Monday, October 29, 2007

Vietnamese Villages in Cambodia

One of my friends took us to visit a Vietnamese village located along the Tonle Sap river. The conditions they live in are deplorable as they are stateless with no legal rights. On our recent trip, I had the opportunity to visit one of the nearby villages that is close to Phnom Penh. In seeing first hand the living environments of so many who are poor, I am truly amazed at the resilience of the human spirit to persevere in such conditions. Only God can give someone the ability to have hope and joy in such a challenging environment. Visiting families required us walking along these narrow wooden planks or taking a little boat with the aid of a young Vietnamese family member. Venice this is not, as electrical cords dangle from bamboo sticks that act as 'support' beams' along the wooden path way. The Vietnamese that live along the river banks have to pay a 'docking fee' to the owners whose homes align just infront of the Vietnamese boat houses.
In these muddy waters of the Tonle Sap the kids will bathe and their clothes (if they have any) are washed. One can only wonder how it is people can survive in such difficult circumstances and yet they do.

Meat Anyone!

Okay those of you who know me, know that I am a meat lover so on my recent trip to Cambodia in August, my travelling companion took some interesting shots. Just thought I'd share a couple of protein based photos for fun. Hope you enjoy them. The first photo is pretty self explanatory and the second photo, well these are pigs (in disguise) going to the market!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Tentacles of The Giant

Today I had lunch with an ex-colleague of mind. He and I typically try and meet every Friday to discuss the bible and how it applies to our lives. God has given me the privilege of sewing into his life when he used to work here and over the past year there has been a quite a transformation as the Holy Spirit has gotten hold of him. He and his wife and kids first visited my church earlier this year but as much as they enjoyed it, they found the distance too much and so they have settled into another church near their home which is part of our denomination. In recent times, he and I have had discussions about the whole issue of child sex trafficking. Initially he found it so difficult to deal with but yet as time has gone by God has given him an appreciation for this very challenging ministry.

A few weeks ago my ex-colleague who I shall called DP went on a business trip to China with a bunch of other businessmen alone with their wives. He was visiting plants of various companies who are listed on our stock exchange here in Canada. In one of the side trips, he was taken by a Chinese executive to another town and found himself in an unexpected environment. It turned out he was escorted to a hotel and led to a specific room and what he relayed to me was not surprising but for the first time it made me realize that the biggest giant is in China. DP described how he sat in hotel room with this other man and there was a knock on the door. In walked 1 man with 4 Chinese women that he figured would be between ages 18 to 20 years old. He was shocked, the man who had led him to this place asked him to choose a girl but he shook his head and said no he wasn’t interested. The executive who apparently was married was not deterred by my friend’s disinterest and chose one of the women and the other 3 left. At that point, my friend figured he would just do some work on email and watch TV since he had to ‘wait’ for the Chinese executive to finish his business. But it wasn’t long before a second knock and the door flung open and in came two men with 4 different girls. The same question was asked of my friend and he said what came to his mind was the face of his youngest son back home and so he refused again. At this point the men who had escorted the girls were quite puzzled but left. A few minutes later, a third knock and yes another 4 set of girls. By now, my friend was beginning to realize that his refusal was starting to create a problem for these men who were slowly getting a bit irritated at DP’s response. DP looked at the girls and as he said they were pretty and the next thought into his mind was ‘disease’ and he thought of his own Asian wife who he was planning to meet later that day and so he flatly refused. By now he was hoping that this would be the end of this saga but that was not the case. Another few minutes passed and another knock on the door and in walked in 4 more girls and their ‘bodyguards’. DP looked at them and caught the eye of one girl who seemed quite smiley and cheerful and then two thoughts came to his mind. First, ‘I wonder whose daughter she is? What would her father do if he was in this situation? Second, he remembered the conversations we had had about child sex trafficking and he thought to himself ‘if Lisa could only see where I was.’ My friend DP refused and at that time, the ‘bodyguards’ were not too happy with him and motioned that he was no longer welcomed to stay in that hotel room but would have to wait downstairs until the his other Chinese executive had finished his ‘business.’ So DP left and waited in the lobby.

As I sat listening to his story, I was proud of this friend---Satan was trying to tempt him and yet each time, God was watching over him and bringing to mind images of his family or thoughts that made him look at this situation not from a ‘man’s perspective but from God’s viewpoint. As DP shared, he said ‘maybe 10 years ago I would have been tempted after all, ‘no one would have known’ but with each knock on that hotel door ‘I began to feel more disgusted at what I was seeing and it became much easier to say ‘no. It would not have mattered if these girls were naked because once I began to see them as someone else’s daughters, this whole situation became even more deplorable. I felt sorry for these girls and it was if I was filled with compassion.’ I thank the Lord for protecting this man and for helping him to see these young women not as some commodity to devour but as human beings who have value and worth if not in their families eyes, but in the eyes of their Creator. As DP shared this story, my eyes were filling with tears and he asked why. God’s heart is breaking and grieving at what is happening in the lives of these young women. I am so grateful that He continues to break my heart for this abomination that is happening so prevalently around this world.

The giant we are dealing with has some huge tentacles. More and more I am hearing stories of this from China. My brother and family were vacationing in China this past August and he told me how the hotels seem to be in collusion with the massage parlors as every morning at 8am they would get a phone call asking if they wanted a ‘massage’ at night. This is not just happening to businessmen but families that are traveling on holiday. Even in Cambodia, money is flowing in from China as these so call ‘wealthy Chinese businessmen’ come buying up property and building new high end hotels and casinos which simply are fronts for high end brothels. As one of our partners in Cambodia said recently ‘this situation changes creates a new paradigm in how we are going to have to minister and rescue the victims of sex trafficking.’

If I needed any reminding that this giant is big and strong and its breadth is spreading, these stories certainly add fuel to this. But just like we seek justice for one child at a time, it is ‘one stone’ at a time and one giant at a time. We do know that this battle is long and hard and it is not without its obstacles; obstacles that seem so hard to overcome from the human eye that it makes more sense to stop and give up but those of us who God has called, have chosen a different path. Like David of old, we refuse to let this ‘uncircumsized giant’ dishonor and degrade the name of the Lord and all that He has created. And so I look to one of my heroes, William Wilberforce and take heart in the words that John Wesley wrote to Wilberforce after his 2nd attempt to pass a bill to abolish the slave trade had been struck down after months of preparation, presentation, etc. Dear Sir:Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as Athanasius contra mundum, I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils, But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.... That he who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things, is the prayer of, dear [miss], Your affectionate servant,John Wesley

May we all indeed continue to walk not by our might or by our strength but by His power!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My Little Sister

God never ceases to surprise me in how He can transform peoples heart. A couple years ago I met a younger sister in Christ who is 5 years my junior. Some times you meet people and there is that kind of bond or connection that you know something significant is going to come off this friendship but you have no idea what it will be. Such was the encounter I had after having an unexpected dinner with her. For those who know me, these past 10 years I have hung around a lot of Koreans such that my Korean friends are convinced that I am a 'wannabe Korean' but I tell them its only their food I'm interested in :-) Actually it is just one dish---Kalbi and if you have never had it and are a meat lover you MUST try it! Anyway, why do I tell you all of this?

Well my little sister is Korean but her's is a very fascinating story. While she was being shaped in her mother's womb the enemy tried to destroy her but God miraculously preserved her life through a series of interventions. When I first heard her story I got goose pimples up my back because I felt I was sitting before someone who was a miracle from God. The lengths and depths and breadth that He went to protect and preserve her life while she was still being fashioned in her mother's womb made me conclude that He wanted to use her significantly in her generation. But more than that, it demonstrated to me how deeply God must love her that He would literally pull out all the stops to protect her life. Fast forward some 30 something years and here she is a a grown up woman with lots of questions but one who has come out of a 'fog' that seemed to be over her life in her teenage years and early 20s. Now she is a woman after God's own heart...seeking Him and continuously pursuing Him with with such intensity. Last October, I approached her as I felt God laying her on my heart to spend more time intentionally with her and I invited her to come to a weekly bible study that my church was having. We were studying a series by Beth Moore called Believing God. (And if you haven't heard of Beth Moore or done any of her bible studies, I encourge you to do so. That particular study has revolutioned my thinking and God has used it so powerfully in my life). Anyway I digress. My 'sister' who I call GK came and God began to forge a friendship between us. Over this past year, I have seen Him transform her heart and mind and deepen her understanding of who He is. But more than that, her desire to walk blameless before the Lord in all areas of her life has been one of the ways God has used her to challenge me to keep seeking those higher heights in Him.

Over the past few months she offered to be my 'gopher' at the Slaying the Giant conference. In her words 'she just wanted to support me after all I had done in her life' but I laughed at her and said 'GK this is not about me, even though you think you are helping me in this conference, this is about God and He has something for you because He sees your heart and your desire to serve.' Little did either of us know what He had in mind. So as time progressed GK confessed she had no interest in child sex trafficking nor Cambodia. In fact she acknowledged that she was only participating to simply help me and I remember telling her that that was okay since God doesn't call us all to have the same passions but He is more interested in our hearts. So she continued to help despite feeling sick. At times she would say how energized she felt when helping me to prepare the conference survey and reviewing the flow of the service for that day etc. On the conference day she showed up ever so faithfully and did exactly what she said she would do. She became my gopher, doing what ever I asked and making sure I ate, helping out where ever she could. Her servant heart and attitude was a blessing and I will always appreciate her willingness to give of her time despite not feeling well. That day, she showed me Jesus in the flesh 'making herself nothing' in order that others might be blessed and encouraged. She didn't attend any of the seminars or workshops and while I was surprised, I realized later that it was her way of 'protecting her heart' from the suffering of these girls who were sexually exploited.

Well as God would have it, my colleague Brian McConaghy from The Ratanak Foundation was speaking at her church the next day. I was waiting there for her as I had asked her to keep all the conference monies and give it to me on Sunday at her church. Little did I know she was battling the Lord that very morning. In her own words: 'Lord I don't want to go to church this morning, I don't want to hear Brian McConaghy speak, I don't want to hear about Cambodia or child sex trafficking, I want to go to Peoples' church instead.' The response from God was 'GK, it is not for you to decide what you want to hear or not hear or where you want to go.' And so like a reluctant Jonah, she came to her church that morning partly because she had promised to handover the funds from the conference. So she went in to the service and as she listend to Brian, her heart began to warm towards what He was saying. She enjoyed the way he communicated and then with a loud 'bang' the Holy Spirit came over her as Brian began to talk about Nhu and Sung. GK began to cry uncontrollably and shake. God had finally broken down whatever walls she had put up and within minutes she found herself saying to the Lord 'God if you want me to go to Cambodia, I will go.' Now you have to understand, this is a person who doesn't cry easily. In fact she is fairly calm and is not easily rattled but that day, she had a divine encounter that completely transformed her heart and mind. When she told me what had happened, I just laughed because this is the same person I had asked a few months back 'oh you should come with me to Cambodia and she quickly responded with a resounding 'no.' Now, she has done a 180 degree turn and I praise God, not because she is interested in coming to Cambodia but more than that. He has opened her heart to the things that are on His heart and He is beginning to move her from living 'safely' to living 'courageously' for Him. I can't wait to see what vision He lays on her heart for the nation of Cambodia and I count it a privilege to just see all of this happening.

All this to say, on this thanksgiving day, I am thankful to God for these precious friends that He has given me and for this 'little sister' whose servant heart and generosity reflects the very love of God who simply wants to bless us, lift us up and enable us to be all who He intended us to be.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Aftermath

It's been over a month since I've had a chance to update my blog. So much has happened in these past few weeks that I have not had enough time to process and to reflect. Have you ever had those times in your life when you feel like you have just been 'Martha' --- so busy doing, doing and doing and you know you need to be 'Mary' but the endless to do list and certain situations require that you can't really stand still cause you have deadlines to meet. This is how my life has felt over the past month since I got back from Cambodia. Planning and organizing a conference with others involves a lot of coordination but I look back at this last month in true amazement at how God sustained me and protected me from health or any other interruptions. To say that I had 'supernatural energy' is an understatement considering that I was averaging 5 hours of sleep a night for the last 5 weeks. God is good, God is faithful, God is my rock where would I be without His strength and His loving arms holding me up when I had nothing left to give or to offer and yet each day He was there, filling me up, giving me what I needed. This past weekend was no different. I had to share with Shannon, one of the younger sisters who travelledwith me to Cambodia this past August at 3 services at church. Even though we didn't have a long time to share, I was concerned at the beginning of the week as I was feeling so exhausted and dry after all the conference stuff and needed the Lord to give me some revelation, some inspiration as I so desperately wanted people to see His heart and to hear His heart. Once again, He showed up and even though I spoke for only 8 minutes, I praise God for the Holy Spirit for touching me and giving me the words that would speak of God's redeeming love in the lives of my spiritual daughters in Cambodia. If you are interested in hearing what was said check out the Rexdale Alliance site: under sermons. You'll have to search through the MP3 for the last 12 minutes of the service though.

In the next few days I hope to give some updates on the conference. This past week I found myself physically at work in my 'day job' but not mentally there. Now I feel like Elijah after the battle of Mount Carmel and I just want to hide under one of those trees. The adrenalin has gone and the old body is saying rest. So this is what I am planning to do. Rest over the next 3 months---taking a bit of a sabbatical from ministry but any of us know a true sabbatical from ministry doesn't just happen, it has to be intentional with the right balance so we'll see. There is lots to think and pray about but I love these times of cultivating a sabbath heart and attitude as God has so often spoken to me through them so I look forward to just sitting still, resting and waiting on Him.

In another few minutes it will be Thanksgiving. There is much that I am thankful for but the most important thank you I can say is to my Lord and Savior Jesus for who He is in my life nd and for His heart for those who are brokenhearted. I thank Him for the calling He has given me to speak up for these who have no voice and to be an advocate for their plight. I thank Him for HIs love in my life and for the grace He has extended to me so many times when I did not deserve it. I thank Him for all 173 people who attended the conference and for what He did that day to stir hearts and to break hearts and to cause people to weep for these little ones that He weeps over. I thank Him that He is calling me to share in the fellowship of His sufferings as I enter into the sufferings of these little girls who have been sexually exploited. I thank Him for His redeeming love and for the story of Hosea that He is bekoning me to read that I may understand how to minister to them and to love them unconditionally. Thank you Lord for your extravagant love that you continuously lavish on us.