Cornerstone Ministries: Caring for the poor in Manila slums
History and Story of the Child Soldier Work.
In December 2010, Project AK-47 lost 200 acres of tea and 50,000 pine trees ready for harvest in the Shan States of Burma. We lost them to Suh, a cartel leader many battalions strong. It created great hardship and put massive pressure on our child soldier rescue and care programs.
God began to use this difficult time to teach us to pray for Commander Suh. At the same time that Ai Suh and Rong (Ai Suh’s second-in-command) confiscated our land and trees, Rong also bought out many of our staff at 2-3x the going rates and constantly threatened the conscription of our children. We shed a lot of tears those days.
Rong’s wife is Mong. She was caught trafficking drugs in Thailand and was imprisoned. During this time, a small prison ministry led her to Jesus. She reformed her lifestyle with gladness. Subsequently, her 10-year sentence became shortened to one and a half years for good behavior. When she was released, she crossed back into Burma (Myanmar) and reunited with Rong.
In the Fall of 2014, Rong became extremely sick. His body ballooned from high blood-pressure. He was urinating blood from kidney failure. His current boss, Pang, was an infamous Christian-hater, best known for torching a large church along the Thai/Myanmar border to the ground, and destroying thousands of Bibles. No one on Pang’s core team was allowed to follow Jesus.
Mong was desperate for her husband, Rong’s, life. She had heard that Sammy, our apostolic leader of many years, was in the area. She begged Rong to go get prayer, but he refused. Finally, when he was too sick to care for, she brought Rong to Project AK-47 in the dark of night. Sammy boldly had him kneel and pray, repenting for the days that he made our people suffer. Then he prayed for his healing.
The next day, Rong was completely healed! Out of gratitude, he brought all sorts of gifts to Sammy for the children. Then he had us share good news with his commander. Commander Pang turned red in the face but could not deny Rong was healed and allowed him to remain in his new faith. Now, in Rong’s house, there are already 10 new believers – a small but awesome harvest.
The question is: “Was the loss of a 1/2 million dollar project worth it for one man’s life to be redeemed?” Of course, it was. Rong now supports the very work he harassed and ground into dust. His story has rocked the region. Long suffering, love-filled prayer will one day resurrect from the place it falls into the ground. Love your enemy and see what God will do.
This year Pang’s men again burnt down a church in our area . . . but then that same week brought 30 child soldiers to us! A few weeks ago, as the Burmese army converged on the area and tension filled the region, Commander Pang called Sammy in for a meeting. Sammy thought he was in trouble, but instead Pang was friendly and said, “Let me know when you dedicate your new church, I will come visit. I’d even like to support a few of your teachers at your children’s home.” Sammy was shocked. God is at work, anywhere and everywhere if we are willing to follow him.
The situation in the Thai/Myanmar region remains critical. There has been an influx of many children this year due to the continued hostilities in the region. These children are on the army registry, which means that the only way to keep them from being conscripted as child soldiers is for them to be enrolled in the school in this area. We hope you will join with Be A Hero to make a difference in a child’s life this year.
What is it like to be enlisted/conscripted?
Imagine you are a parent in a village where the local leaders have counted the children in your household and told you they are coming to take away your child/children in two weeks. The day arrives and the soldiers show up at your home. You watch children being loaded into a big truck. You beg them to leave your daughter. She is only 11 and too small, too fragile. You plead with them, but they tear her from your arms. You are so terrified for her, you can’t think. Tears pour down your cheeks. You heart aches for this child . . . a deep pain begins to form . . . and it never goes away.
What is the army like?
A young boy, maybe 10 years old, sits alone. He has just experienced his first gang rape. There is a pain in his body and a pain in his heart. Except for tears and stifled sobs, he is unable to express his pain. To a child, the army is much like prison. There is no escape. Every move is controlled by the military leaders. Forced conscription and ownership of a child creates an underlying aggression. Gang rape is used as a form of control. Out of this environment, a pecking order emerges, especially among the boys soldiers, that perpetuates the culture of war.
Children in these armies are owned. They cannot go home even for visits. Some of their masters are kinder and give them a chance to learn, to grow. But so many use them for road projects, farm labor and opium harvest. Daily they train for war and are usually handling real guns by 12 years of age, or when they are strong enough wield a gun. These children function as guards, help move shipments of drugs or military supplies. If and when conflict between the rebels and the Burmese military arises, they are moved to the front lines of war.
Last year, with your help, Be A Hero, helped construct an entire school facility within an extremely poor, war-affected region. Now our project is impacting hundreds of kids’ lives in an area almost unreachable from outside help. This education keeps children from being used as child soldiers, and gives them the opportunity to know Jesus’ love personally as well.
The fact that the drug cartel controls the region creates great instability, but with the new school, we see many opportunities to protect more child soldiers. We are both wanting to expand the school we built last year, as well as sustain the children already enrolled. A self-sustained home and school is nearly impossible to attain in a conflict region. Our program received many child soldiers this year, but now we need both finances to keep these children next year, as we love and prepare them to be peacemakers in a region devastated by decades of conflict. Our success this year still requires compassionate and engaged partners like you to ensure lasting change.