I may not be in Svay Pak at the moment, but not a day passes by when my thoughts and prayers are not directed towards this community and those whom God has burdened my heart with and so even as I write today on the Ratanak mission blog, I do so because while I am back in Canada, my heart is in Cambodia.
Each week I have the privilege and joy of chatting with the students who serve so faithfully at The Sanctuary and with Pastor Chantha and Bunthan. They give me the latest upates of all that is happening there---the good, the bad and the ugly but through it all, I am blessed to be able to hear their voices, hear what's on their hearts and pray for them. It is what fuels my heart and increases my love for this most unusual of places and the people who live there.
Last night was no different as I heard some more stories but this time more details about some of the 28 students I had the privilege of baptising this past summer. They really are like my little brothers and sisters and what happens to them, seems to touch my heart so deeply and increase my burden to want to stand with them even more. Pastor Chantha's students all come from very difficult backgrounds, many have experienced rejection and abandonment through families that are severely dysfunctional and before they came to know the Lord, their lives were marked with a sense of hopelessness and helpless. I do not say that lightly as I have seen where they live and heard briefly some of their stories. Last night, I learned that a brother and sister --I shall call 'T & C' who serve in the Kids Club and at The Sanctuary, once came from a wealthy family who lived in another province. But unfortunately their parents got into some financial trouble, went broke, fled their province and decided to abandon their children T & C. It so happened a relative from Svay Pak was visiting their parents and told them about the church in Svay Pak and how the people who worked there were so kind and loving. So the parents sent their two teenage kids to Svay Pak. The kids have nothing, they are poor, yet they never complain about what little they have. Their parents have abandoned them but what they now have is Christ. He truly is the God of the forgotten and the outcast. They know that He will never leave them nor abandon them as their parents have. Pastor Chantha and Bunthan have taken them in as one of their 'children'---they have many 'adopted teenagers' come to think of it. They represent the 'Father heart' of God by their actions. They have enrolled them in the local high school recently where some of the other students from Svay Pak attend. In the evening, the teenage boy brings his mat from the Lord's gym and sleeps on the ground floor in The Sanctuary, his sister stays with some of the other girls who live at Rahab's House---that ex-brothel has now become a hostel for some of the students. Ironic isn't it. They are just thankful they have a place to lay their heads down at night. As I think of them, I am reminded of how 'easy' a life I have here, I have home and a comfortable bed, but T & C are like nomads, living a life of portability, folding up their mats when morning comes and living a life of uncertainty not knowing what the future holds but knowing the One who holds their future. This day my heart is burdened for them, not out of guilt or obligation but because of love for them and so I bow my head and pray.
Theirs is one story, but they represent the lives of many of Chantha's students here. It seems their parents were so desperate to pay of their debt they wanted to sell their daughter but her teenage brother told them 'no' they can't take her. This has happened a few times and thankfully she has not been taken nor sold. I have seen these two students, they have such beautiful servant hearts, quiet but yet filled with such tenderness when they interact with the kids or with the elderly who come to the medical clinic. One would never know they were suffering because they always smiled but behind their smiles, are young hearts who have tasted abandonment by their own parents. The words from Isaiah 49:15-16 come to my mind '"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Truly, the Lord has engraved them on the palms of His hands. He is watching over them and has brought them to Svay Pak---of all places---why---it seems it is a place of refuge for them. Who would ever have thought that of Svay Pak a few years ago. More and more I am so thankful to God for Pastor Chantha and Bunthan---the more I learn of the stories of the students, the more I realize the role that God has called Pastor Chantha and Bunthan to be to these students---they are like parents to these students. It is no wonder the kids and the students love hanging out with them at The Sanctuary. Indeed, The Sanctuary is living up to its name---it is a place of peace, a place of refuge, a place of rest, a place of hope, a place of love, a shelter from the storm for all who enter in, here they find Jesus, they find Him in the visible witness of Pastor Chantha and Bunthan. Here, they discover daily that there is One who is for them, who stands with them and who loves them unconditionally and who will never leave them. Pray for 'T &C' that they will be so rooted in Christ, that they will be a living testimony of ones who are more than conquerors in Him!
This morning in my quiet time as I was reading Jeremiah 33, I could not help but see Svay Pak in this passage
for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. 6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. 7 I will restore the fortunes of (Svay Pak), and rebuild (it). 8 I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. 9 And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.
Indeed, I was led to pray for God's blessing over this community, that this city will in the months and years to come become a name of joy and praise and glory before all the nations of earth who shall hear of all the good that God has done for the people and the children who dwell there. May it be so Lord, may it be so--we wait and watch for your ongoing handiwork in this place! We pronounce such a blessing for Svay Pak and we continue to pray that while the needs seem endless there, we serve a God whose supplies are endless. Release your resources O'Lord, release them in abundance that the people of Svay Pak will stand in awe and wonder of your provision and proclaim your faithfulness from generation to generation and tell of your mighty deeds.