Gateway to hope

Pastor Mark Schultz from LifeWay Lutheran Church, Epping and Newcastle, in Sydney’s north-west, recently led a team of volunteers to the Lutheran Church of Cambodia’s new outreach point in Tang Krang village, Kampong Cham province, Cambodia. The team was comprised of people from LifeWay and Immanuel Lutheran Church, Woden ACT. The two congregations funded building a manse and worship and community centres, which were opened while they were there. Pastor Mark baptised six young people at the same service (read his story). Karina McKenzie from LifeWay was one of the team.

We went to Cambodia to build a fence.

A fence. The dictionary defines it as: a barrier, railing, or other upright structure, typically of wood or wire, enclosing an area of ground to prevent or control access or escape.

When you break it down, it actually seems a rather contradictory thing to do, to build a fence around a new church in a rather non-Christian community, doesn’t it?

We spent a week working on that fence – from laying concrete, painting the pillars, digging and drilling holes with primitive tools, eyeing lines and straining wire. But at the end of that week there was a rather impressive fence.

While we were there, I had time to contemplate the significance the fence might hold for neighbouring families. Was building a fence around this new church and therefore closing it off a good outcome?

As the week progressed, the number of children from the village who came to play and laugh with us grew. While the wire was yet to go up, they came into the yard from every direction. It was wonderful to see. On the last day, as the wire went up, I felt a twinge of pain realising we were creating a barrier for them to overcome. That was, until we had the dedication of the new church.

Now I don’t think they see that fence so much as a barrier, but more a threshold. As they came through the gate that sunny Sunday morning, it was clear they knew they were crossing over into something special. And they were coming to see how it could change their lives.

That fence had created a gateway to a new beginning for them. And each time they walk through it, it’s a reminder of the new life being offered to them through Christ.

It might have just been a fence this time, but now the real building starts as God’s kingdom begins to take shape.

Back home I have found opening my church door has never been more powerful than it has been these past few Sundays. Now a little piece of that mission trip is with me every time I cross that threshold, reminding me of the one we helped create for our new friends in Cambodia.

If you, your school or your congregation, would like to know how you can connect to the mission of God through a LCA International Mission partnership, you are invited to phone Erin on (08) 8267 7300 or email For more information, go to

Read more stories about our partner church in Cambodia at