Change the Cycle - Glue Kid

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Change the Cycle - Glue Kid

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Cycle of poverty for Glue Kids

At five years of age, his body looks more like a three year old’s.  Working alongside his two older brothers, this little boy lives on the streets of Poipet.  They are part of the Glue kids: children who live on the streets and become enticed to glue addiction.  Older gang leaders capitalize on children like this little boy. They are the most vulnerable and can easily be influenced to sniff a substance that lets them escape the horrors of the street – for a while.  Once addicted, they will do anything to continue their high. On one of the most heavily trafficked borders on the globe, it’s not hard to imagine what they will do to get more glue. 

Abandoned by their dad, this little boy and his brothers are forced to beg – or ‘work’ – for money for the gang leaders as well as their drug addicted mother.  His reward? A bag of glue. 

 

Cycle of sustainability

I wish I could say this cycle is up and running on all cylinders.  It’s not! But I believe the first gear is engaged. First gear looks like this:  Evenings at the border between casinos where these children ‘work’, our indigenous workers and teams bring mats, food, little white boards and markers.  We put the mats down on the dirty ground and invite all the glue kids to come eat dinner. They come. They sniff their glue. They hug and kiss us very inappropriately…and we don’t have to wonder where they have learned to be so inappropriate.  They sit down, many right in our laps. We put the food on the mat, Cambodian style. Each child is given a bowl and spoon filled with delicious Khmer food. Before we eat, we sing a little song thanking the Lord for the food and these kids. Then we fold our hands and pray before the mess of eating begins.  When it begins, it is a mess! Starving children who, because of the glue addiction, don’t even know they are starving. After their bellies are full, we hand out white boards and markers and teach them a letter in the alphabet and give them a chance to practice writing the letter on their white board. Then, we share with them about a God who loves them so much.  A God who sees them. A God who cares. Our evening ends and the children return to their normal lives on the streets.

 

It’s hard.  Everything in me wants to fix the situation, to rescue each child.  But the work of sustainability here takes time. And the first step in the cycle is just sitting with precious Glue Kids. It includes inviting this little boy to enjoy his messy meal on my lap that becomes filled with rice and broth.  All the while, he kisses my cheeks and lips and hugs and holds onto me. It’s not a solution to the massiveness of the issue. But, it’s bringing the fragrance of Jesus onto a little mat in the middle of a dark place and allowing precious kids, like this little boy, to just sit on a lap of someone who cares, to eat a nutritious meal, to try writing letters, to pray, and to learn about a God who loves him.  It’s where sustainability begins for children like this. 

The next steps of the sustainability cycle here are yet to be.  We pray that the Lord will show us a path towards bringing these kids into foster families and then to our slums school where their future can become something much different than their current reality.

Would you pray with us over these precious kids?  Pray for God to somehow protect, even in this horrible darkness.  Pray for wisdom and strength for our indigenous partners working daily in the middle of such horrors.  Pray for ways of escape, even for just one child. And would you join us by giving TODAY? Your prayers matter!  Your gifts matter! They are offerings that bring the aroma of Christ and the reality of His redemption into dark alleyways where the stench of urine and glue threaten to envelope the Light of Christ.  It cannot, friends! Darkness is being overpowered by the Light of Christ. 

I hope you’ll join us in seeing even this hideous cycle of poverty change -- one step at a time -- into a cycle of life-giving, hope-filled sustainability because of the power of the Cross! 


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Change the Cycle - Vurn

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Change the Cycle - Vurn

Cycles of Poverty for Vurn

Vurn is a wife to a disabled man who cannot work.  They live in a village that sits on top of a former minefield.  Unable to find work in Poipet/Cambodia, Vurn did what many people we work with do.  She crossed the border illegally in search of work and found it on a Thai farm.  Hired as a harvester, Vurn worked 12-15 hours a day far from home. The promised pay was $10/day.  However, as many illegal workers in Thailand are treated, Vurn was given $1/day and told she had to prove herself for three months in order to earn her remaining share.  After three months of back-breaking work, Vurn was excited to receive her promised $9/hour pay. Her request was denied. Instead, Vurn’s employer threatened to report her to authorities as being illegal.  They demanded that she work an additional three months in order to get paid. Vurn was living as a trafficked human. 

I cannot tell you how many times I hear this same story repeated by countless Cambodians we work with.  You see, human trafficking happens in fields, in factories, in plantations, on ships, and in hotel rooms. The vulnerability to traffickers is an all too real reality for those stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty. Trafficking It enslaves everywhere and is just one another cycle in the vicious world of poverty. 

 

Cycle of sustainability

By God’s grace, Vurn was able to leave her trafficked situation, walking over 25 miles to return home without a cent.  She came to our program, Landmine Design and asked for a job. 

That was five years ago. 

In those five years, Vurn has been able to work for us, rolling beads and hand making lovely jewelry.  And she does this work from her own home where she can also take care of her husband and children. Together, Vurn and her husband have toiled and worked the land where they live (on top of a former minefield) and now grow potatoes in these fields.  They harvest them and sell in local markets along with bananas, papayas, coconuts and other vegetables. 

Today, they are also busy building their new home, on the land they own, next to land they farm.  They both love Jesus and talk about the ways He has provided, protected and redeemed their stories.  This is how God changes cycles of poverty into cycles of sustainability! It is happening and we are overwhelmed with joy to be part of seeing Him change these very cycles. 

Would you join us in thanking Jesus for His care and redemption of all areas of life – eternity, finances, relationships, slavery, health, homes, farms…EVERYTHING!  And would you consider joining us through your one-time, or monthly gift. God is redeeming and He is using His people to do a work beyond what we can imagine. I hope you will partner with us to see the ways God changes cycles for more families, like Vurn’s. Giving today goes directly to our LandMine Design program that creates cycles of sustainability for women like Vurn.


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Change the Cycle - Aya

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Change the Cycle - Aya

Change The Cycle - Aya

Aya sitting in front of her house where she pays 58% interest every month.

Aya sitting in front of her house where she pays 58% interest every month.

Cycles of poverty for Aya: 

Aya is a 43 year old widow living in the slums of Poipet along with her three children -- young men who quit school, when they were far too young, in order to begin working in construction.

Struggling to merely survive, Aya and her children work at anything they can, just to provide each morsel of food. For Aya – and so many like her -- poverty includes exploitation.  Her home was a shack made of grass and cardboard where she fought constantly against the wind and rain saturating and threatening to destroy her home and meager belongings. Out of desperation, Aya signed for a $1000 loan earlier this year, not fully understanding the interest each month was 58%.  With the money, she was able to build the home (pictured here) on stilts. 

Education was taken from Aya when she survived the Killing Fields as a child (read more about the killing fields here - Click Here).  She learned to sew in order to work in the terribly exploited sector of fast fashion.  Her old sewing machine is protected under the shelter of her new home. Without a car, Aya rides a bike to her boss and picks up as much jean fabric as she can, carrying it to her home to begin sewing shorts or pants.  She sews the hems, inseam, zipper, pockets, waistband – everything; and for each pair completed, she earns 9 Baht, or/equal to $.29cents.  On a good day, she can complete pairs and make a whopping $1.45…far less than $2 per day. 

Paying her loan each month costs $65.  If Aya worked all 30 days in the month, she would only make $43.50…far short of what she needs just to make her loan payment.

Aya is exploited by a loan shark charging 58% interest. 

She is exploited by a greedy boss hiring a desperate widow to do all the work. He earns twice what he pays Aya, profiting for doing none of the work. 

Without help and the opportunity to earn a dignified wage, Aya’s poverty would continue the to spiral. Poverty is like that. It doesn’t just stop at lack of money or food. The cycles churn unrelentingly, spiraling downward in hopelessness.

*  It causes children to leave school far too early to find menial labor so their hungry bellies can be filled.

*  It creates despair for moms who watch malnutrition destroy the children they have born.

*  It prohibits even the most critical medical care, when life is on the line.

*  It keeps families in unsafe homes (if you can even call a shack a home).

*  It destroys dreams.

*  It robs dignity replacing it with victimization.

*  And it never stops.

Cycles of sustainability for Aya: 

Meeting Aya and hearing her story, we knew we had to do something. Because of compassionate friends who gave and prayed, we were able to hire Aya into our job creation and education program, Landmine Design this year.  In addition to sewing textiles, which are lovely, Aya is also now learning about the God who provides. She is learning how to grow more in her relationship with Him. Thanks to caring donors, we were delighted to help Aya pay off her loan and work with her to create a budget with the dignified wage she is now earning in Landmine Design.

Poverty is still crouching at Aya’s door. But, we are seeing a new cycle take shape. It is the cycle of sustainability. It is empowering this widow to provide for her family and begin to dream of her future — something poverty NEVER allows. We are beyond grateful to watch this new cycle begin in Aya’s life and so many others. Would you pray with us for Aya? Pray for her to be wise in how she uses her income. Pray for her to grow in deep ways in her walk with Jesus. Pray for opportunity and education for her children. And thank the Lord with us for the ways He is changing the cycles for our precious friend, Aya. Would you take advantage of an opportunity to give toward Aya's story and women like her? Your funds are given directly to the sewing program Aya is apart of. Cycles of sustainability are becoming a true reality because of people just like you! 


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Short Term Missions and Why They Matter!!

Can I just speak frankly here?  As a non-profit organization hosting short-term mission teams, I have read more than my fair share of articles, books and posts speaking against short-term missions.  If I’m honest, I really am pretty weary of it.  This month yet another article was published with a strong stance against short term missions. Well…I simply can no longer not respond (and yes, all you English majors out there, I realize that is a double negative. So be it!). 

What I have read talks about the cost of short-term teams and how those funds could be much better utilized.  I have read how ineffective short termers are and how ‘real’ missions needs to be done by those living long term in their respective regions who are ‘trained’ specifically for such work.  I have read how disruptive short-term teams are to the ‘real work’ happening on the field.   I have read how short-termers take away from the focus of evangelism happening in the regions where they go.  I have read how team member’s lives aren’t changed. There is no shortage of negative content out there about short-term mission teams.  And it feels as though the baby gets thrown out with the bath water when it comes to short term missions.

In all the negativity, I guess I question the analysis.  I wonder what measuring stick they use in evaluating short term missions?  I wonder if God’s perspective is the same?  Does He rank the work of evangelism (an incredibly long and slow road in most areas of the world) as more important than the work of opening eyes (Christian as well as non-Christian) to the vast need and to call them to understand their responsibility of responding to it?  I wonder if He considers the day-in and day-out hard work of long term missionaries as more important than the awareness and education — or perhaps the beginning of a call — in missions a short-termer might receive?  Does Jesus view money spent on short-term teams as irresponsible and better used?  Or does He view that money as an investment in His great commission to go into all the world?  Does Jesus’ measuring stick elevate what is happening on the field long term as more important or of greater value than what happens in the hearts of people who see it for the first time and are changed forever? And what if changes only happen for a short time (in our limited estimation)? Is that not of worth to God?

You see, I don’t want to pretend to understand what is of more value to God.  But, what I know is that God is so vibrantly at work in both long term and short-term missions.  In my estimation, one is not more important than the other because I see God using both in amazing ways.  To see God work to bring people to Him all around the world is incredible!  To see Him work and wreck the hearts of people over the vast need they see is also so incredible!  To see Him use a short term experience to break someone’s heart and call them to respond (whether in a long term calling, or to pray, or to give, or to share about the experience) is remarkable.  And who am I (or you, or really anyone) to say one is more important than the other.  I believe both are wildly important and enormously used by God to expand His Kingdom throughout the entire world…and in our hearts!

While I know God works in my heart in America, I must confess that I have often seen him work massive things in my heart while I’m on another continent.  More than a few times, I have asked God why He had to take me all the way to Cambodia or Thailand or Japan or Germany or…wherever, to teach me what He wanted to teach me.  I have often complained to Him that I would love it if He could do His work while I’m in my own country.  In my estimation it would be much more cost effective, less disruptive, and a way better use of time and resources for Him to do His work right in my home.  While that does happen sometimes, I can point to many times His working of deep issues in my heart has happened while I’m far from the comforts of my own comfortable home. 

And perhaps that’s part of why I believe short-term missions are so important.  I can confidently say in every single team, I see God do a work in the hearts of people.  It’s a work that simply can’t or doesn’t happen when we’re in our comfortable western worlds.  It happens because we are choosing to ‘go into all the world’.  It happens because we come face to face with a poverty not seen in even the poorest areas of the US — our poverty line in America begins 31 times over the global average. Did you hear that? Thirty-One Times!!! Seeing the kind of poverty we see in Cambodia (and so many other parts of the world) impacts us in ways we can’t imagine!

This past year, we hosted a parent’s meeting in our MineField Village school in Cambodia.  These parents are poor and live in grass huts, with no electricity or running water.  Their children go to our LightBridge school.  We asked them to share what they think is going well at school.  The things they shared were deeply encouraging to my heart.  But, one thing strongly stood out to me.  Without prompting, these parents brought up mission teams and how thankful they are for those teams.  I was truly so surprised and asked why they liked teams.  Several spoke of how exciting it is when teams come.  Their children love the programs and learn so much.  Their children come home and talk about teams and all they learned for months after the team leaves. 

And it hit me.  Short-term teams are indeed impacting for the team members.  But teams coming and hosting a VBS has also left a profound mark on this village and on the lives of children.  Not only are kids hearing (and responding to) the precious news of a Savior who loves them; their lives are being impacted.  And so are their eternities.  They are sharing of these things with their families as well.  These children have a childhood and it includes experiences of being loved, taught, tickled…of playing, crafting, learning, developing, and probably at least a dozen other things.  It’s part of the very fabric of their childhood and is something they remember with deep fondness and life-changing impact.

You see, without teams, these kinds of things simply cannot happen in our LightBridge world.  What teams bring is remarkable.  Our small staff of just a few people can’t possibly host a VBS with 150 kids.  Our limited staff can’t possibly run a de-licing clinic for over 100 children desperate for some relief.  Our modest staff can’t even remotely run English camps, or music camps, or health and eye clinics, or host so many other things short-term teams provide.

If I’m honest, our staff didn’t even know of paper beads before a short-term team member came and taught village ladies to roll beads (So grateful for you Inga!).  These village ladies are now full-time employed in our job creation program, Landmine Design — 27 of them!! And they are not only growing in their faith in Jesus, but they are also able to provide sustainably for their families. 

So, if you ask me, I couldn’t believe more in the power and effectiveness of short-term teams.  Yes!  They are a ton of work.  Yes!  They are costly.  Yes!  They disrupt the day-to-day work.  And YES!!  They are worth every dollar, every effort, every disruption because God uses them in powerful ways – both for the team members and for the work they are part of on the ground.

Friends, short term mission teams matter!! If you’re looking to serve, or would like to bring a team, to experience what God is doing in Cambodia, let’s talk!  We’d love to have you join us and experience it for yourself!! Email me at karla@lightbridgeonline.org to begin the conversation!

Grace,

Karla Tillapaugh

 

 

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New Team Member - Bunny

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New Team Member - Bunny

We at LightBridge are so happy to announce new members to our team! Bunny, his wife Socheat, and their two children!

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If you have ever been on a mission trip with LightBridge to Cambodia you have most likely met our bus driver Bunny (pronounced Boo - Nee). For years, Bunny has faithfully served our short-term mission teams. Bunny has a heart of gold. Even though we hire him simply to transport our teams while in country, he does so much more than that for our teams. He is always helping in our VBS’, translating for our teams, and helping with so many other logistics than just transportation. Bunny has also shown a commitment to the people in the minefield village over the years. 

Just last month, we were honored to invite Bunny and his family to come work for us at the team center in Poi Pet. This addition to our team brings someone who understands the Khmer culture, loves Jesus, and has a heart to serve the poor. We are so excited to have Bunny and his family on our team! 

Bunny has lived with his family in Phnom Penh (8 hours from Poi Pet) for most of his life. Most of Bunny’s extended family is also in Phnom Penh. This move to Poi Pet is a sacrificial act of following the Lord’s pull on their hearts. Uprooting their lives, in order to serve their fellow Khmer far away from home. Bunny and his family are becoming missionaries. Praise God for providing workers for the harvest! 

When Bunny and his family get settled in Poi Pet they will be helping us in a variety of ways:  living and keeping up the Team Center (where our short term teams stay when they come), overseeing parts of LBI’s ministry sites, and helping with our mission teams. We are excited that Bunny and his family will further God’s Kingdom in Cambodia!

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Right now Bunny has already moved up to Poi Pet and is living at the Team Center. His family is finishing up the school year and wrapping up details before they move up to Poi Pet with him. Will you join us in praying for this move? We are praying that as Bunny and his family are apart for this time, the Lord would bless them and help them have peace in the midst of missing each other. We are also praying that the move goes well and that everyone and everything arrives safely to Poi Pet. 

We are also asking our friends, especially those of you who know and love Bunny, to consider being a part of their support team.  To make the move, earn a small salary, and cover much needed ministry expenses is no small feat. They are working as missionaries and will be depending on a strong support team.  We’re working and asking the Lord to provide $1500 each month for Bunny and his family. Would you consider joining their support team? A monthly commitment in any amount would be such a blessing.  Along with this financial support, would you also commit to praying for Bunny and his family as they are in this season of transition and will be facing many challenges in this bold move for the sake of the Gospel?  Finally, would you just take a moment to thank God for His calling in their lives to His ministry? Thank God for their faithfulness in saying ‘yes’! And thank God for the ways He is already (& will continue) to use Bunny and His family for the work of the Kingdom in the months and years ahead.  In case you couldn’t tell, we’re so very excited!!  

You may use the link below to sign up and become part of Bunny’s support team. In the ‘additional information’ section, please let us know that your donation (one-time or monthly) is for ‘Bunny’s support team’ so we can designate it appropriately.  Thank you so much friends! We’re so excited to see all God has in store as Bunny’s family and you -- their support team -- partner to advance the Gospel in this corner of Cambodia!  

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Wear Her Story With Pride

Getting ready for my graduation – outfit sorted, shoes sorted and the finishing touch the landmine design necklace, fastened firmly around my neck. It’s not just something that finishes off my outfit, which it does do very well, but it has a beautiful and sentimental story behind it. 

Landmine design was first known to me when I was volunteering in Poi-Pet, it fascinated me. It took preventative action in supplying jobs for women who could be vulnerable to being trafficked and allowing them to work from home, whilst caring for their children WHILST providing beautiful jewelry for consumers far and wide. 

It was one of the first supply chains I had known where you could know the person who crafted the item. It left an impression and three years later that impression and a module I covered – material culture, lead me to focus my dissertation on this project. I had the honor to go to Cambodia and spend time with the women, they talked of their faith and their life change and most conversations had me welling up with awe and pure emotion. I wrote 12,000 words about my experience with the women so to say I reflected on my time there would be an understatement! 

Following back the commodity chain is something that I have studied this year and in most cases I have been confronted with the frustrations of not being able to get very far, but instead to be hit more times than not by story after story of devastation and scandal – of poor working conditions, political rife and exploitation. Our world is so very connected – every morning everything you do, is connected to hundreds maybe even thousands of people around the world. The tea that you brew has been grown, say in Sri Lanka it has benefitted some and burdened some it will have been involved in the politics and hardships – people have nurtured it and picked it to pay for their family – their food, their home. It will have been shipped and gone through the hands of different people with different stories to package it and check it.. the story goes on. But, the different things we interact with on a daily purpose we have no power or maybe no intention it seems to know who they affected. 

But we do have a responsibility as consumers. Landmine Design is a remarkable company in that you know with full security who made your item and what it has meant to them. This was a poignant moment for me to know that the necklace that has been the work of many minds had been made by one of the ladies I had spoken to, I had met her family and her children. It is a wonderful rare thing and I cherish the jewelry so much more as I know the story behind it. 

Melissa Goodings

Melissa joined LightBridge International on a trip to Cambodia where she researched and eventually wrote her college dissertation on our job creation program LandMine Design for her undergraduate work at University of Exeter.

Melissa joined LightBridge International on a trip to Cambodia where she researched and eventually wrote her college dissertation on our job creation program LandMine Design for her undergraduate work at University of Exeter.

 

 

 

 

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A Profound Experience

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A Profound Experience

I don’t think anything can fully prepare you for all that is Cambodia- the sights, sounds, and smells. Dirt roads lined with marketplaces packed with farmers, swinging on hammocks above their produce. Families of five or more somehow squeezing onto one moto, already in pajamas at noon. Crates of snakes, bugs, fish, and chickens, waiting to be killed and taken home for dinner, right before your eyes (talk about a fresh meal). Picture your life in America, everything you experience living here. I guarantee that Cambodia is just the opposite. Perhaps that is the magic of it. You step into Cambodia and although it is so foreign; so different from home, it seems that you can breathe a little deeper and walk a little lighter. Don’t get me wrong, the poverty and desperation in this place is beyond what I can try to process through in one blog post. The emotion in this place is heavy and hard, especially for a 20 year old white female who grew up in America. But beyond the heaviness, it is in this place that I experienced peace and hope and joy in a way that I have never felt with my feet planted on American soil.

You may be wondering how I ended up in Cambodia. Trust me, I wonder the same thing every day. Back in April I accepted the position of Creative Manager at Landmine Design. I was in over my head, completely under qualified, but entirely swooned by the thought that I could in some way help a woman in poverty and desperation rediscover her worth and work a dignified job. So, I accepted, and just two months later found myself on a 24 hour journey to Southeast Asia. I would love to give you a glimpse into what it looks like to do this work, because God is in it. God is changing the trajectory of women’s lives through Landmine Design, and I am still in awe that I have any small part to play in this story.

We sort of have this motto at LightBridge, and it goes something like, “I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out”. If I had a nickel for every time someone on our staff said those words, I would be rich. Something you must understand is that Southeast Asia does not, at all, function like America. For someone from America, it felt like there was no order, no process, and no sense of urgency when it comes to getting things done. So, you can imagine the chaos when an American woman hops off a plane in Bangkok, Thailand with the mission of sourcing all new fabric and materials for textile and jewelry collections in 48 hours. I’m not kidding when I say I hopped on the back of a Thai man’s moto, in a maxi skirt, with a pocket full of baht (Thai currency), and scooted around the city looking for marketplaces where we could buy fabric to take to the women in our LMD DAI (sewing) program. I shoved my way through a very sweaty street of vendors, shoulder to shoulder with other shoppers, to finally arrive at Charlie’s. We source all of the raw materials for our jewelry from him. With arms full of fabric and metal dreams, we head for the border of Thailand to cross into Cambodia.

Everything we hustled around Bangkok for makes its journey down the muddy road into the Minefield Village to meet our Landmine Design artisans. We sit and laugh together, worship together, and then teach each lady new designs for the upcoming collection. With buckets full of new raw materials, they head home to begin working on the pieces that will one day sit around your neck, your wrist, or hang from your ears. I still can’t believe it. What we do together is incredible. American and Khmer sisters coming together- giving more and more women the opportunity to know Jesus, to work a dignified job, and really dream again. So many women that I talked to were once labor trafficked, poverty stricken, and hopeless. Now, being employed at Landmine Design, they are able to build better homes, provide for their babies, and understand who they are in Christ. When I said yes to this position a few months ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I’m so glad I did. I’ve seen hope rise from very broken places, and it has changed my heart. I am forever grateful.

Kirsten Snook

Creative Manager, LandMine Design

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New Church

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Sometimes the pace of God is surprising.  Not even a year ago, our team at LightBridge realized God was calling us to expand ministry in Cambodia.  He had been opening doors and inviting us to new areas of ministry beyond the Minefield Village, where we had been solely focused for the past eight years.  We knew He was calling us in three distinct areas of expansion:  

Church planting
Ministry in the slums
Landmine Design new locations

We began exploring what growth would entail as we also began raising the funds needed for expansion.  Side note here:  It's amazing how much funding is needed to do ministry; but even more amazing are the crazy and creative ways God provides...!  Unbelievable and surprising!   Many of you are ways God chooses to provide!  Anyway, by the end of the year, we felt like God had provided enough funds to begin expansion and so we held on to see what God would do.  
 

For the next few blog posts, I'm so grateful to share about how God is writing this story of expansion, even if the pace feels fast to us!  I hope you'll join along.  I hope you're encouraged to read, to pray, to give, and to be in awe (with us) at all God is doing!  

Not long after God provided funds to begin expansion in Cambodia, He also opened doors for us to partner with a local church in Poipet, New Life Fellowship.  They approached us about utilizing our team center for a church plant.  The little village where our team center is located has no church whatsoever, so this would be the very first church.  We were so excited and welcomed them with open arms. 

They began with just a few people from their church (located in the border town of Poipet).  Using their own gas money, they drove 20 minutes to our team center every day to walk around the village, talk to neighbors, and pray.  It was the precursor to the establishment of this new church.  They knew they needed to pray.  They knew they needed to cover this area with power-filled petitions, asking the Lord of the harvest to churn the soil of hearts who needed to know Him. So they prayed and prayed some more.  For weeks before a song was song, a sermon was preached, or a kid's lesson taught, these dear followers of Jesus prayed.   

Finally, one Sunday many weeks later, the first church service happened with over 50 people in attendance.  Neighbors came to see what this new thing was about; church members from Poipet came to be present and pray; women from our Landmine Design program came because it was the closest church to their village.  The worship songs carried along the melody to nearby homes hearing praises to Jesus for the first time.  The Word of God was preached.  The first church in this village had begun!  Praise Jesus.  

Not only is there church happening every single Sunday at the team center; there is also evangelistic English classes happening every single afternoon as well.  Using English as a tool for evangelism, Khmer teachers drive out each day to teach over 65 children from the neighborhood about the love of Jesus through learning English.  It is a beautiful site to see...and such an honor to be part of!  


To see the Gospel advance in this little village is simply amazing!  

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power or POWER?

Zach Tillapaugh, Field Director

Zach Tillapaugh, Field Director

LightBridge believes in a holistic mission. We want to impact the lives of the orphan and poor in two aspects: Eternally through salvation; and physically through providing education and jobs. At the heart of LightBridge International is the desire to expose people to the Gospel, plug them in with a church, and provide resources to improve life here on earth. When you look at social media for our organization you will probably see pictures, posts, and blogs highlighting how LightBridge is providing resources to those in need. Earthly resources are easy to focus on and tell a story about. You can see a difference between what these people had before and what they have now. What you might not see as much of is the main focus of our mission. The reason that we provide these things for people in need is so that we can spend eternity with them in heaven glorifying our Creator.

This year, we are honored to have started a new church plant with a fellow local church in Cambodia. We partner with many churches to provide anyone we reach with the gospel and a way to grow in relationship with Jesus and stay connected to the body of Christ.

The other day I was attending a service with some of our Landmine Design Artisans and as they were getting ready to start the service, the power completely cut out. We sat in the dark for about 30 seconds before I heard a voice coming from the stage. They said: “It’s a good thing we don’t rely on electricity for power but rather the POWER of the Holy Spirit to run our services.” The place went crazy, cheering that soon turned into worship, singing without microphones or instruments.  The service went on without a hitch.

The entire service I couldn’t help but thank the Lord for providing a church for the people in Poipet where they rely on the POWER of the Holy Spirit, not the power of electricity to bring people closer to God. Next time you are sitting at you church ask the question, “Do I rely more on the electricity at church than the Holy Spirit? Does my church rely more on the electricity than on the Holy Spirit?”

 

 

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God-Sized Dreams

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God-Sized Dreams

This past September I sat down with Leakhena, Landmine Design's Program Manager in the Minefield Village of Cambodia. While we were sitting and talking, English lessons were being taught and she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “Zoë, we’re sitting in my dream.” I️ asked, “What do you mean, Leakhena?” and she answered, “This is my dream. For years I’ve prayed for this. I’ve prayed for God to bring education to the children. I’ve prayed that education would bring them away from human trafficking and selling goods on the streets and look around, it’s happening.” This struck me. I️ sat for so long the next day thinking “What am I️ dreaming about? What am I️ praying will happen to change the trajectory of others lives and what is God stirring in me?” It may sound cliche but I love hearing this question: “If all your prayers came true, would other people’s lived be changed because of it - or just yours?”

I look around at the work of LightBridge and I see so many dreams coming to life. I see what once started with children not knowing how to use a crayon now transformed into feeding programs, education, christian discipleship, and so much more. I see a job creation program that has been birthed from hearts desperately wanting to bring justice and safe work for women who are caught in human trafficking. I see the vision of starting a church and that church being planted above the very team center that LightBridge faithfully built  in the village. I truly believe often times the Lord gives us the desires of our hearts. He places seeds of passion and stirrings that lead to His great plans.

What is the still small whisper speaking in your heart? What passions and desires has God given you and what is He asking you to take a leap of faith in? Often times the Lord perfectly places things in our path for us to seamlessly walk in and other times I believe he is saying “trust me, take a leap of faith, start walking the path where waters are high and watch me dry them in front of your very eyes preparing you one step at a time.”

May we all learn something from Leakhena’s tears. May we be a people moved by and devoted to serving and making and impact in the lives of those around us. May we long for others to know Christ and the overwhelming, reckless love has for us. Let’s open our hearts and minds to the vastness of our potential. May the ministry of LightBridge and what God is doing in Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma be an encouraging reminder that we serve a mighty God who makes all things possible. Nothing is too big for His strong hands to accomplish, he just needs our “yes.”

 

 

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House With Many Rooms

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House With Many Rooms

Do you ever feel like when something’s going right in one area of your life, another area is falling apart? It doesn’t quite feel like all areas have peace and harmony at the same time?

Sometimes when I think about the various and amazing things God has allowed LightBridge International and Landmine Design to be apart of in our ministry locations in SouthEast Asia, it feels like a house with many rooms. And often times while one room feels put together, another room needs attention.

For instance, I have a two-year-old. Right as I have finished cleaning up his room for the millionth time, I come out to the living room where he has spread out all his toys, blankets, crayons, crackers...you name it, it’s there! After cleaning up the living room, I walk into the kitchen to find another mess. Two-year-olds are tornadoes! But you get the point. From one cleaned room to another mess waiting for me.

To be honest, it’s pretty cool how two parts of the world can come together to create good in our ministry locations at LightBridge. We’ve seen God use us to create opportunities for orphans to have a home, for families living in poverty to have dignified jobs, for church planting and the Gospel to reach people who have never heard of the life-giving message of Jesus Christ. But with these two worlds operating together to create good in a house with moving parts, often times some rooms feel strong and others weak....all at the same time. 

We often face challenges as an organization where when things on the ground are going strong, we’re struggling with various aspects of our ministry in the states. Or when things in the states are strong, areas of the ministry on the ground are facing challenges. It’s kind of weird how it happens but in the end, I’ve noticed how sharp and focused it keeps us. I think it may happen on purpose because it keeps us trusting. Trusting in Jesus to be the source of all that we do. Trusting Jesus’ process and timing, not our own. Trusting HIM to give us peace when there’s a storm in one of the other rooms.

It’s the nature of what happens when God and only God can make two worlds come together to create something GOOD for HIS Glory! And while it may be a difficult dynamic, it’s one that we love and embrace and continue to get better and better at.

God is faithful to touch all the rooms in this house. Above all, it’s HIS WORK and we feel so honored to be a small part of it.  

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The Great Commission

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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.  

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A Clinic In A Minefield

The completed clinic just before the windows were installed

The completed clinic just before the windows were installed

I'll never forget the moment in a poor village in Cambodia when I stood with gloves on my hands holding a small tube of Cortizone cream with a line of women standing in front of me.  They anxiously waited to tell and show me what was going on with their bodies and how they needed help.  One after another came they came forward lifting up the sleeve of their shirt to show me red swollen spots covering their arms, legs & bodies.  Here I was rubbing cream on them knowing this Cortizone cream would not cure their sickness.  

Everything in me wanted to say, "I'm not a doctor. I'm so sorry. I can't help you."

Amreitha and a woman with sciatic nerve pain which makes it very difficult for her to care for her children, and even walk.

Amreitha and a woman with sciatic nerve pain which makes it very difficult for her to care for her children, and even walk.

You see, many of these women were suffering from skin rashes that occurred because they didn't have access to clean water to properly bathe themselves.  It was numbing to realize that something as basic as clean water was causing such harm to their bodies.  The reality is that skin rashes were the least of their problems.  Many of them suffered internally from the lack of clean water and proper nutrition.  Sadly, some of them had even lost children to disease and ultimately, a lack of medical care.

These villagers live on a former minefield in rural Cambodia.  Access to medical treatment is basically nonexistant. Women are giving birth to babies on dirt floors with walls around them created from bamboo.  Children who simply need an antibiotic for a fever are dieing because their parents cannot afford to travel and take them to a hospital. The elderly suffer through their pain, not being able to walk or get to a doctor who could help them.

We had to do something.

Praying and dreaming inside the freshly painted clinic

Praying and dreaming inside the freshly painted clinic

This past year, LightBridge International asked generous financial donors to help us care for these villagers by building a medical clinic in their village.  In their village!  A location where all can receive the medical attention they so desperately need.  In June, our LightBridge mission teams made this dream come true by building the very first medical clinic in this village!  We cannot wait for this project to be fully completed so that our villagers can receive the care they need, so that a simple skin rash doesn't turn into something more, so that a mother can safely deliver her baby in a bed with access to clean water.

We're almost finished with this project.  The next step is to outfit the clinic.  We need to purchase beds, medical supplies, shelves and more.  We need to hire a doctor that can come see patients once or twice a week.

Many of us don't even think twice about heading to the doctor when we catch a cold.  We want this same reality for our villagers and we'd like to invite you to help.

Amreitha is the Director of Advocacy for LightBridge International

Amreitha is the Director of Advocacy for LightBridge International

Would you pray for the completion of this project?  Would you be willing to give financially toward the very first opportunity for health care in this village?  If so, click "give" below to give directly towards this project.

We thank you for your partnership in such a life giving endeavor!

- Amreitha Jeevamanoharan

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Miraculous Firsts

I first met Bay when he was a nine year old orphan boy at Huen Nam Jai Orphanage in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  His story was like many of our orphans:  Abandoned by his parents, left to be raised in an orphanage.  Confused.  Deeply wounded.  Lonely.  Although forsaken, Bay was lovingly welcomed to Huen Nam Jai Orphanage.   He was cared for by Christian house parents who not only provided for his physical needs, but also shared with him the love of his Creator.  It was here that Bay came to know Jesus.  In this home, Bay learned to read God's Word.  It was here that Bay's heavenly Father began to heal the wounds in his heart.  In the place of his abandonment, Bay's gentle yet strong character was forged.  

Bay and Zach Tillapaugh - fast friends from the beginning!

Bay and Zach Tillapaugh - fast friends from the beginning!

Through the years of knowing Bay, he has become a part of our family.  Our family visits him and all the children at Huen Nam Jai each time we're in Chiang Mai.  We keep up with each other via Facebook. Those kids have truly stolen our hearts…how we love them!  My own children think of Bay as their brother. To us, Bay is like a son.  

Through a series of incredible miracles, God orchestrated a way for Bay to come to America and visit us.  He arrived on May 5 and has had a lifetime of 'firsts' in these few weeks:  First time traveling beyond the borders of Thailand; first time on an airplane; first time to see the mountains; first time to see snow and make a life-size snow bunny (yea, not exactly a snowman, but more of a snow-bunny); first time to go to an amusement part; first time to see the Air Force Academy; first time to experience an American wedding; first time to sleep in his own bedroom; first time to take an adjustable warm shower….and oh-so many more 'firsts'.  

But the 'first' that means the most to me is the way Bay is now sharing about God's work in his life.  The other day, Bay talked about the pain and sorrow of his early childhood.  He didn't stop there but went on to share that even though his early childhood was so painful, he met Jesus because he was brought to the Huen Nam Jai orphanage so many years ago.  He is now seeing the good plans God has had for him and shared:  "I think about how, in the next 20 years, God will use me in my own country to share about the love of Jesus with my fellow Thais".  

We are amazed at the ways God is working in Bay's life…and so many lives in our orphanages and ministry locations.  Like proud parents, we are delighted by the ways kids, like Bay, are recognizing God's faithfulness in their lives.  What joy fills our hearts as we see God's powerful work in the lives of dear orphans.  We continue to pray that Bay and many more will indeed become difference-makers for Christ in their corner of the world.

- Karla Tillapaugh

Director of LightBridge International

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It's only the beginning

What began in 2006 as a simple vision has grown into something we couldn't have imagined. At that time, our vision was to come alongside dear orphans in Thailand, with whom we had come to love, and help prepare them for adulthood.  The goal was not just an ordinary adulthood; rather, a sustainable adulthood in which they could flourish and become difference makers for Christ in their corner of the world.  Today, through the grace of God's goodness and the faithfulness of many champions, we are seeing that vision continue…and become reality.  

The vision is becoming reality and it has expanded to not only include orphans, but also children in need, adults living on the margins of life, and communities praying for a chance to rise above poverty.  What an honor to see God work in the lives of these precious people through the powerful prayers and generosity of so many supporters during all these years.  

As we continue this work with you, we hope to include many of the incredible stories of God's faithfulness here in this news area for LightBridge.  We hope these stories will engage you and encourage you as we continue to join with God in caring for the orphan and poor for many years to come.


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