I promised I'd explain how great our plan worked so here goes:
We did it. We did what seemed impossible but wasn't because God was with us the whole way.
In February of 2016 we took a team of 11 people to work at The Hard Places Community's (HPC) Boys Center. This was the place I had served at with my little boys when it first opened its doors. On any given week we'd have 2 classes of 8-12 boys there back in 2011. Now they had hundreds of children. It was too incredible for me to try to explain!
Our team raised nearly $25,000 to get to Cambodia and back for a 2 week trip. All sorts of fundraisers helped us reach the goal. We sold drinks at soccer games, passed out empty jars for kids to fill with coins, cooked meals before church services to sell, sent letters to our friends and families, and more. Even the cute little cub scouts offered to help us out and those kids raised $500 for us! Little by little, the money came in, but still, it seemed like an unreachable goal.
But we got there! And then it just kept coming in!
See, our team didn't commit to raise just enough to go. Our team committed to love on HPC for much longer than that two week trip. We committed to raise $25k as a team in 2016 and then to keep working to raise money through 2017 to send directly to HPC!
And we did it!
When we were in Cambodia we took our money and purchased souvenirs at the markets to bring home and sell to Americans at a larger price. Then we took 100% of the funds raised and gave it back to Cambodia.
But that wasn't the part that brought in the most money.
Telling our stories inspired others more. We held a couple of events where our team was able to share what we'd seen and heard and experienced there and people were inspired to give! One of our team members, Amber, took beautiful photos that really made the children come alive as we shared about them. Through these events, it took us only a few months to raise $25,000 more to give to Hard Places.
And they have used it wisely and are reaching so many!
They've been able to hire numerous new staff members and interns to help their ministry grow!
HPC now has a girls' center that runs like the boys' center.
They also teach English and computer classes to young adults to help them find new careers.
HPC started a ministry to men working in massage parlors to help them learn skills for a more respectable career. These men are able to be English tour guides, work in beauty salons, drive tuk tuks, and more. They are opening a restaurant now where they can work as cooks or servers and earn a respectable income doing a job they can be proud of.
HPC has clubs in Siam Reap now where they reach over 300 children a week. Add this to the 500+ they now reach in Phnom Penh and its clear that the next generation of Cambodia is truly being changed!
The ministry of HPC is reaching to smaller tourist towns in Cambodia and also starting to use their model in other countries!
God is there!! The gospel is spreading throughout a kingdom that is in great need of Jesus. Children who have been trafficked are finding freedom and restoration. Families are learning how to help their children and protect them from being victimized. Young people who have been part of HPC since the beginning are so dramatically changed that they are now giving back to help their younger siblings and friends find hope as well.
God is big. Our small donations are stretched in a mighty way to provide resources for HPC.
So why wouldn't we keep spreading the love?
We are so blessed here in America and yes, there are many in need right here around us. Our family is at a place in our faith where we are able to say YES to God anytime. We are willing to go anywhere He sends us! But for now, He is telling us to be here and mobilize others to go, to serve, to help, to give.
So we do. We tell our story and trust God to use it to His glory.
Next February, in 2018, we're taking another team to Cambodia. And after we return, we'll be raising money to give to Hard Places again! (Want to help us get there?? Give here by designating your amount to the mission team in general at top or even to a specific member)
I can't believe God's blessed me so much to let me return to see these children again and again.
I hope you'll take this journey with me!