Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas at Svay Pak - Surprised!

Today we headed to Svay Pak at 7am on a cool and breezy day. The main street was taken over by a large 'canopy' like covering that is commonly used for any social events like weddings or funerals. Pastor Chantha and Bunthan expected 600 people to come and they were right. The birthday party for Jesus was about to begin with the Sunday morning service. Initially we sat behind the first row but were ushered up to the front close to the stage. The crowd had started to gather and get seated for the morning service while others were still piling into the tent.. The little kids who typically are at the Sunday service were standing along the side of the stage wanting to get a glimpse close up and personnel of all the festivities that were about to begin.

Seated in the front were some of the local officials --- two different chiefs from the Sangkhat (province) who were invited to the service. These are very important people as they have a lot of influence in their communities. If one is setting up a ministry or buying land in the local village of commune, the Sangkhat chiefs have to be consulted to get their approval.
Sangkhat Chiefs in beige

The service started with a familiar Khmer worship song led byPastor Chantha's 40 disciples who were all dressed in red golf -t-shirts that said Merry Christmas 2011.

Following that was one of my favorites--a traditional Khmer Apsara ballet type dance signifying an offering that was led by Phally and some of the other female disciples. Many of you know Phally's story and so seeing her here with the others all dressed up looking like a Khmer princess served as a reminder that Jesus is restoring beauty for ashes.


This dance is so beautiful to watch and speaks much to the Khmer classical dance as it requires much in the way of balance, elegance and precision. Whenever I see young Khmer girls or youth dressed up in such traditional Khmer attire, I can't help but think of how regal they look, reflecting in many ways their identity that in God's kingdom their are His princesses!

It was not too long after this dance finished that I was looking across the stage at the people walking by when two little girls caught my eyes. At first I was in a bit of a shock. They certainly did not look like the princesses dressed up in ragged clothes but it was them---it was Srey Neth (not her real name) and her sister Channa (nor her real name). Just over  a month ago on November 8th, I had blogged that these two sisters were taken by their father probably to Siem Reap since their parents owned a brothel in that area. We were all worried and concerned knowing that they were once again at risk of being sold. See link for more details of their story and history in Svay Pak.  About 20 minutes passed by when I got a tap on my shoulder, it was Siny one of pastor Chantha's disciples bringing Srey Neth and Channa over to me and telling me 'I thought you might want to see your two friends.'' I could barely contain my emotions as Srey Neth hugged and then held on to me and I to her and her little sister. The tears started flowing no matter how hard I tried to stay in control. It was no use. Once again, God had answered the prayers that many of us had been praying daily over this past month for these two. I just stood with them trying to regain composure and almost in a state of shock. God had given to me and to many of you, an early Christmas gift. He had once again shown His faithfulness to her and to us. It was then that a comment came to my mind that a dear intercessor had sent me  last month when I had first written about Srey Neth's unexpected disappearance from Svay Pak.

She wrote: My heart ached for you and with you as you wrote of Srey Neth's current situation...I am so glad you are in her are there as a spiritual watchmen over her even tho' right now she is temporarily beyond your view/sight...yet, she remains "in your vision"  and that is a preserving force around her right now.  Father, let her know that Your eye is upon Srey Neth even when her eyes cannot see her.  Let Lisa know that You attend her declaration that "hope cannot disappoint us".  You stand behind your Word to fulfill it! And, Father, let her know reassuringly that even tho' she is a sent one, yet You have actually asked her to come with walk at your side hearing the whispers of Your heart as You lead her into the fruitfulness you have coming...We are confident that the fruit is even now in the seeds of this season. These words have sustained me over this time not just as I have prayed for Srey Neth but as I think of so many whose names we do not know and yet who like Srey Neth, find themselves in the same predicament of being sold as sex slaves. They may not be in our visible sight but they remain in our vision because God has impressed upon our hearts to be spiritual watchmen over their lives, to pray unceasingly, not losing hope but holding onto His promises that Hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).

We are still trying to gather information on Srey Neth and her sister, but from the initial discussions it seems that her parents cannot go back to Siem Reap because the police want to arrest them so they may have no choice but to stay in Svay Pak and Srey Neth may live with her grandmother who maybe returning from Vietnam. God has an unusual way of answering prayers when we pray that He frustrates the plans of the wicked! His promises are so true!

Srey Neth has lost weight and does not look well. The smile and joy that was once visibly evident seems to have been smothered. But here again, we look to the Lord to do His healing work in her and her sister. He does not forget where He plants the seed and so often in our prayers for Srey Neth and for Channa, we have declared that Christ had the last word over them, not Satan, not their parents, but Jesus. And so, the Lord has brought His broken and bruised back to this little village that is notorious for destroying the sacred within these little ones. He has brought her back to a place which became her refuge, a place where she encountered Him as her Fortress, her Shield and her Deliverer. So yet again we are confident of this, that He will bind up her wounds, He will restore and rebuild the broken gates and walls within her, He will redeem her pain because He has the last word over her life!

Well after that encounter, you can imagine I was a bit distracted as the program continued with Youth Pastor Ratanak and several others performed a drama re-enacting the story of Jesus's birth.
The angel visiting Mary
Marty and Joseph with baby Jesus
The sheep being distracted with their food (popcorn)

Following the story of Jesus's birth, there were more performances, with songs led by the church group leaders and also a dance performed by some of the girls from Newsong. 

Svay Pak Church group leaders
While all this was happening, the little kids were crowding around the stage, trying to get a peak at all the activities and then the disciples returned with another drama performance once again highlighting how Christ rescued a person from sin and sets them free if they receive Him as their Lord and Savior.

Sin has been broken, this young man receives Christ into his life

The youth group came up also to do a dance performance. Once again, it was such a privilege and honor to see the next generation being raised up in Svay Pak. Pastor Chantha's disciples are ministering to these youth 

Svay Pak Youth Group

as they disciple them and mentor them. As I think of this, I once again stand in awe of the Lord. Just two years ago, Pastor Chantha was discipling his first group of young people and now here it is, a new youth group being formed that are now being discipled by those whom Pastor Chantha has trained up. 

God indeed is building His kingdom in Svay Pak. The transformation of this community some times seem slow because the pedophiles are still coming, the traffickers are still selling the kids and so often we sound like the prophet Habakkuk when he complained to the Lord: 2 How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. 4 Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (Hab 1:2-4) But today, God showed me again through Srey Neth and through the young people in the Svay Pak church that God's plans ALWAYS prevail. His PROMISES are TRUE! His VISIONS speak of a time when all that He has spoken will come to pass. 3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it;  it will certainly come and will not delay.(Hab 2:3) 

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