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

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