Guest Blog by Sophie

I have just come home from 11 wonderful weeks in Cambodia. This was my third time in Cambodia and God has done far more than I ever could have imagined. I thank God for giving me this beautiful Khmer family in my life. They have changed me for the good and taught me so many wonderful things.  One thing I always say that I love about Cambodians is that they have the best smiles. They just know how to and love making other people happy.
This longer trip has meant that I could get fully involved in everyday Cambodia life. I got to spend more time at Elim Cambodia helping with different ministries. I spent a lot of time working with the toddlers in the ELC and those mornings with the kids were so fun. I learnt from the staff there and admired their hard work and care for the children. I got to teach English to the girls in Befree and lead some bible studies. The time spent with the girls in Befree as always has been so special. I loved being here as the new rooms were added to Befree. One of my favourite moments was praying over the rooms with the team and God’s presence was mightily felt with us. I know He will use this new space to bring more healing and restoration to young girls lives. I have loved spending time with old friends building on our friendships and also starting new ones.  I have loved doing daily life with people. I got to see how God can take and use our everyday simple activities and turn them for His glory.
One of the most significant things for me was seeing the church planting team and the heart of Cambodia Elim to see everyone in Cambodia know about Jesus. Going to the provinces and visiting the villages in Kep were experiences like nothing I have ever had before. Some of the programs i got to see were in the middle of rice fields, some were in people’s houses, some were shared with chickens and dogs and kids running about but all were so filled with God’s mighty presence. One of my favourite moments was when the team were singing the song “do you know my Jesus deep down in your heart?” with a group of children. It made me so emotional that these kids were hearing the good news about Jesus who is the best news they will ever hear. It encouraged me and reminded me of the importance of me doing this in my life with those that don’t know God.
Last year when I was in cambodia the final touches were being put into the guesthouse. It was amazing to be here this time and see it being used by a team from New Zealand and many other visitors. It really is a beautiful oasis to come and stay in. You get a very warm welcome and are looked after so well by Aly – the wonderful guesthouse manager.
I have seen so much growth in people and ministries here over the past few years. I want to say about my dear friends Chamnap and Nita that I am so proud of you and all the work you do in Cambodia. God is using you both to lead this work so well. You put God first and seek his will and wisdom in all you do. Your vision for the church and for the people of Cambodia is amazing.
And finally I want to thank David and Esther for once again allowing me to come and join your family and all the work going on here in Cambodia. You give endlessly of yourself day in and day out here. You inspire me to keep loving God and keep loving people. You have 2 of the biggest hearts and I have loved every minute of this time I have spent with you.
Elim Cambodia and the precious people here are amazing – I miss them already. I hope you get the chance to come and see this wonderful place yourself someday.
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The Greatest Gift!

Last Saturday saw the beginning of our Christmas program in Cambodia with a party and special church service in Tuol Kdey province combining two of our church plant locations.  We accompanied the church planting team leaving the house at 7 am to give us time to decorate the area and organise the children who would be taking part in the Nativity play.  When we arrived there was a buzz in the community and children had already arrived in anticipation of having a fun time.  Soon the Christmas tree was decorated, balloons hung and Dren returned from the neighboring community with 60 children in the van; I videoed them exiting the vehicle and it was hilarious watching all these boys and girls who must have been like sardines inside.  They were laughing and so excited to be attending a Christmas party!

The party consisted of songs, games with very competitive children and lots of squealing, and the Christmas story narrated by Sokchea and acted out by some of the children.  150 gifts were given to the children and then they sat at tables and enjoyed a lunch of ‘bor bor’, a typical Khmer meal.  The children were so happy and the atmosphere was just wonderful!  Once they finished eating they returned home and it was time to prepare for our lunch and the Christmas service in the afternoon.  With 30 minutes to spare a small group of us went across the road to relax on the hammocks while Dren drove to collect the adults from the neighboring community who would be attending the church service.

There was also fun for the adults with pass the parcel and everyone entered in to the activities that were asked of them; there was much laughter and enjoyment!  After some worship, David delivered a message with Chamnap translating for him; speaking on how the families in our communities can experience hope, joy and peace reflecting on the reason God sent Jesus to the earth as a baby as the Christmas story tells us. Praise God at the end of the message 6 people responded to the message and made the decision to follow Jesus!  

We thank God for the church planting team and volunteers who faithfully visit these two communities and our other church plants, building relationships and sharing the good news of Jesus.  We are grateful for the families who open up their homes every week to allow church and kids clubs to take place, that enables the seed to be planted, to grow and to harvest! Please pray for these precious souls who have given their lives to Jesus and for more and more people in the communities to make the same decision in the days, months and years to come!  

We are so thankful to Sarak’s family who worked tirelessly to enable our Christmas party and special church service to take place.  They were up from 4 am preparing food for 200 people and we are so grateful to their kindness and hospitality.  We want to thank everybody who supported Elim Mission’s Beloved ‘Global Christmas Party’ campaign which enabled 150 children to have a wonderful time celebrating the birth of Jesus, the greatest gift ever given and for 6 adults to receive the greatest gift by accepting Jesus into their heart!  Our hearts are full and as we continue to prepare for our special Christmas service on the 23rd December, please join with us in prayer that many people will open up their hearts to receive the greatest gift that can be given!

In closing we want to take this opportunity to thank David Wilson who has spent two weeks teaching Nita accountancy and how to record everything in a system on the computer.  We were privileged to meet David a few years ago when he spent time in Cambodia volunteering at another organization so when he got in touch to say he was returning to Phnom Penh we asked for his help.  We were also delighted to meet Carolyn, who was able to join her husband for one week, and it was our privilege to accommodate you both in our guesthouse.  Thank you David for all the hours you put in and we are also grateful to Nita who was a star pupil enjoying what she learnt and even gave herself homework!  It was a pleasure to spend time with both David and Carolyn and our friendship is only just beginning!  

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Over the water festival holiday I was delighted to spend a few days in Siem Reap with Nita and Sophie.  It was fun being a tourist and they both told me I did a great job being their tour guide at the temples.  We loved our time at the Kulen mountain waterfall and cycling in our Khmer pjyamas.  It was just so special to have time together resting, relaxing and recharging our batteries.  Life for Nita is extremely busy managing the Early Learning Centre and being a Mum to four children so she was able to catch up on some much needed sleep!  This is Sophie’s third time in Cambodia and we are so glad she finally was able to visit Siem Reap and we were able to go with her.  We had so much fun and laughter over the 4 days and all three of us will always treasure this time together.

On Sunday we were thrilled to hold our first ladies’ church get together in our new visitor room in Be Free.  The ladies loved the new space we can use each month, Sophie brought a wonderful message about ‘the seasons of our life’ and Nita did an excellent job speaking the message in Khmer.  We all loved the present Sophie gave us of a framed image with Isaiah 54:10 printed on it.

The rest of this week has been preparing for the Christmas events which start today (Saturday).  We are delighted to be hosting a Global Christmas Party in Tuol Kdey province combining two of our church plant villages.  There will be 150 children attending a party in the morning with lots of fun and games, one of our church plant team will tell the Christmas story and then lunch will be served for all the children and the adults who will have a special Christmas service in the afternoon. We are so grateful to everyone who has supported Elim Missions Beloved ‘Global Christmas Party’ campaign which enables God’s love to be shared with children who may not normally have the opportunity to celebrate.  Please pray for all the preparations to run smoothly and that the children and adults will have an amazing time as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, the greatest gift ever given!

We have also been decorating the church for the Christmas services; and the girls in Be Free have been altering the costumes for our Nativity which will be part of the program for our special service on Sunday 23rd December.  Please pray for all the children who will take part in drama and dance; and that their families will come along and hear the Christmas message.  Our Christmas service is the biggest opportunity for an outreach event and we are delighted to combine with 2nd Mile Church and worship together with them.

A Dream Come True

The Be Free team are thrilled to finally unveil images of our new extension which has been a dream for such a long time.  Our prayers have been answered in that we now have a visitors centre, counseling room and stock room. There are not enough words to express our deepest thanks to Replenish ladies conference, Tauranga Elim, Bangor Elim, Portadown Elim, Lakeside Elim and Gateway church.  There have been many happy tears shed by all of us as we witnessed the progress and then as we stood with Team Gateway on Sunday morning and prayed in the counseling room, tears of joy for the healing the girls who will come into the Be Free program will receive in this beautiful place.
We are so thankful to the team of builders, electricians and painters who worked so hard to make the 3 rooms out of our balcony space.  We are really pleased with their craftsmanship along with the local family business who made roman blinds for the rooms.

The ladies of Team Gateway did a marvelous job painting the counseling room and the stock room, whilst the guys made incredible furniture from a mountain of wooden pallets!  We are thankful to Sarak, Sokchea and Dren who assisted the team so well.  The Be Free team loved putting the finishing touches together and surprising Team Gateway with the transformed spaces.  We look forward to hosting our next team when Sokim will give a guided tour and then talk to the team about Be Free and show some of our media in our visitors centre.  Just today we used the counseling room for our Bible study and then we had some time chilling out, listening to worship music, and having manicures and pedicures whilst chatting together about our week.

We thank God for answering our prayers in the practical way the churches have blessed us with our extension and we know lives are going to be transformed for His glory!
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A few team members have shared their thoughts from their time in Cambodia.

“We were absolutely blown away by our time in Cambodia. All around us we heard the same thing repeated in the words and actions of those we met, God is good, God is good, God is good. He is good in the midst of our circumstances, He is good in the midst of pain and mistreatment, He is good even though life might not look how we’d like it to look. The bible tells us to have childlike faith and rely on God, and we both felt like we learnt this lesson afresh.

We were also taught once again the power of community and of vulnerability as we watched those in the church rely on each other, share life with each other and support each other. What was most humbling though was the sense that we were invited to do the same, to be vulnerable, to be a part of the family, the Cambodian people seem almost fiercely determined to make all who visit feel welcome!

It’s commonly said that short term missions benefits the visitor more than those we go to serve and this trip was no different, both Micah and I felt incredibly blessed by our time spent with Elim. Despite all they have been through as a country there is a powerful sense of God in the nation of Cambodia.

It is with great excitement that we ponder the future God has for the nation and all the works He is currently doing.” Micah & Jess

“Our time in Cambodia was amazing. This trip has been in the planning stages for 12 months, and I wasn’t entirely sure how it would all unfold, but it all went so well. Davy & Esther have such a great team of people around them, and everyone was so friendly, welcoming and so willing to help us out. A special mention to Aly the guest house manager, who looked after us all so well.

Here are just a few of the highlights of our time; the early learning centre children welcoming us with songs, hugs and signs, the kids club in the village, tuk tuk rides around the city, seeing people’s eyes light up as they could see with new glasses, seeing the completed extension come together, and feeling God’s presence so close.It was such a privilege for our team to be able to help in such a practical way; building, painting and sewing. To see the project all come together was such a special moment, one I’m sure the team will remember. I know God will do great things in the new Be Free spaces.” – Kezz

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In closing we would like to thank Ruth McKee, the mission team and volunteers from Bangor Elim as they host the annual Missions Craft Fayre today!  If you’re in the area pop along and start your Christmas shopping supporting local businesses and at the same time you will be supporting the work of missions in Cambodia.  It is always a great day and we wish we could be there!

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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!

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.