This summer I travelled to Cambodia with Joy International and visited some of the ministries that Joy works with. In the following weeks I’ll be posting the email updates that I sent out to my closest friends and the supporters who funded my trip. Some of the details will be edited to protect the girls and children we were ministering to, but I’ll try to leave as many vivid elements as possible, so you can “be” where I was and experience it as I did.
UPDATE: July 12, 2015
We made it to Cambodia safely the day before yesterday and are now enjoying a restful Sunday afternoon. Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. I think of you often and wish that you could be here too, meeting and ministering to the sweet people here, as I am getting to do! But since you can’t, I’m taking every opportunity to make solid connections with the Cambodians I meet, to make the most of my time here!
I wanted to give you all an update on the past few days. I was going to say “brief” but that’s probably not going to happen! First, though, Psalm 147:1-4 is the passage I’ve been meditating on a lot recently, as the layout of the Psalm mirrors what we are doing here! It starts with worship (we had a worship seminar this weekend at a local church) then moves to rebuilding Jerusalem (we’ll be building into the lives of children in Svay Pak, a city formerly decimated by child trafficking) then the Psalm gets deeper and more intimate in healing the broken-hearted and binding up their wounds (we’ll be finishing up the week at the high-security safe house where sex trafficking victims are recovering).
After we arrived on Friday we used the little time left in the day to visit the “Killing Fields” which is now a memorial to those who were slaughtered during the Khmer Rouge takeover. Since the takeover only happened in the 70s, the physical wounds on the land can still be seen.
We stood at the edge of pits where four hundred people were killed and thrown in, and walked along dirt paths that had buried human bones and clothing starting to show, since frequent rain opens up the ground and uncovers things.
Communism is so evil and wicked, yet there were glimpses of the salvation of God even at these killing fields. The narrator for the audio tour at the monument is a former high-ranking Khmer soldier who became a Christian, publicly asked the people of Cambodia to forgive him, and then started some Christian ministries to help the people whose lives were damaged by the genocide.
Since many of the Khmer officials are still in power or are living normal lives, it seems difficult for Cambodia to really heal when there isn’t justice dealt. Psychologists say this country is the only place where they’ve seen the symptoms of PTSD carried into younger generations that didn’t experience the genocide themselves.
On Saturday, we had a very full and fun day at the worship seminar that we hosted at a local church. The pastor and his wife are good friends of Jeff Brodsky’s and have travelled around Cambodia with him a little, serving food to starving kids and fighting sex trafficking. At the worship seminar, a few of our team who are song leaders in their churches spoke to the congregation about good leadership being servant-hearted and genuine. Then we worked with some of their church musicians and, with a combined team, led the attendees in singing. Partway through, we asked anybody who wanted prayer to come to the front for us to pray for them, and we were all surprised by how many came and how many admitted they were struggling. Showing emotion is rare and uncomfortable for Cambodians, we had been told, but these people were completely inside out with us. They were openly weeping, and asking us to pray for repentance or for more love for God, or for other difficult situations.
That same openness continued today (Sunday) at the Sunday worship service we got to be a part of at their church. The church started with joyful, expressive, loud singing and clapping! Holding hands is a normal thing for men to do with men, or women with women, and all of a sudden an entire row of people would grab hands and jump up and down as they were singing because they were so genuinely happy! It was special to get to be a part of that. Most the songs were unfamiliar to me but had choruses that repeated enough that I could sing along with their Khmer (they put up English subtitles for us on the screen). They also sang How Great Thou Art, which is a hymn that has a special place in my heart— I performed it with my Aunt Carol before she died and I always think of her when we sing it.
There was a time before the service for our missions team to get to speak to the congregation if we wanted to, so I spoke on Psalm 138:8 and encouraged them to trust the Lord to complete the good work in their lives that He had already started. I was so glad for the opportunity to get to say something to all of them! It was something I’d been itching to do, and it was hard to narrow down what verse to speak on, except that many of the young women I had been talking to at the church were all waiting on something or someone, so I thought it would be at least relevant to them. It’s so fun to say “chumbreap-su” (Greetings) to the Cambodians, because they immediately smile or laugh. Probably because it sounds funny coming out of my mouth. The translator did a really good job with the rest of what I said, and I could see some nodding in agreement (and nodding off to sleep!) in the congregation as I talked. Praise God! It is hard to explain how wonderful and gratifying it is to be able to communicate with them and to share the bond of the family of God. There’s an ease of communication with these believers that I hadn’t experienced in Cambodia outside of this church. To others we are just foreigners to wave or wink at; to these Christians we are sisters and brothers.
Dr. Jeff gave the sermon today and spoke on being born again. By the end of the service, Jeff was asking if anybody didn’t know if they were born again, and ten people said they were not born again or didn’t know what that meant, so our team got to pray with each of those people after the service ended if we wanted to. The girl I talked to and prayed for spoke very good English, and I had seen that she had raised her hand to ask for prayer. I prayed for her and gave her a hug, then was going to talk with her some more, but she didn’t let go and started crying into my shoulder instead, so I kept praying– thanking God for saving her, and praying that He would now teach her to walk in His ways, that the Bible would be her food, and that He would sanctify her and point out to her the areas of sin she needed to repent from. It was a precious gift from God to be a part of that and to get to love and pray for her in that way. After we finished I asked her if she had a Bible (she did) and I encouraged her to talk with the leadership in her church and to find someone who could disciple her. You can pray for her too! Her name is complicated to remember but it sounded like “Leah.”
Another young woman I spent a lot of time with is Jaylynn, who is somewhat crippled, and has some burn marks and a deformed finger (which I think was from being burned and not healing properly). She had seemed kind of needy or curious about me the day before so I had made a point to talk to her and pray with her, and from then on she was my constant little friend. She has “no money” she told me several times, and it also seemed like she had no family. Today I was able to get a translator in on our conversation and found out that she does have a family and a home, that she has been attending church for ten years, and that she is either working as a massage therapist or is going to get training to do that. I was mostly trying to find out if she was truly destitute and if the church needed to know about her needs. Our conversation was cut short today because church was starting, but I sat with her during the service and she sweetly clung to my arm or hand the whole service, every now and then looking at me and smiling like she was glad I was there. I wasn’t able to get another translator to come talk with us, but with the information I got from the translator, I think she is in good hands.
Tomorrow begins our busy week of ministry almost every hour! We travel an hour by tuk tuk (wagon pulled by a motor bike) to Svay Pak where the safe house is where we’ll be teaching kids club. It’s going to be a very full but very good week! I hope to update you as I get a chance during the week, but I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be able to do that.
Thank you all for praying for us and for the people we meet.