By Thad Wilkinson
The adage has been repeated enough to have lost most of its meaning: give a man a fish, and you can feed him today; teach a man to fish, and you can feed him for the rest of his life. When it comes to our Cambodian orphanages, our intense efforts to increase self-sufficiency were less about us teaching and more about us learning to “fish.” Our Cambodian family learned a lot more than fishing. They learned many kinds of farming and how to grow produce that would be of interest to local markets and restaurants. Our goal was to grow our own food and to create a stream of income. As it turned out, many small streams of income have come together to help the kids of Interhope provide for their own needs. This was unthinkable when we first came to Cambodia. The Cambodian church was tiny and so poor they could barely operate. But the Lord Himself changed all that. For years now, Christianity has been growing faster in Cambodia than in any other part of Asia. So fast, in fact, that hundreds of new, growing churches have been planted, many near our orphanages. This created exciting opportunities for the new believers of Cambodia to support, love, and care for their own abandoned and orphaned children. None of this existed a decade ago, but even then, this was our vision and a cornerstone of our approach. We have always believed that support from America would, and should, eventually be replaced by local support. From 2010-2019 self-sufficiency at our Cambodian homes has risen from 3% in 2010 to 58% today. Ultimately, the day will come when, like our orphanages in Croatia and St. Vincent, the Christians of Cambodia will no longer need our help on a monthly basis to fund the orphanages we helped develop there. Another great hope is that one day, there will be enough economically viable Christian households in Cambodia that abandoned and orphaned children can have foster and adoptive homes. What a glorious day it will be when an orphanage is not even needed in the ancient land of Cambodia. Hear our prayer, oh Lord, and let your perfect will be done through our efforts.