An orphan story

Two nights ago, I sat down with one of my friends, a teenage girl in Thailand at our orphanage, Heun Nam Jai and simply heard her story.

Her name is Momay and she is now 16 year’s old.  Her father was out of the picture soon after she was born and her mother was left to give her a life she felt she couldn’t.  Momay remembers one day waking up and her mother had bought her new clothes and new toys and was celebrating her.  It wasn’t her birthday and Momay wasn’t sure why all of this was happening but she didn’t need to know, she was so thrilled with all of these new things!  She thought it must have been a holiday.


Momay is on my left holding a flower.

Little did Momay realize that it would be the last day she saw her mother for 6 years.  Her mother had arranged that day to send Momay to Heun Nam Jai orphanage, a children’s home of sorts that she felt would be a better situation for her.  A place where she would receive an education, Christian discipleship and a family.

As Momay shared her story, she was very emotional.  I teared up as she spoke and felt gladness in my heart because of the emotion she was expressing.  I knew they were healthy tears that were helping her process her identity, her story and her past.

I share this story because it really impacted me.  All of our orphans have unique stories and although I see how God has set them in such incredible places, my heart hurts for the things they went through to get there.  It’s amazing how decisions are made for children that they then have to deal with, sort through and reconcile with for the rest of their lives.  This happens all over the world in various situations.

Many of our orphans in Thailand have parents that they keep in touch with and see every once and a while.  These parents, for a variety of reasons were not able or willing to take care of their children.  As an adopted former orphan, I know nothing of my biological past.  I often wonder what it’s like for these children who have their parents in their world but deal with the reality of their rejection each time they go home for a visit.

So I told Momay the short version of my story and that God’s hand is on her life.  She said we are sisters.  I agree.  Sisters who get each other in such a unique way.




I can hardly type today because of my excitement!  Today God gave us a special opportunity and it was quite the adventure!

Today, Tiger, who is a prominent leader among the Karen community in Burma invited our team to cross over a river by boat and enter into Burma!  We were shocked!  We knew we were in good hands with Jury and Sawtoo (Tiger’s parents) and especially, Tiger.  Did we sneak in?  Yes!  And it was crazy!  Once we arrived we took many pictures with his friends, the soldiers who protect him.  These guys had HUGE guns and although they seem rough and gruff, they treated us like kings and queens!  They were the most hospitable army men I’ve ever met!  We had the opportunity to pray for Tiger and his leadership in Burma and talk with him and his family about their lives.  It was beyond my wildest dreams.

20 years ago when the Burmese government began killing it’s own people, thousands of Burmese fled as refugees to Thailand.  One of the Burmese families that was forced to flee, became a special part of our lives.

Jury and Sawtoo were a couple who’s village was raided and Jury was very pregnant!  They had several children and one of them was their son Tiger who was shot in the leg at age 14.  He was sent to Thailand where he would get his education and eventually become a colonel in the Karen resistance army, fighting for peace against a corrupt Burmese government.

As Jury and her husband fled, they spent time hiding in the jungle in Burma on their way to refuge in Thailand.  Jury had a baby while they were fleeing and one of her daughters names is “Running Shell” because they were literally running from war and gun shells.

When Jury and Sawtoo arrived at the refugee camp, they began seeing displaced orphaned children who made it to safety but now had no family of their own.  Jury began taking these children in and eventually Jury’s Orphanage became a safe haven for children to grow up.  LightBridge International has now been apart of Jury’s Orphanage for several years.  We love these kids and love their stories.

I think the thing that strikes me the most about Tiger and his family is out of violence and desperation, came a family of heroes.  Today, the orphanage is run by another one of Jury and Sawtoo’s children, Ga-Bleu.  I’ve written about her before.  It’s amazing the lives that this family has saved and their dedication to bringing refuge, peace and love to their nation.



Today we asked Sawtoo if he wanted to come back to America (they live in Colorado after coming to the US on asylum) or if he wanted to stay in the refugee camp in Thailand.  His answer was, “Burma.  When peace comes to Burma, that’s where I want to be.”

Rice vs. Noodles

Here in Cambodia, I am a student.  I’ve never loved learning so much.


I learn so much from the poor each time I come to the MineField Village.  If only they knew how much they impact my life.  I was thinking on the plane about a girl I met last summer.  She is the oldest sister of 5 and when given food, always makes sure her siblings eat first.  We fed them rice and chicken each day and one day, I handed her noodles and chicken instead because that was what was made for them.  I was surprised to see that she did not like them and would not eat them.  I looked closely at the noodles to see if something was wrong with them and there was nothing wrong at all.  I gave it back to her and she still would not eat them.  I immediately thought, “She should eat what we give her, afterall, she may not eat again today.”  I was so taken back by her “pickiness” and thought it so unsual that she wouldn’t eat whatever I put before her.

The Lord showed me something much greater about humanity through this experience.  Why did I think that because this girl is poor that God didn’t create her with preferences?  With a favorite food?  With taste buds that liked rice over noodles?  Here I am judging her when before she even takes a bite, she makes sure her baby siblings have food in their mouths first?!  I was disgusted with my “first world self!”

God is so kind and graciously taught me that His unique design is in each of us, rich or poor, Cambodian or American.  One is not more valuable than the other.  My approach and response to these children and villagers is to simply love them, to treat them as I would my friends.  If my friend came to my house and wanted lasagna and not spaghetti, I would make them lasagna.  🙂  Because I love them and because I want them to be welcomed, accepted and know that I embrace them and their preferences!

Being a student of the poor is the greatest school I’ve ever attended!  I love it.

My 5th grade french horn.

In fifth grade, I had a very important decision to make.

At my school, it was ver very cool to be in the band.  Not like a cool band that started in your parents garage.  I’m talking about a marching band.  Like the band with instruments that play classical music.  I wanted to play the clarinet like my older sister but Mr. Toews said that I was not a natural reed instrument player.  So he gave me the choice between learning the flute or the french horn.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what a french horn was in 5th grade!  So Mr. Toews showed me and I thought it was the most beautiful instrument of all!  I chose it purely on it’s looks without knowing what it sounded like at all.
I have no regrets about this decision.  🙂
My job title at LightBridge International is Director of Advocacy.  I have been thinking deeply about what it means to be an advocate and although at the beginning I was unsure, I’ve come to learn, it is a very important and purposeful role.  My boss recently sent me a definition that I not only found to be biblical but one that I have decided to implement in my work as an advocate.
Advocate – a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person or cause.
I immediately thought of Aaron!  Aaron was a guy commanded by God to literally be Moses’ mouth piece.  Moses was a man of God asked by God to pretty much change the world!  His assignment was so heavy and like many of us Moses freaked out when hearing what God wanted him to do.  He made several excuses as to why HE specifically was the wrong guy for the job.  His greatest concern was that he stuttered.  He was very insecure about speaking in front of people……and I don’t blame him because the people he was supposed to talk to were fairly scary and the message he was supposed to share was not what they wanted to hear.
So God gave Moses a solution to his problem.  He told Moses that he would give him a mouth piece, a man, named Aaron who spoke well, to speak on his behalf.  An advocate.
Aaron was an advocate for God and God’s Kingdom being established on the earth AND he was an advocate for the Israelites, an oppressed community of people who needed help.  I think this is true for my role.  More than anything I want to advocate for what I feel is the best part of life for people who know him and people who don’t, Jesus.  Then!  I want to advocate for those God speaks so highly of but the world hardly sees at all.  The orphan and poor.  The voiceless.  The ones living on Minefields and surviving.
Is there something you feel you are to be an advocate for?  Even Moses, although he got his own personal mouth piece because of his stutter didn’t get out of it that easy.  God still used him along with Aaron to free a whole nation of oppressed people!  Is there a person or cause you feel called to defend, to write and speak for?  Maybe you’re not a speaker or writer.  Are there other creative ways to advocate for your cause, a person or a belief you have?
I imagine Aaron and I and even YOU to be like the mouth piece of my french horn.  You see, the smallest part of the french horn is the mouth piece.  The largest part of the french horn is the BELL where all the sound comes out of!  It makes the most beautiful sound!
I commit this year, 2013 to be like my 5th grade french horn!  To be an advocate for the cause of the poor and the orphan.  Like a small mouth piece, I trust that like the bell of this beautiful instrument, there will be a great sound and those I have the privilege of speaking on behalf of like Aaron did, would be touched by God, set free, healed, whole and full of hope!
Here goes!