Monday, August 25, 2008

Update on Cambodia Trip 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!

Kids sharing a meal at the VBS

The boys leading the worship

Lunch time at Rahab House during the VBS

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

Christ’s intense love continues to be poured out as our partners at AIM4 Asia are in the midst of preparing to open a school for the kids at Rahab house within the next month. In the meantime, a weekly church service that begun over the past month has seen a steady flow of participation from the local residents and just last week 150 adults attended the service. Through all these ministry efforts in Svay Pak, we have heard that some families are no longer willing to send their daughters when a pimp comes to get them. This is a small ray of light that is shinning in the midst of the darkness. This is the invisible reality in which God is building His kingdom in the most unusual place and the gates of hell will not prevail. Only He can take a former brothel and transform it into a place of worship where His name is exalted! Only He can take a place that was once a place of death and destruction and transform it into a place of life and hope. Only He can chip away and breakdown the ancient walls and gates that have imprisoned this community, so that the King of Glory can enter in, in all His fullness.
After our time in Svay Pak, we had the opportunity to spend a day at Daughters Cambodia which ministers in Stung Meanchey---a slum that is a brothel area for local Cambodians. Daughters now supports 100 former prostitutes by providing them employment opportunities and a variety of services to empower them to make life style changes. Someone once said that people may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel. This statement could not be more true when I think of the children of these former prostitutes. We had the opportunity to play some games and teach them some crafts yet the greatest pleasure came in presenting each of them with a t-shirt that had the Canadian logo and a teddy bear made by the Evergreens from our church. I have never seen so much joy and delight in the faces of kids as I saw in these, when they squealed with excitement as they discovered they were each going to get these gifts. For children who have nothing and are treated as nothing, their laughter and joy reminds me that as humans we long to be valued, to know that someone cares, to feel loved, to feel special and to be treated with dignity and worth. It is through these opportunities as mundane and simple as they seem that God revealed His beauty to us in these broken communities.

Beauty in Restoration – a wounded healer!

But God’s beauty is also being restored and emerging in those whose lives have endured suffering beyond comprehension. I had the opportunity to reconnect with Srey Neth, my spiritual daughter who lived through months of hell being raped daily by 10 to 20 men and being beaten and tortured. As I listen to her talk about the horrors she endured, I felt so blessed and privileged that she would share her pain with me. She is still on a journey of restoration and while she is not yet a believer, her wounds are no longer a source of shame. They have become a source of healing and a source of hope for other young women who have gone through a similar ordeal as our Lord (who gives strength to the weak) is the one who ultimately is giving her the courage and the voice to speak up and tell her story. Indeed, we have a God who is mighty to deliver us from the darkest pits of our lives and make something beautiful out of our pain that we in turn can become wounded healers.

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.

1 comment:

Peggy said...

May God continue to stir your heart by His Holy Spirit as you journey forward and respond!