Baby Joshua and his aunt
When I arrived in Svay Pak this morning little baby Joshua was lying fast asleep in his aunt's hands. His mother is still recovering from the delivery.
Signing adoption papers
Pastor Chantha was meeting with someone to sign over the custody of baby Joshua to him and Bunthan---this is a temporary adoption as they are praying whether they should keep the baby or still give him over to Place of Rescue orphanage. They have until Thursday to make a decision as the folks from Place of Rescue will be coming then to get the baby. Chantha and Bunthan seem so attached to this little boy. They feel that it is better for the baby to grow up with both a mother and a father versus being in an orphanage where the child is one of several. I can't really disagree with their logic, they truly love the kids and the students in Svay Pak and treat them as if they were their own kids. God has given them such a shepherding heart for the people in this community.
Baby items from the market
You should have seen Bunthan's face this morning. She had gone shopping to the local market to buy some pampers, baby formula, a baby net and some bottles. She was so excited as she set up the little bed for baby Joshua and had this huge smile on her face as she told me she loved this little baby.Baby Joshua
Baby net over Joshua's bed
One of their desires is to have Rahab's House be a day care center/night center so people can drop their kids off during the day if they have to work or it can be a place where the abandoned kids can be cared for. Unfortunately, the person who was suppose to move to Svay Pak to help at the day care/night center doesn't really want to move to Svay Pak. It seems that no one wants to come to work in Svay Pak. Some thing I find hard to understand as God is doing such a new thing in this place and it is exciting to see the transformation happening even in the midst of the darkness. It is a place for those who have a pioneering mindset, who are willing to persevere despite the visible reality. Pastor Chantha believes he can hire people from the church to help but like everything else, there is a need to finance this ministry.
Just last night another lady in the community came to Chantha with two of her kids who are under the age of 10 saying she can't afford to keep them since she needs to work. These are the ongoing challenges in this community where the poor have such limited options and where hopelessness rules the day that it leads to abandonment of children because they don't see a way out of the pit they find themselves in. I can't help but wonder what it must be like to live in this state of helplessness and hopelessness where everything seems so bleak and so dark. Where there is both literal poverty and poverty of spirit. Resignation is so much a part of this environment. Love for one's own child seems to be supplanted by the desperation for survival where the most basic needs are so hard to come by. My mind has wondered back to the words spoken by the prophet Habbakuk and how he viewed such barrenness: 'even though the fig trees have no to blossoms, even though the olive crop falls and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign Lord is my strength. He will make me surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains. (Habbukuk 3:17-18). Habbukuk reminds me that despite the emptiness, the barrenness that I see all around me, those who live in this environment have a choice to choose joy, to allow the joy of the Lord to be their strength, to lean on Him, trust in Him and believe that He will indeed bring them safely over the mountains they face in their lives. In this environment, satan is constantly stealing peoples joy, stealing their hope and ultimately stealing their ability to love their own children and so its so easy to focus inward instead of looking upward to the One who longs to be their refuge, who wants to give them a hope and a future. Yet, in sharp contrast to the community they minister to, Pastor Chantha and Bunthan, are the epitome of people who like Habbukuk, have chosen joy, they allow Christ's joy to reign in their hearts despite the challenges, despite the endless needs. They live by faith that God will provide despite the impoverished surroundings. They don't have much in a material sense, but what they have is Christ, they keep trusting Him, that He will supply all their needs as they step out in faith. The Father heart of God so dwells in them that they exude His compassion opening their arms and receiving all who Christ would bring to them. They truly live and breathe the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 'that the One who calls you is faithful and He will do it!'
And so as I watch this amazing couple, I am learning much about compassion and faith in Christ. These attributes go hand in hand in a place like Svay Pak where the needs seem endless and overwhelming. Chantha and Bunthan's hearts are driven by love and as Henri Nouwen once said 'when we are led by love instead of driven by fear, we can enter the places of the greatest darkness and pain and experience in a unique way the power of God's care. Certainly in Svay Pak, we have seen the power of God's care as He has done a miracle of transforming what was destined to be the largest brothel/sex hotel in Svay Pak to a place of worship, a school for the kids and a medical clinic for the community. But The Sanctuary is more than all of these, it is a safe haven, a place where hope, joy and love can be found, a place where God's people say 'no' to every form of fatalism. Instead they bear witness to Christ's compassion and represent signs of hope in the midst of a despairing community as they trust the Lord to supply all their needs according to His glorious riches.