“Be still and know that I am God.”

What a whirlwind the past few weeks have been for me, and not just me but the whole world.  The title of this newsletter has always been one of my favourite verses but now more than ever it means so much to me.

Just over 2 weeks ago I returned from a short trip to Northern Ireland.  I was able to go home and enjoy time with my family and celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday.  I had a restful, encouraging time.  I was able to catch up with some friends after being away for 7 months.  Another special thing was that my dear friends David and Kirsty had their second child while I was at home so it was amazing that I was able to meet little Isaac and get a cuddle before coming back to Cambodia.

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With my Mum and Dad

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Northern Ireland

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Baby Isaac

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With special friends

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With my brother

At the time I was leaving Northern Ireland there were concerns and worries about Covid-19 but no where near the level that we find ourselves in today.  I was able to travel through Thailand with no issues and made my way back to Phnom Penh with a smooth journey.

The day after I arrived back a team from Bangor Elim Church came to Cambodia.  I was happy to see good friends that I have known for years and also meet new people on this team.  The team got involved in all areas of Elim Cambodia life and blessed lots of people while they were here.  On the Saturday of that week the government announced that all schools in Cambodia would close indefinitely to try and stop the spread of the virus.  This impacted some of the activities at Elim for the rest of that week.  The ELC has now closed until further notice and my English classes in the evenings have also been put on hold. The Bangor team were thankfully able to safely fly back to Northern Ireland last week.  Thank you again for everything you did to serve the people of Cambodia.

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Bangor Elim Team

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Some of the team helping to build beds for the new Befree homes

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Doing a kids club at the village

On Tuesday last week it was announced that all religious meetings and gatherings are also now on hold.  It has been a strange week. Some things are carrying on as normal but most things are very different.  Our once very busy streets are now much easier to travel through without the presence of much traffic. Many people have traveled back to their home countries and some countries have requested that their citizens come back.  Many Khmer people have also gone back to their provinces.  The market stalls near my home are quiet and very few people are selling items.  As of yesterday, we at Elim Cambodia will all be working from home.  We have set up different online groups so that we can continue to communicate and do our work from home.  Please pray for us as we figure out how this looks, as we find ourselves in the same situation as many people across the world.

At this time it is very difficult to be so far away from my family.  Obviously I have concerns for them and for their well being.  This week more than most in my life I have really felt God’s Peace.  Everything is out of my control and I don’t know what each new day will hold, but thankfully He does know. He is in control and knows about all our fears, doubts, worries and concerns at this time.  I know now more than ever I have to put my trust in God that he will continue to look after me here in Cambodia and pray also that he will look after my family and loved ones back in Northern Ireland.

Please pray for the Khmer people.  Like so many across the world this is not an easy time for them. For people here who already live in really difficult circumstances this current situation is greatly impacting their daily lives.  People are worried about their salaries if they can’t work and how they can continue to provide for their families.  Please pray for God’s peace and reassurance for them at this time.

Please pray for me that I will keep my eyes on God.  That in this time I will be a source of light to people when they are afraid.  That I will also stay strong in God.

I am and will continue to pray for each of you at this time.

 

Love Sophie

Guest blog by Esther Allen

What a joy to return to my second home Cambodia 174 days after David and I waved farewell to our amazing Khmer family to begin a new chapter in Southport in the UK.

The reunions that took place were just so sweet and my squeals of delight when seeing precious loved ones are moments I will treasure.

For almost two weeks I served alongside the team of Lakeside ladies followed by 4 days with three ladies from our Missions office in the UK and my heart has been blown away with how incredible the Elim Cambodia team is.

 

In August 2018 we shared with our Khmer family and community that we felt God was calling us back to the UK and it was time for them to lead the work we were privileged to be such a part of. David shared about how young eagles learn how to fly by spreading their wings and jumping out of the nest. It was time for them to leave the nest and soar to new heights. And boy, have they done that! I am immensely proud of Pastor Chamnap and his leadership of all the ministry within Elim Cambodia.

Each day there have been so many highlights and I have shed tears of joy observing how each person is thriving and flourishing in their ministry. The church planting team are breaking into new ground in so many provinces with their vision of ‘one village, one church’. To sit in a home meeting a family whose lives have been so amazingly transformed since they met Jesus through one of our church planters listening to God during a morning walk and stopping at their home is a day I will never forget!

 

During the first morning in Be Free having devotions with the ladies tears rolled down my face as we sang ‘God sent His son they called Him Jesus, He came to love heal and forgive’. As I listened to their sweet voices singing in Khmer I was overcome by God’s love and all He is doing in and through each of these precious young women. They haven’t always known love from their families but when they enter the doors of Be Free they are loved by the staff, fellow trainees and come to know the love of Jesus who transforms their life, giving them hope and a future.

I met with Sokim, Sophea and Chantha to chat about how they are doing in their ministries and I encouraged them with how amazing it has been to observe them hosting the teams and working with the trainees. The standard of craft products they are making, the new ideas they are coming up with and the care and support they give to the trainees is top class. I’m so proud of each of them and how well they work together as part of a team, they aren’t just work colleagues but also friends who support each other and spend time together socially. We have been able to take the Be Free team twice to Bloom cafe where they have enjoyed yummy cupcakes and smoothies, and the times of sharing have been emotional but so heart touching. Be Free Cambodia was birthed from having a cupcake and coffee with our International Missions Director Paul Hudson in May 2013 so trips there are always special.

Being present at the 9th Be Free graduation was also a very special highlight. To have been there when the 3 graduates first came to Be Free and be a part of their journey, and then to cheer them on as they graduated was a joyous event.

 

Seeing the children in the Early Learning Centre was so special, they are so happy and when they sang to us they did so at the top of their voices. The staff are incredible, loving the children and passionate about giving them the best start in life with their education.

Community is what Cambodians do so well and last Sunday following men & ladies church we joined together for food. The Lakeside ladies visited Elim alley one evening sharing fruit and playing games with the families who live there. Then last night many of the staff and church family gathered in Elim’s guesthouse for a banquet of food together. It was such a relaxed time of fellowship, food and fun.

I’m now finishing this blog post on the plane after saying ‘see you next year’ to my family here. Love hurts and separation is hard but I’m so thankful to have spent 3 amazing weeks in Cambodia and to witness how everyone is not just surviving but thriving. Special thanks go to Sophie who looked after the Lakeside ladies so well in the guesthouse, it really was an Oasis and your Khmer family are counting the days until you return to them. Chamnap, Nita, Sokhom, Sokim, Sarak, Dren, Sok, Sreyloat thank you so so much for your love, kindness, generosity, servant hearts for making the past three weeks so memorable. Continuing to be your biggest supporter and cheerleader. Keep keeping on and following God’s leading in your lives. Until next year, see you on FaceTime xo

A busy start to the year

The past few weeks I have been enjoying time in Cambodia with my good friend Courtney. She was here for 1 month altogether and she left last Wednesday to go back home to Northern Ireland. We had a great time together seeing different parts of Cambodia and most importantly we spent lots of time with the people I love very much here in Cambodia. During her time here Courtney helped with English classes, she played different instruments in the church worship team, she spoke at women’s church, shared at the Befree bible study and helped teach the preschool and toddler children at the ELC. Thank you Courtney for serving so well and being such a great friend to me and travelling all this way to see me and the work going on at Elim Cambodia.

Over the last month throughout Asia one of the main topics of conversation has been the Corona virus. So far there has been 1 confirmed case in Cambodia and the person has been treated and is said to be recovering. This past week I was stopped upon entering a building and my temperature was taken along with being given anti bacterial gel for my hands. There has been a lot of fear amongst people here and I have been saddened at the impact the virus has had especially in China. I lived in China before and the people of China hold a very special place in my heart. I would ask you all to join in prayer for China especially as they deal with the spread of this virus and for the many other people and countries who have been affected.  Pray against fear that people would listen to sound and truthful advice about the situation.

This past month we had our first youth night with students from the English classes. It was a special night with our students who have been studying English with us since September. We played games together, ate some food and learned about 5 important words and what they mean in our lives. Love, joy, peace, value and hope. We plan to meet once a month initially to do this youth night.

This past week exciting building work has been underway at Elim.  3 houses are being build for one staff member who currently lives at the church and these houses will also be for any girls who may come to Befree and need somewhere to live.  The 3 houses are at the back of the church and good progress has already been made with the building work.  This really is a blessing for the ladies and the staff member who will move into these houses.

Just this week we had a ladies team from Lakeside Elim arrive in Cambodia.  Esther Allen who many of you will know, is the missionary along with her husband David who served and lived in Cambodia for nearly 9 years.  She along with 5 other ladies arrived on Monday afternoon.  There were many happy reunions at the airport and we were all happy to meet the other ladies on the team and a few of the ladies are returning to Cambodia for the 2nd time.  This week they have already been busy at the ELC, in Befree and tomorrow we will head to one of the villages where Esther will speak a message on ‘love’ for Valentines Day.

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Lakeside Ladies

Tomorrow night we are very excited for another Befree graduation to take place. Sokim and the team have been very busy organizing for a special night tomorrow.  3 girls will graduate tomorrow night and over the next few weeks and months they will move onto different work places and programmes.

On Saturday there will be a ladies conference at Elim church.  This is being lead by the Lakeside Ladies team and Nita will be one of the ladies speaking at the conference along with Esther and George. Please pray for everyone involved in the programme for Saturday. Lots of hard work has gone into the preparations for this and we are all excited for the day and for what God wants to share with us.

The church planting team are also very busy as they have been continuing to visit different provinces to encourage the pastors and leaders there in the work they are doing. Often this means that the team are having to spend time away from their families and driving for long periods of time. Please remember each of them in prayer that they would have the energy and strength that they need for this work.  God is moving and the stories and transformations that are taking place around this country are amazing.

I look forward to updating you on more exciting things that have happened in a few weeks time.  Thank you as always for your messages, support, prayers and love.

 

Love, Sophie

 

 

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.