Wednesday, September 7, 2011
More Than We Can Ask Or Imagine!
Today as I left a meeting with Srey Hem Roberts the verse that was popping into my mind was from Ephesians 3:20 'now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.' Whenever I meet a Khmer person, I am always fascinated to learn about how they survived during the Khmer Rouge era and today I was once again in awe of the Lord and how He protects those whom He has chosen as His own. With Srey Hem's permission, I have the privilege of sharing a summary of her story.
Srey Hem's mum had a difficult marriage like so many Khmer families, it was filled with domestic violence and so her mum chose to leave her husband and take Srey Hem with her to another village. Back then in the 1970s one has to realize that this would not be regarded as 'normal' acceptable behavior especially in Asian culture where families are highly valued so for a woman to leave her husband meant that she herself would face many embarrassing questions but that did not deter Srey Hem's mother who from all accounts sounds like a very strong woman and was not concerned about 'saving face.' Here she was, a 'widow' for all in tense and purposes and during the Khmer Rouge era, she lived up in Kratie province. God protected her from going to the labor camps as she had favor with the Khmer Rouge soldiers because she made their caps. What was even more unusual was that Srey Hem was not separated from her mother either. Her mother insisted that she stay with her to help make the caps. The Khmer Rouge agreed and as a result she was not forced to go to the labor camps like so many other children who had no choice and were taken and separated from their parents. Talk about the Lord protecting the widow and her child.
Srey Hem's mum became a Christian and attended Open Gate Christian Fellowship church which was a non-denominational church started by a well known evangelical Cambodian pastor back in the 1980s and in 1983 Srey Hem became a believer. Her mum who was an intercessor prayed that Srey Hem would not marry a Khmer man as she wanted her daughter to marry a 'barang' -- a foreigner. This is an interesting prayer in and of itself but perhaps her mother's foresight may have been influenced by the difficult marriage she had endured and so perhaps her desire was for her daughter to marry someone who would treat her well. This often created tension between mother and daughter as Srey Hem felt that not all Khmer men were bad and there was no guarantee that a 'westerner' would treat her any better. But there is something to be said about a mother's prayer! Interestingly enough in 1991 Srey Hem met her husband, a Canadian who was here in Cambodia on a 3 year term working with the Mennonite Central committee. And 2 years later they were married in what was apparently the first ever Khmer and expat marriage after the Khmer Rouge Era. So you would think her mum would be quite happy about this. But instead her mother said to her 'you have thrown away a diamond and picked up a normal stone.' Her mother was implying that to marry a 'Canadian' was not of the same quality as marrying an 'American.' I'll leave you all to ponder whether there is any truth to this comment! :-) Don't you just love Cambodian proverbs!
So why did that verse from Ephesians 3:20 pop into my mind. Well you see, I had only one purpose for meeting Srey Hem today but obviously, God had more in store. My purpose for connecting with Srey Hem had to do with tax documentation that I needed her to review and provide some info regarding our property in Svay Pak. Well that info was resolved very quickly but what I had not expected was the wealth of information and experience that Srey Hem has. She sits on the board of CREDIT, a microfinance organization that was established by World Relief US in 1993 to provide sustainable financial services to Cambodia's poor entrepreneurs. Microfinance is an area that I have a desire to be involved in as it would be a way for me to use my business skills. So in 2003, I took a course in the U.S to become more equipped in that area. Up this point in time, I have never had the opportunity to use that particular skill but over the years, I have felt quite strongly that in our work to empower former victims of sex trafficking, one of the areas we will need to focus on is in Microfinance so you can imagine as I was talking with Srey Hem what was going on within my mind and my heart as I began to ask her many questions. These are early days as I have much to learn but I see this once again as God's hand orchestrating meetings and divine connections as part of shaping the vision of our role here in Cambodia.
But that was not all, as Srey Hem also has a wealth of experience in helping NGOs set up their human resource policies and manuals that ensure compliance with Cambodian labor law. Given that we are looking to hire Khmer staff for several different positions in the next few months, having someone like Srey Hem act as an advisor to walk us through this process and help us interview the potential candidates is a huge blessing.
But there was more still to come, as I began to ask her questions about where would be a good location to set up our project, she gave me some new insights that help me to understand that one of the first things to consider is having a community ie: a local Khmer church who can be part of the process of discipling, investing and nurturing the girls that we are caring for. Once that is in place, it becomes easier to find people who can be part of the mentoring process and it also provides direction as to the potential location of the project which hopefully will be near that community. This is consistent with some suggestions that I have heard from our partners but what made it more clear today was that Srey Hem knew of a well established Khmer church that has relationships in both the Khmer and Vietnamese communities and is specifically involved in helping vulnerable women. I would love to say that we have been praying into all of this already but the truth is we haven't even started (or at least I haven't even started) and yet the Lord in His goodness and graciousness is leading us to the right people at the right time to direct our steps. Do pray for our ongoing relationship and connection with Srey Hem and for the pastors that she will be introducing me to in the next few weeks.
So today, my 'one item' on my to do list, has led to input in 3 other areas that are part of the process for our future work, but as I'm quickly discovering, God is truly in the business of doing way more than we can ask or imagine and we are called to just simply follow His lead. Now just to add a little more excitement into what was already an enjoyable day, I received an email from our friends at Chab Dai informing me that they had a C.V of a person who is an accountant.
So on many levels, today is a day of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord who in every way seems to be going ahead of us, preparing the way and connecting us to people who we need to meet. As I think of this, a scripture that I was reflecting on this morning in my quiet time and praying through seems so appropro. 2 Corinthians 9: 8 is often discussed in the context of giving generously but today's events remind me of the One who is is setting the agenda and who wants to bless us abundantly in all areas of our lives as we seek His face. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. It is because He is able, we are able to abound in EVERY good work, not just some work but every work.
Early today as I was returning home from my meeting with Srey Hem, I had tears in my eyes, not because I was sad, but I was filled with deep joy, once again sensing and experiencing the very real presence of God and His handiwork in EVERY detail not only of my personal life but in the corporate life of Ratanak. To Him be all honor, glory and praise! God is good all the time!