Last night was such a fun night at the Christmas Outreach in the brothel district as I had the opportunity to re-connect with so many young Khmer Christian friends whom I have had the privilege of knowing for a few years. One of them ''P'' has had a detour in her walk with the Lord but is slowly on a journey of restoration. She introduced me to her mother and father and I couldn't help but reflect on the grace and mercy of God. Her mother often pressures her and her sisters and in many ways contributed to her being sold in the recent past. Her father was arrested in 2010 for trafficking other girls and was a security guard of one of the very buildings in this community in which his own daughter was held captive. He was recently released from prison. (He also had sold his own daughters years ago). Yet here in this Christmas outreach, light and darkness clashed but the light was shining forth as her parents came to attend the outreach. At such events, it is a quote from Jill Carrintini of RZIM that comes to mind: God's grace is lavish. It is extravagant and poured out on those who neither expect it, nor deserve it. The Father's grace is jarring and disruptive. The Father's call to forgive the one whose sincerity is questionable is often agonizing; His command to love the habitual prodigals in our midst is both costly and exhausting. God's grace disrupts our sense of righteousness and summons us to respond in a similar kind. His unfathomable grace and mercy shatters our sense of who is worthy to enjoy the benefits of God's kingdom, inviting us to the celebration (for the Prodigal son) regardless of where we stand.''
Here in this brothel district, God's grace is constantly disrupting our lives in ways that we do not expect nor anticipate. Yet as we ourselves embrace that grace and extend it to others, we see the love of Christ bringing hope and shining light in the darkness. Some who attended this event themselves have been victims of sexual exploitation, but as they enter into their journey of healing, their presence last night in an area that has often been a place of hell for them because of the tragic memories, was a place of joy as they celebrated the birth of their Savior! Once again the grace of God shines forth redeeming lives that so many would easily discard.
Shortly after leaving the outreach event, I was driving up the main street and stopped to chat with one of our reintegrated young women who was living nearby. As I got out of the car, I heard a another voice calling my name. It was ''S''....a young 12 year old whom several of us have been praying for in the recent months. A while back I had ran into her at the riverfront with full make up and during this time, our partner's staff would see her in the village and she would be all dressed up and with full make up. Last night, we had a little chat as I have heard she is still attending some of the classes at the school and even comes out to the youth group meetings. A few minutes later, I was surrounded by other ''little people'' asking me all sorts of questions. Some could understand my Khmer, others were translating the Khmer into Vietnamese. It was a cute scene and one that I enjoyed! In all of this, I thought of ''S'' and the grace that is needed in her life to keep her from growing bitter and hardened by what she experiences when she is abused on a regular basis. She represents so many little ones in this community that need the grace of God to disrupt and intervene in their young lives.
But this community is not just about the lives but also about the buildings. Each building seems to have a story to tell. Stories that are not pleasant to the ear but stories of lives broken and devalued. Yet just as the Lord wants to start a new chapter in a young life, so too His plan is to use the ruins in the community to start a new story. A story of hope, a story of redemption and ultimately a story of grace! A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of buying another building in this area that is notorious for its use by well known Canadian pedophiles and other foreign pedophiles. This building like many in this area was used to destroy the sacred and the vulnerable. Yet the Lord can take such buildings and like the people He created, He begins to rebuild, restore and redeem. Only He can take what was derelict and make it sacred and holy ground. The very places where lives were shattered, will become places were lives experience the grace of God as He breathes new life in them. This very building where little boys were abused will become a dorm for young boys in the community cared for by a young couple.
Indeed as I continue to reflect on all that is happening in this little community, I keep returning to one word ''grace''!. Where sin increases, grace increases more! God's grace continues to disrupt this community in various forms and shapes, whether it is a young life or an old discarded building, each of these are trophies of God's grace as He takes the old and makes it new, the broken and makes it whole and the dead places become life giving places.
This Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we see the ultimate of how Grace disrupted our lives and how Grace came into our lives. John 1:14 says 'The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full or grace and truth. As light continues to shine in this dark community, so too may the One who is full of grace and truth cover this little village that with each passing day, each passing year, the testimony of those who live there will echo the very words of John 1:14 ---The Word became flesh and dwelled among us and we have seen His glory! We have seen His glory!