Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ministry of the Mundane

Today this term ''ministry of the mundane'' came to mind as I was in the midst of some meetings. It is a phrase coined by author John Ortberg who wrote many years ago that it reflects opportunities offered to us countless times through the day. Perhaps a colleague asks for our help regarding a project, it can happen in the middle of a traffic jam when we let someone go ahead of us---and here in Cambodia, if you drive a car daily you will always face the ministry of the mundane as many cars especially those big SUVs are always happy to go ahead of us or as I encountered the other day, one car honked at me to move forward to another parking spot so that he could park in the one I was intending to park at.

Daily perhaps each of us are interrupted to help a colleague or a child or a friend and perhaps we may not see that as ministry but as John Ortberg noted, it is a ministry of availability, a ministry that does not involve the limelight, a ministry that in many ways is hidden without recognition yet, it is a work that is needed to be done,  despite how tedious, boring or perhaps unimportant in our eyes, it is a ministry of service. This term ministry of the mundane came to mind today because over the next week, my Finance Manager Sathya and I are meeting with our partners to analyze the projects we fund both from a financial perspective as well as the effectiveness of these projects in achieving certain purposes to protect the vulnerable and care for those who are oppressed or poor in Cambodia. In many ways, looking at financials, asking questions about project activities, and verifying how data and information is collected is not exactly the most exciting thing to do. After all, more people are interested in hearing about human stories ---personal stories of individual lives where young women who were once sexually exploited are being transformed or perhaps stories about confronting pedophiles.

But one of the blessings of working at Ratanak is we not only fund our own direct programs such as the RAP Community home, but we have the opportunity to implement other programs through other organizations/partners who are setting up innovating projects that are in line with our vision and mandate. One of these implementing partners is the Chab Dai Coalition through whom we have had the privilege of funding a church community and prevention program since 2006. This year, the church community and prevention program has morphed into the Community Hero Prevention Program. You may ask what is this.

Well the Community Hero Prevention project  focuses on addressing prevention and intervention issues in rural areas in Cambodia by raising awareness and educating people in vulnerable communities about the issues of human trafficking, sexual abuse, illegal migration and the ways to protect children and child rights. The activities and programs are undertaken in the villages, and rural communities in Cambodia with the purpose of  educating the people in rural areas with information and tools to prevent the trafficking of children, and develop a sense of personal and communal responsibility among them for every community member’s safety.

Meeting with Yeng (Country Director of Chab Dai), Kunthy (Project trainer), Muylen (Finance Director) and Sathya (Ratanak Finance Manager)

So this afternoon , we spent time going through the mundane questions about the program with staff from Chab Dai and as our discussions progressed,  I became more and more encouraged about the impact this project is having in vulnerable communities that are prone to trafficking in Cambodia. This project involves no expats or Western staff. It utilizes 100% indigenous Cambodian workers who teach and minister to their own people. It was encouraging to learn about the ongoing training that is being done in these vulnerable communities among the volunteer trainers who are emerging as Community Heroes using their influence at a grass root level to protect and prevent children and women from human trafficking, sexual abuse and all forms of exploitation. In just one province this past month, 1200 people were expected to be trained but in fact 1380 showed up for training. Some of them using their own funds to bring awareness to these issues in their community because they want to help their own communities. They have expressed to the training staff a love for this vision and a desire to take ownership and responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in their villages. But this training is not a one off event as there are ongoing refresher training happening yearly.  

As well, the educational tools given to them such as help cards, flip charts, posters and stickers are being used to report more cases of human trafficking, sexual abuse, illegal migration and violence through different groups who are collaborating together to make a difference. Specifically, the local authorities at the district, commune or village level or church leaders are all gaining knowledge and resources to stop trafficking and intervene in cases of abuse.  Initially, when this program was introduced there was suspicion but over the years, we are seeing an amazing network being formed as village chiefs, local police, pastors and government officials are all being trained together and working together for the blessing and protection of the most vulnerable in their communities.

Beyond the program analysis, we are also accountable to our Canadian tax authorities to ensure that the finances are being used for the project purposes. Once again, we came away feeling confident about the financial controls and processes that are in place by our partner to ensure funds are being used wisely and being stewarded in a responsible way. It is encouraging to see the checks and balances that Chab Dai has established to ensure a high standard of financial responsibility.  Such due diligence also serves to benefit us as an organization as we learn from our partners what is working and what isn't in terms of structures and processes. All of this we trust will serve to enhance our own internal structures and long term strategies. 

So while the ministry of mundane involves spending time reviewing facts, figures, documentation, procedures, administrative processes of this project, such activities while seemingly tedious, are an essential part to learning how vulnerable lives are being protected, how local leaders are being empowered to use their position of influence for the benefit of the exploited and ultimately, how God is raising up community heroes who are taking a stand for truth, righteousness and justice. What a privilege it is to see how God is building His Kingdom in the hearts of His people here in Cambodia as they take the initiative to be His agents of change in their communities.

Tomorrow we are off to another project in Kampong Cham province located about 3 hours from Phnom Penh. Stay tune for an update as we share about the Ratanak Medical Outreach Program for AIDS patients, other terminally ill people, medical care for prisoners and an infant formula distribution program to HIV+ mothers and their HIV+ babies. 

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