He Called Me to Build a School

Mrs Teresa Tay lives in Perth and is a popular speaker in many countries. Here she shares how God called her to start a major project in Cambodia

How Emmanuel Community School came into being

By Teresa Tay

His assignment

The Lord woke me up at 5am one morning and said, “Put a skill in the young ones’ hands and strengthen their feeble knees.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Give them education, it will be a skill that will stay with them all their lives. Give them the foundation of Jesus so they will stand firm and stand strong. The young ones are the ones who will change the nation. Train up an army of a strong Christian generation who will be world changers.”

At that time my husband and I had been doing mission work in Cambodia for 13 years. For the first nine years we worked with other ministries. Now God was leading us in a specific direction. I’m the kind of person who always likes to ask the Lord for a sign as a form of confirmation. So I said, “Lord if you would get someone to give me $1 today to start the school, I would do it.”  When I told people about the $1 sign they asked, “Why didn’t you ask for $1million?” I explained, “It’s just a sign of confirmation that I need, not the amount of money that’s needed to start the school.”

His confirmationEmmanuel Primary School

At 7am that morning, a friend texted me, “as soon as I woke up this morning, the Lord asked me to give you $5000 for a school in Cambodia.” I was so overwhelmed! Then at 10am I went to a meeting where I was speaking. A lady came up to me, “I want to give you $5000 for some education work in Cambodia.” I just wanted to shout “hallelujah”. I had asked for $1, He gave me $10000! I was totally amazed at how good, loving and gracious God is. He never ceases to amaze me. Thus the vision for Emmanuel Community School was birthed.

Our conditions

A few weeks later the pastor whom we have been working with in Cambodia visited Perth. He said the district governor had asked whether we would like to start a school – we could have an old factory building on a 30 years lease for free. We replied we would but on three conditions:  one, it has to be a Christian school. Two, we must have full control of the school. Three, we are allowed to teach bible knowledge and evangelise the students. Permission was granted.

His resources

As the renovation work began for the primary school, the Lord started to speak to different people to give us love offerings. We never felt comfortable to ask for money or raise support. It’s always our belief that if the Lord calls, we will not lack. This has proved to be so.

About 18 months later, I was preparing my sermon in Singapore one evening when the Lord told me it’s time to start the secondary school. This troubled me a great deal because to have both primary and secondary school I knew the cost would be very high and I really was not confident we could handle the financial burden and the amount of extra work that needed to be put in.

I asked for a sign again. But this time I didn’t ask for money. I suggested, “just give me whatever sign You want, Lord.”

The next morning, after I preached, a lady gave me an envelop. She said, “My friend called me last night (at the time I was praying for a sign) and asked me to help her to give you a cheque of $10000 for education work in Cambodia.” I was just totally blown away.

Then a few weeks later we were asked by the same district governor whether we could start a secondary school as the students who have finished primary school would need a school to go to in the vicinity. He offered to give us the empty piece of land right next to the primary school. This would save us hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a piece of land ourselves. What excitement filled our hearts!

students in Emmanuel

His testing

I would like to say that everything was smooth sailing since. But I can’t. We have had our up and down moments. In fact it’s been a hard road for us at times.  It takes a lot of resources to build the school. There’s emotional strain on us and it tires us physically.

There were times I was so discouraged I couldn’t help but think, is this worth it? The people seem so self- centred, they only care for themselves. If they don’t care about the advancement of their nation, why should I care? These were thoughts that went through my mind from time to time. However my husband Tim and I have chosen to keep moving forward in trust and faith.

We keep on dreaming with God about empowering the young generation because they are the future of Cambodia.  Our vision for Emmanuel Community School is to equip our students with the necessary skills and abilities to make Cambodia a modern and progressive nation.We aim to instill hope for a better future for them, the greatest hope being introducing them to Jesus Christ. Our prayer is that these students and teachers will become kingdom builders and be channels of Jesus’ love to others.  I believe ten years from now, we will see results that will be bigger than what our minds can even comprehend now. end48



Update: 12 Feb 2016

A Grade 4 boy gave  his testimony how the Lord Jesus answered his prayer. He said before he could hardly read and write and could not understand much what his teacher was teaching when he first came to the school. But, after he prayed for wisdom and understanding,  he can now read and write very well and understands everything his teacher teaches!



  1. December 2015: Feedback from readers for ArticleHe Called Me to Build a School

    Hi Tim and Teresa,

    Praise God for what you dear folks are doing in Cambodia.

    Yes, Christian Education is the key to turning the Nation of Cambodia to be a Godly Nation to the Glory of God.

    May the LORD continue to richly bless your ministry and establish the work of your hands – Psalm 90:17

    Ellen and Cheng Lai Lim ~ Perth

  2. December 2015: Feedback from readers for ArticleHe Called Me to Build a School

    Good one Tim and Teresa. Be steadfast, immovable – knowing that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58. Now for the next school. God’s work done in God’s way for his glory will find him an active partner. The British missionaries in Malaya probably felt like you did and today many of us are the fruit of their labour and they would be full of joy if only they can see the results. It is only the beginning.

    Steve Oh ~ Perth (tkotgj.com

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