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.

1 comment:

  1. wow, thank you for posting in such detail Lisa. I almost feel like I'm there with you. praise God for the amazing workers he has put in this place to share His grace and truth