Sweet Sixteen by Lewis Burke
It had been a long, hot, terrifying (our taxi had an accident on the way home) day. It is a day that will be forever etched in my mind. Sokhom, the Heritage House director at the time, and I were pulling into our house in Phnom Penh about 5:00 in the afternoon. We had the first two children in the taxi with us, Kanah and Naomi, which would call Heritage House home. We had left at 5 :00 in the morning to take a bus to the Kampong Thom province to check on the children. It was the beginning of what would be an incredible journey that has lasted until this day.
When the Lord called us to Cambodia, we felt like He had given us four things to focus on as a ministry:
1. To be a Christian presence in S.E. Asia
2. To minister to orphans, widows, and the poor
3. To help train indigenous leadership to care for the needs of their people
4. To provide job training for those in need
As with everything that God calls you to, we had the burden and the vision, but walking it out would require a tremendous amount of faith and a lot of help from others.
My family had been living in Cambodia since January of 2002. We had helped a Khmer orphanage since that time, but felt like God was calling us to open an orphanage under Lighthouse Ministries in order to have a more direct impact on the lives and daily care of children God may send to us. Kristen and I had spent months visiting other orphanages being run by foreigners and Khmer. I wanted to learn from others triumphs and mistakes.
We started by assembling a Khmer staff. We needed two dorm mothers and a Khmer director to help care for the children and take care of the paperwork with the government. We rented a house that would be big enough to handle a large family. That is what we were praying for God to do; to create a family of children who had been abandoned and orphaned.
Through the years, we have had 29 children, 10 dorm mothers, and two Khmer directors live and work at Heritage House. Two of our dorm mothers, Naron and Siphan, and one of our Khmer directors, Vutha, worked at the orphanage for close to 12 years each. We have children spread out all over the country working, some are going to college, some are married, and some have children. A few are involved in ministry with other mission organizations.
Each child came into our home with a unique story.
Most had lost parents tragically at very young ages. We loved them and prayerfully sought to see them cared for and raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), and were intent on seeing them have opportunity to succeed in life with the help of our dedicated Khmer staff. The Heritage House family has been like family to my family and everyone who has lived there. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to follow Jesus into Cambodia and to obey Him by opening my heart and home to these children.
It has obviously been a privilege for my wife and sons as well. Today, Sterling and his wife, Mary Katherine, are living in Ratanakiri serving the remaining Heritage House children. They are sacrificing to help finish what God started 16 years ago and we are grateful for His grace and testimony in their lives.
Thank you to everyone who has prayed for Heritage House, who has supported through finances, who has encouraged my family, the staff, and children through the difficult days, and who have been unwavering in your prayers and faith that God could show forth His love and His kingdom purposes in and through the lives of these young men and women. Your involvement has made and continues to make a difference in the lives of those who have been a part of the Heritage House family.