Helen Sworn with her staff person Rithy
Much of the hard work in pulling together this coalition was the brainchild of Helen Sworn, Chab Dai's International director and founder who has lived with her family in Cambodia for over 12 years. God gave her a vision 6 yrs ago to develop an umbrella organization that aims to bring an end to trafficking and sexual exploitation through coalition building, community prevention, advocacy and research. I felt like I was attending a mini version of the UN with many different expats intertwined with Cambodian believers who are passionate in being a voice for the voiceless. We all had headsets which we used depending on whether the presenter was Khmer speaking or English speaking.
Chab Dai Coalition Member meeting
The day started off with an encouraging devotional from Sue Hanna who is also one of our partners from Hagar. She shared from Psalm 40:2-3 which says: 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth,a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Sue noted that when Jesus came to save us, He came to lift us out of the 'mud' and to set our feet on a Rock. So too, our role as we minister to those who are coming out of sex trafficking is to to take them from the mud to the mountain. She used the analogy of a scale of minus ten, zero and ten and pointed out that the victims are at minus ten. Survivors are at zero and Advocates are at plus 10. She reminded us that it is not enough to take a victim to the survivor stage, but our care must enable these young women to become resilient so that they are able to to stand on firm footing as God puts a new song in their heart such that they can become all He intended them to be so that they move to a plus 10.
One of the many blessings of today was the opportunity to to hear presentations from different organizations who are involved in different aspects of the ministry here. One in particular was from a Khmer lady named Solida who recently started her own organization called Precious Women just over a year ago. She used to work at Chab Dai and is only 25 years old, yet 5 years ago the Lord laid on her heart a vision to help women who work in the beer gardens, karoke bars and brothels. God has made that vision become a reality and part of Solida's vision is to to empower local churches in Phnom Penh to be involved in this ministry. Each week outreach teams visit local bars where the women work in order to share the love of God, to build relationships with the women and to offer the women an alternative source of income through vocational training and dignifying job opportunities. I am inspired by this young Khmer woman who communicates with much passion and energy and who challenged us all to be united in our efforts. I first heard of her through one of my other missionary friends who is her mentor, and then met her recently at the Khmer church I have been attending. In a couple weeks, some of my friends and I are hoping to join her in one of her Friday night outreaches. But what encourages me most, is seeing and meeting many Cambodians like Solida today, who God is using to be His repairers and restorers of the broken gates and walls in the lives of the communities in Cambodia.
For me as a first time attendee, it was refreshing to network with old and new friends, both Khmer and expat NGO workers.It was encouraging to see joint partnership and input from Khmer brothers and sisters sharing their hearts along side Westerners. It brought back to my mind the verses from John 17:20-23, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. It was a joy to experience such a oneness of heart and such a spirit of unity as we share a common goal and desire to end sex trafficking in Cambodia!
Tomorrow we meet again and I will once again be able to participate in a variety of workshops that are being done by other members of the coalition. Truly, the timing of these meetings and workshops are a blessing on so many levels. I feel like I am getting a crash course on all the different aspects of the ministry on this end from prevention, to intervention, to child protection, to family issues, to aftercare, to alternative care, rehabilitation and reintegration---I am learning a whole new language and all in two days!
One more thing, in the next two weeks, we will have Ratanak volunteers from Canada, UK and Australia visiting Cambodia. So don't be surprised if you see some new bloggers on this Ratanak Mission Blog!