Sunday, March 28, 2010

An Intense, Wonderful Day in Cambodia

Today was a day of highs and lows. Very emotionally draining, yet exciting and challenging.

The morning started with a skype call to our families at a Cambodia night at the church. The families enjoyed a traditional meal and then got to speak to each of us - they could see us but we could not see them (so sad.) Someone needs to teach Terry how to skype so we can talk - every one else here is doing that. Oh well.

We then went for a very quick (10 minute) breakfast before heading to Svay Pak for church. This was a very emotional service for us to witness - and all without showing any sadness or tears (as some of the children/youth would not understand the reason for our emotions.) First of all, the place that they held church in is called Rahab's House - this was a former brothel with many small cement stalls where the children would be rented out to service men. A team from Canada went in 2008 to smash the cement walls down and create this beautiful space which is now home to their kids club. One stall has been retained - it used to be painted pink and was known as the 'virgin room' where girls as young as five years of age would be rented at a premium. Today there were over 200 people packed in to celebrate communion, sing about their saviour God and hear the truth of the gospel shared. We song Amazing Grace and It Is Well. The actual service has participation by many of the children and youth, which is just incredible to witness knowing what terrible things they have had to endure in their short lives. I was very fortunate to have a young man beside me who could speak English and he translated as the Pastor delivered his message. He spoke of the temptations of life and how we are not to be conformed to this world, but transformed by the power of God. We all have temptations in our life and must rely on God to fight the temptation - we cannot do it alone. I saw one women writing down notes and nodding agreement throughout the message. She was glowing.

From here we went to Hagar's for a buffet lunch (just like at home, hun.) This is another one of Ratanak's projects that has helped people used in the sex trade to learn a new trade - running a restaurant. We all thought this was an amazing lunch and hope to go back. It looks like it used to be a very nice home and they have transformed it into a beautiful restaurant. The staff were very gracious and eager to make our meal enjoyable.

Next we went to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - this was a former secondary school that was transformed into a prisoner turning the Pol Pot reign. We were given a guided tour and saw pictures that are forever burned in my mind of the atrocities of one very paranoid and unstable man. I can still not understand how another human being can be so cruel and brutal to another human being. As a group we were talking afterwards of how the people who committed these tortures and killings can live with themselves. It is just so foreign to me and so difficult to wrap my mind around. The tour guide we had was 15 years old when the city of Phnom Penh was evacuated - he lost all but one school mate. He, himself, does not understand the reasons behind what transpired in Cambodia. How can one listen to the story of someone who lived through this experience and not be changed forever?

Our next stop was one of the killing fields: Choeung EK Genocidal Center. Absolutely mind numbing. Again to imagine the hundreds of bodies dumped in a mass graves; the killing of children by beating them against a tree was difficult and we were standing right there in front of holes in the ground and the tree used. We saw bones sticking out of the ground, cloth from clothing worn by the buried coming up out of the ground. We were on sacred ground. We had the opportunity to wander at our own pace and reflect on what was done in this place - very emotionally draining. How can one see this and ever be the same again?

We then ventured to the Russian Market for some shopping. This was an experience unto itself - hundreds of stalls inside with an aisle barely wide enough for one person. It was extremely hot. Deals were everywhere - if you are a shopper you would have a great time. Those that know me, know that shopping is not one of my favourite activities. Suffice it to say, the two hours allotted was one too many for me. Others quite enjoyed it. You could get anything from car parts, shoes, DVD's, clothing, knick knacks, fresh fish, vegetables, eggs, fruits to sunglasses in one location.

How does one balance the contrasts in Cambodia? - one day at a time knowing God is in control.

Love to all,
Jo Ann

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