school in the MineField Village in Cambodia, we began to hear stories from our Principal and teachers that the children were having a difficult time focusing in class. Then they said four words that broke our hearts:
The kids are hungry.
You see education, although one of the greatest solutions to a generational cycle of poverty, only brought us to open our eyes a bit further to the needs in this village. We realized that many of the children attending the school we recently built needed more. Their bodies were too weak to sit in class for so many hours as their little tummies grumbled for food. Many of them were not getting the proper nutrition at home, let a alone, a new place called school.
We had to do something. A situation like this causes you to wrestle with the heartbreaking fact that a basic need, such as food, is what's keeping these children from learning, growing, and simply having the ability to be kids. Learning the alphabet, numbers, reading and writing began a process of making these kids armed and dangerous against poverty. It was just that...a process.
In 2013, LightBridge International built a kitchen right near the school building and a water source. We hired two cooks from the village, who needed jobs, and began cooking and feeding the school kids. Today, every child enrolled at school in the MineField village has the opportunity to eat. The first time we saw the kids with their bowls and spoons line up in front of the kitchen to get served a portion of rice and vegetable soup, our emotions got the best of us. What an awesome site to see! For many of the children, this lunch was the most nutritious meal of their day; for some, it was their only meal. One of the best parts of all of this? We've been able to purchase all the ingredients for the food that feeds 140 children from local grocers from inside this very village - helping to provide them business and sustainability.
Providing education for areas of poverty such as the MineField Village led us to needs and even solutions that were greater than we thought. Creating an avenue for education for children in the village, in turn, brought education to us. After the feeding program began, we became aware that some children, like everywhere in the world had vision impairments and needed glasses to see the chalk board. So last summer we set up a vision clinic just for school kids so they could be successful. The needs and solutions go on and on and yet, education, is where it all began.
The school in addition to a feeding program is how we are arming these children so that they can become dangerous to the cycle of poverty; armed to study well, graduate one day and become educated adults. In turn, making them dangerous as they now have what it takes to create change amidst their own culture, society and nation.
It has taken an army of partners, friends, and sponsors to run the school and feeding program in the MineField Village. We are so humble and grateful for each person who has joined us to make Kindergarten through 3rd grade and the feeding program a success. This week we're asking you to join this army. As more students enroll at school, the need for food is greater. Building another school and adding more grades, creates a greater demand for our lunch program. We're asking that you come along with us this week by generously giving to the cause of children, who for the first time are being educated and getting proper nutritious meals.
Director or Advocacy
Day 3 - October 22
SURVIVE TO THRIVE
I’ve never seen anyone look more tired or downcast. Chang How’s mother, Som Kim, would often come to us in despair, with tears streaming down her face. She was tortured by the reality she was helpless to get her son the medical care he needed for a rare blood disease that was slowly killing him. Doctors said he was too weak to survive the surgery he needed to repair his tiny body. Even if he could survive the surgery, the family did not have enough money for gas to get all the way to the hospital. The situation was hopeless with the added horror of having to watch a child die. Chang How’s disease had all of our hearts in a vice grip. We cried with him, we prayed with him, and we believed that God had more in store for this little boy.
And God did. Finally Chang How was proclaimed strong enough for surgery. God moved our hearts for this boy and his family, and through compassionate donors we were able to provide them enough funds to get to and from the hospital, and meals for the time they were there. Though Chang How had been cleared for surgery, the doctors still were not 100% optimistic. He had been sick for a long time, and they weren’t sure he would make it, but if they didn’t try the end was certain. We prayed fervently for Chang How as he was in surgery, and waited anxiously to hear the result. When the news came that he had made it through without complications, we headed to the hospital to rejoice with Som Kim, and to see still sleeping Chang How with our own eyes. I marveled at the reality God loves little Chang How enough to move Heaven and Earth to pull him through a blood disease, and even more than that, to connect our hearts to this precious family in the process.
If this was the end of the story, I think we’d all agree - it’s a good one. But it isn’t the end.
When Chang How returned to his village and regained his strength, the first thing he did was put on his backpack and march on his seven year old legs through the mud to school. Throughout his sickness, the thing that made him most excited was the thought of being able to attend school, just like his older sister.
I saw Chang How some time after this surgery - and I realized that I had never even seen him walk around. He had always been too tired. But now, his distended belly is a normal size, and he runs around with his classmates in front of the school getting into mischief, and making toys out of the mud.
The dream for the MineField Village is not simply that people would be able to survive - for the most part, they’re already doing that. I believe that God inserted us into this village so that the people He loves would have a chance to thrive.
Without education Chang How would have survived his disease, but his future would be somewhat bleak - struggling each day for enough food and money, defending his family against crooked debt collectors, and collapsing, exhausted into bed each night only to do the same thing all over again the next day. Because of Chang How’s access to education, he has a chance to thrive unlike anyone in his family ever has. He has a chance to be educated from a young age, which will open up a world to him that just five years ago was an impossibility.
God ensured that Chang How survived, and now, we get to join together to ensure that he thrives.
Third grade is not enough, survival is not enough. We have a chance to make a change so big it could alter the course of the history of Cambodia - together, we can arm children like Chang How and impact generations to come.
Day 2 - October 21
I first visited the MineField Village in Cambodia the summer of 2009.
An exploratory trip, our goal was to discover if this village was where God was leading us to begin working as an organization. We decided to host a little lesson for the 30-or-so children who starred wide-eyed at us from the moment we arrived. It was the first time white people had visited their remote village.
After our short Bible story, a coloring project seemed a fitting craft — a simple paper printed with the outline of a little person to color. We explained the craft, handed out the printed paper, crayons and markers, and then watched as the children sat and stared blankly back at us. We looked around and decided to explain the craft again demonstrating how to color their paper. Again, dark eyes just stared blankly back at us. I questioned our translator:
“Why aren’t they coloring? Do they not understand?” His response floored me: “Oh, they have never seen markers or crayons before; they don’t know how to color and they are afraid.”
Now I was the one starring blankly back at our translator.
How was it possible that this group of children, ranging in age from 3-12 years, had never seen...or held...or used a marker or crayon before? How could this actually be a reality in a world as advanced as ours?
It was a reality check, and was a pivotal point that God used to help us decide to follow His leading to begin working in the village.
That same trip, we held a 'town hall' meeting where we simply listened to the villagers share about the things they wanted help with the most. In a place that has no electricity, no running (or clean) water, little food, bamboo huts and dirt floors, their primary answer had nothing to do with the needs I saw most glaring. Instead, the villagers unanimously asked if we would come and educate their children.
They implored us: “Without education, our children have no hope for their futures. We long for them to have a future better than our own.”
What I realized during that trip was that I did not know a lot about community development, but I did know how to help a kid learn to hold and use a crayon. While I didn’t know how to set up a formal education system, I did know how to help teach a child how to write their name.
It was a simple crayon that held a contagion of hope in that first visit to the MineField Village. Six years later, God has provided for the establishment of a school to educate Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Today, we have the opportunity to add 4th & 5th grades and bring a new hope for ongoing education in this place that is so precious to the heart of God. The lovely picture being colored at this place isn’t complete. The crayon was the initial catalyst bringing a contagion of hope that is still at work and still waiting to be continued.
Director, LightBridge International
Day 1 - October 20
Why A Non-Event?
You may be wondering why we chose this kind of fund raising 'venue'. The answer is two-fold. Rather than spend funds on an actual banquet or black tie event held on one night in one specific location, we decided to utilize those precious resources directly to impact our on-the-ground ministries. Dollars can go a long way in third world countries like Cambodia and Burma. The second reason has to do with sharing the amazing stories of what God is doing in our locations and how He has been leading for His work to continue. We often are simply amazed by the ways God is working. Hosting a week-long event online provides a remarkable ‘venue’ from which to tell His stories over a series of days. What you will read and watch during these days are a collection of stories about God's work in expanding His Kingdom in far away places like Cambodia and Burma.
These are stories of what He's already done,
a launchpad and place for us to collectively dream and work towards what He can do as we powerfully move forward together.
Our theme for this year's Non-Event is Armed & Dangerous. Those words typically identify people who intend harm, or even death. At LightBridge, we began unpacking a different identity for these words. What if together, we defined them differently?
What if these terms were focused instead on arming the children in two of our locations, Jury’s Orphanage and the MineField Village, with the tools to be educated citizens who understand the reality of the love of their Creator?
What if the term 'dangerous' becomes the goal for empowering these children to be dangerous forces for good in their respective countries. We believe these children have the potential to become dangerous agents who change their families, their villages, and even their countries for the glory of God.
This week, we are taking a stand to partner with you in making these children armed and dangerous citizens for good in their worlds. I hope you’ll join us each day this week as we share the stories and invite you to be a part of creating a new, hopeful definition of armed and dangerous.
Thanks for joining us this week!
Director, LightBridge International
Take a look at the first part of a three part video - Armed & Dangerous
Two words, simply and effectively, communicate what LightBridge International is all about:
the Orphan and the Poor.
These same two words hold tremendous value because they represent specific identities for whom God calls each of us to care for - deliberately.