Charles Milbrodt dramatically encountered Jesus Christ when he was a drug lord. He went to church and found himself becoming the right-hand man to the pastor within three weeks.
“I guess I was like the Damascus-road-experience kind of guy. I came from a dark background and the fire never went out. I never felt the need to walk away from God,” said Milbrodt.
He met his wife Cathy and got married in December 1981. Missions was their goal from day one. In January of 1987, God led them to Thailand with three of their daughters.
Early Years as a Missionary in Thailand
With only USD 200 in their pocket on arrival, the Milbrodt’s immediately found themselves in a difficult financial situation. The amount they received was only a quarter of the funds pledged to them when they were in the United States.
For the next three months, they only survived on collected coconuts and vegetables given by kind locals.
“The first seven years in Thailand were quite difficult. We didn’t see any breakthroughs. But my wife and I are the pioneer type of people. That goes with our calling. We can endure many things that other people might have given up on.”
God showed Himself faithful. When the fourth month came, they received USD 2,000 a month for living expenses. Raising funds from churches and organizations from the work they do, they were able to buy their first vehicle after two and a half year walking on foot.
Looking back, Milbrodt learned that God had a purpose for his financial difficulty. He understood Thailand’s society structure from bottom up. He learned valuable negotiation skills for ministry work.
In year 1988, Milbrodt registered the Living Word Ministries International (LWMI) as a non-profit organization in Thailand.
Under the arm of LWMI, there are five strategies involved including:
- Discipleship through bible school
- Church planting through evangelism
- Leadership training through books, seminars and online platform
- Children rescue through Abundant Life Children’s Home
- Society impact through business and strategic partnership
Discipleship through Bible School
The Bible School started by LWMI offers a full two to four years bible-training program. After completing the two-year program, students who qualify have the option to study an additional two years through their accredited bachelor’s degree program or join their evangelism team.
A large percentage of the Bible School’s graduates are in full time ministry. Many who chose to join the evangelism team eventually become pastors of a region. Their extensive experience also naturally positions them to disciple new graduates seeking practical evangelistic experience in the field.
“Back in the early days, Thailand was a spiritually dead area. Things were going really slow. Most missionaries felt discouraged. But we began to see great success through our graduates. They became our advertisers. People saw the success of our graduates and wanted to join us. Many of them became our key staffs.”
The key staffs of LWMI had been working in the ministry for 20 years or more. For example, a friend Milbrodt knew 17 days after reaching Thailand, is now the president of Abundant Life Foundation, an arm of the LWMI.
“We have created a family DNA in our ministry. We are not very connected with the foreign community but we are very connected with the local community of pastors and Christian leaders. One of the problems that missionaries have is that they tend to cluster together with their own people and do not integrate with the local society.”
The Milbrodt’s have created a strong family DNA in their ministry. Everyone matters in the body of Christ, no matter the role. A maintenance person is as important as an evangelist or pastor.
Also, to keep the group together in one heart and mind, LMWI holds five in-house seminars annually, gathering 200 staffs and evangelists to connect and fellowship. This practice has kept their relationship with one another strong.
Church Planting through evangelism
To date, LWMI has built 153 churches in Thailand and are now building an average of 10 to 12 churches a year. Half of the churches are planted by graduates of their Bible school, in villages that have never had a church. The others are projects that required buildings for growing congregations.
One notable experience Milbrodt recalled is the incredible transformation of a village called Tung Pii, which means field of devils. Poverty was starked in the village with dirt-covered people and shelters. But ever since the gospel was preached and received, the village is now developed with proper housing, children receiving education and parents earning income for their family. No longer called Tung Pii, it is officially changed by the village headman and evangelist of the village to Tung Prapawn, which means the Field of God’s Blessings.
Milbrodt also recalled how a team of missionaries tracked 50 kilometers into the forest to open a clinic in a village there. A group of sick people with wasting disease and kidney disease from another village came. Although the missionaries could not treat them, simple medications and prayers were offered to them. When they returned to the clinic, the missionaries found that they were miraculously healed. They had return to acquire more medications to treat their villagers who suffered the same disease like them. But to their surprise, no one got healed. They figured that it was not the medications that healed them but God. So, the whole village came to Christ. This set the path to build nine more churches in that region to date.
Children rescue through Abundant Life Children’s Home
A new facet of ministry also began when the Milbrodt’s stumbled upon a set of twin boys in 1989. The villagers wanted to kill them because they believed one of them was a devil’s child, according to a superstition. The Milbrodt’s rescued them and eventually adopted them as sons. Today, both are in full-time ministry.
Through that experience, their eyes were opened to the countless children who have been abandoned or left without hope because of poverty, drugs and prostitution.
Abundant Life Children’s Home was birthed in the early 1990’s with 22 children. Today, it houses 700 children where they are placed under full care resident homes until they finish their education and enter the job market or continue in ministry training. The purpose of this ministry is to stop child trafficking at the grassroot level.
Interestingly, over 25 per cent of LWMI staffs are college graduates that came from the Abundant Life Children’s Home. They have joined the Milbrodt’s to reach the next generation for Jesus.
Society impact through business and strategic partnership
Disaster Relief, Care and Education for Refugees, Social and Occupational Development Projects help LWMI to establish strong ties with the government officials and make major impact in the communities.
“We work very closely with the government sector, police division and representatives of districts to help them in their work. Because of that, we receive many awards by joining hands with the local government.
“We do not only want to do things for the Christian community but the Buddhist community as well. We do that to show that we are not only interested in people of our own kind, but the social welfare of people in general.”
One of their works of rebuilding houses in the slums even appeared on national television. Because of the grass-root society initiatives, Charles Milbrodt was even named ‘Citizen of the Year’ by the government in Thailand.
Another social project that LWMI is working on is the Mai Thai Coffee. In this initiative, LWMI seeks to transform the income of rural farmers and provide financial support for orphans and at risk children.
Mai Thai Coffee involves an end-to-end business model, from providing training and seeds, to non-interest loans, sales at fair price and incentives. LWMI also runs a factory-processing coffee, three large milling stations and five small milling stations for the farmers of Mai Thai Coffee.
Today, Mai Thai Coffee has now grown to include 270 families from 53 villages. An exciting new development is a Women’s Coffee Coop. This will involve women’s group from many churches who will cultivate coffee and use the proceeds to further their ministries.
Leadership training through online platform
LMWI ministers to over 2500 ministers throughout the nation of Thailand, through the translation and distribution of books, leadership seminars and minister’s conference.
A web-based audio Bible College series, comprising of 215 audio lessons complete with student and leader booklet, will be coming soon. LWMI is currently working on an app for the Thai-speaking people worldwide.
Thanking Malaysia and Malaysians
Malaysia and Malaysians have been instrumental to the work of LWMI over the years, stressed Milbrodt.
With over nine per cent of Christians now in Malaysia compared to approximately one per cent of Christians in Thailand, we hold the privilege and calling to support our brothers and sisters-in-Christ who are working the hard grounds in Thailand.
“Thailand is still approximately one percent Christian so we have our work cut out for us. Finances are of course a major factor in our expansion efforts. As long as there are people who do not know Christ and children that need help, we will do our best to be faithful to God’s call.”
The most influential relationship that has developed with Malaysians was when Evangelist Luis Manuel brought Mr and Mrs Lee Khim Thian to Chiang Mai from Malaysia in 1999. Since then, the Lee’s felt burdened to visit every year.
Charlie calls Mr Lee Khim Thian as his “Chinese Father.” A dear mentor to Charlie, Lee helped to established and built over 150 churches. Charlie also extended his heartfelt gratitude for Mr Lee’s funding of the churches in Thailand, which mostly come from him and his personal connections. Mr Lee has also been instrumental in providing the blueprint for church construction and the idea of having a sustainable ministry.
“Brother and Sister Lee Khim Thian are now in their eighties, but are passing the torch to their sons to carry on. We are extremely thankful for his wonderful family and the many, many wonderful Malaysian brothers and sisters in Christ we have met through over the last 17 years of our work.”
The best legacy to leave on earth is the transformed lives we see, which perpetuate for generations after ours.
Out of God’s grace and favor, today Milbrodt sees and enjoys the fruit of his legacy, carved onto the hearts of the people in Thailand.
Most of all, Milbrodt’s legacy in Thailand is forever etched in the stones of the Heavens, seen and remembered by our Heavenly Father.
Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.
– By Shannon L. Alder
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