I haven't been able to blog these past few days as its been a bit crazy hosting visitors, working, language learning and visiting government agencies. I used to think that life in Toronto was busy but in these early days of this new role, there is so much going on all at the same time but I am learning much about going with the flow.
I am grateful to the Lord for how He is teaching me to slow down and to cultivate a heart of patience by not getting stressed or anxious about things I have no control over. The structures and processes here are very different than Canada which is too be expected. This country has been through so much over the years and so for someone who is coming into set up an organization, one of the keys to working with the system is to have an attitude of thankfulness in the midst of a long and lengthy process. If not, one can get easily frustrated and irritated but those emotions typically come from expectations based on how we operate in our home country. A case in point, this week I am thankful to Yeng who is the country director at one of our partners Chab Dai. He has been an angel helping me to navigate certain requirements and helping me get the right documents and in many ways, acting as an agent, doing all the ground work for us. He has such an amazing heart for God. He has spent endless hours giving me insights and understanding of what we need to do. I was continually thanking him but he kept saying 'Ratanak has been a donor to us at Chab Dai for 6 years---that's a long time, I am happy to help Ratanak during this short time.' This is the kind of favor God has given us as an organization that He would bring such understanding people into our midst.
Yeng is the only believer in his family and when he was a young boy he was a 'chhlop'---if you know anything about the Khmer Rouge history, the Khmer Rouge used to train young boys to spy on their families and relatives. They were the informants that would let the Khmer Rouge know what was going on in the communes. So Yeng lived in the forest but when the Khmer Rouge fell, he came to know the Lord in one of the refuge camps and since then he has been serving the Lord first as a pastor and then now with Chab Dai. To see him, in many ways is to see the future of Cambodia. God has redeemed him and He is living out his destiny. He is so full of joy in the Lord and so eager to serve and help in anyway he can.
Of course you all know about Pastor Chantha, another angel of the Lord who is the consummate evangelist. He was also helping me yesterday as I quickly dropped off my guests to Svay Pak and left them there to be given a tour by youth Pastor Ratanak and Siny while Chantha drove me to the local tax office as we had to pay property taxes on our building in the brothel district. I thought it would only take 15 minutes to pay such a bill, but like everything else here, things takes much longer to get done----almost 1 1/2 hours to be exact. Despite having all the paper work, we had to have our documents be reviewed again by one person and he made some adjustments before we went to another desk. A young woman was sitting there with a carbon copy receipt type form. It reminded me of when I was young in South America and duplicates of documents were made using those carbon paper. We were surrounded by several other eager people waiting to pay their property taxes. Everyone standing or sitting crowding around this one desk watching this young woman as she processed each document. I had to smile to myself thinking, this poor girl she is going to be so swamped to hand write every single one of these receipts as this is the first year that property taxes are being paid by anyone who owns a building. Well, once we paid our invoice, we had to then go down the street to another convenience store to make a photocopy of the receipt and then return the original to the tax office while we kept a copy. Yes there is no photocopy machine in the office.
Each year we will have to do this. Pastor Chantha had already spent 2 hours previously in meetings with the local tax office so I had the 'easy' job of just paying the bill. Thankfully next year, we will have staff who can do all this leg work but for me, it is actually a blessing in disguise learning about how these processes work. When you understand the system, you can work with the system in such a way that it does not steal your joy. Instead, it is learning to embrace it with the right attitude. As Pastor Chantha said to me, 'Cambodia will teach you patience.' I laughed when he said that because I have been discovering that and learning to see the 'good' in the midst of the 'waiting'. Author Ben Patterson in his book called 'Waiting' once said: second only to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher in godliness, maturity and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter. Waiting is not a passive exercise, biding time while we engage in some sort of diversion. Waiting is not just what we have to do until we get what we hope for. It is part of the process of becoming what we hope for. It is a faith journey. Humility and hope are the essentials of waiting. But it is humility that makes hope possible. Until we are clear that it is God, not us, who is the Master and we, not God, who are the servant, we will feel our rights have been violated whenever we are forced to wait. We will resent our waiting and find every rationalization to take matters into our own hands. In other words, we can't hope in God until we have ceased to hope in ourselves."
So in all of the waiting that we are doing corporately as an organization and I am doing individually---I have to wait for my new apartment as there has been a delay in moving into it for possibly one or two months, in all of these things, indeed it is so true, that as we wait, we are becoming what we hope for---or more succinctly, we are cultivating the attitudes and heart that are in Christ. We are looking to the God of hope in humbleness knowing that He is working in the invisible reality to make all things work for the good of those He loves and He has called according to His purposes.