Thursday, December 04, 2008
A rehabilitation centre that we fund in Cambodia called "New Song" is named after two girls 'Nhu' who is now working with another Christian agency and 'Sung' who for years has been missing and presumed to have either been trafficked into another country or dead. Yesterday, Brian found out that Sung has been found. In the future, we hope to be able to share more about this story.
For now, Sung's 'discovery' brings out many emotions in me. She is another child that represents hope to me. Hope in a God who does not forget those whom He has engraved on the palm of His hands. The world may forget her, the people who use and abuse her may see her as disposable, but He who died for her will never forget her, for her walls are ever before Him. These are the words from Isaiah 49:15-16 that I am reminded of at this time. For it was these very verses that the Lord impresed upon my heart some 4 years ago when I saw the plight of the Vietnamese children who lived along the riverbanks of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers in Cambodia. I remember wondering how they could ever have hope when they were so displaced and marginalized with no identity papers, ailens in a country that didn't want them and ignored by the country in which their ancestors were born. Yet God spoke to me very clearly that time saying He had not forgotten them. When I think of Sung, it is as if He is saying 'see, I have not forgotten them---now don't you forget them. Keep praying, keep persevering, keep speaking up, keep seeking justice on their behalf, keep moving forward, keep enduring, keep believing Me, keep trusting Me especially when the visible reality says otherwise, keep hoping, keep pressing on for your labors are not in vain, keep fighting the good fight, keep shining My light and you will see Me fulfill My promises in Isaiah 61:1-4.'
Sung's discovery has lit a fire under my heart in a way that I never could have anticipated. Thank You Jesus for these unexpected gifts. You are the ultimate Gift that keeps on giving.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
But her story remains untold. Her voice is silenced by the fear, shame and guilt that she is forced to endure. Her body is desecrated by the multitude of sexually transmitted diseases it is forced to host. She is hopeless, helpless, has no passport or papers, no identity. She has become what they want her to be – a product- a sexual commodity!
Yet it is into this darkness that God is calling His people through the words from Isaiah 61:1-4 to be His light by entering into the battle against oppression, to bind up the broken hearted, to release these prisoners from the dungeons of sex trafficking, to set these captives free; to bestow on them His crown of beauty instead of ashes, to replace their spirit of despair with His garments of praise, to pour His oil of joy upon their crushed hearts so that they can become oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.
Will you be part of God's Isaiah 61 team by reflecting His beauty in a broken world as you speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, restore hope and dignity to those who are viewed as disposable and invest in their lives in order for them to fulfill their God given destinies?
The Ratanak Foundation is having its 3rd Seek Justice Conference entitled: Reflecting God's Beauty in a Broken World on January 16 & 17, 2009, in Toronto.
Click on link to read more abou the conference details: Conference Info and how to register for this upcoming event.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And riseI will rise
There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise
And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise
As I think of the lyrics, I think of the journey that my little sisters in Cambodia have experienced and my good friend who is facing physical challenges, I think of the loneliness that leadership involves and yet through all of this Jesus is the anchor to each of our souls. He is the Peace that we have each come to know in our trials, He is the One who has overcome and gives us His power to overcome. Thank you Lord that you have won the victory for us and there is a day when the darkness around us will break into light and we will rise on eagles wings. And we like the angels will sing 'Worthy is The Lamb'---You indeed are worthy O'Lord to receive all glory and honor. Give to each of us the courage, perserverance, endurance and resolve to move forward, knowing that with each step we take, You are right beside us to guide and direct our paths. And just like Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel, Jephthah and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies (Hebrews 11:32-25) Quicken our faith that we too will live with the same kind of spiritual tenacity that these saints of old demonstrated so that we can testify how great is our God who is indeed worthy to receive all praise, honor and glory!
Friday, October 17, 2008
This is an 8 minute video: Dateline NBC Update on Children for Sale
It is both fascinating and encouraging to note that the Ratanak Foundation has been instrumental in developing and/or is currently funding ALL of the projects featured. God is good in giving us these glimpses of the impact that is possible as we seek to invest in the lives of girls who society deems disposable. Seeing the faces of these 'my little sisters' encourages me to keep pressing on knowing that He is the God of the Impossible, redeeming lives for His glory, restoring dignity and giving hope to the hopeless. Indeed nothing is too hard for the One who came to give us life and give it to us in abundance.
Monday, August 25, 2008
A typical scene outside Rahab House after the daily VBS
It has been a few weeks since we have returned from our trip to Cambodia and on behalf of the team thank you for all your prayer support and the many ways you have encouraged us. When I reflect upon our experiences and think of all the prayers that were offered up on our behalf the words from 1 Thessalonians 5:24 come to mind: The One who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Our team indeed experienced God’s faithfulness and His provision for every need and request that was asked of Him ---whether it was peace for a nation during an election campaign, to unity within the team and between our Cambodian partners, to resolving ministry challenges in Svay Pak, to helping us to connect with the kids, to keeping us healthy and sustaining us as we endured the heat, to providing electricity for the VBS when we needed it the most, to protecting us from any unseen dangers ---God was gracious and good to us---all the time!
The boys leading the worship
Lunch time at Rahab House during the VBS
BEAUTY IN BROKENNESS
These past few weeks as I have been thinking about our time in Cambodia, the theme that has been emerging is seeing beauty in brokenness. Before entering into the Svay Pak community—I could only see the darkness, the brokenness, and the depravity of this community. It was and is very easy to judge those who reside here and all that it represents. After all, Svay Pak is renown for the sex trafficking of underage girls. Its external appearances provide an eerie reflection of the hidden darkness that under girds this community. The streets are lined with filth, garbage is a common sight where ever you turn, the buildings are in disrepair and the smells are intoxicating as you walk through the alley ways. Yet the words of Mother Theresa remind me that if we judge people, we have no time to love them. It is in these very places, God longs to pour His holy love and to bring forth luminous light so that even the dark is illuminated into a community that is often viewed with scorn and disgust. In many ways, the outreach ministry that AIM4Asia begun at Rahab house last October reflects the first strands of beauty that God has been weaving in this place. The two week VBS that our team did as we partnered with AIM workers Joseph and Ratanak, CEF workers and the girls from the Newsong centre, enabled us to see a different side of Svay Pak---the beauty of His precious little ones and the potential that lies in them, amidst the brokenness in this community. Each day when our van would enter into the main street and head towards Rahab house, we would be escorted by a small but boisterous entourage of kids smiling, waving and chasing along side our van. When we arrived at our destination and stepped out into the morning heat, we were like local celebrities, as the kids gathered around to touch us, call us by name or hug us. For all the challenges these young lives have known –whether it be verbal, physical or sexual abuse, feeling marginalized, forsaken and mistreated, their actions towards us were welcoming as they sought to express their joy, love and excitement to us. What started our as a VBS for 55 kids grew to 165 kids by the end of our two weeks-- so many faces, so many smiles, so many longing to be acknowledged, so many to feed, so many desiring to be held or touched, so many names to remember. Where does one begin without feeling overwhelmed? When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36) To be like Jesus in this environment meant to sow His seeds of love and compassion and to see the one child in the midst of the multitude as we interacted with them through the bible lessons, the songs, the games, the crafts and the lunches we provided. Other times it was walking hand in hand with our little tour guides leading the way, singing in Khmer ‘Thank you, thank you Jesus’ as we meandered our way through the alley ways to the surrounding wooden shacks in the neighbourhood that represent home for so many. The kids would stop and proudly introduce us to their families or advise us who to give the food packets to. In the visible reality, it is hard to see what kind of impact these small gestures have on a community that is suspicious of outsiders and yet the words of Mother Teresa has serve to encourage me: Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. It is the intensity of love we put into our gestures that makes them something beautiful for God. Intense love does not measure, it just gives.
Kingdom Kids Celebration
At the End of the VBS
Returning Home---what next?
As we returned home, the real challenge is to keep moving forward and asking God to integrate into our lives what we have each learned and the practical ways He desires us to respond. It is a called to live intentionally and to wait on Him for the next steps. To wait open-endedly as Henry Nouwen once said is to be actively present to the moment, trusting that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that He moulds us according to His love and not according to our fear. It is my prayer that each of us will look to the Lover of our souls as the One who ultimately will give us courage and faith to live out the dreams He has placed in our hearts and to walk fearlessly with Him as we seek first His kingdom. Thank you again for being a part of our journey.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Today as I return to work and walk down a familiar street in the financial district, I am once again faced with the realities of working in an environment that affords me the opportunities to go to Asia annually to encourage, refresh and bless others. I love what I do here but I face this ongoing tension of two passions---one that enables me to work in a dynamic marketplace and the other which pulls at me to be in Cambodia. At times like this, these passions seem so far apart and yet God has shown me that they can be integrated. I head to my desk on the trading floor, research reports strewn over the desk and chair. I turn on my computer and am greeted with 758 emails….methodically I delete about 100 of them in an hour. It’s easy to go through the motions but I know that too will pass. So for now, the words of Jim Elliot are my solace: “Wherever you are, be all there,” not living in the past and not fantasizing about the future. God wants you in the present because that’s where His grace will flow. God meant it for good also means you can look expectantly toward the future. Come Lord Jesus, let your grace flow down as we look to you with anticipation. Teach us to walk in your ways regardless of circumstance or mindset.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Yes we are live in Phnom Penh! We arrived in Phnom Penh with all our 12 pieces of luggage including one electronic piano that we offered to take over for Pastor Sok Em who is overseeing the Tahas Bible Institute. Thank you for all your prayers---God has been so faithful and has given us much favor right from the beginning of this journey. The ticket agent at the Cathay Pacific counter in Toronto only charged us a quarter of the cost that we were quoted to bring the electronic piano with us. Then one of our team mates, Charlene got an extra blessing as she was upgraded to business class for the long flight. We never saw her till we landed in our stopover to Hong Kong---she claimed to have passed through the economy cabins to say hi to us but we know she was just relishing and soaking in her business class experience for all it was worth! The 19 hour flight over seemed rather short as time just flew. I am not sure if it is because I am just getting used to these long haul flights or maybe it was the conversations that I was engrossed in with one of my team members.
Arriving at Phnom Penh’s International Airport---Pochentong around 10:45am on Sat morning, we appear to be the only flight in as all was quiet. I have already noticed a change from last year—now there is a formal line to process your visa application versus the typical mad dash that often ensued to get to the counter. Now it is more orderly although I still haven’t quite figured out why there needs to be 10 people behind the counter to process our visa application. Nonetheless, this is Cambodia and this is how things are done! ;-) One of my concerns passing through the customs was what duty we would be charged for bringing in the electronic piano. I have never had to declare anything in the past trips but I was quickly reminded of a prophetic word spoken over me by a friend recently when she said this trip would be like a ‘first visit’ to Cambodia. So here I was---dealing with one of my ‘firsts’---declaring something for duty. Not knowing what kind of duty we would have to pay and being mindful of a hidden fee (ie. A bribe), on the plane over, I had prayed and ask the Lord to go before us and that the custom officials would be reasonable with the duty. Once again God extended His favour over us as I informed the officials that this electronic piano was for a church and they waved me through without even asking me to pay anything. Thank you Jesus for watching over us in all the details! The hotel where we were staying had sent a van to pick us up but with all that we brought we also had to hire a taxi---another new thing---new taxi cars ---Toyota Camerys painted white with a yellow line highlighting the word ‘taxi’. We head out onto the main road finally here after all the training and packing. I am excited for my 4 team members (Brenda, Genie, Hiroko and Jan) for who this trip is a ‘first’ ever missions experience and a first visit to Cambodia.
The hotel is another first for me but it is a place that is a frequent stay for my other Ratanak colleagues. It is located near the Independence monument and a far cry from the suburb of Tuol Kork where I am used to staying. I have a sense that this hotel will be a key place for future ‘Ratanak teams’ to stay as God is raising up people who want to come and serve over here and who He has connected us with. We are in the heart of the city and so it will be another opportunity to learn about my surroundings and become acquainted with life in the city. We didn’t do much our first day as it took a while for everyone to get unpacked and settled in---what would one expect with 6 females!
Thankfully everyone is feeling good and so we went down to the waterfront using one of my favourite modes of transportation---the tuk tuk. I love bargaining with the tuk-tuk drivers as it gives me the opportunity to negotiate with my limited Khmer. For the price of US$2.00 all 6 of us managed to squeeze into this little motorcycle drawn carriage that strained under the excess body mass that it was transporting. We arrived at our destination -- a familiar jaunt that I have frequented with other international workers—the Kiwi restaurant that looks onto the Tonle Sap river and indulged in some typical Cambodian dishes—Morning glory--a sauted leafy garlic vegatable that grows near the sewage---trust me its really tasty! Then there is Lok Lak—yes its that meat dish with a lime, blackpepper sauce that I can never get enough of. After our meal we headed down for a stroll along the waterfront. It was fun observing my teammates cross the motorcycle, SUV laden street of Sisowat Quay as they made their way through the chaotic traffic of this boulevard. The waterfront is a place that is surrounded with lots of activity. Cambodian families sitting around having picnics enjoying the 'sea breeze', young couples or groups of friends just hanging out, little boys and girls panhandling and selling books on Cambodia. But it also is a place that the sex tourists hang out. I wish I had taken a picture of one of the restaurants we walked by---5 single middle aged white males each at separate tables taking in the scenery. I try not to judge them but its a sight that is so common place here.
Anyway its Sunday morning now and we'll be heading to the Sunway Hotel for the International church service and then it is off to Tuol Sleng or S21. More on that later today.
Friday, July 11, 2008
So what are we bringing? Thanks to some very special seniors at my church as well as a group of high school students that go to Char's school, we have over 300 teddy bears to distribute. It is neat to see young and old get involved and I pray that in the years to come God will continue to raise up a generation of people regardless of age to begin to speak up and be involved in seeking justice for the plight of child sex slaves. We are also bringing 80 plus T-shirts with the Canada logo to distribute to kids and adults at Daughters Cambodia, lipsticks for the caregivers at Newsong, 100 hand made necklaces with a cross to give to my little sisters at Newsong, crafts and game equipment for the VBS, care packages for international workers who we will meet, a paino keyboard for one of our pastor friends, chocolates and assorted goodies. I think Walmart made a killing on us! :-) Char was able to get one of her students to paint a mural on a big bedsheet that reflects the scenery in Cambodia. We hope to put this up at Rahab House as it will be part of our VBS Theme of Kingdom Kids.
As I head out on this trip it seems a bit different than the others and in many ways it is. In a sense it is the next step deeper into a journey and a calling that God has placed on my life so many years ago. The opportunity to partner with former child prositutes and to gain a taste of ministering to children at risk is a God given dream come true. I continue to stand in awe of the Lord's faithfulness and His sovereignty in orchestrating connections and events with people and organizations that have fueled this passion in me. This morning I was able to connect via text message with one of my little sisters in Cambodia. She herself a former sex slave is now a spokesperson for an organization that is involved in reintegrating girls back into society. I am excited to see her again. She has offered to come and help teach the kids at Svay Pak the songs that she knows. In her words's 'I want then to know there is hope'. As she herself is on a journey of discovering new hope, my own prayer is that she will know the Source of that Hope---the One who knows her by name, the One who can put a new song in her own heart, the One who has come to give her a hope and a future!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
The definition comes from the famed archbishop William Temple: “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose--all this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.”
Dear Lord Jesus, take us deeper into the heart of worship that we might worship you in this all encompassing way that William Temple describes---submitting ourselves fully into all of who you are and claim to be. Sanctify us daily through the reading of your Word that our minds might be fully consecreated to you so that every waking moment you are enlarging our divine creativity and expanding our awareness of your beauty in the mundane and in the majestic. Let it be that our hearts may daily receive your love as the Holy Spirit flows in us pouring our your love into the deepest areas of our souls so that we in turn can be Christ's fragrance of love to a hurting world. And make our wills be inclined in complete surrender to your Kingdom purposes so that our entire being may adore you as the lyrics from the song called 'Let Us Adore You' describe!
The heavens declare
The glory of God
And all of the world
Will join the praise
His wonders proclaim
The oceans and skies
Lift up their voice
And all all He has made
Will rise to bless
The King of all kings.
Let us adore Him
Let us adore Him
Jeus Christ is the Lord
Come and behold Him
Bow down before Him
Jesus Christ is the Lord
Is coming again
Though all of the earth
Will fade away
His truth will remain
You are worthy of all praise
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Joining me for this year’s pilgrimage to Cambodia are 5 others each of whom God has hand picked. Charlene my fellow armour bearer who has participated in 2 previous trips to Cambodia; Hiroko a mother of two daughters, who volunteers with International Justice Mission; Brenda who has served the youth at my church and whom God has given a heart for kids; Janice who attended our Slaying The Giant conference last year and is following God’s promptings to take more tangible action to speak up for child sex slaves and Genie, who had no interest in Cambodia nor missions, until the Holy Spirit touched her when Brian McConaghy, the founder of Ratanak, spoke at her church last fall.
GOING OUTSIDE THE CAMP
So what will we be doing? We have been blessed with a very special opportunity to go into the heart of a community called Svay Pak---a notorious brothel area that in the past has catered to child prostitution. Today much of this illicit trade still exist, but it is hidden in plain sight as the kids do not live at brothels but live with their families and are summoned when their ‘services’ are required in the evening. As a team, we are joining hands with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) Cambodia, Aim4Asia staff and Cathy De La Cruz an OMF missionary, to conduct a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for two weeks at a community centre called Rahab House ---a former brothel which is now being rented by one of the Ratanak Foundation partners AIM4Asia. This former brothel was highlighted in a Dateline NBC documentary in 2003 called ‘Children For Sale’ and was the very place from which International Justice mission (IJM) rescued 37 young girls. Last year, I visited this building in its sordid state and walked inside these small cubicles where young girls were raped and tortured daily. Today, this very building has been transformed both inside and out as a team visiting from Fairview Presbyterian Church ,Vancouver, recently tore down the cubicles and repainted and renovated the entire property. God is redeeming this property for His purposes ---no longer is it a place of pain where screams would be heard, it has become a place of laughter, a place of joy and a place offering hope to a generation of kids who are always at risk of being sold into the sex trade. This building to me has become ‘holy ground’--- a symbol of God’s presence, a symbol of new life, a symbol of His redemptive purposes---it is a place where God’s light can be found amidst the darkness that pervades a community that desperately needs to be set free from the grip of Satan’s tyranny.
Also joining us in this VBS outreach in Svay Pak are some special young friends from the Newsong Centre that is funded by Ratanak. Some of you may recall that the Newsong Centre is a rehabilitation centre for girls who are rescued from the sex trade. I look forward to partnering with these precious ones who to me are living testimonies that God can do immeasurable more than we can ever ask or imagine. Indeed, they reflect the power of His resurrection and demonstrate by their lives, that we are more than conquerors through Him.
During our weekends and in our 3rd week, we also will be spending time prayer walking brothel areas and ministering to missionaries from a variety of ministries. Specifically, we will be going to some of my familiar jaunts---participating in the monthly birthday party at Place of Rescue AIDS Centre and orphanage run by my dear friend Marie Ens. We will spend time with Pastor Sok & Savy Em who oversee the Tahas Bible Institute located in Kampong Chhnang that seeks to equip and train pastors, and we will re-connect with Kim Bui, a C&MA missionary, who manages New Hope Ministries which provides education to the marginalized Vietnamese community that has a notorious track record for selling their daughters into prostitution. We will also be attending prayer meetings of International Justice Mission(IJM) Cambodia and another organization whose name remains anonymous as it is a short term assessment centre that ministers to young girls who are immediately rescued from brothel raids. Lastly, we will be connecting with Daughters Cambodia one of the newest Ratanak partners. Daughters offers transitional housing, vocational courses in addition to small business schemes all of which provide viable alternatives for girls who want to leave the sex trade. On Easter Sunday, 14 girls were baptized and with each coming week the ministry seems to be growing as more girls discover a new life of freedom, hope and peace outside the brothel. But this ministry doesn’t just limit its work to victims of sexual trafficking, it also seeks to reach out to those whose business is to exploit women and children—the brothel owners. Recently, two brothel owners have started attending church. It is this kind of radical ministry that serves to remind me that just as Jesus went outside the ‘camp’ (Hebrews 13:13) so too He calls us to do the same. John Piper once said, God is calling us to go outside the place of comfort and safety and religious sanctuary to join Jesus in the risky places, the dangerous places, the dirty places. It represents the priority of resisting the incredible inertia of comfort and security—of wanting to spend all our time inside the camp. But what is outside the camp? Strangeness, uncertainties, drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes. When God says to us, "Go outside the camp with my Son to share the abuse he shared," he means, "Let your light so shine before men"—before lost and needy men outside the camp, not just in the ease and comfort of your church and your home. The light should shine in the dark. And it's dark outside the camp.
As we head out to these places that are ‘outside the camp’, places where darkness reigns, we know that apart from God and without His Spirit working in and through us, we will be labouring in vain to shine His light and to be His witnesses that the gospel is truly the hope of the nations, and so we value your prayers for our time in Cambodia. For those of you who would like to journey along with us in prayer on a daily basis, I have enclosed our ministry schedule as well as a link to our blog: http://cambodiamission2008.blogspot.com/ where we hope to provide daily updates while in Cambodia.
Pray that we will have minimal jet lag and that our luggage will arrive safely including a piano keyboard for one of the missionaries.
Pray for the children in Svay Pak who will be attending the VBS that God will prepare their hearts to be receptive to His word and that it will fall on ‘good soil.’
Pray for all whom we are partnering with: AIM4Asia workers, CEF workers, the girls from the Newsong Centre, Cathy De La Cruz and also for each of us on our team that a spirit of unity will pervade all that we do.
Pray for protection over us and our families as we enter into places of darkness that God would surround us, sustain us, keep us healthy and seal of any access points in which the enemy would attack us.
Pray that God’s name would be glorified in all the VBS lessons, the games, the music and the crafts.
For those of you who live in Toronto, our Cambodian friends that run Our Thai restaurant (in Vaughan) is hosting a fundraiser buffet luncheon (Adults: $20, Kids: $10) on Sunday July 6th at 12:30pm. If you would like to attend please RSVP to me by Monday June 30th by email
Thursday, June 05, 2008
I returned home and found myself admiring the trees near outside my home…the flower buds were slowly coming out and each day the colours from the flowers on one particular tree got brighter and brighter and the aroma became more prominent. I can’t help but think that we are just like those flowers and plants. God has created each of us so unique, so different in shape, size and colour and yet together we reflect His beauty and glory in a way that paints a wonderful picture of the Master’s hands. Each of us are like flowers, who emanate the aroma of Christ where ever we are and whatever He has called us to do. Through the gifts and talents He has given us, we reflect His beauty to a world that is filled so often with darkness and despair.
In just over 6 weeks, 6 of us will be heading to Cambodia, a place that is all too familiar with darkness, desolation and destruction. Yet even there, God longs to see His glory shine. And so we will head there, trusting Him to lead us on, to be His flowers as He waters us daily through His word and through His Spirit, giving us life that we might offer His light and life to those who have never tasted nor experienced His light. It is my prayer that we will be the fragrance of Christ in each place we go and in the ministry He has called us too. That His scent and His aroma will flow and touch many and in the midst of all the muck and dirt and dust, many will discover the One true God, who is sovereign over all creation and whose aroma is so captivating and beauty so breadth taking that they will bow their hearts and knees before Him to worship Him in all His splendour.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Since the beginning of May many of us both in Canada and the U.S as well as friends in Cambodia have been praying that justice and truth would prevail. As I think of the verse from Psalm 103:6, I praise God and thank Him that He will work justice for all the oppressed. That He is mighty to save and deliver and twart the plans of the enemy. For me personally this morning's news that Micheal J. Pepe was convicted on 7 counts for the atrocities he perpetrated against 7 young victims -- some of them who I had the privilege of personally meeting, I am overwhelmed. I am reminded by one of Ratanak partners that we need to celebrate whatever little victories we have in this battle against the giant of child sex slavery. Today is one of those days when we celebrate and give thanks to God for all He has done in upholding justice. I thank God for the U.S legal system and the laws they have on their books that enables persectution of individuals who committed such lewd acts against the innocent.
I can only imagine how my precious little sisters must feel when they hear about this outcome. My prayer for each of them is that this legal outcome, will somehow be part of the process that God uses to continue to set them free, to empower and embolden them that they have a God who hears their cries, a God who is faithful and just, a God who will not let the sins committed against them go unnoticed, a God who is mighty to save, a God who will repay the years the locust have eaten from them, a God who loves them with an everlasting love, A God who will never forsake them, A God who is their refuge and strength, a God who is their hiding place, a God who protects them and will not sleep and slumber but who watches over their comings and goings, a God who will restore and redeem them, a God who himself died for them and who would rather be abused for them, a God who sets them free, a God who longs to show compassion to them, a God who is tender towards them, a God who has engraved them on the palm of His hands, a God who knows their heart, a God who knows their pain and suffering and who was there watching all the torture that they endured, a God who is their Hope, their Healer, their Savior and the Lover of their Soul. May they know the Lord Jesus Christ and the breadth, depth and height of His love for them and may this truth truly set them free to propel them forward to live for Him in such a way that His name will be glorified and exalted in all they do and say and become! To God be the Glory! Thank you Jesus for the privilege you give to us as we partner with you to see your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May your name be Hallowed in each of our lives as we walk and reflect your light.
News Relese from the U.S Immigrations & Customs Enforcement:
Ex-Marine convicted of using drugs and force to have sex
LOS ANGELES - Following a three-week trial, a federal jury today convicted on seven felony counts a retired Marine Corps captain who traveled to Cambodia for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors.
Michael Joseph Pepe, 54, a resident of Oxnard, faces up to 210 years in federal prison as a result of the guilty verdicts stemming from an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
During the trial, government prosecutors presented testimony from six of the seven girls who Pepe sexually abused. The girls, who at the time of the abuse were between the ages of 9 and 12, testified that Pepe drugged, bound, beat and raped them. Several victims testified that Pepe required them to give him sexual massages and perform oral sex on him on a daily basis.
In addition to the victims' testimony, prosecutors presented corroborating evidence seized by the Cambodian National Police from Pepe's Phnom Penh residence, including rope and cloth strips used to restrain the victims, Rohypnol and other sedatives, and homemade child pornography.
The prostitute who acted as Pepe's broker testified on videotape about bringing him young victims. Pepe paid the broker and the victims' families for unlimited access to the girls. Pepe is scheduled to be sentenced here Sept. 3 by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer.
"Predators such as Mr. Pepe should realize that their unspeakable acts will not go unpunished, even if committed in other countries," said United States Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien. "Child exploitation crimes are among the most important cases we prosecute. Wherever the young victims of these crimes are located, they must be protected from people like Mr. Pepe."
"Today's verdict is particularly gratifying and not surprising given the horrendous evidence introduced during this trial about the defendant's sexual exploitation of these vulnerable youths," said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. "This case represented one of the most egregious examples of international sex tourism we have ever investigated and the jury's verdict is a reminder that pedophiles who attempt to evade detection and prosecution by committing sex crimes overseas face serious consequences."
"The Diplomatic Security (DS) maintains an excellent working relationship with ICE and local Cambodian law enforcement personnel who coordinated and collaborated with the DS Regional Security Officer in Phnom Penh about Pepe, thus enabling the capture," said Joe D. Morton, Director of the Diplomatic Security Service. "It's this type of close, worldwide law enforcement liaison that gives the Diplomatic Security the unparalleled ability to assist in locating, pursuing and apprehending predatory criminals."
ICE received substantial assistance in the investigation from the Cambodian National Police and the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service. Pepe is the fifth person to be prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of California on child sex tourism charges under the provisions of the PROTECT Act, which took effect five years ago. The PROTECT Act substantially strengthened federal laws against predatory crimes involving children outside the United States by adding new crimes and increasing sentences.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Fast forward two years later and the letters continue to come….some handwritten, some by email but this dear brother has become one of my special armour bearers. He is a man who walks with such humility and servant hood, who seeks not the limelight and prefers to serve behind the scenes. Whenever he speaks, I listen…it reminds me of that T.V commercial ‘when E.F Hutton speaks, everyone listens.’ LD is a man who seeks God and who has been such a tremendous encouragement to me. He has taken the time to write words of encouragement to each of us who are part of the core group that was formed two years ago. He is a man who takes his role seriously as an armour bearer and one who speaks with much wisdom. When we were brainstorming as a group about the title of last September’s conference it was him who gave us the title ‘Slaying The Giant’.
He is a man who quietly and wholeheartedly serves in a steadfast way and who’s wise counsel has served to affirm, encourage and strengthen me when I am feeling weak, tired or weary. Indeed he is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. In his role to stand in the gap and intercede, he and his family have experienced spiritual attacks. I am grateful and thankful to God for people like LD. He is not intimidated by the enemy’s attempts to derail or discourage us but rather he is an example of one who presses on despite the obstacles. The Lord has surrounded me with some amazing intercessors who are all female but to have a male in our group who takes his role seriously and who takes the time to send me words of encouragement is something that humbles me. Some times I do not feel worthy of such blessings but I realize that the Lord longs to give us His best. In this cause against injustice, He certainly has provided beyond what I could ever ask or imagine. He has surrounded me with others who spur me on but who themselves reflect His heart by the way they encourage and challenge us to live fully for Him.
Recently LD sent me two quotes. Each of them reminding me of different aspects of God’s character. One was from Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God which really touched my heart as I thought of our little sisters in Cambodia. "Her past was beyond repair, if there was any good thing there to salvage I knew not how. But God showed me she had her future. And it was vast, unbroken, pristine, radiant. It was pure promise: a Glory that would be revealed in her, a Glory that outweighed her present troubles, the Glory of the One who was coming to redeem her and transform her. Her past was a tragedy to lament. But her future was an epic to anticipate; which is simply to say: What will happen matters more than what has happened." This is the vision of Isaiah 61:1-3 that I believe is God’s vision for these little ones. Indeed each and every child who has or was subject to such trauma in their lives may come to that realization that the future before them is one in which God wants to write a new story filled with new hope.
The second quote that LD shared was from Matthew 1. He writes: ‘I have always been fascinated by the recording of Jesus`s family tree. What has always struck me is that there are only 5 woman mentioned. They are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Some were prostitutes, one was an adulterer, one was a widow from a despised race. But God choose these women to be the bloodline of Jesus. This reinforced how special of a place that God must have in his heart for the girls in forced prostitution. As the women in the Bible, some had choices and made poor decisions. But God showed the incredible Grace by having their names recorded in his Book. How much more Grace is He willing to shower upon the little girls all over the world who are in prostitution through no fault of their own.
Thank you Lord for reminding me that your arm is not too short to save. You who are the Hope of the nations is mighty to save and deliver. Thank you for the privilege you give to us to partner with you and with each other to build your kingdom and to shine your light in the most darkest corners of the world. Let it be that we will continue to be the Your voice for the voiceless.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I’m dreaming and imaging possibilities with Him because each day is filled with new surprises. I never know what to expect when I check my emails. I feel privileged to be connected with so many different people. Last night I got an email from our newest Ratanak partner Ruth Elliot who runs Daughters Cambodia (www.daughterscambodia.org) I have been reading a newsletter she sent and found myself in tears reading about ‘my sisters’ in Cambodia. This past March, 14 girls were baptized during a special Easter service and joined the family of God. These are my sisters, my daughters, the ones I look forward to seeing and meeting when I go to Cambodia in July. I have not met them as yet, but my heart is knitted with their heart. We share a bond now in Christ. These are the ones for whom Jesus came and who He beckons us to serve and to love. In the world’s eyes, they are viewed as disposable, outcasts, but in God’s eyes, they are not forsaken nor forgotten by Him. They are His treasures, precious ones for whom He came for, for whom He died and for whom He rose again to demonstrate to us that in Him, we can experience new life. Indeed it takes on a whole new meaning when one looks at lives that have been treated worse than animals….spit at, tortured, raped, drugged and beaten…and yet they show me what it means to share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. They can identify with Him at a level that I only read about.
As I read their testimonies, I am reminded again about the resilience of the human spirit….where sin increases, grace increases more and our Lord indeed can and is able to restore dignity beyond what we can ever imagine. These sisters continue to be my heroes. They give new meaning to the words ‘more than conquerors.’ Shame, guilt and fear does not have the last word, love does. Love has come down and lifted them up and has bestowed on them a crown of beauty for ashes. I enclosed a couple of their testimonies but if you would like to be on Daughters Cambodia prayer list and learn more about this organization, how you can get involved and what God is doing in and through this amazing ministry please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are two stories from young women at Daughters. Their names have been changed to protect their identity but I trust as you read them, that God will fill you with hope that all things are possible with Him!
From my very first day at Daughters, there has been one girl who consistently makes me feel welcomed and accepted. Her name is Sinah, she is a 17 year old beauty with a feisty personality and a fierce confidence. Although her English is limited to the basics like, “Hello” and “How are you?”, she is constantly struggling to communicate with myself and other English speakers that come to the center. Upon meeting Sinah, one might see a normal teenage girl who is well adjusted and light hearted; but as I get to know her better, I find that there is more than meets the eye. Sinah used to work as a sex worker in a bar. One day, her mother fell ill and she had to go to the province to care for her. She spent 15 days nursing her back to health, only to come back to the city and find that they had kicked her out of the brothel. Alone and not knowing what to do, Sinah decided to take her cousin’s advice and check out the NGO called Daughters of Cambodia. When she did, she knew her life would never be the same.
“Everything is better than before,” she tells me with a smile, “It is honest work, I can take care of my mother in the province, and I am free from guilt.” It is here at the center that Sinah has found the true freedom in Christ. “I used to live in the darkness, but now I live in the light.” Although Sinah has found peace and joy in her new life here at Daughters, she finds herself battling Satan’s lies on a daily basis. “I am free and I threw everything from my old life away, but I am still broken hearted,” she whispers quietly. The conversation has shifted and I am beginning to see another side of this precious girl.
She begins to pour out her heart, revealing the tragic reality, that at times the pain is so strong and so intense, her whole body goes numb. “Sometimes when I go numb, I will sew right through my finger and not even notice. I can’t even feel the pain,” Sinah tells me with tears in her eyes. When I look down, I notice she has a brace around her ankle; my heart begins to ache.
And then, she says something that both surprises and humbles me, “But that is how I know God loves me so much. He watches over me and keeps me safe when I cannot do it myself. He has to take care of me.” Sinah’s faith in the Lord is becoming stronger and stronger every day. Although the people in her life do not understand her decision to follow Christ, she will not turn back to her old life.
“Sometimes it feels like I am the enemy of Cambodia. Everyone calls me crazy and a bad Buddhist,” she stares blankly out the window before turning back to say, “So I ask God, “If I know you and it is right- Why do all these people hate me? Is it right?”” Then, after a long pause filled with careful consideration she says, “But I know I’m not crazy, because now I live in the light. I am free with Christ- so I will continue to choose Him. He has led me here and I am thankful.”
As our time together comes to an end, I find myself amazed at the wisdom this young woman possesses. She trusts Jesus with everything she is. She knows that no matter what happens in this life, she will remain a follower of Jesus. “I am thankful for Daughters, because it gave me a new life and told me about God,” Sinah makes her final statement and quietly goes back to work.
After being sold by her parents into a relationship with a Chinese businessman, Naly was forced to leave her home in Cambodia and migrate to China. Her life would never be the same. When she returned from China, her parents tried to sell her once again, but this time to a Korean man. That was when she learned about Daughters of Cambodia. I knew that I had to make money to support my parents, but I didn’t want to go back to that life,” Naly calmly states. She had heard about Daughters through a friend and began working the first day she came to the center.
When she talks, Naly speaks with elegance and poise; always composed, she exudes strength. But when talking about Daughters, her new friends, and Ruth (her boss), she seems to lose that composure that makes her so untouchable. “My life is so much better than before,” she says as her eyes get misty, “I have learned so much, while supporting my family at the same time.”
Naly has a very keen mind and has learned skills quickly, making her a valuable asset to the Daughters businesses. She loves to learn new things and always enjoys sewing, making jewellery, and making art. It was also at the Daughters center that she came to know the Lord for the first time. “I didn’t believe in Jesus when I heard about him at the center, until one night before I went to sleep, I prayed a prayer to him. I said, “God, if you are God, please help me.” Naly had been going through some hardships and was struggling to find comfort in the midst of her sadness. “That night when I went to sleep, I was filled with peace. That was how I knew that Jesus was real.”
As Naly continues to excel in her position here at Daughters, she prays that the Lord will continue to bless the center. She emphasized the importance of having the center, “This NGO is so good, because it gives sex workers a way out of prostitution. It saved my life and I would like to thank all of our donors.”
Thursday, April 10, 2008
In many ways, I feel so privileged that God would share His heart with me and I look back at the beginning of this year at the Solemn Assembly at our church when our congregation was repenting about not taking the Great Commission seriously. One of the challenges that we were asked to pray about was investing in the next generation. I found myself drawn to this particular prayer request as God has opened my eyes to see the next generation as my spiritual children. So often my focus has been and continues to be on the spiritual daughters in Cambodia that He has burdened my heart to pray for and to give my life to investing in their restoration and redemption. But God has a funny way of teaching us things close to home. After all, how can we expect to serve Him overseas, if we are not doing the same at home.
Earlier in March, I spoke at a conference here in Toronto and I invited the teenage son of friends of mind to help me. He is gifted in computers and so he was a great help to me in working the powerpoint when I was speaking. In some ways, this young man has become another one of my spiritual sons and so last night it was such a privilege that I could return the favor and help him. God is nurturing his heart to speak up for these who have no voice and last night he was doing a presentation at a youth group. I had given him copies of what I had done and also felt led to go help him run the powerpoint, pray for him, as well as the rest of the youth. I knew he would be showing a movie called Fields of Mudan. This is a movie I often use as part of my presentations because it so accurately displays the terror and trauma that is inflicted on children who are forced in to prostitution and sex slavery. While it is never easy to watch this movie, I know that if people are to really get a glimpse of the pain inflicted by this giant, that we all need to enter into the suffering of these girls. To not do so would be to avoid allowing our hearts to be broken with the things that break God’s heart.
Having said that, a wise friend last fall said to me that when we show the Fields of Mudan movie we need to be mindful of those who themselves have experienced sexual abuse. She reminded me that while this movie is indeed a powerful portrayal of the pain and suffering of child sex slaves, it has the potential of opening up wounds of those in the audience who themselves have been abused and so the importance of offering prayer ministry as part of the presentation is vital And so at each event, I and my armor bearers will pray for God’s protection over hearts and minds of people. I knew it would be just a matter of time when I would have to face this particular issue first hand. Last night, turned out to be such a night. One young teenage girl was visibly and notably broken, shaking uncontrollably and crying out in pain. Her tears were not from physical pain but it came from somewhere deep within her soul; the inner turmoil exposed and visible in all its rawness. At that moment, I just held her in my hands and told her to ‘let it out, let the tears out, let the pain out.’ I am thankful that one of my armor bearers was with me at that time. She reminded her that we were in a safe place. We asked her how we could help her and in the midst of her tears she sobbed ‘stop their pain, stop what is happening to the little girls’-----I believe she was also talking about her own pain. We prayed for her calling out to Jesus knowing that He hears the cries of her hearts, He knows her pain, He knows her suffering, He is close to those who are crushed in spirit, He knows! Jesus, Man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief, who bore our sin and who endured the cross, He knows what it is like to be abused. How I am thankful that we have a Savior in Him who can lift us out of our miry pits and bestow on us a crown of beauty for ashes.
As we continued ministering to this young girl, her mother called on the cell phone and I could hear her voice, filled with anger and rage as she yelled at her daughter to get her (expletive) self outside to the front of the building. Her daughter sobbing on the phone begging her mother to come in and get her because she couldn’t move. She was in some sense paralyzed by the pain deep within her. But her mother did not hear the cries of her daughter’s heart. She had her own agenda and totally disregarded her daughter’s appeal to come. We asked our youth pastor to go and talk to the girl’s mother and explain all that happened in the evening. He did but there was no listening on the mother’s end. She said her daughter was being over dramatic. This image has stayed with me as I drove home last night. How could a mother be so deaf to the cries of her child? I can’t judge but I know what I saw. I saw a young girl in need and desperately asking for help but her mother for whatever reason could not hear the cries of her daughter’s heart. I asked the Lord about this as I was going to bed and I believe He gave me an image of what had happened to this teenager. She may have been a child when she was abused, she may have told her mother about it but her mother dismissed it. The very people who she reached out to ask for help, the ones who love her, dismissed her emotions, her feelings. Her voice silenced until last night, when the memories of her youth were surfaced. It is hard to watch someone be gripped by such pain. I wish I could take it away from her but that is Jesus’s role. I know that God has called us to stand with these. To hold their hand, to let them know that we are a ‘safe person’, to offer His healing words to them, to encourage and build them back up in His love. I am grateful for this special privilege that He has entrusted to us who are in this battle.
This morning, my spirit remains heavy as I continued to pray for this teenager. I know that what God has revealed to her, is part of His journey to bring true and deep healing to her wounds. To set her free, to restore her and repay the years the locusts have eaten from her so that she will never again be shamed. Scripture reminds me that what the Lord has started, He will complete. He doesn’t just open up wounds but He will bind them and heal them with His tender balm. I am praying this for this precious girl. It is not surprising that He would continue to speak to me about all that transpired last night through my quiet time with Him this morning. Psalm 139:1-12 was my meditation and He reminded me that ‘He knows everything about us’---- I am grateful that He knows everything about this teenager. He knows where she had been, what has happened to her. He knows exactly where she needs to be healed. He is familiar with all her ways. He reminded me this morning that He will go before her and follow her and He will place His hand of blessing on her head. I pray indeed that she will experience such deep and permanent freedom and healing from Him in the days and weeks to come.
As I think of her, a song comes to my head that I heard last night. It seems so appropriate. It’s called: He Knows My Name by Tommy Walker. It is my prayer that each child, each person who has ever experienced and endured such violation would encounter this truth in the deepest areas of their soul:
I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
and He hears me when I call
I have a Father
He calls me His own
He’ll never leave me
No matter where I go
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
and He hears me when I call
God is taking me deeper into His heart and the heart of these who are broken at their deepest levels. It is a bitter sweet moment but I am thankful to share in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10) as I share in the sufferings of these whom He brings my way. It is uncanny how this verse that He gave me in 2000 for my first trip to Cambodia has taken on such a huge importance in my life as He leads me forward to slay this giant of child sex slavery.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
“There will never be an act of love so pure or triumph so celebrated as the humility of the cross and the miracle of the empty tomb.”
Father as we are in this season of Lent and Easter is approaching may your act of love on the cross, once again be captured in our hearts that we too would reflect Your love in our acts of service, in what we say and do and in the midst of suffering and hardship, let us remember that you endured the cross for the joy that was set before you. Indeed there can be no crown if there is no cross. May your cross remind us time and time again of the price you paid to set us free from the chains of sin that we might live in your resurrection power! Thank you for the miracle of the empty tomb that reminds us that You have risen and so shall we. As I think of my 'spiritual daugthers' in the far off land of Cambodia, I pray this Easter season they may come to taste and experience the freedom of new life in You---a life in which you lift them up from the miry pit and set them free to live in the strength and in the power of your Spirit who sanctifies and cleanses them from all fear, shame and guilt and makes them a new creation born to worship you in spirit and in truth!
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Your cause, not my own, engages my heart,
and I appeal to you with greatest freedom
to set up your kingdom in every place where Satan reigns;
Glorify yourself and I shall rejoice,
for to bring honor to your name is my sole desire.
I adore you that you are God
and long that others should know it, feel it and rejoice in it.
O that all people might love and praise you;
that you might have all glory from the intelligent world!
Let sinners be brought to you for your dear name’s sake!
To the eye of reason everything concerning the conversion of others is as dark as midnight,
But you can accomplish great things;
the cause is yours and it is to your glory that people should be saved.
Lord, use me as you will, do with me what you will;
but, O, promote your cause,
let your kingdom come,
let your blessed interest be advanced in this world!
O do bring in great numbers to Jesus!
Let me see that glorious day and give me to grasp for multitudes of souls;
let me be willing to die to that end;
and while I live let me labor for you to the utmost of my strength,
spending time profitably in this work, both in health and in weakness.
It is your cause and kingdom I live for, not my own.
O, answer my request!
Prayer from: The Valley of Vision Prayers
FRIDAY MARCH 7, 2008
MISSIONFEST MASTER SEMINARS ON JUSTICE
Justice for Children at Risk - Speaker: Faith Goodman Friday March 7, 2:30pm in P. Berton Room This is a panel discussion on justice issues concerning children. Moderator: Lorna Dueck, Listen Up TVRev. John Niles, Senior Minister, St. Andrews United Church, Justice Kenneth Pedlar
Slaying the Giant: Ending Child Sex Slavery - Speaker: Lisa Cheong Friday March 7, 2:30pm in G. Pinsent Room
SATURDAY MARCH 8, 2008
MISSIONFEST MASTER SEMINAR ON JUSTICE
When the Good do Nothing
Speaker: Jamie McIntosh Saturday March 8, 10:30am in Hall D
MISSIONFEST WORKSHOP ON JUSTICE
Putting Feet to Your Hearts Desire
This seminar will explore various avenues in which to become involved in caring for sexually exploited children. Specifically, we will discuss different levels of advocacy, as well as opportunities to participate as a short term intern and long term intern in a host country. Location: A. Waxman Room 1 & 2
Time: 11:00 a.m Speaker: Lisa Cheong (Ratanak Foundation) & James Pond (Transitions Cambodia)
SUNDAY MARCH 9, 2008
SEEK JUSTICE SEMINAR
"What God Thinks About - A Theology of Freedom And How We Respond"
Theology is often talked about in terms of orthodoxy - but, theology is something that we do, not something we just believe. James Pond will be discussing the issue of sex trafficking, his personal journey and response, and how we can respond to a theology that promotes the gospel.
Location: Rexdale Alliance Church, 2459 Islington Ave, Etobicoke ON, M9W 3X9, 416 741 1110 Map: http://www.rexdalealliance.org/index_contact_us.cfm
Speaker: James Pond, Transitions Cambodia (http://www.transitionscambodia.org/)
Please RSVP to Lisa J. Cheong if you plan to attend this seminar at: email@example.com
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
One of the prayers that our team prayed was that God would bring His chosen people to these conferences and that He would raise up people to respond and and take action to what they heard. It is no coincidence that as I begin this month of reflection to prepare for the Missionfest seminars on March 7th & 8th that, the Lord would give me the privilege of hearing what He has been doing in the hearts of others. This past weekend, I along with a friend and our youth pastor sat with 5 teens from our church who God has raised up with a heart and burden to do something about the travesty of Child Sex trafficking. We had a wonderful time of praying and sharing and we discussed about a young teen in the U.S by the name of Zach Hunter who wrote a book called Be The Change and who God has raised up as a modern day abolitionist. Zach has spoken to over half a million of people and established a campaign called Loose Change to Loosen Chains In the next few months, we are planning to study Zach's book with the youth and see where the Lord will lead them as we seek to mentor and encourage them to be the modern day William Wilberforces.
This morning when I opened my email, I saw a message from another teenager---an MK who used to attend my church but is now in India with her parents. She attended the Seek Justice conference in 2006 with her mum. I was so touched to hear what God is doing in her life. NR (her initials) emailed to ask for prayer as she is organizing a prayer group among her 'boarding school' friends this coming Thursday so that they can pray for the kids who are in the sex trade. she had emailed not only for prayer but was asking how she would encourage her fellow peers to get involved. I feel so privileged to be able to come along side these youth and in an ironic twist, the same verse that the Lord gave me two years ago from Isaiah 61:1-4--for the young girls who are caught in sex slavery actually applies to these youth. For God has laid on my heart to see these young women be 'a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor' as they are restored and become all whom He has destined them to be and as I think of the youth on this side of the pond who He is raising up as voices for the voiceless, my role is also to encourage them to fulfill their destiny and to see them be as well 'a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.'
But it is not just youth He is raising up for later this evening, I got another email from two other people who attended the Slaying The Giant conference last September. As a result of what one gal learned at the conference, she is writing her thesis on Sex Trafficking in Cambodia and in May of this year she will be going over to Cambodia for 1 year to be an intern with one of our partner organizations. The other individual is another lady from the Anglican denomination. She called wanting to know how she could get involved. Her phone call was quite timely as I was in the midst of preparing a promotional email for all the justice events (see below) that are happening in March and so she is hoping to promote the events within her parish's newsletter.
All of this to say, that God is raising up a generation of people both young and old to speak up for those who have no voices. How I praise Him for these glimpses of fruit that He has planted and watered.