Greetings from Cambodia!

We arrived back in Phnom Penh on Friday evening welcomed with the smiling faces of Chamnap, Nita, Sok, Aly and Dren.  Our six weeks in New Zealand was a dream come true and was a mixture of rest, renewing friendships and updating the churches that support Elim Cambodia.  We are so thankful for the wonderful hospitality we received from each of our hosts – Bruce & Diane Taylor, Mike & Sally Frew, Trevor & Debbie McDowell and The Hutchinson Family.  We were given time to rest when we needed it as well as being shown some of the beautiful scenic spots of the North and South Island of New Zealand.  It was wonderful to attend reunions with two teams that visited Cambodia the year before and thank them once again for the time they spent with us.  We were so grateful to have spent time with our dear friend Betty who visits Cambodia each year and always books in a slot to check up on our self care and health.  Betty, we are so encouraged by how well you are recovering following your hip operation and we will treasure the time we got to spend with you in your beautiful part of the world.

We were honored to represent Elim Cambodia in the following churches – Elim Christian Centre, Pukekohe with Pastors Darryl & Denise Booth; Elim Christian Centre City, Auckland with Pastors Mike & Liz Griffiths; Gateway Church, Hamilton with Pastor Chris Jones; Tauranga Elim Church with Pastors Trevor & Debbie McDowell and Christchurch City Elim Church, with Pastors Nu & Taua Telea.  It is amazing to see what God is doing throughout New Zealand and we were refreshed and encouraged by spending time with each of the Pastors, we are thankful for their friendship, wisdom, love and support for both ourselves and the Elim Cambodia team.

On behalf of our team here we extend our thoughts and prayers to the nation of New Zealand following the terrorist attacks which took place in Christchurch yesterday.  We are standing with you in prayer at this time; praying for the families and friends of the victims; and praying for the churches as they respond and reach out following this awful crisis.

Whilst we were in New Zealand Pastor Chamnap and Nita did us both proud overseeing all the ministries of Elim Cambodia.  We were thrilled with updates of Pastors Chamnap and Sarak at the Elim Global Asia Conference in the Philippines and both of them thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the wider Elim family.  We were also extremely proud of Nita preaching her first sermon in church and received many messages of how well she spoke.  Nita is such a gifted speaker and it is wonderful she is able to use the talent God has given her.

In our absence two teams hosted by friends of ours stayed in Elim’s guesthouse and were well cared for by Aly and Srey Loat.  We received wonderful reports from the team leaders and members about how much they enjoyed their stay in the Oasis Guesthouse and that Aly and Srey Loat excelled in their hospitality and made the teams’ stay very comfortable and enjoyable.  We are so proud of both Aly and Srey Loat, their hearts for hosting teams and ensuring they are well fed and cared for.

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We are thankful for all your prayers for us as we travelled around New Zealand, ministering each weekend; and that we had rest and fresh air.  We have returned to Cambodia feeling totally refreshed in body, soul and mind.  Thank you also for your continued prayers for Chamnap and Nita, and the entire Elim Cambodia team as they serve God in each of the areas they have been called to.  We thank God for each of you and the part you play in our journey!

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Special Announcement!

On the 1st March 2011 Esther and I began a journey in this beautiful country Cambodia, a country full of brokenness and spiritual darkness but yet the most wonderful people, all trying to work out what life is about. By February 2012 we were left in charge of heading up the work here and although we were not in anyway capable to do the work that lay ahead God was!

Over the last 8 years these people have become much more than work colleagues, people we do church with, they have become our family. We have been at their weddings, at the birth of their children and even been at their family funerals. We have laughed with them, cried with them and watched with great pride as they have grown from babies in their faith to strong leaders. Many of them have surpassed us in their leadership capacity and we celebrate that. I watch Pastor Chamnap and Pastor Sarak in awe of who they are and what God is doing through them and I am so thankful that God chose us to be part of that Journey. Nita and Sokhom are immense in their leadership of our Early Learning Centre and add to that Sokim and Sophea leading up Be Free, not forgetting the amazing guesthouse managed by the wonderful Aly. Every area we have is now being run by totally capable, trustworthy and spirit filled Cambodians, it is so so exciting for the future.

Last year around the middle of June just after we had returned to Cambodia from our furlough with Pastor Chamnap, God started to really speak to us both about things we had never imagined. At the time we weren’t sure what was happening but the next few months God made it clearer and clearer that he was wanting us to release these wonderful leaders to be empowered and to take Cambodia Elim into the next stage. Simply God showed us that we had completed what we set out to do and that it is time for us to let them go. Chamnap is ready, the team are ready and we believe in them so much.

This morning there was an announcement made in our home church Bangor Elim that Esther and I along with our dogs Meg and Ruby will be leaving Cambodia early August this year. We want to go on record thanking Pastor Gary, Pastor Davy, the elders, Ruth McKee, the missions team and of course everyone from Bangor for the amazing support they have given us and will continue to give until we leave. No matter where we end up we will always belong to Bangor Elim.

This decision has been really difficult to make.  It is breaking our hearts trust me, we know some of you will be asking why go, why leave something that is really going well. I will try and answer that question below.

Firstly when we left the UK in 2011 we were petrified but sure it was what God wanted from us, many people even some of you thought we were nuts to leave what we had and who we had behind. We have missed many important things that we would have loved so much to be there for. But God asked us to obey him and we did and now we feel that He is asking us to obey him again. It will be as difficult if not more than when we came.

Secondly Elim Missions has a goal for each missionary and that is for us to go, train up locals, empower them and then release them to lead their own people. Over this last year I have worked under Pastor Chamnap and it has been an absolute pleasure, I have learnt so much from him. So by doing what we are about to do we are living out what our mandate has been.

Thirdly we believe that we can be much more help to the team here by going back to the UK and raising more awareness of the work. We will support the work through fundraising and networking for teams to come. Over the last 18 months 6 Elim teams from the UK have pulled out of trips that had been booked into our guesthouse and we need to help those patterns not to continue. Esther will be helping oversee the work of Be Free internationally not just Cambodia so will be continuing to support Sokim.

Finally over this last year our families have suffered with some serious illnesses and we feel by being only an hour away on a plane is much better than a full days travel to get home. So by being in England we will be able to be much more help and around much more when needed.

I will hopefully be taking up the role as pastor in an Elim church somewhere in England and although we can’t tell you anymore than that right now we will let you know as soon as possible. But as already said we will be playing a big part still in being a voice and an instrument to support in all areas of Elim Cambodia.

We want to thank you all so much for being the most amazing friends and family, supporting us in ways that we will never know. We love you all and we are so indebted to you all. I know this will probably be a big shock to many of you and we are certainly willing to discuss it more if you want to email us.

I want to finish by saying that the work is going to flourish, we believe it will go from strength to strength, we will continue to be a part of the ministries and support to the team; and we challenge you to do the same. We ask you to continue to support us up until August time, we will be giving our everything over these next 6 months. But I want to ask you to trust us, by getting behind the work either as new supporters or shift your support of us personally to the work of church planting or Be Free after August. None of this will affect child sponsorship or any other type of giving that is already set up.

On Tuesday we travel to New Zealand to speak in some churches that already support the work of Elim Cambodia; and we will also be introducing Elim Cambodia to some new churches that we are honored to share at.  We are excited to be given this opportunity to visit churches who have sent teams out to us, renewing fellowship with friends; and to build new relationships with churches interested in what God is doing in Cambodia.  With the fact that we will be away for the next 6 weeks we will not be doing a blog each week but will keep updates going on Facebook on our Davy and Esther in Cambodia page; and on instagram of what we are doing in New Zealand and of the ongoing minsitries in Cambodia.  Once we return we are going to start introducing our wonderful team to you properly through video messages.

Please continue to pray for us as we prepare for the goodbyes that lie ahead, pray for Pastor Chamnap and Nita, Pastor Sarak and Sophea, Sokim, Sokhom, Aly and the rest of our team. Please pray as we step into the next chapter of God’s calling on our lives that we will have clarity of what God’s will is and how that looks.

A week of welcomes and celebrations!

In last week’s blog Tom and Georgie shared some thoughts from their year in Cambodia and at the start of this week’s post we want to express our sincere gratitude for all they have done during their time here.  They have become a big part of our church family building special friendships and so it was only natural that their last Sunday would be one were they would be honored and appreciated.  Following a slide show of some of their  highlights in Cambodia Tom and Georgie were interviewed by Chamnap and David.  They shared about the fears they had prior to coming to Cambodia and how God helped them overcome those fears.  Tom and Georgie talked about the ministries they were involved in and how God stretched them to accomplish what He had planned for them.  They shared their favorite moments and what they have learnt over the past 12 months.  In closing they gave advice and encouragement to the church family to believe in themselves and dream big dreams!  Presentations were then made from each of the areas of ministry and of course there was cake and selfies.  Finally the church family gathered round Tom and Georgie praying for them as they spent the next 6 days saying their farewells and preparing to return to the UK. 

Tom and Georgie, thank you for the sacrifice you made in leaving what was familiar and coming to a country that took you out of your comfort zone.  On behalf of Elim Cambodia we thank you for all you have accomplished during your time here and we know you leave a changed couple than when you arrived last January.  Keep listening to God, keep dreaming big dreams, and continue to serve Him in whatever that may be.  We are thankful for our friendship and will cherish the memories of our wee family times together; Meg and Ruby will miss all your cuddles and attention.  We know your loved ones will be excitedly awaiting your return with lots of reunions and hopefully there will also be snow before you have to go back to work!  

On Tuesday we were delighted to welcome back to Cambodia pastor Gary from our home church Bangor Elim.  This is Gary’s third time in Cambodia and it is so special for us and the team here to renew fellowship with him.  After freshening up after traveling for over 24 hours Gary loved seeing for himself our guesthouse and the additonal space in Be Free; we are so grateful to Bangor Elim’s support to enable both of these dreams to come true.

This week has been extra special in Be Free as three new girls joined our training program on Monday and then on Wednesday night we held a graduation ceremony for one girl who has successfully completed her 12 months with us.  It is not easy for anyone starting something new, change can be scary and challenging; so to have our graduate give advice to our new trainees was inspirational and encouraging.  We are so proud of our graduate, she has grown so much during her time in Be Free and we know she is going to continue to be an inspiration and encouragement in the future.  Graduation ceremonies are our favorite nights of the year and as a family we celebrate with staff and children from the ELC, the church planting team, and church members joining together.  Please pray for the new trainees as they just begin their journey in Be Free and for our graduate as she takes up a new position in full time employment.

Our key leaders have enjoyed spending time with Pastor Gary this week studying, brainstorming and learning; and no trip to Cambodia is complete without a football match!  As we enter into the weekend we are looking forward to Pastor Gary speaking in church on Sunday.  We are so thankful to Bangor Elim for all the blessings they have made possible this week including people receiving new mattresses, Bibles for the new trainees in Be Free and a pizza lunch for all the staff.  Thank you for your constant generosity, love and support of Elim Cambodia; and for releasing Pastor Gary to spend this week with us!

Tom & Georgie’s Year in Cambodia

Thinking back over the past year is just incredible. We have loved being able to live here in Cambodia and really experience life and the amazing work that Elim Cambodia do. Our year in Cambodia has been more than we ever could have imagined. We feel so privileged to have worked alongside the team here in Cambodia and help in the work that is going on. The team are the best! They are so welcoming and it doesn’t take long for them to accept you as one of the family. One of the first things that stood out to both of us when we first arrived was the Cambodian’s smiles and we were made to feel at home straight away which was such a blessing to us.

Spending the year here has meant we have really been able to get involved in all aspects of work and the various ministries. I (Georgie) have spent a lot of my time in the ELC, spending time in the 3 different aged rooms and carrying out training on Child Development for the ELC staff. We have both spent a lot of time teaching English to the Pre-School Children and have helped the staff develop a simple curriculum for teaching English and Khmer for the Toddlers and Pre-school for the year.

I have also spent time in Befree, helping to teach English, helping (or more so them teaching me) sewing and helping make crafts and have also had the opportunities to carry out bible studies. Spending time with the girls has been such a blessing. It is the most amazing ministry and what it provides for the girls is truly incredible. The new space that BeFree now has is also amazing and being able to see the new rooms being used over the past couple of months, especially the counselling room where we hold the bible studies is so special.

Another highlight for us both is the time that we spent with the Church Planting Team in Kep. Back in May we started to go to Kep with the team 3 days a week to help with the Village Work and Church planting. These 3 days with the team were so special and we have so many memories with them all that we will always treasure. We loved being part of the village work, meeting families, helping with the kids work and we had the opportunity to help a local family build a house and pray with many of the locals.

With working in Kep came a huge opportunity for me (Tom) to transform an old warehouse into a multi-purpose sports hall. It started with raising funds from running the Phnom Penh half marathon and with this we were able to hire someone to relay the floor to make it safe. Then myself and the team made the posts for the nets and it all opened in December with a big opening ceremony with local schools and the Minister of Sports and Education. This was a great experience and something that we had no idea was going to happen in our time here.

It is fair to say we have had our mind blown by the work God has done while we have been here. We are so thankful to God for bringing us to Cambodia and for the many friendships and new family we now have. The community here is so special and is something we have really valued and will be taking home with us. Our hearts are heavy with the goodbyes that are to come over the next week but we feel so blessed that we have been able to make such close friendships that makes saying goodbye so hard!

Finally, we have also been blessed to have spent this year with Dave and Esther (and of course Meg and Ruby!) We have spent this year living in both the guesthouse and at Dave and Esther’s and for the past few months we have been living at their house. We are so grateful to you both, for hosting us, for welcoming us into your family from the moment we arrived & showing us the ropes in Cambodia. We have so many wonderful memories of our time together! What you have done here in Cambodia is amazing. We will truly miss everybody here, but we are heading home with full hearts and a new wonderful family.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all! I don’t know how you celebrated the new year but we had a lovely dinner out then chilled with a few friends before going into the small Elim community that live beside us and did the countdown with them all. It was just perfect to leave a difficult year behind stepping into a new year hoping and praying that this year our families will be healthy and happy but most of all they will find Jesus in the way we know Him.

Last Sunday we had such a special time together praising God that even through the tough times we knew his presence, and for all the wonderful things we seen come about with many finding Jesus. It was wonderful seeing individuals and families come to the front and share God’s blessings, building faith and expectancy in others for a move of God in their lives and situations in 2019.

On Sunday after church Sarak and Aly, the leaders of our youth group, organised an end of year party at a local resort.  Our minivan, cars, Tuk Tuks and motos transported all the young people where they had a great time swimming and having lunch together.  We are so thankful for Sarak and Aly who care so much about the young people and are already planning activities for 2019.

On New Year’s Eve as it was a holiday Tom, Sarak, Visal and myself went to play some golf around a beautiful par 3 course. Tom and I were getting beaten by our Cambodian brothers up until the 11th hole when we finally got a birdie to level the match. Then the unthinkable happened on the 12th hole I got a hole in one.  The fourth in my lifetime and the second time at this course.  It was special as they always are but it really makes no sense, many much better golfers than I go their whole golf lives without one and this was now my fourth. We went on to win the match but most importantly we had some relaxing fun together and a great team builder.

On Wednesday and Thursday I hosted two afternoons mentoring our key leaders – Pastor Sarak and his wife Sophea, Dren and his wife Chantha, Rith and his wife Sokhom, Sokim, Sok, Visal, Aly and Esther. The reason why I didn’t include Pastor Chamnap and Nita was because we were looking at how leaders need to respect and support our senior leaders. As we discussed this topic we realised that if we love God and then Elim here in Cambodia, we need to encourage Chamnap and Nita.  We need them to know they are not on their own, and when they need their arms held high, so the battle can be won, we will be there doing everything we need to see Jesus lifted high.

As we enter into this new year please pray for Chamnap and Nita along with Sarak and Sophea as they head up the work here. We are so blessed to help them grow even more as leaders. Thank you so much for your continued support to us and the team here, we appreciate all of you. May God richly bless each of you for the time and resources you invest in Cambodia and us, we love you all!

2018 – What a Year!

Its the last blog post of 2018!  Before we look back at some of the highlights and memories of the past 12 months we want to share some photographs from our Christmas service last Sunday.

For weeks the children in the Early Learning Centre have been rehearsing the song they would perform as part of the Nativity story and the 2 Saturday mornings prior to the service all the children taking part in the drama rehearsed.  Sokhom and I were quite worried after the final rehearsal and we just hoped and prayed it would be all ok on the day! We are thrilled to say we had a full house with family, friends, parents of the ELC children and local community present!  Nita and I were honored to MC the event and are so thankful to everyone who participated and also grateful to Georgie and Di Mong for capturing photographs and videos of the day.

We combined our service with 2nd Mile, the International church which uses our building each week, and we were thrilled to have Belinda, one of their worship leaders minister to us in song.  She was such a blessing and during her performance of O Holy Night I had goosebumps!  Our own worship team were brilliant leading us in Khmer and traditional carols.

We are so proud of 9 year old Chiera who narrated the whole Christmas story while the Sunday school and ELC children acted out the Nativity.  All the children remembered their roles and were absolutely fantastic.  The funniest sight was their teacher Sokhom waving one of the gifts they would receive at the end of the service to remind them to sing well, and her plan worked!  The children put their all into their performance and at the end Sokhom was beaming with pride for her amazing students!

David and Chamnap delivered the message about the reason we celebrate the birth of Jesus and God’s plan as the creator of the universe to give us the best gift ever, the Savior of the world, and wanting to be in a personal relationship with each of us.  We are so thankful for the opportunity that was given for so many people to hear about the love of Jesus and we pray over time everyone present last Sunday will make the greatest decision ever to follow Him.

All the children then received a Christmas present in what I can only describe as chaos on the platform!  Close to 150 gifts were given out and it was manic but we thank God for our church family who gave generously in the weeks leading up to our special service so every child could receive a Christmas present.  We are overjoyed with how our Christmas service was so well supported and we give God all the honor as His name was glorified!

This is some of the highlights of 2018:

Births – Daniel, Jonny, Deborah, Eli, Hasanah and Hosannah.

Visitors – Ameila (Rediscover Church), Tom & Georgie (Cardiff City Temple), Dave & Liz Newton, Tauranga Elim (NZ), Peter & Dee Stedman, Lakeside Church (Southport), Paul Hudson, Mike Griffiths, Daryll Booth, LJ Tiffney, Sophie Moore, Lucas Marlow, Team Gateway (NZ) and David & Carolyn Wilson.

Special Events – Be Free Graduation #7, Football Tournament in Kep, Focus Day for Leaders, Special Easter service, Khmer New Years party, Samaritan Purse Boxes in Kep, Furolugh with Pastor Chamnap, Hutchinson family leave Cambodia for NZ, Be Free 5th Birthday, Surprise visit to NI, ELC Graduation, first full year of Oasis Guesthouse running and Aly appointed as manager, Sarak & Sophea return to Phnom Penh, Piseth heads up work in Kep, Pastor training conference in Kep, Be Free extension completed, Global Christmas party – Tuol Kdey, Christmas service in Kep, Opening of Sports Centre in Kep, Staff Christmas party & Special Christmas service!

Special occasions for our family – Becoming an Auntie and Uncle again with the arrival of Elliott and Sadie in January, and getting to meet our adorable nephew and niece in June, and for me again in September.  Our eldest niece Alex getting engaged to Tobi in February.  David’s ordination ceremony in June.  David’s mum Sandra ringing the bell upon completion of her cancer treatment in October and getting stronger every day.  David’s sister Kellie getting engaged to Stuart on Christmas Eve. As a family we have much to be thankful for!

So as we approach the end of 2018 we wish to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who has journeyed with us, we are so grateful for your love, prayers and ongoing support towards the work of Elim in Cambodia.  On behalf of our amazing team here, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being a piece of what God is doing in this beautiful part of His Kingdom!  We wish you a blessed 2019 and pray that it will be a year in which you know peace, hope and love through our Lord Jesus Christ!

A Season Full of Giving!

I would like to start this week’s blog by wishing each and everyone of you a Joyful, Merry Christmas and that you spend precious moments with those you love whether you are at home or like us thousands of miles away. One thing we have learnt being so far away is that you should value every moment you have together.

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This week has been extremely busy,  starting with a trip to Kep early last Sunday along with Pastor Chamnap, Dren, Tom and Georgie. Our visit was for two reasons; the first to be part of the Christmas celebrations and secondly to attend the opening of the large sports hall Elim had been heavily involved in renovating the interior.

The church had about 50 people in attendance including two police officers taking photos, it seems we are being watched in everything we do right now. After the photos were taken we started our service which went very well. The Kep church is quite traditional in their Khmer worship which I find refreshing and that it hasn’t been westernised, but as the church grows and the young people get more involved I would expect more modern Khmer worship will be used.  We had a young group of Khmer led us in a song at the end and it was really special to see them using their gifts. I had the privilege to preach and it was a real joy to share to those there about the reason for the season. Afterwards the church enjoyed fellowshipping together enjoying Khmer curry made by some of the church members.

On Monday morning we set of early to the sports field where the big sports hall is located, by the time we arrived there was already 200 children along with there teachers sitting in the hall. Tom and Georgie had already set some of the hall up with a volleyball net, tennis net and some badminton nets. We had the official ceremony with the Director of Education, Youth and Sports attendance and Pastor Chamnap did the Master of Ceremonies. I spoke first talking about the journey Elim has been on in Kep and about our belief in Jesus. After I finished Tom spoke about his passion for sport and young people living out their dreams. The speeches were concluded by the director thanking Elim and especially Tom and Georgie.

After this we had the joy to partake in playing some volleyball, tennis and badminton with the director and some of the children. It was a real privilege to see what Elim through Tom and Georgie have done in this building and how the love of God shining through people can reach out to others in the simplest of ways. The sports hall had the floor flattened and lines painted on for a full size tennis court, a volleyball net, four softball mini tennis/badminton courts and an indoor football pitch. They also provided the nets, posts, racquets and balls etc for all the sports.  We still require five a side football nets, which will cost approximately £300 to get those and some good balls. The other thing we would like to do is get lighting into the place so it can be used after 6pm when it goes dark. This is a much bigger venture and would cost around £1250 so if you are looking to bless something this Christmas time please join with us in making a difference so many others will have the ability to have fun and sport at the same time. If you would like to be part of this venture please go to our PayPal option at the bottom of the blog. I cannot thank both Tom and Georgie for making this dream for so many a reality, it has brought a lot of joy for many and at the same time enhanced the relationship between Elim and the Ministry of Education here in Cambodia.

Last night we had a wonderful time of fun and fellowship with all our staff, 30 in total. We brought them to the Elim Guesthouse where we had a banquet of food made by Aly, Esther, Srey Loat, Lina, Mohm and myself. We pulled out all the stops and put on a fabulous buffet for them all. Afterwards Pastor Chamnap, Pastor Sarak and myself led a few games that brought much fun and laughter, which so good to see. Our photo booth as you can guess was never empty, Cambodians as you know by now love two things selfies and cake. Once the games were finished Chamnap and I gave out the secret Santa gifts followed by everyone’s Christmas bonuses. It was such a blessing to stand back and watch everyone so happy sharing fun moments together. These are the people that make things happen on a day to day basis and it was Esther and my pleasure to spoil them for the beautiful hearts and great work ethic they have. We truly love them all!

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As we prepare for our Church Christmas extravaganza please know we love you all.  Thank you for being part of our journey, you will never know how much we appreciate the support and love you show us. To those closest to us we miss you so so much.  Thank you for supporting us being so far away, we know your pain. Love and blessings to you all “To God be the Glory”.