Monday, August 31, 2009

Brian - First Night in Cambodia

Ok Brian here. Arrived a few hours ago and are in pretty good shape. Steve (UK) and Steve (Canada) are here and we had a very short meeting with Brian and Graeme from Australia just as we arrived in our hotel. Stephen and Beth are due in about another hour. It will be great to get the team assembled and get to work figuring out where God is leading.

The two Steves and I went out for a walk this afternoon. From the hotel past the independence monument towards the river to the Cambodiana and then up to the waterfront to the Royal palace and back to the hotel. Don’t know how much fluid I lost but your really do forget how hot it can get here.

As far as the travel here goes it was fine. Better than I expected. Leaving the house is always the hardest. I go around each bedroom saying goodbye to Louise and the boys all fast asleep. At this point I find myself wondering “is all of this worth it” “why has God afflicted me with this drive for Cambodia”. Once I get over that part I’m Ok - I just hate leaving.

Our flight did not leave Vancouver till close to 3am so we were bagged before we got going. At about hour 3 of the 13 hour flight I was so tired I felt ill – hate that. But after a time that passed and I seemed to get into the groove as I always do.By the time I got on the plane in Hong Kong for the last leg of the journey I was excited – as always.

Haven’t a clue what God has done to my heart but it is the same every time, no mater how fatigued I just feel wonderful getting close to Cambodia. By the time I get my first glimpse of the country through the clouds I am sitting like a total idiot grinning for no apparent reason. By this stage I am thanking God for the privilege of once again setting foot in this land that will forever be sacred to me.

Later…Stephen and Beth arrived fine we all went out for supper near the hotel. Got half way through the meal and sleep deprivation kicked in the worst way. Tomorrow meeting with IJM staff.

Now to bed. Brian.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Expect The Unexpected

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

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

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

Friday, August 28, 2009

Another Ratanak Team Going To Cambodia

Many of you have been following this blog over the past few months. In the next few days you will get a change of writers. My colleague Brian McConaghy, the founder of The Ratanak Foundation is leaving for Cambodia this weekend along with a few others who have 'joined' the Ratanak family. These include one of our board members from Canada---Steve F., then there is our Ratanak rep in the U.K, Steve N. who like Brian is a policeman and then there is Stephan and Beth, long term missionaries who have worked with mission organizations in Africa on several projects related to the poor and the oppressed. Stephan and Beth are now 'official' Ratanak partners. None of these have ever been to Cambodia before so it will be great to hear their perspectives as they see Cambodia with fresh new eyes. Joining this group will be Graham from Australia who has been to Cambodia several times and knows many of the people we have worked with. It is exciting to see how God is orchestrating various people to be a part of His work in Cambodia.

These guys will be spending time learning about various Ratanak projects. Please remember them in prayer as they will be in Cambodia from August 31 to September 13th.

In the mean time, some of my future blogging musings may be found on my own personal blog called: Child of God

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Silence is not an option!

These are the words that are resonating in my spirit today as I am worshipping the Lord. Truly silence is not an option now that we know that there are children being sold this very moment.

Silence is not an option, when we say God break our hearts with the things that break your heart and yet we guard our hearts from feeling the pain and suffering of those who are broken.

Silence is not an option when we ask God to see the things that He does and then we refuse to look into the darkness

Silence is not an option when we ask God to be more like Him and then we put conditions on how we will serve Him and what we will do for Him.

Silence is not an option when we ask God 'bless me' and yet we refuse to be a blessing to those who He brings into our sphere of influence

Silence is not an option, when we hear the cries of those who are suffering and we close our ears and tune out because it is too unbearable for us.

Thank you to many who have chosen to not remain silence. Who have chosen to speak by taking the first step of entering into the darkness, to face it head on in all its ugliness, to wrestle with their emotions and questions to God. As we raise our voices in unison, as we speak up on behalf of the oppressed, we discover that God is using the marginalized to enlarge our hearts, deepen our faith and teach us a whole new way of 'loving our neighbor.' Ministry as my pastor once said is not our gift to God, it is God's gift to us---in ministering to the poor, the broken, the voiceless and the oppressed, God deepens within each of us the gift of compassion, the gift of tenderness, the gift of solidarity, the gift of understanding, the gift of hope, the gift of strength, the gift of patience, the gift of endurance, the gift of faith and most importantly the gift of love which leads us to always trust, always persevere and never give up and not remain silent despite the overwhelming odds and obstacles.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

August Newsletter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

For Every One, There Are Others.....

This morning I received some good news that my little friend SN is doing well. She is still safe and was even helping a friend of mind make pancakes last week. Praise God for her grandmother who is standing up for her. But as I thought of SN, this phrase popped into my mind, for every one rescued or protected or prevented, there are others whose fortune is not so. I am led back to Char's post in Cambodia when she talked about her little friend 'L'. A girl who we all knew when we were doing the VBS in Svay Pak last year. She was beautiful and there was no doubt in our mind that she was at risk or had been already trafficked. I remember 'L' when she first came to our VBS, she never wanted anyone to take photos of her. I think I know why. But as time went by she began to warm up to us and so the photos ensued. Today, I can't help but think of "L'. Why was she not protected? Where is she? What is happening to her? What is she facing? What is she thinking? Questions, many questions as I go for a walk thinking about her. She is just as precious to God as 'SN', she is no different. She deserves freedom, she deserves to have a new life, she deserves protection from the pain that no doubt each day she is enduring. Why does she have to suffer? When will her turn for freedom and hope come? How long God so that she will not have to terrify no more? How long before she can be a chid again. How long?

I dont' have answers to these questions but I am quickly learning that this ministry challenges us at the core of our faith and belief. It is here where the rubber meets the proverbial road. We want our hearts to be broken by the things that break God's heart. We want to see what Jesus sees, we want to feel what Jesus feels...but do we? Are these empty words that we offer up when we sing or say them or do we really mean then. Jesus said 'He is the way'----His way is not often our way but so often He calls us to walk a path we would rather avoid, to go in a direction we would choose not to take left to our own inhibitions. To experience emotions that we would so quickly want to escape from. But that is not the Jesus way. The Jesus way calls us to follow Him with all our heart, soul and mind. The Jesus way calls us to obedience and obedience is costly. There is a cost in following His way. For it may involve pain we would rather not have, it may involve brokenness that we would rather not face, it may involve tears that we are not comfortable shedding. But this is the way of the cross. It cannot be avoided if we truly want to follow Him.

The other day my mum asked me how we could get involved in this minstry when it is so painful. As I think about that question I am left with a simple response: Christ love compels. Christ love compels us to go, Christ love compels us to face the darkness, the pain, the suffering head on. Christ love compels us to do all that we can. Christ love fuels my holy discontent, Christ love compels my passion to speak up for these whose innocence is being traded away like a cell phone upgrade. Christ love compels us to choose a path that is costly. Christ love compels us to live on the edge. There is no other reason but Jesus Christ.

So I think of "L"---I too will be interceding for her because Christ love compels a response. Christ came to seek and save the lost. It is not the healthy that need a doctor but the lost. She is still lost, lost in the abyss of darkness, a darkness that I wish she never had to endure. But Christ love compels me to give a voice to her plight. To speak for her, she maybe lost but she is not forgotten. She has been engraved in the palm of God's hand. Dear Lord, may you engrave her in our hearts that we would be moved to stand in the gap for her and for the many that she represents that are not statistics but that are individuals who have personalities, who have dreams, who have names.

Indeed for every one protected like SN, there are others like L. Let us not grow weary despite the visible reality, despite the difficulties, despite the trials, despite the discouragement. For after all the wrestling with God over these challenges, I come back to the simplest of truths. God is good all the time, all the time God is good. Jesus still reigns and the battle is His. I trust in the knowledge that in His sovereignty He knows where 'L' is and one day, I trust that He will reveal that to us. He has shown us that is possible through another girl who has been on Brian's heart for the past 6 years. These are God's kids, these are His precious ones and so we rest in His faithfulness and give thanks that He has given us the privilege of interceding for them, in keeping their faces in the forefront, in keeping their story alive.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An Update on Bayana - A New Name

Many of you may recall me writing about a 4 day old baby called Bayana that we first met when we were ministering at Daughters (see posting on July 21, 2009). She was diagnosed with spina bifida and had club feet and was brought to Daughters by one of the staff who knew her mother. Bayana's mother a sex worker herself did not want her child. It's one thing to have a healthy baby but to have one that is physically disabled is not an easy task for anyone, muchless someone who lives in a poor country and who has no financial means of supporting her child. It would be so easy to judge her parents but one could only wonder if we were in a similar situation as them, what would we do. How would we respond? Bayana's parents agreed to give her up and so we arranged for Bayana to go to Place of Rescue, an AIDS orphanage funded by our dear friend Marie Ens.

This morning I got a wonderful update about Bayana from Marie. This little one is now called Neang Rua, which means Ruth but "rua" also means 'live", is holding her own. According to Marie, she is at the National Pediatrics hospital and they are giving her good care. The doctors have indicated that they will take care of her problems one at a time. First they need to put a shunt in her head but they want to wait if they can until she is 8 kilos. However they are monitoring her situation and if she needs it done sooner they will do it. Please have everyone keep on praying. She is in the Lord's hands and He has a plan. After the shunt they will do something with her back and finally with her legs.

I feel that we have been privileged to be part of a miracle that is in process as I think of little baby Neang Rua. How her new name is so fitting for this little one who has been given a new life in Christ. Only God could have orchestrated for her to come first to Daughters Cambodia by one of his servants, a young staff member who He has blessed with a heart of compassion for kids. Only God could have made a way when there seemed to be no way and no hope for this baby. After all, Neang Rua was taken initially to this very same hospital by her mother but because her mother was a sex worker the hospital advised her to take Neang Rua back home and just let her die. But God had other plans for Neang Rua. His plans will not be thwarted. He can call forth life where there was none and as I think of Neang Rua, I believe this is what He is doing.

The Lord has not only given her a new name but HE has given to her a new life by virtue of her guardianship with Place of Rescue. In many ways, Neang Rua's life is a reflection of what happens to us when we cross the line of faith and become followers of Jesus. Like her, we have new status, new citizenship in a kingdom that shall not end. Neang Rua has been granted new rights and privileges as a child of God for she bears the mark of the most High and so enters into a whole new world, a world that offers her opportunities that she previously had no access to.

Neang Rua's story reminds me that Jesus does not overlook those who society looks down upon. He indeed is a friend of the sinner, the outcast, the disable, the prostitute, the broken, the persecuted, the rejected, the abandoned, the leper, the unwanted, the marginalized....The world made forget them but He does not. The world may ignore them, but He does not. He welcomes them all and invites them to come as they are so that He can bestow beauty for ashes, joy for mourning in order that they will become a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. Why God has chosen to rescue Neang Rua over others is a mystery perhaps we will not know for years or maybe until we get to heaven. But I do believe, that He indeed has a special purpose for her life. He has gone to great lengths to preserve her life --- a life I can't help but imagine that will one day testify of His love, His grace, His goodness, His faithfulness and His power.

Dear little Neang Rua, what God has started in you, He will complete. When I first laid eyes on you, you were lying on the floor on a stained pillow covered in a little blanket. But how I praise the Lord that He would grant us the privilege of meeting you. You are His precious bundle of joy that one day will reflect His beauty as you blossom into a beautiful flower in His garden. For just like Jesus was born in a barn, in the most simplest and basic surroundings so were you. I can only dream of what your future will be like as we pray that His kingdom will come into your very little heart.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Mother's Cry

The mission trip is over so why am I still blogging. Strange as it may seem for me this is part of my processing so I hope you don't mind reading my musings. Some times I feel inspired to write when I receive a 'divine' impression. I suppose I could journal this quietly but part of my sharing it is my way (I hope) of acknowledging what God is doing in my life and trust that it will be a blessing to those who would seek to speak up for those who have no voice.

It is easy for all of us who go on mission trips to just keep our journal thoughts to ourselves. We want to keep it private and I believe there is a place and time to do that. There are some things that are just simply too raw to share with the whole world and we need to be selective of what we share and to whom, as God deposits certain treasures to us. Yet, there are other emotions that I think are worthwile commenting on that I believe serve to bless the greater body of Christ. Missions after all is not just for ourselves but we are blessed to be a blessing not just to the people we go to serve and minister to but I believe we have a responsability to the many here who have joined us in partnership whether through their prayers, their words of encouragement and/or through their financial support. This in part is the role of a mobilizer and I believe that all who go overseas whether short term or long term are also mobilizers in God's kingdom. As we return and share our experiences whether individually or corporately, our comments maybe just the word that God wants someone in our midst to hear to encourage them to step out and live on the edge for Christ. THis is not about self promotion, but about acknowledging how God can use fragile vessels to do His will. It is about testifying to His goodness and giving Him honor and glory and bearing witness to the awesome privilege He bestows on those whom He has called.

Two little friends who I met last year

Okay I'll step off my soap box now and get to the real reason why I am writing this blog. This morning as I was walking from the GO station to my workplace, the words 'A mother's cry' came into my mind. I know that it was a divine thought related to an experience I had on Saturday August 1st. Some of you had received an urgent email that day from me asking prayer for a young 11 year old girl whose initials are "SN". She has a special place in my heart for over those past 3 weeks as I went to Svay Pak, she would come and hold my hand and her broken English ask how I was doing. But that Sat, I would find out that she had come to church asking for help. One of her parents was coming the next day to take her up to a northern city and it was not for a holiday. No, she had been to this place before and sadly it was to a brothel owned by a family member. Pastor Chantha had noted that each time she went and returned, they would have to take her to a medical clinic for treatment. It is one thing for us to read about girls who are trafficked but it is another thing to be faced to face with one little girl who I had come to know and who was seeking God's help by coming to His sanctuary and telling the pastor that she didn't want to go.

What does one do when confronted with the reality of child sex trafficking? One of my team members had joined me that day in Svay Pak along with another Canadian missionary who had been in Cambodia for 6 months and wanted to learn more about Rahab's house. So we sat inside Rahab's house formed a circle and began to pray over SN as she sat on my lap. My emotions were at best raw, tears streaming down my eyes as I cried out to God for a miracle, to intervene on behalf of this one whose life was tethering on the brink of entering into the darkness again. SN is one of the lucky few who has been sponsored to go to local school but she is also actively involved in the Sunday school children's program at Rahab's house. Each Sunday she comes and performs with the other kids singing songs about Jesus. Her faith in Him no doubt is growing and so my tears reflected the anguish within my soul at what would await her if the God she so worshipped and sang about each week did not intervene.

That day I left Svay Pak not knowing whether I would see her the next morning at church. My heart heavy as I tried to compose myself for the ride back into town. My two travel partners talked in the van, while I sat silently listening to music in my IPOD. We arrived back at our hotel and I headed back into my room, unable to think about anything else, not hungry but feeling compelled to get on my knees again and pray for the soul of this little one who had become so dear to my heart.Oh God if there is ever a time for a miracle it is now. SN needs to see you as her fortress, her protector. It is the words of Psalm 37 that become my prayer for SN and for this situation.

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. For the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.

It so happened that night that my roommate was with some other team members and so for 3 hours I sat thinking, journalling and praying. It's a strange kind of feeling wanting to be alone and yet desperate as well to talk to someone and share this burden. Thankfully as I logged in on skype, I saw one of my mentor's online. It was her words that spoke truth to my heart. It was words that give meaning to the emotion that I was struggling to express. As I shared with her my encounter from that day she simply said 'Lisa, God has made you a mother to the motherless. This is your calling. As you said in your blog, these girls are like your daughers, you know them by name, you have hugged and held them. These little girls see you and they see a true mother's love. They don't know what that looks like for it is their very mothers who are selling them. But when they see you, they see a different kind of love. A love that is borne from the very heart of God. They are seeing what a genuine and what a true mother's love looks like.'

These truths were not new to me but for some reason that night they brought solace to my soul, they gave meaning to the tension I was struggling with, they explained the tears I was shedding for I was crying like a mother who was on the brink of losing her child. A mother who was involuntarily separated from her daughter. A mother who felt helpless and yet, who knew that she had an Advocate who hears her groans and wass interceding not just for her but for those whom He has brought into her life.

One of the missionaries who was with me that day said she had never seen me so emotionally raw and was concerned for me. But this is part of the journey that God has called me to enter into. For whatever happens to these little ones, I take it personally. It always will be like that for me. For it is the way that God has called me to identify with them. I do not want to avoid the pain and anguish that goes with this ministry. It is part of the calling. It would be so easy to disengage and for my heart to grow cold but I am thankful for the gift of tears. I am thankful for the anguish and the gut wrenching cries that cause me to go on my knees and plead for His help on their behalf. I want to enter into the darkness as much as the Lord will allow me to that I may gain a glimpse of what grieves His heart. To shy away from that, is to shy away from the things that breaks God's heart. This kind of 'emotional wrecking' is good for the soul for it causes us to focus back on the One who can do the impossible. It moves us from feeling incapacitated to recognizing that we have a God whose arm is not too short to save. It causes us to be still as we wait patiently for Him to act. We find consolation and an uncanny peace in His promises when the visible reality seems so hopeless.

So Sunday morning came, I got up early grabbed a coffee and went for a walk around the neighborhood, all the while praying and pleading before the throne of Grace. My tears were close to the surface as I head with the rest of the team to Svay Pak for our final visit there. The heaviness in my heart still there. I wonder if I will see SN again but God has told me the night before that everything will be all right but there is a part of me that doubts. He was right, she was there dressed in her usual school uniform, performing with the rest of the kids. This time round the rest of our team gathered around her and her grandmother. We laid hands on them again and prayed for God to do only what He could do and that is protect her from those who would seek to harm her. I give her my cross and my pendant with my name on it. I want her to know that the Jesus she is now following, is the One who will watch over her and just as He has surrounded the mountains of Jerusalem so He will surround her. I want her to know that while I am leaving, I am going to be praying for her daily. That I will not forget her nor will God forget her. One of my teammates gives her an angel statute and through translation tells her that God is sending His angels to watch over her. She sees my tears and takes a tissue and wipes my eyes. You would think it would be me that ought to be consoling her but it is she who is consoling me. In a strange twist, she is the angel who God had sent to comfort me. She was the strong one, I was the weak and vulnerable one. Indeed, my pastor's words' ring through---ministry is not our gift to God but God's gift to us. She is the one ministering to me at that very moment.

That morning as we left Svay Pak and I said my good bye to SN, my heart remained heavy but my soul was quieted as I entrusted her into God's hands. He loves her far more than I can ever love her. Knowing in my heart and head that He was in control, there was a peace that descended over me. The tears were no more as I gave her one last hug and waved goodbye as our van left that dusty road.

I am learning that there are burdens God calls us to own and there are others He owns. My burden is to be faithful to the process of interceding for my precious little daughter. God's burden is to watch over her and protect her and to give her a a new life of hope. When I think of SN, I claim His very words in Psalm 37:11--the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. Today, SN is still safe. I keep praying. The story continues.

I realize this particular experience was not an isolated event. For I am discovering that it is part of God's plan to give me a love and a burden for this very special community in Svay Pak. For just a few days prior to that when my team members Marty and Tara were praying over me they asked what I wanted prayer for. I remember asking that Svay Pak would be my inheritance (Psalm 2:8) . I remember bent over crying and asking the Lord for the lives of each of these little ones. That they would know Him as their Lord and Savior; that they would know Him as their Defender, their Protector, their Shield, that they would discover how deep His love is for them and how precious they are in His eyes and that He would always be with them no matter what they were experiencing. This is the cry of a mother's heart, this is the cry of our heavenly Father's heart.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reentry - A Journey of Intimacy

I'm here but I'm not here. Yes that is the feeling that normally happens after one returns home from a mission trip. You can leave a place physically but emotionally you are still there.

How do you express emotions and memories from 3 weeks of intense experiences where your sole focus is on God and His purposes. Re-entry is that part of the journey that one has to go through as they come down from the mountain top. Who wants to come down when the view is so spectacular on the mountain. But the Christian life is not about staying on the mountain, it is a pilgrimmage that calls us to walk through many paths--some that leads us up the mountain and others that lead us down into the valley. Re-entry to me is like a walk down into the valley. We are coming down from the mountain where we have tasted the Lord, we have seen His goodness, His faithfulness, His provision, we have been sustained by Him, we have seen His power, We have beheld His glory, we have experienced His protection. Now we are faced with the ardous task of integrating all that He has taught us. This is a journey inward. A journey of intimacy. One where deep will talk to deep, if we let Him. It is a struggle at times because our natural inclination is to be around other people, especially our team members who have shared the journey with us, but God wants us all to Himself first.

Over the past 6 months as our team was preparing for the trip, it was a time of DOING, a time of organizing, a time of activity. But now as we enter into this phase of re-entry, it is a time of BEING. A time to be re-filled, a time to be re-fueled, a time to reflect, a time for vision to be formed, a time of new birth, a time of letting go, a time to listen, a time to rest, a time to stop, a time to simply be with the One who has set eternity in our hearts. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace

Indeed re-entry is a season where lots of things begin to change internally. We may not see it initially because the changes are intangibles that only are reflected over time. Perhaps it is a change in where we spend our time, who we spend our time with, what we spend our time on, where our focus is. It is a time where new seeds are planted by the One who calls us His own, a time of uprooting and tearing down, where the old ways of thinking are replaced with new insights about ourselves and His purposes in our lives. It involves change and transformation as we follow His lead, but only IF we are willing to follow where He calls us. This perhaps is the greatest challenge as it is so easy to slide back into our comfortable lifestyles and our comfortable Christianity. It is a choice that we are called to make. The question is whether we will embrace the choice before us. Are we open to saying 'Lord I surrender to you, not my will but your will be done.' Or are we closed to going further on to seeing what that next step will be. This is the crossroads that we will face and it is at this junction, where our experiences overseas can be short circuited if we choose to set the agenda instead of allowing Him to lead us.

Re-entry is also a time indeed to mourn, to grieve as we look back and wish we were tasting more of those mountain top experiences but it is also a time where He is teaching us a new dance. A new way to dance with Him, as He adds new steps to our pilgrimmage. Some times those steps imply more waiting for the longings in our heart to be fulfilled, other times, those steps call us to enter into another 'Jordan river' experience. Where He is leading us to take a step that involves risk and requires courage and boldness to move forward despite the uncertainy that lies before us. Either way, it is a time to embrace the future with a new level of faith, trusting in His goodness and in His love.

Re-entry is a time of listening to the voice of the Lord speaking to us about the treasures He has deposited into our hearts from our mission trip. It is a time to be still before Him in the midst of all the distractions that come our way now that we have returned home.

Re-entry is not easy for our hearts are prone to wander, prone to restlessness, prone to be consumed with the immediate yet it is a time where the Lord beckons us and says 'Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3).

Dear Jesus, let us all be like Samuel of old as we say: Speak O Lord, for your servant is listening!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This must be Toronto

The digital clock says 3:30, AM that is. I’m stretched out full length. This must be Toronto and it’s Thursday.

The last time I got out of bed was Tuesday at 6:00 AM in Phnom Penh. Travel had begun. We flew from Cambodia to Hong Kong and waited about twelve hours. Surely the designer of the seats of our Boeing 777-300 which took us home to Canada was a student of Little Ease – that place in the Tower of London. “The walls of the cell … were so low, and so contrived, that the wretched inmate could neither stand, walk, sit, nor lie at full length within them.” In spite of all that, we did arrive safe and sound at 5:45 AM on Wednesday.

As for the mathematics of the time, I don't want to take you there. Eleven hours difference by way of Greenwich, thirteen by way of the International Date Line, or is it the other way around. The best heuristic, or rule-of-thumb -- for those who don’t want Greek, is, when you are awake they are asleep; when you are asleep they are awake. Go figure.

But parts of me are elsewhere. Some of my heart is in Phnom Penh - some pieces at Daughters Cambodia, some in Svay Pak. Will they ever find their way home? Would I be better off if they did?

Right now I want to pray.

I want to pray for Pastor Chantha and Ratanak, two care-givers and watchmen for folk in Svay Pak. I ask my Heavenly Father to watch over them, to send angels to help them -- “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14), to help them in their struggle on behalf of the children of Svay Pak, to send His army to their aid – “’Don't be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘ Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, ‘Strike these people with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.” (2 Kings 6:16-18) I want to pray blindness for their enemies. (What would you pray for?)

I want to pray for the children. I pray that God would quarry out some mill-stones, big ones, and find a sea somewhere. I believe that this is what Jesus has in mind for those who cart little children off to the brothels to be raped and brutalized. (Mark 9, Luke 17:1-2)

So that’s what I prayed. I trust my Heavenly Father to do the right thing. Who else can I trust?

Do I feel better for having said this? Not really. It only makes me want to weep.

But the sun will be coming up soon and I need more sleep if I’m to get anything more done today.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In Transit - Hong Kong and Typhoon 8

Pochentong Airport - Phnom Penh

Flying over Cambodia - Tonle Sap River

It's hard to believe that 3 weeks have flown by so quickly and our time in Cambodia has ended. We left Cambodia this morning in two vans loaded up with 3 new guitars and several suitcases. For some reason I ended up in one of the vans by myself for the trip to the airport ---I almost see this as symbolic for while we come and go as a group, each of us is on our own individual spiritual pilgrimmage with the Lord. Our experiences while shared reflects a myriad of individual encounters no different from the early disciples who walked with the Lord. Each sharing their view of what it was like to be with Jesus and seeing Him in action in different situations. No doubt in the months ahead, I expect He will birth new things in each of us, based on what He has impregnated from our journey to Cambodia. This is the time of waiting that I often find interesting for it is another step of adventure wondering how He will shape and form that which He has deposited in us. Some times the fruit from these trips are not seen for months and even years but I am thankful that each experience represents an opportunity to go deeper with the Lord as He strengthens our spiritual muscles.

After leaving Cambodia in the morning we arrived in Hong Kong at 3pm local time. With a 12 hour layover, we are still in transit as our flight doesn't leave till 2:45am. Six of us decided to hit the town so we headed out into the city to visit Mong Kok where there was a ladies night market. But alas, it was not to be for the arrival of a typhoon 8 resulted in the outdoor market stalls not being set up. People were heading home and the city was not its usual hustle and bustle despite the bright lights. We ate dinner, walked around a bit and headed back to the airport. Some of us were hoping to take advantage of the extended time to have a relaxing massage but even that was not open so we settled for a nice hot shower at the airport club and ended up crashing on the lounge chairs in the airport.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Last Comment from Cambodia

Today was our final day in Phnom Penh before we leave tomorrow morning. Some of us headed out to visit a Ratanak funded project called Mission Possible run by an Italian lady named Francesca. Franchesca has set up a school which has grown over the past few years and it now has 250 students from the nearby villages. We took the opportunity to distribute the teddy bears that were made by the seniors at Rexdale and also gave the school some local Khmer books for their library and some sports equipment for the kids. As we went into each classroom to give the kids the teddy bears they all stood up ever so politely and bowed. I can't imagine North American school children reacting this way!

Following that, we headed over to the Newsong centre to drop in some more Crocs that we had as we felt any extras could be used for the kids in Svay Pak. Our day ended with 3 of my team members buying guitars to take home. Your's truly was chosen to test out each guitar for sound

.As I leave Cambodia this time, I feel as though I have been through a world wind tour of both the ups and downs.We have all come away with lots of interesting memories of how God worked in our midst and now we have the ardous task begins of processing and sorting through what all theses experiences mean for each of our lives. This trip has been special for me on so many levels having had the privilege of meeting some special young friends and experiencing glimpses of fruit and yet faced with the realities of the darkness that can so easily envelope us if we take our eyes off Jesus.

For now its 'chum reap leah (goodbye) and chewup kaneer chanam krowie (see you next year). Thanks to all of you who have been praying through our blog and sending us words of encouragement. Without a doubt your prayers have been the shield through which we have have been able to stand firm.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Svay Pak Church Service and Meeting Celebrities

This morning we left at 7:30pm to go to what has been our weekly church service while in Cambodia ---to Rahab's House in Svay Pak. My heart was heavy as I was thinking of the fate of a young girl who I have gotten to know here. She is on the verge of being sold yet again and many have been interceding. For the first time in my life I ended up fasting last night as I found myself not being able to eat as I thought of my little 'daughter.' Many tears have been shed over the past 24 hours and its not all mind but God has given me much peace. I gave her this morning my necklace with a cross and told her that Jesus will always be near her and that whenever she felt afraid to call out to Him for help.There will be more to this story but for now, this is all I can share.

As is customary at the Rahab's House church service, Pastor Chantha always invites us to share a word after he has preached. Today was no different and so I said a few comments blessing the congregation with faith to believe that God will provide all their needs, hope that when their situation seems hopeless and there is no way out, God will grant them hope that a new life is coming and finally, to love God with all their heart, soul and mind for when they do that, they will reflect His love to their family, friends and especially their children. Genie then got up to speak and reminded them that God is a God of miracles for a year ago, at Rahab's house---there was no church, there was no Ratanak and Pastor Chantha and no newcomers and encouraged them to see what God has done and challenged them to imagine what God could do in a year from now. Then it was Pastor Nancy's turn and she asked all the men to stand and exhorted them to protect their wives and children from evil men. But it did not stop there as she asked all the congregation if they were willing to help Pastor Chantha and Ratanak fight against those who would seek to hurt their kids, for there is power when a community acts together for the greater good. It was such a blessing to see every person raise their hands affirming that this is what they wanted to do. Only time will tell whether this was just a saving face jesture to a foreigner or if it was truly and sincerely meant. God knows each of their hearts and I for one continue to pray that our Lord who turned a brothel into a church can do the impossible in this community.

In the mid afternoon 4 of us and Sotheary headed to a mall to meet up with some very special celebrities. They are not the kind of celebrities that you would find signing autographs for in the world's eyes, they have little influence, their lives are not filled with glamorous parties nor would you expect to find their faces in the latest celeb magazine. No, these who I refer to have lived lives that not one of us would ever want, for their voices were silenced for many years until a brothel raid happened in Svay Pak in 2003 by IJM. A raid in which 37 young girls were rescued from a brothel which we now know today as a community outreach centre and church called Rahab's house. Today I had the privilege and honor of meeting 5 girls----4 of them from that original raid. If you have watched the latest update from NBC on Children for Sale you would know who I am referring to. Their lives are living testimonies of the redemptive power that is possible through Christ. In 4 brief hours with them, I was blessed beyond words as they shared their dreams of becoming lawyers, translators, hip hop teacher; their favorite books in the bible were Proverbs and Psalms because they found those books to be very practical. They made a special card thanking the Ratanak foundation for supporting them and before we left their home, we prayed for them and then they in turn prayed for us asking God's protection over us as we travelled back home to Canada. These are just snippets of some of the conversations we had but through it all, I saw 5 young girls who displayed such a sweet innocence and kindness to us, offering us genuine love as they held our hands, offered us hugs, shared a bit of of their interests and hobbies with us. I saw the habits of typical teenage girls hustling to clean their room before the guests came upstairs to see it and then proudly displaying their rooms and photos. God indeed has repaid the years the locusts have eaten from these. They are a breadth of fresh air and a reminder that we serve a God who is in the business of restoring broken lives and making something so wonderufl and beautiful emerge that one cannot help but marvel at the greatness of God and His power to give new life to those who who lived in such hopeless conditions.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hanging Out at Svay Pak

With our ministry time at Daughters ending, four of our team members have gone south to Sihanoukville for some R&R for the weekend while the rest of us have chosen to stay in Phnom Penh. This afternoon I went to Svay Pak with Joy and Lois Cunningham who is here full time as an international worker. She also volunteers at Daughters.

Some of my young friends in Svay Pak

We headed into Svay Pak to meet up with Pastor Chantha, his wife Bunthan and Ratanak who live at Rahab's house. Pastor Chantha had invited us to come and see where the 50 kids go to school that our Newsong partners support. I love coming to Svay Pak---that sounds strange to say given that it is notorious as a staging ground for the selling of underaged children. But whenever I come here I see Jesus in the least of these. Many of the kids are those I have spent time with from last year's VBS and as our team has gone for the past two Sundays to the church service, the kids welcome us with open arms. Today was no different as they call out my name and several try to grab my hands. It is here for some reason I feel the love of God through these little ones, many of whom are at risk or have already been sold over and over again. Despite their loss of innocence, they look like ordinary kids that you would see any where. Smiles on their faces and yet hidden deep within are the scars they wear. There are a few young ones that I have a special heart for and I see one of them coming towards me but I am shocked as I look at her face. It is full of makeup---blush, eyeliner, you name it she has it on. She is only 6 years old and yet seems not bothered by it. It is me who feels uncomfortable as I watch her for I know she has either just returned from being sold or she is getting ready to head out tonight. She acts so nonchalantly, grabs hold of my hand and leads me to a mural painted within Rahab's House, points to it and says Jesus walking on water and goes on her way. What does one do with that? I'm still processing.

I see another young friend who always holds my hand when I am here. She is hanging out at Rahab's house and comes running out to greet me and gives me a hug as she calls out my name. In her broken English she asks how I am doing and then leads me to the Catholic church down the street to point out the statute of Jesus (Preah Yesu in Khmer). I ask her to stand there so I can take a photo of her there. We head back to Rahab's house and she leads me to the mural just like the other little friend and says Preah Yesu. She is one of the 50 kids that our Newsong partner's sponsor to go to a school in Svay Pak. There are at least 100 more kids that need to be sponsored to go to school but for now the poorest ones and the ones with single parents get priority.

Two of the kids who are sponsored to go to school in Svay Pak

We keep walking and head towards the beauty salon of two girls who used to be at the Newsong centre and have now been reintegrated. They have chosen to be back here in this community to reflect God's light. I take the opportunity to have a manicure and pedicure by them. A girl has to do what a girl has to do! It's hard work being out here some times!!!

Medical clinic in Svay Pak

We then walk towards the entrance of Svay Pak to meet one of the local Vietnamese doctors who runs a medical clinic here. Our friends at Newsong partner with Dr. Som Ang for any medical emergencies they may have with the families in the community. Dr. Som Ang has chosen to come to Svay Pak as business is very brisk because many of the girls who live in Svay Pak are in need of medical attention.

As we head back towards the main street in Svay Pak, Pastor Chantha notices a group of Asian tourists both male and female---they look Korean but turn out to be Japanese. He asks their driver why they are in Svay Pak---they say they are here to meet a friend but as Pastor Chantha said 'if they are not friends who are visiting Rahab's house, then there is only one other reason why they are here.' We walk pass them, me with 3 little ones dangling from my arms as I look at these 'tourists' and they look at me. I've decided that 'staring' has become my modus operandi in this kind of environment. And while I stare, Pastor Chantha is the one who God has raised up to be His watchman in this community. He indeed is watching over his little flock whom God has entrusted into his care. The more I get to know Pastor Chantha, the more I appreciate and admire the courage God has given him. In many ways, he is in the devil's play ground but he is standing firm on the promises of God despite the challenges of the visible reality. He is one of my heroes here on the frontline, literally seeking justice on behalf of the oppressed and giving a voice to their plight and representing Christ in bodily form as both the kids and their families see him as a man of peace, a man who they can trust, who they know is safe to share all their sufferings, who is their advocate and who has their best interest at heart. He is a man who is offering hope to those in this community who desperately need to know that someone cares about them. Please pray for him, that God will use him mightily and that the same spirit that resided in king David will reside in Pastor Chantha for each day he is coming face to face with Goliath. There is no let up in this war. The battle indeed is God's but it is long and it can be weary for those whom He has called to take a stand against injustice.