The local market - Boeung Keng Kang
Yesterday I went with Lily my helper down to the local market (psah) called Boeung Keng Kang. It is about a 15 minute walk and it was a perfect opportunity to practice my Khmer not only with Lily whose English is even more limited than my Khmer, but it was also great to talk to some of the local shop keepers and begin my journey of learning to ask for prices in Khmer.
Lily - 'my cook and cleaner'
We were off on a mission to buy some meat (saich moan) and of course some veggies and fruit, as I had requested one of my favorite Khmer meals 'Loc Lac for lunch. It is a marinated meat dish that usually comes with French fries or you eat it with steam rice.
It was a lot of fun and the shop keepers in the midst of their smiles and laughs were very patient as I was trying to speak their language without massacring it. Fortunately they understood what I was saying and so I am hoping to go back again on my own and just have some conversations with them. This is often the best way of learning the language by making a fool of ourselves in the midst of our language learning but alas, this is part of being a fool for Christ! Next week, my tutor and I have a plan that after he teaches me the lesson on food and bargaining for prices we will then head to the market so I can practice. I think this will be a great idea!
Following that, it was off to another Ratanak meeting with Sue Taylor and Sue Hanna, who work for Hagar Cambodia, one of Ratanak's partners. They have been very helpful in giving me info regarding setting up our transitional home and I am hoping to spend some more time with them and some of their staff including some of the girls. It is a process of asking a lot of questions and really being a learner as there is so much info to absorb but with each meeting, while I come away realizing how large the task at hand is and the challenges before us, I am seeing God's hand showing me similar themes and in some sense planting a vision for some crucial next steps.
Well later that afternoon, my computer guy Visal was back at our office setting up our wireless connection but it seemed that the internet cable was no longer functioning so this morning right after my language lesson, he was back with more tools to set up our wireless router in the office. He brought along his assistant Socheta and once again, it was another opportunity to practice my Khmer. But more than that, their presence here was quite helpful, as the office furniture I ordered arrived this morning and they were able to speak on my behalf when I could not respond to the workmen from the office furniture store. The Lord has a wonderful way of taking care of every detail of my life on this end right down to the timing of peoples' visits to help me navigate some of the most simplest things. So the office is now officially set up with 3 desks, 3 chairs, a couple of printers, 1 filing cabinet and 1 laptop. Now the fun begins. It's time to work!
Well the day was still young and so off I went for another meeting, this time with Ruth Elliot, who runs Daughters Cambodia, another one of Ratanak's projects that we have had the privilege of supporting for several years. I love chatting with Ruth. She is such a visionary and already God is planting more visions in her for the future. But she is also a woman of prayer and I am hoping that we can spend more time praying and pouring our hearts out to God as we saturate the work here in prayer.
Two years ago when I was here with a short term team, we used to go to the Daughter's centre and spend 3 hours in the morning praying there before we did any other ministry. It was a wonderful time of encountering God and experiencing His presence in the midst of the heat but as I talk to Ruth again, we both concurred about the intensity of spiritual warfare that is so evident in this ministry that seems so much more than any other type of work. Ruth alluded to a spirit of betrayal that is so much a part of Cambodia's history especially as we think of the Khmer Rouge era and it is interesting to see that spirit still in operation in the broken relationships in families where girls are sold for sex by their parents and where we observe much in the way of domestic violence.
As I have been reflecting on that conversation, I can't help but think of Judas Iscariot who walked with Jesus for 3 years along side the other disciples.Yet in those 3 years, Jesus never treated him any different than the other disciples.Jesus invested in Judas as He did into the lives of the other disciples. Jesus knew Judas would betray Him and yet, He continued to love him, despite that knowledge. I am struck again at the depth of Christ's love, the depth of His grace, the depth of His mercy and the depth of His forgiveness. Would I be able to forgive much less love someone who had intentions to deliberately betray me. Would I be able to invest in the life of such a person, knowing that they would betray me? Yet this is what Christ calls us to do by the power of His Holy Spirit, for this is what He did and in the world of sex trafficking, this is what these young women face. They teach us about grace, forgiveness and love at a level that it so hard for us to understand for it is their families or friends that deliberately trick them and betray them. They model for us in a strange way the kind of life that Christ endured as they learn that their journey of healing involves extending grace and choosing to forgive. And God too is challenging us to model this in our own lives. He calls us to be faithful to the process and leave the outcome to Him. As I think of this, I am reminded by a recent quote that one of my good friend's sent me. It seems so appropo for the challenges that we face in ministering to victims of sex trafficking:
God is wounded over the sin and evil that His people become involved in. If you venture near to the heart of God, you will be wounded by the sin around you, some times even by those you love very much. In this way, you share the broken heart of God.'
Jesus knew the broken heart of God. Do we want to know the broken heart of God or do we shy away, shielding ourselves from pain, hurt and suffering by protecting ourselves from possible hurt? It is my prayer that despite the visible reality, despite the spirit of betrayal in this environment, that as we risks to love as Jesus did, we will not only embrace the broken heart of God, but we will have the the amazing experience of testifying to the depth, height breadth and width of His grace, mercy and love!