Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Good Shepherd Loves His Sheep

More than paint on the walls. There's LOVE!

I really enjoy our devotional time at The Sanctuary every morning. We gather and start with singing, followed by Scripture and then break into our prayer groups. Each group has a specific area of prayer and ours is God's provision. There is so much to praise God for providing and so much to continue to ask for on behalf of the children of and ministry in Svay Pak. Although this community is a dark corner of the world, much continues to happen in the name of Jesus Christ that is bringing in so much light. I love to hear the children singing in Kid’s Club as they gather each afternoon - singing and laughter.

Today was a magical day. After a hard day yesterday of scraping and breathing in too much lacquer thinner (I thought it was turpentine and used it on the door frames - no wonder my stomach was upset!), today started with a real lightness of spirit. Lorey, Brian and Peter stayed at The Sanctuary to caulk windows and the rest of us headed to Rahab’s House to work on the mural. The design team had it all sketched in yesterday - Jesus, the Shepherd, with children all around. We went to work painting and the children started coming. One beautiful little girl, about 4 years old, stood next to me, not smiling and not talking, but fascinated with the painting. After a few minutes I held up the brush and she put it in her little hand and we painted parts of the wall. She was so mesmerized by the brightness of the colour and the picture unfolding. After that she was my constant shadow, not moving even when the other children started pressuring her to give up her place! Later she crawled into my lap and watched me paint.

The children are why we are here. As that beautiful mural began to unfold, I thought of their lives - each child is a beautiful human being, created in the image of God. Satan tries so hard to turn that into something horrible, but praise God for the redeeming work of His Son and hearts and lives that are transformed. Like that dirty wall that is now a bright and beautiful picture. Throughout the day people continued to come by and crowd into the doorway to watch these crazy westerners - how they laughed and smiled. The children ran in and out and many helped to paint, something that some of them would never have had the opportunity to do before. Some of the older girls, when given the paint and brushes, did incredible work on the flowers - such detail and colours, it was amazing!

Thank you to everyone for your prayers, your encouragement and e-mails. I can't begin to tell you how loved and supported we feel! Thanks for partnering with us so that we could be in Cambodia and be part of this little miracle of change.


Light of the World in Svay Pak

“You are the light of the world,” Matthew 5:14

Svay Pak is a dark and hurting place, and God has a plan to bring light to it – and through Christ, we are part of that plan. Jesus is telling us that we have been rescued out of the darkness so that we can be the light of the world.

We have each witnessed things that we had read about in preparation for this trip. However, seeing it happen right before your eyes is hard. We have been in a restaurant right down the street from our hotel eating dinner and witnessing men with young girls; we arrived at work to find a man leaving a building with a large wad of cash and a peak into the room he was exiting revealed a table stacked high with money; we have been praying for a 9 year Vietnamese girl who was the victim of rape from a 45 year old Khmer man. Svay Pak is a very dark and hurting place.

Each member of our team has experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ and know the power of forgiveness and hope. We have been transformed and cleansed from the inside out. As we are now at the cleaning stage of our work at the Sanctuary, we have set the stage – the building is clean and will soon be ready to provide more light and hope to Svay Pak. The people who will use this new building will continue the mighty work of God. Lives will be transformed of those who enter its doors.

If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. Isaiah 58:10

Thanks for all the prayers and emails of encouragement. They are very much appreciated. You would never believe that we are actually thinking the heat is not all that bad – that can only be a result of your prayers.


Jo Ann

Echoes of Love in the Streets of Svay Pak

I do not understand Khmer and we get laughed at often by the children in our attempts to learn some of this beautiful language! But it is so wonderful when we all sing together! It doesn't matter anymore who speaks what language and how we pronounce all these strange and unfamiliar sounds. We just all sing and clap to praise the same Lord.

We opened with devotions in the Sanctuary, as we do every morning, singing songs out of our little song book that Karen did such a wonderful job putting together. Then around 8:30 Brian Harper (Ratanak Australia) and a small entourage from Australia showed up to take photos and do some filming. So we all climbed up the three sets of stairs to sing some old familiar hymns in the Sanctuary. To sing together in such a beautiful building with wonderful acoustics that echo our voices through the entire building and down the streets, is absolutely thrilling!

Finally, this afternoon, during kids clubs we sat and sang and clapped as best we could along with the children singing their little hearts out. And of course they asked us to sing back to them. So Greg, Joanne, Melanie and I sang 'Jesus Loves Me' while all the children clapped and 'Only a Boy Named David' during which they all did the actions and laughed out loud when I fell to the ground as Goliath!

I love the people of Cambodia; they are gentle and warm but so in need of love. So even if it’s just our singing that echoes through a building that was once filled with darkness…may this reach them and warm their heart’s so they wonder about the God we serve. I will sing! ...while I'm painting of course!


Rahab's House - A High Impact Place!

Today was one of the days that Rahab's House holds a medical clinic. It was amazing to realize that people come from miles around to get first aid at this clinic. The room was crowded with the elderly and mothers holding babies (none in diapers - they just have bare bottoms, and we haven't been able to tell what happens when they need to go!) In Cambodia there are not a lot of people in the middle age bracket. The population here is very young. Pastor Chanta and his wife Buntahn run the clinic along with several of their young disciples. They have been trained by a nurse to administer first aid. Several of the disciples were taking people's blood pressures. We were told that many of the people at the clinic suffer from skin ailments. A lot of the patients are workers at brick factories, and because of poor water/sanitation, they suffer from scabies, fungus and itchy skin. We were happy to tell them that we brought 12 suitcases full of medications for their clinic, collected from all our friends in Canada. Among our medications we had many tubes of skin cream. They were so happy they had tears in their eyes (or it could have just been sweat because it is a thousand degrees here!)

We were just talking about Rahab's House, and are just so amazed at the many programs that go on in that one small building. Rahab's House is just transforming the village! Today, in the front entrance, there were about 40 children having their daily afternoon kids' club. Beyond them in a large back room, there were about another 40 people waiting for medical attention. Before that, at noon, Buntahn had just served our team of 12 a hot Khmer meal, and on Sunday morning, more than 200 people attended church service in this room. We really enjoyed the church service - they sang for us, and we sang for them. Not to mention, that the pastor and his family, and all his disciples live and eat at Rahab’s. Last weekend, they had over 25 other pastors from the area for a retreat - and again, they all ate and slept there. Amazing? Yes.

Today we finished up painting at the Sanctuary (2 doors down from Rahab’s). It is painted and ready for the electrical and plumbing to be finished. Hopefully it will be ready for use by the end of April. For those of you who don't already know, the Sanctuary is a beautiful 5 story building that will soon be used for school, medical clinic, church, community centre and dwelling for a couple ministering families. Rahab’s will become a daycare, to keep safe the many children that fend for themselves alone each day. So...things are really happening here. The village seems like it would be a dark and desperate place without the light of Rahab’s House, and now the Sanctuary - Praise God! We feel such thankfulness in our hearts that the people have someplace to turn with their many needs.

Tomorrow we will be painting a mural in the front room at Rahab's House. It is a picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, surrounded by His children. It will be a beautiful statement to all the children in the village, that they are precious and worthy to us and to God.

Karen and Lorey’s Impressions of Cambodian People:

- the people basically live outside, and are always eating, working and playing together - very relational people

- they are not afraid to be close to one another - we've seen 5 people on a motorbike (we've also seen live chickens and ducks hanging off the back of a bike, and one dead pig!)

- they cook and eat together constantly - they don't bring a premade lunch to work - they cook it there, and eat with all their neighbours

- they are so relaxed, they can cut each other off at an intersection (and they do all the time), and there is no road rage

- they spend a great deal of time washing laundry by hand, and there is clean laundry hanging everywhere - on hangers, outside on racks - their clothes are really clean too - Lorey thought it was a garage sale at first and wanted to stop and shop!

Karen and Lorey’s Thought for the Day:

We feel there is a great deal we can learn about life from the Cambodian people. Don't be afraid to get close to someone, and let them into your personal space, and into your life. Call a friend, go and talk with your neighbours, have a coffee with someone. Maybe we Westerners wouldn't be so lonely, if we just stopped and relaxed for a moment, and took some time to look around us at all the people that need a connection.

Love Karen and Lorey

Hope. Joy. Hurt. Despair. Hope....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Today was full of extremes – extreme joy and extreme despair. The day began early, 6:00 a.m., with a Skype call to our families and friends at Cambodia Night at our church in Cambridge, Ontario. It was wonderful to hear the voices of our loved ones and to share a few moments with them – the wonders of technology! Then it was a quick breakfast and into the van to get to church in Svay Pak by 7:45 a.m. As we turned down the road leading into Svay Pak, the street was full of activity. It was wonderful to hear from Beth that many of the people we saw were walking to church! As the van came to a stop in front of Rahab’s House, I saw a cock fight directly across the street with men crowded around to watch and probably place their bets. Then to turn around and look into Rahab’s House to see that long narrow building full of people gathered for worship. What a wonderful service it was! To look into the faces of the people as they listened to the music, shared communion, and heard the Word of God preached by Pastor Chantah was a great blessing...extreme joy!

After lunch we visited Tuol Sleng Prison where the Khmer Rouge imprisoned and tortured thousands of Cambodians. In preparing for our trip to Cambodia, each member of our team was given a topic to research and mine included Tuol Sleng Prison. In doing the research I had seen many photographs of Tuol Sleng and read in some detail of the atrocities that took place there and I think was somewhat prepared for what we were about to see. What I was not prepared for was our tour guide. He was very quiet and soft-spoken as he shared with us details of the horrific events that happened there. It wasn’t long before he shared his story. He was a young boy of 15 when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975 and within hours began the evacuation of the city. As he told us about those imprisoned and tortured within the walls of this place, he also spoke of those “imprisoned” outside the walls. He spoke of how, as a teenager, he was enslaved and forced to work in the extreme heat with no water and basically no food; how he survived by squirreling away bugs and small lizards that he would eat when no guards were watching.

What was most heartbreaking was the loss suffered by this 49-year-old man. As he spoke of the tyranny of Pol Pot from 1975 to 1979 and the subsequent civil war which ended in 1998, he said several times, “That has been my whole life.” When he was young he wanted to study to be a medical doctor and “now that is all gone—now I am just a tour guide here in this place.” This man suffered the loss of not only family and friends, but the loss of his dreams, his “life” and he struggles to try to understand it all. This man been unable to find any peace...he is still enslaved to those events of his youth – extreme despair.

This morning we witnessed first-hand the hope and joy that only Jesus can bring and this afternoon, the hurt and despair that only Jesus can heal.


Hard Work and Happy Moments

Today, a few of us began drawing out the murals in Rahab's house. Thankfully, Sean, our team leader and gifted illustrator saved the day. He drew a wonderful depiction of Jesus as the good shepherd while the rest of us diddled around trying to contribute. He encouraged us on, graciously repairing our blunders only when we asked him to. As we worked, little children came into the Rahab's house to see what we were doing. They played hand clapping games with us and stayed nearby looking on. They also took their own shot at drawing on the wall or colouring something in.

The rest of the team worked scraping, sweeping and mopping the floors at the Sanctuary. It was tedious work as each fleck of paint and grout was slowly scratched from the ceramic tiles.

In the afternoon, we spent some time at the kids club which actually runs 5 days a week from 2-4pm at Rahab's. The children of Svay Pak come in and sing songs about Jesus. They also run a free clinic for the people of Svay Pak. Women come with their children and sit to wait for treatment and medication for themselves or their kids. While they are there, their kids can participate and they themselves hear all the songs and see their children having fun. It is a wonderful way to minister to the people. Intended for the people in Svay Pak, apparently people come for miles around, even paying a taxi fee, because of this free clinic.

Some of the girls from Newsong visited kids club too. One of the girls bought two loaves of bread from a moto-vender who stopped outside in the street. She offered one to me then shared the other with her friends from Newsong. That was beautiful. I, in turn, offered it to our team as they trickled out of the Sanctuary to join us, but some are experiencing tummy troubles and so declined. But the fact that she shared in this way was truly a gift. They were asked to sing to the children after we had and I marveled to see them singing songs of Jesus' love.

The people seemed to be a little warmer toward us today. I imagine it must be difficult for them in a way, to watch us arrive in their neighbourhood in our air-conditioned van, and be in their community for a couple of weeks only to turn around and go home. We don't have to live what they live everyday. Not so for Pastor Don Brewster and his wife, Bridget, who will move into The Sanctuary when it is completed. They will be living right in the midst of the people of Svay Pak, just as Pastor Chantha does. How amazing!

I have to add this bit on the end...on Sunday when we attended church at Rahab's, I asked to hold a lady's little baby. She took off his little briefs/shorts (many of the babies do not wear diapers), wiped his bottom with them, then handed him to me! Too funny.