Two years ago in the summer of 2009, I met a young girl in the brothel district who I shall call Srey Neth (not her real name). At the time she was about 9 years old and she had come to the pastor letting him know that her father was coming to take her to a brothel the next day. This was not a new experience for her, in fact she had been seen in undercover video tape, being sold for sex as a tiny girl. The investigators were unable to catch the pedophiles, as a Khmer man has to actually be “in the act” of sex with a child in order to be prosecuted. Every day, Srey Neth would come to the Kids Club and every night, she was forced to sleep with grown men. It had been going on for years. That day, I laid hands over her along with my team members and many people prayed for God to intervene in her life. At night I fasted for the first time in my life, pleading to God to spare her life. After all, she was in the kids choir singing weekly about her love for Jesus and her desire to serve Him. I gave her my necklace with a cross telling her that Jesus loved her and that whenever she felt scared to call on His name for protection. I also gave her a pendant with my name in Khmer on it and told her that I loved her and would pray daily for her and then I left not knowing whether I would see her again. God was challenging me to drink the cup of brokenness, the cup of suffering and the cup of faith – all at once as I entrusted Srey Neth into His safe keeping He was challenging me that in drinking this cup of investing in the lives of child sex slaves, we have to be willing to enter into their pain, their sorrow and their struggles.
Since that day in July 2009, Srey Neth had never been sold again. Her father never showed up to take her to the brothel. She is a cheeky eleven year old student, enrolled in not one but two schools, learning both English and Khmer! Srey Neth's grandmother who attends the church in this brothel community stood up to the pedophiles and said, “No!” It was Srey Neth's story that inspired me to pray big and bold prayers to the Lord as I and many others witnessed His intervention in her life. So when I arrived in Cambodia 3 months ago, whenever I would visit Svay Pak, I always made it a point to see her and say hi and whenever she saw me, she would run up and just give me the biggest hug and would just hang onto me as we walked about the village. She was and is one of the spiritual children that I believe the Lord has blessed me with in this brothel community.
This past Sunday as I was sitting with Pastor Chantha asking him how each of my little friends were doing, he told me that Srey Neth's grandmother was no longer living here and had moved to Vietnam last week. She had wanted to take Srey Neth and her sister Channa (not her real name) with her but their father was against that. Srey Neth and Channa have now been taken by their parents to live in Siem Reap. Pastor Chantha echoed my sentiments that he was worried and felt she was now at risk again of being sold given that her parents own a brothel in Siem Reap.
So here we go again. This little girl who God used in my life to deepen my faith and prayer life has disappeared. For two years, she was on a journey of freedom---free from abuse, free to be a child again and most importantly free to worship the Lord she has come to know and love and who she so wanted to serve. So what do we do with this? How does one cope with this news? After all, this is the ongoing issue for all of us who serve in this ministry. We constantly face bitter/sweet experiences --- one child rescued and then one child sold. How do we deal with the emotional rollercoaster of such a visible reality? How do we keep on going in the face of such news? How do we avoid being discouraged?
Earlier tonight, I shared with Melissa my Ratanak colleague that there are some burdens that we are called to bear and there are other burdens that we are called to give to the Lord. So in the face of this news, God once again is calling me to get on my knees and pray for Srey Neth. This is how He is challenging me to 'invest' in her life. To stand in the gap for her life, to not give up despite the unknown and the uncertainty surrounding her whereabouts. This is the 'burden' that I am called to bear---to be faithful to the process of praying for her but to leave the outcome to the Lord. The burden that I am called to give to the Lord is to entrust her safety into His care. It is times like this, we are called to stand in the truth in the midst of the darkness. God still sits on the throne. God is sovereign, God is in control of this situation, God knows exactly where Srey Neth is. God is faithful, He never changes, He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Do we believe that in the face of this present reality? Do we believe that God can once again intervene in Srey Neth's life? Do we believe the Lord is mighty to save and deliver her from the hands of those who are seeking to destroy her life?
This ministry will challenge our faith in Christ at the very core as we 'walk' with these young girls because we are called to Hope against all hope just like Abraham did. We are called to take God at His word that He can and is able to do the impossible in their circumstances. How fitting it is that tonight of all nights, I would receive an email from a pastor who writes the following: I think about the Already/Not-Yet reality that defines the New Testament and the Church (then and now). The “Already” is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His ministry of renewal has already begun. We as the church are meant to experience, daily, forgiveness of sins, his resurrection power over sin and the strength to join him in his work of renewing the world. This means living and preaching a message of hope in Jesus Christ, and demonstrating that hope by the way we love others. The other dimension of the Kingdom is the “Not Yet”. While the renewal process has begun, with the resurrection of Jesus, all has not been made new and right on the earth. Injustice, sin and death still pervade our broken world. And the scriptures are clear that this present earth and heaven are passing away. Eventually, when Christ returns, he will usher in the new heaven and new earth, where finally Christ shall reign and have dominion “From sea to sea” and where all sickness, sorrow and pain will be gone. We recognize then that until this happens, we will continually experience and interact with pain and hardship and the devastating effects of sin. These encounters are meant to remind us that a better day is coming. As Paul says in 1 Cor 15, if the only hope we have is for this life, then we are to be pitied most.
Srey Neth's situation serves to remind me that we are once again faced with interacting with loss, suffering and pain. This is the 'not yet' dimension of God’s Kingdom; it’s why we engage now, today. But we do this because we believe that Christ is their and our ultimate hope and as such, we are called to be the 'repairers and restorers' of the broken gates and walls as we actively pray, intercede and persevere in our commitment to see God's kingdom come in the lives of the young girls. And so, we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:4-5) May we demonstrate His hope and His love for the Srey Neth's of this world, by committing to battle in prayer for their lives believing that as we do, the 'already dimension' of God's kingdom has begun. The renewal process has begun because we are the carriers of His hope to those who live in hopeless situations.