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.

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