Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wounded Healers

One of the Bayside team members is a Canadian lady called Barbara Wilson. I've gotten a chance to chat with Barb and sit in on one of the classes of a workshop that she is doing for Pastor Chantha's students. Barb is the founder of Freedom Bound Communications and she speaks internationally to youth and adults with her message of sexual bonding and healing. She has been ministering to child prostitutes in California and teaching them a message of freedom, forgiveness and healing so that they can break free from the trauma of their past. She is educating Pastor Chantha's students on how to minister to kids in Svay Pak who are dealing with sexual trauma but before equipping them with the tools they need, she has been having the students go through an 'inventory' of their own lives to help them to understand and gain insight on how their own family history and background has impacted their journey of brokenness. They are learning the importance of expressing their emotions, their feelings and grieving their losses as they share their pains in a safe setting. This is such a valuable exercise especially for this younger generation in Svay Pak to go through for the Asian culture is such that often 'saving face' is more important than expressing ones deepest needs, pains, vulnerabilities or hurts. Many of them have parents who grew up during the Khmer Rouge Era who are still experiencing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and who have buried their emotions instead of dealing with the pains from their past.

Barb was explaining to the students how trauma can manifest itself in a person's life as she talked about such symptoms of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, violence against others or against ourselves etc and as they reflected on their own family lives they began to learn and see connections on why their parents treat them in a certain way and how this has affected their own lives. As some of the students went through this exercise they were in tears but I believe that God is using those tears as a first step to release healing and freedom in these students lives as they mourn losses and pains that they didn't even know they had. As they learn about their own wounds and embrace the pains of their lives they begin a journey of healing in which they turn their mourning into dancing. A journey in which they become wounded healers to the traumatized kids in Svay Pak. Henri Nouwen says it bests when he says 'mourning makes us poor; it powerfully reminds us of our smallness. But it is precisely here in the pain or poverty or awkwardness, that the Dancer invites us to rise up and take the first steps. For in our suffering, not apart from it, Jesus enters our sadness, takes us by the hand pulls us up gently to stand and invites us to dance.' We find the way to pray as the psalmist did, 'You have turned my mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11) because at the center of our grief we find the grace of God.

This is what Christ is doing with Pastor Chantha's students. He is inviting them to dance as He lifts them up from their own pain and suffering. And as 'they dance, they realize that they don't have to stay on the little spot of their grief, but can step beyond it. Instead of centering their lives on themselves, they can pull others along and invite them into the larger dance--the dance of the Lord. This is the hope of this workshop--- that Pastor Chantha's students indeed will be viewed as the safe person for the little ones here in Svay Pak to come to as they are in the midst of their own trauma. As Barb said, by being that 'safe person' you give hope to a traumatized person because you give them a place where they can share their pains and begin a journey towards healing as they discover that there is indeed one person who cares and loves them. So join us in prayer, that as this new generation of students learns to express their emotions, to share what is going on within their hearts they will set an example for the kids in Svay Pak to be more open about their own pains and in so doing begin the journey towards an emotional healthy spirituality where they are no longer imprisoned by the shame, pain and guilt of the abuse but move towards a journey of healing, forgiveness and freedom.

As I think of the wounded healers in this community, I see it in the face of Paulie--whom I blogged about a while back along with her sister Lim. Pastor Chantha believes Paulie has great leadership potential and he hopes that one day she will rise up and be an influential leader not in Svay Pak but in the government. Paulie certainly has that ability. She leads the Sunday morning worship alongside Ratanak, she is always the one leading the Kids in the kids club through various songs and when the teams leaves, she initiates the prayers and songs to bless them. Today I saw in her the servant heart of God in a wonderful gesture of humility. She was actually cutting and filing the finger nails of the 5 teenage boys who used to pimp the girls and have now become key allies in our fight against child sex trafficking in Svay Pak. She was being a big sister to them, serving them in a loving way and no doubt commanding their respect as she showered them with the gentle touch of Christ. This from a girl who has experienced abuse at levels we cannot truly understand. Yet as I look at Paulie, again I see the grace of Christ, giving her the ability to give love with humble and Christlike compassion. Indeed, in this little community of Svay Pak, we see the seeds of God's love rising up in this younger generation as He shapes and forms their character into His image using their brokenness and their woundedness as the first fruits in which His beauty is displayed

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two Special Girls!

If any of you have seen our Ratanak presentations you would have watched a video that featured Mien who at the age of 14 chose to sell herself as a sex slave in order to pay off the debts her family had incurred. For 6 months she was raped and sexually tortured from 5pm to 5am. After that horrendous ordeal, she continued to move from brothel to brothel over the next 6 years in order to support her family. One day she was rescued and brought to the Newsong centre. While Mein stayed at Newsong, the former brothel where she was held captive was converted into what is now Rahab's House and Mein returned to volunteer during those early days when a kids club was established. Mein was then reintegrated back to Svay Pak to her family and she has set up a tailoring shop here.

Today she came by to visit Bridget Brewster at The Sanctuary as Mein is helping to make the curtains for the Brewster's apartment which is on the 5th floor of the Sanctuary. She will also be making all the school uniforms for the kids when The Sanctuary school opens in October. Mein has been attending the Sunday services at the Sanctuary and got married last year. It was so great to meet her as she is really one of my heroes. She has survived such a traumatic past and yet today she is a beautiful young woman with a beautiful smile. God indeed has not only restored her hope, He has restored her dignity, He has restored her joy and He has given her a new life, a new future as she lives out her dream of having a tailoring shop right in this community, a place she calls home. She is a reminder that there is no life so destroyed, so devalued and so degraded by Satan, that God cannot heal and redeem. She is a living testimony of the power of God to do the impossible because He really is the God of the impossible!

After lunch as I was sitting talking to one of the team members from Bayside, my 'special daughter' 'SN' who many of you have prayed for over this past year came by to visit. I don't get to see her too often as she goes to a private school near Svay Pak and so does not have the opportunity to come to the daily kids club at The Sanctuary. Nonetheless, she comes faithfully every Sunday to Sunday school and some times during the week she will pop in on her way to school during the lunch hour to say hi. Today when I saw her, she surprised me by giving me earrings that she had made. I'm so touched with her thoughtfulness and her generosity. Here
The earrings from 'SN'

is a little girl who is only 11 years old and has so little. Her mother and father own a brothel in Siem Reap and her little sister unfortunately is caught in that web of oppression. SN lives with her grandmother who attends church at the Sanctuary and while she is always at risk of being sold, she too is a living testimony of the power of prayer as many people have stood in the gap on her behalf asking the Lord to protect her from further abuse. I am grateful to God for the special friendship He has given me with SN. While she can speak some English, it is limited, yet God has shown me through SN that language barriers cannot limit His love. He is the One who can knit hearts together between two people from two vastly different cultures and life experiences to demonstrate that His love knows no bounds. This is the power of Christ's love. This is the mystery of His love. This is the blessing of His love!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Deja Vu!

Have you ever had those days when you feel like you have experienced the same thing some where else. Well today was one of those days when I felt like I was back in Toronto working at my desk on the trading floor. Now one may say 'how can there be any similarity between two such worlds which are so vastly apart?' In Toronto, every day is always a new day at work, one never knows what to expect and economic information, stock market data and world events all have to be processed and analyzed to figure out what the investment strategy might be for that day. If one likes routine, forget it----this is not the job for you. You need to stay flexible and go with the flow, expect the unexpected and think on your feet if challenges arise. It is a very dynamic environment and one in which I have to confess I enjoy as there is an adrenalin rush trying to analyse all the data and sort through the information to make some sense. One can never get bored. Such experiences are common here as well in Cambodia and today I couldn't help but think, this is just like working in Toronto! :-)

So what do I mean by all this? Well the team of 14 from Bayside church started their first day at The Sanctuary today. When I arrived just after 9am there was a slew of people sitting outside and inside waiting for the medical clinic to begin. Bunthan---our chief medical advisor was no where to be seen---she was starting her first day of English classes with one of the Bayside team members. Ally a nurse and her husband Steve a respiratory technician were sorting through bags of medication they brought trying to figure out how the clinic works. Pastor Chantha's students who usually could help were off doing several other roles---working in the morning with the other Bayside team members for the morning's kid's club, helping out at the Lord's gym and some were also teaching in the morning classes. A quick assessment and I realized there were no spare bodies except for Mickey my tuk tuk driver and me! So guess who had to explain about the medical clinic and how things work! Yep, it was moi! I think God has a funny sense of humor. This was one of those moments for another desperate prayer and that is what we did 'Lord we need your wisdom and discernment, fill us now and give us all that we will need today! :-) We got Mickey to be one of our translators along with Pastor Chantha. So the clinic opened up and the first patient had malaria---great what do we do? Never had one of these situations before and Nurse Ally herself began looking up her medical book that she had brought to figure out what the best medical treatment was.

Suffice to say, I've had the opportunity to be involved in the clinic now for the past couple of weeks and am slowly getting used to the routine. However, given the 60 plus patients that were waiting, we did end up pulling Bunthan out of her English class so she could help. Working in the clinic feels like working in one of those emergency trauma units (not that I would know but it reminds me of the ones I've seen on TV), except the patient is not in trauma---we are the ones with 'mental trauma' as we try to figure out what to do! At one point, Pastor Chantha and I were partnering together during the clinic and we were quite 'efficient' in seeing several patients compared to the rest (not that this is a competition---God forbid that we should treat people like statistics) but we came up with a strategy to treat what the patients had come for and not to keep asking if they had any other medical problems. I can just imagine some medical people rolling their eyes! Thankfully it all worked out. God is so good to us!

But that was only the first hour or so when the group that was doing the kids club didn't know they were suppose to be providing snacks for the 130 kids that were in the morning session and the 170 that were coming in the afternoon. The kids club was about to finish and a mild panic erupted as one of the a Bayside team member asked if the centre had any snacks at least for today. Unfortunately, everything is run very tightly here so 'no' there were no extras. Well, I felt like I was on the show The Amazing Race as off I went with one of the students hunting around the neighborhood for snacks when it quickly became apparent that the quantity we required was not available in Svay Pak. So Plan B materialized as I went sitting on the back of a motorcycle (its okay Mum it was safe, I've done this before in Cambodia) of Ravi, a student to the local market. We did the 'snack run' twice given the quantities we were buying. Then it was running up 3 flights off stairs to give the snacks to the team. I think I lost a few pounds today from all this exercise! Yeah!

Am looking forward to seeing what tomorrow will bring! Another day, maybe another adrenalin rush! Just like Toronto! Who would have thought! Thank you Jesus that you cause everything to work together for the good of those who love You and are called according to your purposes!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Day Full of Gifts!

Today was one of the fullest days I have ever recalled having in Cambodia over my last 10 years of visiting this country. Yet despite all the activity, it was a precious reminder of what my pastor once said: ministry is not our gift to God but God's gift to us. Today it seemed He was just unwrapping gifts before me that I was simply to receive in each setting He presented through this day in Svay Pak.
Sunday Morning Church Service

I left home at 7am picked up 3 Khmer friends enroute to Svay Pak. The service was jammed pack as usual and today a new team from Bayside Church, California was attending the service. They have been coming to support the ministry in Svay Pak over the past 2 years and will be here for the next two weeks running a medical clinic daily 9am to 4am, having a kids club in both the morning and afternoon, helping to do some renovations in the new Lord's Gym location and doing some work in a brick factory. One of the team members Barbara is the lone Canadian on the team and she has written several books on dealing with healing from sexual trauma and ministering to child prostitutes in the US as they journey towards healing. She will be teaching
Pastor Chantha's students on how to minister and talk to those kids in the community who have experienced such woundedness. I am hoping to perhaps attend a few of her sessions.
Student Leaders Singing

More Students Singing!

Small Kids Choir Singing!

At any rate, the service this morning had lots of singing from 3 different generations with several of Pastor Chantha's students leading worship, followed by a small group of youth singing, then some cell group leaders and a group of girls from the Newsong Centre. Indeed there is a lot of worship going on in the Sanctuary on Sunday mornings but no doubt it is a joyful noise that surely must be a delight to the One who has ordained praise from His creation.

Some cell group members singing!

The Guitar Trio!

I joined with 3 of my guitar students as they sang and performed 'Lord I lift Your Name on High. It was so good to see them do this despite their nervousness. It is my prayer that these 3 students will continue to teach the rest after I leave as they are certainly quick learners and with each guitar class, it is evident that God is increasing their confidence and ability.
I then followed up with a song called Jesus We Enthrone You but incorporated a brief message using the words of the song. The congregation was asked to lay down their burdens, their pains, their fears, their hurts, trials and their difficulties at the foot of Christ, to proclaim that He is King over all of our lives--in good times or in bad times and with their hands open I encouraged them to ask the Lord to fill them with His spirit and His power and to build His throne in their hearts-- a throne of joy where there is sadness, a throne of hope, where there is hopelessness, a throne of peace where there is anxiety, a throne of strength where there is weariness and weakness, a throne of wisdom where there is confusion and finally a throne of love where they feel abandoned and rejected. We repeated the song with Pastor Chantha and Ratanak singing it in Khmer and it was such a precious moment as many in the congregation joined in singing what seemed to be a familiar tune to them. I am truly thankful to the Lord for the opportunity and privilege of worshipping in this church. Indeed it has been a special gift that continues to keep on giving!

Well after everyone left, I had lunch with the 'Svay Pak family' made of the Chantha, Bunthan and the 26 students. Bridget Brewster joined us as her and Don have partially moved in to their 5th floor apartment in The Sanctuary. At about 1:3opm, it was bible study time and with Chantha translating, another gift was unwrapped as I had the privilege to lead a bible study on James 1:2-8 discussing persevering in trials. The students are at different stages in their Christian walk --many of them are baby Christians only recently coming to the Lord over the last 8 months and yet there is a hunger to know how to live for God, how to overcome temptation, how to have joy in the midst of trials, how to balance between school and ministry. It has been a long time since I have led a bible study but am grateful to the Lord for the scripture passages that He gave us as we interacted and discussed questions that people often wrestle with regardless of whether we are here in Cambodia or in Canada.
A Cambodian Wedding!

By 3pm the bible study time ended and it was now time to get dressed for a Cambodian wedding. This is one of those firsts for me as I have never had the opportunity to go to a wedding before. One of the students Siny was able to get me a special outfit that was filled with sequins---its the one time you will see 'skin' shown really as the girls are dressed up in sequin coloured dressed and I have to say in this environment, they all look like princesses with full make-up and jewelry---a far cry from just a few minutes ago when everyone was dressed in sweaty t-shirts and capris. It was such a beautiful site as we jumped into the our tuk-tuks to the wedding which was located 1 km from Svay Pak. Along the dusty, dirty roads of Svay Pak in these little hamlet of villages, old and young stood by the side of the road looking on as the guests arrived, checking out the colour gowns that were being displayed for all to see. The wedding was held out side the ‘home’ of the family and when I say home it is really a little wooden shack but in customary Cambodian style, the family rents a bright red or pink canopy with yellow coloured curtains that adorn the side poles.
The family home of the Bride

Under this ‘tent’ like atmosphere are all the tables and chairs decorated like any Asian wedding I have been to back home the only difference is that you are surrounded by the dusty ground,vats of water that are lined outside the shacks in this neighborhood and a little river that perhaps we might call a swamp. It was a sight to see but honestly, it was just another demonstration of beauty in the midst of poverty. It was a blessing to be a part of this celebration. The music was blaring loudly as we arrived and greeted by the mother and father of the bride---two church members.

The mother & father of the bride (left), Bride & Groom (right)

The wedding officially started at 5pm but it seems guests can come whenever they want with food being served until 9pm followed by dancing. Behind the canopy is a make shift kitchen where the dishes are prepared for the guests. Pastor Chantha was allowed to invite 9 other people and so I joined him, Bunthan and some of the students. We literally ate for an hour

Some of the wedding food

and left. The food was excellent if you are a protein lover like me you will love the menu---fish, barbecue pork, beef, chicken and fried rice/steam rice. The vegetables were no where to be found but nonetheless, it was all tasty as we washed it down with our coca cola! At one point, the wind picked up and the rain was coming through the side of the canopy but in this environment, creativity and improvisation comes in handy as the mother of the bride--the consummate hostess, made sure someone hung together some kind of colourful bedsheet to act as a windbreaker---I love it! Only in Cambodia but it was just another special gift to experience this. It was a day of blessing -- a day the Lord made for us to rejoice and be glad!

The bride and groom with some of Pastor Chantha's students

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Old Friends!

Psar Toul Tompong ( The Russian Market)

Today I slept in till 8am---got up and had my quiet time and then went to one of the popular markets called Psar Tuol Tompong otherwise known as the Russian market. It's a great place to get some bargains and many tourists frequent this market. The entire market is covered under zinc roofs with narrow alleyways and endless rows of little stores all crowded together selling anything under the sun and when its hot, you feel like you have entered a sauna of epic proportions. But I suppose for a female, its a great combination of losing weight while you shop so its not too bad really! If you don't like the heat, you will be enticed to buy quickly in order to get out to the 'fresh air'---not the best attitude to have if you want bargains. This is probably not a place for someone to come if they are a bit claustrophobic. When it rains, the alleyways in the market get flooded and the sound of the raindrops on the zinc roof makes the place so noisy that it can become quite deafening. Thankfully it was hot today so I had to contend with the sauna like conditions. Shopping in the morning is good as in Cambodia, the first sale is important to the store keepers as they believe it will bring them good luck for the rest of the day so its the best time to bargain as one can get the better deals then than in the middle or later part of the day:-) Yes, there is even a strategy to shopping in this place!
A few years ago there used to be a lot of beggars within the market and so it was difficult to shop as some of these folks were 'professional beggars' who would use their kids to 'extort' money from the tourists. I say 'extort' as really, the people here are so poor and so its hard to not feel guilty when you are buying things to take home and you are confronted with a beggar in your face asking you for money. Some of them are young kids who were part of a 'group' and if you offered to buy one a coke, a few minutes later, the young boy would bring more of his friends to meet you so you can buy them a drink and so the question becomes, what do you do when you see such poverty in your face? After all, Jesus says whatever you do for the least of these you do for Me---and at the same time it is easy to become cynical as you see parents also exploiting their kids by using them to beg. I don't think there is an easy answer to this problem for Jesus said 'the poor you will always have'---some times we are moved by compassion to want to help and many years ago one of my OMF missionary friends said just invite them to one of the food stalls and have them choose something to eat and then bless them in Jesus name so that they know that you are doing this in the name of Christ. I have found that to be helpful in this environment as we give them dignity by giving them a choice of what they would like to eat and we are letting them know Jesus loves them. It seems like a trivial act and its easy to question whether that is even helping them or if we are just doing it to make ourselves feel better. We are not empowering them but making them dependent on us. I think I'll leave that to the theologians to debate. I think some times we are led to respond by the Spirit and other times, we are not. In these kind of settings, I have to trust that the Lord knows our hearts and really the day we become cold hearted to the poor is the day we stop having a heart like Jesus.

In Cambodia, we are daily confronted with the brokenness of humanity at levels that we do not see in the West and it is easy to close our eyes to the suffering and pain we see here but Christ beckons us to engage and enter into this suffering. Henri Nouwen once said 'when we learn to move through suffering, rather than avoid it, then we greet it differently. We become willing to let it teach us. We even begin to see how God can use it for some larger end. Suffering becomes something other than a nuisance or curse to be evaded at all costs, but a way into deeper fulfillment. There is no human suffering that has not in some way been part of God's experience. That is the great and wonderful mystery of God becoming flesh to live among us. Christ becomes a part of' the suffering we encounter and invites us to learn to dance with others, sharing in God's own compassion as we both give it and receive it. Indeed, we need much discernment each day as we see the brokenness in our midst and we are reminded that there is only One Rescuer and One Savior and His name is Jesus!

My friend Anne and I enjoying our lunch at Sugar & Spice Cafe

At lunch time I met up with an old Canadian friend Anne who has now been in Cambodia for 8 months. God led her to come to Cambodia as a full time worker with Interserve and she is doing a placement with Place of Rescue using her nursing vocation for one and a half years. This is part of her preparation and training before she eventually oversees an orphanage that her church Young Nak Presbyterian is building in Kampong Speu. We ended up going to lunch at Daughters Cambodia's Cafe called Sugar and Spice which is located on the 2nd floor above the store that sells products made by the girls from Daughters --a project funded by Ratanak UK.

Hannah an American volunteer, helping with the jewellry making

I met up with some of the girls who I knew from Daughters last year---they were surprised to see me as I was to see them and they were asking about my team members from last year and wondering when they will be back to spend time with them. Ironically, they seem to remember the song 'No woman, no cry' that our team used to dance to with them at the end of each day during our ministry time at Daughters.It's great to see these girls doing so well and enjoying their new jobs as the cafe has only been opened one month. Richard is a chef from New Zealand who has been here training the girls on how to cook different dishes. He will be helping out here until November. Pray that the Lord will continue to establish the works of their hands as they serve in this cafe and store and with each passing day, He will continue to bless them with greater confidence that they can do all things through Him who strengthens them!

Richard---the New Zealander with the girls

'N' making my ice latte!

Some of the girls who are cooking in the kitchen

Friday, June 25, 2010

Srey 'M' , The Old & The New Chicken!

'Srey M' is one of the 8 year olds that comes to the Kids club and the summer school at The Sanctuary. She is also one of the favorites of the 'chickens' and so some times we see her and other times we don't. She is one of my 'new' little friends in the community and loves to get my attention with her antics. She will holler my name, run up and give me a hug and then as quickly as she came, she will disappear into the crowd of 'little ones'. Her mother sold her quite frequently and despite her age, Pastor Chantha has had to take her a few times to the hospital as she has many STDs. You would never know that by looking at her as she seems like any happy go lucky child, but after her mother fled to Vietnam because the police were looking to arrest her, 'Srey M' was left with her grandmother. Sadly, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, for her grandmother also has been selling her. When I look at 'Srey M', I still find it hard to comprehend how these kids cope with what is being done to them, yet I have heard of a term called 'disassociation' where kids who have experienced abuse are able to separate certain mental events (thoughts & beliefs) from conscious awareness. It is a coping or defense mechanism where they are able to disengage from the traumatic events. We think this is what 'Srey M' and many of the girls here must deal with for to see them is to think they are like any other school kid, laughing and playing and having fun, yet unlike healthy little kids, there is a hidden side to their personality---one that is being crushed and broken at the most sacred levels. Pastor Chantha would love to have 'Srey M' go to the Newsong centre but because she is a 'financial cash cow' for her grandmother, the chances of her going to Newsong are slim. So we pray and ask God to do the impossible---in the visible reality, 'Srey M's situation may seem hopeless and it is easy for us to feel powerless, but in the invisible reality in which the Lord is asking us to live in, we are asked to intercede for these lost, little sheep so that one day they will have the opportunity to be set free from their life of bondage and discover instead a future where they can be a 'whole' person in Christ as He heals and restores the shattered pieces of their lives.

Well it was just after 4pm when Ratanak and I were jamming on the guitar that one of our teenage boys came in to tell us a 'chicken' had arrived in town and so we decided to go take a walk and check him out. We bumped right into him as he was driving his motorcycle out of the main street and I recognized him from a picture I had taken just last week. He is one of the regulars in this place and I was curious as to why his stay was so brief. Ratanak said some times the 'chickens' will visit to just give the money to the family of the girl and she will later be delivered to the hotel of the chicken during the night---this is the business of child sex slavery where children are being served up like an entree at night!

As I started this blog this evening, I got a call from Ratanak asking if I would pray as an Australian chicken had come by Svay Pak and approached him to see if he could help him find a girl and he would pay him. Ratanak said to him, 'I like you so I want to tell you the truth--- if you take a girl the police will arrest you and you will go to jail. The man thanked him and left. Ratanak's prayer request: pray for the man that God will bring conviction on this man's heart, pray for the girls in Svay Pak this weekend---every weekend is a busy time in Svay Pak--pray that God will protect all the children and that those who would seek to do evil will be frustrated in their plans.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Gospel in a song - more than a guitar lesson!

This week as I have started teaching the guitar lessons there has been a set of Vietnamese teenage girls who come. They are not girls who have been trafficked but interestingly enough just want to learn to play the guitar---a musical instrument that I discovered that only boys were supposed to be interested in. Yet here in Svay Pak, the girls are the ones who pick up the tunes more quickly and are more talented than the boys---hmm isn't that interesting! I think the boys are a little bit more ADD (attention deficit disordered) and are less inclined to spend the time to learn. They get bored easily or perhaps they may be a bit intimidated and embarassed that their female counterparts have advanced in their guitar skills ahead of them.

At any rate, these 5 girls were struggling unlike the others females in my class and I thought they were just slow. They knew the chords but they just couldn't play them to the tune. The initial feedback I got was that they couldn't sing but I discovered that the real reason was that their English was limited and hence were having problems learning the song and playing the tune. At that moment, out of desperation I prayed---'Lord how am I going to teach these girls to play guitar when they can't even speak English to understand how the tune goes?' Perhaps the alternative would be for them to learn it in Khmer but that didn't make sense either. Thankfully the Lord gave me an inspired thought---go through the song with them verse by verse in English so that they can learn the tune. A light bulb went on--now I know why the teachers have the students repeat in English the words they learn over and over again. So I began the same process having the girls repeat the words of the first four lines of the song as I slowly sang the tune line by line.

Lord I lift your name on high
Lord I love to sing your praises
I'm so glad you're in my life
I'm so glad you came to save us

A couple of them were shy initially and they kept saying they couldn't do it but with some words of encouragement, they gained more confidence and their faces lit up with smiles when they realized they actually could say the words in English and then sing it. The next step was teaching them how the guitar chords correlated with the words of the song. They soon picked that up and were so excited that they could play these first four verses. One of them even took the song sheet home so she could practice singing the song.

As they were playing their guitars and singing, I couldn't help but think Lord you have a creative way of engraving your truth upon the hearts of these girls. Here they are exalting you in a foreign language and learning the gospel message that is inherent in this song. Tomorrow they will learn the rest of the song:

You came from heaven to earth, to show the way
From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky
Lord I lift your name on high

At this stage, these maybe just words to them but Romans 1:16-17 reminds me that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. For in the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith. Indeed, this is more than a guitar lesson. These are more than just mere words written on a page to teach them English. These are more than words of a nice tune. These are words of life. These lessons are all about the Living God who is seeking to get their attention, who is seeking to draw them to Himself, who is seeking to reveal Himself that they may have new life in Him. They think they are coming here for guitar classes but God has another agenda for them---He wants to give them the gift of salvation. For He has plans to prosper them, to give them a hope and a future!

Pray for these 5 young women that as they attend these daily guitar classes, they will encounter the One who wants to put a new song in their hearts---a song of salvation, a song of hope, a song of joy, a song of peace, a song of love! May this be the beginning of a new journey with the Lord that will lead them to come to the Sunday services to worship the One who has loved them with an everlasting love and has ordained every day of their lives even before one of them came to pass!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Flower Man---and the Flower children

This afternoon I spent part of the time with Bunthan cutting out paper flowers to give to the kids at the Kid's club as she was teaching them about a story from a 'wordless' book called The Flower Man. It is a story about a small, meek man who transforms a small town through simple moral principles. It is a story of how one person can change a community and highlights the principles of compassion, honesty, integrity and generosity. In the lesson shared with the kids, it began with the flower man going to a village that was so dark as he had a desire to share his light with them. The people in the village were initially suspicious of him and would watch to see what he was doing. Over time, the people became receptive to what he was doing as he share his light and flowers with other people and some homes began to be transformed as he would help his neighbors. With each passing day, more people in the community began to connect with the Flower man and suddenly the entire village began to reflect the beauty that it was destined to have. Eventually the Flower man left that town to go to another place that was dark and dismal so that he could share his flowers and his light with a new community.
Ratanak playing the part of the Flower man!

Ratanak acted the part of the Flower man (now how many guys would do that :-)) while some of Chantha's students were the neighbors in the community who had received the flowers. The children learned that the real flower man was really Jesus who has chosen to come into Svay Pak to not only bring His light but to share His light with each family. They were taught that the reason Pastor Chantha, Bunthan and the team is here is because each of them have also received the light of Christ and God has sent them here to share His light and love. Each kid was then given a flower symbolic that God also wants to use them to reflect His light in and through them as they love one another, share with each other and care for one another through acts of kindness.
One of the girls I have had the opportunity of knowing since 2008 is Kim Lai---she's a petite 10 years old like all the kids here, but she is extremely fiesty and is a tough little cookie. The other day she tried to pick me up---can you imagine a little 30 lb kid trying to lift someone who is about 4 times her size. I call her a 'manu klang' ---which means a 'strong woman' as she is not intimidated by any one despite her size! She is certainly fearless and can hold her own if any of the boys pick on her. She also happens to be one of the top students here with a keen mind to memorize scripture as she faithfully comes every day to all the activities in The Sanctuary. Today as I was taking photos of some of the kids flower drawings, she came to show me what she had written on her flower. It said 'I love Jesus', I very very love Him.'

Kim Lai's Flower

This was not something she was told to do, rather it was something that she chose to write. With each passing day, we hope that the Lord will overwhelm each of the kids with His love just as He is clearly doing with Kim Lai, that they will each discover they are His beloved, precious treasures in His sight. Little flowers that bloom and display His beauty and splendor, spreading the aroma of Christ and impacting their community as they become young men and women after God's own heart . We pray that despite the conditions they live in and the constant darkness that hovers in this community that God will continue to water the seeds that He is planting each day in their hearts so that they will become like trees planted along a stream that will bear much fruit for Him whether in season or out of season.

Thank you Jesus that you love the little children of Svay Pak. May you raise up many like Kim Lai who will love you with all their heart and soul and mind as you engrave your truth upon their hearts when they encounter you daily. Fill them with your Spirit that they will walk in step with the Spirit and that the mind of Christ will be upon them. Bless them with hands that will be open to you and hands that will serve others in your name. Bless them with eyes that will see themselves they way you see them. Bless them with minds that will be filled with your wisdom and discernment in order to demolish any argument that sets itself up against the knowledge of Christ. Bless them with feet that will be fitted with the gospel of peace as they bring your good news to others in their community and beyond. Bless them with mouths that will not only be committed to the truth but will speak your truth. Bless them with hearts that are not only undivided for you but will be so pure that they will not only see you more clearly but will be totally devoted to You and Your purposes!

Pastor Chantha's Video Prayer request

Today we have just posted a new video prayer request from The Sanctuary in Svay Pak on the Ratanak Facebook page. Here's the link for anyone who would like to hear Pastor Chantha share the prayer requests that he has for Svay Pak

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's cold and the chickens are coming!

I know I've been lamenting about the heat here but we seem to have suddenly moved into the rainy season and the temperatures have cooled down considerably as the rain has come and when it rains here, it rains intensely---there is no middle ground in this place. The raindrops come pelting down and it stings! The roads get flooded because of the poor drainage systems but so often the people here are thankful for the rain as the kids are out on the street playing soccer and others are just enjoying being soaked. One day I actually saw a guy washing his car when there was a torrential rainfall. I guess he had discovered the 'natural' car wash and was using the heavy downpour to clean his car. All this to say, I am thankful that God created the clouds and the rain as it has made the temperatures more bearable and I'm not dripping my own raindrops---He really has a purpose for everything!

There's a Sesame street song that says 'one of these things is not like the other things, one of these things just doesn't belong, can you tell which one it is.' This was what came to mind today as I went on my usual route on Highway #5 (which is really like a road) to Svay Pak. The scenery changes as one leaves the city and heads out to K11 otherwise known as Svay Pak which is 11 Kilometres outside of Phnom Penh. Each morning I usually have my Ipod on listening to music or a sermon as I take in all the sights, smells and constant sounds of horns from cars, buses, trucks, motorbikes and tuk tuks all letting each other know where they are on the road. At 8:45am the local markets are bristling with people, the street side 'cafes Cambodian style are lined with people eating their morning porridge or noodles and on this morning at the 9 kilometre mark a tuk tuk with three Asian 'chickens' with cameras drove ahead of mine. For some reason, my radar went up, its as if the Holy Spirit 'was prompting me that these 3 chickens were not part of the normal every day picture that I am used to seeing in this environment so I pulled out my camera in case I had any photo opportunities. Indeed they did not belong here and the question was where were they going. We 'happen' to trail them and as we made the corner to turn into Svay Pak, their tuk tuk had stopped at the entrance. I arrived at The Sanctuary received my customary hugs from the little ones but Bunthan and Pastor Chantha were not on the main floor so I stood waiting and sure enough, guess who would come walking down the main street for a morning stroll but these 3 Asian old 'chickens'. I managed to get a few snapshots of them and as I zoomed in I realized that they could be the age of my father as they came towards my direction. What are these old men doing in a place like Svay Pak at 9am in the morning. One of them came over to me and I said hello and he began inquiring of what was going on at The Sanctuary. I told him it was a 'school' and then proceeded to ask him what He was doing here. He said he was from Japan but didn't answer my question so I decided to ask again 'so what are you doing here'---his reply, 'I don't speak English' so I just responded --- 'but you just did, sounds to me like you were speaking English so what are you doing here?' He walked off to the end of the street with his two partners in crime.

Pastor Chantha and Bunthan came out and mentioned that these 3 are repeat 'chickens' who have been here before. These are the chickens who go door to door using their fingers to describe what they are looking for. Thankfully because of the favor that Chantha and his team have in this community, he is often informed of who is doing what and where. Three of our teenage boys who used to do drugs and pimp the little ones have been our key allies as they will often go and follow the chickens around and chat with them to gather info. God is certainly transforming a generation here that once was so morally bankrupt and as He is putting His heart in them, they are the ones who He is using to help protect the vulnerable in this community. They who used to bully and intimidate the young ones are now part of Lord's army in Svay Pak. They are His special soldiers who are keeping watch over the little sheep and they are discovering that they have an important role to play as they seek to live lives that are pleasing and honoring to the Lord they are encountering each day at The Sanctuary!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Guitar classes & a Cambodian Canadian

Well today has been a bit of a long day so I'll be brief as my brain is beginning to shut down. With no teams visiting this week, Pastor Chantha's students were overseeing all the ministries from teaching in the classrooms to doing the kids club. I got to Svay Pak a bit earlier than normal as over the next few weeks I will be teaching two guitar classes daily and wanted to spend time tuning all 10 guitars and also praying for the time together with those who want to learn. One class begins from 10 to 11am and then another from 1pm to 2pm. There is a wide variety of students at each class. Some are new, others have been there before so I'm learning quickly to separate the old and the new in order to have a more efficient and productive lesson time. Some of those who have been playing the guitar since last week are now at the point of playing a complete rendition of 'Lord I Lift Your Name On High' and they will have an opportunity to perform at the Sunday services. While the classes normally start at 10am, the students have become addicted to practising non-stop and so we play almost up to noon time. Pastor Chantha joined us and he is such a quick learner that I ended up showing him a new song---Jesus We Enthrone You. I love singing this song in Cambodia because the chorus talks about God building His throne as we worship Him. This is the desire of us all in Svay Pak and in this country---that every where we go and in all that we do and say He would be building His throne in peoples hearts and in the communities that His people are serving in.

Well it turns out that Chantha knew this song in Khmer and it sounded so beautiful that I asked him to help me sing it phonetically in Khmer. Some times its dangerous to ask people for things, as no sooner had I gotten the words down, he suggested that we both sing it in the services this Sunday. My response---I'll play the guitar, Chantha you sing the song! :-) I think we've come to a happy compromise. While its great to have all these songs in English and the students want to sing them in English, I am hoping that they will learn it in Khmer, after all, it will be more meaningful for their own church members to hear these words in their heart language. So pray that as we learn new songs, that God would use the words of these tunes to touch hearts, bring life where there is none, bringing healing, joy and hope to those who are still seeking and feeling that there lives have no meaning. But most of all, that He will raise up worshippers in Svay Pak that will march through this land proclaiming His kingdom as He puts a new song in their hearts!

By the time the guitar lessons were finished, 3 strings were broken on 3 different guitars and unfortunately we didn't have the appropriate tools nor strings so I left early to head to the guitar stores in Phnom Penh. This was like deja vu for just last year I had gone with two of my team members to some of the same stores to purchase guitars. Thankfully having Mickey my tuk-tuk driver with me is a blessing as he also acts as my translator when I am shopping and bargaining for anything. We got all we needed and I had to rush home to get ready for a dinner with a Cambodian friend who works at Our Thai restaurant in Toronto. Sophera and her husband Tong are not believers and are here visiting relatives for a month. It's always great to go to dinner with Cambodians as they know the more authentic restaurants to go to. So off we went with them and her brother who apparently works for the Cambodian secret service. We were well protected as we had our own personal bodyguard if we needed one! At dinner, I met two other friends of theirs who had lived in Canada and in this non-Christian setting, she asked if I would pray for the food. That was a bit of a surprise for me for I'm not used to having non-believers asking for prayers for meals but here there is an openness to spiritual things unlike the intolerance that we so often see in North America. May the Lord use this very small opening, to plant His seeds of truth in Sophera and her friends lives. I am hoping this will create more opportunities to meet with her in Toronto.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday School at Rahab's House

Some of the kids attending Sunday School at Rahab's House

Today I decided to spend time at the Sunday School at Rahab's House instead of attending the service at The Sanctuary. I got there at 7:40am and kids kept strolling in as the minutes passed. There were about 100 if not more kids who came some of them familiar faces who attend either the school in the Sanctuary or the kids club. Some of Pastor Chantha's students have joined together with a team from Hard Places, a group who are partnering with AIM to teach the Sunday school for the past several weeks as well as teaching English to the kids in the summer school. They did a fantastic job of engaging the kids in some crazy antics. It is always a joy to see the kids laughing and having fun like any 'normal' kid.

The Sunday school involved different praise songs, a bible lesson, a testimony from one of the team members and a craft time. I am amazed that the kids can sit and listen for 1 1/2 hours in this heat but they are used to it. Again as I thought back to two years ago, they were such a rowdy bunch, wild and out of control, not paying attention and yet today, as I watched them, they would say 'thank you' when the crafts were being handed to them, they automatically knew to sit in circles instead of all of them running up to the front like a mass herd of cattle grabbing things.As I stood there, I began to pray over this gathering, that the presence of the Lord would be in their midst, that the Holy Spirit will fill their little hearts with the fruit of the Spirit, that they would be a mighty army for God in this community, that they would be sold out for Jesus and be reflectors of His light, standing up for justice and for truth and most of all, that He would engrave His truth upon their hearts, minds and souls so that they will be committed to testifying that He is indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Giving an offering to the Lord

The one event that was so touching to see was these 100+ kids learning that they too are to make weekly tithings to the Lord. Today as a little red bag with a white cross was passed by the rows of kids, they were singing a song 'thank you Jesus' as they put their meager offering into the bag. These kids really have nothing, they are the poorest of the poor, some of them will be lucky if they have a meal today, yet they are learning at a very young age that all they have belongs to the Lord. They are learning about giving sacrificially. They are learning that while God is no man's debtor, He is a God who will take however little we give to Him and multiply it. In Jesus's hands, such a small fare is the resource that became a miracle. After all, the feeding of the 5,000 in the Gospels was only possible because it was a little boy who gave his 5 loaves and 2 fish to Jesus. So too these little ones are giving their puny offerings but in the hands of Christ it becomes the stuff in which miracles can and do happen. May they have the privilege of seeing Him do such miracles in their generation as they offer not only their monetary gifts, but as they offer their lives to Him as a living sacrifice.
Giving Thanks for the Offering

Saturday, June 19, 2010

AIDS Education & Girls Day Out

Typically I am using Saturday as my 'rest' day so I don't go to Svay Pak but spend the time catching up with other missionary friends who are in the city. However today I left at 7:30am for Svay Pak as some of Pastor Chantha's students were asked to do a drama about HIV/AIDS prevention at a local high school and invited me to come to see them perform. They are so excited to have a 'foreigner' in their midst for events like not sure why but it was great to go along and support them. Sixteen people piled into two tuk-tuks as we headed to the school, a short 5 minute drive from Svay Pak.

Rahab's House Students Waiting To Perform Their Skit

Students at the local school watching the skits

The HIV education program was underway as we saw several hundred students and teachers learning about what causes AIDS and how to prevent it. The skit by the Rahab's House group was created by Bunthan and one of the student leader's Siny. It was a 5 part skit highlighting good students who were being tempted by their peers to skip school, to drink and do drugs. Some attitudes don't change whether you are in North America or in Asia.
Drinking, drugs and partying

However there are differences as students here are known to bribe the teachers in order to get good marks or they will even pick fights with teachers to intimidate them into passing them. This latter point is interesting as typically in an Asian context there is such respect for those in authority but apparently at this school there are lots of gangs, fights and harassment of teachers. How would you like to teach in such an environment!! Some of Pastor Chantha's students go to this school and used to be part of the gangs until they became believers.
The 'good' and 'bad' students

At any rate, as the skit progressed, it highlighted students who fell into 'bad' company and ended up getting AIDS and the impact on their bodies and their families. All of these events were all acted out in a comical way despite the serious nature of the topic. In the end, the message to the students were to obey the rules of the school, abstain from doing drugs, drinking and avoid engaging in sexual activity. Those Rahab House students who participated in the skit did an amazing job and they are so naturally talented when it comes to acting. I think we may have some budding actors and actresses in our midst. Cambodians really love skits and one can see how that can be a great tool to share the gospel in these settings.

Girls Day Out: Dary, Siny, Me and Bunthan

Well I did mention that Saturdays are my day of relaxation and so it was a perfect opportunity to have a Girls Day Out as Bunthan, Siny and another student leader Dary joined me for a day at the Spa :-) in the afternoon. Yes we took the opportunity to each get a 1 hour facial and a 1 hour massage near my hotel. I could get used to this! One of the advantages of travelling with locals is that they know the good places to eat and for some reason the 'Spa' activity seemed to open our appetites so we ended up at a famous Khmer buffet place. Sorry no pics as we were all busy eating, all for the price of US$6.00 per person and I got to have my coconut water which reminded me of my childhood days in South America. Then we were off to a local fruit market to stock up on some of my favorite fruits---mangosteen known as the Queen of fruit in Asia and a new tropical fruit that I discovered called Long Kong in Khmer. Thankfully my Khmer friends did the bargaining as sadly my 'white' skin still commands a high price. So much for being Asian in this environment! :-)

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's Never Dull in Svay Pak

Today started out like any normal morning in Svay Pak with time spent first helping out Bunthan in the kitchen cutting up the vegetables for lunch. Then it was off to help out in the guitar class. Some of our students have picked up the chords quite easily and are now at the point that they are beginning to learn to play a familiar song to many of us called 'Lord I Lift Your Name On High.' The plan is to have them play and sing it in the Sunday service. But there are are others who just can't seem to read how the guitar charts work and no matter how many times you show them the chart and position their fingers, they just can't get it. I think a breakthrough in their lives from God is needed in order for them to truly figure this out.

At any rate, we were about half way through our lunch when a young woman came screaming and crying uncontrollably towards The Sanctuary. All 40 of us got up and ran to the front to see what was going on. For a moment I thought someone's kid was being taken. But we saw a man carried off by the police and another woman come crying to talk to Bunthan. Then one of our students came rushing out and she was on her knees sobbing. It turned out that the man who was arrested was the father of the two sisters Paulie and Lim that I had blogged about a few days ago. He was being charged for child trafficking. His older daughter along with the sisters mother had come to tell Pastor Chantha and Bunthan what was happening. I am struck by the fact that people in this community see The Sanctuary as a place of refuge. It truly is a 'hub of activity' in this place and whether the person has done wrong or right, their family members come seeking help, seeking comfort and seeking direction. In this situation, Pastor Chantha cannot do anything to help this family for the father of Lim and Paulie indeed has done something wrong. Not only had he trafficked his girls but it appears that he had recently trafficked another little girl---at least that is what is being alleged by the police. They noticed that he had a new motorbike and in their eyes, that provided sufficient evidence to haul him in for questioning. Unless the family has money to pay a 'bribe' to the police, he will be held in jail for 6 months awaiting his trial. In Svay Pak, like many other areas in Cambodia, every one knows every one's business and every one is watching everyone else and reporting what they noticed. This reminds me of the time during the Khmer Rouge era where families reported on each other or the young men known as Chlops would report to the Khmer Rouge officials what was going on in the communes. In some ways, we are seeing the modern day version of this in Svay Pak and it has its advantages especially if you are trying to track down traffickers and pedophiles. It can also work the other way, where some people will tip off the brothel owners if there is a raid pending.

As the afternoon progressed the story of Lim and Paulie's father became much more clearer to me. About 11 months ago a little girl about 6 years old was rescued from Svay Pak and taken to the Newsong centre. She used to live with relatives in Svay Pak after her mother left her. Unfortunately this family would sell her for sex whenever they needed money and would allow anyone to rape her whenever the felt like it. She was so mistreated that if there was any food left over after the family ate it, they would throw it on the floor and she would have to scramble and fight the dogs to get anything. Today 'Sparky' is safe and is thriving at the Newsong centre. She can eat whatever she wants and through the staff, she is discovering how much God loves her and values her. She has a new life with a 'new' spark in her quite different from the somber, sad little girl that was first noticed in Svay Pak. Sadly, the family she lived with is none other than Lim and Paulie's family. God not only wants to redeem the life of Sparky but He wants to redeem this family. Paulie is the only believer in her family and is a gifted leader. She has the potential to influence many for God, but as you can see, she comes from an extremely disfunctional family. Pray for God to direct her paths and preserve her that she will one day testify of His transforming power not only in her own life but perhaps in her family's life.

Well another 30 minutes past and an 'old chicken' arrived in town. This is the term the team uses to describe the pedophiles they have seen who are once again visiting Svay Pak. This guy didn't stay too long but no sooner had he left, another hour past and we saw our first Asian sex tourist come walking into town. I'm told that some of them are so bold they will go house to house using their finger to describe what they want since they cannot communicate in English or Khmer. I ended up standing outside of The Sanctuary with some of the students and stared him down as he walked by to head out of the main street. Every few minutes he would turn around and look at us and we at him. So as the weekend begins, the 'chicken's are coming out or as I said to Chantha today, the 'ants' are coming out of the cupboard. They will come and hangout at the so called restaurants or coffee shops waiting to prey on the innocent. Pray that the Lord will continue to expose all the deeds done in the darkness and that He will contend with these who would seek to perpetuate these atrocities. I think its that time again to pray those impercatory psalms.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mickey, The Medical Clinic & The Barangs

Mickey my tuk tuk driver and myself leaving for our morning trip to Svay Pak

Well earlier this morning one of my spiritual mentors texted me asking when a photo of me would appear on this blog. Unfortunately most of the photos I am in, involve kids in Svay Pak and for security reasons, we do want to protect them so with that in mind, I thought I'd include a photo of Mickey my tuk-tuk driver and myself. You've heard me mention Mickey in one of my earlier blogs. He is my personal chauffeur who drives me around all over the place whether it be to Svay Pak or to meet up with friends. But Mickey is not just a tuk-tuk driver. He enjoys going to Svay Pak and is now attending the church there having received Christ recently. He desires to have his wife and 2 year old daughter come to church on Sunday so we're praying that the whole family will come this Sunday. Mickey enjoys being out in Svay Pak. He says it reminds him of the country and he has become part of the family here. He too has a servant heart, always willing to help when needed but he also is participating in some of the activities that we do at The Sanctuary. Today he joined the guitar class I was helping out in and yesterday he was participating in the soccer camp until I told him I needed to go home to meet up with a friend. Friday we will stay later in Svay Pak so he can play soccer in the late afternoon session but also, its the weekend and the sights become more interesting as dusk sets in. I'll share more about that on tomorrow's blog.
Some of the people waiting their turn at the medical clinic

Each day there is always something new to learn and I never really know what I will be doing. I just show up and see what happens. Today was one of those days when I joined in to help out at the medical clinic that happens at The Sanctuary from 2pm to 4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The locals start appearing near the entrance around 12:30 in order to make sure they are first in line. While they wait, the Passion of Christ DVD is shown in Khmer in the 'waiting room' which is really the front hallway. Today we had so many people and I found myself in the role of a 'medical advisor' with Mickey as my translator since Travis the nurse from Texas didn't come. Less you think I am the only one doing this, no that is not the case. Thank God! There is about 6 of us who act in this capacity. Bunthan, Pastor Chantha's wife is the expert on the medicines, then there is Bridget Brewster as well as Chantoo who is Pastor Chantha's brother. Chantoo used to work at a pharmaceutical company so he has a lot of experience in knowing which medications are useful for specific ailments. Finally, there is Mickey who has had more experience in this than I have had as he's been actually helping out at the clinic when the other short term team was here. At any rate, I lost count of how many "patients" we actually saw but I figured now was the time to ask God for some serious wisdom and discernment. For those of you who are of the medical persuasion and are thinking about lawsuits...not to worry, we are not dispensing serious drugs, most of the cases here have to do with high blood pressure, mouth blisters, aches and pains, sprains, diarrhea and heartburn. The more serious cases we connect them with 'professional' medical help. I have to say, its tiring being a 'doctor' in this environment. I had to take notes of their ailments and write down what we would prescribe them. Dr. Gamble where are you when we need you! :-) Listening to people describe all their ailments, I found myself telling people with high blood pressure to cut out the salt in their diet, eat more vegetables, drink more water and eat fish. :-). The clinic has some standard drugs that we give out like multivitamins and paracitomol which seems to be used for every conceivable pain. Then there is ibprofen, for the typical muscle pains which seems to be common as many of the women lift a lot of heavy baskets over their shoulders (the men in this community don't seem to work) so the majority of them were complaining about sore shoulders. Personally I suspect a good shoulder massage would probably solve the problem but we gave them ibprofen. A few ladies had heartburn and so we handed them some antacids and I told them to lay off the spicy food and drink more water! With each patient we passed out a tract and used it also as an opportunity to either tell them about Jesus or invite them to the church on Sunday. I also decided to pray over a few of them. After all, Jesus is the Great Physician and He can do far more healing than the medicine that we are giving to them. So that was my day at the medical clinic. My hat's off to all you medical personnel. This is mentally tiring. I think I'll stick to advising stock brokers!

Bunthan (in the left) and Siny (one of the student leaders)

Well no sooner had the short term team left today and the medical clinic had ended, I was upstairs in the actual Sanctuary playing the guitar and teaching a song to a few of the students when Pastor Chantha's wife Bunthan came running up to tell me about two barang (foreigners) who had just driven down the main street. Apparently they are 'regulars' who are often seen driving around the neighborhood on their motorcycle and she had snapped a photo of them. Of course I'm not one to miss the action myself so off I went with her to hang out outside with my camera waiting with some of the students and young kids for when the barang would drive by. Soon they appeared again and I got a good frontal shot. These guys had a smirk on their face as they drove by looking like they were out to have some fun. Pray that God would frustrate their efforts with each visit to Svay Pak and thwart any of their attempts to harm the kids in this community.

The 'Barang' on the motorcycle heading out to the entrance of Svay Pak

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Light and Darkness

On my daily morning route to Svay Pak, my tuk-tuk takes me through one of the most beautiful parts of Phnom Penh. It is near the waterfront along Sisowath Quay where the Royal Palace and National Museum is situated. The drive along the wide boulevards and colonial buildings is remniscient of of the French influence --after all, Cambodia was once known as the Paris of Asia.

Each morning, I see Buddhist monks who are either heading to or coming from the temples. Their bright saffron color robes provides a beautiful backdrop to the scenery. Of course, one never knows what they might see along this famous boulevard, such was the case when an elephant appeared to be hanging out at one of the restaurants. What do you expect---this is
Elephant Checking Out a Restaurant

Soccer Camp at 'Ratanak' park

Today the soccer camp was in full progress at 'Ratanak Park'---no its not named after the Ratanak foundation but the youth pastor Ratanak whose name seems to be quite popular over here. Everyone has now started calling the soccer field 'Ratanak park'! The soccer camp runs from 9 to 10am and then again from 4 to 5pm. The numbers have grown and I am in awe of the young boys who brave the morning heat. They give new meaning to the phrase having fun in the sun! Pray that the Lord will use this outreach during these summer months to bring the young men into His sanctuary.

Guitar lessons in full session

In the late morning I spent time again helping out at the guitar classes. It looks like we will be offering guitar classes twice a day as the numbers have grown over night. All of Pastor Chantha's students are keen to learn and this morning we spent time teaching them 4 different chords in G. Some of them are naturally talented and pick up the chords quite easily while others are persevering. Today it was the boys that I was telling to cut their nails...for some reason Asian men and boys have long finger nails like the girls. Am not sure why but perhaps that is a question I will have to ask them.

Brothel Owner in Pink Hat sitting on a Tuk Tuk

In the afternoon, a van pulled up in front of the Sanctuary and out came a brother and sister. I recognized their faces from last year. Their mother 'P' is a former prostitute who comes to church but she has not been able to find a steady job and sadly sold both her oldest son and daughter a while back. Her youngest daughter lives here in Svay Pak with her and continues to be at risk given the mother's unstable lifestyle. Thankfully, the older two siblings are now with Hagar, another Ratanak partner. The two had come home for 5 days as their grandmother had passed away. They were both very polite as they came by to greet me with a traditional Cambodian greeting. 'P's son who is now 10 years old was so badly abused by some foreign pedophiles that the doctors needed 6 hours to stitch him up. Today, he was overjoyed to see his mother. His sister who is 8 years old was sold like many of the kids here. I mentioned them as just outside the Sanctuary where they were playing was a well known brothel owner who was sitting in a nearby tuk-tuk while Pastor Chantha was like the 'Shepherd' sitting outside looking at His sheep. She happens to be friends with the children's mother. If you were to see her, you would think she is someone's grandmother chatting with the kids. She looks non-threatening but don't be fooled by her appearance. Her presence is a reminder that the darkness is always close by, how easily it seeks to encroach, encircle and consume the light. As the bible tells us, Satan is like a roaring lion looking to steal, kill and destroy. My reaction to her presence was to walk nearby and pray against all that she represents for the battle for the preservation of innocent young lives in this community is not against the flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Guitar Lessons, English and Khmer Classes

Soccer Field in the Upper Left Corner

Today a new team from the US arrived as the other team left yesterday. Besides hosting the kids club that goes on from 2pm to 3pm, there is a soccer camp that is being held during the morning. As well, some of the team are teaching students from the Svay Pak area guitar lessons. When I arrived this morning I went out to see some of the boys practising the soccer drills. One of the instructors is Samol who is like Pa to the girls at Newsong centre. Samol used to be a soccer coach at Christian camps and for the next couple of weeks he will be out here helping to oversee the soccer camp. The boys who attended had no shoes but they could kick the ball equally as good as their western counterparts. We see this as a key way of reaching out to the young men in Svay Pak, many of whom are either in gangs, pimping or involved in drugs. I watched for all of 5 minutes but with the morning sun beating down once again in an unbearable fashion, I quickly left and went indoors to cool off.

I am so glad this team is here as I had planned on teaching the students guitar but God is one step ahead and had already orchestrated this to happen. The team had photocopied all the guitar chords and they had purchased 7 guitars. The Sanctuary also has its own guitar so our first class had 8 students --- all of them girls, some of whom are Pastor Chantha's students and the others are from the community that we have not seen before. They were all so eager and excited to learn, although I don't think they envision that they would have to cut their nails and get blisters on their fingers. So ends the vanity for the sake of music. Sorry I didn't get a chance to take photos as I ended up helping to teach a few of the girls and Lim who I blogged about yesterday joined in as well. The class lasted about an hour and the students learned 5 guitar chords. With the team only here for one week, they will certainly give them a good head start and I will be able to continue the lessons after they leave. I am looking forward to teaching them several worship songs that I brought with me. One of Pastor Chantha's students whose name is Ravi could not attend the class so he asked if I could give him a one on one lesson at lunch time. Ravi is such a smart young man and a quick learner. He used to be part of the gangs in Svay Pak and now, he comes here daily to serve the younger kids. So after lunch, as we were surrounded by our little groupies I began to teach him 3 chords-- G, A and D and by the end of the day, he had learned to play the song God is so good! God indeed is so good. He is using the guitar training that I had way back in 1995 after I had come back from my 1 year mission trip in Singapore for such a time as this. One of the advantages of teaching Ravi the song 'God is so good' is that I also happen to know the words in Khmer so this will be an opportunity for them to play and sing their very first song in Khmer. With all these extra guitars, please join us in prayer that the Lord will raise up His own worship team here in Svay Pak that will praise Him in Khmer.
Ratanak Teaching English & Khmer

After lunch I sat in on an English/Khmer class that the youth pastor Ratanak is teaching. I have been doing that these past 2 days as discovered that I could also learn some Khmer in the process as the kids are learning a word in English and Khmer that corresponds with each letter of the alphabet. Now since I'm not a teacher I am not sure exactly how kids learn a second language in Canada, but here Ratanak has them playing games to help them learn the language. He will call up a boy and a girl to the front and the other students will call out the words either in English or Khmer that are written on the board. Who ever touches the word on the white board first get a point. This is a fierce competition as the kids really get into it and they have a lot of fun learning in the process. After a few rounds of this, he gets them to repeat several words and letters. The sound levels increase considerably and honestly, it is so loud at times I feel I am going to go deaf! This kind of sound is reverberated in all 8 classrooms---repetition is the name of the game and for whatever reason, there is no such thing as an 'inside voice' and 'outside voice' in these classes. It is simply all 'outside voices' and it is loud, very loud!
Kids Club

At two o'clock the lessons ends and the kids club begins. The kids usually all sit in rows with the boys on one side of the room and the girls on the other side. All the wee little ones sit in the front and some of Pastor Chantha's students stand in the back while others are sitting near by with the kids . Today I decided to sit amongst the kids and a new little friend called Mai Tieng decided to plump herself right in my lap. She maybe 8 years old but other than her chubby cheeks there is nothing big about this kid. She is the size of a 3 or 4 year old. Such is the size of many kids in this community. They look way smaller than their age and I feel like a giant among them. Despite the heat, the kids are learning to sit still for a long period of time. Their behavior now is such a far cry from when I first encountered them 2 years ago where they would just get up and start wandering around. They listen attentively to the bible stories being told and God has gifted Ratanak to perform and act in such a humorous way that the kids end up in fits of laughter.

With all the different activities and games that the overseas teams bring, there is typically a lot of mess at the end of each daily kids club. Yet, once again we see the students helping to clean up and pick up after the little ones. It truly is one big family here with everyone pitching in to serve and help in whatever way. This is just another typical day at the Sanctuary in Svay Pak - a place where the Lord is not only building His church but He is building a community of young believers whose hearts are knitted together as one! I feel blessed to be part of His family here!