In 2018 Monte LeLaCheur, lead pastor of Turning Point Open Bible Church in Spokane, Washington, felt inspired to help support the ministry efforts of Ly and Sarin Mak, missionaries in Cambodia. The Maks are directors of the Lifesong Learning Center, a ministry base that offers a safe environment for children to receive an education and to experience the love of Jesus. In Cambodia women and children are susceptible to human trafficking, many lured by false promises of good jobs. The Maks are finding creative ways to respond to this horrific evil, using sewing machines and technology in learning labs to teach legitimate job skills.
One obstacle to this vision was workable electrical power. The Center had been operating on roughly 30 amps of power, which was intermittent at best. The Center also needed a way to respond to the villagers’ dental and medical issues as well as a ministry team to teach children about the love of Jesus Christ.
When Monte and others at Turning Point heard of the need, they took on the challenge of raising $25,000 to purchase and install new solar panels that could help create sustainable power for all the learning programs that Lifesong facilitates.
The Turning Point church family exceeded their original goal by raising nearly $55,520 (more than double the goal) for the solar panels, a medical response, and other ministry efforts in Cambodia! I was asked to coordinate a team that had the expertise and passion to go. Twenty-four people including electricians, grandparents, pastors, schoolteachers, teenagers, and medical professionals said yes to going.
Our team landed in Phnom Penh just prior to monsoon season. We were immediately captivated by the heart and vision of Ly and Sarin, who have a deep love for the children of Cambodia. Upon arrival at the Center, our team began to work feverishly on installing the solar panels, treating medical conditions, extracting teeth, and praying with people to receive Christ. The team did this for several days, serving with joy, tears, and laughter. Seeing the children come to the evening classes and Sunday morning service filled our emotional tanks and reminded us of our mission.
One of the young people we were blessed to work closely with was Sok Mabbman (known to us as “Mab”). Mab was a graduate of Lifesong and went on to university to learn English. Mab is now on staff at Lifesong, and his love for his people and surrounding villages is contagious. He did a wonderful job translating for our team. Mab was often pulled in multiple directions with many different people needing his help, yet he remained unwavering as he worked with our medical and ministry teams.
A sobering and heart-wrenching experience was the team’s visit to the Killing Fields of the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, the site of a mass grave of victims of the Khmer Rouge. As we walked, seeing and hearing the stories of atrocity and evil that ended the lives of nearly two million people, our team gained an unparalleled appreciation for the Cambodian people and all they have gone through.
At one point I asked Pastor Ly, “Tell me about your smile.” (Pastor Ly has an infectious smile!)
He responded by sharing that one time he asked God, “How do I reach these people?”
God asked him to demonstrate his joy through his countenance because this would be the only way to appeal to people. They would ask him, “Why do you have so much joy?” and Ly would answer, “Let me tell you why . . . ”
With the help of the Lord and so many people who said yes, the team was able to see over 200 patients, share the gospel of Jesus with hundreds of children, and complete the solar panel project. The crew installed 82 panels and ran over 10,000 feet of cords that fed 5 inverters. The night before we left Cambodia, we were able to completely switch over the electrical system to the new solar panel system. Now the lights are running, and the Center has more than enough power to support their current and future needs.
God has mobilized people throughout history to make a difference wherever He has called them. “I [Paul] planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Our job is to plant and water and then trust God with the increase!
How an individual responds to God’s call varies depending on the role God calls them to. Someone may be asked to give financially, pray, or provide a resource or expertise – or they may be the one who physically goes. Regardless of the role, the key is to say yes! I encourage you to say yes to planting and watering the gospel!
About the Author
Joshua Stelly is the Executive Pastor at Turning Point Open Bible Church in Spokane, Washington, and he is passionate about the gospel! He is a husband to Melissa and dad to three beautiful daughters: Chloe, Addy, and Josie.