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Oakmont man establishes Christian global community

Written By vibykhmer on Sunday, September 13, 2009 | 10:53 PM

Children study at Rongko school in Cambodia. The school was established by the South East Asia Prayer Center of Oakmont. The nation's leaders are impressed with the Christian-based educational system, rooted in academic excellence and high morals the center is establishing in this country where Buddhism is the official religion.
Mark Geppert of the South East Asia Prayer Center of Oakmont baptizes a young girl in a river in Cambodia. Geppert spends about 75 per cent of the year away from the Alle-Kiski Valley, traveling in Asia and Latin America as he oversees an organization that he founded in 1991 -- the South East Asia Prayer Center -- which is changing lives and giving hope to many.

Mark Geppert, of Oakmont, talks with children at the school in Cambodia that was established by the South East Asia Prayer Center of Oakmont. As president of the Center, Geppert logs more than 150,000 miles in visits to at least 10 countries each year, intent on demonstrating that the power of prayer is more than just a theoretical exercise. South East Asia Prayer Center

The efforts of South East Asia Prayer Center of Oakmont helped to establish this school --Rongko Christian University in Cambodia. The center responded to the minister of education's invitation to reform the educational system by creating a model school in the rural area.

These young girls take advantage of a beautiful day to study outside near a school in Cambodia that was established by the South East Asia Prayer Center of Oakmont. The center's educational efforts are lauded at the parliamentary and prime minister level as a "model organization for cooperation in Cambodia."

By Rex Rutkoski, VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Sunday, September 13, 2009

In many ways, Oakmont resident Mark Geppert's life has been a literal leap of faith.

After active military duty in 1970, he sold insurance and owned Cosmo's Pizza in Murrysville, then took that first springboard into uncharted spiritual waters, responding to a call to ministry.

After completing Bible school and licensing, he and his young family left Oakmont to begin mission work in Guatemala in 1976 with the support of Oakmont Baptist Church.

Today Geppert spends about 75 per cent of the year away from the Alle-Kiski Valley, traveling in Asia and Latin America as he oversees an organization that he founded in 1991 -- the South East Asia Prayer Center -- which is changing lives and giving hope to many.

This veteran of 35 years in international mission work has authored four religious books -- including "The Attack Lambs," which has been translated in to 10 languages.

As president of the Center, Geppert logs more than 150,000 miles in visits to at least 10 countries each year, intent on demonstrating that the power of prayer is more than just a theoretical exercise.

In fact, the South East Asia Prayer Center, whose support includes Alle-Kiski Valley residents and churches of various denominations, is committed to changing lives through prayer, channeling resources into humanitarian projects, establishing prayer teams that take the message of Christian faith to those who have not had the opportunity to hear it and nurturing new ministries worldwide.

"We are a Christian global community presenting the love of Christ on the platforms of health, education, parenting and micro-economics," Geppert says.

Those goals translate into very real, very human terms, including experimental farms in Laos, impacting hundreds of families, to lessons in marketing and how to use money wisely.

In Cambodia, where the center has its largest human resources, it is winning respect and encouragement even from the government. The nation's leaders are impressed with the Christian-based educational system, rooted in academic excellence and high morals the center is establishing in this country where Buddhism is the official religion.

The center responded to the minister of education's invitation to reform the educational system by creating a model school in the rural area. "(Former Valley High and Riverview High principal) Rick Rosenberger (of New Kensington) stepped up and designed the program and we instituted it with the help of people from our Singapore Church," Geppert szys. It has been a learning and growing process each year.

"Rick's educational program has lifted national standards. There are not sufficient words to express how very much we appreciate his hard work," Geppert says. (Rosenberger now works with Light of Life rescue mission.)

"We have been consistently number one in academic achievement, and the government wants us to replicate that school in 24 provinces."

Geppert very much would like to do that if the money can be raised. "That is our greatest need. There is a tremendous sense of urgency, as the girls who do not get an education and proper moral training will end up in the flesh trade in Thailand, and also are shipped to other nations for prostitution," he says.

The center subsidizes teachers, making them accountable for lesson plans, academic performance, ongoing education and bible training.

Education also is crucial for a "very serious AIDS situation" in Cambodia, he says.

In addition, the prayer center cares for orphans.

The sponsorship is $40 per month, with the full amount going to the ministry to care for the child, says Tina Tomes of New Kensington, who is the center's United States/Cambodia coordinator. (Those who would like to help the cause can find more information at www.seapc.us).

"These children are orphaned, abandoned or have parents who are disabled or too poor to care for their child," she says.

It all is an uphill battle, Geppert says. "But we have learned to be happy in what we can do and not get frustrated with the remaining enormous task," he adds.

Tomes admires Geppert's "great passion for people" and his desire to see them embrace faith in their lives. "He has an ability to connect with and inspire people and a willingness to adapt to many different situations," she adds. "It is a privilege to be a small part of this wonderful ministry."

The center's educational efforts are lauded at the parliamentary and prime minister level as a "model organization for cooperation in Cambodia."

After success with a kindergarten (starting at age 3) through 12th grade program -- 3,500 students on seven campuses -- the center is chartered to establish two technical universities, using Penn State University programs as models.

The center's largest financial expenditure is in Tibet, funding the Touching Hearts health care project, which surveys and treats children with congenital heart disease.

Geppert describes it as an environmental rather than genetic problem resulting from living at 14,000 to 18,000 feet. The center has funded the first pediatric cardio-care facility in the region, providing on-site care. The organization has spent more than $4 million in a 10-year period successfully treating 300 children and surveying 14,000, he says.

"No matter what I do, the greatest feel-good moment for me is when the job is done; a building is built, a class is taught, a sermon is delivered," he says. "Knowing you bring help to someone who otherwise had no chance is the most satisfying. Heart procedures were just performed on seven children in Tibet in June. Each one was going to die. Now they will live. "

He is awed by the sense of teamwork exhibited by people from diverse backgrounds and nations who come together to save the life of a child. That is just one example, he says, of the power of prayer.

Geppert: "We are sent to a nation to pray. Then we ask the Lord how do we reach this nation. He opens up an avenue: health care in Tibet, microeconomics in Laos, education in Cambodia, etc. The projects come out of prayer."

Although the projects receive all the attention, he says, the center, at its heart, is a prayer ministry dedicated to creating new and networking existing prayer groups. "Through books and teachings and our Web site, we resource thousands of more people," he says.

Its goal is one million people praying daily for the nations of the world.

"I think we are past the halfway point of that goal," he says.

"When we pray, we invite God into our situation. We begin to think that, even though a task seems enormous, maybe there is a way to do it," Geppert says. "Only projects born in prayer and sustained in prayer will succeed."

More information about Geppert, the programs of the South East Asia Prayer Center and how to get involved is available at: www.seapc.us

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