Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Who Is Jesus?

Happy Birthday Jesus! This Christmas morning I awoke with the desire to list the names of Jesus as a I reminder of who He is to me and to the world!

He is our Advocate (1 John 2:1)
He is the Almighty (Revelation 1:8) – the all powerful, ruler of all
He is the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8,17, 2:8, 21:6, 22:13)
He is the Anointed One (John 1:41 & 4:25)
He is the Author and Finisher of our Faith(Hebrews 12:2)
He is Author of Eternal Salvation(Hebrews 5:9)

He is the Only Begotten Son (John 1:14,18)
He is the Beloved Son (Matthew 12:18)
He is The Bridegroom (Mark 2:19-20; Matthew 9:15; Luke 5:34-35; John 3:29)
He is the Branch(Isaiah 4:2)
He is the Bread of life(John 6:32) ---Satisfies, strengthens and sustains.

He is the Capstone (Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:7)
He is Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16, Luke 9:20, John 1:41)
He is Consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25)
He is the Corner-stone (Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16, Zechariah 10:4, Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:6)
He is our Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)-- instructs, stands besides us.
He is our Creator (John 1: 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17)

He is Dayspring or Rising Sun (Luke 1:78)
He is our Deliverer (Romans 11:26)
He is the Desire of the Nations (Haggai 2:7)
He is the Door, the Door of the Sheep (John 10:7,9)
He is El Shaddai --God Almighty (Genesis 17:1)
He is Emmanuel/Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:22-23)
He is Eternal Life (1 John 1:2; 5:20)
He is the Everlasting (Eternal) Father (Isaiah 9:6) -- Always exists

He is a Father to The Fatherless (Psalm 68:5)
He is the Faithful witness (Rev: 3:14)
He is our Firm Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11)
He is the Firstborn over all Creation (Colossians 1:15)
He is the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5)
He is the Forerunner (Hebrews 6:20)
He is Friend (John 15:15)

He is the Gate (John 10:9)
He is God (John 1:1-3, 20:28, Colossians 1:15-17, Titus 2:13, Isaiah 40:3)
He is God and Lord (Jn.20:28).
He is God Blessed forever(Romans 9:5)
He is God's glory (Hebrews 1:3)
He is God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16)
He is God, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15)
He is the Good shepherd (John 10:11)
He is the Governor (Matthew 2:6)
He is the Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13)
He is the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14)
He is the Great I Am (Exodus 3:14)
He is the Great Physician (Matthew 2:16-17)

He is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22)
He is our Healer (Matthew 8)
He is the Heir of All things (Hebrews 1:2)
He is High Priest Forever (Heb.6:20)
He is the Holy Child Jesus, or Holy Servant Jesus (Acts 4:27)
He is the Holy One (Acts 3:14)
He is the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24)
He is the Holy One of Israel, your Redeemer (Isaiah 41:14)
He is our Hope (1 Tim 1:1)
He is the Hope of Glory (Colossians 1:27)
He is the Horn of Salvation (Luke 1:69)
He is our Husband (2 Cor. 11:2)

He is the I Am (John 8:58)
He is the Image of God(2 Corinthians 4:4)

He is Jehovah (John 6:35, 8:12, 8:58, 10:9, 10:11, 11:25, 14:16, 15:1, 18:5,6)
He is the Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42)
He is The Just One (Acts 7:52)

He is King (Zechariah 9:9, Matthew 21:4, John 18: 36)
He is King of Ages (1 Timothy 1:17)
He is the King of Glory (Psalm 24:10)
He is King of Israel (Matt 27:42; Mark 15:32; John 1:49; 12:13)
He is King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2)
He is King of kings (Revelation 19:16, 1 Timothy 6:15)
He is the King of Saints (Revelation 15:3)

He is the Lamb of God (John 1:29,36)
He is the Leader and Commander of the people (Isaiah 55:4)
He is The Life(John 14:6)
He is the Light of the World (John 8:1)
He is the Living One (Rev. 1:18)
He is the Living Stone (1 Peter 2:4)
He is Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the root of David (Rev 5:5)
He is the Logos/Word(John 1:1)
He is Lord -- Master and Lord: (John13:13)
He is Lord and God (Jn.20:28)
He is Lord of All (Acts 10:36)
He is Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16, 1 Timothy 6:15)
He is the Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians 2:8)
He is the Lord of Peace (2 Thess. 3:16)
He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5)
He is Lord of Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6)

He is Man of Sorrows(Isaiah 53:3)
He is Master and Lord (John13:13)
He is Mediator of the New Covenant (Heb. 9:15)
He is the Messenger of the covenant (Malachi 3:1)
He is Messiah (Daniel 9:25, John 1:41,4:25, Matthew 16:16, Luke 9:20)
He is our Mighty Fortress (Psalm 31:3)
He is Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6)
He is the Mighty One(Isaiah 60:16)
He is the Morning Star(Revelation 22:16)

He is Our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7, Exodus 12)
He is the Potentate (1 Timothy 6:15) -- High officer, great authority, mighty
He is the Power of God (1 Cor. 1:24)
He is our Precious Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6)
He is Prince of Life (Acts 3:15)
He is the Prince of kings (Revelation 1:5)
He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
He is the Prophet (Luke 24:19, Acts 3:22)
He is our Protection (2 Thess. 3:3)

He is Rabbi (Teacher/Master (John 1:38, 3:2)
He is our Redeemer (Job 19:25)
He is our Refuge (Isa. 25:4, Psalm 62:7)
He is the Resurrection and life (John 11:25)
He is the Righteous Branch (Jeremiah 23:5)
He is the Righteous One (2 Timothy 4:8)
He is the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4)
He is the Rock of My Salvation (2 Samuel 22:47)
He is the Root of David (Revelation 22:16)
He is the Rose of Sharon (Song of Songs 2:1)
He is Ruler of God’s Creation (Rev. 3:14)

He is our Savior (Luke 1:69, 2:11, John 3:17, Titus 3:6)
He is the Servant (Mark 10:45, Acts 3:13, Mark 9:35; 10:42-45, John 13:1-20, Acts 3:13-26)
He is our Shield (Psalm 84:9)
He is Son of David (Luke 18:39)
He is Son of God (John 1:49, Heb. 4:14)
He is Son of Man (Matthew 8:20)
He is Son of The Most High God (Luke 1:32)
He is the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6; 50:4-9, 52:13 to 53:12)
He is our Strength (Isaiah 25:4)
He is the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2)

He is Teacher (John 1:38, 3:2)
He is the True Light (John 1:9)
He is the True Vine (John 15:1)
He is the Truth (John 1:14, 14:6)

He is the Way (John 14:6)
He is the Wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24)
He is Wonderful (Isaiah 9:6)
He is the Word (John 1:1)
He is the Word of God (Rev. 19:13)

He is Yahweh(John 6:35, 8:12, 8:58, 10:9, 10:11, 11:25, 14:16, 15:1, 18:5,6)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Remembering My 'Surrogate Grandmother'

Today I attended the funeral of one who holds a special place in my heart. Her funeral was truly a celebration of her life. I had opportunity to share a brief memoir of what I remembered of my beloved Auntie Thora who died at 89 years old this past Tuesday December 5th. Having not had the opportunity to experience the blessings of grandparents since they all died either before I was born or a few years after my birth, God brought into our lives a long time friend of my mum's who was not only a follower of Jesus Christ but whose life was a reflector of God's love by the various ways she touched so many hearts in so many ways. She inspires me to not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time I will reap a harvest if I do not give up. Galatians 6:9. Here are my thoughts:

This past Wednesday morning my Mum called me at work to let me know that A. Thora had passed away, I asked myself the question how would I remember A. Tho and at that very moment the Lord brought to my mind the verses from 2 Timothy 4:7-8: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, will award to me on that day.' A. Tho indeed fought the good fight, and finished the race with such grace and dignity and kept the faith. Being a caregiver to Uncle Don for so many years, she modeled what it meant to ‘love in sickness and in health’ by loving sacrificially and selflessly. She demonstrated such kindness, gentleness, diligence and perseverance despite the daily challenges and though she may have been small in stature, her strength was larger than life because her strength came from the Lord.

Auntie Tho always displayed such calmness and contentment. It was obvious that God’s peace was evident in her life and I think it’s because she knew how to cast her cares on the Lord. I don’t think I ever heard her complain about anything. She had the faith to believe that He would be her refuge and Her mighty fortress during difficult times and she had the faith to believe that He would sustain her and give her all she needed, one day at a time for His joy reigned in her heart.

My sister Suelyn commented that her fondest memory of A. Tho was spending Sundays with her in Guyana where she made the first green and white lace dress for the only doll Suelyn ever had as a child. Time together with her was magical and went quickly and she always had the best of snacks and could always capture our attention. A. Tho and U. Don may have had no physical children but God indeed blessed them with many spiritual children and grandchildren. They were and are the spiritual parents and grandparents to many for they knew and understood what it meant to invest in the next generation. They had the ability to talk to anyone regardless of how old or how young that person is/was. And to all who came to her, A. Tho knew how to give advice without judgment, how to listen with compassion and how to counsel with words of wisdom just like her Savior.

To my mum who knew her since she was 16, A. Tho was her mentor and her surrogate mother as she lost her mother when she was a teenager. I am sure there are many here who would say the same. She was never too busy for anyone and welcomed all with such warmth and love.

When I think of A. Tho, she exemplifies for me the servant heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. She served quietly, with such humility for she was never one to seek the limelight or draw attention to herself, she simply sought to encourage and lift others up. I feel deeply blessed to have known her and as my little niece Jacquelyn said ‘we will remember A. Tho in our hearts’. Today, I think we will all agree that there are many people who cross our paths but there are very few who leave a mark/impact on our lives. A. Tho was such a person. Her friendship will forever be remembered as a precious gift from God. She is an example of a life well lived for the glory of God and as she now receives her heavenly reward, I can here the Lord say to her ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’Amen

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Living in a fantasy
While all the worlds in misery
The East became a place of strife
But here we lead an easy life.

Ah! The agony and suffering,
The wars, the famines – everything
Disease and bloodshed – all are rife
In the Asian, African, ordinary life.

And parents lose their sense of drive
When their children die before age five.
Many look to the ugly knife
To end their miserable, hopeless life.

When a tsunami overthrows your home
You leave, find somewhere else to roam
And wonder why you bother to live
When life takes all you have to give.

When earthquakes split apart the land
When your life disappears in the shifting sand:
‘Tis a struggle just to go on living
The world is not at all forgiving.

So here we are in a Western Land
We lounge on the couch by the TV stand
And watch, unfolding, news of the East
Engrossed by the terrible news of the East.

The man says: “Yes, that’s very sad;”
And again: “It’s really just too bad”.
He bids farewell to his dear wife
And goes and leads his business life.

The wife remains and stays at home
She talks with friends on the telephone.
When her child asks of the Eastern strife,
Replies: “Son, that’s merely part of life.”

And so we stand in luxury
(Or lie in lawn chairs by the sea)
And contemplate the joys of life
Of simple, easy, rewarding life.

For shame, O people of the West!
You ride a carousel, and all the rest
Of humanity toils and works and strives
To turn the wheels of your fairytale lives!

Now is the time to arouse from stupor
And mend the sorrows of the poor
The time to help and heal and care
For those in the world who are dry and bare.

I charge you now to heed the call
Of Him who loves you more than all
Now stand and act and do not rest
O men and women of the West!

by Samuel Ganton, Age 14

God inspired me to write this poem. Normally, it takes me days, working sporadically to finish a composition, but I wrote this one in about half an hour. I cannot take much credit for it, and I pray that God will use it for His Glory.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Inadequacy--an opportunity to trust God

This past weekend I had the privilege of sharing at 3 services at my home church about how our lives can intersect with the lives of those who are oppressed and what we can do to respond to breaking the chains of oppression. My main desire was that people would see God’s heart through what I shared and that it would be His words that would touch people. I was completely overwhelmed by the response by many who came forward offering their skills, their finances as they caught the vision of investing in ‘one child at a time’. I went home feeling exhilarated and thankful for what the Lord had done. I began to pray over the names of people who signed up and the others who I had had conversations with ---to be entrusted with encouraging others to be involved in standing for God’s justice and to be His voice to the voiceless is quite an unbelievable task.

Yesterday morning as I awoke feelings of inadequacy came over me as I thought of the ‘pioneering’ work ahead. Yet the Lord in His love and graciousness sent two timely reminders that were a source of encouragement and blessing to me to keep pressing on and persevering. One of these reminders came from an email I received from those on the front lines who are directly involved in the battle to end child prostitution. The comments were like life to me. This is what was shared at a recent gathering of agencies in Cambodia.

In the corporate worship time we were reminded of Psalm 24 and that Cambodia is the Lord’s and all that is in it; and that we are a generation that will seek the Lord.

*Also from 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. We have a ministry of reconciliation. That God reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and that we can share that with others. That families will be reconciled through our ministries, kids to their fathers and fathers to mothers etc.

* We were reminded of the army in Joel, who worked in unity. There was prayer for the unity of the body of Christ and unity within the coalition. John 17:20-26.

*There was a reminder in the ministry of building the capacity of the local staff to take on God’s vision. Call forth the teachers, preachers, evangelists, prophets, apostles etc.

*Also, one person felt that some people feel inadequate to do what God is calling them to do. They reminded us that God requires only an open vessel which He will fill. You do not have to have all the answers. Your ministry will come from your communion with the Lord.

*Walk in authority, compassion and power.

*Enjoy the Lord.

*Believe in God for great things!

*Putting on the full armor of God & stand firm in the battle.

*To be committed to praying for one another.

*Our God loves us with an everlasting love.

*Fill your minds with the things of Phil. 4:8.

But if this wasn’t enough to keep moving forward, I went to my weekly bible study at my pastor’s house. This week starts the first of 10 weeks in which our whole church will be studying ‘Believing God’ – a video bible study series that was developed by Beth Moore one of my favorite bible teachers. At the study the Lord encouraged me from the words of Joshua 1:3-5 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea [a] on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

It is a reminder that this is God’s work and that He will raise up the army, He will open the doors and He will be with me throughout the process. These are not new words to my ears but they serve as a reminder that my focus needs to be on Him and not the ‘work’. The promise land that He has for me is one that requires I keep stepping forward into my ‘Jordan river’ and that I keep believing His promises despite the challenges before me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"What Is That to You? You Follow Me!"

Today I received an article from one of my favorite authors, John Piper. I thought I would repost it here on my blog as a reminder to myself about comparing to others. I hope you enjoy it.

John 21:18-22

After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. He answered yes three times. Then Jesus told Peter how he would die—apparently by crucifixion. Peter wondered about how it would go with John. So he asked Jesus, “What about this man?” Jesus brushed off the question and said, “What is that to you? You follow me!” Here’s the whole interchange.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:18-22)

Jesus’ blunt words—“None of your business, follow me”—are sweet to my ears. They are liberating from the depressing bondage of fatal comparing. Sometimes when I scan the ads in Christianity Today (all ten thousand of them), I get discouraged. Not as much as I used to twenty-five years ago. But still I find this avalanche of ministry suggestions oppressing.

Book after book, conference after conference, DVD after DVD—telling me how to succeed in ministry. And all of them quietly delivering the message that I am not making it. Worship could be better. Preaching could be better. Evangelism could be better. Pastoral care could be better. Youth ministry could be better. Missions could be better. And here is what works. Buy this. Go here. Go there. Do it this way. And adding to the burden—some of these books and conferences are mine!

So I was refreshed by Jesus’ blunt word to me (and you): “What is that to you? You follow me!” Peter had just heard a very hard word. You will die—painfully. His first thought was comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life of fruitful ministry, will he get to?

That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others. There is some kind of high if we can just find someone less effective than we are. Ouch. To this day, I recall the little note posted by my Resident Assistant in Elliot Hall my senior year at Wheaton: “To love is to stop comparing.” What is that to you, Piper? Follow me.

What is it to you that David Wells has such a comprehensive grasp of the pervasive effects of postmodernism? You follow me.
What is it to you that Voddie Baucham speaks the gospel so powerfully without notes? You follow me.
What is it to you that Tim Keller sees gospel connections with professional life so clearly? You follow me.
What is it to you that Mark Driscoll has the language and the folly of pop culture at his fingertips? You follow me.
What is it to you that Don Carson reads five hundred books a year and combines pastoral insight with the scholar’s depth and comprehensiveness? You follow me.

That word landed on me with great joy. Jesus will not judge me according to my superiority or inferiority over anybody. No preacher. No church. No ministry. These are not the standard. Jesus has a work for me to do (and a different one for you). It is not what he has given anyone else to do. There is a grace to do it. Will I trust him for that grace and do what he has given me to do? That is the question. O the liberty that comes when Jesus gets tough!

I hope you find encouragement and freedom today when you hear Jesus say to all your fretting comparisons: “What is that to you? You follow me!”

Learning to walk in freedom with you,

Pastor John


© Desiring God
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Thanksgiving 2006

Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada. It is nice to get this extra day just to rest but this morning as I awoke and lay in bed I began to think of all the things I was thankful to God for. So often in our busy lives we do not take the time to stop and reflect on God’s goodness to us. I wonder if we did this on a more regular basis whether our hearts would be filled with more gratitude and less envy or discontent. At any rate, today I felt prompted to sit and write the many ways that I am thankful to God.

I am thankful to the Lord for:

• Dying on the cross for my sins and for His resurrection that I have new
life in Him
• Choosing me to be part of His family
• His love and grace
• Gift of family and friends and their continual support and encouragement in
so many ways
• Gift of my church family and pastors who demonstrate and model servant
• Friends that I have accountability with and for the wisdom and discernment
He has given them to challenge me and to speak His truth into my life
• Purpose and meaning He gives to my life and the passion He has placed in my
heart for those who are broken and oppressed
• His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises to me
• The visions He inspires me to pursue
• The privilege I have of partnering with Him in His Kingdom purposes
• My health
• My ‘day’ job which I consider to be a blessing since it is my hobby
• Friendships that have been difficult and challenging for in and through
them I have learned much about myself and about Him in the process
• Encouraging me to take risks on His behalf
• The opportunity to invest in the lives of young kids and to discover His
love through them
• The opportunities to be His voice to mobilize and encourage others to be
involved in building His kingdom
• Modeling to me what it means to endure the cross for the ‘joy’ that was set
• The strength He gives me to keep running the race despite the obstacles
• The abundant life I have experienced through and in Him

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Holy Moment

Last Friday Sept, 29th I went with a bunch of friends to see Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s daughter speak at The Just Give Me Jesus revival event that was being held here in Toronto. It was an evening event and it was an opportunity for all the women to bring their friends and associates to hear the gospel the first night. The arena was practically full with over 19,000 women and a scattering of men filling the pews. Anne herself is a prolific speaker and the anointing that is on her father is definitely on her. She was bold as she presented the gospel and talked about Jesus. It is easy for those of us who have heard the gospel message to tune out and yet she has a way of weaving in new truths in the gospel stories. But then again, isn’t that really the amazing thing about God’s word that it is living an active and can speak to old and new believers! What hit me though was something that happened near the end of the event as she gave an altar call, inviting people to come down and receive Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Several women came down the aisles but at one point it appeared as though some people were leaving, probably wanting to get out of the stadium to beat the congestion. Anne noticing this, spoke up and said very wisely ‘can I encourage those of you who are leaving to stop and stay till the end, this is such a holy moment and would you sit and just cheers those who are coming down the aisles as a sign of encouragement to them.’ She was right, this was a holy moment, with streams of people heading down to the front till there was no space. I have no idea how many came down but it had to be over 1,000 people either recommitting their lives or giving their lives to the Lord. It is not often that we have the privilege of seeing so many make a decision for Christ and it was a special moment to cherish as we cheered old and young alike with our claps as they came down the steps. The clapping would subside and then another round of clapping would start up again. This went on for several minutes as more and more women, some coming by themselves others with their friends. It was an awesome sight to see and I couldn’t help but think, how the angels, how the saints in heaven must also be cheering on these new ‘family members’. And yet in all of this, I thought to myself isn’t it just like us to miss God’s ‘holy moments’ because we are so preoccupied with our own agendas. We are so concerned about self preservation or inconvenience or we are so focused on our own needs that we miss out divine moments to encourage and build up others and in essence we miss out on God’s blessings all because we are consumed with our own selfish desires. It was a stark reminder to me, to keep my spiritual eyes open so that I do not miss these holy moments. But it also served to remind me to take time to soak and rest in the Lord and to treasure such ‘holy moments’. To not feel rushed because of external pressures but to truly taste, savour and receive all that the Lord wants to give us before we ‘move on’ to the next season! In a society that is so performance driven, the hardest thing to do is sit still. Someone once said it takes more strength to do nothing than it does to do something. I concur with that especially given my own nature to ‘do’. But in this month of ‘silent/sabbatical rest’ I am discovering more and more the joy of resting in Him without feeling guilty. There is after all a time to be Martha and a time to be Mary.

Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline says that loneliness reflects inner emptiness while solitude is about inner fulfillment. As I ponder what it means to have ‘inner fulfillment’ I suspect it has more and more to do with a deep seated satisfaction and contentment in the Lord regardless of what is going on in the external environment. It is abiding in Him in such a way that our personal worries or the worries of the world do not encroach and overwhelm us. Rather, we leave them at the foot of the cross so they do not weigh us down. I can’t help but think that that inner fulfillment is tied very much to God’s glory as I recall the words from John Piper ‘God is most glorified when we are most satisfied’---may it be so Lord in my life and in the life of all who are followers of you Jesus, that as we each pursue the callings You have given to us, may Your name be so glorified because we are experiencing daily satisfaction in You regardless of the tension of living in this world but not being of it!May it be that through this process of reflection, of solitude, of rest that we view them as holy moments to enjoy Your presence anew and to taste and see afresh that the Lord is good indeed!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sunsets in Cambodia

As we were on our way back to Phnom Penh after 6 hours driving back from Siem Reap and Kampong Cham, the beauty of God's creation enfolded before our eyes. Here are a few of the sights as the sun was setting.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

September 2006 Newletter - Cambodia Reflections

Dear Family & Friends

As I reflect on my 5th trip to Cambodia, I realized how easy it is to become discouraged and weighed down by all the challenges in this nation. Feeling hopeless and overwhelmed is a constant temptation if one is not intentional about keeping their focus on Christ. Yet, my time in Cambodia was once again an opportunity to step into the River of God and to see Him give life and hope to people in the midst of trying circumstances.

In Cambodia, one cannot hide from the poverty, it greets you every where you go, from the incessant beggars who roam the streets and markets, to the women with faces disfigured from acid due to revenge attacks, young kids half clothed or naked for which begging is a way of life, to the brothels that operate in the midst of residential areas or near local pharmacies. Sadly, sex for sale here is just another commodity. It is no wonder that those in the marginalized Vietnamese community who live along the river banks find it ‘normal’ to sell their 13 year old daughters into prostitution. The level of resignation and helplessness of the poor adds to the spiritual oppression that weighs on people as the ‘darkness’ attaches itself to the poverty. This was perhaps no more evident than in the border town Poipet, which is often referred to as the armpit of Cambodia. I don’t think I have ever encountered such 'darkness' in my life. Driving through the 'no man's land' section---an area that is neither Thai nor Cambodian, but is a strip of land that houses several white washed casinos and one infamous ‘luxury’ brothel that caters to heterosexual and homosexual pedophiles; how easy it is for the devil to deceive us with those fancy 'white buildings' with all their glitter and gold highlighting their external beauty to entice anyone, yet within the walls of these buildings, the darkness reigns. As I left Poipet I couldn't help but think this is the devil's play ground--for now. Yet, it is in these very environments that God’s redemptive work can be found as the darkness is penetrated with the Lord’s explosive light. It is these places that the words from the prophet Isaiah are becoming a reality through the work and life of those whom the Lord has sent to serve there. "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him. If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58:6-7, 10-12)

One of the inspiring repairers and restorers of the broken walls in Cambodia is Marie Ens, a 71 year old Canadian missionary whose life exemplifies the words found in Psalm 92:14 --- They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. In my annual visit to Place of Rescue, an orphanage and AIDS centre where Marie acts as an advisor, I am reminded that this is one of the pockets of light that is making a hole in the darkness. Coming here is like a breadth of fresh air. AIDS families/widowers who are so often ostracized have the opportunity to be part of a community that cares for both their physical, emotional and spiritual well being. It was such a blessing for us to pray for each of these families. Quite a few of them are responding well to the anti-viral drugs and gaining weight while others seem to be flourishing without the medication. There is even room here for grannies---many of whom have been left destitute as their families have died of AIDS. The 116 orphans that call this place home are so filled with the Father’s love and joy, smiling and cheerfully greeting all who come to visit. They act as little tour guides quickly grabbing your hands and proudly showing you around the grounds. We celebrated the monthly birthday party with them and provided knapsacks for all the kids along with other assorted goodies. Seeing Marie this time, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if she had listen to voices who were telling her not to return to Cambodia because of her age, what if she hadn't followed the vision God placed in her heart for this AIDS Centre & Orphanage. Praise God, she did. Her life is a testimony and a reminder to me about following in obedience to the Lord. I think of the implications of her choices and the many Khmer lives that have been impacted already. I dream of that day in the future when all these orphans grow up and the impact they will hopefully have on this nation for God. I dream of that day when they testify of what He has done in their lives all because one woman embraced her divine moment and was obedient to the calling placed on her life.

Another place where God’s light is shining is at CCAM - Cambodian Christian Arts Ministry. It was started by two broken, middle-aged, single-again women (one widowed and one divorced) who are both in their late 60s ---Noren Vann Kim a Khmer and Gioia Michelotti, an American. God laid on their heart a vision in the late 1980s to use Khmer traditional arts (music, drama, dance, visual arts and literature) as vehicles for evangelism, church training and worship. In 1995 they opened CCAM. Today, 46 boys and girls who were former street kids and gang members have been rescued, sheltered, protected, fed, clothed, and educated in a Christian environment. They are part of this program that is using the arts to bring healing and expression to their lives. All the children eventually become members of the CCAM Evangelistic Performing Team that travels around Cambodia and tours around the world preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ through traditional Khmer style songs, dances, dramas, plus preaching and testimony. As I watched the kids perform a series of beautiful Cambodian dances based on the psalms and Cambodian folk tales, I could not imagine any greater joy but seeing young lives that were once broken, be restored and the hidden beauty of God in each be unveiled, as they use their talents to worship the One who first loved them.

One of the personal highlights for me was spending time with Helen Sworn of Chab Dai—an organization that represents a coalition of 20 Christian NGOs that seek to end sexual abuse and trafficking of children in Cambodia. Chab Dai has developed an innovative project in rural areas of Cambodia to increase awareness and education of sexual abuse and trafficking, through a training program for churches. During a pilot scheme in 2005 it was found that many of the pastors were unaware of the issues of people trafficking and how to tackle them, through this naivety, some had even facilitated children being trafficked. The pastors were then educated and helped with current cases in their communities. They now have a renewed passion for protecting the vulnerable in their communities. They have confronted traffickers, followed up cases with the help of the coalition’s assistance and have spoken out about the problem. This has had such an impact at the community level that the Village and Commune Chiefs will begin attending training. It is through programs like this that God is transforming communities and empowering His people to fight on behalf of those who are oppressed.

Gladys K Mwiti, an African counsellor working among children in crisis writes: ‘If any adult has ever loved a child, he already carries in his heart the potential solution to the enormous problems of some child nearby. If you have ever delighted in a child, then your heart already knows the way. If a knot has ever formed in your throat over the problem of a particular child, then your journey has begun. The knots began to form in my heart in my two visits to the NewSong project otherwise known as the Agape Restoration centre run by AIM4ASIA. The centre is protected from prying eyes by lots of trees. With its oasis like feel, it truly is a place of refuge for young lives that have tasted much sorrow and/or horror. The girls that live here are those who have experienced the ‘worst of the worst’ having been sexually exploited, tortured and abused in ways that we can never imagine. Some of them have STDs and are HIV infected. But here at the centre, each of them is being restored to a life of dignity, their hearts, minds and souls transformed through various lessons, counselling, and the powerful, healing message that God loves each of them. What a privilege it was to meet 16 special young girls ranging in the age from 10 to 17 years old and their caregivers/house mothers. To watch them sing “Jesus loves me this I know”, to see them laugh and play in the centre’s swimming pool and to sit with one 16 year old who shared about her dream to be a pilot, I could not help but be filled with hope that Jesus will one day ‘repay them the years the locusts have eaten and never again will they be shamed’ (Joel 2:25,27) As my team member Kelita sang a few songs, the girls sat listening attentively to her while I found myself in tears as I quietly prayed under my breath for each of them. In that moment, I seem to be gripped with two competing emotions: sadness & grief for the suffering and pain that they endured and yet, joy & thanksgiving for the One who rescued them and Who is able to make something beautiful out of their brokenness and bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair so that they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour. Isaiah 61:3

In returning home, the journey with these ‘new friends’ continues but in a different way. The Lord has opened doors over the next 3 months for me to speak on the plight of these young girls. Pray that He would anoint my lips and that His heart would be reflected in the words I speak. As well, as I think about tangible ways in which people on this side of the pond can be more directly involved in investing in the lives of these precious children, pray that it would be His dreams and visions that I would follow ‘for unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.’ (Psalm 127:1)
In closing, I am mindful of so many of you who have stood in the gap for me time and time again. How grateful and thankful I am for your continual support and encouragement and most of all your prayers offered up to the Throne of Grace on my behalf. Truly this year has been one in which I have felt overwhelmed by God’s goodness and love, something that continuously humbles me and yet captivates my heart. There really is no greater joy and privilege in walking with the Lord through places of pain and suffering and realizing that Jesus Himself ‘endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.” (Hebrews 12:2) It is this joy in doing the Father’s will, the joy in the risen Christ, the joy of knowing Him, the joy of partnering with Him, the joy of seeing Him transform and resurrect lives that have been mistreated, devalued, dehumanized, oppressed and imprisoned---it is this joy in Him and through Him that I long to see in those who are finally set free from the yokes of injustice and oppression so that they can be all that He has destined and intended them to be. Indeed there is no ruined life that is beyond God’s repair.

For His Glory

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Stop The Traffik

As part of my 1 month silent retreat from my trip to Cambodia I've been spending the time reading, reflecting and researching. Despite the physical and mental fatigue from these annual trips, I love this 'down time' that I have to be quiet and sit still before the One who knows my thoughts even before I speak them out. This month of 'silence' has often been one in which I encounter more insights into what the Lord would have me do next. It is a time when my emotions while still raw from all I have seen, begin to develop into some tangible expressions that eventually or hopefully will lead to future action.

As I have been doing some research in preparation for a few upcoming speaking engagements its been neat to see how God is raising others around the globe to be involved in stopping Human trafficking. Today I came across this organization call Stop The Traffik. It turns out they are connected with one of the groups that I met with recently in Cambodia. Human Trafficking is after all tied into the whole issue of sexual exploitation for children. There definietly seems to be momentum as God is raising up people all over the world. Thank You Lord that You are close to those who are crushed in spirit!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Sunrise etc

Today we decided to change our plans a bit and stopped into Kampong Cham to meet Diane Moss who works at Sunrise an AIDs hospice. The hospice is the home of 6 female AIDS patients who are cared for by 4 caregivers. What is encouraging is the 120 volunteers that the hospice has from 19 different Khmer churches in Kampong Cham. Truly it is refreshing to see the body of Christ be united this way. We spent time praying for the 6 AIDS patients joining our hands together with them. It was a special time and while language is a barrier, I am always touched by the fact that despite their fragile condition and frail bodies, even these AIDS patients can sit up and smile.

Tomorrow I meet with a couple more folks who are doing some strategic work here in Cambodia in high places. Then on Monday I will return to NewSong to see the 16 girls who are now in the centre. These are the precious ones who have been rescued from the brothels. We also hope to meet up with some Vietnamese friends here who are working in New Hope ministries---New Hope works among the marginalized Vietnamese community here and many of the young girls are often sold into prositution by their parents. More on this after the meetings.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Glimpses of Poipet

We returned today after spending 2 nights in Poipet. The journey there took us 5 hours by road and when I mean 'road' I do not mean 'paved road' but rather a red clay path that was filled with many pot holes. It was probably the most bumpiest ride I have ever had in my life but I'm glad that we went there. We had a wonderful time with Khmer missionaries...an amazing husband and wife team who have already planted 4 churches and who are focused on discipling the young members of their churches to be leaders. Both husband and wife survived the killing fields and the Pol Pot period and it was so inspiring to hear of how the Lord protected them even before they came to know Him. There is much that I would love to write about them but I will save that for a time when I am better able to process all that I heard from them. Suffice to say, they are truly God's special agents in this town. We did a lot of prayer ministry here and I have to say all that I heard about Poipet being the armpit of Cambodia is true. This town gives new meaning to the word 'darkness'...there is a whole new dimension of darkness here and it is perhaps no more evident than in the 'no man's land' section---this is the area that is neither Thai nor Cambodian...but it is a strip of land that houses several white washed casinos and one infamos brothel that caters to pedophiles. Driving through this area at night I couldn't help but think how the devil is able to deceive us .....these fancy 'white buildings' with all their glitter and gold that highlights their external beauty would entice anyone, yet within the walls of these buildings, the darkness reigns. The Khmers work in these casinos but the owners are all Thai or foreigners. What is more weird is that neither the U.S dollar nor the Cambodian Riel is acceptable currency this zone. Only the Thai Bath can be used. Earlier this morning two of us took the opportunity to walk into the 'no man's land' area ....we were trying to find the 'bridge' where girls are trafficked across. We were only able to get to a certain point and decided it was best to just prayer walk that area. This 'no man's land' is almost a transit point as many goods are being transported back and forth across the border. Poipet is expected to become a special economic zone because of its proximity to the Thai border and I can see why. Yet for now, its quite dingy and brings a whole new meaning to the word 'poverty'. One of our evenings we drove around some of the side streets and right next to houses or shops, we saw brothels in red neon lights with the girls just sitting outside. This seems so contrary to Cambodian culture as there is no shyness or apparent embarassment about being seen in the open. What amazes me about this is 'sex for sale' is just like another commodity here. It's no different than selling households goods or food as its so in your face in this part of Cambodia.

As I left Poipet this morning I couldn't help but think this is the devil's play ground--for now. The missionaries we met have endured much spiritual warfare and the believers there have experienced persecution that we in the west have no concept of understanding. It is doesn't take much to get discouraged living there but I am convinced with all this warfare, that a day is coming when there will be an explosion of God's light in this place that will penetrate the darkness. The workers in this part of Cambodia more than any where else indeed need much prayer yet I am inspired by their determination to push forward, persevere and stay focus despite the surmounting obstacles that are ever before them.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Exchanged Glory - Angkor Wat

We arrived in Siem Reap on Sunday and yesterday (Monday) we went to visit some of the temples at Angkar Wat for the whole day. It was quite an impressive array of man's ingenuity to build all these temples and the intricacy in which the carvings of many legends and folklore associated with Hinduism and BUddhism. Yet after a few stories I found myself tuning out not from physical fatigue but rather from spiritual fatigue. I couldn't help but think how many people believe in these tales and legends and myths about the many gods associated with these two other religions. It is quite exhausting to hear of so many gods when there is One True God whose message is so simple to understand yet the 'god of this age has blinded man' and the gospel is veiled'. Romans 1:25 resonated in my mind---They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. In these temples of AngKor Wat it is easy to see the magnficient creation of man and to be in awe of what man has created yet, the sad truth is that all of these carvings 'serve created things rather than the Creator.' As followers of Christ we look to the Cross and in it we see the glory of God---we see love, pain, joy, hope, resurrection...all of this and much more.

Tomorrow we head to Poipet for two days. So the next posting will be when we are back in Siem Reap on Friday.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Quick Snippets

On Friday morning our team got invited to meet the folks of CCAM - Cambodian Christian Arts Ministry. It was started by two women---one Khmer and the other an American...they are now both in their late 60s who met in the U.S. Their vision began in the early 1980s to use Khmer traditional arts (music, drama, dance, visual arts and literature) as vehicles for evangelism, church training and worship. Their desire is to train and evangelise Cambodians for Christ through the arts, giving priority to the disadvantaged espcialy the poor, abused, uneducated, handicapped, widows and orphans. There are 46 boys and girls who have been rescued from the streets of Phnom Penh that are part of this program that is using the arts to bring healing and expression to their lives. We saw a beautiful dance performance by the kids at CCAM. Again I couldn't help but be filled with tears as I looked into their eyes. They did 5 dances for us, 3 of which were based on the Psalms and 2 of the dances were Cambodian folk tales. More on this at a later day

Later I met with LInda Chisholm for a meeting. i wish I could spend more time on this email to tell you all that she shared with me but unfortunately I am running out of time. she has so many stories but one that was recent is about two Vietnamese women who have been arrested and are now in one of the prisons that she ministers to..they have been charged for selling their 10 and 11 year old children for sex. As she says, much grace is needed to see them the way Jesus sees them.

I have a meeting this morning with folks at New Song to see the site and then we head back to Place of Rescue this afternoon for the rest of the day. We are planning to pray for each of the AIDS families and then will help at the monthly birthday party in the evening. We bought 130 backpacks for the kids and filled them with all sorts of goodies. It should be a fun but tiring time. Tomorrow morning we leave bright and early for Siem Reap so I am hoping i will have more time to write then.

So I'll sign off for now. Next posting will be in Siem Reap

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Vision of Christ''s Compassion

As I sit there today at this internet cafe I am mindful of the fact that this is one of the things on my 'daily'to do list. While it is less a priority, I know I need to update the journal otherwise it is easy to forget what I see and hear as we move from one meeting to the next. Over the past few days as I have sat and listened to many of God's laborers in Cambodia one of the common threads that I have seen in their lives is obedience to God's vision in their lives. It is not a new revelation but perhaps if anything serves to inspire me more to keep stepping out in faith with God as He imparts vision. In a country like Cambodia there are endless needs because the country's social, moral, spiritual and physical infrastructure has been decimated and it will take years to rebuild. Yet, as I talk to each of God's servants here there is one thing I keep seeing in them---His compassion for the broken hearted, the marginalized, the forgotten, the vulnerable, the exploited. Matthew 25:42-45 and Isaiah 58:7-12 seem to be the scriptures that ruminate in my mind every day as I meet people and learn about what they are doing here. Yesterday (Thurs Aug 24) I met Helen Sworn of Chab Dai. I still haven't processed all that she shared but what amazes me is how God has taken the vision He has placed in her heart and has expanded it in such a short time, such that the work that is being done at Chab Dai is now being used as a model in other countries. But more than that is the people of influence that HE is orchestrating for her to meet. There is no doubt that God is close to those who are crushed in spirit and when the enemy seeks to create discouragement here (and it is so easy to do) the Lord shows that He is in charge and He is in control. It is the Gospel and the hope it brings that is so imperative for all in this land to see. The darkness pervades but the light is shining and will penetrate the darkness no matter what. To those we meet who have experienced much pain and suffering, to the children we see barefooted, crying for food, to the beggars at the market, to all of these the words of Isaiah 61:3 is the prayer offered up on their behalf --this is the vision He has for them- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning,and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

STay tuned for more comments about the Cambodian Christian Arts Ministry that seeks to use music, arts and drama to minister to street kids and orphans. As well, a meeting with Linda Chisholm, a 71 year old widow who is the Executive Director of the Prison Fellowship in Cambodia.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Pastor's Vision

Today half of us went to visit Pastor Sok & Savy Em in Kampong Chnang. The ride was beautiful as we see all the green hue of the rice paddies. The colors are so vibrant and the road is less crowded as we leave Phnom Penh to these more rural areas. Sok and Savy are setting up a bible training center for pastors in the Kampong Chnang area. Pastor Sok and Savy used to be the pastors at the Toronto Cambodian Alliance church before they felt God's call back to their nativeland. God has given them a vision for training up the leaders in the church. Their house is painted white and stands out among the brown little huts and houses that surrounds the red clay road. They have put a light in front of their house--quite symbolic really as the neighbors comment to them how grateful they are for this street light that brightens this unpaved road in the neighborhood. We spend time praying with them and then take a 10 minute walk to the site where construction is going on of a new leadership training centre. We prayer walk the area and anoint the rooms as we ask the Lord to make this place holy ground for those who come to attend the classes. Already they have interest from 23 young Christian leaders in the area who want to come. The central building has 3 classrooms and they have been given another section of land to build a residence for the students. Pastor Sok & Savy don't have much back in Toronto but they believe in this vision that the Lord has called them to and are using their own funds to build this building. There tell us that Christians as far as Battambang want to come to this leadership training centre when it is done. I'm excited for them as I dream about the possibilities that God would multiply the offering they have made to strengthen the Cambodian church leaders in this area.

Tomorrow we are off to see Helen at Chab Dai.

Jolted Into the Dark Reality

After spending the morning at Place of Rescue and then visiting Nhu we headed to a restaurant near the waterfront for dinner. It was such a day filled with much joy and hope but that didn't lasted long when we were jolted back to the realities of the darkness that pervades this place. After having a wonderful dinner with good fellowship we were leaving the restaurant and as I passed by one of the tables, I noticed an older foreign man with a young girl who could not have been much more than 14 years old. They were not seated opposite to each other as would be the norm but rather, they were sitting next to each other. I could feel the blood boiling within me as I began to get angry ---God's righteous anger hopefully and I started praying as we walked towards the van that the Lord would somehow prevent this man from doing anything with this young girl. The anger I felt turns to tears as I kept asking the Lord ---why, why God, why in this place is this happening? I need to talk to those who are working here on th front lines in this ministry. I want to know how they deal with this when it is so 'in your face'. How do they stand on behalf of these children that are at risk. How do they cope with seeing these men and these children? I realize the enemy is trying to taunt us here. If's as if he is saying 'you want to do good in this land but guess what, this girl is mine'....I share with the others during the debriefing session and we start pleading before our Heavenly Father. Brian's comments ring in my ears ---'one child at a time. One child at a time.' We are not helpless, God is here. The victory is ours but we must persevere in prayer. I am looking forward to meeting the folks at Chab Dai. I know they represent God's hope in this place.

Meeting Nhu

There are a few times in my life when I have the opportunity to meet someone I have read about--someone whom the Lord has used to awaken a sleeping vision that He had placed in my heart some 15 years ago. Many of you have heard of the NewSong project named after two Vietnamese girls Nhu and Sung. On Tuesday afternoon I had the opportunty to meet and see Nhu. She works in a salon here Phnom Penh. SHe is now 19 years old and is working 7days at this place. Please pray for her as she told one of my other team members that she has no time to go to church any more because of this job. One of the missionaries who was with us asked her if she would like to learn English and she expressed am an interest in doing that so we will see how that develops. SHe has such a beautiful smile but we were not able to spend much time with her as she quickly disappeared with a customer to an upper room. While I am thankful to the Lord for this job that she has, we couldn't help but notice that she was off to do a facial massage for an older Asian man. I wonder what if anything goes through her mind when she is working here. We are praying that the Lord would continue to watch over her and protect her. I hope to go back again to visit her before we leave in Sept.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cambodia Travels - Aug 21 & 22

Monday Aug 21/06

We planned on visiting both Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields today but only made it to Tuol Sleng as the Killing Fields have been flooded due to the large amount of rain that has fallen here in recent times. This is the 3rd time to visit this infamous S21 --- this former school known for its torture and brutality of many khmer. For some reason during this visitI had the opportunity to really look at the numerous photos of faces of victims whose last days were in at S21. I couldn't help but see the hollowness in their eyes. It was as if they knew the death was upon them and the life that was once there was slowly being drained out of them. This is what the KR revolution did to these innocent victims. As one of my team mates entered into the rooms of photos the only thing that could keep her from not crying incessantly was the worship song that came to her head at that time "He knows my name"---yes the Lord knew and knows each of these victims by their names. They may have been marked with 'numbers' in S21 but their heavenly Father knows their names.

This place always reminds me of many things---man's inhumanity to man but most of all the ugliest that evil can bring forth. It is a level of darkness that is beyond human comprehension.

Tues Aug 22/06

Today we visited Place of Rescue. Such a stark contrast from all that we had seen at Tuol Sleng. There at Tuol Sleng, death is all around us but at Place of Rescue, there is life, there is hope, God's love is evident as we are greeted by so many of the beautiful little orphans whom God has brought to this special place. It is evident to us all that the Father's love prevails at Place of Rescue. The kids are so affectionate, full of smiles and laughter. Coming here is like a breadth of fresh air. I am always encouraged for this is the hope of Cambodia. This next generation of young boys and girls who will one day grow up and hopefully influence the nation for God.

We had the privilege of laying hands and praying over the team at Rescue. It was such a powerful prayer time. Many tears were shed. Seeing Marie, I am continually inspired by her humility and her obedience to God. I couldn't help but think 'what if'' ...what if she had listen to voices who were telling her not to return to Cambodia as a widow, what if she hadn't followed the vision God placed in her heart for this Aids Centre & Orphanage...what if----Praise God, she did....she is a testimony and a reminder to me about following in obedience to the Lord...I think of the implications of her choices and the many little Khmer lives that have been impacted. I can't help but dream of that one day when all these orphans grow up and we here their testimonies of what God has done in their lives all because one woman embraced her divine moment and was obedient to the calling placed on her life. THank you Lord for Marie!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cambodia Posting 1

Well, we arrived yesterday August 19th after taking a 25 hour flight that saw us fly from Toronto to Vancouver to Seoul before landing in Singapore for a 9 hour layover before flying out to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Our 15 pieces of luggage arrived safely as well and we quickly settled into the OMF Team centre. For some reason the flight seemed shorter this time as it went by quickly.

Each time I return here it is interesting to observe the continual 'progress' of economic development that is happening. There are more new buildings going up and yet in the midst of that, the 'old' Cambodia is still evident, little kids running around barefoot, with few clothes on, people still begging incessantly. Today, there was a fair bit of rain and in one area there was a big brown pool of water filled with garbage. Yet in the midst of this, we saw about 8 kids swimming and laughing in this infested pool of water. Poverty is rampant on every street corner but I am always touched by the smiles of the Khmer. They are such a warm people. Regardless of their circumstances, they always smile at you. It is a welcoming smile that invites you to want to talk to them. It's times like these when I feel so frustrated at not knowing the language.

We also visted Wat Phnom, one of the temples and saw many little kids. I saw this little boy perhaps no more than 4 years old coming towards us and in his arms was his baby sister who was probably around 8 months old. I don't why, but for some reason that picture brought tears to my eyes. I love watching their little faces as they are always smiling at you. I can't help but wonder if the tables were turned and I were in their position would I be smiling if I were begging?

Anyway, tomorrow we are off to Tuol Sleng and Killing Fields. I haven't seen these since 2002 and so it will be interesting to return to these infamous places with 7 others and to hear their perspectives. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Asia Bound

Dear Family & Friends

It is that time of year when I once again head east on my 5th trip to Cambodia in what is becoming an annual pilgrimage as the Lord continues to open doors and opportunities for me to be connected with those who labour for Him in the ‘frontlines’ of that nation. I will be in Cambodia from August 17th till September 9th with a brief stopover in Singapore. What started out as a solo trip to continue fuelling the passion God has given me for the people of this nation, has expanded into a ‘team’ of 8 people from 4 different churches. We are a motley crew: an OMF missionary (Cathy), a teacher (Charlene), an administrator (Jeanette), a physiotherapist (Sang), a worship leader (Kelita), her husband and bass guitarist (Gord) and 13 year old son (Keldon) and myself the business person, all of us following God’s lead in what will be quite an adventure as we traverse 5 different cities in Cambodia over a 3 week period using planes, buses, boats, taxis, tuk-tuks (motorized rickshaws) and motodops. What ever moves we will be using it!

One of our purposes on this trip is to spend time encouraging and refreshing missionaries who are directly involved in rebuilding and repairing the broken gates and walls of the nation of Cambodia through their service in a variety of ministries including: church planting, children at risk (www.aim4asia.org ) AIDS hospices (Sunrise), orphanage work (Place of Rescue) and medical care, to name a few. No doubt God has a way of breaking through in unexpected ways despite our ‘set agendas’ and so I look forward with anticipation and excitement for the ‘treasures on His heart’ that He will reveal to each of us as we enter into all that He desires to show us.

The other aspect of this ‘vacation with a purpose trip’ is a more personal journey that the Lord has been leading me on ever since He first began to stir my heart for missions. Specifically, over 15 years ago, I remember watching a documentary on young girls who were sold into prostitution in South East Asia. That documentary led me to apply to OMF in 1993 as I wanted to somehow be involved in that ministry but the Lord in His infinite wisdom, closed all the doors at that time and so I never pursued it, as I assumed it was ‘my vision’ and ‘my agenda’. Scripture reminds me that in his heart, a person plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9). A year ago in the Spring of 2005, God determined that it was His appointed time to resurrect this vision (which I am discovering is really His vision) when I received a newsletter from The Ratanak Foundation. As I read about young children who were forced into prostitution and Ratanak’s response in helping to establish a rehabilitation centre for young girls rescued from the brothels in Cambodia, I felt compelled to contact Brian McConaghy at Ratanak to see how I could somehow be involved in bringing awareness to this issue and to the many other needs in Cambodia. In January of this year, I joined the Ratanak Foundation as its Toronto representative.

Recently, someone asked me why I would want to be involved a ministry that deals with such pain and suffering of little girls. My mind reflected back to the Seek Justice conference this past June and the tears that were shed by many who attended as the Lord gave us a glimpse of what grieves His heart. By entering into the suffering of the stories we heard of Nhu and Sung, two young Vietnamese girls who were sold into prostitution in Cambodia, God is continually calling us to walk the way of the ‘cross’ as we let ourselves be touched by the atrocities that we see and hear about in the world. I believe this is part of what it means to share in the fellowship of Christ’ sufferings (Philippians 3:11). It is these two girls and many like them that the Lord has used to speak into my heart about following His commands in Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows.

As such, as I head to Cambodia on this trip, we hope to prayer walk in an area notorious for child trafficking. Poipet, located in the north west region of Cambodia near the Thai border, is Cambodia’s modern-day “Wild West” although I think of it as a modern day version of Sodom and Gomorrah. Described as the country’s spiritually toughest city, it is known for its casinos, child trafficking, and brothels. In fact, a person can literally buy a child on the street for $25 and take them across the border into Thailand according to one missionary.

As well, I will be meeting with folks who are part of a coalition of Christian organizations called Chab Dai (Joining Hands – www.chabdai.org ) that are committed to ending sexual exploitation and trafficking in Cambodia through various initiatives. I also hope to have the privilege of meeting some young girls who God has rescued from some horrific conditions and who are now placed in an after care facility funded by Ratanak. It is these little ones that God continues to burden my heart with and whom He is asking us to give a voice to and to offer His hope to, in order that they may one day meet the One who knows them by name, the One who has fearfully and wonderfully made them (Psalm 139:13-16), the One who loves them, the One who longs to redeem them, heal them and restore them as His precious children.

Will you join with me in prayer for the following:

• Pray for my encounters with these ‘little ones’ and for the meetings with folks at Chab Dai and the other missionaries that the Lord will engrave upon my heart the things that are on His heart so that as I return, I will be able to share His vision with many others that will bring awareness to these issues.
• Pray for a spirit of unity to prevail upon this ‘team’ that we would have one mind, one purpose and one heart in all we do and say.
• Pray for God’s protection on all our travels and our health as well as our families at home. We will be travelling into malaria areas and some areas notorious for land mines.
• Pray that we would be God’s hands, His ears, His voice, His feet and His servants as we interact with those whom He brings into our paths.
• Praise God for two special retirees at Rexdale Alliance: Hazel Andrews and Marg Beaver who have given a ‘labor of love’ by knitting over 80 teddy bears and dolls that we plan to donate to the young children we meet.

Finally, for those of you living in Canada who would like to learn more about the issue of Child Sex exploitation and AIDS in Cambodia, between August 14th to 17th be sure you watch "The National" on CBC TV. The program will be about child sexual abuse and AIDS in Cambodia. Place of Rescue, an orphanage run supported by The Ratanak Foundation and run by Marie Ens (a former CM&A missionary) will be featured as an answer to the problem. Additionally, The CBC will also be having another, possibly two specials, focused on the work of Ratanak and Cambodia in September. If you would like to receive notification of these additional news broadcast please email: info@ratanak.org

Thank you for taking the time to read this rather long newsletter. I am grateful for each of you and your tremendous support in prayer and words of encouragement. If you would like to follow our journey in Cambodia, I hope to provide periodic updates at the Ratanak Website and/or personal reflections on my blog: Child of God

For His Glory

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Coming Off The Mountain Top!

It’s been just over two weeks when I had the privilege of coordinating a conference on Seeking Justice after 4 months of preparation. What an awesome time it was to encounter the Lord in way that I had never experienced before and to see Him answer prayers beyond our expectations. I remember sharing with a friend recently that it felt like my ‘wedding day’...strange analogy really since I have no idea what that ‘day’ would feel like but in a strange sense it was as if I had arrived....the dream that was placed in my heart so many years ago had become a reality. I had stepped into my calling and had finally ‘arrived’ at what God has destined to be involved in---seeking justice for children who are forced into prostitution. That day many of us came to the altar and made a commitment before the Lord. For each of us that commitment to seeking justice will be different but for me I think it was my way of consecrating my life before the Lord to some how make a difference in giving a voice to these precious ones who have no voice.

Since then, coming off the mountain top has been an interesting time. I find myself quite exhausted and not motivated to do anything. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The thought of ‘doing’ does not seem very appealing at this point for my soul just wants to ‘be’. My mind goes back to the story in 1 Kings 18 after Elijah called down fire on the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and the power of the Lord was evident to all. But as the next chapter begins in 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah fleeing from Jezebel and sitting under a tree, tired and hungry. It took the angel of the Lord to touch him twice, to give him food that strengthened him in order that he would travel to Mount Horeb—the mountain of the Lord but there again he goes into a cave. I understand how Elijah feels. For now I am quite happy to sleep in a ‘cave’. I have no desire to ‘do’ anything. It is as if my body and mind and soul knows that now is not the time to do but rather now is the time to rest. In my younger days, it was so easy to want to move onto the next event after all our society has programmed us to be ‘performance driven’. But as I get older I am realizing that this season after the mountain top is a time to go deeper with the Lord. It is not only a time of renewal, refreshment and restoration but it is also a time of deeper reflection, a time of spiritual formation in the inner recesses of my soul. A time in which the Lord is doing something within me that I cannot see for now. It is another step in the journey of faith. The seed that is planted is growing in the dark and when the time is ready it will blossom. This morning I began to recognize one of the first buds of the seed---over these past weeks my prayers, my journal reflections are slowly focusing on the 6 young girls who will be entering the New Song (ARC) centre in late August in Cambodia. I do not know their names, they are faceless to me yet the One who has rescued them is the One who knows their names and their faces. I hope I will be able to meet them personally in my upcoming visit to Cambodia because they are the ones that God is giving me the privilege to carry around in my heart. They are His treasures, His precious ones and the more I think of them, the more I find myself asking the Lord to show me how to stand with them, how to share their pain and how to weep with them and how to love them with His compassion. One of my dreams of late is to not only spiritually invest in these but to tangibly be involved in giving them the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and aspirations as they grow up. I look forward to the day when I see their smiling faces, to see His hope and joy in them and most of all to see them fully enveloped in His love.

Lord Jesus continue to breathe your dreams into my heart and mind that I will long to see Your agenda fulfilled in this fallen world. Help me to have a dislocated heart as Nehemiah did, that while I live in one city I may be continually burden with being involved in rebuilding the broken gates and walls of the nation of Cambodia. Fill me with your vision for these 6 young ‘friends’ who one day I pray will be my ‘sisters’ in Christ and who will declare before all people that there is no God but the Lord God Almighty who sent forth His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave’ (Psalm 107:20).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Entering Into The Suffering of The Voiceless

This past Saturday will go down as one of the most memorable events of my spiritual walk with the Lord. I don’t think words can truly express the emotions that were stirred on Saturday June 17th at the Seek Justice conference. As I pen these initial impressions I am mindful that there are more treasures that will still be revealed as time passes. Yet I am grateful to the Lord for the privilege He gave to all of us who were there that day to have a personal and deep encounter with Him and for the opportunity to enter into the suffering (albeit a glimpse) of those who have are held captive in ways that are hard for us to understand. Yet through the speakers, the Lord made it possible for us to connect in a deep emotional level that there was weeping and sobbing. No doubt our hearts were pierced. People were led to just sit in stunned silence as they absorb what was being spoken. Others led to hug and comfort one another and others finding consolation sitting quietly praying with each other. Personally, I found myself ‘sobbing to the point that I was hyperventilating. But I am grateful for these moments as I believe they are gifts that He has given us as we walk the way of the ‘cross’ and choose to let ourselves be touched by the atrocities that we see and hear about.

For myself personally, my emotions are still very raw but as I read the conference survey feedback it has been an encouragement to hear the responses of people. Lord thank you for Your presence, thank you indeed that the Holy Spirit reigned down upon us all as we opened our hearts to you and cried about the injustices we heard. Thank you for the privilege you gave us to ‘share in the fellowship of Your suffering’ as our hearts were broken by the things that grieve Your heart Lord, I pray that you will continue to use this event to be a spiritual marker in people’s lives; That they will be inspired and led to respond in ways that are beyond what we can ever ask or imagine.

I think of some of the responses I received already:

• One person wanting to sponsor a child and thinking of going on a mission trip next year to Cambodia
• Another person ---a non-lawyer has decided to read the book “Good News About Injustice’ and wants to get involved with Int’l Justice Mission
• A stay at home mother of two who experienced a ‘divine appointment’ that day and is now asking ‘Lord, how can you use me here and now?’
• A teacher crying as she gains cultural insight to the Vietnamese and Cambodian students that she teaches and feels convicted to pray for their home situation
• A friend who shared that she’s never cried so much during a benediction and that it was such a testament to how sensitive she became to the calling. Upon reflection she has itch to do something, but didn’t know where to go from here
• A nominal Christian trying to figure out how to respond

These are just some of the ‘seeds’ that were planted that day that the Lord has been gracious to reveal to me. Thank You Lord for all that you have done during that day and all that you are continuing to do in each of our lives as we process and reflect upon this experience. As the Apostle Paul wrote in book of Philippians ‘He who began a good work in us, will complete it’.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Seek Justice: Broken Hearts For A Broken World

The title of this blog was inspired by a seminar that I attended recently at Missionfest. Are our hearts truly broken by the brokenness that we see in the world? Or do we feel overwhelmed at challenges faced around the globe or worse yet, have we become insensitive or apathetic to the suffering in the world? As I think of this I am reminded of the following quote by Edmund Burke that I read recently: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”

Oh Lord let it not be said of us that we sat by idle while people around us suffered needlessly because we were too busy with our own little worlds. Let it not be said of us that we ignored the plight of the opppressed, the orphan, the widow because we were so busy consuming all the blessings that You meant for us to share. Let it not be said of us that we choose to turn our eyes from the pain and suffering of this world so that we would shield ourselves from those emotions.

The Canadian director of International Justice Mission reminded me recently that we need to get intimate with the stories of suffering we read about, whether it be about the persecuted church or the child who has been repeatedly abused because she was forced into prostitution. Unless we get intimate with the hurt, how can we truly develop Jesus' compassion for those who are hurting. Unless we are willing to enter into the horror of their pain, despite how sick it makes us feel as we read about these stories, how can we truly pray with hearts that are broken by the things that break God's heart. THese days as part of this 'divine moment' God inspired me to raise awareness about what the biblical mandate for justice is...what does that look like? As a body of believers, we know we are suppose to be involved with setting the captives free, we know we are suppose to fight against injustice, but we have no clue really what that looks like? So often our friends who work overseas including us, feel overwhelmed at the task especially when the people we are up against are corrupt officials.

So here I am now coordinating a conference for June 17, 2006 entitled "Seek Justice: Broken Hearts For A Broken World." We have learned how to feed the hungry, heal the sick and shelter the homeless, but there is one thing we still haven’t learned to do, even though God’s Word repeatedly calls us to the task. We haven’t learned how to rescue the oppressed. For the child in forced prostitution, for the prisoner illegally detained and tortured, for the widow robbed of her land, for the child sold into slavery, we have almost no vision of how God could use us to bring tangible rescue. All these forms of abuse and oppression as well as others are witnessed by missionaries and relief workers on a daily basis.(A quote from Good News About Injutice by Gary Haugen, IJM)

If you are interested in learning more about this conference or attending it, please let me know. We are praying for 300 people to attend from all over Toronto. My own prayer is that God will raise up an army of people who will be a voice for the voiceless.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Seizing Your Divine Moments

As mentioned in my previous blog these past 4 months have been a time of ‘soaking’ in God in a variety of ways. Yet as I reflect now on all that has transpired I am reminded of a book I read a few years ago by Erwin McManus called ‘Seizing Your Divine Moment.’ If you haven’t had a chance to read this book, let me encourage you to do so. The title may seem cheesy but the content is poignant, insightful, challenging and speaks in a way that tugs at the deepest cores within our heart. Anyway, what is this divine moment I am referring to? I suppose in one sense each day is a divine moment, each day we awake with good health, each day we have food on the table, each day we live in freedom, but more than that each day on this earth we all have the potential of impacting the world for Christ in our spheres of influence. As I reflect on Easter, I remember a divine moment over 15 years ago when Jesus revealed Himself to me at a Good Friday service as He opened my eyes to who He was and what He did on the cross for me. That divine moment set in a motion the beginning of a journey with Jesus that today has led me down a path of adventure and purpose. As Erwin McManus writes: What if you knew there was a moment coming, one where God would meet you in such a way that nothing would be the same again? What if there was a moment, a defining moment, where the choices you made determined the course and momentum of your future? When you dream you look to a moment still to come. Yet the only moment that you must take responsibility for right now is the one in front of you. This is your moment. Your challenge is not seizing divine moments, but seizing your divine moment.

This quote speaks to my heart these days as I reflect back to those early years when I first became a born-again Christian and on one particular night when I saw a documentary on TV about children who were sold into prostitution in Thailand. After seeing that documentary something stirred within my heart. Today I realize that ‘stirring’ is part of the ‘calling’ in my life. It is a mystery how God lays a burden on our hearts for a ‘cause’ a nation, a people group. I don’t think we can truly comprehend the depth of that ‘mystery’ until we get to heaven, yet when I think back to that documentary now, I see how that ‘divine moment’ of watching that documentary has become a catalyst for a journey that I find myself on at this point. You see I remember joining a group of ecumenical Christians who were involved in an organization called ECPAT—Ending Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism. I don’t recall how many meetings I went to but at that time the focus was seeking to get legislation passed here in Canada such that any person who sexually abused a minor in Asia would be charged here.

A few years later, after a couple of illnesses and deaths in my family, the Lord began to stir my heart for overseas and I remember applying to serve in Thailand in a ministry to child prostitutes. But God closed that door and instead I ended up in Singapore for a year using my business skills. Why do I share all this detail…well you’ll understand shortly. You see I always thought that it was ‘my dream’ to minister to children who were forced into prostitution so when that dream ‘died’ I figured that was the end of it because it really wasn’t God’s purpose for me. How wrong I was? God’s timing as we all know is not always our timing and last summer this ‘dream’ was resurrected not because of anything I did but because of God’s sovereignty. Little did I know that a missionary I would meet in Cambodia in 2004 would be a link to a Christian Foundation whose founder was now involved in financing a project related to rescuing children from brothels in Cambodia. To make a long story short, this dream I had so many years ago was really God’s dream that is now becoming a reality in my life. Never in a million years would I have ever imagined how the Lord would bring so many different experiences that I have had in these past 15 years together in such a way that they all are being used to fulfill this dream that He gave me many years ago. I honestly find myself in my divine moment. Forgive me as I hope this doesn’t sounds arrogant but let me tell you, it is an unbelievable experience. There is nothing that compares to living out our God given dreams and discovering that the passions He has given us---in my case a passion for widows and orphans is so intricately tied into something that is so beyond me at this point I can’t even fully understand it. All I know is that He has revealed to me my ‘fit’ in His global purposes after many years of wondering where I belong and let me just say when that happens, you feel like you are on an ongoing mountain top experience.’ These past 4 months especially I find myself overwhelmed with God’s love, goodness and grace towards me as I see Him moving within this divine moment connecting me with people and opening doors of opportunities related to creating greater awareness for children sold into prostitution. I wonder ‘why me’ Lord, why do I deserve this blessing.’ But yet I am reminded, Jesus came to give us abundant life, He came to give us purpose and meaning, He came that we might be more like Him and in so doing reflect His love, His compassion, His mercy and His heart in a broken world. There is more to this story but I shall end for now. The simple truth is this: He is the one who makes our dreams a reality because all along they were His dreams.

I'm Back!

Hello fellow bloggers, I’m finally back on line after a 4 month involuntary sabbatical from this arena. How time flies and truly the spirit was willing every time I kept saying to myself ‘I need to blog this thought’ but yet the flesh was ‘busy’ with other things. Over these past 4 months I have found myself attending conferences, bible studies, learning a new language ie. Khmer, reading 5 books on Cambodia, spending time with old and new friends….the list goes on and while I long to have a ‘Mary’ heart sitting still at the feet of Jesus, I find myself discovering that this is a season for “Martha’ to arise. Really there is a constant tension I think that we all face every day and that is ‘being’ versus ‘doing’….a professor at Regent College Dr. Paul Stevens recently said that we need to learn to live this tension well. I believe that with all my heart for each day brings its own challenges and as a people of God, we are constantly a work in process, learning and discovering new things about ourselves as we enter into each daily experience that comes our way. At times we are called to just be still, to reflect and think and ponder and at other moments in the day, we find ourselves in ‘doing mode’. Even as I write this blog entry tonight I am being both a Mary and Martha…reflecting and sharing my thoughts that are percolating in my mind at this point and yet having to pen them in order to prepare a blog.

So I look forward to hearing from you all in blog world!