Monday, September 7, 2009

Back in Phnom Penh

Monday 7th September 2009
Today we had the morning free to catch up on shopping at the Russian Market! I never had so many friends…! On leaving we headed to Jars of Clay cafĂ© for lunch – this is a previous Ratanak project to employ vulnerable young girls which is now self sufficient. I had the scrumiest (That is good if you are from Yorkshire - Brian!) shepherds pie ever and a banana shake – if you are ever here this is one that is recommended!
This afternoon we met with the guys from Prison Fellowship International – Linda and Adam. At 72 Linda is still hard at work in a very challenging ministry. Adam is an incredible young man. Having moved from New Zealand with his wife and 3 young kids he works tirelessly with absolute devotion. His vision is “to reach the least of the least” and in heading into Cambodia’s prisons he does that. With up to 130 men in a cell with an equivalent of 2 meters by 30 cm each, this is a hostile environment. And yet here also Christ is present and at work. In one detention centre over 900 men (out of 1300) are born again believers. Last year they held a baptism service for 650 at one time! In other prisons it is not so easy but in no way does that put these guys off. Active programmes including educational and vocational, all serve to convey a Christian message of the love of Christ for these men and women – the least of the least.
On leaving we headed to the night haven for elderly ladies. Here between 2 and 8 old ladies, who beg on the streets of Phnom Penh, find a warm meal, safe shelter and a warm welcome for the night. The only other option is the streets where they are faced by violence, robbery and rape – and that is just from the police! In here we find 8 ladies who were due to vacate the city on Saturday owing to a religious festival where the police will clear the streets and send these dear old people to ‘rehabilitation centres’. Instead they have chosen to remain for 2 days to meet the white people who are visiting. They have come in early from begging to get washed and changed into their best outfits. The meal has also been postponed. Each of these old people has a different story to tell. One lost her husband and four sons at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, another was beaten and abused so badly by her only surviving son, each has suffered badly. Tomorrow morning they will leave very early to avoid being detained and return to any friends and relatives they may find. Others will simply hide away for the next few weeks until this festival is over and they can once again return to the streets.
In a day when the youth moves so rapidly forward these dear old people are so often forgotten. It is a joy to see the somewhat gummy smiles of some of Cambodia’s oldest people. One lady is 86 and her friend has just turned 84! Rosalee from Australia has been running this shelter with her staff for 6 months now. She is absolutely committed to these ladies.
Today has moved away from child exploitation though nevertheless we have engaged another group who are subjected to some of the worst the world has to offer them. Pray for Prison Fellowship and Haven Night Shelter as they continue to express God’s love in a most practical manner to two completely diverse groups.
Steve Norman

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