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BY Cody Rheault
Photos by Cody Rheault

Outreach2-(web)In early November of 2017 a group of five people from First Church of the Open Bible in Des Moines, Iowa, participated in the very first missions trip by a team from the States to the Lifesong Learning Center in Tamada Village, a remote area two hours south of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. The members of the team included First Church’s lead pastor, Spencer Keroff, and his daughter, Chloe; Roger and Connie Cox; and Josh Moede.

Upon their arrival, the team met up with Open Bible national missionaries Lyhoung and Sarin Mak, directors of the Lifesong base; Vince McCarty, Global Missions Executive Director of Open Bible Churches; and interim missionary Ashley Foreman, a member of First Church of the Open Bible in Des Moines, Iowa. Southeast Asia missionary ambassadors Mike and Dara Rasavanh were also at the base during most of the visit.

MSG-World-News-Cambodia-Classes@LLC-(web)

Lifesong Learning Center serves as a refuge of hope for hundreds of children and young people who are in desperate need of help. Encompassed by tropical trees and rice fields stretching into the horizon, the Center has the potential of reaching thousands of people in the community.

Diving head first into the unfamiliar culture, the First Church team had the task of understanding the importance this Center has for the local community and how future missions teams can minister and impact the people there.

Spencer Keroff leads the group in prayer.

Spencer Keroff leads the group in prayer.

Connie Cox said, “I’ve been amazed at what’s been established.”

Hundreds of children attend Sunday services (with lunch following) and English classes free of charge. A group of young believers under Lyhoung’s leadership teach English and preschool classes and manage the property.

So many have given sacrificially to help build the Lifesong Learning Center, including Lifesong Church of the Open Bible in Des Moines, Iowa; participants in the Global Missions Harvest Offering; Open Bible Churches Women’s Network; and Bethel Open Bible Church in Lodi, California.

Members of First Church of the Open Bible have sacrificially invested into funding for part of Lifesong’s construction. Seeing the fruit of their sacrifices inspired them to do more.

Prayer and thanksgiving are an integral part of the children's day.

Prayer and thanksgiving are an integral part of the children’s day.

During their time in the country, the team witnessed great need and participated in outreaches to the surrounding communities. Pastor Spencer Keroff was inspired by his experience. “When you see the kids and hear their stories your heart breaks for them,” he said. “Sometimes when it comes to a missions trip people wonder, ‘What can I do?’ But there are so many ways you can bless Cambodia.”

Some needs extend beyond that which the Center can provide, creating a great opportunity for visiting missions teams to serve. Many of the children do not have access to good hygiene and oral care. Visits from medical teams or dental teams would be an invaluable asset to the community. Teams could also provide a Vacation Bible School, worship training, or additional English classes.

“God has gifted all of us in many different ways,” said Josh Moede. “We can use those gifts and talents to serve the Lord in this country.”

Roger Cox noted, “The children were often blessed simply by the team’s presence. We bonded over high-fives or simple expressions of love.”

The visit from the First Church team was a success, serving as an encouragement to those at the Center and an invaluable learning opportunity. Giving an open invitation, Lyhoung Mak said, “We would like more teams to come and minister in this place. There are so many opportunities.”

Children love singing, hearing Bible stories, and interacting with caring adults.

Children love singing, hearing Bible stories, and interacting with caring adults.

Executive Director of Global Missions Vince McCarty was moved when the Maks shared that many of the young people who attend the Center leave when they turn 15 or 16 years old because their parents force them to look for work. Many are lured into sex trafficking. This placed a burden on Vince’s heart to construct another building where the Center could offer sewing and computer classes.

This idea aligns with the vision Lyhoung and Sarin Mak have for the Center’s future, to provide self-sustaining skills. The Maks have great compassion for the local people, having escaped Cambodia years earlier during the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime (see September/October 2012 issue of the Message).

Lyhoung never fails to see the reason for their success. “Without prayer and support, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We are very thankful,” he said.

CodyR_Bio_Headshot-0517Cody Rheault is a photographer, filmmaker, writer, and member of the Open Bible Churches videographer team. He lives in Sisters, Oregon, with his wife, where he owns and operates his own photography business.

About The Author

Cody Rheault

Cody Rheault is a photographer, filmmaker, writer, and member of Open Bible Churches videographer team. He lives in Sisters, Oregon, with his wife, where he owns and operates his own photography business.