Talking to a New Chicken
Today in Svay Pak it was once again a busy day. This place is really never dull but then one can say that for Cambodia in general. As I was about to sit in on the final 'Trauma' class this morning Ratanak mentioned that a new 'chicken' was in town. Being curious, I skipped the first part of the class as I wanted to check out the 'chicken'. Siny one of student leaders and I, along with my posse of 4 boys---these are the ones who used to traffic the girls, went for a walk along one of the alleyways. The 'boys' took the photos as Siny and I decided to go and have a little chat with the new 'chicken'. When he first saw me, he offered me a beer---its 9am in the morning I said, its too early to drink and besides I don't drink beer. Where are you from? I asked. He replied, 'Switzerland but I live in Phnom Penh. How long have you been living in Cambodia?I asked. For the last year, he replied. So what do you do in Phnom Penh, I inquired? I teach computers was his comment. And what brings you to this village at such an early hour I asked. He said, 'oh my tuk tuk driver thought it would be a nice place to visit.' I said, Really. He then asked, 'so what's the name of this village'---(yes like you don't know, I thought to myself). So I said 'Svay Pak! You know you should be careful coming here. It's not a good place for foreigners, especially single white males'. He said 'but you are a foreigner as well.' Well yes but i'm Asian and I'm here visiting my sister (as I pointed to Siny) and I speak Khmer. We are here to help the little kids in this community and protect them from anyone who wants to hurt them.' He says 'oh but I don't want to cause any trouble. I just come to visit this place for the first time.' My response 'oh well, maybe you should leave because its not safe for you here. You might get in trouble if the police arrest you.' So he got up and left!
The boys got a really good frontal photo of our new chicken which I have forwarded on to those who might find it useful. Most of the times when I encounter or see a chicken I am typically filled with disgust and distaste for them. But today, in conversation with this particular 'chicken' God gave me a different perspective, His perspective---one that I knew in my head but perhaps really wasn't open to accepting before in my heart. The Lord was enlightening my heart with the fact that this 'chicken' is a human being like anyone of us, he is no different, he like all of us are sinners in need of a Savior. While I have known that in my head, I think today, in a strange kind of way, that realization became apparent in my heart. I actually had pity for this 'chicken'. He after all is as much enslaved in bondage as the very girls he is seeking to hurt. For the first time, I had no feelings of hostility towards this 'chicken,' like the others. Now does this mean, I'm turning 'soft' on these pedophiles? NO! I think if I saw him with a little girl, I would have a very different reaction. While there are groups here who are seeking to reach out to the male sex tourists and pedophiles, I can emphatically say at this point, I am definetly not called to that ministry. That requires a level of grace that I can honestly say I am not willing or sure I could entertain. That is a work of progress that God still has to do in me. My heart is for the little ones who are abused or at risk.
Speaking of grace its interesting that my attitude towards the young men who pimp the girls in this community is so different than my attitude towards the 'chickens.' Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I believe the 'chickens' ought to know better while the young men in Svay Pak sell the girls because they are desperate to earn a living. Or maybe its simply because God has given me a heart for the people in Svay Pak that I view them through a different lens. Yet, the reality is that whether it is the foreign pedophile or the traffickers, they are all blinded by the lies of the enemy who is simply using them as his tools of destruction.
The closing ceremonies of the Strongest Man in Svay Pak Contest
Today the gospel was shared to these very young men--young pimps who all week long have been competing in the strongest man in Svay Pak contest. This afternoon in what was like an 'open air' evangelistic meeting, Gilbert the youth pastor from the Bayside team shared the gospel using a cool demonstration of a bottle of water and began to describe that we are all sinners as he poured some red iodine into the water, causing the water to turn red to identify how sin has tainted us and made us impure.
The 'red' water symbolizing our sin
He then went on to tell all those who were in attendance that Jesus is the only one who can purify our sins and cleanse us of all the bad things we have done and give us new life. With that he poured some bleach into this bottle filled with red water and it turned white again.
The water turning white after bleach was poured into it
Gilbert then asked any in the crowd that if they wanted to receive forgiveness for all their sins and receive Christ into their hearts to raise their hands. Several hands went up in the crowd and once again today we heard people saying the sinners prayers.
Gilbert (bottom row, 3rd from the left) with the guys who participated in the contest
He challenged the young men that strong men are those who love Jesus, follow Him and live out His values. Strong men are those who protect the vulnerable and the little ones in the community. Strong men set an example for others by serving and seeking to do the right thing, to use their strength to help those who are weak. He went on to quote from Jeremiah 29:11 and began to speak to each of the young men he had bonded with over these past two weeks, giving them individual words of exhortation. It was evident that each of these young men, were taking in all the words that he was speaking. I couldn't help but think that these words were perhaps the only words of encouragement they may have ever heard in their lives and so I prayed under my breadth that God would engrave the truths He was speaking into their hearts, that they would indeed be the strong men in Svay Pak who would make a difference for Christ in this community.
Breakdancing in the Sanctuary
Later on some of them joined us in the ground floor of The Sanctuary for some break dancing. They really are incredibly talented doing so many acrobatic moves, twisting and turning their bodies in all shapes and forms to the hip hop music that was blaring. It was a neat end to what was such a special day as the team from Bayside wrapped up their time in Svay Pak. All this to say, God continues to amaze me with the incredible work that He is doing in this community and the way He is breaking down the ancient gates and walls of Svay Pak so that He the King of Glory can fully enter in and take residence in the hearts of all who will receive Him!