Each Sunday I try to attend the service of the local Khmer church that we are partnering with. The service is entirely in Khmer and there is English subtitles to the worship songs, many of which are familiar to me. But, I love to listen to the worship in Khmer to see if I can pick up the Khmer words that are being used. On a good day, I can understand between 50% to 70% of what is being said (that is a miracle in and of itself), but it doesn't matter. I am discovering that language is no barrier for the Spirit of God to speak to us and to minister to our souls---He can touch our hearts because it is deep speaking to deep, spirit speaking to spirit. So often in these Sunday service, I find myself in tears---not because of sadness, but overwhelmed by the Father's love and touched by the images He gives me as I look around and see my Khmer brothers and sisters worshiping Him in Spirit and in Truth.
Those of you who have been following this blog know that we often discuss how family obligation and honor in Cambodian culture as in many Asian cultures, influences individual decisions. So often when we talk about girls who are trafficked, we see the distortion of these family obligations that leads to young women being compelled to sell themselves or are sold by their parents or relatives to pay of debts or other reasons that involve the family dynamics. But, today was one of those special days at this Khmer church and while I wish I could have taken photos, it was such a special moment that I found myself immersed in that I didn't want to use the camera, but just soak in what I was experiencing. Today, we were celebrating not just father's day but mother's day---it was a celebration of honor for the parents of the Khmer young people that attend this church. Many of their parents came to this service which in a sense was an outreach for them----some of the parents have come previously and for others it was the first time attending.
Normally, the music would be more loud and boisterous, after all most of those who attend here are in their late teens and early 20s---but today, the worship was more calm and serene---recognizing that the older generation were present. That in and of itself was a sign of respect. As the worship service began, I couldn't help but watch the faces of the older people---many of them stoic, their faces seem harden perhaps by the very lives they have lived and the pain and suffering they have endured. That generation grew up on the Khmer Rouge era---they were the children of that time period, but now they are the parents of modern day Cambodia. Then, I looked at the faces of the young people---this new generation that God is raising up to worship Him----their faces full of joy, there is a vibrancy and lightness in them as they lifted their hands up to worship their King. They were not afraid to display their worship of the Lord. As I looked at this scene, tears came to my eyes, for in the front rows sat all the parents, and surrounding them from all sides and the back were the young people, their hands stretched out in worship. It was this image that touched my spirit---these young people were like a shield around their parents, just as God is a shield around us. Who knows within this crowd of young people, how many of them have experienced persecution from their parents as they became Christians. After all, to be Cambodian is to be Buddhist.
But today as I watched these young people, I sense the Lord saying, the young people today in Cambodia are leading the way, this is the new generation that He is raising up to bring healing to this land, this is the new generation that is bringing His hope and releasing His love. This is the new generation that will be breaking the chains of the past. One of the young women sitting next to me,showed me a beautiful gift wrapped present she had made for her mother. It was a surprise---actually all the young college age boys and girls had brought presents to give to their parents this day. Those who were 16 years old and were still in high school, were given presents to give to their parents. In the mid point of the service, this gift giving happened. What a sight, as young people went before their parents where ever they were sitting, hugging their parents or kneeling at their feet and giving them a gift to thank them. Such an expression of love, so priceless, so touching, so honoring. Some of them in tears, as well as their parents----those stoic faces were slowly softening, giving way to smiles --- but God was not done.
A young woman who is one of the worship leaders got up to share her testimony. She talked about how her father had died a few years ago and she began to weep as she encouraged her brothers and sisters to honor their parents, to respect their parents, to serve them before it is too late. It was a tearful testimony but one that was so powerful, for now everyone was in tears, young and old wiping the tears from their eyes. As she continued, a lady next to me started sobbing uncontrollably unlike the rest of us who were just moved by the testimony. This was more than just tears, God was touching her deeply, deep within her soul. Something had been triggered, perhaps she never had the privilege of coming from a loving family, perhaps she had regrets, perhaps her parents had died or perhaps she never knew her parents. Whatever the reason, the Lord was speaking to her through this testimony. I quietly put my hand to her shoulder and just prayed for her.
Here in Cambodia, it is not common to see such tears---the older generation are used to suppressing their emotions. They lived under the Khmer Rouge regime where your true feelings were not to be shown because if you did that could mean death. Emotions were suppressed and in many ways that continues today as we think about the whole saving face mentality. But God is starting to remove these layers of trauma, bit by bit He is using this younger generation who are so expressive and transparent about their emotions to bring new life in dead places. They are not afraid to cry, they are discovering that crying is healthy, it is normal, it is not a sign of weakness, but it is a sign of vulnerability, it is about being your true self and being honest about how you feel, it is simply about being human. My dear friend Marie Ens once shared with me, that it is so good to see these young people so full of emotion, so expressive in their worship, so joyful as they dance to worship music---they are discovering what it means to be free in Christ, to be true worshippers of Him. This is so unlike their parents, who for years have kept all those emotions within themselves, locked away deep within them their souls. I can't help but think this is the bondage that Satan cultivated during the Khmer Rouge era but God has started tearing these walls down! God is restoring feelings and emotions in this land which for many years were imprisoned.
Psalm 24:7-10 says: lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty — he is the King of glory. This psalm reminds me that the Lord is in the business of breaking down ancient doors. There are many ancient doors here in Cambodia that prevent people from experiencing true freedom and so like the Psalmist we pray that these ancient doors of trauma, of deep pain, of deep suffering, of hopeless, of meaninglessness, of bondage, of brokenness, of rejection, of abandonment, of poverty, just to name a few---that each of these will continue to be torn down by the King of Glory Himself. The Lord Almighty wants to enter into to the lives of those who are hurting in this nation. Pray that He will continue to move and touch the hearts of both young and old, that as they sow in tears, He promises they will reap songs of joy for in Him and through Him we are more than conquerors. In Him, we move and have our being, in Him we discover true freedom to be ourselves! In Him, we discover our true identity as daughters and sons of the Most High God!