Sunday, December 27, 2009

What Does It Mean To Say 'Yes' To God

Wow its been such a long time since I written on this blog. There has been so much going on inwardly and outwardly that some times it just takes time to process. To share prematurely is to release the treasure before the time is right. So recently I have been pondering what it means to say 'yes' to God. This thought has entered my mind through an Advent meditation I read on Mary. The author Kathleen Norris wrote:

Who is she, a peasant girl that an angel of God should appear before her? Who is she to bear the Savior God promised to Israel? Why should this great blessing and burden come into her humble life? Mary believes. For her question to the angel is not 'how will I know' but 'how can this be?' She has already accepted the truth of what the angel tells her. But Mary still has to assent to it, to answer 'yes'. And on that our salvation hinges. The answer depends on Mary and it depends on us.

The questions God asks us are always questions of being rather than knowing. And simply recognizing these moments, stopping for a moment because something or someone wants our attention can matter.....but it will be clear that we are being asked to say 'yes' or 'no' to embrace or ignore what God has set before us.

Like the ancient Israelites in the desert, we can long for the security of the world we know in Egypt. Slaves after all have the security of knowing their place in the world. Or like Mary, we can say 'yes' to the new, uncertain reality that promises true freedom. Say 'yes' to God will always mean more than we can possibly imagine, both for us and for others. Walls and stumbling blocks that seemed impossible crumble suddenly, as we let our fears go. Like Mary, we have no way of knowing any of this. We can ask for courage, however and trust that God has not led us into this new land only to abandon us there.

My spirit is arrested on so many levels when I read the words of this devotion. For my heart is prone to wander but God beckons me back showing me that when I say 'yes' to Him, He is opening up new vistas for me to see and doors to step through. As this year ends and a new year enfolds, I want to find myself always in that posture of willingness to say 'yes' to Christ for in doing so I am being led to a deeper faith, deeper trust, a deeper knowledge of His heart. Saying 'yes' will mean greater sacrifices, counting the cost, saying 'no' to what seems like other good choices which aren't the 'best' choices. Over the years, my desire has always been to live without regret and so saying 'yes' to God is to say 'yes' to new adventures, to walk through fears. It is truly a journey to greater freedom in Christ but is one that God calls us all to take individually. No one can do it for us but we do have the promise that when we say 'yes', God promises to go before us, to part the proverbial Red seas and Jordan rivers. Saying 'yes' may mean saying 'goodbye' to friendships that once fed our souls, to letting go and again allowing God to bring other sojourners and pilgrims who will join us in a journey of courage to a new land, the promised land that God has in store for us. Like Mary of old, I am reminded that her blessedness was born out of faith, a faith that choose to believe, that took God at His word and in so doing, lives were impacted for eternity. Oh Lord, quicken that kind of faith in me that you planted in Mary's heart so many centuries ago, that like her, each of us who chose to walk by faith and not by sight, may taste the blessedness she tasted and we may find favor in your eyes!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Expect The Unexpected

Today is a new day and after yesterday's emotional rollercoast experience I am not at all deterred but all the more thankful to God. Many of you have been praying and following the story about SN for the last few weeks, praying for her safety and protection. Just to recap, yesterday we thought she was really safe...but as I did a double check on the facts it turned out that she was not completely safe humanely speaking. But in a sense she is safe. Perhaps this is why I have so much peace in my heart today. She is in the safest place and that is under the shelter of the Almighty. I was so moved by many who emailed responding with cheers and words of encouragement...friends who have prayed for this little girl's protection. It made me realize more than anything else that God is using SN's life to bless us in the most unusual ways. For each of those who have prayed and continue to pray are the invisible army who stand or in some cases who are bowing their hearts and their knees before the Lord of the universe pleading on her behalf. This is just another dimension of what it means to seek justice for the oppressed. To perserve in prayer and to have the resolve to not give up. Whether we realize it or not, He is knitting our hearts with hers. He is knitting our hearts with the things that are on His heart. He is drawing us deeper into His purposes and for that there is much to be thankful for.

This morning in my quiet time, I was meditating on 1 Corinthians 15:58 which says: Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. To seek justice on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves involves standing firm, not being troubled by the visible reality but having the resolve to give ourselves fully to that which God has called us to do knowing that when we are laboring for Him we are indeed not laboring in vain. The fact that SN is still in Svay Pak is indeed a cause for concern, but more and more, as we wait for her to truly be safe, to truly live a life free of fear and free of oppression, God is raising up a community of believers to pray and in the process, He is enlarging His army and enlarging our faith, our trust and causing us to lean on Him in ways that we are not normally used to. This journey is not just about SN's life but it is also about our lives. I am learning that He is teaching me (and perhaps others) to live on the edge, to expect the unexpected, to accept the twists and turns as we labor for Him and for His purposes. To not yield to the visible reality, but to rest in Him and to wait patiently in Him. Psalm 37 has become one of my life verses for this cause for as it says 'commit your ways; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.' So let us not grow weary but keep commiting our ways to Him--- commit to intercede, to not forget these who He holds so dear in His heart, commit to press on with hope in Him, commit to speaking up for the voiceless and as we do, indeed we will have the privilege of experiencing and seeing the justice of the Lord.

A friend of mind once said to me the journey is the destination. This is the journey that He has called us to. It is a journey that has many tears but it also is a journey that has inexpressible joy, a term that my dear colleague Brian shared with me yesterday. For some strange reason God has given me an inexpressible joy as I think of SN. Regardless of the uncertainty that she lives under at this moment, regardless of the uncertainty that we may feel at this time, I happen to believe that God has set her apart as His, I happen to believe that its just a matter of time when she will enjoy a life of true freedom, I happen to believe that despite these times of waiting, He is weaving something that when finished will bring Himself glory and make us more like His Son as we persevere in obedience to Him. But for now He has given to me (and to others) a very special treasure --- to love her as if she were our own daughter and to allow our hearts to be stretched to a new level of faith. So let us walk with eyes of faith for without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

August Newsletter Update on Cambodia Trip

Dear Family & Friends

It’s been just over a couple weeks since we’ve been back from Cambodia but my heart and emotions still seem to be in Asia. This is a normal aspect of the re-entry process that we are called to embrace. In many ways, it is the most difficult part of any mission experience because it is a time to be still, to listen and to wait on the Lord for another chapter to enfold. Nonetheless, as I reflect on our journey, there is much to give thanks to God for. I especially thank Him for each of you who have sown so generously into our lives. Because of you, we experienced His faithfulness in providing for all the needs of our team---whether it was your prayers for us, whether it was the financial resources given, whether it was your words of encouragement, whether it was your support at the Our Thai Fundraiser, whether it was your gifts for the Cambodians, God blessed us way beyond what we could imagine. He indeed was not only watching over us, but time and time again, we saw His hand directing our steps and giving us opportunities to encounter Him through the poor, the oppressed and the broken. So on behalf of the team, thank you for your investment of time, energy and resources to stand in the gap not only for us but for the people and children in Cambodia. This service that you perform not only supplied the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.(2 Corinthians 9:12)

Jesus In the Least of These
This year’s trip, the verse that seemed to reverberate in my soul was from 2 Corinthians 12:9. “For my power is made perfect in weakness." Each time I visit Cambodia, it is the weak and vulnerable that God uses to speak to my heart. For it is in their vulnerability, my vulnerability is revealed. In their brokenness, I am forced to confront mine, in their helplessness, I see my own. This is not about dwelling on the pain and suffering of others but rather gaining understanding about an aspect of ‘the cross’ that we so often seek to avoid. For the cross of Christ challenges us to enter into the suffering of the world in all its darkness, hopelessness and pain, yet it is the cross of Jesus that also reminds us that where there is brokenness, there can be wholeness, where there is despair there can be joy, where there is ugliness, there can be beauty, where there is rejection, there can be acceptance. It is in the spending time with the ‘least of these’ I find Jesus and discover that His power is made perfect in weakness. What do I mean by this?

Jesus With The Rejected
At a tender age of 4 days old, baby Bayana who I met at Daughters experienced rejection. Because of her disabilities (she was diagnosed with spina bifida and had club feet) she was rejected first by her parents and then by a pediatric hospital where the doctors suggested to her parents to just take her home and let her die. But Jesus is on the side of the rejected and one phone call and a few hours later, baby Bayana was ushered into a whole new world; a world where her weakness became her strength, a world, where new opportunities and new hope arose. She was given a new name, Neang Rua (which means ‘Ruth’ but also ‘live’), ‘adopted’ by Place of Rescue run by my dear friend Marie Ens and was sent back to the very pediatric hospital where she was initially rejected and is now receiving treatment for each of her ailments. As Marie said, God has a plan for Neang Rua’s life. Yes Jesus’s power made perfect in the weakness of the abandoned. Though the world may reject Neang Rua, He accepts her just as she is. Though the world may want to write off Neang Rua, God has engraved her on the palm of His hand. Though the world may want to forget her, He has not, for He has created her for such a time as this!

Jesus With The Oppressed

But Jesus was not only present to rescue a helpless babe, for He was standing in the midst of one who continues to live a life of oppression as I thought of a former sex worker from Daughters Cambodia, whose tears were a visible reminder of the pain that she endured each day. The violence against her has been transferred from the brothel to her home where she experiences daily beatings from her husband. In one of our seminars, she came forward for prayer, she could barely look up, her body language, a reflection of the downcast spirit within. How does one possibly offer hope to one who is so crushed? I asked her what her name was and asked if she would look into my eyes. I began to tell her that Jesus sees her pain. He knows what she goes through each day, He hears the cries of her heart. He is not a God who is distant but who cares what happens to her and He will rescue her because He loves her. She began to cry and so did I. There is something special in having the privilege of sharing in another person’s suffering, in sharing their pain and helping them to know they are not alone; that we stand in solidarity with them just as Jesus does. I wanted her to know how much she was loved and valued as a human being. That day, she laid her pain at the foot of the cross trusting that God could make something beautiful out of her brokenness. That day she stepped out in faith choosing to believe that God’s power is made perfect in her weakness. That day, I prayed that she saw the loving gaze of Christ, offering her hope that a new day was coming in her life.

Jesus With The Exploited
Svay Pak, the village 11km outside of Phnom Penh notorious for being the pedophile’s paradise is a place where strangely I have come to experience God’s love through the little ones I reconnected with from last year. For it was here that I was confronted with the reality of the statistic that 80% to 100% of the girls in this community are trafficked. Such was the case one Saturday when I learned that within 24 hours one of my little “daughters” was going to be taken to a brothel up north owned by her parents. She had come to the sanctuary of the Lord—Rahab’s House asking for help from the pastor. This time she did not want to go for she knew the fate that awaited her. Each time she had been previously and returned, Pastor Chantha had to take her to a medical clinic for treatment. It is here that both my fear and faith collided. Fear as I thought of the ‘worse’, tears welling up in my eyes, as I sat with her and others, yet ‘faith in Christ’ as we prayed and pleaded for God to intervene. For the first time in my life I felt compelled to fast for the life of this precious one that evening. God’s word to me over night was ‘don’t worry she will be okay.’ Indeed the next day I saw her at the Sunday school program and gave her my cross necklace not only as a symbol of my love for her but more importantly, as a symbol that Christ loves her and that He would never leave her nor forsake her. Praise God, as of this writing she is still safe. Her grandmother who attends Rahab’s House church had refused to let her go, but the tension remains. She remains ‘at risk’ of being sold for sadly she is a ‘favorite’ in the pedophile catalogue. What is it like for a child to live under such a cloud of darkness? I have no answers to this question, but through this process, I am reminded that to love the way Jesus loves, is costly—for it demands that we persevere with an enduring hope despite the visible reality, trusting that in the invisible reality, Christ will be faithful to His promises of protecting the defenseless so that one day, they will terrify no more.

Jesus With The Redeemed
But all is not dark and dismal. For God also is in the business of restoring the years the locusts have eaten from those who have experienced years of sexual slavery. Such was my encounter with 3 of the former victims of the first ever convicted Canadian pedophile/sex tourist Donald Bakker. These special ones are now under the care of a Foster care program that Ratanak funds in Cambodia. I had the awesome privilege of spending a few hours with them, celebrating their birthdays, asking them about their hopes and dreams for the future. They are all believers, doing things that any teenager would do—enjoying junk food, going to youth camp, posing with their favorite stuffed animals, giggling and laughing as they each shared their hopes of being a lawyer, a hip hop instructor, or a business woman. But I was struck by their spiritual maturity as one of them prayed for us and asked that God would use the words that we had prayed for them to touch their hearts deeply. Their story and journey demonstrates the power of Christ to heal, to bind up wounds, to set free and to release new hope and new life. In them, I see evidences of God’s grace restoring and redeeming shattered lives.

Indeed each of these stories are reminders that the oppressed and the brokenhearted will continue to call us out of our comfortable apathy and indifference, just as Christ himself calls us to set aside all that entangles and follow after Him. It is an emotional roller coaster with bitter and sweet moments intertwined, but the poor and the downcast are in need of hope and justice; they need mercy, they need love, they need to know that someone cares, they need to know that they matter and they need our time, even as Jesus seems to tell us that it is we who need their time. For in gaining a glimpse of their darkness, in spending time with them, I become more keenly aware of the words that Henri Nouwen once penned: In these suffering bodies of people we must be able to recognize the suffering Christ. They too are chosen, blessed, broken and given to the world. As we call one another to respond to the cries of these people and work together for justice and peace, we are caring for Christ, who suffered and died for the salvation of our world." In each one of them we not only see Jesus in disguise, but it is the poor and needy who teach us how to love Christ even more. In the cup of cold water delivered to the least of these, He is there among us demonstrating that His power indeed is made perfect in weakness.

Thank you again for your incredible support. For those who would like to read more details about our experiences in Cambodia, check out the Ratanak Missions blog

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Child of God

It is interesting that my blog site is called 'Child of God'. The other day I received an update from IAST (Initiative Against Sex Trafficking) formed by the Salvation Army. For any one who wants to learn more about this issue and get updates from all over the world, I would highly recommend signing up to recieve their emails.

Child of God is a song that was written by Steve Siler, founder of Music for the Soul a Christian nonprofit ministry of music. Steve has been involved in the production of a documentary film called: Somebody's Daughter, the very powerful documentary about men's struggle with pornography. According to Lisa Thompson who oversees IAST, the film is a powerful tool full of the strength, truth, and light of the Holy Spirit against the darkness, isolation, and hopelessness of the sex industry. The film and music project Somebody's Daughter was spurred because of a friend's late night call to Steve. Steve's friend confessed to him about his ongoing battle with pornography. That night Steve and his friend decided, "We wanted to plant a flag; to say to the world that every woman is a child of God, deserving of dignity and respect and to be loved for who she is on the inside."
I have highlighted the lyrics below as they speak. To hear the song simply go to the Music for the Soul home page at and look underneath the green tabs at the left hand side of the page, and click Child of God. To contact Music for the Soul for your own copy and permission to use simply e-mail them using the contact page at the site or call the toll free number at 1-877-298-9081. You should know that Music for the Soul intends that Child of God be available to be used free of charge to minister to those rescued from sex trafficking or those coming out of the sex industry by organizations on the front lines.

Child of God (Lyrics distributed with permission)
by Steve Siler copyright 2009
Music for the Soul

I paint on the face
I strap on the heels
I shut down my heart so it won’t have to feel
the hands that don’t know me all over my skin
and the eyes that don’t love me drinking me in

Under this make up
I’m black and blue
The petals were crushed before I could bloom
I didn’t choose this
No one ever would
And I’d break these chains if only I could

I’m a child of God
I hide in plain sight
I’m a child of God
Slave to the night
Powerless, broken, abandoned, abused
Do you see a child of God
Or just a prostitute?
The world looks away and calls me a whore
and each day I die just a little bit more
A disposable person to keep at arms length
Human trash…
Is that what you think?

I’m a child of God
I hide in plain sight
I’m a child of God
Slave to the night
Powerless, broken, abandoned, abused
Do you see a child of God
Or just a prostitute?

What I’ve become is not who I am
We both were created by the very same hand

I’m a child of God
I hide in plain sight
I’m a child of God
This isn’t right
See my humanity
Look for the truth
I am a child of God
I am a child of God
Not a prostitute

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cambodia Newsletter - June 2009


In the fall of 2006, as I was reflecting on what it meant to invest in the lives of young girls who were caught in the web of child prostitution, I was reminded that evil seeks to destroy their future by stealing their hope. Yet it is in these very environments, that God calls us to face the darkness head on, to not block it out, or run away from the horror and reality of the situation but instead to enter in and grieve with those who suffer, so that we can offer Christ’s incarnate love, His compassion, His hope and His dignity to them, in order that they may begin to discover their true value and worth in Him. During that time, the Lord laid on my heart a vision based on the verses from Isaiah 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me, to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Since then, God has begun to raise up His Isaiah 61 team – people who come from different denominations, life experiences and backgrounds, but who are united under one purpose and passion: to seek justice on behalf of the oppressed, speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and see Christ’s healing love bring forth a new life of freedom, hope and peace to lives that have endured much enslavement, despair and violence. This year, God has chosen 11 other individuals from 5 different churches to join me on my annual trip to Cambodia. From my home church Rexdale Alliance are: Tara, Prem, Charlene, Marty, Vidya, Pastor Nancy and her husband Peter. The other team members include: Genie (Young Nak Korean Presbyterian Church), Stephanie(Grace Toronto Church), Melinda (First Alliance church) and Joy (Runneymede United).


Many of these victims of sexual slavery have lived in the brothels for so long that they have no skills, no viable alternatives or no other source of income but, with families to support, they have no choice but to endure a life of abuse. In 2007, one of the Ratanak Foundation partners Daughters Cambodia was established in the heart of a local brothel district known as Stung Meanchey, to reach out to victims of sexual trafficking. Its aim was to demonstrate Christ’s love in tangible ways by offering holistic care through a variety of programs in order to break the yoke of brothel life and enable and empower girls to rebuild their lives and make healthy choices that would ultimately result in long term transformational impact. This year we have the privilege of sowing seeds into these precious lives by teaching a variety of workshops to 50 girls at Daughters. These workshops include: budgeting, nutrition, anatomy, drug addiction, domestic violence, haircutting, choosing a mate, spiritual warfare, healing prayer ministry and member care. This will not be easy as the girls range in age from 13 to 20 years old but their educational and literacy level is that of a 10 year old or younger.

For me, this is another step deeper into the calling God has on my life and while I am excited to use my business skills to teach a daily budgeting class along with my team mates, it will be quite a challenge, as the majority (if not all) of the girls have never learned basic arithmetic skills of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. For someone like myself who works in the finance world, this experience gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘creativity.’ No doubt I will be stretched way beyond my comfort zone! Thank God, there are 4 school teachers on this team! It is times like this that I am reminded of the Lord’s promises from John 15:6 apart from Him, I can do nothing’ and am encouraged by the words of Mother Theresa who said love Jesus trustfully and He will use us to accomplish great things on the condition that we believe much more in His love than in our own weaknesses.’ Indeed if any significant learning and transformation is to happen in the lives of these young women, it is because of what He does in both their lives and our lives.

As Cambodia is notorious for being a source, transit and destination for sexual trafficking, this year we are also planning to prayer walk some very specific areas where sex tourism flourishes and where the illicit trade of selling underage girls occurs.


One of our visits will be in Svay Pak--- a village located 11km outside of the capital city of Phnom Penh that is notorious for the selling of their daughters into the sex trade. Last summer, our team had the privilege of running a VBS at Rahab’s house ---a former brothel that is now an outreach centre and a church. Through the perseverance of our partners who run the Newsong centre, God’s light is penetrating the darkness in that village and a pandemic of hope is starting to rise within the community. As Don Brewster our Newsong director wrote: Villagers are now believing maybe there’s a way to overcome the evil that has touched every corner of the village and assaulted every family. Just two years ago the Ministry of Social Affairs said, “Don’t waste your time in Svay Pak, it’s hopeless.” The village leader told me, “I’m happy the people traffic their daughters, then I can get money from them.” What a difference the unconditional love of Christ can make. This love first came to Svay Pak through the outreach done by girls at the Newsong centre who were once trafficked and held as slaves in this village. Today that love is multiplied through the Svay Pak Ministry Team and the church. Indeed God is using His redeemed ones to rebuild and bless this community. Two former victims of sex trafficking who have been reintegrated from the Newsong centre have chosen to open up a beauty shop in the heart of Svay Pak in order to be reflectors of God’s light in that place. I am looking forward to meeting them especially since one of them recently announced her engagement to a young Christian man. What a joy it is to witness how God is beginning to rewrite the script not only of this community, but of individual lives such as this young girl by restoring to her what she thought was lost forever—her dignity and her purity. Indeed, she is a living example that God not only hears the cries of the oppressed but He will rescue them and bestow on them a crown of beauty for ashes so that they will become a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.

Beyond the ministries at Daughters Cambodia and Svay Pak, we will be visiting some familiar places: joining AIDS orphans in their monthly birthday celebrations at Place of Rescue run by Marie Ens, a dear friend and mentor whose life and dedication to God’s purposes epitomizes ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’ As well, we plan on spending time with Pastor Sok & Savy Em who oversee the Tahas Bible Institute that seeks to equip and train young pastors and leaders in the church and finally, we look forward to reconnecting with Kim Bui who continues to reach out to Vietnamese children who are vulnerable to sexual trafficking.

For those of you who would like to journey along with us in prayer on a daily basis, you can follow our activities on our blog: where we hope to provide daily updates. We value your prayers for we know they will be like arrows shot into the heart of rape, destruction, and evil. For you will be interceding on behalf of innocence, justice, and righteousness and most of all, joining forces with the One who loves these young lives and who would choose to be abused and beaten for them. Indeed He did that and much more. He died for them but through His resurrection they too may rise again from the pit of shame, guilt, pain and trauma and experience new life in Him! A life filled with new dreams and possibilities to become all who He intended and designed them to be! A life that ultimately will reflect His beauty, His glory and the power of His redeeming love. Thank you for taking this time to read this prayer letter and for standing in the gap for us.

If you are living in Toronto, our Cambodian church friends that run Our Thai Restaurant are hosting a fundraiser buffet luncheon on behalf of our team (Adults: $25, Youth (13 to 17 yrs) $20, Kids (6 to 12 yrs): $10) on Sunday July 5th at 12:30pm. If you would like to attend please RSVP to me by Thursday July 2nd by email: or by calling me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

John 6:29 - What Should We Do?

Today's chapter in my one year bible reading plan is taken from John 6:22-42. The day before the crowd had witnessed a miracle---Jesus feeding 5000 with 5 loaves and fishes and this new day, they are hungry for Him, searching for Him first in Tiberias but He was gone. So they jumped into their boats and off they went to Capernaum. In finding Him, Jesus says 'I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don't be concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of His approval. They replied, We want to perform God's works too. What should we do? Jesus told them, 'this is the only work God wants from you. Believe in the one He has sent.'

We are just like these people, asking God what should we do because we want to perform the type of miracles that He does. And yet, Jesus's answer is simple 'believe in the one He (God) has sent.' Believing comes before doing. From believing flows all our actions, all our doing. What we believe determines how we respond. We cannot win any battles if we do not believe they can be won. God's message to us is first 'believe' and when you believe, the Lord indeed begins to work out that 'doing' in us in ways immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

If I believe in the One God has sent, then no challenge, no trial, no conflict, no darkness, no evil, no pain, no suffering, no struggle cannot be overcome. If I believe in the One God has sent, then my life ought to reflect the attributes of God---His love, His kindness, His compassion, His tenderness, His righteousness, His justice. If I believe in the One God has sent, then my heart can be transformed to reflect the fruit of the Spirit---love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. If I believe in the One God has sent, then my choices ought to reflect His choices. If I believe in the One God has sent, then the things on His heart, ought to be the things on my heart. That which breaks His heart, should break my heart, that which grieves His spirit, should grieve my spirit, that which He says is true, I ought to be believe is true. If I believe in the One God has sent, then my entire being on this earth is to reflect His glory.

John 6 goes on to teach that Jesus is the Bread of Life and that whoever comes to Him will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Him, will never be thirsty.

Dear Jesus, help me, help us to keep coming to you, we need your nourishment, we need you, we are only laboring in vain, if we are not abiding in you. Come and breathe your life in us afresh each day that we might daily believe in You. Flood our souls with your truth that we will believe your word and in so doing, stand firm against the fiery darts of the enemy and proclaim your truth that you being the Bread of life, will provide food for our souls, nourish us for the journey ahead, satisfy our longings and refresh us as we continue to run the race you have laid out for our lives. Let it be said of each of us, 'because we believed in the One whom God has sent, we like the saints of past, overthrew, kingdoms, ruled with justice and received what God had promised. We shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, escaped death by the edge of the sword, our weakness was turned into strength and we became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. (Hebrews 11: 33-34)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Sanctity of Life - A Good Friday Reflection

"Do we believe in the sanctity of all human life, or do we believe in the sanctity of some human life?" I read this quote recently from a movie trailer on the Terry Schiavo Story that is soon to be released. Now this is not a commentary on euthanasia but I love the quote because it goes to the heart of how we see and value human beings. The dictionary describes ‘sanctity’ as the quality of something considered so holy or important it must be respected totally. The thesaurus gives other synonyms for holiness as the quality of being sacred. Christians believe that life is a gift from God. Jesus showed in his teaching that all people should be valued with dignity.

Do we really believe in the sanctity of ALL life or just SOME human life? As I ponder this, my mind instinctively goes to my little sisters around the world especially those who live in Cambodia---young girls for whom a life of captivity and sexual enslavement is the world they only know. I think especially of those who the Lord has given me the privilege of interacting with in Cambodia. I call them my ‘little sisters’ because I believe it is important to personalize their journey. To see them as if they were my own daughter or my own little sister so that I might in some small way enter into their world and share their pain and stand with them. I believe the moment we begin to ‘depersonalize’ these little ones by focusing on the statistics ie: over 1.2 million children enter into the sex trade each years---we fall into temptation that the problem is too huge, that little can be done. We see them as numbers, facts and figures and no longer human beings. But this is why I love how Jesus responds to the multitudes. For Him all life was precious. No one was a statistic, He knows all of us by name. He knows everything about each one of us. All life for Him was sacred. All life was created by God and for Him. He never de-personalized and kept the crowds at a distance, but saw that deep within their hearts, the longings and struggles of harassed souls. He never avoided the places of pain or suffering. Going to the pool of Bethsaida and noticing the many who were sick with various maladies, he was not overwhelmed but rather reached out His hand of love and say ‘do you want to be healed.’ In Jesus and through Jesus, I am reminded that all of life is sacred. Every human being is sacred, treated with utmost respect and dignity. No one is overlooked, no one is marginalized. Everyone is valued---the healthy, the sick, the poor, the rich, the disabled, the broken, the socially inept, the paralytic, the leper, the demon possessed, the oppressed, the prisoner and yes even the perpetrators and the murders.

As I reflect on this, my mind wonders to the Cross---that rugged cross in which He died upon. The cross symbolizes pain and suffering --- emotions and feelings that we so often want to avoid by medicating ourselves or distancing ourselves from. But Jesus set His heart resolutely on Golgotha. How do you and I react to that? Perhaps we cringe and turn our eyes and heart away. But He turned His eyes towards the cross, for our sins both past and present. He turned His heart towards us and demonstrated through the cross the depth of love He had for us and the depth of suffering He was willing to go through for your sake and mind. He embraced a level and depth of pain, mocking, suffering and torture that we will never fully comprehend. This is the mystery of the cross and the words of a song we sang at our Good Friday service rings in my brain. It brings me back to the foot of the cross and reminds me of the price paid for my life. The song is called ‘Jesus Thank You by Pat Sczebel:

The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend
The agonies of Calvary
You the perfect Holy One, crushed Your Son
Drank the bitter cup reserved for me
Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You
By Your perfect sacrifice I’ve been brought near
Your enemy You’ve made Your friend
Pouring out the riches of Your glorious grace
Your mercy and Your kindness know no end
Lover of my soul
I want to live for You

© 2003 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

Jesus as I think of the words of this song, I am reminded that for you ALL life is sacred---You offered yourself as the perfect sacrifice to demonstrate how much you love every single one of us. The cross symbolizes the depth, breath, height and width of divine love that truly mystifies me.

But do we stop there? How quickly it is to forget and lose the awe and wonder of the Cross. But in these days, the Cross gives me a strange comfort and peace. For each Good Friday, I am reminded of the encounter I had with the Lord many years ago as He opened my eyes and revealed Himself to me in the most profound way that all I could do was cry and say ‘why would anyone die for me.’ The scales fell off and I discovered my worth and value in Christ. Amazing grace how can it be that thou my God would die for me.

For in the cross of Christ, I discover hope, meaning, purpose, healing and resurrection power. In the cross of Christ, I see the hope that is possible for those who the world does not value. For my little sisters in Cambodia who have been treated not as ‘sacred beings’ but as ‘sexual commodities’ I take heart knowing that in the cross their pain is known and through the cross, the shame, guilt, fear and trauma of their experiences can be healed and they will rise again to become a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour. Today I cling to this truth as I received news of a little sister at the Newsong centre who I have not yet met but who attempted to commit suicide recently on two occassions. I pray that she will encounter the risen Lord Jesus Christ this weekend and in the days to come. That the despair, hopelessness and darkness that is overshadowing her soul will instead, give way to the truth that Jesus would and did give His life for her’s. That He values her and that she is worthy in His eyes and worthy of His love. That He is for her and she is more than a conqueror in Him. Oh Lord, hear the cries of this little one and come quickly to her as you come to all of us, carry her in your arms that she might experience your peace, your love and your tender compassion as you wipe away her tears and by the very stripes that you experienced on this day so many years ago when you were tortured, and beaten, may your very stripes be the healing balm upon her small body. Take her sorrows, take her shame, take her pain and take her suffering dear Jesus, and give her you peace. Oh Prince of peace, flood her heart with a fresh outpouring of your Holy Love, with a new song, flood her heart with the truth that though she may be struck down, she is not destroyed, for in you and through you, she has the resurrection power to rise to again from the ashes and experience new life with fresh hope in You. You have overwhelmed the grave Oh God, let her taste the victory of Calvary in a way that is meaningful for her at this time that she may look to you and say 'it is well with my soul, it is well with my soul.'

Monday, March 23, 2009

What Makes You Cry?

I've just finished listening to a sermon from my pastor and in it he was asking us 'what makes you cry?' Recently it seemed that CNN noted that Starbucks was now going to be selling instant coffee and one of their Ireporters commented that this news about Starbucks made them so angry they wanted to cry.' How sad it is, that something like this would make us cry? It's so easy for us as a society to focus on our trivial pursuits when there are far greater things that should move us to tears. My mind wondered to recent conversations I had had and an article that I had read---both of which made me cry. They both had exercised my anger as I sought God in prayer with the proverbial question of how long O'Lord? How long do you tolerate evil and the wickedness of moral depravity, how long?

The conversation that got me going was one in which a young friend who has been involved in development work in Africa shared about a seminar she went to. For the first time she heard about the atrocities done to women in the Congo. Innocent young women once being held captive and experiencing a level of evil that seem so hard to comprehend. One story my friend relayed was of a young woman who was strapped to a bed for 3 months and repeatedly gang raped on a daily basis. When she finally escaped her internal body completely destroyed. Now I am not a medical person but what was described to me was that her reproductive organs were deciminated as well she had no control over her bladder functions. This young victim commented that even now, the stench of semen surrounds her and she can't get rid of it. How long O'Lord do you tolerate this kind of dehumanization and degradation? My friend could hardly contain her emotion when she first heard this story. She went home and as she described it, cried so hard one night that she wanted to vomit. It was as if something inside of her needed to be expelled. The defilement she heard made her sick to her stomach.

What makes you cry? Is it the trivial? Or is something far greater or deeper? So often we may say Lord break our hearts with the the things that break your heart but do we really want that or is it just lip service? It is so easy for our hearts and minds to wander, to be distracted with the here and now, to be busy for the sake of being busy. I can't help but wonder if our busyness is just a protective cover that keeps our hearts from being broken with the things that break God's heart. My friend is back in Africa for a brief visit but I shared with her that when God reveals such levels of evil and brokenness in our world to us, it is a call to pray and seek His face. It is a treasure that He has deposited in us because He wants to show us what grieves His heart and to challenge us to respond. I don't want my heart to grow cold to these stories. I don't want to avoid them. For the day I ignore them, is the day I stop allowing my heart to be broken by the things that break God's heart. As hard as they are to hear them, I want to learn about them. This is the way of the cross. To walk the way of the cross is to enter into the suffering of the world. So often we want the 'crown of glory' but we don't want to wear the 'crown of thorns.'

The other story that made me cry recently come a bit closer to home. It is the calling that God has placed on my life to speak up for children who are sold into prostitution. Recently, I got a prayer letter from a missionary friend working in Cambodia. She works among the Vietnamese community, below is an excerpt from her letter:

On Saturday, December 20, 2008, at 06:15 I set out with two friends to help me visit the five NH schools that are under my care. At each school the individual classes performed a Christmas song together and several children read from Scripture. After the Christmas program was finished it was my turn to speak to the group. The children were very well behaved and listened well to my presentation of the gospel message. Starting with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I explained to the children with pictures how sin entered the world and that we are each sinners who are separated from God. God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us so that we can go to heaven to be with Him, and not have to pay for our own sins. I explained that only through faith in Jesus can we go to heaven.

At the end of my presentation I invited all the children who wanted to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour for the first time to join me on the stage and prayed. The numbers of children responding to the gospel were for a total of 140 children. At first when I saw so many children came up to receive Christ, I was sceptical about their understanding of my message because some of the children were very young about 4 or 5 years old. I asked the children whether they knew that they were sinners; that Jesus died on the cross for their own sins; and if they wanted Jesus to forgive their sins and to become His children. All of the children understood and wanted me to pray for them. I praised the LORD for drawing so many young Vietnamese children to Him so that they could embrace His love in their rough lives and know that they can call on God when they are in trouble.

"ML" is a grade 3 student in NH school at KM 11. She comes from a Buddhist family and is the oldest girl in the family with one sister and two bothers. I noticed "ML" about a year ago because of her faith in Jesus and her village. She walked to NH church almost every Sunday and carefully listened to sermons. She always greeted me with a gentle head bowing and a sweet smile. One Sunday, I went with her to visit her family who lived in a small hut in “NC” village. I saw some of our drop-out students (13 to 15 years old) who worked as prostitutes. Later on, I found out that all the girls above 12 years old in “NC” village were sold by their parents into brothels. This information broke my heart and made me fearful for ML’s future since she was 11 years old at that time.

I visited ML many times and met only her mother who was busy selling some snacks in front of the house. I asked for her parents’ permission to take ML to a place where she would receive scholarship to study even in a university. Her mother always refused my offer and said that they loved her very much and could not bear to be away from their daughter even for one day.

I saw ML on Feb 4/09 and felt that some bad things had happened to her. She acted differently than at the Christmas time I last saw her. She still went to school but not the church. She wore a long sleeve black sweater at noon with the heat over 30 C degree. She was quiet, sad and not interested in choosing gifts from a Canadian team. It seemed like nothing could comfort or cheer her up.

I went back to school a few days after to talk to "ML" privately. She still wore the same long sleeve black sweater in a hot baking noon time sun. She did not look at me or greet me with her usual sweet smile. I found out that her parents went to Vietnam for the Vietnamese New Year (Jan. 26) to build up her grandmother’s tomb and left her and her 9 years old sister alone in their house. Her father lost his job about 4 months ago and lost a lot of money in the cock fights. I asked her where her parents had money for the trip and for the gold chain they bought for her. She told me her parents borrowed money. "ML" did not tell me, but through our conversation and feeling her unspoken pain and suffering, I knew that she had been sold for her virginity before the New Year to pay off the debt. I cried for her loss of innocence and broken spirit. I cried also for ML" younger sister and the many other young girls in the “NC” village. They would likely be sold just as "ML" and many other older girls.

Every time I read this story about "ML", I cry. I ask the Lord many questions. 'ML' is not just another child sold into prostitution. She is not just another statistic in this horrible travesty. She is a 'sister in Christ'---she is my 'little sister', she is a child of God for whom Christ died. How long O'Lord do you allow this evil to continue? How long O'Lord do you allow your precious children to be treated as commodities? How long O'Lord?

It is easy to be discouraged in this battle, when the tears are dried up what next? WHen the questions remain unanswered, what next? How do you persevere? I think of my missionary friend who faces these situations day in and day out. This is the bitter sweet experience of this ministry. Seeing many children become followers of Christ and yet seeing one be carted off like a sheep to the slaughter. But I have hope, this is what Easter is all about, we are called to enter into the darkness of Good Friday but we are not called to stay there. For Easter beckons us with the call of hope that Christ not only rose from the dead but His resurrection power is in everyone of us. His resurrection power is in "ML" and I have hope and faith that He did not put His seal on her for naught. But that she will rise again and He will restore, redeem and repay every single one of the days that the locust have eaten from her and she will no longer be shamed.

Thank you Lord Jesus for giving us the privilege of weeping with you over the brokenness of your world. You who were a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief, know the pains and sufferings of the 'ML's of the world. Thank you that because you rose, ML can rise again. So while weeping may remain for a night, rejoicing comes in the morning.

Friday, March 06, 2009


'No, the answer is not to say to oneself,'I am the beloved.' The answer is to claim our belovedness.

There are anything between six and twenty-six ways of saying,'I claim my belovedness.'For instance,there are all sorts of inner disciplines.

Some questions leading to an inner discipline are:'Do I keep choosing joy over sadness?''Do I keep choosing to speak a word of forgiveness instead of a word of revenge?'That is a very inner discipline.'How do I spend my time?'because there is a choice.'Do I read novels that don't get me anywhere,or watch TV that just makes me distracted?'Or,'Do I choose to read certain books or watch certain programsthat really help me?'That's also a way of claiming my belovedness.'

Am I going to be a garbage can of the world,into which I allow any television program and bookto be thrown?''Do I have a big garbage can in my head?'Do I choose to say,'I am the beloved.I am not going to listen to that stuff,not going to watch it?'

Then there's the discipline of relationship.'Who do I choose to be my friends?'Life offers constant choices,choices for the tools of my belovedness. Can I do it all by myself?One of the disciplines is that which comes from community.Can I hold onto my belovednesswhen the whole world is trying to tell meI am not belovedand therefore have to pay moneyso that I can feel beloved?'I need other people who say,'You don't have to do these things,you are loved.

'You need friends who physically touch you.There is a lot of need of physical embrace -kissing, hugging, holding, very normal physical contact -enormous need for that among the the elderly,among men, among women, among children.There's an enormous need for affirmation,for people to say,'What you said was really good and it really helped me.'There is an enormous need for phonecalls that say,'I have been thinking of youand been praying for you.'There is an enormous need for having people around.The Christian communityis a community of people who remind each other who they truly are -the beloved of God.

'Taken from 'BELOVED' by Henri Nouwen

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Red Hair Boy in Svay Pak

It's been a while since I last wrote on my blog. But tonight I am prompted to do so after I read a prayer request below from one of our Ratanak reps who has been in Cambodia over the last couple of months. Here is her prayer request below:

We were at Rahab House, a converted brothel in Svay Pak. We went to visit the Bible/worship program they have there for the community children 2 afternoons a week. When I think of "pimps" I think of hard, swaggering young or mid-age men. I was appalled to meet one such 'man' a skinny, little, 13 year old boy with bleached red hair. Yes, he has that hard look in his eyes - young-old eyes - and he swaggers and thinks he's cool until the frisbees came out and the stickers, then he ran around and laughed with the others. But there is such a haunting, lost look in him even with play. He is a leader. Please pray that God will get into his heart and change him - old things pass away, new things come.

This young boy that she refers to is called 'How' --- one who I and those on the team that went in July 2008 know quite well. He was one of the cheeriest kids we know but I am compelled now to pray for him. He is not just a boy in a photo that I took, but one who God allowed my team members and myself to interact with and to connect with. In reading this prayer request something in my heart sank. I was saying 'no Lord, not one of our boys, not one that we know.' It is as if in a strange way he is our son. He is as much a victim of this insidious evil darkness as the little girls he is offering to sell. Satan has bound both the boys and girls of this community in such chains that one can't help but wonder whether anything good can come out of this community but I know in my heart that He did not allow us to meet these kids for nothing. Each one of them---both boys and girls are precious treasures in His sight and He has a plan and purpose for their life which they cannot see at this point but I am trusting that the presence of Rahab house and our Ratanak partners in Svay Pak will indeed shine God's light in the hearts of these young souls so that they will be transformed and be set free from the grip of the devil.
Dear Jesus, rend the heavens and come down. See your children, the ones you created with such potential being deceived and blinded by the stronghold of satan. Intervene and show yourself strong. Lord your word says that you are mighty to save and deliver. Will you O God, grab hold of 'How's heart' and open it up to your ways and your truth. Set this captive free.Break down those ancient gates that bind him to the darkness for there is no pit too dark that you cannot reach down and pull your children out of. Rescue him for your namesake, so that your kingdom can come in his heart, so that He will know the One who loves him with an unfailing and everlasting love. Thank you Lord that you are the God of the Impossible and you will build your kingdom and the gates of hell will not prevail. Give us the strength and perserverance to intercede for these who are lost, who are in such darkness that they don't even realize that there is a way out, that the Light can shine and give them hope and put a new song in their hearts. Thank you Jesus for the privilege you give to us to stand in the gap for these, to not lose hope, to not be discourage but to persevere on their behalf for your Renown.