Sunday, February 19, 2012

Worshiping at our Church Partner

Today I had the opportunity once again to visit the Khmer church that we will be partnering with. When ever I go there I can feel the presence of God despite the fact that I may not fully understand all that is being spoken. Truly it is like deep speaking to deep ---God can minister to us beyond the verbal language and so often I come away feeling touched by His love. This morning I ''happen'' to be sitting behind a lady--she's actually one of the older people at church at 39 years old. It turns out that she works at Hagar and is involved directly with the intake assessment process of trafficking or rape victims. She began to tell me her own story of being a single mother and sitting next to her were her 3 boys---15yrs, 10 years and 5 years old. Her husband had died two months ago and her immediate family lives in the province so her older son--the 15year old takes care of the two younger sons when she is working. She is probably one of the few single mothers here who has a good job as she is able to send her sons to a local Christian school near the church. But all this had me thinking about single mothers in Cambodia. The ones I seem to encounter are usually destitute as per the story I shared a few weeks ago about the young mother who was brought to Svay Pak by one of the church members. Here in Cambodia, there are no social services like we have in the West. The social service here is the extended family and so it was so unusual to meet this woman at church who did not even have the support of her family. I wished I could have asked her more questions about her home situation but I am learning that one has to cultivate asking indirect questions and that takes time. Nonetheless, she was kind enough to give me her business card so I shared mind with her. I figured if nothing else, I can send her our Ratanak job postings and maybe she knows of friends that have the skill set that we are looking for. Like any where else, it is all about networking and I am always of the belief that God does not bring people into our paths by chance. There is always a reason even if it is a one off type encounter! I didn't realize the truth of this statement until today when I discovered that this particular staff person from Hagar was one who we at Ratanak recently mentioned in our February prayer bulletin. Ironically she happens to be good friends with the consultant who is helping us on the case management training. It is such a small world.

Before the sermon started, all the little kids were called up to the front. This happens here every Sunday and the pastor prays over them as the congregation stretches out their hands towards them. My eyes caught a few little kids with their hands open eagerly wanting to receive the prayer. It was a precious sight of how the Lord is nurturing this next generation at this church, treasuring them and teaching them about prayer as well as teaching the adults, that children are a gift from Him. Jesus did say, ''welcome the little children'' and it is evident that this church takes this command seriously.

Anyway as the service progressed we had a guest speaker from the U.S organization Teen Challenge. He was exhorting this young congregation to move beyond their comfort zones and to be willing to go to the provinces or areas of Cambodia that were not as exciting as the city in order that more people could hear the gospel. He challenged us about ministering to the marginalized and in particular teens who were drug addicts. His rationale for doing this stemmed from a recent conversation he had where a particular staff person of an NGO here quit his job because he refused to to move to a rural area to minister to drug addicts. Here in Cambodia, many young people are drawn to the city because of the excitement and the opportunities here. Many are hungry for a good education because like other college age peers around the world, the focus is on money and getting the best job and while nothing is inherently wrong with this, it is very easy to focus so much on ourselves that we are not willing to sacrifice for Christ. At the end of his message, he gave an altar call asking those in the congregation if they were open to God's leading and if they were open to going to hard places and doing work that was not glamorous, work that is uncomfortable, work that does not involve the big city but work that ultimately is building God's kingdom. I was so moved in seeing half the church move forward to receive prayer. Then the speaker asked, "if any of you are doing God's will right now, I want you to come behind these young people and lay your hands on them and join us we pray for them. The remaining rest of the congregation moved forward.
The Entire congregation up front

I am struck at how the Spirit of God moves so swiftly and so easily in this congregation. There is an openness and a hunger here that I see every time I visit and it is so refreshing. Even as the young people sing, you can tell that they are genuinely worshiping the Lord with all their heart and soul and mind. It is a total immersion experience where I am encountering authentic worship and my own spirit is ministered to as I am led to sing along and raise my hands to worship even if I don't fully understand the words! I couldn't help but think again of the young women who will be part of our home and who will have the opportunity to worship in this place. It is our prayer and our desire to see them encounter the Living God in such a deep and personal way that they too will be caught up in His purposes and they will want to follow Him wholeheartedly and with a willing spirit. I encourage you to begin to pray for them, that as they encounter this community of believers, they will not only feel accepted, they will not only feel that they belong, but more than that they will feel the love of God pouring down over their souls ministering to them, touching them, healing them and freeing them from their past so that they can go forward knowing that they are truly His beloved, the ones whom He delights in!

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