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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