Thank You Team Gateway!

Last Saturday morning we went to the airport to collect a team from Gateway church in  Hamilton, New Zealand. We have been building relationships with the church over the last number of years and this is the first time they have came to be a part of the work. While here we decided to get the team to help us put the finishing touches to the Be Free extension.

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We are so close to completion and will be organising an opening ceremony over the next weeks but I want to say a massive thank you to a number of churches for playing their part in this. To the ladies of New Zealand Elim, Portadown Elim, Bangor Elim, Lakeside Elim and Gateway Church we could not have done this without you all. We pray God blesses you all for your generosity and love towards the young lives that need the help of Be Free.

The team have had much fun, highlights and challenges and next week we will get some of them to share a few thoughts on their time here. The trip started of as all mission trips do with a tuk tuk tour of the main landmarks of the city followed by Aly’s now legendary Khmer curry. On Sunday we had a good turn out at church and then we all went to a Christmas market which was interesting and fun all at the same time. In the evening they took our youth group where there was lots of fun and fellowship with our young people. On Monday our church planting team along with Piseth and Viboal from our Kep church went to the Sovvanaphum Church planting conference, I had the privilege to share in one of the smaller sessions which I enjoyed a lot sowing into the lives of some new young leaders. While we were busy with this, the team did the very hard tour of Toul Sleng Genocide museum and the killings fields, a difficult day but one nonetheless needed to get a truer understanding of why so many things and people are the way they are.

From Tuesday through to Friday the team split in two, the girls took morning and afternoon devotions in Be Free, painted the extension and made wall hangings, cushions and other beautiful things while the boys purchased pallets and then turned them into many really amazing things. Sofas, tables, wall hangings, shelving and even a Christmas tree. It has been an absolute pleasure to see the work that has been done.  All the girls were amazing but I must mention Sally who made many cushion covers and dresses and brought them with her, they are simply beautiful. Micah headed up the boys team and along with Levi and Joel designed, made and taught our guys Dren, Sochea and Sarak how to make furniture in the future. We cannot express our gratitude enough for Gateway’s help.  Our prayer meeting on Wednesday night was led by Micah and Jessie, everyone entered in to the interactive prayer stations and it was such a special evening for all of us.

Last night as a team we went to one of Esther’s Khmer teachers wedding, a new experience for all and I think everyone enjoyed it. Of course there was about 500 photos took and here are some that capture the day from the getting ready to the actual wedding evening reception and even some dancing shots, I hope you enjoy them!

 

Finally I would like you all to join with us here in Cambodia praying for a friend of ours, a real gentleman with an unwavering faith in God. Pastor Simon Whitely, senior Pastor of Rugby Elim Church was diagnosed last Friday night with Terminal Cancer. Simon is 33 years of age, he has a wonderful wife called Lisa, a four year old son and a 1 year old daughter.  This is devastating news to them all, the family and the church, but also the wider Elim family too. Simon addressed the church last week and he did it in the most beautiful way because he truly believes that our God is sovereign and worthy of our worship and praise no matter what the circumstance, such an example to us all. Simon asked for his church but really us all to worship God, to glorify God and in that atmosphere of praise we know that God can do great things. Let’s praise and worship our Father expectant of complete healing Amen!

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Community Spirit!

We are often asked what do we miss whilst being on the mission field and our answer is always our family and friends from our homeland.  Georgie and Tom have been part of our team since January and have been so thankful for family and friends who have been able to visit and see firsthand what they have been involved in during their year long placement in Cambodia.  Recently they were reunited with Georgie’s parents in Thailand before spending 10 days together in Phnom Penh and we were delighted to meet Nick and Jackie and spend some quality time with them both.

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They stayed in our guesthouse and were well looked after by Aly, our manager.  On Saturday night Aly made her famous Khmer chicken curry for 6 nationalities – Pakistani, Welsh, Australian, Korean, Northern Irish and Khmer!  It was a fabulous evening with friends old and new enjoying good food and fellowship together.  Aly is the perfect hostess and anyone who has sampled her curry knows its the best in Cambodia.  

On Sunday we were blessed to have Nick as our guest speaker in church and he delivered a powerful message entitled – Get on, Get down, Get out!  We were challenged to have unity in the church, to worship wholeheartedly and to be missional in reaching the lost.  Visal was amazing in his translation of the message and we are so thankful to Nick for ministering to us.

As is custom on the last Sunday of the month we enjoyed a pot luck lunch together with traditional Khmer food along with a Filipino, Pakistani and Western dish.  It was a banquet and we all feasted until our tummies were as full as our hearts!  We have said this before, if there is something the Khmer excel in it is community.  They never tire of spending time together and they especially love to eat and fellowship one with another.  

The rest of the week has been making preparations for a team which arrives today.  They will mainly be putting together the finishing touches to the extension in Be Free and we look forward to showing you photos of the stock room, counseling room and visitors centre in a few weeks time.  The girls in Be Free, and especially Sokim, are so excited about the additional space and how it will make such a difference in the healing and restoration of each trainee who will join the Be Free program.  Sophie and Sokim worked together updating our weekly schedule which now includes some chill out time after the Bible study on Friday afternoons, this will take place in our new counseling/relax room.  When the girls are making crafts they get in the zone and concentrate on what they’re making so the chill out time will allow them to chat together and just be girls having fun together. Also this week we are thrilled to introduce our newest member to our team Sue, who is taking on the role as our nurse teaching all things medical, childcare related, health and nutrition.  This is a vital part of our program and I want to take this opportunity to thank Sue for volunteering in this way.

I want to thank everyone who messaged me on my birthday.  I was totally spoilt all day starting with coffee and quality street, breakfast with Team Cambodia, birthday surprise at Elim from our incredible staff, pedicure with Julie (my Kiwi friend who also celebrated her birthday on Monday), Bohemian Rhapsody with expat friends followed by dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  I feel so blessed, loved and thankful for the family and friends in my life.  Yesterday it was my older brother Jonny’s birthday and today is my younger sister Rhoda’s birthday; we love you both and wish you very happy birthdays and every blessing for the year ahead!

This morning we will make our way to the airport to collect Team Gateway from New Zealand who will be with us for 9 days.  We were thrilled to meet Kezz, the team leader, a few years ago when she visited Cambodia after serving on a team in India.  We are thankful for the partnership with Gateway church and are excited for all God will do in and through this team as they serve in Cambodia.  Please pray that they will all have excellent health for the duration of their time here and we know they will be blessed as they will be a blessing to those they will come in contact with.

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In closing we wish to give our deepest condolences to our dear friends Ian, Jenni, Jasmine and their family following the very sad loss of Ian’s twin brother Derek earlier this week.  We have known Derek and Irene for many years and always enjoyed our conversations together.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all of Derek’s family and friends, that they will know God’s peace and strength in the days and weeks that lie ahead.

Exciting Times for Amazing People!

I would like to start this blog by saying a huge thanks to you for your prayers for my Mum. With having guest bloggers the last few weeks I haven’t been able to share the news that she has finished all her treatment now. In Belfast when you are finished the radiotherapy you get to ring the bell, which I personally believe is a fantastic idea.  I got to be honest when I watched a short video of my Mum ringing the bell I had a few tears. I from a distance and for a while up close have seen the way the drugs take no prisoners and to say we are so proud of Mum and Dad is the biggest understatement ever. I also want to thank my sister Kellie, brother Philip, and close friends of my parents for all the extra they have done because we are not there. We were delighted this week to see that my Mum’s hair has started to grow back and I would ask you to continue to pray as each day passes that my Mum gets her strength back as well.

We have just had two amazing people come and work with us, the first was Laura or LJ as we called her. A young lady who has an anointing on her like I haven’t seen in a long time. She spoke so well in all the bible studies and prayer meetings we had along with preaching in the village. LJ I want to just say to you that Jesus was misunderstood and scoffed at many times, He had Pharisees watching and many times challenging Him. But it did not derail his mission it made Him more determined and He persevered. Please don’t ever let go of your vision, your mission or your journey, I would love to work with you again someday and until then know you are in our hearts and in our prayers!

The second person was Luke and he was a bundle of joy, happiness and a little bit of crazy lol.  We had a saying that we used on many occasions after one of his fun filled moments which was simply “We love Luke“. The last time I had a male early learning years teacher in my company was probably never.  In fact, because of his larger than life attitude and the way he threw himself into our ELC we realised that he was the double of Mr Poppy from the Nativity Trilogy films. I have to say it’s been a while since we had a young man come on his own and make such an immediate impact, but that’s just Luke. We pray that as you chill before heading back to the UK that you will return to England with a definite plan for your life, but please keep us in the loop because we would so love to work with you again one way or the other.

In the week that lies ahead we have two special things happening, the first is Pastor Chamnap and Pastor Sarak are leading three days training with 30 Pastors in Kep, with the thought of training them to plant churches in their surrounding villages. Please pray that God will give them the right words of challenge and encouragement to these wonderful brothers, and also health and strength for the trainers.

The second thing is my beautiful, amazing wife Esther has her birthday on Thursday, I am so thankful that I get to do life with one of the most caring, loving people to the destitute and outcasts of this world. Over the past week she accompanied Sokim, Chamnap, Sophea and Aly to an organisation where 40 young girls heard about the Be Free program. While there Esther spoke from start to finish in Khmer, clear and precise was the reports I got back.  She is an inspiration and is so dedicated to not only seeing lives changed here but all over the world from her vision and heart for the Be Free program. Esther as you celebrate your 48th birthday know you are loved and cherished by lives you have touched from all over the world. You are significant in God’s eyes and nothing else needs to be said but I love you to the moon and back as do Meg and Ruby. Please friends on Thursday pray for Esther that God will open doors so that she can impact even more lives with the good news of Jesus.

 

Guest Blog from Luke

Hello, my name is Luke and I have been here in Phnom Penh for 2 weeks. During my stay I have been able to spend time working alongside the staff in the Early Learning Centre, work together with Georgie to deliver a staff training session on ‘Toddlers Development’ and ‘The Key Principles of The Early Years’ as well as an outreach trip to Kep with the church planting team.

I started my time in Cambodia by venturing off with the church planting team and Tom to Kep. Once we had arrived in Kep, we all enjoyed some food and Dren kindly gave me a guitar lesson, we headed to the village. We had to walk through rice fields (bare foot as it was so muddy) to reach the destination. The team brought snacks for the children, speakers and equipment through the mud and puddles. I was very quickly blown away by the dedication of these guys to spread the gospel not only to the children but the surrounding community. The whole team were amazing to observe and I could only begin to imagine how proud God must be all of them.

The rest of my time has been spent in the Early Learning Centre.  As an Early Years Professional it has been a joy to witness how the children in the ELC are nurtured and educated. The staff are all so dedicated and eager to improve practice and learn more. It has been a really special time for me here, more so to see what God is doing and how he is providing a safe a wonderful place for these children.

I have loved spending time with Dave and Esther, listening to the testimonies of how God has redeemed the lives of so many here in Cambodia. I have seen how God has used Dave and Esther to bless and sow into the lives of so many people here, and now he has used them to bless and sow into my life too. Thank you Jesus.

 

Guest blog by LJ

I’m LJ (Laura) and I’ve been in Cambodia for 4 weeks.  I was in India last month and I will be traveling to the Philippines tomorrow. 

This past week in Cambodia has been Pchum Ben holiday.  This has meant it’s been quieter than my first three weeks here as many people go back to their provinces to be with their family at this time.  Many things closed over the holiday time, including the Early Learning Centre and Be Free, which meant I got to spend some quality time with Davy, Esther, Tom, Georgie, Sophie, and people from church who had not or were not going back to their provinces. On Tuesday we invited everyone from the church who would still be in Phnom Penh to have dinner with us, and the numbers grew and grew. We spent the afternoon cooking lots of food together and in the evening we gathered at the church, ate together, and enjoyed each others’ company.

On Wednesday afternoon, Sophie and I went to a local cafe with two girls who work at Elim and their daughters. It was great to spend time with them and getting to know them better. After we returned, one of them gave me a lesson on how to drive a moto. This was on my bucket list so I was so thankful to have that opportunity, and I didn’t fall off which was an added bonus! The other skill I learnt this week was crocheting. Esther is a brilliant teacher and I’m sure I’ll be crocheting on the plane tomorrow.

This morning a group of us went to the local market to buy ingredients to make Khmer curry this evening. I am super excited to eat it and I trust it will be worth the trauma of seeing half alive fish and animal meat all over the market (being a vegetarian is interesting in Cambodia).

I’m sad to be leaving Cambodia tomorrow, even though I have only been here four weeks.  I have met some amazing people who have taught me so much, and I have been blessed by all the stories I have heard of how people came to faith despite their difficult life circumstances. It has been a privilege to spend time making crafts with the girls in Be Free, and it was an honour to do Bible studies with them. As much as I came here as a volunteer hoping to help in whatever way I could, I know that the people here have taught me more than I could have imagined about community, discipleship, and pursuing the dreams God gives to us. I think Elim Cambodia is currently in a really exciting season; it’s really evident to see the work God is doing here, in their main church, as well as in the church plants.

I am so thankful to David and Esther for allowing me to be a part of the work they are doing here in Cambodia, and alongside them I am thankful for Tom, Georgie, Sophie, and Luke, who have have been family to me during my time here. I have leant many practical things about ministry, and I am taking away new skills, but my greatest highlight from my time in Cambodia is the conversations I have had with people about God, hearing how He speaks to all of us differently, and places different passions in each of our hearts. Seeing the team at Elim Cambodia work passionately at what they do has helped me see more clearly what God is asking me to do, and for that I am extremely grateful. 

 

A Time to Go and a Time to Return

About 2 years ago we set up a plan to go into an area that had no Christian influence, the seaside city resort of Kep, with a population of around 40,000. With only a handful of people that we barely knew as our early influence we started English classes that eventually led to youth gatherings. Our intention, our goal was to develop a centre that could be multi purpose with English classes, guitar lessons, sports ministries, youth work and, of course, a church. Eventually we would also use it as a resource base which our team could reach into surrounding villages and communes starting house churches and childrens’ ministries.

So with our vision and strategy in place we started to put it into action. It took sacrifice from us all to make it happen. In the early days Visal, Chamnap, Sochea, Dren and Sarak stayed away from their wives and children on a weekly basis to make it all possible. The students came, the relationships were strategic with school principles and government officials and things really started to take shape. We had and have a great relationship with New Life Fellowship who helped the work financially and resourcefully and I publicly want to thank them again for this. Stage 1 was complete and then stage 2 was ready to begin.

This is were we had to approach and ask Sarak and Sophea to go just like we did ourselves.  We knew that it would take massive sacrifice leaving behind family and friends, giving up their home and all the other things that were normal to them.  They would have to leave behind their church family, those who were their closest friends. It was a difficult ask because we know what it means and how difficult it would be for them and even with support that we knew they would have. I must at this stage honour them they talked, prayed, talked and obeyed, not us; but God’s call on their lives.

So off they went to start the church and the rest is history, many difficulties along the way but they were faithful as was God. People were saved, baptised and disciples became disciple makers. Both Sarak and Sophea should know how proud we are of them.  In every work and situation problems come along, Satan does not want us to be doing good things, so he tries his best to derail ministries but he is defeated because of Jesus and we just need to remind him of that.

About 6 months ago we started to realise that the sacrifices were becoming increasingly difficult with Harry and Jonny reaching ages that they need other kids around them and an early years education which we offer so well in Phnom Penh. We talked with Sarak and Sophea and decided we would all pray and that if God wanted things to change we would find a family that could easily replace and add to the work in Kep. Seemed impossible to us but not to God.  Jonny Hamill who has been very close friends of ours along with Jill his wife since we arrived here almost 8 years ago, spoke to me and told me about an amazing pastor and church planter who needed a job. So we interviewed Piseth and not only was he perfect but also understood Elim’s core values and was totally onboard.  Trust me he was a blessing sent by God. So Piseth and his youth worker Baul have been training along with Sarak and Sophea for the last few months and this Sunday will be their first Sunday leading the work on their own, it is very exciting!

Last Wednesday night we had a celebration to celebrate Sarak and Sophea’s return to the city, to the work here and back into a church family that really missed them. I explained to the church that they were called to do a certain task of pioneering the work and now God has another plan for them. That’s the beauty of God, if we listen to Him and we follow His leading eventually we will complete that plan and then God can use us in different ways, in the ways He desires. That’s the case for Sarak and Sophea, they went, they surrendered, they completed the job and they returned. Now God has an even bigger plan for their lives.  We celebrate all God has done through them and as Sarak assists Chamnap lead the church in Phnom Penh, and Sophea helps with the Bible studies and general Christian well-being of our Be Free girls and centre staff, please pray for them both.

Friends I don’t know where you are at, what you are up to in life’s great journey, but I want to encourage you don’t be scared to follow God’s call on your life. But also know that there will come a day just like Sarak and Sophea when you will maybe have to hand it over and that’s ok, God’s plans are bigger than our plans, handing over successfully is one of the hardest things to do, to walk away and leave something successful should always be the goal but in human nature so many struggle to do this. We salute Sarak and Sophea for a job well done, God bless you both!

Please continue to pray for Kep and the new leaders Piseth and Baul, for Sarak and Sophea settling back in and the work they will do, and for us all and yourselves that we keep focused on what God’s will is not our own; and that if that day comes when it’s time to hand over and move on that we will all do it as successfully as Sarak and Sophea.

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Surprises and a Graduation

At the start of this week’s blog we want to congratulate my sister Ruth and brother in law Billy on their 21st wedding anniversary today, it is a weekend of celebrations as it is also Ruth’s birthday tomorrow.  Happy Birthday sis, wish we could be there to celebrate with you but know you’re in our thoughts!

On Monday Sokim and I visited Channak, our sewing teacher in Be Free, who gave birth to a beautiful baby boy Hasanah 30 minutes before David and I left our house to go the airport for our surprise visit.  I met Hasanah for the first time at church on Sunday and he is delightful.  Sokim had obviously been observing our nurse Colleen anytime she did health checks on our new babies and she did a great job with Hasanah.  Mum and baby are doing so well and it was a joy for us to catch up with Channak and give cuddles to Hasanah.

On Tuesday evening we were able to pull off another surprise which we had been keeping quiet for 2 months, the arrival of our special friend Sophie.  She has come to Cambodia twice and our Khmer family love her as one of their own.  We wanted to surprise Nita who thought Sophie was arriving on Saturday, so after a double dinner date with Chamnap and Nita we drove to the airport to collect our next visitor, a man called Daniel, who would be staying in our guest house.  We even had a photo of a random guy whom Nita was watching for coming through the arrivals.  Chamnap was in on the surprise and we were so excited to see Nita’s face when Sophie arrived instead.  The airport wasn’t as busy as it usually was so when Nita spotted Sophie through the glass doors her face lit up.  It was a wonderful reunion and Nita was just so happy and surprised!  

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It is lovely for Laura (LJ) our volunteer from England to have a room mate for the remaining 2 weeks of her time in Cambodia, and as I write this the two of them are on their way to explore the Russian Market.

LJ has been busy using her gift of ministry speaking in the prayer meeting and taking the Bible studies in Be Free.  Yesterday after reading Psalm 42, we each were given time to write our own Psalm.  It was something I had never done before and along with each of the girls thoroughly enjoyed, the exercise made me ponder what I’m feeling and express those thoughts in a new way.  LJ also preached at one of the village churches on Sunday and will be sharing in our Ladies church tomorrow.  We are enjoying getting to know her and are excited for what God is doing in her life; we know He has amazing plans for her.

Last night a dream came true for Nita as the ELC held its first Graduation ceremony and it was a wonderful evening.  Four graduates who have come through our Early Learning Centre are starting, or have already just started school, and it was an opportunity to celebrate along with their friends and family.  The platform was decorated with banners and an amazing display of balloons, and a great number of guests came to support the very special graduates.  Huge thanks must go to Nita, Chamnap, the ELC staff, Georgie and Tom for organising the whole event and making our first Graduation ceremony a night we will always treasure.  We are so blessed with an amazing team in our ELC and the stories of children who come through our centre and then go on to school are just amazing.  The parents are always so grateful for love, care and education their children receive and it really is the best start in life for their little ones.  Continue to pray for Nita, Sokhom and all our staff as they give their all; and for more and more of the parents who come through our doors to come to know Jesus, which is our ultimate goal.

In closing we want to thank everyone for their prayers over the past 6 weeks for Aly, the manager of our guesthouse, and her daughter Solyka.  As many of you know Solyka had to go to Singapore for surgery to correct a problem which made walking difficult and caused a lot of pain in her legs.  Praise God for a wonderful medical team and for successful surgery and speedy recovery.  Aly and Solyka return home to Cambodia tomorrow afternoon and I know there is going to be an incredible welcome at the airport!  We are so thankful to Hagar for all the organising and provision, and we are especially grateful to Lynette and Michael, the donors who have cared so much for Aly and Solyka and have welcomed them into their family.  There are not enough words to express our gratitude for all they have done for Aly and Solyka, and after meeting on FaceTime are looking forward to their visit to Cambodia in December and thanking them in person for their kindness and generosity.  

Aly and Solyka will share about their time in Singapore in church when they return and they give all glory and thanks to God for answered prayer from people they haven’t even met but have been supporting them through this time.  How amazing it is to belong to the family of God!  Praying you have a blessed weekend and thank you once again for being a part of what God is doing in Elim Cambodia.