Thursday, November 26, 2009

Globl National

Just finished the TV interview. Skype seemed to work well. It is amazing that I can do TV interviews from my hotel room in Phnom Penh recorded in London and broadcast in Canada. It was recorded out of the London UK office. ( @ 1:30am Thursday Vancouver time or 9:30am Thursday London time) They say it will be on "tomorrow". i guess that is Friday's Global National.

I wasn't happy with it but hey you cant win them all.

Ok time to go I'm "Leavin!"

Lessons in Shame

Today is my last day in Cambodia and it was supposed to be a rather quiet and relaxing one. It has turned out to be far more interesting that I could have anticipated.
Went down for my Breakfast buffet this morning and sat watching the table across from me.
On one side was a well dressed businessman, I would guess about 60, tucking into his large breakfast. Seated across from him was a lovely if slightly provocatively dressed girl, I would guess may be 16 years of age. She sat motionless with no food in front of her staring off into nowhere. As each person past by and glanced at her she looked more pained. I really have no adequate words to describe the despair on her face. She sat there as a definitive example of “loss of face” - a concept used so efficiently by this culture to crush those who are weak and helpless. This was for her an excruciating ordeal of shame. They eventually got up and left and I sat there unable to eat watching her walk off with her abuser. Feeling angry and ill I left without eating.
Grabbed a moto and went over to Sotheary’s place. We were both headed out to the Crimes Against Humanity, Khmer Rouge trial of “Duch” the commandant of S-21, the chief torture prison in the Pol Pot regime. We were there to listen to the closing arguments of defense. It was a profound experience. I have been in many courtrooms and seen many murderers but nothing like this. It was really strange to hear lawyers talking formally in court about how the accused had seen to it that thousands of men women and children had been tortured and killed. Hearing such words strung together in sentence in a courtroom, a setting in which I am very comfortable, was astonishing. It made it real in a world that I understood. Such accusations are really heard to take in. This was made all the more real since Sotheary sat beside me. Her father was one of Duch’s victims!
There before me, a few feet away, was a man that I had wondered about for years before his discovery. A man infamous, a man despised, a man mythical – now before me old, small and looking passive. He sat in the center of the room as all talked about his crimes. He sat as an object of derision and shame. Duch’s willingness (unique among the revolutionary leaders) to accept his punishment, his guilt and wear his shame was obvious. As admission after admission of his guilt were read out the sense of acceptance grew. Over and over again his statements of remorse echoed around the room. Such statements seemed tiny and irrelevant to the gravity of the crimes. His attempts to accept even the guilt seem to be impossible for this burden is so great no human shoulders can really bear it. “I plead with you to allow me to share your immense and enduring sorrow” are hopeless and powerful words indeed.
Yet for Duch there is hope. His acceptance and grief are a direct result of his very real faith in Jesus Christ. While a broken man, he has discovered there are shoulders large enough to take even his burden. Forgiveness is not an option in this culture but the forgiveness offered in Christ can free even him. It causes me to look in to my own self-righteous heart and wonder how much different I really am from Duch- not much I think!
So today has been a day of some contemplation as I witnessed two examples of shame. One the shame of a little victim, the other the shame of a monster. The solution for both is the same. For all of the rest of us who fit somewhere in the spectrum between a child victim and a genocidal killer the solution is exactly the same- Christ!
And to finish off the day... Just getting ready to do a Global National TV interview on the trial via Skype (that’s a first for me) then off to the airport.
Blessings all. Will try and blog from Korea>

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

That empty feeling!

Today we went to the Transitional Life Skills Program and once again watched as Paul delighted the girls. They were enthusiastic and insisted on an encore performance. One girl was heard to say "I could listen to this all day".
After that it really was the start of the wind up for the team. Lunch was had, last trip to the marked and pack up. They drove away at 3:30pm leaving the hotel feeling strangely empty. Paul is headed back to Canada tonight and i understand he will be doing a followup interview on the Drew Marshall Show on Saturday - I think. (Check out )

Tomorrow is my last day and I will be leaving at about 11:30pm so i have a free day. Rather than just sit around I am grabbing the opportunity to go out to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Trial of "Duch" the commander of the infamous S-21 torture prison. I want to hear the end of the prosecutions closing arguments. I will go out with Sotheary who's Dad was sent to S-21 never to return. How strange it will be to sit with her in the same room as the man who authorised her Dads death. Sotheary is very willing to do this but please do pray for her and for her Mom who was a witness in the trial. Pain is never far from the surface here.

It will also be strange to see "Duch" a man who personally oversaw the torture killings of at least 18,000 people and who today now sits in court as a, dare I say it, Christian brother! The waters are dark and deep here.

And so this trip, where we have been so exposed to the traumas of today, will end with the traumas of years ago that still linger on and torment this society.

Remember to Pray for Cambodia.

Joy in the darkness!

I'm tired so point form!

Don and Bridgette of NewSong did a fantastic presentation - best I have ever seen. Their love for the girls was so compelling; their devotion to Christ so determined.
Team responded wonderfully - overwhelmed.

NewSong amazing. Gathered all the girls Paul sang and had the girls in his hands. I can not possibly describe the joy of watching Paul sing for "the least of these". The girls loved it. they sang in response to him. Songs of devotion and love for their Lord. I know what some of these girls have been through - there singing was beautiful. Paul told them he would send them all CDs and they went a little nuts. Following his singing they all had their photos taken with him. The team watched thrilled.

Out to brothel district - concert in the street (That street - the street of infamy!!) for the kids while they were deloused! Crazy - wonderful. Kids danced, staff laughed and clapped, pimps gathered and watched smiling. Our friends from Bridgeworks Foundation who are on our team just gazed at the carnival of activity that was happening before them. I stood with my mouth open - as did we all. I am learning just how powerful a language music is especially sung with power and skill by a man who's heart is for the broken and the lost.

Toured new "Sanctuary" building. The Bridgeworks team were obviously thrilled by the opportunities God is giving us. We gathered in the rubble in Sanctuary room praying for blessing and asking God to move in (He so clearly has already!). Powerful and moving time for all. When finished Bridgeworks team inform me "we will wire in all the funds required for the renovations just let us know when you need them". There was unity and joy - God himself seemed to stand with us in the room - I have no words!

On to a special cafe in the city where NewSong girls are being trained to cook and serve. Due to open in Feb - they practiced on us! There were tender moments watching them carefully serving us - desperate to get it right. I wanted to huge them all. They could have served me cardboard and i would have happily eaten it. But they didn't - it was wonderful food. This was followed by the third and last mini concert of the day from Paul for the girls. Lovely end to a days training for them. Staggering how God uses Paul. The girls were radiant - A star singing for them!

Team evening debrief. Unity, joy, burdens and much prayers - a good day. Oh yes!

Blessings. B

Monday, November 23, 2009

My favorate Christmas tree!

Today was a wonderful day for me. It was a day of firsts. There is too much to report so I will pick only one project.
We had the privilege of going to visit the little’s boys in the foster program for the first time. We have just recently funded this program. I had no clue what to expect. These little guys have been horribly abused by international pedophiles. More than the girls they are shamed in the most profound way in this society thus heaping coals on the devastation they have already experienced. They are, on occasion, deliberately targeted by the perpetrators because boys are so ashamed they will not tell anyone. There is simply nowhere for them to turn. The foster program is the first and only in the country for boys.
There have been real behavioral issues and three of the boys have just recently returned after running away this week. This is very tough work dealing with children this messed up. I was thrilled to find that they would sit with us. They are lovely little guys that just need so much emotional intensive care. I talked to them introducing my Canadian friends and telling them I had brought a real big singer from Canada to sing to them. And then another first… I watched Paul Brandt work his magic with kids. And Magic it was! He sang his song “Didn’t even see the dust”. A real “boys” song.
(Youtube link - )
The song starts off low and quiet and then just explodes with the word “shotgun…”. It was a thrill to watch the boy’s reaction. They simply dissolved in laughter. Paul just loved this and was on his feet engaging with them as he sang. They shook with laughter and hid their faces. Not totally sure how to read the reaction except to say it was very positive but I think they may have felt self conscious because of their laughter so they hid there faces in their shirts and hands. We all laughed with them. It was a very precious time.
It was then there turn to sing to us which they did with enthusiasm. It was thrilling to see them interact and to honour them with Paul, the famous singer from Canada, who had come to sing just for them. Very very cool. Next was a tour of their rooms and kitchen. Currently there are nine boys three to a room. They showed us their closets with all their cloths neatly folded and their Christmas decorations up already!). In one room the three little guys had made a Christmas tree all by them selves. I confess it was the most beautiful Christmas tree I think I have ever seen!
The smiles and fun camouflage the realities of their lives which are very difficult. I know the background of some of these little boys and it does not bear repeating here save to say they have suffered terribly and have much to overcome. They are currently under significant security restrictions since many of them are involved in the legal process where they are the key victim witnesses. This is a traumatic process in itself but in Cambodia it is compounded by the fact that judges have been known to literally laugh boys out of court. The shame in this society is overwhelming.
We need to pray for these little lives. I would love to show you photos but none were taken since these poor kids have been photographed many times before under terrible conditions so we were not about to whip out the cameras and re traumatize them. Also they cannot be photographed for security reasons.
The one photo exception is the Christmas tree which will have to represent these little ones for now. (If I had time this photo would become a Ratanak Christmas card – it represents so much hope in little broken lives.)
Anyway I’m tired and will leave it at that for today.
Blessings all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stepping into (on to) the past.

I felt bad today. The team has been touring and seeing all sorts of wonderful things. They have seen beautiful babies, played with joyful children seen cultural richness and wonderful history… and then Brian shows up! It’s not true but I kind of feel that way for today we hit the Toul Sleng torture center and the killing fields. Definitely time to change gear! It felt like a real downer for the team. While it is not about me I did feel a bit like I was raining on their parade. All their previous activities, orphanage visits etc have ultimately been in a context of poverty and loss but the joy of the kids at Rescue is powerful and somehow eclipses the ambient tragedy of this land. Funny how love and joy can do that! Today, however, there was no such subtlety. Today evil was in their faces! Yet it is in the face of such evil we find our need to be working in this country. It is the brokenness of this land that demands our response. I think the team is up for it and will rise to the occasion.
After 20 years of relationship with Cambodia there are still circumstances that I find jarring. There were several of those today.
Once again I trekked out to the mass graves and once again wandered around looking at the clothing and bones as they continued to surface. This has been going on for decades for this is no normal ground. It is so saturated with human remains that it is more a matrix of clothing and bone than it is earth – how deep it goes I have no clue.
Much has changed since my first visit when I ventured out of the city with armed guards for a fleeting and tense visit the open graves while the perpetrators, the Khmer Rough, moved close to the city. The visit did not last long before my guard nervously fingering their AK-47s became too frightened and insisted we scurry back into the safety of the city before the Khmer rouge would re appear with the setting sun. Now this site is so much more civilized – assuming you can bring civility to a mass grave. Pleasant walkways have been constructed in addition to a well presented photographic and artifact pavilion which walks the visitor through the history of this place in particular and the revolution in general. Tended lawns spread below a carefully positioned pole from which the national flag flutters and westerners and locals alike quietly stroll around to the background noise of children playing and even singing. Oh, and yes, there is now an admission fee.
Once again I wonder around the site with others half the bewildered spectator and half the focused forensic scientist. It is not the stacks of skulls staring back at me from their arranged display, nor is the scene of pit after pit where thousands died that impact me. Perhaps it is years of crime scene work and forensic examination that demands mental and emotional attention be focused on the details. It is the individual teeth, the small button from a ladies blouse or the short length of hammock string knotted to fit the skinny arms of a malnourished victim. It is in these single artifacts that I find intense personal stories – personal tragedies beyond my imagination. For these, all of them, represent real people – individuals with hopes and dreams like my own. Who somehow in events well beyond their control found themselves staggering through this hell not so many years ago.
Into this contemplative scene intrude a lovely young couple speaking German. Obviously in love they walk close and bump into each other obviously enjoying the physical contact. Occasionally they catch each other’s eye in an affectionate glance. Speaking softly they appear oblivious their environment as they stroll. Their love seems to blind them to the bones, clothing and teeth they so casually walk on.
I am instantly offended and in a peculiar reaction find myself picking up teeth and placing them at the side of the walkway so as to prevent them being walked on by the advancing couple. I move carefully as if to express some sort of protection, respect or even affection for these little scraps of humanity that represent such intensely personal loss. For somehow lives long gone seem closer here – more immediate. As I reflect on the couple and the context of their date I retreat from my irritation for they illustrate a strange and powerful thing. God has designed us for love. Affection, tenderness and relationship can not only exist in the context of all things evil - it can obliterate it.
Christ, is our best example of love, which obliterates evil and death. In the presence of such love evil simply cannot stand.
And so, after some contemplation, I think the German couple may simply be illustrating a wonderful and powerful truth. That love does eclipse evil. Love can and does exist in the presence of profound darkness. It can and does overwhelm even the most horrific crimes. It can, and I hope will, overwhelm the evil in our own lives… that we too will trample the darkness underfoot.
In the end that is why we are here in Cambodia - to, like the German couple, trample evil underfoot all the while rejoicing in the relationship we have found in Christ and seeking to share that with so many others who would long to have something or someone eclipse the darkness.
I guess that is the lesson of faith in Cambodia - Joy in the darkness.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

21 Nov. 2009

Cambodia day 1.
Had a good nights sleep - needed that. Up at 7am ad off to my first b'fast meeting. Just admin stuff. I dislike admin stuff but it really does make everything else work if it is done right.

In another hour off to see Sotheary (Ratanak Project Coordinator) just to get things set up for this coming week ans to talk over the new building. Out to the market in the afternoon to get stuff for the team and then dinner where I meet the rest of the crew that will be returning from up north.
Hope to try and post a short video - kind a test to see if i can upload from here.

... Ok so video doesnt work. may try through face book will try later - stay tuned.

Blessings all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

In Korea.

In Korea sitting waiting to board for Cambodia with my iPod plugged in listening to, you guest it, Paul Brandt. (Thanks Ian for getting all this loaded up for your old dad!) OK so I'm Irish - hard to admit but I am becoming addicted to this music. (Louise can attest to this.) Brian - Country!!! AHHHH.

Not a fun flight. Migraine hit before I boarded first 7 hours were agony trying not to throw up with every bump. Don't think I would but it just feels that way. When the T3s finally kicked in things got much better. When it finally passed I did not feel tired at all - rather quite invigorated. I have noticed this a few times before almost a strange sense of euphoria - your body is just so thrilled to not be in pain any more. It makes just sitting still pretty darn exciting!

Half the plane was young Canadians heading out to teach English - very interesting. I'm a bit jaded given that it is from that community that some of Canada's most notorious pedophiles come.

Flying in to Seoul I actually was recognizing bridges that had been in the background of photos i was working on in several investigations. makes me realize i should organize a tour some time of bridges and national land marks of Asia and build a catalog of photos much as i have done with light fixtures, outlets, switches and plugs for the same purpose. I think the bridge trip would be much more fun than Asian light fixtures!

Next stop the country I love!

Gotta run... I'm "Leavin!"

On the road finally.

Just at YVR waiting to board.
Will spend just a few hours in Seoul before heading on to Cambodia. Will arrive there about 11pm so likely wont blog until Sat when my head has caught up with my body.
Remember to pray for all the arrangements as we visit projects and also for my family while i am away. Better go as it is boarding time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ramping Up.

Hi everyone - just getting ramped up for the next trip. It is now Monday Nov. 16th and Paul Brant and the crew will be going through Vancouver today on their way out to Cambodia. I will be catching up in with them in a few days. I leave on Thursday 19th.
I will be showing Paul and others around some of our projects. As well as getting some admin stuff done with our partner NGO’s . Once on the road I will try and post as often as possible.
Make sure you keep an eye on Paul Brandt’s website for postings. As they will be blogging and may even be able to up load video as they go along.