Ow is a young boy...well he's now a teenager that I met 3 years ago when I and 5 other friends had our first short term experience serving in Svay Pak as we facilitated a VBS for the kids in that community over a 2 week period. It was that experience that God used to touch our hearts for the kids in this community despite their background. Ow used to be part of a crowd of young boys who sold drugs, did drugs and were part of the young pimps selling girls. Today, 'Ow' no longer sells drugs nor girls. He has changed and is now studying in school. So it was neat to able to speak a few words to him in Khmer and find out what he was doing. He is returning back from Vietnam and will be coming back to live in Svay Pak. During the afternoon he was in and out of The Sanctuary and each time he would pass by where I was sitting, he would tell me what he was doing next. Later in the day he had to leave and politely came up to let me know that he would be back in two weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing more of him.
But the joy of seeing Ow was replaced with a concern for another one of my special friends here. Some of you know 'SN' and have prayed for her over the past 2 years when her father was planning to take her to Siem Reap to sell her. For 2 years, God has protected her from further abuse but today I learned that she and her younger sister 'C' were taken by their dad to Vietnam for one week. We are not sure what exactly that means but given the father's history, I can't help but think of the worst for these two young girls. Please pray for these two sister, that God would intervene once again in their lives and frustrate any plans of their father to sell them. They come to the kids club daily and have been speared further abuse until now. We will await their return to Svay Pak next week.
Later in the afternoon, I went with some of Pastor Chantha's disciples to a kid's club outreach in one of the neighboring brick factories. It was quite a trek to this location as it started to rain and so we had to get out of the tuk-tuk in case it got stuck along the muddy clay road. My flip flops were not made for this kind of road and the disciples were encouraging me to stay in the tuk tuk as I would avoid getting dirty and the tuk tuk driver might still be able to drive me in, but I'm a firm believer that 'when in Rome you do as the Romans do', so I ended up having to hold on to one of the disciples as we made our way through the slippery mud filled roadway.
Kids in the brick factory
It was well worth the trek to see 70 plus young kids sitting under a thatched roof area learning about Christ and singing songs about Him. They had an opportunity to play some games, one of which was to choose a piece of paper from a box and then whatever they got, they had to match it to a particular picture and they would win a prize. In this poverty stricken environment, I was once again touched by the selfless and thoughtful act of a young barefooted boy who won a prize of a new set of flip flops but chose one to give to his brother instead of choosing one for himself. The 'poor' have a way of teaching us powerful lessons on what a generous spirit looks like. It is one of the reasons I love being around this Svay Pak area as so many times, I see Christ at work in the most unexpected and humble surroundings.
Playing Games with Pastor Chantha's disciples
The kids in the brick factory live with parents who are bonded slave labor. They themselves will continue to live a life of servitude because they are born into such an environment and yet once again, here in what seems to be a God forsaken place, I am once again reminded that there is no God forsaken places. God is here, He has sent His people from Svay Pak to minister to these forgotten people and kids. Pastor Chantha's vision is to help these brick factory kids. Last year he arranged for 167 such kids from the surrounding brick factories to go to a nearby public school. Thanks to the favor God has given him with the local government officials, he was able to have birth certificates made for these kids free of charge versus the $5.00 each parent would have had to pay. Birth certificates are needed for any child to be registered in a public school in Cambodia. His vision this year is to send another 120 kids from the brick factories to a local public school.
So here in what appears to be a hopeless environment, a place of desolation where people are literally held as slave labor, we witness glimmers of hope for a new generation of children. It is this hope in Christ that we keep pointing to despite the visible reality. It is hope in Him that enables us to press on in the midst of ambiguity, uncertainty and unpredictable environments where young girls we know are disappearing for short time frames. It is during these times, that we hold on to the promises from Romans 4:18-21 --Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed, he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.