The Boys of Svay Pak - my little brothers!
Two years ago when I first came to Svay Pak with a team we did a Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Rahab's House. At that time, there were a group of boys who attended our VBS that were part of a Svay Pak gang. They looked young but these teenagers were involved in dealing drugs and pimping some of the younger kids. They were the Svay Pak bullies and the other kids certainly seemed intimidated or fearful of them. Two years later, it is amazing to see the changes that have happened in the lives of these young boys. As Ratanak the youth pastor and Pastor Chantha have reached out to them, they no longer wear earings in their ears, they no longer are doing drugs, they no longer are selling kids. Instead, they come to school at The Sanctuary just like all the other kids. A special class has been set up to help them study English and Khmer as they have never been to school and are illiterate. This morning I sat in on their English class as Ratanak the youth pastor was teaching them English. I was surprised to see that they didn't even know how to write with a pen. It was like teaching a 3 year old child the basics. But it was impressive to see them so eager to learn and paying attention as they studied. This was a far cry from two years ago when they were often disrupting the VBS and acting out. God has indeed been transforming their hearts and the glimpses of goodness our team saw two years ago has begun to flourish even more as I have spent time with them over these past few days. I have seen them helping the other kids during the daily kids club, helping us carry chairs up to the classrooms, holding and playing with the toddlers and simply being respectful teenagers. Today when I arrived, one of them called Hao had bought me a local fruit drink made up off papaya and ice. I didn't want to offend him by refusing it despite the fact that it was made of local ice and milk--a deadly combination for diarrhea for one who is lactose intolerant so I prayed under my breadth and decided to have a few sips of it just to let him know that I appreciated his thoughtfulness. Suffice to say the Lord protected my stomach!
Later this afternoon, I went with Ratanak and some of the folks from the US team to do a walkabout in Svay Pak. On one of the back alleys which was full of mud we were about to turn back when the mother of two of the teenage twins called us to come to her little shack. They wanted us to pray over their uncle who is also a gang member. He claims the cut on his leg was due to a motorcycle injury but according to Ratanak, it was probably a gang related accident as it looked like a knife cut down the side. So we ended up laying hands over his leg, prayed for him while Ratanak translated and an older brother (another gang member) watched on. We trust that God will use these opportunities to witness to this family of His healing power and also demonstrate in some way His love through our simple efforts.
Another first happened today when an older lady came into the medical clinic for some medication. This is the first time she has ever come and it turns out that she is the brothel owner/trafficker of a well known brothel that sells underaged kids in this community. This whole incident gives a new meaning to being the salt and light in dark places. Talk about engaging in and with the darkness. God has certainly placed The Sanctuary and its staff in a location and a position to minister to the most unlikely characters and people in this community and to demonstrate a level of grace and love that we often read about in the bible but rarely see in practice. These kinds of encounters stretches one's imagination and understanding about how high, deep, wide and long is God's love for even the most unlovable and hated and is certainly pushing out the boundaries on who God is seeking to redeem in this village . Join us in praying that the Lord will give us many more opportunities to reach out to the most harden hearts in Svay Pak and as we do, that He will draw them out of the darkness into His wonderful light!