Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lisa's Newsletter


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.

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, I have enclosed our ministry schedule as well as a link to 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

In His Grace,
Toronto Rep: The Ratanak Foundation – Blog:
Our Prayer requests

Pray that we will have minimal jet lag and for a quick adjustment to the heat and humidity

Pray that all 24 pieces of our luggage will arrive safely—including 700 Crocs and 400 teddy bears donated.

Pray for the workshops that we will be teaching, that the 50 girls who attend will gain valuable skills that will empower and equip them to make long term life style changes.

Pray that our team will be a blessing and a source of encouragement to the staff and girls at Daughters.

Pray for protection over us and our families as we prayer walk in places of darkness that God would surround us, sustain us, and keep us healthy

Pray for heart to heart connections with the girls we meet that the language barrier would be superseded by the language of love

Pray for wisdom and discernment that we would be alert at all times and in all places against any strategies of the enemy

Pray that in all we do and say, that God’s name would be glorified and honored.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us daily so that we will dwell in unity and love.

Pray that God will raise up many to be a part of His Isaiah 61 team from the churches represented on this year’s team.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Joy's Testimony: From Despair to Cambodia

A testimony of how the Holy Spirit moved me from a place of fear and despair to my present plans to join the Ratanak Foundation in Cambodia this summer, to help in the work of restoring children who have been rescued from the sex trade.

Three and a half years ago, I watched a CBC documentary ‘Sex Slaves’ about the plight of women in Ukraine. One young woman I just couldn’t get out of my mind. The family lived in extreme poverty; her younger brother had leukemia; she was desperate to get him medical help, and so she left home to look for work in the city. There she was tricked, brutally raped, beaten, sold and trafficked into a prostitution ring.

I learned that thousands of girls are trafficked internationally each year. The trafficking of children and women is the second largest crime in the world today, next to drugs and guns. This vicious industry is growing.

I was angry that CBC aired such a disturbing documentary but didn’t suggest what one could do to help. My pastor and two close friends listened to my frustrations and despair at this evil crime. I cried, they sat and held me and prayed. I realized that was the beginning of a prayer of solidarity – while I couldn’t pray, my friends prayed and lifted me and the girls up to Jesus.

I eventually went to CBC and asked to borrow the documentary to show at our church. We showed the film on the Anniversary of the Massacre of the Women in Montreal. I met Tom Axworthy, who was doing research work on Human Trafficking at Queens University. The provincial election was on at the time, so we invited the politicians to come. Only a few people came that evening. One Green party candidate joined us. I met a woman, Melody, who expressed interest in getting together to pray.

During a prayer time, my pastor and close friend, Linda, heard that God wants us to begin praying regularly and consistently for this issue. What followed seemed like months of prayers but silence from God. I felt God was far away.

I felt useless and I wondered if I could do anything at all. After all, I’m not a private investigator, a policeman or a politician. I asked God, surely you don’t expect me to sing and dance my way into the dark world of Human Trafficking? I thought perhaps God will call the right persons with the skills to fight this crime.

Almost a year later, Melody invited me to a Human Trafficking Conference. Looking back, I see the hand of God in this step by step.

At the Conference, I met Brian McConaghy, the founder of Ratanak Foundation. I felt a connection with Brian. He is from my home town Vancouver and he attended my old church there. As I listened to him speak, a still small voice was leading me to dream about joining his organization to help the children in Cambodia.

God started to bring me together with other people: several women joined me to pray. I learned about International Justice Mission. Melody invited me to join the Ratanak Foundation Core group. Linda invited me to join the ACTS group at church and to share what I knew about Human Trafficking. We made Human Trafficking our focus that winter.

During this time, God spoke to me through my desires and dreams. But most of my efforts to raise awareness on Human Trafficking were met with little interest. It seemed that the Holy Spirit was teaching me to trust without a need to see fruit. The Spirit grew my passion to simply follow His leading. I had a sense God was meeting me heart to heart. As I grieved for the girls, it seemed that I was living in the heart of God, and I learned to trust God’s love and power. I learned to wait on God’s timing.

Recently I danced for a Trafficking conference, and it was a healing experience for me as I danced out the pain of abuse. You see, I too had a childhood of abuse and violence, though not as horrific as the girls’ experiences in Cambodia.

And so I find it an awesome thing for God to use me to be part of His healing process. I hold on to God’s promise for me and for the abused girls – God says: “Don’t be afraid, I am with you. You are my beloved daughter. I have called you by name, you are mine. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned and the flame will not consume you. You are precious in my sight and honored and I love you.” A favorite writer of mine, Henri Nouwen said ‘When we see the God in us, we begin to see the God in the world.’

This summer, I can’t wait for Jesus to give me eyes to see what he sees, and for Jesus to take my hand and show me what is in His heart for the girls in Cambodia. I want to be there in solidarity with the abused.

Brian McConaghy mentioned that many mental health professionals thought that the girls rescued from slavery are so damaged they will never recover and yet Jesus heals them!

I want to be part of that healing. To witness to Jesus’ resurrection. That’s why I’m going to Cambodia with the Ratanak organization.

To raise funds for the children in Cambodia, my young piano students, ages 5 to 18, will be playing in a fundraising concert on Wednesday, June 10, 7 pm, at Runnymede United Church, 432 Runnymede Rd., Toronto, Ontario. M6S 2Y8

These young students are the same ages as the girls who were sold into the world of violence and abuse in Cambodia. At the concert, we celebrate the gift of our children here in Canada and at the same time we remember the suffering of the children in Cambodia.