• The One Question Every Leader Has to Answer

    In John 1.19-23, Priests and Levites are sent to John the Baptist to ask one question, “who are you?” 
    He immediately tells them he isn’t the Christ, Jesus. They begin with the follow up questions. “Are you Elijah?” “Are you the Prophet?” His answer is still “no.” So they ask again, “Who are you?…What do you say about yourself?” John responds by quoting Isaiah, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord."
    Every leader has to answer this question, “who are you?” And the second is equally important, “what do you say about yourself?” I wonder if God brought these Pharisees early in John’s ministry to make sure he knew who he was and what he was called to do. In the time when this occurred the Pharisees are surely hoping this man isn’t claiming to be a great leader of the past for that would be blasphemy. In our day and age, the opposite is quite true. By and large, those that are following or simply watching a leader taking on influence are desiring for Tim Cook to live up to the brilliance of Steve Jobs; for Andrew Luck to fill Peyton Manning’s shoes. In my context as a pastor, and probably yours too, there is so much external pressure intentionally and unintentionally applied to BE who THEY think you ought to be. The two questions laid out begin to converge at this point. "Who are you?” is a question of BEing. And the “what do you say about yourself?" question is one of KNOWing. Not who THEY think you are but who you KNOW you are. These are the questions that every leader must answer. Let’s digest them a little more fully together.
    Who are you? It's a simple question until you move past the surface and attempt to describe the complexity of our desires, dreams and fears then it becomes less simple. How would you answer that today? Maybe by process of elimination you would describe who you aren’t as John did. Or maybe, instead of diving into the complexities of each individual leader the takeaway is in John’s final response, a quote in fact, of Isaiah 40.3. It's an obscure picture, a vague identity with one very clear mission. I am but “a voice” crying in the wilderness pointing others to Christ. Who are we as Chrstian leaders? People with “a voice”, with influence even, to point to Christ. 

  • 9 Ways Pride Disguises Itself

    Here in America we are all about American pride and we also have made a cliche of the proverb, "pride comes before the fall” (from Proverbs 16.18). So which is it? Is pride a good thing or is it deadly? Maybe we should evaluate this a little deeper. Pride was the first sin and it will be the last. Lucifer thought he was worthy to overthrow God and his prideful rebellion was the first sin. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This speaks to us that each of us who have not surrendered our pride and will to God will face a humbling of the greatest magnitude in the end. Pride is as sneaky as the snake from which is comes. It disguises itself in the simplest and most unsuspecting ways and can leave a great trail of destruction in our personal, relational and spiritual lives. Let’s pause for a short moment to look over some ways that pride might be disguising itself in our lives. 
    1. Criticism and Gossip: Pride peaks its ugly head out from behind criticism and constantly running other people down behind their back. People who have never considered themselves to be prideful might be surprised as they realize they actually believe they are better than all of these other people they are constantly criticizing. A critical spirit is a prideful spirit. 
    2. Anger: Anger has roots of many different origins but one of them is most certainly pride. Pride convinces you that you are owed everything by everyone. When people don’t bow to your will and preferences, anger ensues. When people don’t recognize your superior insight, talent or appearance you just get mad about it. And most of the time, we don’t even realize what caused our anger. We just know we are mad. If you find yourself flying off the handle for seemingly no reason at all, follow the trail back and see if pride isn’t at the end of the rope.
    3. Boasting and a desire to be recognized: This might be the most obvious of all the ways pride disguises itself. It is very easy to spot someone who is obviously obsessed with themselves. Every story is about them. Every story ends with how awesome they are, how much money they saved or how well they performed on a given task. When we see this in ourselves or others we can quickly realize that pride in this instance is most likely a coping mechanism for someone who has yet to discover where their true identity comes from and is still searching for it in the  recognition from others.
    4. Selfishness: We are all selfish. Selfishness is natural but devastating to our relationships. Unearthing the reason for our selfishness is vitally important in cutting off the head of the snake. Since pride convinces a person that they are superior to others, they really don’t see being selfish as selfish. They actually believe it is obvious and everyone should understand why they get the last piece of pizza, why they deserve the promotion and why they get a veto on every dining out adventure (ugh!). Again, selfishness is a coping mechanism for someone who has not discovered their true source. Selfishness is most common from hurting people. 
    5. Justifying sins: Prideful people can do no wrong. They can’t be corrected. They do not receive teaching or rebuke well. This turns into constantly justifying their sins, wrong doing and behavior that is detrimental to themselves and others. Every time we make excuses for our behavior and justify our sins we lower our standards for ourselves until eventually, we have no standards left.  
    6. Unforgiveness: Pride and pain seem to work hand and hand as you might notice from the previous 5 disguises. Nothing is more telling of this than unforgiveness. Pride is what convinces us to hang onto resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness. Pride will not allow a person to ask for forgiveness or receive an apology. Don’t let a past injustice or hurt dictate any more of your future emotional and relational health. 
    7. Jealousy: A prideful person cannot celebrate with others. They find themselves embittered at people who have done them no wrong. They simply are jealous. Jealous of someone’s success, attention and accomplishments. You know pride is starting to loosen in your life when you can celebrate with others and enjoy their success and accomplishments with them instead of being jealous. 
    8. Obsession with appearance and other people's opinions: Pride, just as with the first disguise of criticism, disguises itself similarly with an obsession on what other people think. Lots of checking the mirror, purchasing clothes outside your budget and constant worry over what other people will say is more nasty offspring of pride. While there are healthy doses of concern over appropriate attire and being mindful to how others will feel and react, these can easily spin into a prideful obsession that can leave a person searching for validation and acceptance in all the wrong places. 
    9. Always Right Syndrome: The most wise person in the room realizes that they don’t have all the answers. The most prideful person is convinced they can do no wrong and are pretty much always right. Quit the argument now because you’re wasting your time with a person who has ARS. If you are suffering with ARS, be slow to speak, take time to acknowledge the worthiness of others and affirm what others bring to the table. You will discover great pleasure in respecting the opinions of the people around you and honestly, people will like you more. No one likes a know it all. 
  • Hearing God's Voice

    One of our frustrating first world problems is poor cell phone reception. We all remember the "can you hear me now?" commercials from years ago. It pains me to no end to hear believers say, "I don't think God talks to me" or "I have never heard God speak." On one hand I'm shocked and on the other I'm not at all. I went for years in my life not feeling like I could hear God's voice and felt I was doing something wrong. I think on many occasions I was doing something wrong. I was living in sin or was too busy to slow down and actually hear God. On other occasions, it wasn't that I was doing something wrong, I was just uninformed about how God speaks. Here are a few ideas and thoughts about hearing His voice. I pray they help some of you that are struggling to hear God. 

    Three Major Blockades to Hearing God's Voice

    1. Sin: Sin is like a log in our ears or a plank in our eyes. If you have confessed and repented of your sins and placed your faith in the grace of God through Christ's death and resurrection then God sees you as white as snow. If the bondage of sin persists in your life then it becomes a giant blockade to hearing God's voice. Instead, we become focused on our own guilt and shame (Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Romans 8.1) or even hiding our sin. Our eyes are not fixed on Jesus. Our ears are not tuned to His voice. They are tuned to our own passions and desires. Allow God to break the bondage of sin in our lives and transform us wholly from the inside out. The bondage of sin is not broken from human effort alone. If we take care of the natural, God will do the supernatural. 

    2. Busyness: I'm captain multitask. I love to do a million things at once. I've learned that God deserves my total attention though and I rarely slow down to listen. With our two boys, I usually ask them five times before I start speaking, "Are you listening? Are you listening? Are you listening? Are you listening? Are you listening?" I wonder how God has been trying to get our attention in our lives. The scriptures tell us He is a jealous God. He is jealous for our attention. He alone is worthy of our affection. He deserves the best of our time and attention, not the leftovers. Make some room to slow down and listen. 

    3. False Perception: If I responded to the question of "Why does God not speak to me?" with another question it would be..."How does God speak?" Many of us think only in terms of audible expressions of God's voice. I have found this expression in my journey, and most other believers, to be a less frequent occasion than the many other ways God speaks. In the scriptures God spoke through a cloud, a bush, a donkey, many other miracles as well as simple people like you and me just passing on the messages God asked us to share. Don't narrow down the ways you think God will speak. Just open your heart and mind to Him speaking and test it against His Word. God is not a liar and will not contradict Himself. Test every message you receive from the Lord in the Scriptures. It must line up. 

    There is no magic formula for hearing God's voice but these are a few simple places to start leaning in a little closer to hear Him. 

  • Leading Your Children Well

    One of the things I hear parents say more than anything else is "time just flies by." I hear parents of one year olds say it. I hear parents of young adults say it. Its one of these things that when you are young you don’t really understand but the older you get the more you realize how brief our time on earth really is. Lately I’ve been regularly fielding questions from parents about how to lead their children towards Christ in a healthy way. There are so many things I would want to cover if we were in a conference or symposium forum but today I will simply offer some practical advice for leading your children. 
    Let me first briefly begin with a Biblical foundation.
    God instituted family in Genesis. One of His first commands to Adam and Eve is to be fruitful and multiply. God wanted them to be intimate in their marriage and for them to become parents. Intimacy births multiplication. There is another message in that we will save for another day. Deuteronomy 6 is a beautiful picture of God’s plan for parenting. In a nutshell, your daily life should be filled with you talking and teaching your kids about the truth of God and how He saved you. Yes, you should constantly be telling your testimony to your kids! Isn’t that powerful? I could go on and on but let me give you a handful of practical things to lead your children well. 
    1. Lead Yourself: The most effective way to lead our children is by example. If you can’t control your temper, why should you expect them to? 2 Cor. 3.3 tells us that the Spirit of living God has written His law and truth on our hearts. You are the tablet they are reading and learning from, so lead well. 
    2. Lead by Principle and Grace: Jesus is the perfect example. It was never about, is this a moment to come down on principle or on grace? Jesus acted fully on both. Sometimes the greatest grace we have in our lives are holy rules/laws. The toughest situations are answered with both principle and grace. Be led of the Spirit in your teaching and discipline. 
    3. Lead Humbly and Honestly: Say you’re sorry when you’re wrong. Be willing to share the honest truth even when its hard. This will teach them repentance and dealing with issues head on. 
    4. Lead by Listening: As a child gets to pre-teen and teenage years the most common complaint from a child is that “My parents never listen to me.” More than they want the next toy, they want you to listen to them. Start this habit for them and you early on and make it a priority on your schedule to spend alone time with them just to talk and more importantly, listen. 
    5. Lead with Quantity and Quality: The average father spends 7 minutes per day talking to his children. Dad, you may not have lots of time every day but everything else seems to find itself on your schedule except your kids. The quantity is higher for moms but can be very guilty of having quantity without quality. Turn the phone off. The laundry can wait. The emails can wait. Turn off your notifications because time is flying by.
    We only get one shot at it and time is flying by. Let’s make the most of every moment. 
  • Pastor Kyle's Tips for Reading the Bible

    The Bible.
    Isn't it amazing how just the title of it brings a response in your own mind and emotions?
    Peace. Guilt. Anger. Frustration. Joy. Comfort. 
    You might have felt a few of those all in one big wave. A few weeks back we did a small group study on reading the Bible and I weanted to share the notes with everyone out there that might be struggling through the same stuff. 
    The truth is that sometimes we as Christians don't own a Bible, don't like reading it or just are struggling to find time to read or relate to it.
    Here are just a few of my simple tips that my help jumpstart a rather lackluster part of your spiritual journey. 
    Quit Faking It
    • We act like are master theologians on scriptures we have never read and we've certainly never cross referenced anything.
    • We quote scriptures that we are simply regurgitating from our favorite message like 2 years ago. 
    • We make excuses for why we don’t make it a priority in our life.
    • —> Start reading the scriptures in humility and honest desire.
    Quit Reading it Alone
    • Holy Spirit
      • If prayer is not a vital part of your study life. Your study life probably sucks. 
      • I encourage everyone to Pray before, Pray during, Pray After. Prayer should become like breathing. You shouldn't start and stop it. An awesome prayer to pray before beginning to read is located in Ephesians 1.17-23. Paul is praying this for the church at Ephesus.
      • The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth about about Jesus. Jesus is speaking in John 16.12-13 and says...“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
    • Brothers & Sisters in Christ:—> Start asking questions to yourself, to God and to those mature in the faith. 
      • Ask questions to those who lead you in the Lord and those that have a stable base to bring wisdom from.
      • There is wisdom in counsel. Why struggle all by your lonesome with something you are struggling to comprehend or work through when God has put the body here for this very reason; so you wouldn't be alone.
    Quit Being Afraid
    • Afraid of our own Ignorance: We don't open the Bible ebcause we don't know enough about it. That's like a student saying, "I'm new to this subject, therefore I'm not gonna open the book." Hmmm...Yeah, that doesn't make sense.
    • Afraid of correction: Sometimes we don't open the Bible because it convicts us and we know that there are areas of our lives that are not submitted to Christ. 
    • Afraid of God (based on bad understanding of God’s character): Some of us just have a flat out bad understanding of the compassionate and benevolent God we serve. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance. Don't be afraid to come to the Father. 
    • --->Start letting the perfect love of God cast out every fear so that you may approach the Scriptures with a proper view of who God is. 
    Finally, I found an awresome resources from John Piper on understanding that the scriptures demand a response. 
    Reading & Study Seeks a Response (Communication is Two Ways)
    • If God indicts us (2 Cor. 7:8–10), we respond to him with sorrow and repentance.
    • If he commends us (Ps. 18:19–20), we respond to him with humble gratitude and joy.
    • If he commands us to do something (Matt. 28:19–20), we look to him for strength and resolve to obey with his help.
    • If he makes a promise (Heb. 13:5–6), we marvel at his grace and trust him to do what he says.
    • If he warns us of some danger (Luke 21:34), we take him seriously and watch with a thankful sense of his presence and protection.
    • If he describes something about himself (Isa. 46:9–11), his Son (Mark 1:11), or his Holy Spirit (John 16:13–14), we affirm it and admire it and pray for clearer eyes to see and enjoy his greatness and beauty.

    I pray these resources help you in your journey to study the beauty of the Word of God.

  • When church doesn't feel right anymore...

    As a pastor, I have a sincere desire for every person that walks through our doors on Sunday to grow in their relationship with God and the church. I am keenly aware of the struggle that so many of us battle in understanding the Church (global), the church (local) and our place within it. Some of you have been around the Church a long time, many great experiences and probably a little heavier baggage mixed in there as well. For others, your relationship with the Church has just begun and you are still figuring all of this out. I want to share a few pieces of advice from my own personal experience and struggle with my relationship with the Church and the local church.
    When church doesn’t feel right anymore...
    1. Talk to God about your motives. The first bit of advice is probably the hardest. It hits us dead in the eyes most of the time because very few of us take the time to slow down and recognize selfish motives that have permeated our hearts. Our culture screams at us to have it our way all the time, and the Scriptures scream just the opposite. Culture beckons us to become our own god and the Scriptures call us to bend our hearts in submission to God. Very simply, this life, church included, is not all about us. Rather, God adopts us into His family and calls us to a life for His glory and renown.
    Here are a couple Scriptures to bring this home. 
    Psalm 51.10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    Phil.2.3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
    2. Be more intentional in your relationships. Many of us long for meaningful relationships but never make any effort to have them. We pray for Biblical community but never have a meal with anyone in the body of Christ. We complain about feeling disconnected but show up once a month and don’t allow relationships beyond the surface level. The early church gathered daily to pray, break bread, fellowship and learning from the apostles teaching. Most of the time when we are struggling to find our way, fit in or just make it through the week, we go into hiding. The Christian faith is meant to be lived alongside one another striving for the same goal, to be made into the likeness of Christ and to live for His renown. One of the biggest hurdles I have overcome in my Christian walk is engaging intentional relationships that I know are good for my journey. Don’t avoid them or wait on them to come to you. Be intentional. You’ll be glad you did.
    Acts 2.42 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
    3. Embrace what God is teaching you in this season. I have always been a little bit of a weird bird in that I embrace the uncomfortable. When awkward things happen I pride myself on not being shaken but learning from them. I titled this “When church doesn’t feel right anymore…” for a reason. When most of us are in this place, the first thing we want to do is bolt. We cry out, “God, get me up outta this season! I don’t care what you gotta do but get me outta here.” The longer I’ve walked with God, the more I realize in every season the Lord is teaching me something new. The longer I keep hitting the eject button, the longer I will have to keep repeating the same lesson until I learn it. God wants to prune your heart in this season. Just let Him. 
    Daniel 2.21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
    Here is a few simple prayers if you find yourself in a similar season...
    1. God create a clean heart in me. Fix my eyes on you and away from my selfish desires.
    2. God open my eyes to the people you’ve placed in my life to build me up and bring comfort and joy to me. Help me to be real and be a godly influence on others.
    3. God help me to rest in this season I am in right now. Help me to embrace your goodness in every season and to learn what you are teaching me through it. 
  • Prove Yourself

    The temptation of Jesus in Matthew chapter 4 is the first thing that follows His baptism. The beginning of Jesus' ministry started with temptation and testing. The Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness and the temptation from the devil was to prove Himself. "Turn these stones into bread." Prove yourself. I feel the large majority of humans don't wake up with a nagging voice saying, "Go prove yourself", though I know for a fact some do. In fact, I know that every human has within the desire for human applause. The desire to be recognized, affirmed and praised. Every human wants to prove their worth, their value. 

    Many of you reading this are young, as am I. Others of you are less young. (Isn't that such a nice way to say it?) At first glance the idea of proving one's self is a youth struggle but I would beg you to glance again. The desire to prove one's self, for earthly applause is natural, earthly natural. Jesus' response leads us to our path, a spiritual satisfaction that does not come from earthly applause. "But He answered and said, it is written, "Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."  Jesus is providing an example to us that we must find life, substance, worth and satisfaction from the mouth of God - not our performance for men. 

    I share this scripture and encouragement as one who has had the Lord recondition my heart to be motivated by His applause and unwavering despite the silence of those I desire praise from and focused on His words despite the noise of my critics. I speak from life experience. I encourage you to find tune your ear to the voice of the Lord and allow Him to speak to you your worth, not your performance, not the voice of your critic. 

    May we be fulfilled by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

  • Lead Quietly

    Are you feeling it yet? Not the four on the floor bass drum, not the change in weather but the pressure.
    Do you feel the pressure? To talk louder so that they’ll hear you. To go bigger so they’ll notice you. To be edgy so they’ll talk about you. Do you feel that? Well, I have. The Christian social media world is as damaging as the rest of it. And not just to the sheep but also to the shepherd. Bombarded by everyone else’s conference schedule, attendance numbers, stage design and who they are rubbing shoulders with digs down in our heart and posts up on the adirondack chair seated in our need to be noticed, and more deeply, respected. We have some incredible instruction in 1 Timothy 2.1-8 for the beast inside that envies, schemes and lusts over what is not yet and what is not ours.

    Paul is pouring into Timothy here…

    "1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. 8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing."

    So much to say, so little time. Let’s dive in for a moment together and I want to touch on a few keys to leading quietly. You’ll also notice some references to the Sermon on the Mount throughout that support this understanding on 1 Timothy 2. I think ultimately Paul’s instruction here is to raise up humble leaders, for it is only in humility that God can be glorified through our ministry. Did you see where it started?

    1. Have an Outward Focused Prayer Life
    (v.1-2) Pray for all people and especially for all the leaders in our life. Become the intercessor you want for your own life because God (through Christ & the Holy Spirit) is our intercessor. The pressure that we earlier spoke of leads us to bring more attention to ourselves, our brand and our movement when our hearts should be centered on bringing attention to Christ. We know in our hearts are pure and when we have crossed over into the dark side or the slightly shaded areas between marketing, evangelism and vanity. The truth is that we are a lot less broken than we feel when we are outward focused in our prayer and thought life. Granted, we’re usually more exhausted because of the constant pouring out and a disciplined Sabbath life becomes all the more vital, but we aren’t as broken as we feel. And then again, sometimes we are just as broken as we feel. I forget who said it but they called Sabbath, the discipline of rejuvenation. Schedule it. Do it. Love it. Praying for others, especially adversaries and other leaders, wrings ours hearts of sour emotions and un-dealt with anger and jealousy (Matt. 5.43-44).

    2. Be Better in Private
    (v.2) What if we were most godly and holy in private? In Paul’s time there was much persecution for the cause of Christ that praying for leaders was so that they could continue in public ministry without being taken to jail for it. Paul says that “peaceful and quiet lives” “pleases God our Savior”. It breaks my heart every time a Christian wants to pick fights with people who disagree with them. They want to pick public forums to shame others and convince them they are wrong. Has this ever worked in the history of humankind? Yeah, I don’t think so. It usually just makes things worse. That is why Jesus instructs us to give quietly, pray in secret, to fast and not tell anyone about it (Matt. 6.1-8). We don’t give often enough to be pleased with doing it quietly. We aren’t disciplined nor intimate enough to pray in secret because its easier to do it publicly when others are around. Based on my readings on this text as well as the Sermon on the Mount reference text, I don’t believe God is impressed with what we do publicly. It is holiness and godliness when no one is watching that He is impressed with.

    3. Repent Often
    (v.8) Repentance used to be something we heard from a lot of Christian preachers and teachers back in the day but not so much anymore. I think many of us as leaders don’t model it so it makes it pretty difficult for us to teach on. Paul’s encouragement is to not allow yourself to enter into prayer with ridding your heart of anger, envy and relational strife. Jesus was pretty hardcore in Matt. 5.14-15  "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” I dare you to confess. To boast in weakness on a daily basis (2 Cor. 12.5). I dare you to send some apology letters, texts and calls to leaders, students and friends. I dare you to start a message with what an ignoramus you can be at times. Its actually endearing to people and it is obedience to Christ. It frees our heart of pain, our mind of stress, models Christ to others and, most importantly, draws us nearer to Christ.

    May we pray outwardly, worship privately and repent often that we might please the Lord and others would be drawn to Christ in us.

  • Takam// Integrated Farm

    Today is our next to last day here in Cambodia. I have been blessed to meet incredible leaders, see a mission field of people who are hungry for truth and hope and been stirred in my call to lead a movement of crazy people who think they may just be able to change the world. We were blessed to be able to tour an artisan wood carving factory as well as experience how silk is made from worms (it’s a pretty crazy process) but I don’t care to spend any time talking about those today. I only wish to tell you about PCL’s Integrated Farm that I was able to experience this afternoon.

    Integrated Farm

    The farm sits just behind a small rural village about 45 minutes outside of Siem Reap in a place called Takam. About 150 families live in this extremely impoverished village where the average wage is only about 30 per person/family (.60 to $1 per day). 90% of Cambodia is just like this village.
    The Integrated Farm is a research facility to see what can grow and technologies that can make it easier as well as a training center to teach people how to do this on their farms. They don't just tell them, they show them through relationships. Its only 4 years old and they’ve only been growing for 3 years so that means much of the first 3 years has been about trial and error, learning and building relationships in order to pass on their findings. Below are just a few of the amazing things they are doing in order to help 90% of Cambodians learn to grow better, faster, more frequent crops and have a healthier, more sustainable life. Let me just tell you how connected each of the elements are in the midst of telling you how they are helping people.The two fish ponds have a small deck that houses pigs over the top of one portion of the pond that creates food for the fish as well as contributing to the compost station that will be moved to the rice fields to produce better and bigger rice crops. In 4-5 months a fish (Catfish and Kmher tilapia) will grow to 1 kilo and be able to return 3 bucks in the market. Not only will the dung be used for compost but before it goes to compost it goes to a biodigester which will harvest the methane and be used to cook with in the kitchen. This is a huge improvement for this community that until 3 months ago had never, ever, had electricity in it. They have used solar panels and a super battery (composed of about 40 regular car batteries) to turn the lights on for the very first time ever in this village. That’s pretty incredible.

    Rice fields
    They have been able to produce better rice than anyone else in the village and the people of the village now believe what they have been hearing about. They are teaching irrigation and field techniques and can now get two to three crops a year as opposed to one. It's hard to make money on one crop a year but with two to three crops per year they have a chance to send their kids to school, etc..

    Water Filtration
    They give out thousands a year. $12 a piece takes care of one family for a year. Drastically improves infant immortality rates. Many children die before age 5 because of unfiltered water. $12 can change one families life!

    Mushroom Project
    They are helping many widows in the community help make a living and send their children to school. One woman named Um Lai is a great example of how they are helping. Her daughter was raped by a man a couple years ago and no one would help her. She has tried to kill herself many times. They saw her climbing into a tree trying to hang herself several times. They found her and they began to train her. She now works on this project, goes to church and has hope. They start with sawdust, mix with rice leftovers grinded and with lime. They break it down and bag it. They put it in the fire steamer. They take it out and let it sit for a month and the mushrooms start coming out. They sell really well here. Over a six month cycle 1 bag produces 1 kilo = $1-1.50 per bag. Each women has made 2-300 in the last six months. From what they make they save $11 for bags and supplies stuff for the next six months. Each women has been able to trade the mushrooms, eat better and sustain themselves better. They have easily doubled what they had coming in before.

    Of course when PCL came to Cambodia 10 years ago they had dreams of helping plant churches but that journey is extremely long. A few months ago they began meeting as a church in this community, 60-70 people regularly attend. They are pastored by a man named Pastor Ike. They have plans to build a church, kitchen, fence around property.  After the need was presented for the church several pastors on this trip stepped up and agreed to take care of all expenses to build the church.

    Finally, one incredible story is of a man named Sen, (Sine). Sen grew up here, went to an orphanage, but had a dream to come to this village and start a church and farm. He now lives in Siem Reap at the PCL children's home as a house parent and works full time serving in this community as a PCL staff member.

    Wow. That’s when you know it is working. Some investments take a long time for a return and they are more than worth it.

  • Tonle Sap Lake and Common Grounds

    So far this journey has been filled with once in a lifetime opportunities, incredible stories of brokenness and hope, and one of a kind culture and physical beauty. The Tonle Sap Lake was a combination of all of the above. This is the only place in the world where you will see nearly 1.5 million people living on water. Not a lake house on the water but literally living on the water. It's a similar size to one of the Great Lakes. You can't see land when you're in the middle.

    The Mekong River is the only river that flows two ways. Ice melts on the Himalayas and causes the river to flow backwards and the lake here to rise 40-50 ft. This is the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia and also the home to the largest freshwater fish in the world! (The largest ever recorded was over 600 lbs.) There is a strong Vietnamese population from refugees from the Vietnam war that join the 100s of thousands of Cambodians that live on the Tonle Sap Lake. There is a strong racial tension between Cambodian and Vietnamese people. The exact population is not known but some estimates are as high as 1.5 million.

    PCL has given two boats to a Vietnamese missionary who is doing incredible things with the people here on the lake. They use one as a lake traveling medical clinic. It's a two story, 30 yard boat that helps these special people who, for many, will never touch land in their entire life get some kind of medical care as they do not have access to clean drinking water and disease is very prevalent.

    After our morning adventure on the lake we went to Common Grounds. Common Grounds is PCLs very own coffee shop here in Siem Reap. A two-story Starbucks looking joint with a full menu all day long including local and American favorites. The model is built around the motto, "giving the poor a working chance." They employ all local Cambodians teaching them work ethic, English, employment of course and other valuable tools that drastically improve their ability to make a decent living in this impoverished country. Even better, Common Grounds is not only making a profit but rolling that profit over into other projects around the country that are giving people a working chance as well, such as the English speaking school next door that has about 300 students at a time and the Build a City project in Andong, outside Phnom Penh.

    The model that PCL employs in nearly everything they do is built on sustainability and a working chance for the poor. It is quite beautiful to see individuals begin to have hope and dream for a better future.