Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Where the Boys are, the Girls will be!

For some time, we have been wanting to clean up the back part of the RAP Community home. There are a few fruit trees there but they are surrounded by long grass and other assorted vegetation. Our plan was to have the young women be involved in cleaning up the back of the home, after all it is their home. Last week one of them started to pick out the weeds at the side of the home and cut the grass. It was a tedious job but nonetheless, one particular young woman had found her 'passion' and decided to just do it.

However, given that we were not sure if there were any snakes at the back ''jungle'' we thought about hiring someone to clean up the area but couldn't think of anyone until the Lord brought to mind some of my favorite young friends ---the disciples in Svay Pak. So I called up Pastor Chantha and asked if any of his male disciples would be willing to help us out for the afternoon. We would bless them with a small stipend for their efforts given what was involved. We shared this with the young women at RAP that 5 young people were coming to help clean the backyard. The first question I was asked was ''Bong (older sister), who is coming? Are they male or female?'' Hmmm....I responded ''males.'' I got a few smiles from the young women.

1:00pm Sunday afternoon, five of Pastor Chantha's young male disciples arrived. They were an answer to prayer as they arrived with machines that are used to cut the grass and diligently began hacking away at the grass with all sorts of different equipment while toiling the soil.

Pastor Chantha's disciples 
Two of our young women peered out the back door to see who had arrived---I think they were checking the young men out! Teenagers! One young woman asked if we were paying them money to help us---I said ''yes'' and her reply '' so if we help do we get paid.'' Í responded ''no, this is your house.'' I then went on to tell her that these young men have been serving the church in Svay Pak for at least 3 years and they serve for free, offering their gifts and talents to the Lord. They do it because they love Christ and not because they are expecting money. But today, we wanted to bless them because they were blessing us.'' She smiled and that was the end of the ''money discussion.'' She went out to help the guys and then one other young woman joined her. Another young woman came out to look at the guys and then went upstairs to the back balcony to check them out from a more discreet position! In the mean time, I was having a good chuckle watching this all play out. It is interesting to observe what motivates young women to help out! :-)
One young woman gathering leaves in a basket

Pastor Chantha's young male disciples are great guys. They have been trained to respect young women and to treat them with dignity. So it was a pleasure to have them help us out. They went into the high grass with their rubber boots and gloves and started chopping and cutting away all the overgrown vegetation. Slowly, other young women began to appear to participate in the backyard project.
Helping Pastor Chantha's disciples

Raking leaves and toiling the soil

Other young women were quite happy to do their own tree chopping and clean up. As time passed by, they all started to come outside, one by one as the clean up continued. No one had prodded them to help. They just started showing up.
Cutting down dead wood
Cleaning the ditch

After a couple hours in the hot sun, the clean up crew took a break. We bought some local ''meats'' for them all to enjoy. Where there are Asians, there is always food and so Malak our Psychosocial Coordinator had come into work that day and enjoyed cooking up some food for the young people.
Malak cutting up some meat balls
Khmer snack - meatballs with cucumbers and hot sauce
As the afternoon progressed, different young women came out of the house, some helping to cook the food, others cutting the grass, others putting all the green vegetation into garbage bags. It became one big family affair. But this is all part of Khmer culture, where everyone in the family joins together to help out. It is such a far cry from our Western individualistic mindset where everyone is for themselves. But here in Cambodia, everyone shares the load---in situations like this it is wonderful to see but we all have seen the extreme where family pressures so often result in young women being sold for sex.

Pastor Chantha's disciples having a snack

The young women hanging out with the young women sharing some snacks
Four hours later, all the clean up was done. The bags of dead leaves and vines were carried off by one of our young women and and the five disciples. It was a fitting end to what had been a long day but a fruitful time.
Young woman with 5 of Pastor Chantha's disciples taking out garbage

The young women got to interact with some godly young men and at the same time had the opportunity to work together on a project that would ultimately bless them. Our next step in this garden project is to buy flowers and plants. Our desire is for the young women to be involved in this process, to choose the flowers and design their garden. How fitting it is that they now have the opportunity to create His beauty in a plot of land that was overgrown with weeds and dead trees. Even here, God is using them to tend to His garden, to be givers of life as He uses them to restore beauty in places that were once deserted and dead.

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