We were thrilled to spend the past week hosting the ‘Samuels team’ from Dewsbury Elim church in England. Their Pastor, Paul Hudson, and newly appointed International Missions Director who will be taking up his post in August, led the team. Over the past two years Paul has been discipling the group of young people and completion of their training leads to a short term mission trip.
As the trip fell over half term break and most of the young people are going back to take exams, they literally hit the ground running. As they were only going to be in Cambodia for one Sunday, we started our church service at 10:30 am instead of the usual 8:45 am. David, Chamnap, Dren and I met the team at the airport; they had been travelling for close to 24 hours and were delighted to reach their destination. Their first reaction to Cambodia was the intense heat and once on the bus was amazed by the traffic, we love to watch the expressions of those visiting Cambodia for the first time, and even though we are here 2 years, we are still mesmerised by the sights we see every day!
We arrived at the centre and church started with our worship team leading a couple of songs and then the team introduced themselves before taking the rest of the service. Chloe shared her testimony, Charlotte and Hannah sang whilst Tom and Catherine played the guitar and keyboard for them, Becky brought a short message followed by all the team performing a drama. This was really special for our church as the drama they did was the same one our drama team have done in the past. It is such a powerful message that Nita, I and many others were touched so much by it. Paul then delivered a message about how much we are loved, adored and cherished by God. Nita then presented Paul with a cake to celebrate his upcoming role as International Missions Director. A team of ladies led by Bong Paula served lunch of chicken curry and bread; we really appreciate all the preparation and hard work they did to feed over 100 people.
Nita presenting Paul with celebration cake
After church we drove the team to their accommodation to let them unpack, have a quick shower before returning to the church for youth fellowship at 4pm. The team organised by Emma their youth leader carried out a programme of variety of games, Bible study and discussion on the subject of trust and our youth leader Sarak taught the team a couple of Khmer songs which was great fun! Snacks of Khmer fruits were then served and the team were brilliant in trying out some exotic and unusual treats.
Because the team were only with us until Friday morning a full programme was arranged for them to see and do as much as they could in the time allowed. On Monday morning a visit to the Daughters centre took place and we thank Heather for being so wonderful in sharing about how Daughters was founded and the incredible work they are doing in transforming lives rescued from the sex industry. The team had been fundraising for an entire year and were thrilled to meet Ruth the founder and present her with a gift towards the on-going work of Daughters in Cambodia.
The youth team presenting gift to Ruth
Following lunch at one of the Daughters cafes the team set off to learn about the history of Cambodia under the regime of Pol Pot by visiting the S21 Genocide Museum and the Killing Field of Choung Ek. This is not a pleasant sightseeing tour but important to discover what the Khmer people endured not that long ago.
On Tuesday the team spent their morning in the Early Learning Centre splitting into groups and spending time with the babies, toddlers and pre-school children. I was thrilled to meet our newest addition to the ELC with our cook Sreyphoas returning to work with her beautiful baby daughter Davina settling into the baby section. Davina was born during our period of furlough so although we had seen photographs it was wonderful to give her a wee cuddle – both Mum and baby are doing well. The team also gave a gift towards the work of the ELC along with resources and clothes which were sorted out and will be distributed amongst the children. The team fell in love with the children and really enjoyed spending time with them and the staff.
The team with ELC staff and children
A tuk tuk tour of the city was arranged in the late afternoon and during this we went for a walk along the riverside. This was one of the biggest challenges for the team as they were exposed to the darker side of life in Cambodia. In broad daylight we saw old white men on the lookout for young Khmer women and girls. There were street children trying to earn a few dollars selling bracelets, in vulnerable and at risk situations. We drove to the restaurant where we had booked dinner and asked the staff if we could meet in a private room for 15 minutes. We spent the time praying and weeping for the sights we had seen, that God would protect, rescue, transform and heal lives in Phnom Penh.
We set off early on Wednesday morning to spend the day with Kevin and Leakhena from Manna for Life ministry in the community of Oudong. Kevin and Leakhena are valued members of our church and we have strong ties with the families who live in Oudong, a community which was once a slum village in Phnom Penh which was demolished and relocated outside of the city. After sharing the history of the community, the team went for a walk meeting some of the families and hearing their individual stories. Lunch was made by Leakhena and one of the ladies from the community who is 7 months pregnant. Her younger daughter also helped bringing the food across and assisting her mum. The food was delicious and we were privileged to meet this wonderful woman who helps Leakhena in so many ways on a daily basis.
After lunch the doors of the building which will act as community centre and school were opened and 120 children presented their ticket to attend the Kids Club – they had registered the day before after invitations had been given out. For the next hour we sang songs, played games, made animal masks and heard the story of Noah. We would have been happy if it had rained because all of the team, the children, and the mums were sweating like we have never sweated before! But the children had an amazing time, the team were brilliant and the children went home happy with a bag of treats probably to have a shower! We really appreciated Kevin and Leakhena’s hospitality and seeing the community spirit despite what they have come through really encouraged the team and shows with God in the centre there is hope.
Children queued up for Kid’s Club
Children with their animal masks
Some photographs from Kids Club
On Thursday morning the team were picked up at their accommodation and spent the morning with Chamnap sharing about the organisation he is involved with Hagar International. They spent time at a group home where five young men live – one suffering from severe autism and four with cerebral palsy; the group interacted with them before visiting a foster home where one young girl who suffers from cerebral palsy lives.
In the afternoon we went to the office of SHE rescue, an organisation founded out of Citipointe church in Brisbane. We were met by Dave and Hayley who have been working with SHE for over a year and gave us an overview of the background and amazing work that is done to protect, educate and transform the lives of girls who come to SHE. The team were then put to work stamping gift bags which are used when SHE merchandise is sold, so a production line was set up with some stamping, some attaching tags and finally the bags were put in batches and wrapped in cling film. Before we left the team had an opportunity to buy wristbands which are made in the microfinance business by families who have come through the SHE programme. We are thankful to Dave and Hayley for welcoming the team and giving their valuable time up for us.
We called into the Early Learning Centre for one last time not only for the team to say goodbye to the staff and children but also for David to be surprised with a birthday cake. The staff and team all sang Happy Birthday as Kimorn presented David with his cake and Sarah gave him a gift from all the staff of a lovely pen.
Kimorn giving David his birthday cake
On Friday morning after a very intense and eye opening five days it was time to bid farewell to the Samuels team as they began their journey home to Dewsbury. In the next few weeks they will each have an opportunity to share with their church family the impact Cambodia had in each of their lives and what God has challenged them with during their time here. We thank each and every one of them for being God’s ambassadors whilst they were here and showing and sharing the love of Jesus to the Khmer people. We are also thankful to each of the organisations who accommodated the team and for that we are grateful.