If anyone asks me if this experience in Cambodia has impacted my life, without hesitation my response would be a resounding "Yes!” When we were preparing for this project, we were asked to be open to however God would choose to use and change us through this experience in order to advance His Kingdom. We have experienced daily miracles from our loving Father, whom, I am confident, used this time, away from the insane trappings of North American life, to show us what He can and will do when Christians choose to be yielded and available to Him. There wasn't a day that went by where our eyes weren't drawn to God and the miracle of His touch in the lives of His children in some way or another. I believe this was done as a gift to each one of us; our Heavenly Father, in absolute joy, showing Himself to us in very tangible, loving and awe-inspiring ways.
First, God put together this incredible team of very talented individuals who worked, prayed and praised and played together with energy and incredible harmony. The amount of work we achieved in the time we were here was nothing short of miraculous and we are thankful we got it all done and then some!
My heart has been deeply touched by the people and children of Svay Pak. The first day we arrived in this village, the streets were completely empty - no children, no adults, no movement, except for the wind blowing the dust and garbage in the street. Behind The Sanctuary are houses, forming a "U" shape around a garbage heap and the smell can be overwhelming. This is a community where the enemy has held court for so long, but now ground is being taken back for the King of Kings! It is a tremendous battle, but in Christ we are victorious. Pastor Chantha and his wife Bunthan have responded to God's call to move into this little community and to share the transforming good news of Jesus Christ and hearts are being changed. We had the privilege of attending a Sunday morning service, with 200 present to hear the Word and worship together.
One very hot day at The Sanctuary, we were painting the stairwells and began to sing hymns: Amazing Grace, The Lord's Prayer, It is Well With My Soul...the stairwell created incredible acoustics and the singers, incredible harmonies. It was hard not to feel you were close to heaven in that experience, raising voices in praise, in a building that will be used to reach out to the broken and hurting in this community. At one point, Beth came running in, saying "Keep singing! You can hear it in the streets and people are stopping to listen!"
A decision was made to create a mural in the entrance way of Rahab's House - this wasn't planned for, but was, again, a miracle of God. This project was started and finished in a day and a half, but more amazing was that as we started to paint, the people of Svay Pak came to watch. Soon the entrance was filled with adults and children who watch a scene of Jesus the Shepherd, with children, begin to unfold. One little girl, about 5 years old, stood by me with a very serious face. She had large brown eyes, curly hair and teeth that were just beginning to rot. I handed her the paintbrush and guided her hand to paint - I am sure she has never held a brush, nor had an opportunity to help create something so vibrant and beautiful. After that she shadowed me and eventually crawled into my lap, waiting for a turn to paint. I know that Jesus is doing that in her heart - painting a beautiful picture of His redeeming love.
This same little girl came back when we returned to Svay Pak on Tuesday to paint the main hall of Rahab's House. I spent more time playing with her than painting and it was a joy to hear her laugh and more so when Pastor Chantha told us a bit about her. This precious little one lives with parents who don't care for her; she apparently wanders the streets at all hours of the day and night and often Bunthan is feeding her. This child was so starved for affection and safe touch, that she clung to us, not wanting to let go. What is so sad is that because of her parents' neglect, she is ripe to be used for trafficking or rape and I pray that God will continue to protect her from that as He has done so far. This is why the work of The Sanctuary and the Christian community in Svay Pak is so critical - reaching out to those who are broken, hurting and in need with Christ's love. When it was time for us to go, this little one wouldn't leave me - I had to ask one of the girls to take her and had to pry her arms and legs from me and how she cried. It broke my heart to think that she would return to a home where no one would hug her or kiss her cheek or tell her she was beautiful and created for a purpose.
One little boy would come to me and poke me, "Yo," he would say. Eventually he remembered my name, so he would poke me and say, "Sheri, sing me 5 songs, sing me 2 songs." It didn't matter what we sang or who sang it, but when he heard the music, he would laugh and smile, "more songs." This is another little one who we pray will be transformed by Christ through the work of The Sanctuary, that he will become a leader in his community, not follow the examples of violence and rape that he has been exposed to.
The group of young men and women that Pastor Chantha is mentoring spoke volumes to my heart - each one with a very difficult and painful testimony, yet boldly walking through the community proclaiming the good news, often in the face of opposition. It is hard work, but they are committed to sharing the Jesus who transformed their own lives. I watched as Bunta ran the medical clinic as she does twice weekly and while the people waited to see Bunthan to talk about their hurts and ailments, these young men and women sat and prayed with/for each one. Some listened, some looked away, but all were prayed for. And I am confident that "He who began this good work...will carry it on to completion..." As we laid hands on Pastor Chantha, Bunthan and the young men and women who they work with and prayed over them before we left, Pastor Chantha said, "This generation of children will be raised up by God to change the people of Svay Pak." He looks forward to a community where violence ends and people know and follow Jesus and that is our prayer for Svay Pak - Lord, take it and make it Yours. Use those in Rahab's House and The Sanctuary to transform these people into a community that knows and follows you.
Amen and amen.