One of the advantages of coming here by myself without a team this year has been the opportunity to develop deeper heart to heart connections with people. I have valued the conversations I have had especially with pastor Chantha's students as they see me as 'bong srey' ---their older sister. Often they will call me aside to share something that is going on in their life asking my opinion or asking if I could pray for them. I appreciate these special times when we have no agenda and just hang out together. When we were at Sihanoukville that brief trip created time and space to go for walks along the beach chatting about all sorts of things. Many of them are in their late teens or early 20s and so the question about dating often comes up.
Ratanak & Dary
One couple that you can pray for is the youth pastor Ratanak and his girlfriend Dary who also oversees the school in the Sanctuary. She is like a school administrator. Pastor Chantha has encouraged them to get to know one another as friends as they serve the Lord together. Today Dary was worried about Ratanak as they are both studying for English exams that are set to start next Monday for 3 days. Unfortunately Ratanak's sister Chantoo has been quite sick and has to go for an operation to remove her appendicitis tomorrow in Phnom Penh. Dary wanted to know if I could talk to Ratanak and encourage him because the last couple of days he was not himself. He's been visiting his sister at the hospital and worried about her operation in addition to the fact that he has had no time to study for his exams. While I've been here their courtship has been a bit rocky for a variety of reasons and at times they have both come seeking counsel. It's been such a privilege to be able to speak into their issues and to spend time praying with them. This afternoon Ratanak and I spent time in my tuk-tuk praying as he poured out his heart about some of the things that have been heavy on his spirit.
Chitra & Pi-Rha (right)
Then there is Pi-Rah who is a young 19 year old teacher. She works mornings at an 'international' school nearby that some of the kids from Rahab's House attend. She is such a hard working student and teacher. The other day she was telling me her schedule---up by 5am for personal prayer time, devotions with the rest of the students, Don & Pastor Chantha at 6:30am at the Sanctuary, off to teach and then back at the Sanctuary around 12:30pm where she serves as a volunteer teacher like the rest of the students for the afternoon class from 1 to 2pm, then helping out at the kids club from 2 to 3:30pm, 5pm to 7pm personal time to prepare for next day's classes, 7pm to 9pm helping her mum at her food stall and finally from 9 to 11pm some more prayer time and personal bible reading. She was sharing her dream is to go to university next year and so she has been saving her money from her teaching job at the 'international
school' and recently she won some scholarships that will help pay the tuition fee for a portion of her first year. I admire her diligence. She has such little free time and when I asked her about her future, she says 'I just keep praying and asking Jesus to help me and to show me the way and to provide for my needs.'
Pi-Rha like many of the other students come from very impoverished backgrounds and their homes are what we would call little wooden shacks'---in North America you would hardly consider these 'shacks' to be livable but this is the squalor conditions of how many in 3rd world countries live. Yet, for Pi-Rha she has hope for a better future and at an age where most girls would be out spending their money she is mature enough to plan for her education. But Pi-Rha also is an encourager. Recently Paulie (one of the other girls I wrote about whose sister was trafficked and who herself has experiences multiple rapes) shared her story with Pi-Rha. Pi-Rha was so moved by Paulie's situation and recognized the fragility of her emotional state at times that she shared how she wants to stand with Paulie during this time where she is struggling with her pains.
One of the other student leaders that I have mentioned frequently is Siny. Siny is a bit older than the rest at 23 years old. In Cambodia that is considered 'old' especially since she is still single. Siny's heart is to be a missionary. She wants to reach out to those who work in the brick factories. In fact, one of Pastor Chantha and Bunthan's visions is to have a kids club for the kids whose parents work in the brick factories. Siny desire is to be part of the team that will be involved in that outreach. One day she could very well be the first missionary that God sends out from the Svay Pak church!
I love the heart of these students. They genuinely care for one another and the communities around them. They are opening up to each other about their pains and sufferings. Something that is not common in their parents generation nor is typical even in Cambodian culture. They are devoted to each other and are standing shoulder to shoulder, side by side sharing each others burdens and praying for one another. For a community that has seen much brokenness, this generation of students that God is raising up here in Svay Pak is not only seeking a better life for themselves but they desire to bless and encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ and the kids in this community and beyond. God is certainly doing a new thing in Svay Pak as He is depositing His missionary heart of love and compassion in these students.