The program is based in rural Laos. It is 76.25% mountains. The total land area is 140,200 kilometers. There are 65 villages with a total population of 21,941 – 11,012 women and 10,929 men (3590 families). There are 3 major tribal groups, the Laotai, Monkhamae and Chiteebad. Among these tribes are 8 sub-ethnic groups. They have their own traditions, beliefs, culture, and distinct languages. Literacy rates in the official language (Lao) are very low. Infrastructure is limited in the region, only nine of the villages have “development groups,” local governments that work to provide necessary social structures for the community. The entire region only has four medical clinics, which can barely provide basic health care and access to medication. Improvements in economy, health, and education are difficult to implement since the road infrastructure is limited. Only 48 villages have road access at all.
The quality of education for the entire district is poor. While each of the 65 villages in the region has its own school, some only provide education to the third grade, and most students do not continue beyond that level. Those who want to continue to secondary or high school would have to leave their villages and move to a larger town, leaving family and friends at a young age. It is difficult for these students to find a decent place to live when they move to where they are pursuing their education. Many students, with no other options available, end up in small, private dormitories, which are often dirty with no running water or electricity.
Poor living conditions affect students’ health and their ability to study. Additionally, they suffer in emotional, social, mental and spiritual development. Students struggle with basic daily needs. Packed into small dormitories, they do not receive adequate time to quietly reflect and process the concerns they have in life. The lack of personal, physical, and emotional security hinders development of character and relational skills, as well as their awareness of personal talents and abilities.
The parents of these students from the remote villages are not able to financially support their children. They are subsistence farmers, and many are addicted to opium. They cannot afford to feed their children, let alone cover the price of renting a room in a dormitory. For these tribal children to receive the opportunity that education offers, they need a safe and healthy environment. Unfortunately, their parents are unable to provide this need.
I grew up in Laos in a Buddhist and an ancestral worshiper family. I remember waking up every day very early to go to the temple. What I wanted to do at the temple was to find something powerful, a power I did not know at that time. Every morning I would get up early to bring food to the monks on the street, bowing and kneeling before them, and I would also sacrifice food to my ancestor spirits. Why did I do all of this? I was trying to find God. I thought that going to the temple, giving food to the monks and sacrificing ducks and chickens to the spirits was the way to meet God, the most powerful power.
In 1996, I was sixteen years old. I had a dream. In my dream I was in a place that was absolutely dark. I was terrified because I could not find anyone, no single living thing. I ran all over the place to find a way out, but I could not find it. Finally, I knelt down and said, “Jesus help me.” After I said that name, suddenly a bright light started to shine on me from my right hand. I looked at the light, got up, and followed it. When I woke up from that dream, I felt something totally different inside of me! God did many wonderful things in my life after the dream. It was a turning point of my life. He transformed me from worshiping spirits and Buddha to honoring Jesus with my whole life. I was dead and lost before I met Jesus, but now I have a brand-new life. I experienced what was like to be dead without Jesus, and how meeting Him brought me life. It was amazing! I experienced God’s light in my darkness, and now wanted so much to tell people who are lost and dead in their spirits and souls about Him. My heart was burning to share about what Jesus did for me, I could not contain myself, so I started to share with my family. It was a long journey to intercede for them, but God was faithful, and all six of my siblings and my parents accepted Jesus. Many of them are in the ministry now. I praise Him for what he has been doing in me and in our family! In 2000 God gave me a vision to have a place to train, equip and disciple people, and He is fulfilling that vision with NGA. It was God’s original dream and vision.
In 2005 God talked to me when I was praying from Isaiah 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” I told God to send me. I told God I want to go to the end of the earth. While I was still talking to him, Ezekiel 22:30 came to me, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” So, I told God that I want to be someone who stands in the gap and builds the wall on his behalf.
I believe that God looks at our hearts and our intentions when we pray. In 2008 God answered my prayer. He called me to go to the rural part of my country, one of the poorest, most isolated, darkest, and least developed regions in Laos. There is no clean water, no electricity, no bathrooms, no food, and many other limitations. The first time I got there, it was like a different world, though it was still my country! We looked alike but did not understand each other. They wore different kinds of clothes, spoke different languages, and lived very differently. I was overwhelmed with poverty and spiritual darkness, the heaviness of evil spirits. It was literally the ends of the earth for me! For three years, we worked with fourteen different villages. We shared the gospel wherever we went through education, health, and agriculture.
While I was still working in these remote villages, God gave me a vision. God put on my heart to set up a safe place for the tribal boys and girls who were the poorest in the region. 80-90% of tribal students in the region have to leave their families and their villages to come to a larger town to receive an education. Some villages only provide school to about third grade. The closest village might be an eight hour walk away. They have to walk home every weekend to see their families. Some students who live further away will take for three days to get to their villages. Some have to take a ferry across a river, some have to swim across the river, then change their clothes and move on. What a life! My heart just broke for these tribal kids. They needed someone to tell them how much Jesus loves and cares for their hearts and their souls.
The dilemmas for tribal students do not end when they say goodbye to their loved ones. They have to face life without any support from their families. They would find a small spot and build a small cottage close to the school. They struggle with loneliness, fear of the unknown, not having any support, not having physical things like food, clean water, electricity, bathroom. No one will care for them when they get sick. The people in town speak a different language from them, so they feel dumb and worth nothing. Some cottages will have about over 10 children staying together. They eat, sleep, and study in those tiny places. The first time I saw it, it broke my heart to see how they lived.
After getting to know these children, I started talking to God and shared the vision He gave me with a friend. She shared my story with some other people, and one day, a guy that I never met sent me money to build the house for a group of girls. So, I built the house and stayed with 15 girls as a start and worked with 10 boys in a different place. I focused a lot on girls because they were so mistreated. They have no rights, no value besides being having babies and keeping house. Many young girls in the tribal areas are raped after they begin menstruating or their virginity would be offered to someone when they are young, andthe girls would have no right to say anything against the men who hurt them. This would happen all the time when I was there. In addition, many girls don’t have right to go to school or receive any kind of education. Many girls end up having many children when they are still very young. This is so sad but true in the lives of tribal villages in Laos.
We built a house there to be a place to disciple, equip, and educate these young girls. We taught the girls many things, everything from how to use a bathroom, how to smile, how to cook, how to wear clothes, how to clean themselves, and many other things we needed to teach them. They asked me why I was doing this, and I told them that Jesus told me to come here to share his love and serve them. I lived with and discipled them for the next four years. Their lives changed so much. They went home and shared with other girls about what they had learned. They were so happy to know that women can make a difference, that they are not dumb but have value and dignity, that they are important because God created them in his image, and He loves them. All the girls that lived with me at that time have since accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
Sadly, in June of 2014 the house was shut down, and I had to leave the area. But even though I had to leave, God’s love spread out to so many different villages through the seeds that were planted in those girls’ lives. Two years after that, in 2016 many of the girls came down to the capital city looking for me. It was amazing that they were able to find their way to get to the city. They had never left their villages in their entire lives. It takes two days to get from a village that has 300 to 400 people to the city that has almost a million. Only God can do that, only God could lead them there. He was not finished with this work yet. So, we restarted our ministry again in 2016. Almost all the girls that were living in the remote mountain villages are now staying in the city. All of them are students somewhere – in high schools, vocational school, even college!
Since 2016, we are growing. More girls have come into the city this year and now we also are caring for 4 boys. We now have two houses in the city – one for the girls and one for the boys. In total, we now have 18 kids in our care. These kids are the first generation in Laos that have heard the gospel of Jesus. Our heart and vision is to disciple this young generation and send them out to share His love with their families and villages or wherever God calls them to go. It is so exciting to see them grow in God and have their hearts changed by His love. Almost all of them have shared with me a vision of what they want to do in the future with their lives - they all want to serve Him! It is amazing to see how God is moving among them! Many of them are even now sharing Jesus with their friends and families.
We are so thankful for what God is doing through this ministry, His ministry, and we are hoping to expand. We are dreaming next about a bigger building, to have facilities that would allow us to do more kinds of training, and to expand our discipleship program. If you would pray with us for those things that would be great!
Thank you so much for letting me share. God bless you.