POIPET, Cambodia — A team of YWAM Ships Kona-trained missionaries has established a field station here for the purpose of staging community development initiatives. Under the banner of The Poipet Project, the initiatives cover a broad range of areas, including vocational training, English teaching and Bible basics. The group is comprised of participants in Discipleship Training Schools held in 2015 and this year at Port YWAM Kona in Hawaii.
Uriah Lyford, who also spent four months in Cambodia last year, said he is awestruck by how seamlessly everything came together to make The Poipet Project possible.
“My personal highlight has been seeing God bring us to the right people and places at the right time to develop such an exciting ministry. Being a part of this community of like-minded people with a common vision has brought a joy and purpose to my life that I haven’t known before,” said Lyford, one of the team’s leaders.
The team’s ministry emphasis is three-fold. First, the group is starting a youth center focused on language-arts tutoring and mentoring while partnering with a local private school to help bring quality, affordable education to remote villages. Lauren Neudorf, of Canada, said teaching has been one of the team’s most important activities — and her personal favorite.
“Teaching English is our main tool for creating lasting relationships and sharing the love of God. A memory that I cherish from ministry here so far is when I shared the gospel with one of the women who I tutor in English. She has become extremely interested in Christianity; her speech exudes curiosity for the love of Christ,” said Neudorf, 20. “I continue to share with her and teach her about who God is and why I am here.”
The team also supports local business owners (who are committed to community reinvestment) by helping them earn a profit and develop ways of using some of the proceeds to benefit the well-being of their neighbors. Eric Freitag, who is in Cambodia for the second time, said he enjoys the intersection of evangelism and entrepreneurship.
“I personally hope to start a media ministry that would support both local businesses and ministries,” Freitag, 27, said. “Promotion of businesses would allow us to build relationships with the community and stay evangelistic while promotion of ministry would help to bring the Body of Christ around the amazing work that others are doing in the region.”
Finally, the Poipet Project stages recreational events to establish deeper ties in the community.
“We want to be the happiest group of people in our city,” Lyford, 30, said. “To build relationships and glorify God, we believe that ministry flows from a happy, healthy, and hopeful heart.”
Part of the strength of the team, its members say, is its emphasis on immersion into Cambodian culture — not merely living as Westerners out of context. They are recruiting members to the team who are Khmer — one of the nation’s ethnic groups — and are trying to learn the language and adapt as much as possible to the culture. Kayla Stilwell, who is doing her second stint in Cambodia, said having such a diverse team will be one of its greatest strengths and biggest challenges.
“We currently have two Khmer members on our team, but one day we hope to have many more,” said Stilwell, 21, of the U.S. “For us to learn how to be most welcoming and inclusive to all cultures — as far as languages and customs — is difficult but very important.”
Lyford said he hopes the inroads the team has made the last few months in Poipet are only the first steps in years of successful ministry.
“I feel like the doors God has opened up are an obvious sign that He’s working alongside of us and wants what we’re doing to continue. I’m excited to lay a foundation with our current team that will be followed up next year by a larger team with a longer commitment to the city and the ministries we’ve started.”
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