Today I headed to our favorite brothel district with Brian Harper who will be overseeing Ratanak Australia. Two of his church members Ken and Joan also accompanied us to the church service. It was such a joy to see ‘Theary’(see previous post entitled 'Not Forgotten' for Theary's story) worshipping in the ‘choir’ at the front of the sanctuary with some of Pastor Chantha’s students. She seemed a bit out of place in that setting trying to follow the moves of the other students but there she was making the best of what must have seen like an unusual environment for her. It was so encouraging to see her being enveloped and surrounded by Pastor Chantha’s students. It was a picture of God’s love surrounding her despite the fact that she may have been fumbling. He was upholding her with his right hand. It was as if He was graciously teaching her how to dance in joy and hope, emotions and feelings that have alluded her for most of her life. But here, He was now turning her mourning into dancing!
At one point there was time in the service that we as guests along with Pastor Chantha’s students were asked to walk around the sanctuary’s aisles to say hello to other church members. Its basically greeting each other in Khmer. Along the way, Theary and I saw each other and instead of giving me the traditional khmer greeting of hands folded in a prayer like fashion, she smiled and gave me a big hug as she embraced me. I was touched by her openness and warmth. One would think she would still be cautious and while I don't want to read too much into it, I can't help but think that she is beginning to feel at 'home', she is beginning to finally feel safe, she is beginning to feel a sense of belonging ---Is this surprising? No, not with our Lord who is the source of Hope. He has begun this restoration process in Theary's life. He is the One who offers identity to one who has been devalued, He offers belonging to one whose life has been often marked by estrangement , He offers acceptance to one who has known only rejection but most of all He offers unconditional love to one whose life has tasted betrayal. I am once again reminded, no matter what satan tries to do to steal, kill, and destroy our lives, he cannot succeed for as Psalm 34:18 says 'the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The Lord is beginning to do a new thing in Theary's life. His word says that what He has started, He will complete. What a joy it will be to see how He enfolds Theary's destiny before a watching world.
But while we rejoice with what God has started in Theary's life, we are also reminded to not forget about those who continue to be held in bondage. Many of you have been praying for little 'P' --- the 3 year old who is being sold. Her 13 year old sister also is being trafficked. This past week, little 'P' came to the kids club with a black eye courtesy of her 'mother'.' She and her sisters do not live with their biological parents. It seems the parents gave them to an 'aunt and uncle' but unfortunately in this environment, this raises the probability that kids are highly at risk of being abused or sold. Sadly, in little "P's came that is exactly what we are seeing. Her aunt and uncle use drugs and drink and are using the girls as their 'source of income' to pay for their addictions. This week I learned that there is another family selling their 3 daughters ranging in the age of 6, 9 and 12 years old. Here again, we learn that the parents drink and do drugs. This is a common pattern where kids are simply a commodity to their parents. It is hard to make sense of what we see because in a 'normal' environment it doesn't make sense. But here in Cambodia, we are dealing with layers of trauma from years of brokenness that is so inherent in this country and so for every story of hope, we are faced with a number of stories of hopelessness. Nevertheless, if God can do a miracle in Theary's life, surely He can do a miracle in the lives of these others. We do not give up, we press on in hope, knowing that one day, He will set these captives free as we earnestly pray for them and rest in His faithfulness. And so we wait for Him to act on their behalf and we trust in His truths from Lamentations 3:22-23, Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.