Archive for March, 2012

You never know what a day will bring

Have you ever reached the end of a week and thought, wow how did so much happen in the past seven days? Well we have just had one of those weeks.

On Saturday we went to a place 20 minutes outside of Phnom Penh called L’Elephant  Blanc, translated in English as ‘The White Elephant’.  Accompanied by Bill & Maureen we were treating the staff from the day care centre as a thank you for their hard work from when we moved centres.  It was an amazing day spent swimming and relaxing, this was the first time the staff had had an outing like this together and it was very special. We had a buffet lunch which in true Khmer style was devoured; it was a joy to watch them have so much fun.

Ready for our staff day out

Lunch time!

On Sunday we enjoyed another great church service with Bill bringing the message and Chamnap translating.  This was followed up with soccer for the men at the football pitch next door. When we arrived back in Cambodia in February the ratio of men to women attending church was 1:4 but on Sunday it was closer to 1:1.  God is using sport to bring the men to church and I love it.  Oh and by the way Mong, the footballer who became a Christian last year, is training to be a cell group leader, he’s a man on fire for God. Amen!

Monday is usually our day off but as we are in the process of creating an ‘in country vision and mission’ statement, our friend Julie who specialises in this area facilitated a 3 hour workshop with the four of us.  Although very intense, and our brains were scrambled with words and phrases, it proved to be extremely productive.


I should have mentioned we had a funeral service taking place practically on our doorstep from Saturday to Wednesday, with one day reprieve setting up again from Thursday to Friday!  This consisted of constant music and chanting from 6 am until 9.30 pm and is amplified through loud speakers.  If you would like to hear what it was like click on the following link:

Khmer funeral

Tuesday was back to theological training in the morning and mentoring in the evening. We went to bed as normal but as I couldn’t sleep I ended up watching Spurs beating Bolton.  At 4 am I was still trying to get to sleep when our mobile rang, it was Bill calling from upstairs to tell us they had a burst pipe and were totally flooded. It was amazing, there was about 2 inches of water throughout the whole apartment and the four of us plus the landlord’s family worked until 5.30 in the morning clearing out the water.   Esther was wearing the wellies she was given as a Christmas present for when we are in the rainy season and working in the slum villages!  We went back to bed to try and get a little sleep but you guessed it just as we were dozing off 6 o’clock came and the chanting and music started. What a night!

The rest of the week has been spent in studies, mentoring, preparing registrations in the country and meetings with influential people who God has brought into our paths. We also held our second Khmer church prayer meeting which was really good.  There were about a dozen in attendance and it was really special to hear Khmer Christians praying so passionately for their own people.

It has been a whirlwind week but God is doing something big in Cambodia and we are so excited about what lies in store.

Finally it would be wrong of me to let the week close without publicly congratulating my wonderful brother Phil a very happy 40th birthday.  We are so sorry we are not there to share this momentous occasion with you, but you are in our thoughts and prayers.  You are one in a million and we love you so much, miss you Bro xo

Trash in exchange for Treasure

Etjai cart carrying child

There is not a day goes by travelling out and about in Phnom Penh that your heart doesn’t break at what you see.  Images that tug at our hearts haven’t got any easier to deal with a year into life in Cambodia and I hope they never do.

I captured this photograph on our way to the Elim Centre on Thursday morning.  The mother of the child is an ‘Etjai’ worker which means ‘recycling’ in Vietnamese and is the name given to recycling waste pickers.  There are thousands of etjais working in Phnom Penh. They pick up a two-wheel cart from a collection centre and work the streets during the day or throughout the night, stopping at various places to buy cardboards, cans, plastic bottles, and various other recycling goods to sell it back to the collection centre for a slightly higher price. They are among the poorest people, making in average between 5,000 and 10,000 riels a day (1 US dollar = 4,000 riels). We were horrified to find out that people and organisations sell their rubbish rather than donate to the etjais allowing them to earn more than they actually do.

On our way to the Elim Centre this morning I spotted an older etjai lady with her cart and my heart just went out to her.  There are so many of these dear people that we feel overwhelmed with how we can make a difference.  But this afternoon we were able to make a difference to this precious lady.  Several hours later we were leaving our home to do a message at the same time as an etjai worker was coming along our street with her cart.  David caught her attention and gave her a huge bag of recyclable bottles, cardboard and plastic packaging that we had collected from our household use.  Her face lit up as she emptied the bag into her cart and she smiled at us with gratitude.  At this moment I recognised her as the wee lady I had noticed first thing this morning.  She had walked the streets for hours on end earning a living for her family.  As well as giving her our bag of ‘rubbish’ David blessed her with $5 (approx. £3) and I can still picture her smile which was beautiful.  You would have thought we had given her a million pounds.  We hope by accepting this small gift she could make her way back to the recycling centre and after working out what she earned would be able to go home to her family.

What we did today was very small to us but significant to the precious etjai lady.  We all can make a difference in the lives of those around us if we just open our eyes to see the hurting, the lonely, the desperate, the lost.  David keeps me going sometimes because I have a habit of people watching.  This week make some time to people watch.  Be on the lookout for opportunities to help others – opportunities that you would normally miss because you are usually so focused on your own agenda.

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.



Be still and know that I am God

I have the awesome privilege of visiting prisoners every other Thursday, at the minute I meet with two men, both with completely different personalities and outlooks on life.  This week I spent an hour and a half listening to someone who just exists, he has nothing because he hasn’t got freedom.  Never underestimate the gift of being free but also never should you take it for granted either.

This really got me thinking and you know you may not be locked up and unable to be free, but you may be controlled by things that worry you. We work with families who have absolutely nothing yet they don’t complain, they don’t blame people and certainly don’t blame God about the situation they are in.  A few of you who are reading this may have a right to feel hard done by, but yet most of us would not tolerate a third of what the poor people from the slum villages count as normal.

They don’t worry about what each day is going to bring why should they it’s not going to help them and worrying won’t change a thing. But putting your trust in God in every area of your life will make it much easier. There are a number of things that Esther and I have learnt on our journey so far in Cambodia. The most important one is that God is in control, it doesn’t matter what you are facing God knows and God is in control. You might be thinking but you don’t know what’s going on in my life and you’re right I don’t but what I do know is God knows and God cares.  Whether you have given your life to Jesus or not He still knows and He still cares, and no matter how much you worry you won’t change a thing. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves about the verse in Psalm 46 verse 10 “Be still and know that I am God”.

I have a question for you today as you are reading this blog, are you free or are you caught in a daily existence feeling lonely, worthless, trapped?  In a way your life is a prison and it is you are a prisoner to sin, but the good news is you don’t have to be.  Unlike my friends who I visit that have lost their freedom, you have been given a second chance; all you have to do is acknowledge you are a sinner.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Ask God to forgive you through the blood that Jesus, God’s son shed on Calvary’s cross for you and for me and turn away from the things in your life that are wrong or bad. If you have done this you are a new creation, you are saved, please let us know so we can put you in touch with the right people to help you.

Jesus loves you; let him set you free today. Stop worrying and instead remember the words, “Be still and know that He is God”.

Heating up

The temperature at 9pm

On the 2nd March David and I celebrated our first anniversary of living in Cambodia, so it was very special that on the same day a year on we collected Bill & Maureen from the airport for their 2 month visit with us. In this past week we have all been trying to adjust to the climate which has progressively been getting hotter each day and thus zapping us of our energy. Afternoon rests indoors have been necessary, along with drinking plenty of fluids to give us the strength to keep going! Even the Khmer are struggling with the temperatures so what hope do we have.

We spent Saturday touring the city in the Tuk Tuk taking in crazy sights that make us say ‘Only in Cambodia’. We had joked with Maureen that we would have valium at the ready for times like this but she really is enjoying how resourceful the Khmer are when it comes to fitting a whole family of five on a motorbike or how they go about transporting items from one place to another. David has also been our chauffeur driving the minibus and we are very impressed with how quickly he has adapted to driving in Phnom Penh, you really need to have eyes not only on the back of your head but also on the side as traffic flows from everywhere! The tip is to drive slow and expect the unexpected!

The Sunday service was well attended and there was an excitement in the air as David introduced Bill and Maureen to the church and explained the roles they would have over the next eight weeks, we are extremely thankful and blessed to have them share in the ministry of Elim in Cambodia. Bill expressed how happy they both are to be a part of the work in Phnom Penh and are very excited about what God has in store for the church, the day care centre and the community.

Sreyphoa in one of her wedding outfits

The Day care centre was closed on Monday for a very special occasion – Sreyphoa the cook was getting married and all the staff were attending the celebrations. We choose not to attend the morning festivities which would have meant leaving the house at 5.30am to travel to Sreyphoa’s home for the bridal procession and instead went to the evening reception. The parents of the bride greeted us as soon as we arrived and it was lovely to see Sreyphoa and meet her husband. Two of the staff from the day care were among her attendants and were still smiling even though they were probably awake and getting ready for the wedding at 4 am. During the wedding day Sreyphoa wore 7 dresses, with matching jewellery, hairpieces and shoes. While the guests are served a 5 or 6 course meal the bridal party don’t have time to eat as they are getting photographs taken with each change of outfit and greeting the guests who can arrive anytime during a 4 hour timeframe. We stayed for a few hours watching the final celebrations of cutting the cake and having their first dance together. We wish the Bride and Groom every happiness as they begin married life together.

Wedding entrance with the bridal party

The fish course

We were very excited to see the bread!

Maureen and Esther with Sreypoah in yet another outfit

Wedding procession leading up to cutting the cake

On Tuesday morning we arrived at the centre where Bill & Maureen received a welcome from the staff and children of the Day care centre in true Khmer style. It was lovely to see the surprise on their faces as the children sang songs which they had been practicing especially for this occasion and held up glittery posters which they made in class. A cake was presented to Bill and Maureen and once the candle was blown out huge party poppers were released with cheers and applause from everyone. It was a welcome they will never forget and were really touched by. Both of them are very impressed with the new centre and although they had seen photographs beforehand agreed how amazing it was to be there in the flesh and see the facilities for themselves.

From Thursday Bill commenced his mentoring sessions with David, myself and also members from the Khmer church who are currently in a leadership role. Over the next 8 weeks this training will be vital for each of us to enable the areas of ministry to grow and individual’s gifts and talents to be developed and strengthened. We believe exciting times are ahead and we value your prayers for this new chapter of Elim in Cambodia.

We are also delighted to have Maureen’s expertise from being a health visitor and now currently involved in the running of the Nursery in Stafford Elim. This experience will greatly benefit Nita and the staff of the Day Care Centre. We are all in for a busy few months and appreciate your prayers that we will have the energy required to achieve what is necessary during this valuable time.

Building for the Future

The men all ready to leave for Men's Camp

Exciting things are happening in Cambodia and exciting things are happening within our church.  When we first came to Cambodia there was a lack of men attending church and those that did had no depth to their relationship with God. Three weeks ago I announced in church that there was going to be a men’s camp in the Kampong Cham province.  I have to be honest I didn’t expect a great response, that’s faith for you, but unbelievably we had 9 men including myself who signed up.So the day arrived, we got ourselves organised and headed of extremely excited about what lay ahead. I personally couldn’t wait to spend time getting to know these men better. The camp was run by New Life Fellowship, the largest Khmer church in Phnom Penh, and the teaching we received was fantastic.  It focused on relationship issues and how we as men should react to situations and people. There were seminars on your relationship with God, with the Holy Spirit, your earthly Father, your wife and family and even men and intimate issues. Each session was finished by breaking into cell groups and discussions were held about the topics that had been touched on. I would like to go record thanking Chuck McCaul the founder of New life and his son Pastor Jesse McCaul for their vision and willingness to let us be part of what is happening within the men of Phnom Penh.

On the way home we stopped the car for five minutes and while having the break I decided it was time to do the unthinkable, so I ate my first tarantula spider. It had been cooked and seasoned but still had its eight long legs. I have to say the thought of it was far worse than the experience itself, I don’t have any photos to prove it but we did make a movie and once Esther works out how to upload it the proof will be there.

We have had a busy week moving into our new apartment and also preparing the apartment 2 doors away from us for Bill and Maureen Crawford. It has been a crazy week but thankfully by the time we left yesterday afternoon to collect our guests their Cambodian home for the next 8 weeks was ready and waiting for them.

Dairy Queen, a must when you are at the airport!

Airports are strange places, you have a group of people at one side of the airport who are really sad as loved ones leave to go other places sometimes not knowing when they will see each other again with tears of sadness flowing.  We witnessed this yesterday as we had a quick Dairy Queen ice cream waiting to go at the right time to arrivals. We only walked 150 metres and the mood completely changed with an excitement in the air because people were waiting for happy reunions. We too were excited.  We have known, respected and loved Bill and Maureen for many years. Bill was our senior pastor for 12 years and Esther was his secretary for most of that time.  We always have had a very good relationship and anybody that knows us knows we have had to face some big stuff and Bill and Maureen have always been like adopted parents to us. They are actually here to guide us through this period of change and we see this as a massive blessing for Elim Phnom Penh, we are very blessed to have such good friends and mentors.

Ready for the journey home!

Back to the excitement in the airport as we watched people reacting in different ways as they set eyes on their loved ones, it was quite funny at times.  Then we saw Bill and Maureen and everything we laughed about at others just seemed to land on Esther as she surged forward with pure excitement.  It was so good to see them; we can’t wait to see what God has in store during their time here. We headed to our air conditioned taxi better known as a Tuk Tuk where Bill & Maureen were greeted by Dren our friendly helpful driver. It was fun watching Maureen’s expressions as we travelled home.

Please pray for us as we move forward as a team that God will guide us in His way, that we will know and see His will in all we do and that Elim in Phnom Penh will go from strength to strength.