Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cooking Khmer Style

Preparing the meal

So tonight my young friend Srey Neth came over with 3 of her friends and fulfilled her promise to make my favorite Khmer dish Loc Lac.Finally, some decent meat that was so tasty and not tough. There is hope that I may still yet find some meat to eat here!  They arrived at 3:30pm this afternoon and we went to the local market near my house to buy the groceries. If my calculations are correct the entire meal including dessert came up to about $10.00 in total.
Neth cutting up the meat

I have to say, the girls did a great job and I am humbled by their servant hearts. They not only prepared the meal but also washed up all the dishes at the end and cleaned up before they left despite the fact that I told them I would do the cleaning up.  Cooking the Khmer way involves sitting on the floor and peeling and cleaning the vegetables and cutting the meat. Its a far cry from how we would do things in North America using our counter to lay out all the food. Logically it makes sense to do it all on the floor because there is more space, but one of the things that I like about this new style of preparing the food is the community atmosphere. Everyone sitting together preparing the meal although I have to confess, I was just taking the photos and watching on. I figured I would only get in the way if I tried to help and they definitely knew what they were doing so why interfere in the process! :-)
Liya (yellow shirt) and Socheat making a coconut milk dessert

Dinner time with my guests (Liya, Socheat, Kunthea and Neth)

Neth's friends are in their early 20s, one(Kunthea) works as a cleaner, the other (Socheat) a tailor and Liya is a yoga instructor like Neth. She too was trafficked but now willingly shares her story because she says the more she talks about her journey, the more healed she feels. I had a wonderful chat with her and it is evident that she is filled with much hope. She is grateful for her new life after being trafficked for 3 yrs. Although she does have a boyfriend, she has not told him about her past. As she said ''Khmer men would not like it if they know the girl has had sex already.'This gave me an opportunity to tell her about one of the girls at Newsong who is married to a Khmer pastor and how he accepted her because as Christians, Jesus treats all of us equal regardless of what we have done or what has been done to us. In Him we can have a new life where all our sins ---the things we did and also the things that others did against us, can be forgiven  and we can start afresh regardless of our past.  Liya went on to say ''I like sharing my stories with foreigners because they are more understanding, especially Christians because they are so kind and treat us the same. But I don't like sharing with young people in Cambodia because they do not understand. They think I am bad." These words from Liya reflect a common stigma that is part of the Cambodian culture where girls who have been involved in the sex trade are judged so harshly here and are treated as though they are garbage.
Neth and Socheat cleaning up after the meal

None of these girls know the Lord but Liya and Neth have had some exposure to Christianity. And so do pray for them, as I am hoping in the months to come to invite them over again. Depending on how things go, I would love to at least meet with them once a month and if time permits, have some kind of bible study with them. They said to me the next time we come,  you have to cook for us so that ought to be interesting in itself. Anyway, I have a little strategy that I might just order the food in but they are insisting that they want to see me cook. However I suggested to them that they had better be careful about what they ask for. :-) In an Asian context, having a meal together provides an open door for more meaningful conversations not just about our lives but the One who ultimately gives us meaning and purpose.

They are all so sweet and I had such a wonderful time practicing my Khmer with them.  Their English is quite good and so if I would say something incorrect in Khmer they would correct me and teach me the new way. It was a great evening with them practicing their English and me practicing my Khmer. But tonight was more than just practicing the language, it was about cultivating friendships and sharing the things on our hearts. One of the girls Kunthea currently works as a cleaner but has studied English for 7 years. I was sharing with her that perhaps one day she could be an English teacher as her English language is excellent but she said she was scared because she didn't think she could do it. Once again, this created  a perfect opportunity to share with her that God had made a way for me to live here and because I believe in Him, I trust that His plan for me is good so that I am not afraid even if I am doing things that I have never done before. These are early days of seed planting but I thank God that He has created these opportunities.

One of the joys of being around these young women is seeing the potential in them as I listen to their dreams about what they would like to do. As I think of Neth and Liya and the darkness that they have survived, it is encouraging to see them move on into a journey of hope where they are living independently. It is interesting to hear of their desires to help others who have gone through what they have lived through. But it is times like this when I am led to pray and seek the Lord's face on how I can walk with them through this journey called life so that they can discover that their desire to give back, their desire to help others, comes from the goodness that has been placed in their hearts by their Creator who desires to use their pain, to bring healing and hope to others who are struggling through the trauma of sex slavery. And so as I think of my young friends, it is the scriptures I read this morning that come to my mind as a prayer for them from Ephesians 1 in the Message translation:
Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

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