Friday, July 31, 2009

Last Day at Daughters

Ruth Elliot, Director of Daugthers Cambodia

Our last day of Daughters was filled with many different activities as we wrapped up our time there. The morning began with some of us spending time in the prayer room with Samnieng, the centre manager for Daughters and one of the girls who I will call Miya. One of my co-leaders Genie had asked if we could pray for Miya specifically as she had observed Miya's leadership skills earlier in the week and sensed that God was raising her up to be a strong prayer warrior that would have a positive influence with the other girls. Our prayer time with her was somewhat emotional as Miya shared that she wanted to use the gifts God had given her to bless others. It was a special moment watching her and Samnieng pray for each other in Khmer---two different women, from two very different social backgrounds. One who was once caught in the web of brothel life, the other a Christian counsellor ministering to girls in the sex trade. Yet both of them now joined together in a common bond, a love for Christ and a desire to live for Him and to bless others in His name. Only Christ can intertwine lives such as these and bring them to a place where their paths would intersect, where they can stand shoulder to shoulder as testimonies of Christ reconciling power to remove the barriers and break down the walls of discrimination.

Samnieng and The Roses we gave to the girls

During my time here, I have had the privilege of sharing a few words twice at Rahab's house church service. On Friday, I was given the privilege of speaking to the girls on God's heart for the oppressed. Preaching in this context is not easy as there are translation challenges and so it is important to speak simple words and trust that God will plant the seed in each person's heart. Such was the task before me as I spoke on God's heart for the oppressed starting first from Exodus 3:7-9 where the Israelites who had been enslaved by the Eqyptians for many years were crying out to the Lord after enduring years of abuse and mistreatment. My comments were based on four points:
1. Jesus see’s us in our pains and struggles. He sees all the things that are done to us, the circumstances and environments we are forced to live in. He sees the pain in our heart; He sees the physical suffering we are forced to endure. He sees our hopelessness and helplessness.
2. Jesus hears our cries when others are oppressing us and hurting us. He does not close His ears to our pain. He hears our cries for deliverance. He hears the words that have been spoken over us that have crushed our spirits and wounded our souls
3. Jesus is concerned about our suffering. He is a God who not only cares but loves us so much that He takes on our pains, our sufferings, our shame, our hurt.
4. God will rescue us from those who oppress and hurt us. He is not a God who stands far off and ignores our pleas for help. He is for us and will do everything in His power to set us free from the hands of our oppressors so that we can have a new life of hope in Him.
We gave each girl a silver necklace with a pearl pendant to remind them that God sees them as His precious jewel, a pearl of great price. I exhorted them that whenever they wear it or look at it, that the pearl was a reminder of how much God values them and loves them. We also gave each of them a rose as a symbol that they each carry in them God's beauty and as they begin to discover the new hope and new life in Him, they will be like a sweet smelling perfume, displaying His splendor.
Church service at Daughters
Each of our team members took turns giving a rose and the little box with the necklace to each girl at the service. Below, a picture of Char and Genie waiting to hand out the roses.

One of the recipients of the rose

One of the exciting things to see was the 8 girls who came directly from the brothels each day and were taking Melinda's hair styling class. For two weeks they were trained on different hairstyles with some of our team members volunteering to be their 'hair models' to test out their newly acquired skills. On the last day, Melinda gave them each a t-shirt and a kit with various haircutting tools. These girls are not yet Christians but have decided to start coming to Daughters regularly as a result of this workshop. Their haircutting training will be supplemented by a local Khmer hairdresser who will come to do some more teaching.

New hairstylist display their latest hairdos

After the service the girls went back to work briefly as our team setup for the celebration party which included a few dances choreographed by our team members Stephanie and Joy who had been working with about 10 girls over the past two weeks, teaching them line dancing and different worship dances. They enjoyed entertaining the 'crowd' with all their dance moves.At the end of the party we handed it out a little food packet with dessert, some more necklaces made by teachers from Prem's school and some hand made crowns that several people from my home church had made to give to the girls.

It is hard to describe now my feelings from these past two weeks. God has been so gracious in unifying our team and giving us wonderful opportunities to connect with these who are so special to His heart. I wish I could show the photos we took with the girls as I think pictures tell a thousand words that words themselves simply cannot do. However, we leave Daugthers with a sense that God is surely at work in that place. He is touching the least of these and restoring the ruins of shattered lives and offering hope to the hopeless. It is His holy ground in the midst of the squalor. It is indeed a place of refuge and a place of hope and long after we have gone, my prayer is that His love well continue to saturate the hearts of each of those girls at Daughters that through our team, the many other volunteers who have passed through these doors and the Daugthers staff who serve them tirelessly, that the girls will have seen and experience tangible example of His voice, His hands and His feet reaching out to them. Jesus may you continue to be the healing balm as you bind up the wounds of these your precious ones whom you have created in your image.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Birthday in Cambodia

Okay I typically blog about what is happening in our ministry here in Cambodia but today I had the wonderful joy of celebrating my birthday in Cambodia. At my age, I would rather not be reminded but my team members had other things in mind as they have been instrumental in encouraging others to wish me a Happy Birthday. It first started last Saturday when we were at the Place of Rescue monthly birthday celebration for the orphans. Char, one of my co-leaders told Marie Ens and within minutes I found myself sitting with a bunch of orphans infront of everyone receiving a gift for my birthday. Talk about one of life's most embarassing moments!

Then this morning as I got off the elevator of our hotel, the front desk staff greated me with birthday wishes. But it was this afternoon when we had all completed or workshops at Daughters that I got another pleasant surprise. It was all couched under the auspice that the girls were waiting for me to begin our usual day end dance ritual by dancing to the song 'No Women, No Cry' by Bob Marley. So as I ran into the room, I was greeted with several smiling faces who had formed a circle as one person held the cake below. These are one of the cake creations that the cake department makes at Daughters.

Stephanie, Vidya and Char handing out cup cakes to the girls

My team members also arranged for cup cakes to be made by the cake group within Daughter which we distributed to all the girls . We all had a wonderful time dancing and enjoying ourselves. Not exactly what people might expect on a mission trip. But that was not the end. One of the girls started putting the icing from the cupcakes on the face of one of my team members and proceeded to do the same to me. So a few of us decided to have an 'icing' fight. I understand this is quite a common thing to do in Cambodia---to put icing on peoples' faces. I am glad the girls feel comfortable enough with us to participate in these culturally acceptable practises! Nonetheless, it is times like this when I believe God begins to bond our hearts together. Tomorrow is our last day at Daughters and it will not be easy saying good bye to the girls. We have gotten to know them all by name and have spent time praying for them, teasing them and hanging out with them. I am preaching a message on God's heart for the oppressed and also using two visuals---a rose and a necklace with one pearl---to symbolize how God views us. More to come but its late and I need to hit the sack.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lisa: Praying for the Girls At Daughters

This week we are repeating the workshops we did last week to a second group of girls at Daughters. Today's session was on Domestic Violence with my team mates Marty and Joy sharing from their own personal experiences. This workshop seems to resonate so much with the girls who come. They listen intently and when asked if they would like prayer, they all came up and we formed small groups with our translators nearby. I felt so blessed today as I had the privilege of praying for a few of the girls. I am struck by their heart of love despite all the bruises and wounds they have received. Many of them ask prayer for a family member. Given all that they have gone through it would be totally understandable for them to ask prayer for their own needs but like many Asian cultures, the extended family is important to Cambodians.

One girl in particular had her head down when I asked her what she would like to receive prayer for. She could barely look up and as I caught a glimpse of her face, she told me that her husband beat her all the time. To me she was the eptiome of what Jesus called a 'downcast' spirit. Her body language and her face reflected the pain of abuse, the loss of dignity and the brokenness of her heart. Her spirit no doubt was crushed from the abuse she had endured. As I was about to pray for her I asked her what her name was and told her to look into my eyes. I began to tell her that Jesus loves Her. That in His eyes she is beautiful and that He knows her pain, 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. She matters to Him despite what others think. As I shared this with her, she began to cry but I continued to look into her eyes, I wanted her to know that she is loved and valued as a human being. That God can still make something beautiful out of her brokenness. That her pain and suffering had not gone unnoticed. That even though she feels hopeless and helpless, this is not the way it has to be.

I feel so honored that she would share her heart so openly with me but I thank God for His Spirit that allowed our team to stand with these precious women and to say to them that we are their sisters and we share their pain. That we will walk with them just as Jesus walks with us. I am realizing more that the way satan keeps people in bondage is making them feel full of shame. Yet it is when we speak out and share our hurts that God's power is made perfect in weakness. For no longer does that pain have a hold on us but we can lay it down at the foot of the cross and trust that in Christ and with Christ, He will lift us out of the miry pit of shame and set our feet on firm places.

New Eyes and a new Heart:Char

How can I begin to tell you what God has been doing, and how can I express what I am feeling? Thank God for Lisa’s ability to write! I think I speak on behalf of the team when I say she is expressing what we are all feeling- and very eloquently I might add! It is difficult at the end of a very long day to then sit down and process what just happened! Lisa thanks for your diligence in this way.
I want to praise God first of all for allowing me to come back to Cambodia. I must tell you it is with new eyes and a new heart. Each time I come to this country I learn something new. But this year it has become more personal.
In previous years it was great to teach English to university students, and exciting to tour the country and see some of the Ratanak projects. It was exhilarating to run the Kid’s Camp last year but I feel like working with the young women and teaching workshops has been on my mind and heart since the first short term mission trip in 2002!
As you have read in the blog, a child that I met last year through the Kids Camp in Svay Pak and who I have been praying for was sold by her parents. It is unbelievable to me that a mother and father could allow or even bring about the sale of their daughter. It will take a long time for this to process in my mind if ever. This young girl named "L" is kind, and fun loving; she exhibited a real desire to be understood, and was so patient with my lack of language. Knowing that she is somewhere out there at the mercy of evil rips my heart into pieces.
There is another young woman’s story that has gripped me as well. “M” works in a local café that helps young women and men through employment and job training. Every time we come back to Phnom Penh we end up eating at this place because the food is awesome! I heard that this young woman was late for work and suspicion was building that her parents were going to try and sell her. Sure enough she wound up in a border town of Thailand isolated and vulnerable. By God’s grace she was securely brought back and saved from being trafficked into Thailand or beyond. I sat in the café looking at her- how close it all came!
Today yet another beautiful Khmer woman named "S" told me a bit of her story and how even though she is in great need she has taken in her sister’s son as her own lest he be tossed aside.
I am astounded every day and thankful with a grateful heart for my God who sees all of this and is right beside them. They are not alone. Without my faith that HE can restore these three lives I would definitely fall into despair. But that is not the case! I will sing it from the roof tops! I believe that God is moving mightily and will save the thousands that these three represent. we must see each one,pray diligently for them, and stand in the gap.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Budgeting Cambodian Style

Kolab our translator with Genie, one of our co-leaders

One of the workshops we are doing daily at Daughters is Budgeting. How does one begin to teach girls who have had limited literacy because of lack of schooling. This is not an easy task as many of them have grown up in the brothels---not exactly a place that cultivates independent thinking. We have been using skits and visuals to share the budgeting concepts. Today was the second lesson on how to make a budget and one of our co-leader's Genie led a session on what a budget is. The girls were asked to choose from a variety of pictures that describe items that are 'needs' vs 'wants'. They had to determine how to prioritize their monthly funds in terms of what they needed versus what was just a want. It was neat to see them get all excited as we split them into teams and they began to commiserate together over how to plan and spend their money. They enjoyed the game so much that when the time was up they did not want to stop. Who would have thought that dealing with money matters could be so much fun!

For myself, my teammates Genie and Prem, the greatest delight is watching the girls just soak up the concepts they are learning and in the process have fun. It has been such a delight just seeing them laugh and work together. We trust that the games and skits we have created will help foster a spirit of unity amongst the girls and as well, that they will learn to make wise decisions when it comes to managing their money.
Some of the girls identifying items that they consider 'needs'

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sex Tourists, New Friends for the Voiceless

Today began our second week at Daughters with another powerful time of intercession. One of our translators Kolab was sharing how much she benefited from Nancy and Peter's member care workshop on spiritual warfare as she was under attack last Friday from the enemy. Through that workshop, she shared how she came a way more equipped with new tools/weapons to fight against the attacks of satan on her life. The message she heard from Nancy was further reinforced at her church service this past Sunday and she felt so empowered by it all that she has felt led to share it with others at a conference she is invovlee at next weekend. This is just one of many items of praise that we give to God as we see His hand touching peoples lives in the midst of our daily activities

I wish I could say the same for what I saw at lunchtime at the Sovannara mall that we go to daily. Some of my team members spotted two foreign men with a Khmer girl. Since we've been here I have not seen much of this except for our first night. This was not the first time these two men were noticed by my team members as they seem to frequent this mall regularly and a particular restaurant where some of us eat. Picture two men sitting opposite each other in a booth with a girl trapped on the inside. Each time our team has noticed that they come with a different girl. This image is so symbolic of how many girls are trapped with no way out. This particular girl sits silently as the two men carry on their conversation but the voice of this girl is not heard. She is a trophy of theirs. This time round I decided to be a bit bold and began to snap away some pictures of them. One of them noticed that we were staring at him but I just stared back. This whole incident fuels my holy discontent and I find myself being a bit more 'in your face', not afraid. I stand outside the restaurant and pray that God would intervene and change the course of direction of this girl's life and convict these two men and block their plan to harm this girl. I figure a dose of heaven is a good way to fuel my distaste of this darkness. Back in the van, one of my teammates Peter suggest I pray that if these men should catch a glimpse of me staring at them, that instead they should see the face of Jesus staring back at them. I like that idea so I await to see if another encounter will come again.

Later this evening Char, Genie and I head off to a local restaurant to meet up with a new friend for the voiceless. Alli has just adopted a little Cambodian girl called Isabella and her other friend Ruthie are part of a team from Hardplaces, a new group of young people who have a passion to seek justice for child sex slaves. I feel that this is one of these divine moments as I had read and heard about Alli as she partners with our Newsong friends in Svay Pak. She has been running the outreach program for the kids in Svay Pak at Rahab's house since last fall along with Ruthie who is a school teacher. Through her ministry with our friend Ratanak and Pastor Chantha, both Alli and Ruthie have come to know many of the kids that we had spent time last year. They told us intimate details of some of the girls and boys we had come to know and pray for. Many of their stories were heart breaking as they mentioned how some of the girls we knew were being repeatedly raped at night. Ali shared how some of the young ones would come in the next day to Rahab's house and they could barely walk. Some had bruises on their thighs and one little 6 year old girl came in one day with full make up and false eyelashes. As I write this, I have a lot of emotions going through my head. I know these kids. I know their names and I have photos of them. I have hugged them and held them as if they were my own children, my own daughters. They have run up to greet me and call my name each time I have gone to Svay Pak. Some of them wanting me to lift them up so that they could give me a kiss. Others just wanting me to hold their hand and play with them. Each time I hold them I tell them that Jesus loves them and so do I. I cannot stand the thought of what is happening to them. Like Alli, I cry out to the Living God and ask that He will intervene somehow in their lives. This dark side of Svay Pak is always before us but I have a dream that one day Svay Pak will become transformed. One day the voices of the children of Svay Pak will be heard. They will not be silent. I believe this as I think back to the church service we attended again at Svay Pak yesterday. Watching several of the young ones perform and sing a song talking about following Jesus, loving Jesus because He had forgiven them and had died on the cross for them. And they sang, 'we want to serve Him.' I can't help but think of what goes through the mind of any one of these children as they sing these songs in the morning and yet when night falls, darkness descends upon their young lives. What a cross they are called to bear.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another Normal Day In Cambodia---I Think Not!

Tara with Boket--one of the ladies at the Haven Night Shelter

Tonight my team members Tara and Marty joined Sotheary and myself as we went to pay a visit to the Haven Night Shelter that Ratanak funds. It is a shelter for grannies who have no place to go. There were only two old ladies hanging out at the shelter ---one was an 81 year old by the name of Boket. She had lost her husband and the rest of her immediate family during the Pol Pot era and was now living with a niece. At 81 years old she is quite a survivor. Her left arm displays marks of sharpenel that tore her arm when a bomb was dropped in Phnom Penh. My team member Tara began to strike up a conversation with her with Sotheary translating. We found out that despite her age, she would travel up to Takeo province to help with the rice harvest. Can you imagine an 81 year old picking rice in the fields. Cambodians are survivors but they have such an amazing resilience. Boket has no plans to stop working at the rice harvest. She says as long as she can walk, she will work.

Now she hangs around the local market begging. But less you feel sorry for her, she is a professional beggar and seems to have a good strategy when it comes to begging---yes I'm serious here. Boket makes good money out of it at around US$20.00 a day at least. Considering that teachers make around US$35.00 a month, Boket makes a good living off of begging. As the missionary who runs the night shelter had to say 'she makes more money than I do.' Boket used to sell fish before the Khmer Rouge era---as Tara said 'she was a business woman' but now she is a 'fisher of money' as Boket is currently helping her niece pay off her wedding expenses through the funds she receives through begging. She even shared with us that she is saving for her funeral so that no one will be burdened to pay for it.

But the story doesn't end there as I continued to talk to Rosalie the lady who runs the night shelter, Tara began to share the gospel with Boket with Sotheary's help. In about 20 minutes Boket had accepted the Lord and had said the sinner's prayer! It was incredible. God has been unbelievably gracious to us on this trip. We keep seeing fruit riped to be picked and this was one of those moments where we simply praised God. Each day in Cambodia, we are given divine moments to seize and God is simply surprising us beyond our wildest imaginations.

Place of Rescue - Amazing Grace

We left for Place of Rescue at 4pm on Sat for the 45 minute ride with a small pit stop to buy durian for the grannies who live at Rescue. One of the gals that joined us was a young Dutch girl called Nienke (I think that is the spelling of her name). Our team met her at Daughters last week and we invited her to come to see Place of Rescue as she has a heart for kids. One of the fun parts about being in Cambodia is that you meet so many people who are desiring to live for God passionately. Nienke is only 27 and is seeking hard after God and so it has been a blessing having her join us.

Savoom - niece of Rescue Director Sokhan

When we got to Place of Rescue, Marie was in the midst of her dinner so couldn't join us for the walk around the compound. Nonetheless, two of the orphans I have gotten to know over the years came running up and ended up being our tour guides. A bunch of us ended up in front of one of the grannie homes and out came a young lady by the name of Savoom. She is the niece of Sokhan one of the directors of Rescue. Savoom was blind from birth but we were told she had a beautiful voice so we asked if she would sing us a song. She began singing a hymm and when she had finished one of my teammates Tara asked her if she wanted to see. Savoom of course said yes and so we asked if she would pray and ask God and we then began to lay hands and pray over her. For about 45 minutes we did this as we also put anointing oil over each of her eyes and then at one point we stopped and Tara asked her to open her eyes. All of a sudden she remarked that she could see but she wasn't sure what she was seeing so we kept on praying and begin singing a various worship songs: Majesty, Jesus We Enthrone You, God is so Good---just to name a few. We prayed and then we again asked her to open her eyes and her sight began to improve. She noticed that my team member Char was wearing a very big necklace and then she began to see the flowers around us. We asked her to count how many of us and she started to do that. I stood with tears streaming down my eyes as I felt we were witnessing a miracle. Jesus was giving sight to the blind and so we kept on praying. Savoom herself began to pray and give thanks to God. Eventually we had to leave to join the monthly birthday party but we know that God has begun a new work in Savoom's life. Her eyesight is not 100% restored but we believe it is just a matter of time before she will see fully. God gave us a glimpse of His power and His grace during this special moment.

Everytime I come to Cambodia, I always visit Rescue because it is a stark reminder that the light of Christ is shining in this land. Some times its hard to see the light because the darkness is so pervasive. But Rescue, is like heaven on earth as the peace of God reigns in this particular place. It is evident as soon as you step into the grounds with the hedges around the orphan homes and the beautiful flowers that dot the landscape around the grounds.With each passing year, I see the orphans growing up and it just seems that God is doing some incredible work among the them. It is such a joy to watch them lead the worship in Khmer to familiar Hillsong tunes as their zeal and passion is contagious.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It was all in a week.

It's the end of Week One, well almost. Tomorrow is Saturday. We will visit the Royal Palace and the National Museum. In the afternoon we will visit Marie Ens and Place of Rescue. Then the week will be over!

It’s All In a Day’s Work

Our week began last Sunday with a visit to Rahab House in Svay Pak for a Communion Service. Each morning we met for a time of worship and a devotional from 8:00 – 9:00 led by one of the team members. These were times marked by words of knowledge and prophetic blessings. Each evening we met for debriefing 7:00 – 8:S00. The time in between was very interesting. We travelled to and from Daughters Cambodia by van (driven by Pooh). From 10:00 until noon there was an intercession and worship time. (It makes me shiver with fear to think how our day would turn out without the two hours of intercessory prayer or the prayers of the folk back home.) The afternoons were broken into workshops – two from 2:00 – 3:00 and two from 3:30 – 4:30.

Little Baby Bayana

Tara, Marty and Nancy prayed for a newborn left at Daughters on Tuesday morning. The child was born with significant medical needs and it was recommended that she be abandoned to die. In the afternoon she was taking nourishment and wide eyed. On Wednesday she was taken by Place of Rescue. Arrangements were made for a full medical assessment. There are several significant treatment options being investigated.

Domestic Violence

On Wednesday all sixteen girls who attended the workshop on domestic violence responded to the offer of healing prayer ministry. Nancy was privileged to lead Light (not her real name) through a prayer for salvation via one of our wonderful translators. We saw her again at the church service on Friday with a marked change in demeanour. This marks a new life for her and her unborn child, along with a serious need for discipleship. Light is one of the clients in the care of Daughters ministry.

An Affirmation and a Sermon

On Tuesday, Geni led our morning devotional entitled A Name You Can Trust. Being a teacher she have us homework. We were to choose one of the team and ask God for a bible name for that person. Prem drew my name. God gave him the name Timothy (aka T2 – let the reader beware) for me. Prem gave me the following:

“Timothy. The goal of your instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction.”

This proved to be a great encouragement as I worked through the remainder of the week and especially the preparation of the Friday sermon. While still in Toronto I prepared a 10 minute sermon (20 minutes with interpreter) on the topic of hearing God to be delivered to the girls and care givers as Daughters. As with all things Cambodian things shifted - the topic was changed to the authority of the believer. (As Nancy is fond of saying, we need to be prepared to preach, pray or die at a moments notice.) I needed to listen to God. What had he taught me in the past? I began sketching out a few thoughts but I didn’t feel comfortable with what was coming together. It was too complicated for my hearers. I prayed. Then on Thursday morning a picture began to form in my mind. Tell a story about Jesus and his disciples. Tell the story about the commissioning of the Twelve. I headed off to the ninth chapter of Luke. There it was in a nutshell. We are partners with Jesus in Kingdom work. He calls us to join him. He empowers us to do the work. He sends us out with all that we need. And so the Friday sermon was finished

About 60 people, girls and helpers, met for the church service on Friday afternoon. Charlene accompanied the singing with guitar. Some of the girls sang along in English others in Khmer (or Khmai, as it is pronounced in the language.) Then I delivered the sermon with Kolab as my translator. The girls were attentive (not simply polite.) After the sermon and closing prayer, anyone wanting prayer related to spiritual bondage or healing was invited to meet with Ruth (Director of Daughters) and Nancy. About 10 girls responded. Under Ruth’s authority, Nancy led in prayers for spiritual freedom and blessings opposite to the issue of bondage, and for Jesus to come to them in His own way to bring healing to the emotional wounds in their lives. At the end of the prayer time, Ruth asked what they were experiencing, how they felt now. They unanimously affirmed they felt peaceful. They are well acquainted with the torment of spirits to which they refer as “the ghosts” that come to them. Two of the girls rushed up to Nancy at the end, giving her a strong hug of appreciation. God had definitely met with them in a significant way. A foundation was laid in their lives upon which Ruth can continue to build through her shepherding care. God demonstrated Himself to be mighty, powerful, tender and totally loving. There are many girls coming to Daughters who still need to come to Christ.

Member Care

Friday afternoon closed with a member care workshop given by Nancy. It was designed as an equipping workshop for spiritual warfare for the staff and care givers as requested by Ruth. The topic was “What is Spiritual Warfare and How Do We Protect Ourselves?” – once again taught with the assistance of Kolab, who though tired from the previous session, definitely did not want to relinquish the opportunity. There were 18-20 in attendance – both men and women. Several expressions of appreciation were received, so we trust God will fortify them, equip them and give them daily victory in Christ.

Daughter's Church Service

Friday's program at Daughters involved alot of prayer ministry. We started our with our usual 2 hour intercession period praying for the leaders of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge, families, children and women who are vulnerable to exploitation. Then at 1:30pm the church service started. Many of the girls participate in the service along with the local staff and foreign workers. It was such a joy listening to the girls singing familiar worship songs in Khmer. One can only imagine what it might be like in heaven when people from every tribe, tongue and nation will be worshipping the Lamb around the throne.

As I thought of these girls worshipping the Lord, my mind wondered back to the woman who brought the alabaster jar and poured perfume on the feet of Jesus. In this modern day setting, could it be that the songs of praise emanating from these special sisters is like a sweet smelling fragrance to the Lord’s ear.

Despite all the challenges that these girls have gone through, I stand amazed at their warmth and affection. They have welcomed us with open arms and are so eager to connect with us each day. This is when I wished I had more Khmer language but God is answering prayers as His language of love seems to transcend the verbal challenges. This was evident today as some other volunteers from the centre were leaving and so Ruth asked some of the girls who were Christian to come forward and pray a blessing over those volunteers. However, the girls were so overcome with emotion and full of tears that they could not pray. These dear sisters have shown me that when we love in Jesus name, barriers do come down and God indeed creates a special bond as heart touches heart despite culture, despite language barrier and despite contrasting life experiences. He indeed is the common glue that unites us all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


This year a dear friend Bert from my church was able to arrange for over 700 Crocs to be donated. While we attempted to take all of them, we ran out of luggage as they are quite bulky to pack despite being light weight. Nonetheless, we managed to bring several hundred pairs and today we took a bunch to Daughters to give to the girls. In Cambodia, especially in the rural areas and much poorer areas it is not uncommon to see people walking barefoot. Many of them cannot afford shoes and while Daughters is located in the city, it is in Stung Meancheay one of the poorer neighborhoods in Phnom Penh. And so we took the opportunity to have different groups of girls come down from their work to pick up a pair of Crocs.

When I think of these shoes, I am reminded that we wear shoes as protective gear. They prevent our feet from being bruised or pricked by hidden items on the streets that we walk on. Shoes also enable us to walk far distances and provide adequate support for our feet. In many ways, they are a source of covering, protecting us from a variety of elements that enable us to walk longer and further. It is my prayer that as each of these girls wears these Crocs that they will one day fully discover that Jesus is their protective cover. He is the one that goes before them and watches over them for any unseen danger. He is the One who will enable them and sustain them to keeping walking towards a journey of hope even when the journey before them seems a bit more challenging and they are not sure what’s around the corner.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Domestic Violence & Dancing

In Cambodia like many other countries domestic violence is an ongoing issue. I have read about husbands locking up their wives in their homes after beating them. Even in the brothel scene, women not only face violence from the 'johns' who visit them but some who are married have also experienced abuse from their husbands. Today our two teammates Marty and Joy presented a workshop on domestic violence. They shared their testimonies and you could here a pin drop as the girls were listening intently. For some the stories they heard hit very close to home. After the time of sharing, the girls were invited to join in on a dance to a simple song called 'Jesus, remember me'---it was probably one of the most anointed times as the girls got up and with an unusual unison, lifted their heads and hands upwards with their eyes in a heavenly gaze as they proceeded to use their hands to mirror the words of the song. It was as if the Spirit of the Lord was speaking to each of their spirits directly as the music was playing. Indeed it seemed as deep was speaking to deep.

When asked if they wanted to receive prayer, they all came up open to share their burdens and struggles with us and our translators. It was an incredible time of ministry with 4 translators assisting us as we prayed for the girls one at a time. One gal was led to the Lord and it was obvious to see her countenance change. We see God slowly building the heart to heart connections as we have begun to learn the names of the girls. This morning Tara got a list of all names of the girls and which business group they belong in. We are using this list during our morning intercession as we pray for all the needs of Daughters. But with each passing day as they become familiar with us and we with them, we are having a lot of fun. These past few days, the dance team has been playing a Bob Marley song called ‘No woman, no cry’---for some reason this song seems to resonate with the girls and so we all find ourselves dancing a little bit ‘chacouth’ or crazy. It has now become our ‘closing song’ at the end of each day and God has used this song to bring much laughter and joy to lives that have had little much to laugh about.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


This morning 4 of us had the special privilege of praying for Bayana, a 4 day old baby who was brought to Daugthers by her aunt who works there. Bayana has spina bifida and club feet. Her birth mother is extremely poor and did not want the baby when she discovered all the medical disabilities. So yesterday, Bayana's aunt showed up with the baby and asked if anyone could help as the family could not even afford milk or clothes for the baby. This morning Tara, Marty, Nancy and I decided we would spend time praying over this little Bayana. When I first laid eyes on her, I could not help but cry. She looked like a little angel sleeping, so beautiful and I could not imagine anyone not wanting her. Tara began to pray into her ear saying: Jesus loves you, Jesus died for you, Jesus is your healer....on and on she prayed and then the rest of us joined in. It was a special time albeit an emotional time. After we had finished praying, I had a conversation with Lois and the thought came that we should ask Marie Ens if she would be willing to adopt this little girl into her orphanage Place of Rescue. A quick phone call and several more later, Marie agreed to take Bayana. Tonight Bayana has a new home at Rescue, a place where she will receive much love and which will provide the appropriate medical care for her. How we thank God for answered prayed for Bayana and for Mat Yei (Grandma) Marie for having a place where this little girl can find refuge.

Bayana has been in my mind most of today perhaps because many years ago when I first came to Cambodia I found myself in a similar situation holding a 3 month old AIDS baby. I recall crying to the Lord asking why this had happened and what did she do to deserve such a fate. The response I got was simply ‘I am using the weak to shame the strong. However short or long this baby’s life, she will be in a place of love, a place that seeks to restore her dignity , a place where she is valued and is as important as anyone else.’ As I thought of Bayana, I can’t help but see the symbolism through her life. She is a reflection of many of the girls in the brothels. Broken, unwanted and viewed simply as disposable because of her disability. For the girls caught up in the sex trade, their ‘disability’ is the stigma they carry around day in and day out living with shame and guilt.

But in God’s eyes, Bayana is not forgotten. Isaiah 49:15-16, says: ‘Can a mother forget her baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See I have engraved you in the palm of my hands, your walls are every before me.’ God indeed has not forgotten the Bayanas of this world. HE is the defender of the poor and needy, He is the one who brought her to Daughters initially and now that she has been transferred to Place of Rescue, I can’t imagine any other more appropriate place than this one. In God’s economy isn’t this how it always works. The poor and the needy are not forgotten. He not only welcomes them, but goes before them preparing the way and taking them to the best place where they can find rest under the shelter of the Almighty.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lisa: Daughters Day 1

Today was our first full day at Daughters. We started out the morning chatting with Ruth Elliot who founded Daughters two years ago. Ruth is a trained psychologist and had worked with organizations involved in the rescue and raid of girls who were sexually trafficked before she formed Daughters which focuses more on providing life skills and employment opportunities for girls who want to leave the sex trade.

We spent the first two hours of our morning at Daughters praying for the organizational needs, including its staff and clients. This will be our daily routine in the first part of the morning—a time of intercession for the nation, and for the women and children who are affiliated with Daughters. There is something about a roomful of people praying together that releases fresh empowerment and energy as we storm the gates of heaven on behalf of the brokenhearted. In the midst of our prayer time, a message from one of the volunteers came to a few of us that a young baby girl of 1 week old was brought to Daughters with her umbilical cord still attached. The baby had suffered a swelling of the brain and also was affected by spina bifida. The parents were told to just stop feeding the baby and it will die. But we believe that God has other plans. If anyone can do a miracle and heal her, He can and so if you remember please pray for this baby. The mother hopes to bring her again tomorrow so that we can pray over the baby. So often God uses the weak to shame the strong and I can’t help but wonder if this is one of those situations.

In the afternoon, our workshops began as a few of us were participating in the first budgeting session which involved teaching the girls general concepts of why it is important to manage their money. In the Cambodian context, the poor like in many other nations are more interested in near term survival and so the thought of saving funds for a rainy day is not something that they deem necessary. And so it was quite interesting to hear their reaction to a skit we did about two girls who made different financial choices despite earning the same amount of money. Their responses were an unexpected surprise as they focused on the need to save instead of spending frivolously on non-essential items. We encouraged them to think of a goal or dream that they would like to save towards and many of them were dreaming big dreams of one day owning a house or starting a business. For women who have grown up in oppressive environments where hopelessness abounds, it is refreshing to see hope rise up again as they have opportunity to dream again of new possibilities for their lives.

Perhaps the most fun time was during the dance class. My teammate Joy led this session and asked the girls to do a variety of hand movements to reflect the words of the song which said: ‘You are the face of God’. This particular song became the tool that God used as a bridge between some of our team and the girls, as with each new dance routine , the laughter and giggles grew louder. It struck me that many of these girls have never known any laughter in their lives. If anything they have had to wear ‘fake smiles’ as they services customers who repeatedly raped them. But today, they had the opportunity to simply have a childlike spirit with deep joy and laughter. Things like this that we take for granted in our every day life is certainly not something they are ever used to and so we trust that our time with the girls will lead to more opportunities like this, where they can slowly begin to laugh and be human again.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Church in Svay Pak

Today we went to the 8am church service at Svay Pak. It will go down I think as one of my most memorable days here that I have ever had in Cambodia over the past 9 years that I have visted this country. I sat in awe and wonder at the work God is doing through our Newsong partners as they seek to be His salt and light in this community. Rahab's house church service was filled with over 100 people from the community although the majority were female with a handful of men. In the crowd one would find some pimps (both male and female), some brothel owners and parents of children who have been sold into the sex trafficking industry.

Several of us from the team were asked to share. Below are some of the comments I shared with the those at the Rahab's House church:

My dear brothers and sisters, the bible tells us that God has a plan for your life and my life. His plan is to bless us, not to harm us, His plan is to give us a future. It is a plan filled with hope for a new life, a life that Jesus promises to everyone who comes to Him , receives Him and acknowledges that He is Lord. This building that you sit in today---Rahab's House is a symbol of the new life that God wants to give you both as individuals and as a community. Many years ago you know that this building was filled with a lot of pain and suffering. It was a place of darkness. But now, look at it, it is a place of light, a place of new life, of new hope and new joy! Just as Jesus has transformed and changed this building from a place of hopelessness to a place of hope with new life, He can do the same for you. You see, Jesus hears the cries of your heart. He sees the pain in your heart. He knows the suffering you have endured. He knows the hopelessness and helplessness we all feel at times, but He says to you and to me 'I love you', I want to help you. I want to give you a new life filled with new hope. What I did for this building, I can do this in your life. This building represents the love and hope I have for you and want to give to you. Jesus has not forgotten you. This is why He sent Pastor Chantha, Bunthan and Ratanak here. They want to help you discover this new life and hew hope that Jesus promises you. This is why our team is here today, because all of us want to tell you, that you are loved by Jesus; You are important to Him. You have value in His eyes. He has not forgotten about you because He has engraved you in the palm of His hands.

Newsong Girls Preparing to Serve The Communion

One of the most special moments for me was seeing some of the girls from the Newsong centre leading the worship at the service. Their very presence in this building is a reminder to me that God can do more than we can ever ask or imagine. They are after all an example that what man intended for evil, God will turn it around and use it for good. Their lives are living testimonies to us that we are more than conquerors in Him, that nothing is impossible for Him and no person is so broken that He cannot heal, nor restore. For each week that they come to lead the worship, it is as if the head of Satan is being crushed under their heels. But they don't just lead the worship, they also serve the communion and collect the offering during the church service. These girls who so often in their past were treated as garbage and refuse, abused, dehumanized and devalued in the worst possible ways are now part of God's chosen priesthood, His holy 'nation' whom He has called out of the darkness into the light. The very blood of Christ that cleansed them and healed them, they now offer to others who are broken and bruised that these too might experience new life in Christ.

Next door at the Lord's Gym, some other Newsong girls were leading the Sunday school kids program. Many of the kids we interacted with last year are part of this program and yet others are noticeably absent.

At one point during the service at Rahab's House, some of the kids who are now attending school came over to sing a few songs in English and Khmer. As I listen to them sing some familiar Christian kids songs, I could not helped be overcome with tears of joy and sadness. Joy---as I listen to their little voices offering songs of praise to God and rejoicing at the future that is their's to come. Sadness---as I thought of the many young girls who were trapped in this very building just a few short years ago, their voices were silenced by the evil that so pervaded this very building.

God's ways indeed are not our ways but one thing we know, He is building His kingdom in Svay Pak. Jesus said 'let the little children come'---they are coming indeed to know the carpenter King. Pray that the seeds sown in these young hearts will fall on good soil.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lisa: Visiting Daughters Cambodia

Next week we begin our ministry at Daughters Cambodia, a Ratanak partner that ministers to girls who are desiring to leave the sex trade. Yesterday we had our first visit to meet some of the staff and girls that we will be serving with. Above is a photo of Kolab one of the staff holding who has been at Daughters since its inception and she will be one of our translators for the workshops that we will be doing. Pray for our time with her, she is a daugther of a pastor, and one whom we would love to encourage and bless. Below are some of the other photos of various sugar decorations that the girls at Daughters make. As a welcoming gift, the girls made us carrot cupcakes and the large carrot cake. Our team is gaining weight with all these delicious desserts.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Lisa - Bitter Sweet Moments

Yeng & Dara holding up a map of Cambodia showing where the Church Training & Prevention programs have occurred.

Yesterday was one of those days I can best describe as filled with bitter sweet moments. We started out with a 2 hour visit to Chab Dai our Ratanak partner. Ratanak funds prevention and church and village training programs to educate vulnerable communities on sex trafficking. It was one of our sweet moments just hearing how God has enlarge the tents of Chab Dai which started out with just two staff, its founder Helen Sworn and another international worker and 7 Chrisitian NGOS in 2005 and now, with 15 local staff members, it represents 40 Christian NGOs seeking to end sexual trafficking and exploitation in Cambodia. But Chab Dai itself is also expanding globally and Helen shared how the prevention program it developed is now being used as a model to impact other communities in US and India. It was great to meet Yeng and Dara, two young Christian men who work for Chab Dai and who go to various communities in some of the most remote areas in Cambodia up along the Thai border in order to educate and teach the villages about child sex trafficking. Their journey to some of these places takes them through some challenging terrain as the roads are not easily accessible and at times they end up sleeping in the forest and as Yeng said, ‘we just pray and ask God to protect us from the tigers nearby.’ I am inspired by their courage and their willingness to risk their lives at all costs to speak up on behalf of the oppressed. To me their actions demonstrate the resiliency, perseverance and determination of the Cambodian people regardless of the obstacles before them.

Yeng is being mentored by Helen to take over the director role of Chab Dai Cambodia while Dara will step into Yeng’s position of managing the training and prevention programs. It is neat to see Nationals who have a passion for broken hearted in their communities. They are first generation Christians with young families and our team had the privilege of laying hands over these two young men as well as Helen as we prayed that He would establish the works of their hands and enlarge their influence.

Ratanak & Chantha standing ourside The Lord's Gym

After lunch we headed towards Svay Pak but got there a bit late as the daily outreach program to the kids had just finished at 3pm. Nonetheless, God surprised me as I saw one of my little sisters from Newsong who ran out to greet me. She is one who I have had the privilege of first meeting in August 2006 when the Newsong centre had just opened its doors. Her dream is one day to become a pilot and she is now attending a Christian school and apparently excelling in her studies. She comes to Svay Pak not only to help out with the outreach during the week day but on Sundays she leads the worship in the church service held at Rahab’s house. I am looking forward to seeing her again this Sunday as she leads others to worship Christ in Spirit and in truth. To me, she is a testimony that God is not only mighty to save and mighty to deliver, but He is the one who gives new life to these precious ones as they discover their worth in Christ and in turn, become a blessing to their communities.
Pastor Chantha, his wife Bunthan and son David

That was not the only sweet moment I had yesterday but it was also meeting Pastor Chantha, his wife Bunthan and of course one of the young pastors Ratanak we worked with at last summer’s VBS. All 3 live at Rahab’s house and perhaps the most ironic and redemptive aspect of their story is the fact that the rooms that Pastor Chantha lives in was once the ‘virgin room’ where many young girls were brutally raped. What man used for evil, God has now placed His priests in those very places and has set apart as holy ground. Our team decided to split up and began to prayer walk around Svay Pak. Pastor Chantha took us along various alley ways, telling us stories of different families he had come to know. It is evident that the Lord has given Ratanak and him much favor in this community. As we made our way through the narrow alley ways, he would point out little girls and tell us of their stories and what has happened to them. Both mothers and children had come to them, telling them of some of the pain and suffering they had gone through.

For anyone who thinks that the trafficking of young girls has ended in Svay Pak, this is clearly not so. As we meandered around the alley ways, time and time again we came upon the hidden brothels. Despite these visible realities, we just need to look at Rahab's house and The Lord's gym that are standing just a few yards away from these brothels to know that He is not finished with this community but building His kingdom in the most unusual and subversive way.

We were told of some of these pockets of light where God has clearly intervened in the lives of the young girls just before any harm could be done to them. One of them was a young girl who I shall call Sopheak (that is not her real name). She was one whom we met last July when we did the VBS and when I saw her again I just started to weep. It was as if my spirit was overcome by grief. She is 7 years old and was sold to a foreigner but thankfully just before he could harm her, she was rescued in the nick of time. As I watched her, Chantha told us of her mother who had been repeatedly raped and as a result had gone crazy. Her mother is actually at Newsong now but as he recounted her story, I remember seeing Sopheak’s mother last summer. She would sit outside the entrance of Rahab’s house wearing this thick woolen sweater in the midday heat as she would watch her daughter join in the VBS activities that we held. Yet Sopheak’s mother would not venture in but watch from afar. It was as if she felt she was not good enough to come inside. So many of these who have experienced such brokenness do not feel any worth, they are filled with such shame and pain but it is these who Jesus longs to welcome into His house, into His family. For Sopheak, I am thankful that she has been spared the trauma of sexual abuse and watching her yesterday I saw her feistiness that was so familiar from last year. She is one of the 50 kids who our Newsong partners are sponsoring to go to school.

Then there is the story of Srey Nik whose mother has been attending Rahab’s House church service. There she learned about how God values children and that they are precious in His sight and so when the pimps came around to her and asked her to sell her daughter she refused. These are the little pockets of hope that are shining in this community but as I heard those stories, I saw other young girls whose fate took them along a different path. Who have already been sold and whose lives are still trapped in sexual slavery. I saw an alley way where many foreigners are taken by the young pimps and are led to two live brothels where the darkness still reigns. But for the first time, I heard a story of what is happening as well to the young boys in this community. Some of them are also being abused by foreign pedophiles and one such boy was so badly hurt that it took several doctors to stop the bleeding. Thankfully, he is now in an aftercare program run by one of our Ratanak partners Hagar.

Indeed we have a formidable opponent who is constantly seeking to devour and destroy these young lives, but I am reminded that we serve a formidable God who will and is defending the cause of the weak, fighting on their behalf through His people and rescuing them from the clutches of those under the grip of darkness.

Charlene: Breaking Hearts:Seen and Unseen Realities

Last year, when we were running the kids camp there was a particular little girl that captured my heart and attention. So many of the kids were in need of love and attention but when she wasn't there I found myself looking for her and wondering if she was okay. When she was there she would bound over to me and hug me and sit with me and hold my hand and try to communicate even though neither of us spoke the same language. On the last day together I had Kim Bui translate to explain to her that we came to this place because God knew her and he loved her. I told her that I loved her too, and if I came back to Cambodia I would look for her. She nodded her head with wide eyes, finally fully understanding in her vietnamese language. When she responded she told Kim that when I came back looking for her she would be looking for me too. We embraced and cried and said good bye. Each time we left on the bus the kids would swarm us, but that day it was by far the hardest. They were banging on the windows and waving. I saw her at the window and she was knocking trying to get my attention. We opened the window and she passed something to Hiroko to give to me. When I looked in her hand I saw a little tin heart ring and was so touched that she wanted me to have what might be one of her prized possessions. It is one of the best gifts of my life.
So, you are not surprised that I have been anticipating finding her! I dreamt in my mind's eye seeing her and having her run into my arms. I planned to put a little gold ring on her finger that has a dainty little heart on it and tell her that I didn't forget her and that I came back looking for her...
Yesterday we went back to that place and when we drove up and saw some children I searched through the crowd, seeing children that I recognized but not her... I asked some kids, "Have you seen her?" but they didn't know her name anymore.
It was time for the team to prayer walk with the pastor and our friend Ratanak (who is the youth pastor) and as I followed Ratanak he pointed out buildings that are being sold and are potential brothels. He pointed out the karaoke bar and little houses where the people are trying to carve out a life. It was difficult to focus on praying as what I was seeing was unbelievable struggles. We prayed that this seen reality would be flipped to God's unseen reality. Brothels would be turned to schools... Houses of disrepute would become places where God's word would be studied. Rahab's House is a testament to this~ brothel turned to church / comunity centre.
As sad as I was, when I looked into Ratanak's eyes I thought this young man views this everyday! God please give him your eyes to see what you see. You have given him your heart so please protect him to do what you have called him! He is very passionate for the children and their families and I know that he is being used mightily.
I remembered when we got back that I still had a few pictures on my camera from last year. I pulled up the one of my little girl sitting with me, and Ratanak showed it to the pastor. They agreed that she had been gone for a few months and remembered that her mother had sold her to another province. They both got a sad look in their eyes and handed me back my camera. This is not a new reality for either of them. What? How can this be....
I know the statistics, and I know that this is a reality for so many children here in Cambodia. I have heard the stories and been broken seeing young lives trying to be restored after such violation. But oh how my heart aches and is breaking right now! I can barely think through my tears of what this past night has meant for her. Where is she? Who is hurting her right now? Will she ever know that I came back to see her? Will she ever know that I have been praying for her every week for this past year? Will she ever know that she touched my heart with hers??
I know this is a glimpse of what God feels for each one. I hold onto the knowledge that HE knows everything about her. He knows where she is and loves her more than I ever could. My prayers will be fuel for the unseen reality of her rescue and restoration.
Will you pray for her right now? Lord, please be with "L" right now. Lord, protect her and give her comfort in her isolation and need. Lord hide her in the cleft of the Rock that she might find you Jesus. Somehow let her know that I love her and will always look for her. Lord bind up my heart so I can endure and do what you have for me here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Late Night Out!

We're here! After our 18 hour flight we have arrived in Phnom Penh on a rainy humid Wednesday evening with all 24 pieces of luggage which took one van and a half for all our luggage to fit in. Sotheary our Ratanak staff person on the ground came to greet us and we were off on our adventures into the Phnom Penh streets through a familiar maze of rush hour traffic that I have often called organized chaos with motorcycles and cars packed along the streets going in every direction as we made our way to our hotel---our home for the next 3 weeks. I am always amazed at how many cars, people and motorbicycles can travail along these streets seemingly without colliding.

Arriving at the hotel entrance, I recognized one familiar face one of our tuk-tuk drivers from last year who recognized both Char and I. His name is Hoyt and as per usual he just wanted to know if we needed his assistance and how long we will be here.

The team settled into their designated rooms and then we were off to our local corner shop that will become our 'water' store as we each gathered our daily rations of water bottles to brush our teeth. Genie in her typical Asian fashion managed to negotiate a deal so that any future purchases of pop or water we will get at a special discount given the size of our team.

The bulk of us headed to the hotel restaurant and some of the team were interested in trying my favorite local dish---Lok Lak---a sauteed beef over a bed of lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes. Having filled our stomachs once again on what seemed like a constant eating adventure over the past 18 hours we settled into our rooms for an evening of rest. It was just after 10:30pm when I got a call that one of team members had fallen in the bathtub and hit her head so badly that there was a deep gash above her right eye. She was bleeding profusely. Thank God that one of her roommates Tara is a registered nurse and so she proceeded to clean off the blood but as it continued to pour out, we realized that she would need some stitches. So here I was trying to make calls to people I knew at this hour of the night to see if they could suggest a medical clinic. Normally in Canada, it would not be an issue as most people go to bed late at night but here in Cambodia, many folks are in deep sleep at that point. Thankfully, I managed to get hold of Lois, a Canadian missionary who will be helping us out at Daughters and so off we went, 6 of us in a tuk-tuk into the cool evening breeze to the SOS clinic which is open 24 hours. Travelling at midnight in an open air tuk-tuk, the streets are quiet but it is also the time when the criminal element tends to rear its head so we prayed on our short journey asking the Lord to be a shield and mighty fortress recognizing that this incident did not happen in isolation but a reminder that oppressive forces are at work to keep us from doing the Lord's work.

After spending one and a half hours at the clinic, our teammate Marty was stitched up with a band wrapped around her head. She looked like one of those war-torn soldiers who had just come home from a battle. Indeed we are in a battle here for the lives and souls of those whom God desires to bring out of darkness into the light. No sooner had we arrived back at our hotel, I noticed two foreign men exiting a van with two young khmer girls. It was as if Satan was trying to say to us, 'you think you are going to make any difference here, I own this place and its people.' While incidences like these make my blood boil, they actually fuel my holy discontent to fight even more to speak up on behalf of those who have no voice.

It's now Thursday morning and I have had 4 hours sleep but yet praise God, I am wide awake. Today we will head off to a morning meeting with Helen Sworn who runs Chab Dai, an organization that represents 40 Christian NGOs that seek to end sex trafficking in Cambodia. Ratanak funds prevention and training programs through Chab Dai and so it will be good to connect with Helen and get the latest updates. Later this afternoon, we will head to one of my familiar jaunts, Svay Pak---a place notorious for the selling of underage girls and yet it is a place now where hope in the community is slowly rising. Our partners at Newsong have been ministering to this community over the last year and half through Rahab's house, a former brothel that was converted into an outreach centre. I am excited for I am hoping to see some familiar faces of kids we met last year during our outreach program. "Stay tune. The best is yet to come" is the words I keep getting.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In Transit To Cambodia

The Team at Pearson International Airport

The time is come and we are on our way. We are now in transit at Hong Kong International Airport after a 15 hour flight from Toronto. It was an uneventful flight except for the fact that 3 of our teammates got upgraded to business class. Char, one of our co-leaders has had the privilege of being upgraded last year on both legs of our flight to and from Hong Kong with Cathay Paciic. So it was not a surprise to find out that she got upgraded again----do I sound jealous----maybe! ;-) just kidding! God has a wonderful way of blessing in unexpected ways. Here is a picture of Char in business class ---oh mission work!!!

Char - Enjoying her business class experience again!!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Crocs, Teddy Bears and More Crocs!

Genie one of our co-leaders, Nancy and Marty's husband Chand, helping to organize and pack the crocs

Two weekends ago some of our team gathered in the front lawn of our pastor's house to begin the ardous task of packing the hundreds of crocs that were donated thanks to our good friend Bert from church who seems to be connected to all sorts of amazing people. Bert was able to arrange a donation of about 700 Crocs of assorted sizes and colours for us to take to Cambodia. Unfortunately we only managed to pack about 500 Crocs as they do take up alot of space despite the fact they are so light. It's a good thing we actually didn't get the 1000 that Bert was encouraging us to order.

Char (co-leader) and Cathy D an International worker serving in Cambodia

Our seniors at Rexdale Alliance also took the time to once again send another 388 teddy bears with us. We have a 'standing joke' that perhaps one day all the kids in Cambodia will have teddy bears courtesy of the Evergreens from Rexdale!

Prem, Marty and Lisa B--an international worker from Mozambique helping out

One of our co-leader's Genie did a fantastic job of organizing us all and some of our international worker friends joined in to lend a hand. We are looking forward to distributing these to the women and children who are affiliated with 3 of Ratanak's partner organizations: Aim4Asia, Daughters Cambodia and Hagar International.

Peter, Vidya and Marty's daughter Joy helping to pack the Crocs and teddy bears.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Yesterday our team met at the home of Pastor Kathy K who has been a dear sister and mentor to me for the last year. God has gifted her and another friend Lisa B with prophetic and prayer ministry gifts. We were exhorted in 3 ways:

1) To receive the honor that God has bestowed upon each of us;
2) To keep short accounts and walk in purity (2 Tim 2:21) and
3) To walk in humility---for humility comes before honor

In all of this we were reminded to be the eyes of love to those who are hurting. To look at people with the gaze of love that Jesus had. After this brief message, we went into a time of washing each other's feet and then Kathy and Lisa B prayed over each of us giving each team member a word of encouragement.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Nancy & Peter's Prayer Update

Dear Prayer Partners:
Once again, thank you for your prayer support. You have carried us a long way since we began planning this trip. Much has occurred and more is still to come. I feel like I am walking on an unfamiliar dock, length unknown. Fog has rolled in, hiding what is on the other side. That remains to be seen, and is part of another story. I’m very interested in discovering what the trip was. God is up to something, of that I am certain – He will do an unparalleled work in our lives and hopefully through our ministry as well.

I am convicted to pray that He will release fruit through all the seed sown by others in the past – that what may be dormant for whatever reason, will burst into new life. I sense one of our purposes is to reclaim ground Satan has taken for himself which really isn’t his. Jesus will reign over what is rightly His!!

Praise Him for His goodness:
1. Mom’s health remains good along with her insistence to be independent while we are away.
2. A good home for our puppy; a positive initial orientation to a household with 4 larger dogs – she will be a new dog when she comes home. We give thanks for this provision as it was a significant concern for Mom who would love to be able to care for her.
3. The “2nd” suitcases allowed have been literally filled to bursting with Crocs, Teddies and gifts to be dispersed when we arrive.
4. The fund-raising lunch at Our Thai was filled to capacity with people and a spirit of togetherness on this journey. What an exciting time!! Non-Christian friends came – our friends said they would be back next year if relevant.
5. For all those who have joined in prayer and financial support to be part of His ministry team at home as well as abroad. We are well supported!!

Prayer Requests As We Go:
1. Smooth transition through the airports – that the extra suitcases will arrive, safely and protected from content damage.
2. Safety in our travel: health – there and back, in the country, etc. Spiritual protection as we are doing spiritual warfare work at a variety of levels. Protection of family, friends and prayer partners
3. Fruitfulness of ministry – to serve in His love, wisdom and power.

Blessings of His joy and delight because you partner with Almighty God.

Nancy and Peter

Friday, July 3, 2009

Vidya's Prayer Letter

Congratulations, you have been picked to be part of the team going to Cambodia in July 2009!"

That was the summary of the email I received from Lisa, Charlene and Genie, the leaders of the short term mission trip. I was shocked to be chosen, but as I look back on the past 6 months, I see His Hand at work and I know that like Esther, He has chosen me ‘for such a time as this’….

My journey began over 3 years ago when I heard Lisa, the Toronto representative for Ratanak Foundation, share her heart about the little girls who were and are being forced into sex slavery in Cambodia. Her passion ignited His passion within me and I became involved in the grass roots core group which would meet once a month to plan Awareness and Advocacy seminars on this tragedy. However, it was after viewing “Fields of Mudan” that I honestly felt His heartbreak, pain, and anger for my sisters: no longer those little girls, but my little sisters, His daughters.

My prayers began to be more specific and targeted towards their freedom. I wanted to see them dance and laugh and recap the innocence which was stolen from them. I know that only our God and Saviour, their Abba Father could accomplish this.

For God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten Son…. John 3:16.

This is a verse I could say in my sleep, yet when I heard the recounts of Brian McConaughy and Don Brewster of the girls that have been rescued, or still in bondage, I realize that this world, the now, is what He loves. His heart beats for us, He suffered for us here, and He wanted me to become involved in seeking justice for His little ones.

Lisa had casually said to me in January, that I should think about going to Cambodia and I smiled and nodded but did nothing. Then 2 months later she said the same thing. I met with the elders and thought that being here was the best place for me. Then wham! Lisa asked again and coupled with Tara, another member of the team who said she thought I should be going, I knew I had to seek my spiritual mentors, fast, and pray. I did and at the last possible moment, just before the deadline, I applied to go.

In the interim, I had participated in a Beth Moore study on the Psalms of Ascent and He began giving me verses and images to pray for my sisters:

Psalm 123: 3-4: I prayed for His mercy to restore the dignity taken away from my sisters,

Psalm 129: 2-4:they ( my sisters) have been greatly oppressed from my (their) youth,,,,plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long ( the sex trade) But the Lord is righteous He has cut me ( them) free from the cords of the wicked..

The book of Isaiah provided more fodder for prayer: Isaiah 62:3 for the girls ‘…No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate….”

As I read Isaiah 6:8 ‘...Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, whom shall I send? And will go for us? And I said Here am I, Send me…”

I was convicted by that and surrendered to His call.

God gave another vision for this trip as described below:

I will give you the treasures of darkness
riches stored in secret places so that you may know that I am the Lord
The God of Israel who summons you by name....

I wake up in a sweat and I see his face. It is blurry so that his features are not clear. It is the face of a man, who like Saul, was so convicted by the Holy Spirit and who consequently fell in love with a God of mercy, grace and unconditional love; a God who sought after him even though Saul was persecuting His children. And then he was renamed Paul. He was in his own words the biggest sinner of all, and was instrumental in spreading the Gospel.

Yes, I have asked God for a pedophile.


Who better to go into the dark places in Cambodia to rescue our sisters?

Who knows the network better than any other?

Who because of His love will want to make amends because he will truly know the evil he has perpetuated?

I pray for that one man...

On July 14th we leave for 3 weeks. I am excited because the focus is on the caregivers, specifically Ruth who runs Daughters of Cambodia. Our team will be giving workshops on Domestic Violence, Drug Awareness, Budgeting, Hairstyling, Healing Prayer, Dance and Nutrition, to name a few, as well as prayer walking through the brothel areas.

One of my dreams has been to go to Israel, to walk and just be where our Lord grew up, to walk up that hill where He was crucified and to see the cave that was chosen as the site for His resurrection. As I walked these past few months, I heard Jesus say to me: Where you are going is why I walked those long hard steps with The Cross on my shoulder/back, each painful step was made easier because I love you that much. Even though I know you would doubt and second guess Me many times, I still love you.

I have said yes because I could not say no to my Lord and Saviour. He wants me to be one of many who can be His Hands and Feet on this earth. I feel His heartbeat and I know I will experience His heartbreak but also His victory when I go there. He is in control. He is the ultimate Abba Father. He is the Righteous Judge.

I claim His promise to me and my team:

Isaiah 58: 11-12

…Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

And will raise up the age old foundations and you will be called

Repairer of Broken Walls

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings….

So to those of you who have been with me on this journey,





Your prayers are coveted for:

--Our team: Lisa, Genie, Charlene—team leaders: Melinda, Joy, Stephanie, Nancy, Peter, Tara, Marty and Prem: for one spirit of unity and joy.

--Translator/s in Cambodia: workshops would run smoothly.

--Health and sleep for the team.

--To listen to his voice so we can truly serve those we meet in Cambodia.

-For the funds to be raised before departure date of July 14th.

Lastly, thanks to my own family here in Toronto, Trinidad, Florida and England for blessing me to go on this trip. For my core group members who have been so supportive, and my church family at Rexdale Alliance Church under whose spiritual umbrella we are going to Cambodia.

Dancing with Jesus Christ,

Sister Vidya