Saturday, November 3, 2012

Welcoming BBQ at the RAP Home!

Psalm 118:24 says ''This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it'.'' These words of scripture are so fitting as I reflect on all that has transpired earlier today. As part of the journey of transitioning from our partner organizations to the Ratanak Achievement Program (RAP) Community home, we invited the young women and their caregivers from both our partner organizations to attend a BBQ lunch so that they would have an opportunity to meet their fellow house mates.
Sothy, Sophea and Malak preparing some of the food for the BBQ
Our day started early with our staff at the RAP home arriving just before 8:00am to prepare the food that we were making today. The young women had requested octopus, shrimp, meat, chicken and vegetables ---personally its my kind of BBQ cause there is lots of meat.
Soklin BBQing Octopus:-)

The meat trays: Shrimp and Beef
 In the midst of all our decorating and cooking, we got a phone call that the bicycles we had ordered for the girls were being dropped off at the RAP home.Our desire is to help the young women live a more independent life and so they will be responsible for keeping their bicycles in good shape and can use them to ride anywhere within a 3 km radius as anything beyond that we have offered to provide them with transportation by way of a tuk tuk or through the use of our Ratanak vehicle.

Bicycles for the young women who will stay at RAP
One of the first decorations to go up was a sign that we got printed in both English and Khmer saying: ''Welcome To The RAP Home'' . In the future, when a new young woman comes to live at RAP home we will use this sign to welcome her and hopefully host a little party for her to make her feel part of the RAP family.

Soklin (Counselor), Nary (Operations Manager), Sereyrom (Social Worker)
There were 32 people including the young women who were coming to participate in today's events and so we spent the morning setting up the tables and chairs and decorating the place with balloons and streamers.

At 10:30 am, our first group of young women from the Newsong Center arrived---they were 30 minutes early but they quickly pitched into to help with the cooking and set up.
Some of the staff from the Newsong center helping to BBQ

Some of the staff from Newsong helped with the BBQ and few of the young women joined me as we had set up some plates of cupcakes made from our favorite cake place---the Bloom Training Center---One of our supporting churches had donated $100 towards a cake for our welcoming BBQ and so it was so fitting to have the staff at Bloom make our cakes---after all they too are a living testimonies of those who have overcome sexual exploitation.
Two of the young women from the Newsong center helping to organize our cup cakes from Bloom!

Cupcakes from Bloom!
As we were still waiting for the arrival of the second group of young women, the first group from Newsong decided to hang out in the ''library area'' where they sat around reading books and the magazines waiting patiently despite being hungry for their other room mates to arrive. Suddenly the front gate opened and the whole team from our other partner organization arrived. One of the special surprises was of a young woman who we at Ratanak have known for some time through the Foster Care program we have funded. It was a joy to have her join us as she too will be moving into the RAP home.

We gathered all our RAP team together so they could once again introduce themselves and we had everyone sit in mix groups so that caregivers from both organizations as well as the young women would get to know one another. Everyone still seemed a bit apprehensive and understandably so. For me personally, it was an incredible privilege and honor to welcome the entire group to the RAP home on behalf of Ratanak International. There is no words to describe seeing this dream become a reality and while we are still in the early stages, we know that the challenges are still to come. Yet, today, we wanted to focus on welcoming the young women and celebrating with them this new chapter in their journey. I shared the following message with the group:

On behalf of Ratanak International, I want to welcome you all to the RAP home. I want to especially welcome the 13 young women who have come here to today. We are so excited to have you come and stay here.  We are looking forward to walking along side you so that you can achieve the dreams that God has put in your hearts.

But first I want to thank God for the staff of our partner organizations. I want to thank you for all of your love, care and support of these young women. We appreciate your help and all that you have done to be a friend to these young women. We appreciate your partnership and your hard work. Today we come together not as staff of different organizations but as brothers and sisters in Christ---we come together as one family in God.

And to my young friends, as I was thinking of you today, I asked the Lord this morning what He would have me share with you and He gave me two bible verses for you. First, Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. God has began a good work in each of you and today, we celebrate all that you have achieved and accomplished through Christ and through the work of our friends at our partner organizations.  We celebrate your lives, we honor you. We celebrate the courage and strength you have shown to overcome different challenges and difficulties you have faced. We celebrate all the good work that the Lord has done and will continue to do in you. That is His promise to you.

But as well, the bible says in Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. This is God’s desire for you. His plan is to prosper you, to bless you, to give you hope and a future and as you come to stay at the RAP home,  we are committed to serving you, and helping you discover the dreams God has put in your heart. We are committed to walking with you just as our friends at Newsong and Hagar have done.  We are committed to helping you accomplish the great plans that God has for your lives.

So we thank God for giving us the privilege of having you be part of the RAP home. I pray that you will always experience the love, joy and peace of Christ in this home and I pray that you will discover that you can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you.

Jesus loves you, Jesus cares for you, Jesus wants the best for you.  This is what we believe. We too want to model His love, His care and to give you His best. I pray that that as you stay here and as you spend time with our staff  you will discover these very truths.  May God bless you and shine His face upon you always. 

Lunch is served! 

Each table proceeded to share grace and then it was time to eat and enjoy each other's company. Following lunch it was time for some games and our Psychosocial team had come up with several games that encouraged everyone to participate. One of the first games was a ''name game''  followed by some more familiar Western games like ''hot potato'' and ''musical chairs'' using some familiar worship songs ''How Great Is Our God'' and ''Your Grace is Enough.''  The winners from these games each received a small gift. Of course we set it up in such a way that the young women would win the gift:-). All in all, there were shrills of laughter and screaming as there is nothing like a little competition to get the juices going.

Soon the celebration was over as the teams and the young women had to leave at 2pm. What a precious moment as we said good bye to each other, and two of the young women coming up not just to say goodbye but to give me a hug with the parting words of  ''see you next Saturday.'' Indeed, it was a day the Lord had made! How could we not rejoice and be glad!

As I reflect back on this day, I give thanks to the Lord for our staff. We are so incredibly proud of all their efforts as they have have been working tirelessly behind the scenes and putting in extra hours to make sure that not only this day would run smoothly but as we prepare for the young women to move in to the RAP home next Saturday November 10th, there is much to do. There are many schedules to sort through and many different items to navigate and much paper to process. Please do continue to pray for our staff, for stamina, endurance, strength, energy, unity and boundless love as this month we are all working practically 7 days a week to help facilitate a smooth transition for these young women. We do this because we want to give our best to bless these young women with the best possible care and support we can through the gifts, talents and abilities that the Lord has given to us. Pray too for the young women in this final week as they say goodbye to familiar surroundings and enter into new territory that remains unknown to them. In the midst of this change, may they know that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Pray that as they move into the RAP home that they well settle well, that God will go ahead of them, preparing their hearts and preparing the way, that He will cultivate a special bond of love between each other.

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