This morning I headed down to Svay Pak with Mickey, my new tuk tuk driver thanks to Beth my Ratanak colleague who had told me about him. She and Pastor Chantha led him to the Lord about a month ago so he will now be my personalized driver to Svay Pak where he is also attending the service. That's a whole other story for another day.
The SanctuaryWe left the hotel for Svay Pak to attend the 8am church service at The Sanctuary. This is another first for me....going to Svay Pak on a tuk-tuk versus the usual air condition vans that I had grown custom to in the past. But it was a wonderful bright sunny morning with the cool breeze coupled with pollution and dust that greets one in this open air carriages. I had my Ipod and felt led to listen to a song called'Let Your Kingdom Come' and used it as a prayer as we drove along the dusty road asking the Lord to make His name be known here, to build His kingdom in this place so that everyone would know His name, to let His will be done and to establish His throne in the hearts of the people in Svay Pak and beyond.
It took us about 30 minutes to get to Svay Pak and as we pulled up to the Sanctuary the first person I saw was Bunthan---Pastor Chantha's wife. The place was bustling on the ground floor but she greeted me with a big hug and quickly escorted me up the stairs to the 3rd floor where the service was already in full progress. They had started at 7:30am. Now the Sanctuary was suppose to accommodate the growing church that had burst it seams at Rahab's House as the new building holds about 325 people. Today, there was standing room only---more people have started attending after the opening ceremonies on May 26th and so once again space is tight! Pastor Chantha is already considering the possibility of hosting two services.
Church Service at The Sanctuary
Unlike North American church services which usually finish within a 1 hr 30 min time frame, this one continued for 3 hours. Cell group leaders came up to do special songs, the youth group made up of the students that Pastor Chantha is discipling did a skit and as there was a team from California visiting, some of them gave their testimonies. In talking with young Ratanak it seems that the congregation in Svay Pak loves to hear peoples testimonies. They are encouraged that so many want to come to their village and they enjoy hearing how Christ has touched other peoples lives.
Youth Group performing a drama
After the service I had a chance to catch up with some of the kids I had met before. Many of you have prayed with me about 'SN' -- a young 11 year old Vietnamese girl who last year was almost trafficked but to this day, God has continued to protect her from being sold. She came running up to give me a hug and continued to hold my hand as we went out to meet some of the other kids, It was like if we were long lost friends. Then I heard another little voice calling my name and it was 'KL' ---she was wearing the Canada t-shirt that said 'Jesus Loves Svay Pak' --- this was a gift that several folks in Toronto had contributed to as a Christmas present to the kids who attended the kids club at Rahab's house.
Lunch at The Sanctuary
It was soon lunch time and I joined with Pastor Chanta, Bunthan and the 26 students they are discipling for a home cooked meal of steam rice, fried chicken and my favorite vegetable---morning glory---and yes it grows along the sewer but it is tasty!. I am so encouraged by these young students. All of them live in the Svay Pak area and they range in age from 16 to 20 years old. They have such servant hearts helping out at the kids club, serving in the morning services, preparing the meal, setting the tables and helping to clean up. It was like being in one big family and reminded me of the story in Acts 2 about the early church where the people were devoted not only to God's word but to each other as they spent time fellowshipping together and sharing their possessions with one another. Pastor Chantha's desire is for these students to model that community of the early church and indeed, they are already displaying such attitudes at such a young age. One student I met was the lone Vietnamese in the group of Khmer students but she is also of the Cham people group---a group that has a Muslim heritage. Yet here, there is neither Vietnamese nor Khmer, they are all God's children regardless of ethnicity or creed, redeemed by Him for His purposes and glory. Their desire is to simply follow Jesus and serve Him and His people. The Lord has already been using them as many of their parents have started to come to church at The Sanctuary because of their witness. I am looking forward to spending more time with these special young people. Somehow I think I have much to learn from them.
The Future Playground
Finally, I had a tour of the entire building and the view from the top floor was of this toxic filled garbage dump that is located at the back of The Sanctuary. Some of our Ratanak teams have commented on this particular piece of land in previous blogs. One day the vision for this section of land is to turn it into a playground for the kids who attend the school at the Sanctuary and so I couldn't help but stretch out my hands and begin to pray and claim this land, as part of the promised land that God has for the children in this community. After all, our Father in heaven longs to give good gifts to His children and so let us pray and look forward to the day when another section of Svay Pak will be transformed from a wasteland to a place of new life.