Cambodia is rich in people and potential. But each year, countless Cambodian women and young girls fall into the hands of sex traffickers working out of neighboring Thailand. The poverty-stricken border communities of Poipet are particularly vulnerable to traffickers.
Ross Lackey of MBI’s Partner Architects was working on a project with YWAM Battambang in Cambodia several years ago when friends introduced him to the founders of Freedom’s Promise, a trafficking prevention organization located in Poipet. Ross met with the Freedom’s Promise team and agreed to help design and execute a campus plan consolidating their community development and evangelism ministries into one effective hub accessible to the locals.
In January this year, Ross and intern-architect Gabe Smisson spent nearly two weeks on the ground in Cambodia and at the Freedom’s Promise site in Poipet.
“We’ve begun the largest of their campus buildings, a school for 500 students,” Ross reports. “The first foundation pilings were going in while we were there.
“The challenge of a project like this is searching for products, materials, and finishes in-country and out. Gabe and I visited multiple shops, suppliers, and stores to find products with the right mix of cost, durability, functionality, aesthetics, and availability. It all has to work together.
“But God had more plans for our trip than just finding products and materials,” Ross continues. “One evening, we went to dinner at a restaurant and had a ‘chance’ encounter with a friend of our contact. The gentleman happened to be dining alone at the restaurant when we arrived. After we were introduced, we invited the man to sit with us. He works with another Poipet slum ministry called LightBridge.
“He told us he’d been deputized to lead the construction of a new school for LightBridge. They would build the school on their site in the slum, but he had no idea where to start. Our friend grinned and said, ‘Well, do you know who you happen to be talking to?’
“Our friend explained that Gabe and I were architects and missionaries using our skills for missions. Our discussion resulted in a two-hour meeting the next day. We talked about processes and next steps and how Partner Architects might help with their project in the future. Currently, LightBridge is using some of Partner Architects’ online video resources to organize and direct their team.”
Ross concludes: “The LightBridge school project is now on Partner Architect’s radar because God ‘happened’ to bring us together in their time of need.”
Yes, God is on the move in Cambodia.
Find out more about Partner Architects at www.partnerarchitects.org.
MBI’s newest ministry, Leadership 13 (L13) came into existence in 2010 when colleagues Ron Brewster and Dawn Masucci and I felt compelled to combine our years of leadership experience and expertise into a concerted effort to respond to a cry for help from a number of the promising young leaders serving within Youth With a Mission. Those leaders were being called upon to shape this rapidly growing, international, interdenominational movement of Christians called to bring the whole gospel to the whole world.
Though each of us desired to see YWAM succeed at the macro level, with all of its myriad of expressions, we shared an even more pressing passion to see this current generation of leaders adequately equipped to face the challenges of successfully stewarding their respective ministry locations. Having invested 30-plus years of service at the senior leadership level in one location, it was and is our firm conviction that any lasting leadership legacy can only be accomplished when those “to whom much has been given” graciously acknowledge and respond to the second half of this biblical mandate that “much is required.”
L13 was forged in the fire of finding ways to pass on our life lessons and expertise in any way God might want to use them for the benefit of YWAM leaders. The end goal was to see the advancement of the kingdom of God globally.
Since embracing that call 9 years ago, it has been our privilege to have assisted in training and coaching leaders in approximately 16 YWAM operating locations from the U.S. and Canada to far flung regions such as Cambodia, Taiwan, Costa Rica, and Barbados. Though some of the leaders we have had the privilege of serving are mature and experienced, the much larger percentage have been young, inexperienced , and, in some locations, first generation Christians.
These God-called, amazing servants find themselves responsible for some of the most innovative ministry expressions we have ever seen, ranging from the foundational YWAM Discipleship Training School (DTS) to numerous other secondary expressions such as the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) and School of Community Development, just to name a couple. Because 2 of the 18 foundational values of YWAM are about being “visionary” and doing “new things in new ways,” there is no end to the creative ventures we have observed as these ministries explore how they can more effectively take the age-old gospel message and contextualize it to reach the cultures to which God has called them.
The gospel is going forward to some of the least-reached areas of the world through creative approaches that include everything from very sophisticated English/computer education programs to AIDS orphan homes to micro business enterprise (designed not only to provide income streams for the local ministry but do so in a way that serves to generate financial support for full-time, indigenous workers). The challenge is that, in many cases, their remarkable effectiveness has become a double-edged sword. The accelerated growth these ministries are experiencing has outstripped the leaders’ knowledge and expertise as to how to keep the ministry healthy, thriving, and appropriately funded. These are wonderful challenges, but these leaders are often ill-equipped to navigate them.
This is exactly the point at which L13 discovered that our year-long approach of coming along side these ministries has borne good fruit. Our expertise joined with their energy and desire to lead well has produced a winning combination. The tools we’re able to give them through our on-site visits as well as Skype coaching and mentoring has proven to be very effective in equipping them with understanding in areas such as organizational dynamics, healthy systems, and strong staff development. Coupled with our core value and commitment toward “developing servant leaders for lasting growth,” L13 not only encourages the leaders we serve but arms them with the confidence necessary to lead those whom God has placed in their charge so that the entire ministry can learn to walk in the footsteps of our great servant leader and master, Jesus Christ.
Since its inception, L13 has been blessed beyond measure to add four more players to the team, Jason Howard, Lane Lackey, Veronica VanSchuylenburg and occasionally John Briggs. Each brings with them a skill set that has broadened L13’s ability to help in even more areas.
Just over a year ago, L13 was delighted and blessed to be invited to make Mission Builders International its permanent home. When the opportunity first presented itself, it almost seemed like a no-brainer. The call of MBI, “So Others May Thrive,” seemed like a hand-in-glove fit with all that L13 desired to accomplish.
Even though it seemed obvious, however, the final decision to join forces was only made after a great deal of prayer by all of those involved as well as a serious discussion with the wise and godly board of directors that serves MBI. At the end of the process, all were in hearty agreement that to add L13 to the MBI family was a match made in heaven. MBI’s call to the larger Mission as opposed to any one location is a call that we share together.
As the times we live in become increasingly uncertain, we invite you to join your prayers with ours that MBI and L13 will find ever-widening circles of influence where our passion, “So Others May Thrive,” can be expressed in and through our Mission and ultimately to the ends of the earth.
“Has God ever promised you something? Has God ever clearly led you?”
When twenty-nine-year-old Kristen H. of Fredericksburg, VA, gave God the opportunity to fill her heart with His desires, she didn’t dream it would involve living boldly and serving Him globally. God surprised Kristen with a mission-building journey. She spent a gap year as a volunteer with Mission Builders International, helping at YWAM locations and visiting missionary friends in Uganda, Swaziland, South Africa, Cambodia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Israel and Germany.
How did it all get started? Kristen says:
“A little over one year ago I was able to attend a retreat just a couple hours from where I live. You’re thinking I’m going to say that God slowly showed me something through the speakers that weekend, right? But no, God didn’t even wait for the retreat to officially start to speak to me.
“It happened that I was there a couple hours early, so I walked down to the pond, with my Bible in hand, and just sat before the Lord and quietly read and prayed. While I was sitting there, God clearly spoke to me through a few different verses in Psalm 20 and 21 and promised me that He would give me the desires of my heart. I asked God to do as He promised and grant me my heart’s desires, to make His desires mine and direct my steps. I didn’t know what those desires of my heart were and in what way God would fulfill that promise until almost a year to the day later.
“I do love to travel and, while I had a gap year in life and was seeking God for the direction I needed to take, I thought it would be great to take a little time and maybe plan a trip across the United States. But, as God continued to lead, I had no idea He would bring me to a place of traveling the world!
“I was praying and seeking Him on whether this mission trip was what He had for me and realized it was exactly where He was leading me. I’m not the girl who has always had a pull toward being on the mission field, but when I asked God to grant my heart’s desires and make His desires mine, He took me seriously. He created in me a desire I didn’t even realize I had: a desire to see His work advanced, a desire to serve His people, a desire to live boldly for Him.”
From teaching English and making jewelry to cooking meals and taking care of small children, from housekeeping and reception work to organizing in a café that employs marginalized women, Kristen served the YWAM campuses that hosted her and the people they reach out to. In the midst of serving, she also experienced the beauty of her host nations physically, culturally and historically.
“His ways and plans are so much better than ours,” Kristen says. “I had a big idea, He had a fantastic one!”
Kristen’s story may not be very different from one just waiting to unfold in your life. What are your heart’s desires, and where in the world might God be leading you? For fantastic possibilities, visit www.missionbuilder.org!
(To see more photos from Kristen’s journey, visit her blog at mymissionjourney.com.)