Friends from Wellspring International
Today was one of those days when my 'A' type personality resumed in full throttle! I am hosting two staff members (Sarah and Jeanette) from Wellspring International who have been partnering with us for over 2 years. Wellspring is the humanitarian branch of RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries). This is the first trip for both gals and while they have both traveled extensively they have never been to Cambodia before so it was a jammed pack day. We headed off via tuk tuk for the 15km ride to Choeung Ek otherwise known as The Killing Fields. This site is a former orchard and Chinese graveyard which houses several mass graves of thousands who died here at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. The last time I was here was in 2002 but as in the years pass, pieces of clothing, bones and teeth of the deceased are rising up to the surface of the soil. It is visible for all to see as you walk along the dusty paths of this site. Those who work there have to keep picking up such items and placing them in certain boxes that line the mass grave areas each month. Being here surrounded by all the mass graves and skulls serves to remind me afresh about man's inhumanity to man but more than that, it gives me such an appreciation and admiration for the Cambodian people who I think have been blessed with much resilience by God in the midst of the layers of trauma they have endured over the years.
Some school kids leaning against the stairs next to the Stupa housing 4000 skulls
One of the most interesting sites were to see several Cambodian school children attending. This is not typical as many Cambodian kids have not had exposure to the history of that Khmer Rouge era since it is not taught at school. I found out from the guide that these young people were all over 18 years old and their visit was part of the KR Tribunal invitation to learn more about their country's history.
From there we headed back into town to Tuol Sleng or S21 - the former school that was transformed into a torture prison. This place is so surreal and is so peaceful now that its hard to imagine all the terror and hideous acts of evil that happened in Tuol Selng, oh if the buildings could talk, the stories they would tell!
After a quick lunch at the waterfront, we switched gears and headed to Svay Pak. Yet another place where another type of evil and trauma reigns. Today at the Kids club, I was once again faced with a little girl, the youngest I have ever seen --- a 3 year old who is being regularly trafficked by her parents. Her face was so serious and quite solemn as I asked her in Khmer how old she is and what her name was. I tried to talk to her about the picture she had drawn to find out what was her favorite colour, but she was not in a talking mood. She was withdrawn, silent and unlike the other kids around her, there was no smile, just a sad looking face. I had to turn a way as I could feel the tears coming to my eyes. In the midst of this kid club, in the midst of the praise songs, I was once again jolted back into reality that Satan is lurking around trying to kill, steal and destroy. Pray for 'P'----Pastor Chantha is trying to convince the parents to stop selling her. One of my guests asks why don't we just buy her from her parents. That's the easy solution but that's not the best solution. The parents will simply sell another daughter. The strategy is to build trust with the parents so that they will eventually be willing to release her into the care of the Newsong centre. We know this is possible as this happened in another situation. So now its time to pray big and pray bold for this little one. Only three years old, can you imagine! I can't! Deliver her from evil, Lord!
Hair washing anyone!
But all is not lost as in that very room, I looked and saw some of the girls from Newsong. Each one of them who come here on Tuesdays and Thursdays were themselves trafficked in this community but they are now on a journey of hope and it was fun watching them washing the hair of the kids who were attending the kids club. It was fun seeing the little ones smiling and laughing as they received such kindness. Here in this room, the tenderness of Christ is experienced in the giving and the receiving of simple acts of love. Here in this room, they can still find refuge and respite from all the day's trouble. Here in this room, they know they are loved no matter what happens to them outside of this room!
We were then off to visit the latest building that has been rented by our partners. It is just around the corner from The Sanctuary and used to be a former bar in Svay Pak. With 3 floors there is lots of space and it will be used as a garment factory to provide sustainable employment for those who live in this community. Where sin increases, grace increases more as this building is in an a very strategic location in the midst of the hub of activity that this community is known for.
Svay Pak Riverfront Outreach
Teaching about John 3:16
From there we headed down to the riverfront in the Svay Pak area as Pastor Chantha's disciples are resuming an outreach to the kids in that area. Many of them are of Vietnamese descent but they speak and understand Khmer. Today's lesson was on John 3:16. It was another interesting site seeing the kids taking in the gospel message before them, while the adults (who are all part of the Svay Pak church) sat around looking at them.
So yes the darkness is still in Svay Pak, but the light will not be snuffed out despite the visible reality and the ongoing challenges. It was Corrie Ten Boom that once said 'there is no pit too dark and too deep that Jesus is not deeper still.' Here in Svay Pak, the pit is deep, trafficking is entrenched in this community, it is a stronghold, but it is such a place where the Christ light continues to penetrate the pit of darkness and transform it with His light. I am so thankful that the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:4)