I Still Have Dreams
By Lily Lee
A Shocking Miracle of Rebirth
In 2001 as I stood in front of my television watching the 9/11 attack, my heart and chest seemed to tear apart. In late October, I experienced further heart stress when my oldest brother passed away due to a sudden heart attack. Then on December 29, an unbearable pain in my chest and stomach rushed me into the emergency room. A cardiologist immediately performed an emergency quadruple bypass on my heart.
Right after the surgery, I was rushed back into the operating room due to uncontrollable internal bleeding. Praying beside my bedside, my husband was simultaneously calling our families and friends about my urgent medical situation. Though I was unconscious at that time, I still vividly remember that I was calm and peaceful, knowing fully that it was God’s gentle hands leading me through the shadow of death.
After a month in intensive care, I was discharged to go home. It seemed as if I had been reborn with a new lease on life, but I was actually physically and emotionally depleted. I could not sit or stand beyond 10 minutes, I didn’t want to eat or talk, and I could not focus on anything. I wondered if I might be handicapped for life.
Every night, an unbearable pain would wake me up before midnight. All I could do was to whisper to God, “Lord, help me sleep till one o’clock tomorrow! “One-thirty tomorrow!” “Two o’clock!” That was the way I struggled through the physical pain and slept longer and longer. Forcing myself to read the Bible aloud, I couldn’t even finish a line before I would lose my attention. Again, I asked God, “Lord, can I read two lines tomorrow?” “Four lines tomorrow?” Gradually, I was able to finish a whole page of my Bible reading. In similar manner, I tried to fight my memory loss by memorizing Psalms—one verse, two verses, half a page. I struggled this way for almost four months.
A Rebirth of Life and Vision
In the Fall of 2002, after having taken a leave of absence for a whole semester, I struggled to go back to my college and resume teaching, to affirm to myself that I was still able to work! In early November, when I was feeling somewhat stronger, I went to church and worshipped. I prayed earnestly to God, “Lord, I have talked about life dedication for 20 years. Today is the time for action!” My prayer and tears of joy mingled with the excitement I felt at God’s continued use of me in His work.
So, at the end of 2002, I finally laid down my teaching profession and entered into full-time Christian ministry. For many years, I had served as the board chair of Chinese Christian Herald Crusades (CCHC), headquartered in New York, and now I joined the organization as a co-worker. In amazing ways, God opened doors for us and made my longtime dream come true: to minister to women so that the image of God is restored in them, and they live out the abundant life as promised by Christ.
We entered China and began to establish the Children’s Village in Fujian to take in and serve orphans who had lost one or both parents, and also children whose parents were in jail. Two years later, we established our second Children’s Village in Guangxi, and then another in Sichuan. We also founded Garden of Hope in New York (GOH-NY) to care for and rebuild the lives of domestic violence victims and break the silence and traditional taboo of wife-abuse among Chinese communities. Abused women victims were being healed and restored to self-respect in the image of God.
In the beginning of 2007, at a staff prayer and fellowship meeting, I excitedly shared stories of God’s blessings on our ministries as “dreams come true.” Almost in unison, the sisters and brothers asked, “Lily, do you still have dreams?” Suddenly, I realized that there was indeed a vivid dream bubbling inside me! However, this “dream” seemed too remote and too huge to even think of it! Dare I share it with them?
I slowly shared: I hope I can witness with my own eyes someday within my lifetime, that some Chinese Christians will start a ministry to combat human trafficking, to rescue and restore women and girls who are exploited into sexual trafficking, to clothe them with Jesus’ love and the gospel, and to wrap them with Eden’s glorious fullness, just as Jesus said in the parable, “When I was naked, you clothed me!”
A Ministry of Action in Cambodia
The same year, during a retreat with Fullness in Christ Fellowship (an organization I had co-founded in 2001), I was pushed by the Holy Spirit to share the issue of global human trafficking—that women all over the world are being discriminated against, humiliated, abused, and even slaughtered. That day, the sisters wept for the women and girls who literally live in hell on earth. And together we asked God, "What can we do?" knowing that Christ also died for women such as these.
Needing to focus a ministry on a specific location, throughout the year 2008, the idea of Cambodia never left me. At the retreat that year, I shared the results of my year-long, in-depth research on Cambodia, a country rebuilt after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge but one that experienced a rampant surge of the sex trafficking plague. I also shared some workable ministry strategies that came to my heart through prayer.
At that meeting, sitting beside me was Debbie Choy, whom I didn’t know at the time. After hearing me share, she revealed that she had been a missionary in Cambodia for more than a year and came back to the United States to get medical treatment. Shocked, I uttered, "Take me to Cambodia!”
The following year—on March 8, 2009—we flew to Cambodia together. This was my first time to set foot in a country that was so foreign and strange to me—yet so deeply impressed on my heart. Debbie, however, revisited her old place and was happy to reunite with her old friends. On the day I was leaving, I asked Debbie, "Would you consider coming back to Cambodia to serve?” Throughout the following year, God put His love for the Cambodian girls deep into Debbie's heart! God's calling came quietly and vividly.
On March 8, 2010, Debbie resolutely set foot in Cambodia again and became our first missionary in Cambodia! She is now the field director of Pleroma Missions in Cambodia (PMC), entrusted by God to develop this ministry. By March 8, 2011, our first project, Pleroma Home for Girls, was officially launched in Phnom Penh, and a dedication ceremony was held!
Seeking to follow the ministry of Jesus, PMC is a holistic ministry, actualizing and manifesting Micah 6:8—“to act justly and to love mercy.” Helping to liberate girls and women who have been trampled on, we provide hope and opportunities for healing through counseling, rebuilding, education, and reintegration back into society. Restored in the glorious image of God, these girls and women are able to live lives of fullness in Christ.
In 2021, I celebrated the extra 20 years of life the Lord had given me to see a dream come true—the Pleroma Home for Girls in Cambodia. Before my bypass surgery, I conceived of the Christian life theologically. But afterwards, I knew God wanted me to launch into a new journey of Christian action.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).