Gosh I can't believe its been over a month since I last wrote on this blog. I used to think one would have more time living in a 3rd world country but it just doesn't seem so. Days fly so quickly!
Its been just over two years since I moved permanently to Cambodia. Over this time there have been many lessons learned and as the years continue, I am sure there will be many more lessons to be learned. Life after all is all about opening our hearts to the Lord and allowing Him to teach us and mold us through the circumstances we face, the emotions we encounter, through the good, bad and ugly things we see, through the ups and downs of ministry. Every thing is part of our journey refining us, shaping us and hopefully enabling us to become a greater image bearer of the One who created us.
So often in my journey here I am asked the question how long will I live in Cambodia? When one is called by the Lord, the calling is irrevocable but where He leads us may not necessarily be permanent after all, the only permanent place is when we get to our heavenly home so we always need to be flexible and hold all things loosely. Nonetheless, Cambodia is my home and my dream and desire is to live out the rest of my life in this beautiful country and to invest in the next generation seeing them blossom and be agents of change in their communities. So I pray that the Lord will continue to grant the desires of my heart. I am praying He will continue to expand my language acquisition because I want to pray in Khmer----I'm not there yet but I have learned if the willingness is there, then there is much the Lord can do with a willing heart. It doesn't mean we don't have our challenges for I can safely say that while year one of my time here was relatively easy ie: I suffered little in the way of culture shock, I had fun learning the language, I discovered that Cambodia had many of my favorite fruits from my childhood days in South America----I felt at home in the heat, it was like discovering my roots even though I never have considered myself Asian. I know that sounds crazy but this is what happens when one is a third culture kid....I always tell people I look Asian ie: yellow on the outside but white inside---I am a banana! (ok I digress).
My second year certainly has had its challenges on all levels. But when you know God has called you to a place and a people, you learn to embrace all these challenges and obstacles as opportunities. One of the things I have learned over and over again is not to look at the visible reality but to keep focusing on God especially when the challenges increase and victory seems so far away. I remember one pastor saying that people usually grow weary and tired not because of physical exhaustion but because they have lost hope. They have lost hope that a situation can change, or that their circumstances can change. They have lost hope because they don't see the light at the end of the tunnel---they just see darkness and so hopelessness can quickly overshadow their souls. Here in Cambodia, the darkness is prevalent and we can feel attacks coming on all fronts at times both physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally on a regular basis and so our natural fleshly bent would be to loose hope. BUT, in all of this the secret weapon we have is our faith in Christ and what we believe in Him. The hope He continually gives us to press on despite the dire circumstances and the horrible tragedies of man's inhumanity to man enables us to press on, to endure and to not give up. This becomes especially true when we encounter young women who because of their traumatic past continue to be bound by their pain and you long to see them be free but, they make choices that keep them imprisoned in their spirit. Romans 15:13 says: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I love this verse for it is a reminder that joy and peace comes from trusting the One who is the Source of Hope and as we do, we then overflow with hope that is released through the Holy Spirit. This is not a profound truth, its a simple truth that we learn over and over again as we work with survivors of sexual exploitation for if we have no Hope in Christ, we can easily be discouraged when we do not see any tangible results from our efforts or we do not see the visible fruits of healing happening.
So this afternoon I am going to meet with 3 young sisters. They are my spiritual daughters and I secretly hope and pray I will have many spiritual daughters and grand daughters for all the years God grants me to live in this land. :-) These 3 young women fuel my faith in Christ, they represent what is possible when we trust the Lord and the hope that can be restored in broken lives and be released in their lives and my life.Their journeys have not been easy but one of them in particular was a recent prodigal for reasons I can't share here. Yet, she is on a journey of hope again. When I met up with her recently, I felt like the the Father in the story of the prodigal son. There she was---a skinny little girl (she had lost a lot of weight since I last saw her, but then again young women here are so skinny its all relative)calling my name ''Bong Lisa'' and running into my hands, tears in her eyes and tears in my eyes as she held on for what seemed like the longest hug. No wonder the father in the prodigal son story had a celebration and asked his servants to bring the best calf to be cooked to celebrate the son's return. I understand those emotions better now for we can't help but celebrate a life that was once lost but is now found. Its times like this I appreciate the language lessons I have had to be able to share with her how we loved her, had prayed for her, how we had missed her and were so happy to see that she is now safe again. She is still on a journey of hope but we are walking with her as she desires to take responsible steps towards a new life of hope. Through her journey, I get to ''taste and see'' that the Lord is good, the Gospel comes alive, the words of scripture that I read and reflect on, become reality in this setting. What a privilege the Lord gives us to see the truths He speaks about laid out before our eyes!
As for the other two young women, they are now fully reintegrated, working and already experiencing the blessings of hope. I first met them 4 years ago when we celebrated their birthday party at the partner home that they lived in. Now they are both grown up, working and earning a respectable income, they are taller than me (that is not hard to accomplish) but I feel like a proud aunt or proud mama as I had a chance to engage in conversation with one of them recently. But the other person that comes to my mind is my boss Brian! He has carried some of these young women in his heart for years when they were part of a case he was working on regarding a Canadian pedophile. He has known them much longer than I. He has seen their pain and abuse on evidence files. It was their pain and suffering that God used to propel Him and Ratanak to get involved in funding organizations who were working to help survivors of trafficking. I wish he could be here to share this experience with me but as he often says he gets to live vicariously through my life:-). But this is privilege we all have --some of us sow, some of us reap but we are all in it together for the glory of God!
Nonetheless, this afternoon, I am looking forward to hearing how the Source of our Hope has been speaking into their lives over these years, what are the lessons He is teaching them and how has He been restoring hope daily to them. Indeed, I come back to a phrase that often rings in my ears when I read stories of atrocities or see young women being exploited. I hear the voice of Hope saying to me ''Jesus has the last word over their lives.'' May it always be so Lord Jesus! May it always be so!