Saturday, July 28, 2012

Staff BBQ & The Darkness

As our initial staff training is almost complete, yesterday we decided to celebrate the end of a 2 month training period to have a time of fellowship and to relax after what has been at times a busy and intense training schedule juggling renovations and purchases for the RAP Community home and organizing meetings and training. All of these things while important and necessary for our preparation and building a strong foundation and strengthening the team, can at times make us feel like ''Martha'' in the bible---we are busy doing but perhaps not sitting still. There is a time to be a "Martha" and a time to be a ''Mary'' where we take a timeout to sit still and simply ''be''. The Chinese have two characters for the English word ''busyness'' which they define as ''heart annihilation.'' When I first learned of this translation I smiled, for indeed often our own busyness seems to destroy our hearts instead of enlarging our hearts. Stephen Smith in his book titled 'Soul Custody'' noted that ''a life of prolonged busyness, engaging with people, performing task and expanding your knowledge about God does not help you experience God. More information no matter how good it is, does not yield a transformed life. Transformation and deep change are ushered in by experiencing God, not just knowing about God and stillness is required. After an intense period of output, effort and expending energy, we are wise to take extended time off to give the soul room to rest, replenish and renew with good food and good drink. It must be intentionally scheduled, honored and prioritized. For Elijah, stillness looked like lots of rest and lots of nourishment before he was ready for the next part of the journey."

So for us at Ratanak here in Cambodia, we took a small but scheduled time out from all the doing to enjoy a day of reflection and a day of rest and replenishment with some good food and a time for fun. We had a staff BBQ where everyone made or brought food. The two men on our team Sathya our Finance Manager and Sambath our driver, got the fire going on the BBQ.

While our female staff were busy preparing their dishes in the RAP kitchen. Lois, a Canadian international worker who has been living in Cambodia for 3 years is volunteering with us providing administrative support along with coaching and mentoring our staff.

Lois and Sina making an apple pie

 Sereyrom and Nary making Vietnamese spring rolls!
Noodles made by Sina
While various food preparations were going on inside, some of the other staff were helping me with the BBQ  outside. Sathya had bought shrimp and squid and I being a meat lover provided the traditional hamburgers, sausages and chicken wings. One of my friends here told me of a a place called Dan Meats to get some meats....they were right. Now I know where to go to find some real meat! :-)
BBQ Shrimp and Squid!

We had quite a feast with so much food that we had tons of leftovers which we have decided to keep for next week and have for lunch---given all the food we made, this can feed us for two days:-).
Salads provided by Sophea our home advisor

Even in events like this there are cultural lessons to learn for those of us who come with our Western mindsets. As is typical of many tropical countries, where there is food, there is flies. Am still trying to figure out why the Lord created flies as personally, I don't see their use---they just harass us and buzz around us but I digress...that's another story in and of itself. Nonetheless, as we were more of less finished eating, and just chatting when the flies decided that they also wanted to be a part of our activities, so I decided to get some Saran wrap to cover the dishes to keep away from the flies. But in doing this, one of my staff mentioned to me that I am signalling it is time to stop eating and can create an awkwardness as the rest of the staff cannot relax if I am busy covering the food. So my good intentions of trying to be hygienic was signaling something different to our staff. These little cultural innuendos are cues that we as Westerners need to constantly navigate. I am learning daily more about this and continue to be appreciative to my staff who are helping me to understand more about the Khmer culture.

One other observation from this BBQ was that it was a mix of Asian and Western food----a fusion of two food groups and yet, my Khmer sisters and brothers naturally gravitate more towards their Asian foods. It is not a bad thing, just different. Yet, some of our staff are more adventurous and are discovering the joy of eating salads. They want to know how to make the ''sauce'' for the salad---translation---how to make the salad dressing! For those of you who are more creative cooks, you are more likely to make your own salad dressings. But for me, I simply told my staff, ''oh you just buy the salad dressing from Lucky supermarket and mix it over the salad.'' So now they want to come shopping with me to see what I buy and how to make a Western salad!
 At the end of our BBQ, everyone pitched in to help with the clean up and we decided to go bowling for an hour. Yes folks, there is a bowling alley here in Cambodia and its not expensive. For eight of us for 1 hour including the rental of shoes it came up to $20.00
Thirty minutes into our bowling escapades and we were greeted with an unpleasant reminder of why we are here and why we do what we do. Three ''Boratay'' --Westerners arrived to bowl next to us with 3 Khmer girls in the bowling alley next to us. We began to look at them a bit more closely trying to figure out the ages of the girls that were with them.
Three Western men bowling beside us with their dates!
According to our staff, one of the girls seem to be a ''regular'' ie: a sex worker but the other two girls certainly seem younger and we estimate their ages to be around 16 years old. Ironically, one of the guys on his black t-shirt had the words ''POLICE" written on it. Yet, there actions of holding and fondling the girls sent a far different message.

It is so fitting as I thought of what we saw at the bowling alley that the Lord would remind me of His words that I had read the day before in 2 Chronicles: Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”  We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah: Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”18 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.  21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:“Give thanks to the Lord,  for his love endures forever.” 22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 2 Chronicles 14:11, 2 Chronicles 20:15-22)

This will not be the first nor the last time that we will see scenes like this in the midst of our times of fellowship. These scenes are a reminder to us that the darkness is never far from us no matter where we go or what we do. But it is important for us to acknowledge constantly that the battle is not ours but God's! We are simply called to be faithful to the process of taking up our positions, standing firm and not be discouraged by the visible reality of the darkness but engage it as we seek God's face. So before we left the bowling alley, we formed a circle and just prayed that the Lord would frustrate the plans of these men, that whatever their attempts to abuse or harm these girls, they would not be able to do such activities. He would ambush them in their attempts to do anything that would cause pain to these young women. We asked Christ to protect these young women and to keep them safe. We committed this whole situation into the Lord's hand knowing that He is mighty to save, mighty to protect and mighty to deliver us from all evil and those whom He brings into our midst! It is a faith journey in Him like no other! As we left and headed back to the RAP home, despite the darkness, our staff were singing worship songs! How appropriate it was to worship the Lord in song, rejoicing and praising Him despite the darkness, we were declaring, blessed be the name of the Lord, He is good all the time!

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