Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cambodia Bound - July 2008

Eight years have passed since my first visit to Cambodia in 2000 and as I prepare for my 7th trip from July 10th to August 2nd, God has brought to mind the same verse He gave me on that initial trip. Philippians 3:10 says “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Over the years, as I had the opportunity to visit Cambodia, I have discovered that to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings is to enter into the suffering of this nation. These past 3 years, the Lord has narrowed the focus of what that involves by resurrecting a dream He had placed in my heart some 18 years ago—to be an active participant and advocate in seeking justice for girls who are victims of sexual slavery. To enter into their suffering after all, means allowing our hearts to be broken again and again and again by the atrocities they have endured. This is not a ministry that one would choose, but as Ravi Zacharias once said, unless we understand a person’s pain we will never understand a person’s soul. God indeed has given me such a privilege to be a part of their journey by spending time with them, by mobilizing others to give a voice to their plight, by interceding for their healing, by investing in their future as I partner with organizations who seek to restore dignity to lives that so often have been viewed as disposable. To know Christ and the power of His resurrection in this ministry is to witness how He can breathe new life into lives left for dead; lives that have been traumatized, terrorized and broken at the most sacred levels. Yet in Him and through Him, we have the privilege of seeing them be transformed from a child sex slave to a child of Christ as He redeems them from a life filled with hopelessness, fear, shame and guilt to one filled with hope, love, joy, peace and purpose as they discover their true value and worth in Him.

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.

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: 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

1 comment:

Hamster said...

I'm excited for you, Lisa! And will be keeping you and the others in prayer. I praise God for the work that He is doing in and through you to affect the Svay Pak community in Cambodia! May you truly know more of Him through this time you'll have in July!