What does a typical day living and working in Phnom Penh look like? In some ways, there is no 'typical' day as you can 'plan'to do certain things and they may or may not happen. So a typical day here is really living with the unexpected. As I talk to people who have been living here for a long time, they say this is the 'norm'and the secret is not to be too hard on yourself and continue to remain flexible in the midst of ambiguity.
So how does one establish structure in an emerging country which is brimming with potential on so many levels? It is constantly learning to adjust and embrace the unexpected not with frustration but seeing it as a divine interruption. Strangely enough, it is no different in some respects to the job I used to have in Canada. For each day, I would go to work there I had to process all the different overseas market events and economic news to figure out what stocks to recommend to clients to invest or sell in the short term and/or in the long term. Every day there was some thing new to process and analyze. It was never dull and routine. Similarly, living and working in Cambodia requires in a sense. a similar mindset of working in a dynamic environment. Things here are very fluid and organic. If you want routine, this is not the place to live. One is constantly trying to establish structure in an unstructured environment and it is not always easy because things here are not standardized as we have in the West.
Networking and drawing from the resources of others is the key and in this sense, this is where I am relying on God to provide divine appointments. While Ratanak has been involved in Cambodia for 21 years, the easy part is meeting all our partners and talking to them but the question I often find myself asking, is this a meeting I should have now given what our priorities are? There are lots of people to meet in the NGO world who are familiar with our work and are eager to help but even in this kind of environment, it is stepping back constantly and looking at the big picture to discern if this is a meeting to have now or later. There is no easy answer to this but God has brought to mind a devotional on divine guidance that a missionary friend gave me many years ago when I was living in Singapore. It is helping me to navigate the uncharted waters before me.
God and His providences lead in only one direction at a time; therefore, never adopt a new course until you feel equally clear to abandon a former one. Always recognize that YOU and your plans are HIS property. If so, you can afford to be set aside and unused if He can afford it, since your eye is single. The longer the delay, the larger the pay.Divine impressions are persuasive; God does not drive, but leads His children. Impressions from other sources are loud, clamorous, feverish, and seek to drown the Spirit's voice. You can detect the devil by one or two things. The devil talks loud; Jesus always talks low and tender. An impression can be made in a loud, boisterous, rushing, pell-mell sort of way, or can come quietly, gently tenderly and sweetly. Impressions from above always give sufficient time to the honest seeker to test their genuineness. Those from below are in a hurry and fearing detection, clamor for immediate decisions. The devils wants you to be in a hurry and rush and go pell-mell, and not wait for anything; whereas Jesus is always quiet and always calm, and always takes His time. When you take things to God in prayer, and you wait, if God makes an impression on the mind, it always comes gently, tenderly. The more you wait on God---if the conviction comes from the Holy Spirit--the more you wait and the more you pray, the stronger it becomes. If it comes from the devil, the more you wait the more you pray, the weaker it grows. You can tell by that. Impressions from above welcome the Light. Those from below shrink back from it. The first are to be catechized, the second are afraid of tests, and don't like to be questioned. Impressions from above, when followed, are attended by a sweet peace and the consciousness that they are right; those from below by perplexity and that something is wrong. The first brings rest. The second robs of it. Those from above make us feel "I ought to do so. "Impressions from above ripen into convictions. Those from below never do. God never asks us to act on uncertainties. The devil comes with a suggestion and it appears to be the truth. He persistently pushes it. If resisted, he claims that those who do so are resisting the Spirit. don't forget that if the Holy Spirit inspires anything, He always gives time to consult upon it with God.
In Cambodia where the needs are many, where the demands are many, where I am juggling many sources of info, I rest in these truths above that God only leads in one direction at a time and so to avoid confusion and to avoid being overwhelmed by endless meetings, I have chosen to wait and sit quietly allowing Him to give me impressions on what the next step is. This is not always easy. Someone once said that it takes more strength to wait than to do. That is so true but more and more, I appreciate the 'wait' because when something is from God the doors fling open wide and where there were once obstacles, that seems to give way to divine opportunities!
Part of this thinking has come after my first month when I had enlisted 5 different real estate agents to find an apartment for me. I was trying to do this all on my own strength and after I reached a point where I was getting a bit frustrated, I just let go of trying to 'find' a place and then God showed Himself so faithful by simply providing an apartment above the Ratanak office/apartment for me. Through that situation, the Lord began to show me that if I wait on Him, let go of control that He will provide what I/we need in His timing. It was another lesson on faith....one that I had thought I had learned but obviously I am still a work in process!
So these days I am learning a whole new way of 'waiting'on Him for the right connections as we seek to set up our first project. A typical day therefore is one that involves deliberately seeing where He is at work in the process and joining Him there. It is not trying to make things happen because we have a deadline to meet but rather taking the time to filter all the info to see if it is consistent not just with our values and goals but are these the divine connections that God wants us to partner with. Tomorrow I have a meeting with pastors of a church that are already working with vulnerable women with an organization that we are familiar with and it was encouraging to hear from a friend of mind who who works in this ministry that this particular church has an established ministry in this area. So join with me in prayer that if this is one of our future partners, that God would provide clear impressions that we are to work along side them.