Thursday, July 7, 2011

Living The Dream - July Newsletter

Eleven years ago I began a journey to Cambodia. Little did I know that initial visit in the 2000, would be the beginning of a quest that would lead to God’s call on my life. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York said ‘an adventure is a “ there and back again”. It is an exciting thing that you choose --- you go and you have your adventures, you have all your thrills and it spices up your life and you come home again and pick your life up where you left off. But a quest is not something you choose, it comes to you, you sense a requirement, you are called to it because of what is involved. You never really come back from a quest. In a quest, you either die for the quest or if you do come back, you are so changed, that you never in a sense come back. You are never the way you were. You change so radically. Christianity is not an adventure, it is not a ‘there and back again’. Christianity is a quest. God says ‘get out, you are going to be radically changed, don’t ask Me whether or not what I am about to do will fit into your agenda. Christianity is a whole new agenda. Don’t say ‘how is this going to enrich my life, Christianity is a whole new life.’ Indeed these words seem so fitting as I reflect on the past trips to Cambodia, the Lord was leading me on a quest, shaping His call upon my life by revealing His agenda, His purposes and His destiny for me.

Last summer near the end of my 2 month stint in Cambodia, I was lamenting to the Lord that all those years of taking short term teams to Cambodia were like milk, but the 2 months He had given me were a glimpse of the solid food and I didn’t want to go back to the milk. I wanted to eat more solid food. I then heard him say ‘you will not be going back to the milk. I am going to give you more solid food’. At that point, something had shifted in my spirit as the Holy Spirit revealed that while Toronto was my home, my heart was in Cambodia. When I came back to Canada, I knew that I could no longer deny the call to Cambodia. The time had come. God was calling me to move forward, to step into the fullness of His call and destiny for my life.  This truth was affirmed when I read the scripture from Isaiah 42:9 in September 2010. It said: ‘behold the former things have passed. I am doing a new thing and before it springs up, I will declare them to you.’ The Lord began to show me what this new thing would be even before it had come to pass. In October 2010,  Brian McConaghy the founder of Ratanak International asked when I was thinking of moving to Cambodia and my response was ‘well I’m hoping and praying it will be in 2011 but I’m waiting on the Lord.’  He then asked, if I would pray and consider becoming the Country Director of Ratanak Cambodia. Without missing a beat, I said ‘yes’  as I felt it was an answer to the prayer from Isaiah 42:9.  The dream was beginning to become a reality.  Shortly thereafter, my mum, a widow gave her blessing for me to go to Cambodia as did all my siblings. It was evident that the Lord was orchestrating events and consolidating all the pieces of His ‘call’ upon my life. This continued into the new year as in  April 2011, a dear friend Marie Ens, a Canadian missionary who has been ministering in Cambodia since 1961 was visiting Toronto and graciously said ‘when you move to Cambodia, wherever you are, I will come and let’s spend time together so that we can pray and encourage each other in our ministries.’ To sit at the feet of one who has so much wisdom and experience serving in Cambodia is such a precious gift from our Heavenly Father. God was not only shaping His agenda in me, He was going ahead of me and preparing the way.

The new thing continues to take shape and form not just in my life but in the corporate life of Ratanak International. While Ratanak has partnered with many organizations in Cambodia over the past 21 years, this year marks the beginning of a new era where we feel called to develop independent ministries directly in Cambodia. We will have the privilege of establishing a Ratanak Transitional Home that allows former victims of sex trafficking the opportunity to live independently. God has called us to be a part of His plan to rebuild and restore the years the locusts have eaten from these precious young lives, by providing them with the necessary tools to strengthen their personal resilience to pursue their new life.   For these young women, successful integration back into society is a very complex process that requires a "Next Step" of a more open handed mentoring phase after being in highly structured and institutionalized settings. We are grateful for the opportunity to walk along side them and invest in their potential so that they can fulfill their God given destiny as He empowers them with His dreams and hopes for a new future! Joining me in this journey in November 2011, is Beth and Stephen Lauer who have worked extensively in project management and strategic planning in various postings locally and globally. We are so thankful for the skills God has blessed them with and the gift they are to our organization as we seek to serve the least of these in Cambodia.

As I am leaving for Cambodia on August 2nd, I covet your prayers as I begin this new chapter of my life. I know it will not be easy as Cambodia while being, a beautiful nation, is not an easy place to live and work. The years of civil war and the Khmer Rouge era left a moral vacuum that continues to wreak havoc on its people and also fosters an environment that can weary and drain one’s spirit because of the endless needs. Yet it is into these dark and difficult places the Lord wants to shine His light, to pour out His love to the unloved, to bring hope to the hopeless and peace to the restless.  It is in these places that Jesus longs to release His compassion, justice, mercy and grace upon lives that have experienced much pain and suffering. It is in these places, that I look forward to witnessing the power of the gospel and the outrageous promises of Isaiah 61 being fulfilled as the broken hearted are comforted, the oppressed are liberated and the downtrodden are lifted up as Jesus transforms and heal their hearts and sets them free from all that so entangles them.

Twenty years ago the Lord planted in my heart a dream to be involved in investing in the lives of former child sex slaves. This year, I am humbled and in awe of seeing Him make that dream a reality as I follow Him into the promised land He has for me. For those of you who are living in the Toronto area, I will be sharing my testimony and will be commissioned at Rexdale Alliance Church on the weekend of July 30 (6:30pm church service) and July 31 (9am and 11am services). Hopefully I’ll be able to see some of you there, but if not, I am hoping to be back in Canada annually for a 3 month period each year.

Please pray for:

  • My closure on this side of the pond that all the outstanding logistical and administrative details will be completed in a timely fashion
  • My adjustment in Cambodia, that I will be able to pace myself and settle in well. For wisdom and discernment in setting up the Ratanak operations in Cambodia, that the Lord will help me to prioritize all that needs to be done.
  • My 6 months of language learning and ongoing diligence in studying and practising the language. Praise God for the Cambodian brothers and sisters in Christ who are eagerly waiting to teach me their language and culture and for the expat missionary community and friends in Cambodia that the Lord has provided me with over the past 10 years.
  • Unity of spirit and oneness of heart, mind and purpose for Beth & Stephen Lauer and myself as we work together to establish a greater work of Ratanak Cambodia
  • Protection and good health for both myself and my family who remain in Canada, that God will surround us with His holy angels and watch over our comings and goings.

As time permits, I hope to be providing weekly or daily updates of our work in Cambodia through our mission blog: so feel free to sign up at our blog site. Thank you for your commitment and your partnership in prayer and support of our ministries as we seek to bring life to the Killing fields of Cambodia.  For those who feel led to partner in these new Ratanak endeavours, you can designate funds to Cambodia Operations or Child Exploitation.  We look forward to sharing with you many stories of how the Lord is building His kingdom in Cambodia!