A new year begins in Cambodia

Happy 2020!!

This new year started with me reflecting on how this time last year I had just returned from Cambodia and was beginning the new year by praying and asking God to see if this is where he wanted me to go back to.  Fast forward to this year and I am now living in Cambodia and getting to be part of ministries and people’s lives that I had prayed and hoped for this year.  I’m so thankful for all that God has done in my life this past year.  I really do hope and pray that this is a great year for each of you and that the knowledge and presence of God and his great love for us is always a comfort to you.

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This past week brought so much happiness as my friend Courtney from my home church in Northern Ireland, arrived in Cambodia. I am so thankful she has the opportunity to be here in Cambodia.  It is a great encouragement having her here and I am enjoying showing her my life in Cambodia. We do plan to take some time and I will show her some different areas in Cambodia while she is here. We are hoping to visit some of the church plants while she is here and go to see the church in Kep.  Thank you Courtney for making that long journey over to Cambodia all on your own and being up for the adventure!

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I have been continuing as normal with all the activities in Befree and the Early learning centre.  We are trying to work on creating homework for the preschool children to take home that will help to revise what they have been learning in the centre that week.  We hope that the parents will be able to revise this work with their children and it will help to create a sense of achievement in the children as they complete their homework and bring it back to school the next week.  All the girls in Befree are doing well and continuing to work hard in the programme. They are enthusiastic each week as they study English and they also have been set different homework so that they can continue to revise what they have learnt.  We are looking forward to celebrating a few of the girls soon for their graduation as they come to the end of the programme.  Please be praying especially for 2 of these girls as they are looking at different employment opportunities once they finish Befree.

There is more great news from Kep. The family who I have been reporting on the past few weeks ALL got baptized last week.  What wonderful news. Each of the family members made the decision to get baptised and Pastor Chamnap along with Dren and Roger were able to baptise each of them.  All praise goes to God for what he has done in the lives of each person in this family.

I personally, have been able to enjoy some time with good friends in Cambodia over the past few weekends.  The families that I am surrounded with here, really treat you as one of their family. I am so thankful for each of them and for the love that they show to me.

 

The end of 2019…

I would like to start this blog post by wishing everyone of you a very Happy New Year. I hope your Christmas period was filled with lots of joy.

My Christmas was very different than “normal”.  I spent the Christmas week in 30+degree heat, some shops played Christmas music and there were a few Christmas trees scattered around but life in Cambodia pretty much went on as normal. Even while most people were at work as normal on Christmas Day, of course Elim Cambodia had lots of celebrations to mark this special time of year. On Christmas Day we had a church service in the morning and enjoyed communion and worship together.  Emma Worby from City Gates church has been serving in Cambodia for the last 2 weeks with Elim. So she and I spent Christmas Day together and we had a great day.  To end our day we had a lovely dinner with the Khmer families from Elim.  We did not have the usual Christmas food but what we ate was very tasty and we were both very thankful for the fellowship with this community.  Emma introduced us to some Christmas games which we enjoyed playing with the kids.

The past few weeks have been filled with different Christmas events at the church.  It started with Christmas outreach in S’ang village. Some people from the city church joined the church in the village and they did a programme for the children and then everyone enjoyed food together.

Later on that week we had our staff Christmas party. We had a time of worship together, exchanged gifts and had a feast afterwards – this time the food was a full pig (see pictures below).  Everyone was happy and full of Christmas cheer.

Last Sunday afternoon we had our special Christmas service which included different visitors from the community and some parents of the children from the Early Learning Centre.  The Sunday school children and the preschool class did wonderful performances of singing and dancing.  There was a funny drama from some of the staff retelling the story of Jesus’ birth.  Then Pastor Sarak brought a challenging message and invited people who did not already know Jesus to accept him.  Afterwards all the children received a gift and in true Cambodian style there was more food after the service.    I’m very thankful for this Christmas in Cambodia as it was a lot less busy than normal and the simplicity of the week made more time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Last week Emma and I got to go to Kep with the church planting team to visit the work there.  It is always so encouraging to meet with Pastor Piset and Roger who are leading the church in Kep.  We got to visit the family who I have mentioned previously and it was honestly such a wonderful time with them. What God has done in their family in such a short period of time is incredible. God is doing far more than anyone could have imagined.  They also mentioned that they would like to get baptized in the new year.  Please keep praying protection and freedom over this family.

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Dren and Sarak in Kep

On Friday afternoon Emma shared an encouraging message with the girls in Befree and they were able to think and ask questions about their own relationship with God. One girl asked for prayer for a situation she is facing and we were able to join with her in prayer and it was a special time together. I want to thank Emma for all she has done over the past few weeks to help and serve at Elim Cambodia.  She has also been a friend to me and encouraged me.  Please remember to pray for her as she returns home to the UK tomorrow to pray and seek God about her future.

This morning we had our final service of 2019.  There was a time to give thanks to God for all he has done this year.  It made me reflect on all God has done in my life this year. I look back on all that God has done this year and it makes me so thankful.  He has provided in many ways and has been so good to me.  I want to thank God for who He is and for always being so very faithful.  I am excited for the new year that lies ahead and look forward expectantly for all that God has in store for Cambodia in this new year.

Thank you as always for your love, support and encouragement.  I am so thankful for each and everyone of you who takes time to keep updated in the work going on in Cambodia. God is so very good and all glory goes to Him for everything.

God bless,

Sophie

December in Cambodia

I still find it hard to believe it is now December and only 2 weeks until Christmas. Even though the temperatures have dropped a little here it is still hot and strange to see Christmas trees and hear Christmas music in the shops in the middle of the sunshine.  We have decorated the church ready for our Christmas service on Sunday 22nd December.  This is an opportunity to invite the people from the local community to come and hear the good news about Jesus.

This past week the church planting team went to Kep to join with a family and celebrate  Christmas. There is a lot to praise God for within this family.  A few weeks ago when my parents and I were in Kep with Pastor Piset and Roger we visited this family in much need of God and freedom from their current circumstances. How amazing it was to hear last week that this family have now given their lives to Jesus.  And their situation is changing and the family have said they feel loved and valued for the first time in many years.  Please keep praying for this family and their 3 adult children as they get to know more about God and walk in the freedom that he has for them.

Last week was an exciting time for everyone in the Early Learning Centre.  There was a team of 3 educators from Singapore who came to help train and input ideas into the Preschool and toddler classes.

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Chanty, Quee lyn, Annie, Patrina, Nita and I.

I am happy to report that our first outing went really well.  All of the children behaved so well and enjoyed the experience.  There was lots to see at the safari and all the children smiled throughout the morning.  I want to say  a big well done to Nita and Sokhom and the preschool staff who worked so hard to make this happen.  It was a huge success and all of the parents were happy with the children getting to go on this new experience.  Also thank you to Annie, Patrina and Quee Lyn who gave their time last week to help at the ELC and give valuable ideas for improvement in the future.

I have really enjoyed all of my English classes this month as I have mostly focused on teaching about Christmas.  I have talked about the normal traditions at Christmas time and then been able to share about the gospel story of Christmas and Jesus’ birth.  I look forward to continuing this over the next few weeks.  Please pray for all my students that they will be impacted by the good news they hear.

I have been enjoying some time with friends here who will be heading back home for Christmas.  I am looking forward to spending Christmas here in Cambodia.  I am glad to be with my Khmer family and look forward to the different events that will take place in the next few weeks. Please remember me and my family in your prayers as we are apart as I do miss them lots and will especially miss being with them at this Christmas time.

I want to thank you all of your love and encouragement this year.  I hope each of you who are reading this have a really wonderful Christmas with your family and loved ones.  I will be in touch again before the New Year.

Love and Blessings from Cambodia.

 

A long time coming…

Firstly I want to apologize for taking so long to write this newsletter. I have now celebrated my 4th month back in Cambodia and some weeks the time just flies by.  I have just had my parents here in Cambodia for 3 wonderful weeks and we have been super busy.

But it is good to sit and write and reflect on all that has happened in November.  Here are some updates on the different ministries at Elim Cambodia.

Early Learning Centre

The ELC was  blessed with a gift from the UK which they recently used to purchase new playground equipment for the children.  The new play equipment is bright coloured, fun and age appropriate for the children.  The first day that the children went to the new playground there were screams of laughter and fun from them and from the staff.  Thank you to the school in the UK whose children raised this money.  The children and staff in Cambodia are very grateful for you.

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Nita with the new play equipment

Next week we will be taking the Preschool children to Phnom Penh Safari.  This will be their first outing and we are really looking forward to this experience for both the staff and children. Please pray for the safety of the children.  We go on Thursday this coming week.  I look forward to posting pictures soon of our time at the Safari.

Befree

This past month in Befree has been busy as the girls have been working hard to finish some Christmas decorations that are being sent to the UK for the Christmas season. Sokim and one of the girls did a Befree stall in Cambodia at the start of the month and they did so well to share about the vision of Befree and make a lovely stall for all the beautiful Befree items.

Church Planting

This past week the first official training session took place for pastors and leaders in Cambodia.  This was follow up from the previous training in October.  The reports from this past week have been really encouraging and all of the pastors and leaders are still in unison with their desire to see Cambodia come to know about Jesus and that every village would have a church planted in it.  The next session will take place in February 2020.  Please pray for these leaders as they go back to their provinces and carry out the training that they have learnt this week.

English Classes

Monday and Thursday evening English classes are going well and the students are still coming along.  Please continue to pray as we look forward to the new year and what way we can develop and grow this ministry.  All the staff in Befree and the Early Learning Centre are still eager to learn more English.  The children are continuing to move through the curriculum that has been set up for them to learn English.

Finally I want to finish by sharing about by time with my parents in Cambodia.  Now that they have gone home I feel quite sad and a little bit lonely after we spent 3 amazing weeks together. It feels a little like a dream that they were here seeing my world here and enjoying everything in Cambodia.  We were able to visit Kep and Siem Reap which are both beautiful and really interesting places in Cambodia.  My Mum and Dad really embraced Cambodia and took on the adventure that everyday here has to offer.

From the word go everything was an adventure.  Their suitcases did not arrive in Phnom Penh so we had a fun first morning picking up some essentials in the Russian Market.  We traveled around in Tuk tuks everyday and Mum and Dad both had a ride on the back of a moto which they both enjoyed.  My parents said that they fell in love with the Khmer people.  Every person that they met was super friendly and welcoming to them.  They were able to spend a lot of time at Elim which was really special for me to introduce my parents to my Khmer family here. They loved being greeted by the smiling and wonderful kids at the ELC.  Time in Befree was so special for my parents to meet the precious girls there and see this ministry in real life as it is somewhere they have heard many people talk about for so long.  My Mum shared her testimony in Befree and really encouraged the girls that the same God who healed her many years ago is the same God today that loves and cares about them.  My Dad preached one Sunday morning in Church, even with a short power cut he was able to boldly share what God had laid on his heart. He shared from Matthew 6 and encouraged us to fix our eyes on Jesus and seek his kingdom first and everything else would be taken care of.  We had many laughs together and special times. We also cried together as we witnessed the sadness and brokeness that some people are facing.  A highlight for us all was joining Pastor Piset and Roger in Kep as they went to visit a family in one of the villages.  God’s presence was mighty with us that day and he really ministered to all of us and that particular family.

I can’t believe their time in Cambodia is already over but I am so so thankful that my Mum and Dad were able to come here. I am thankful we had no sick tummies and God really looked after us all and gave us a great time together.  Thank you to my Mum and Dad for being so generous and kind to everyone you met here. Thank you for caring about Cambodia and the people here. You are both so important to me and I am where I am today because of your leading, guidance and love.  They are now safely home in Northern Ireland and they are tired and freezing! Please pray for them as they adjust to life back at home and process this whole experience.

 

3 months back in Cambodia

This month marks 3 months for me living back in Cambodia.  I want to share with you a few photographs of everyday sights here in Cambodia. Often I forget that these things are not what I normally experience or see in the UK, so I hope you enjoy a glimpse into what goes on in the streets of Cambodia.

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3 men and a chair on the back of the moto

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These 2 men stopped to secure the items on their trailer

 

These past 2 weeks have been busy and they have seen a change in the guesthouse. The team from New Zealand who have been living in the Guesthouse for the past 2 months have gone to visit some other places in Cambodia and last Saturday a lovely team of ladies from Northern Ireland arrived.  They are here to support and work alongside different organisations and they have already been encouraging and such a great help in the ELC and in Befree.

Last week I had the privilege to go back down to Kep and see the work that is happening with the church planting team there.  I love Kep and I think it may be one of my favourite places in Cambodia. It is a lot quieter than Phnom Penh and it is by the coast so the beach is beautiful and life is much calmer there.  I traveled down on Thursday with the Church planting team.  Roger was moving some of his belongings to Kep, including these bags we managed to fit all the team and Roger’s moto into the church mini van so we had a successful start to our journey.  That afternoon we headed to one of the villages that the Elim church in Kep has been visiting.  It is hard to justly put into words how special that was.  I was told the story of one lady that we were going to visit.  She had been seen as an outcast for many years by the villagers and people said she was possessed and hadn’t washed in a long time.  One of ladies on the church planting team had a dream and seen the road where this lady lived in her dream.  So she went with her husband to this road and while they were praying they seen the lady outside her home.  They went to see her and prayed with her and they bathed her.  After this they said that whatever had possessed the lady was gone and from then she has been free and has been looking after herself.  This lady has now opened her home for the team to come into and teach the bible.  Please pray for this lady that as she opens her home and listens to the teaching that she will choose to accept Jesus as her Lord and saviour.  It was amazing to watch the team love the people that we met that day. It is not an easy journey to get to the villages and the mini van held out well as we drove over difficult roads and tried to avoid the large potholes.  Walking through the rice fields to get to people’s houses is beautiful and I really felt God’s presence with us as we went.  The second lady we met was prayed for by Pastor Chamnap and a lady from the team.  She wanted to ask God for forgiveness but worried that she wouldn’t remember speaking to God as her memory was bad.  Ps. Chamnap said to her not to worry and that God knows her heart and that she is sincere in what she is praying for. As you read these stories about Cambodia please do take time to pray for these people. Your prayers are so valuable for this work.  That day I just kept thanking God that I got to witness His work in Kep.

We traveled back to Phnom Penh on Friday and the next day there was a worship workshop led by Roger and Pastor Sarak at church.  Some of the young people and Pastor Piset from Kep traveled to the city for this training.  It was a great morning that reminded us that when we come to worship God he is our audience and desires to see us worship him with our whole hearts.

Sokhom, who is the manager of the Early learning center returned to work this week after maternity leave.  Everyone is delighted to have her back as she is such an encouragement and a wonderful leader in the ELC.

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Sokhom and Nita

Prayer points for this next week.

  • This Sunday will be the end of the month Men and Women’s morning in church and we will have pot luck lunch together afterwards.
  • Please continue to pray for the evening English classes. We have had 2 new students join this past week which is encouraging.
  • Befree will be doing a craft fair early next week in Kep.  They will be setting up a stall and selling some of the Befree items.

 

Thank you for taking time to read about what is happening in Cambodia.

 

God Bless, Love Sophie

 

We have a vision

What a busy 2 weeks it has been. I want to start by thanking you all for your prayers for the Church Planting vision conference that took place last week at the church.  It was a defining and special time for all who were involved. On Tuesday morning Bhab Ghale who is the national leader of Elim in Nepal arrived at the guesthouse.  He brought with him some local tea and sweets from Nepal that we all enjoyed tasting.  That evening Steve Kempton, who is a pastor in the UK and was in Nepal serving with his family as missionaries for a number of years, also arrived here.  These men did the main training for the conference and worked alongside Pastor Chamnap to help share their own experience of church planting and people coming to know Christ throughout Nepal.

On Wednesday women and men who traveled from different provinces in Cambodia arrived in Phnom Penh. Some of them traveled for over 7 hours to attend this training. What an example this was of how important this vision is to them and how they want to share Jesus with people in their country.  That night the training began.  One of the opening worship songs was entitled “We have a vision” and the lyrics are about winning the nation for Jesus and that we all share this same vision. God’s presence was very tangible and there was a great sense of the holy spirit with us all.  The next few days were filled with lots of training from Bhab, Steve, Chamnap and Sarak.  One of the highlights over the few days was when everyone gathered together to pray for the provinces in Cambodia.  The church had printed a large map of Cambodia with the different provinces labelled to help people visualize the different areas as they were praying.  There were 35 pastors and leaders who attended the conference and they represented 12 out of the 25 provinces in Cambodia.  Please pray for all the people who were involved in this conference.  They have all committed to return for the future sessions.  They have committed to pray for each other and work together to see the people of Cambodia come to know Jesus. The next training session will take place at the end of November.

 

There was a huge team of helpers from Elim who got up early and stayed after work to help with the organisation of the conference.  I have to mention 2 wonderful ladies, Chanra and Sou who made all the food for the few days. They made sure that we all ate very well.  The team at Elim have big servant hearts and this training could not have happened without all of their help.

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Chanra and Sou

On Sunday and at the prayer meeting on Wednesday, Nita preached both times. She is such a gifted speaker and God really used her to encourage the church and remind us that we walk by faith in God and that God is a God of peace and that we can ask him at any time to give us peace in our minds and in our lives.

Two new girls have joined Befree this month. There are now seven girls in the programme.  All of the girls are busy preparing Christmas items, learning Khmer and studying English.  On Friday afternoon they enjoyed a devotion led by Katie – our volunteer who has been helping from New Zealand. The girls had lots of questions afterwards about the character of God and how we can approach God with confidence through prayer.

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This coming week one of the church members, Roger will move to Kep and work alongside Pastor Piset at the Elim church there.  On Thursday, with the church planting team, he will move his belongings to Kep.  Then on Friday afternoon he will return to Phnom Penh as next Saturday, Roger along with Pastor Sarak, will lead a worship training day for the worship team members from Phnom Penh and Kep.  Please remember Roger’s wife Mayann who is finishing her teaching contract later this month and hoping to move to Kep to join Roger soon.  They are from the Philippines and have both served and been part of Elim in Phnom Penh for a number of years.

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Roger and Mayann

Thank you for your continued support and prayers for all that God is doing in Cambodia.

 

Love and massive blessings,

Sophie

Only you

This newsletter is entitled with the name of a Khmer song that we sang at the prayer meeting this week.  It talks about Jesus being the only one that we need and that He will satisfy us.  It talks about His power to restore things from ashes to beauty.  If you get a chance you should listen to it. You can find it on You Tube if you use “Only You – New Life Khmer”.  The words of this song have been extremely encouraging and uplifting for me especially during this week.

Now the city is very quiet, most of the shops, restaurants and businesses have closed for the Pchum Benh holiday.  Most families have gone back to the provinces to be with their family.  This weekend I look forward to spending some time with church family who have stayed in the city.  Tomorrow at church we will have a normal service and then have lunch together for anyone who has stayed in Phnom Penh.  On Thursday afternoon after all the staff had finished work we gathered together to pray for them that they would be kept safe and well during their travels this weekend.

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The past 2 weeks have been busy and productive with English classes.  Every Wednesday afternoon I teach the Early Learning Centre staff.  They come during the time that they would normally be resting so I appreciate their commitment and time to study.  They always bring lots of fun and laughter to the classroom.

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ELC Staff

The evening classes are continuing with a steady number of students who are all eager to learn.  They are really sweet young people and we are continuing to pray for them that there will be a greater purpose in these classes and that they will come to know God.

For the past month I have been living in the guesthouse with a group of young people from New Zealand.  They are in Cambodia as part of a gap year programme.  It has been lovely to have such friendly people to share the house with. They have cooked some meals for me and have been supportive and encouraging of the work going on at Elim.  One of the team members, Katie, has been helping me with some English Classes in Befree. She has been a joy to teach with and has given ideas for ways we can improve English teaching and learning.  Thank you Katie for serving in Befree.

Last Friday afternoon Sokim, Nita and I went to celebrate with Sarak and Sophea as they had a graduation ceremony for a counselling course that they have both completed over this year.  This young couple are really good friends to me and they really inspire me.  They both lead so well and care about the community in which they live.  They want to see people come to know Jesus and now they have a real heart for counselling people and helping them journey through life. Please keep praying for their family. They have 2 young boys – Harry and Jonny.

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Harry and Jonny

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Sarak and Sophea

Next Week Elim will be hosting a Church Planting Conference.  This is to share their heart and vision for church planting in Cambodia and to train other people as they come on board with this journey.  This will be October 2nd – October 4th. Please pray for all the people who will be travelling for this conference and for the staff who are in the midst of organizing for this.  Pray for Pastor Chamnap as he leads this training and as he shares about what God has put on his heart.

Love and Blessings from Cambodia,

Sophie