Sunday, October 20, 2013

A New Addition to the RAP Community Home - a Divine Interruption

There are many things one learns living overseas and one of the lessons I continually experience here is that God's ways are not our ways. We learn to expect the unexpected and go with the flow. Flexibility is a must for anyone who wants to live cross culturally and adapting to new situations is a regular occurrence. These truths became more of a reality when one of our young women became pregnant. With her permission, I am able to share about the most recent addition to the RAP Community home.
Ratanak Daniel - 1 day old!
 Last Saturday, we had the privilege of welcoming little baby Ratanak Daniel into our ''RAP Family"' weighing in at 6lbs 1 ounces.  The names of this baby seems so significant--Ratanak means "'Precious Gem" in Khmer and Daniel of course was a man of integrity. How God gave these names to Daniel's mother seems so appropriate. Indeed he is a precious gem of God created for for such a time as this, to live in such a way that he will live out God's ways and truth wholeheartedly in spite of the societal pressures to water down the truth.  While the community home was not designed for such young infants, God obviously had other designs and plans.
Ratanak Daniel - 1 week old!
Through his birth, I am learning much about God's grace and redemptive power through the remarkable courage of his mother who is going against the cultural norms by having a baby as a single mother! In this culture, so often young pregnant unwed mothers have to deal with shame and the stigma associated with having a baby outside of marriage. For Srey Neth (not her real name), her incredible poise, and maturity during this time continues to amaze me despite her young age. During her pregnancy, she ate all the right food to ensure that her baby was getting the appropriate nutrients, she talked about her future with her son and shared about what she would like to do. This morning, one week after giving birth she said to some of our young women, staff and myself, I would like Daniel to go church this morning. I would like him to know God. She asked if she could join as well and of course we were delighted to have her go despite the fact she was feeling a bit weak and sore from the delivery.
Daniel laughing while at church!

Like a doting grandmother ---yes I am now being called ''Makyeah'' I have been happily taking photos, praying over him each day whenever I see him, cuddling him and singing the infamous Christian children's song ''Jesus Loves Me This I Know''. In just one week, he has recognized that song and it soothes him if he starts to cry. So much so, that I often get called upon to sing the song to him if he cries but I have shared with our young women that they need to sing the song in Khmer so that he will learn it in both languages. To say that he is getting a lot of attention is an understatement but it goes to show that the Lord has a way of providing a loving family environment with lots of ''Ombreys'' (aunts) to baby sit and play with him! Pray for wisdom for all of us that we do not spoil him for it is so easy to do! :-)

 I have also had the privilege of observing one of the precious values of this culture--- the benefits of community and the love that can emanates out of such a close knit community.  From Baby Daniel's arrival, we have witnessed the love of God manifested in a whole new way as our young women and staff seek to care for this little baby as well as his mum. Two of our young women along with one of our home advisors were with Srey Neath as the delivery was imminent. They stayed over night at the hospital praying for her and Daniel, so much so the doctor was so impressed that he said to them your God is good because Srey Neath's delivery was smooth and short (6 hours) from start to finish. Amazing considering this was her first child. These two helpers took turns helping her when she needed to go to the bathroom and happily enjoyed feeding and changing Daniel's diapers under the watchful eye of our home advisors.
Two of our home advisors and one young women with Daniel
One of our staff and two of our young women helping out at the hospital feeding Srey Neath
Both our staff and young women at the RAP home have also shown me afresh that ''divine interruptions'' usually  are a summons to servanthood--not convenience, not ease, not wealth or power, but a summons to servanthood. Because usually when God interrupts somebody s life he calls them to serve. The Lord has interrupted our lives with this beautiful bundle of joy. We see the servant heart of Christ coming out in some of our young women as they volunteer to wash Daniel's clothes as well as wash Srey Neth's clothes while she is still recovering from the delivery. We see them willingly volunteering to clean his diaper and take him for little walks around the RAP home so his mum can get a rest. Indeed, through this divine interruption, we see tenderness, nurturing, sacrifice, thoughtfulness and most of all His love coming from our young women. Consider their own life experiences, where they perhaps have not received such love and care, their actions show again that the Lord has built into each one of us the capacity to love and care despite whatever trauma or brokenness we may have experienced.

Of course one learns much as well about how Khmer care for babies. I am told that babies born in the province to poor families are often given water and sugar to eat if the mother can't produce milk. They simply have no money to buy the milk powder. We have had to do some training with our staff on how to sterilize the baby bottles, clean him and burp him as well as the importance of personal hygiene. All these little reminders and details make me realize how many odds are stacked against children born in a third world country and yet God has His own ways of taking care and keeping babies healthy in the midst of the most challenging environment.

As I think of "'baby Daniel'', I can't help but reflect on a baby boy who too was born over 2000 years. The birth of Jesus ushered in a whole new dimension of love, of peace and of joy. His birth too was a Divine Interruption ---an interruption that change the course of history, change the life of his mother Mary and led to a whole new understanding of love and servanthood. His birth made a way for us all to receive salvation and eternal life. So as I think of the impact of Christ and the incredible interruption He was and continues to be in our lives, my hope is that Ratanak Daniel will also be a divine interruption where ever He goes, that he too will be used by the Lord to bless others in ways that they could never have imagined.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Baking at the RAP Home

At the RAP Community home we are always trying to ensure that the environment our young women live in is contextually Cambodian. However, the one area where we have a bit of ''Western influence'' is having a Western oven. This was deliberately done to encourage our young women who liked baking to gain different life skills and experience using an oven. Over time, our young women have made a variety of baked goods and our staff and the other young women have had the pleasure of taste testing!.
Lois encouraging one of our young women

Recently, Lois who is an international worker that volunteers at RAP normally helping us out on administrative functions, is also an avid baker in her spare time. As such, she has spent some time teaching some of our young women how to bake from scratch. This is a far cry from my lazy style baking which involves using Duncan Hines cake mixes. But the reality is, baking from scratch is more contextually appropriate and useful for the young women to learn all the ingredients and the quantities needed to make all the desserts. One of our young women SL has really excelled in this area on her own initiative and often in her spare time is now coming up with her own baking creations as she goes on the internet to research recipes and then experiments in the RAP kitchen. It has also been a great way for her to learn more English as she will chat with Lois on different ingredients and quantities. She now has her own recipe journal making notes of all the different recipes and has already making adjustments to existing recipes to perfect the taste! I think that's a sign of a good cook or baker!

Making muffins
Making Bread

To date, SL has made muffins, chocolate chip cookies, bread, pancakes, crepes and even donuts. On one occasion, SL and another young women contributed their own funds to make donuts for their friends at the shelter they previously stayed at. Such generosity using what little they have, speaks to the heart that God is cultivating in them as they seek to bless others.


Chocolate chip cookies anyone!

Making  Pancakes
With such baking enthusiasm, we are gaining weight tasting all these baking delicacies.:-) But its for a good cause! How can we resist? One's gotta do what one's gotta do!

More importantly, through these baking exercises, we see self confidence, initiative and creativity being released in SL as she enjoys this ''hobby.'' This is what we desire for each of the young women who stay at the RAP home, that as time goes by, they will each discover their own passions that reflects their individual personalities, talents and gifts that God has given to them. Our role is simply to facilitate and provide opportunities to support and nurture their individual giftings and achievements so that when they leave the RAP home, they leave with a deeper understanding of not only who they are in Christ but a deeper understanding of why He created them and a deeper realization that they can do immeasurably more than they could ever imagine!