Archive for June, 2012

A flying visit

Shortly after waving goodbye to Pastors Ian & Katrina Dumphy and having five days on our own, we were back to the airport to collect our next group of visitors. The flight from Bangkok was delayed for over an hour due to severe weather conditions which we had encountered during the afternoon in the form of a heavy thunderstorm.  The delay allowed me to enjoy a coffee and David a Dairy Queen ice cream so we were both happy.  This was literally a flying visit for Chris Jones – International Missions Director (and our Boss), Paul Hudson – Missions Development Director and John Martin – responsible for the creative side of Missions; graphic design, film and website.  With a packed itinerary planned for their two days in Phnom Penh, they really did hit the ground running! As well as this being an opportunity to see the work of Elim Missions in Cambodia, Chris and the team were here on behalf of the Freedom Project which focuses on rescuing women and children from the sex industry.

There are several great organisations throughout the globe fighting against human trafficking and child exploitation.  This week it was an honour and privilege to spend time with the founders of two such organisations carrying out an incredible work in Cambodia.  Founded by Brian McConaghy, Ratanak International has been working in Cambodia since 1989.  We have been friends with Ratanak’s Country Director, Lisa for almost a year and were delighted when she informed us that Brian would be in Phnom Penh at the same time as Chris.  God’s timing is always perfect and the 3 hours that we spent with Brian as he shared how Ratanak began and introduced us to some of the projects they have been a part of was indeed a divine appointment.  Please pray for Brian, Lisa, the staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to give those living in desperation an opportunity to be rescued, restored and rehabilitated.  For more information on the history of Ratanak and the work they are involved in please visit their website at www.ratanak.org.

A few days prior to Chris’s visit I was blessed to meet with Ruth Elliott the founder of Daughters of Cambodia, an organisation we have known about since we came to Phnom Penh.  Daughters was founded on 1st January 2007 with the vision of changing lives for victims of trafficking in Cambodia.  At Daughters if girls wish to change their lifestyles they are empowered to make changes by learning life skills and earning an income by the provision of jobs.  They attend programmes that are both educational and psychological providing emotional healing and building self-worth and confidence.  We were honoured to be given a tour of the daycentre where the staff were happy in their environment making quality products which would later be sold in the Visitors centre or online.  All of us were inspired after chatting with Ruth about how Daughters began and the incredible difference it is making in so many lives.  Following this where else could we go for lunch but to the Visitors Centre and Sugar ‘n’ Spice cafe.  As always the lunch was delicious, the staff friendly and welcoming, and it is an amazing opportunity to support the wonderful work carried out by Daughters.  Visit the website www.daughtersofcambodia.org and please pray for Ruth and the team at Daughters as they transform lives in Cambodia.

The staff at Elim Early Learning Centre gave a wonderful Khmer welcome to Chris, Paul and John with the children singing a song they had rehearsed for the occasion.  A tour was given of the new Elim centre which they were delighted with, Paul enjoying fresh coconut juice from our very own garden.  On Sunday David had encouraged the church to make an extra special effort to attend the weekly prayer meeting as we would have three special guests joining us.  They didn’t let us down with 30 in attendance, when we couldn’t fit anymore chairs in, cushions were set in the centre of the circle and the people sat on those.  It was so encouraging to look around the room and see lives that have been changed so much in the last few months.  We enjoyed a time of praise, prayer and worship together with Paul bringing a message based around the Lord’s Prayer.  Pray for the leadership team in each of their roles as they serve God together and as we seek to expand the Kingdom of God in Cambodia.

We thoroughly enjoyed two busy but productive days with Chris, Paul and John and pray they return home refreshed, encouraged and inspired by what they witnessed during their time here.

John shopping at the Daughters visitor centre!

Defining moments

All aboard the bus for special outing

As we travel through life’s journey there are certain moments that define or shape our future. On Sunday 17th June we encountered one of those times.

The day started at 5:30 am when the alarm went off.  I am never amused when it goes off that early but we needed to be at the Elim centre for 7:15 am so we just had to get on with it.  I was feeling anxious about how many things needed to come together to make this day run smoothly and living in a country where our favourite saying is “Only in Cambodia” there was every reason to be nervous.

My first fear was that the bus we had hired wouldn’t be able to find the centre and then the congregation would arrive late to our destination. But to my amazement we were all on the bus and heading to Logos International School by 7:45 am.  This was as good as I ever could have hoped for; we arrived safely and were set up with our church service starting at 9 am. We were on schedule and still doing everything in a calm and orderly fashion.

Baptismal candidates with Chamnap & David

As a church we were celebrating two very special events; first of all we were baptizing seven new believers, two of which only gave their lives to Jesus in the last week.  For those of you who don’t know what baptism means, they were following Jesus example. By going under the water signifies that you are dying to your old self and rising from the water as a new creation pure and set free by Jesus sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. You are also publicly declaring you belong to Jesus which is no small task to Cambodians who can be abandoned for their new found faith. Secondly we were bringing 40 people, including ourselves into membership of our church.  We really believe God is doing something special in Phnom Penh Elim.  To have this many born again, baptised, regular attenders wanting to commit to each other and to God is mind blowing when we consider where the church was only 6 months ago.  We serve a mighty and awesome GOD!!!

The congregation during worship

The service ran really well, with everyone entering into the worship led by Sarak and Ryma.  As a church we prayed for Sarak, who is taking on the role of youth leader, along with his newly appointed team consisting of Theda, Doray and Pally. The first youth meeting commences on Saturday 7th July and we would encourage you to please start praying for this now. Following this the names of the new members were called out with everyone forming a line before being prayed for.  Pastors Ian and Katrina Dunphy assisted me and our Khmer Pastor Chamnap, as we welcomed everybody.  There was such a sense of God’s blessing as we did this and we just marvel at his magnificence.

Ian praying for the Youth Leaders

Members of Phnom Penh Elim

Katrina brought a good word in season for the baptismal candidates and the congregation, after which we began the baptismal part of the service.  This was so special and an honour to be able to participate, we really do thank God for his loving grace.

Afterwards most of the church jumped in the pool for a swim and a cool down!  There were 75 people at church last Sunday which included 15 children.  At the centre we can accommodate 50 adults comfortably, so we would ask you to pray for this matter, the church is growing which is exciting and we praise God for how He is moving in Phnom Penh.  We are not worried because God knows our situation and He will provide.

Another use for gardening trowel

By 11:30 am we were all back at the Elim Centre where the BBQ was lit and whilst the pork was cooking, we played games with thanks to Doray who had organised them. This was really entertaining and the Khmer certainly know how to have fun and enjoy themselves.  Tables and chairs were set up in the garden and the food prepared by Nita and her team was delicious. Everyone had a fantastic day enjoying each other’s company encouraged by what God is doing amongst us.  Some families from nearby slum villages joined with us and enjoyed the church service, the swimming, the games and food but most of all the fact that they were welcomed into our Community.

Bong Paula cooking the soup

Enjoying the lunch

Chef Doray

On Sunday night we were invited to join with a group of our church family who were sharing a meal together. We had already eaten but met up with them at the spot they suggested.  We watched in delight as they turned a large footpath into their own roadside diner, mats were put down to sit on, a portable gas stove was lit and the cooking began.  It made our picnics look boring as they tucked into a feast of rice, chicken, vegetables and left over soup.  They even went to a nearby street vendor and purchased some deep fried crickets which I enjoyed a couple of.  It was wonderful to witness them all having so much fun together; the oldest in her late fifties and the youngest only 13 months.   You have got to see how these people interact, I personally believe our little church lives their life in an Acts 2 church mould (scripture is below to explain this).  To be honest they don’t intentionally do it, the exciting factor being it is natural for them to love each other, to care for each other, to help each other in times of need, to pray for each other.  Today I praise God for taking someone as weak and uneducated as I am and giving me the privilege of being part of what he is doing here in Phnom Penh.

Picnic Cambodian style

At the airport

Yesterday we bade farewell to our good friends Ian and Katrina Dunphy, Pastors of Stafford Elim who were with us for just over two weeks.  We always enjoy visitors from home especially as it is an opportunity to bring out some bare essentials to us e.g. Chocolate! (Note for anyone reading this I prefer Cadbury whilst Esther enjoys Galaxy).  Over the last few years we have been privileged to get to know Ian & Katrina and have enjoyed times of fellowship with them and their church family Stafford Elim.  We want to take this opportunity to thank Ian & Katrina for visiting us and for all the time and effort they invested into the work of Elim Cambodia whilst they were here.  They are a blessing to us in more ways than one and we thank God for putting Cambodia on the hearts of the Stafford Elim church family and for their continued love, prayers and support.  We pray a blessing over you and hope to hear great things as God moves you forward into exciting times. Thanks for everything, the door is always open to you both.

Finally I want to wish my Mother-in-law, June a very Happy Birthday for today!  Hope you get treated to a cappuccino and a slice of cake at your favourite coffee shop!  We love you and are thinking about you especially today.

Acts 2: 42-47: The Fellowship of the Believers

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Transforming Lives

Sunday has always been the highlight of our week when we come to worship with our church family.  When we are in Northern Ireland, this is with our home church Bangor Elim and now serving with Elim International Missions, our fellowship is called Phnom Penh Elim.  On Sunday past we had the joy of worshipping with both church families, firstly during our Khmer service at 02:30 GMT and then via a Skype call for Missions Sunday at 10:30 GMT.  We are blessed to have a sending church that cares so much about missions and reaching the lost for Jesus.  We are grateful to our Pastors and Elders for allowing us to be part of the service and giving us the opportunity to update our church family on current news from Phnom Penh.  A big thank you also goes to Ruth McKee and the entire Mission team who work tirelessly all year round organising events to raise funds to support the work of Elim Missions in Cambodia.  On Sunday it was a treat watching the congregation of Bangor Elim arrive and be greeted at the foyer, courtesy of Big G and the technical team.  We are so thankful for Skype to be able to keep in touch with loved ones, and on Sunday it was amazing to be ‘in church’ with our family!  There were a few hitches with the internet dropping a few times but we were thrilled to be able to share the great things God is doing in our part of the world.

The Missions team put together a DVD which was played during the service and can be watched by clicking on this link: http://youtu.be/k-kYK0EScAE

On Sunday mornings directly after the church service we have been running a Discipleship Course.  Normally in the UK new Christians would go through this course after they have made a decision to accept Jesus but in Cambodia people attend the course first as this introduces them to who Jesus is and what it means to be a follower of His.  One lady who has been attending both church and the discipleship course since March became a Christian last Sunday morning.  She shared how she now believes that Jesus died on the cross to take away her sins and she simply prayed asking Jesus to come into her heart.  We have the joy this Sunday of baptising her along with her husband who became a Christian at the end of last year.  This Sunday (tomorrow) we are having a Baptismal and Membership service which will be held at a Christian school which has a swimming pool.  This is a momentous day for the Khmer church as we will be bringing 30 people, including ourselves into membership and seven candidates, 4 ladies and 3 men, will be going through the waters of baptism.  Please pray for each of the people who are getting baptised as they stand up and openly declare they are following Jesus.  Many believers receive a difficult time from family members for being a Christian and we would ask you to remember them in your prayers that by their witness family and friends will also come to put their trust in the one true, living God!

Soklea and Narin happy in their new home!

Yesterday we had the joy of witnessing love in action and it felt really good.  We have shared in previous blogs about a grandmother (with HIV) and her grandson who were homeless and for the last few months have been attending church.  Soklea has also been going through the discipleship course, she is a Christian and is thrilled to be getting baptised on Sunday.  Yesterday, along with Nita and Katrina, we visited Soklea and her grandson in their new home and I’ve never seen smiles as big as theirs both were.  They knew we were coming and when we drove up they were waiting outside for us and greeted us with hugs.  Through Nita we had been checking what they needed to be comfortable in their home and yesterday we brought them a rail for their clothes, a fan, mosquito net and bedding.  They welcomed us into their new home which they are very happy with and kept saying ‘thank you’.  Now that Soklea has an official address we are working towards finding a school for six year old Narin to attend.  It is through the Poor Fund which we set up in the Khmer church that is funding Soklea and Narin’s new home and we are also extremely grateful for the gift from the UK which was designated towards this project.

If you would like to support this or any of the projects in Cambodia, please either speak to the Missions Team in Bangor Elim or contact Elim International Missions at www.elimmissions.co.uk.  You can make a real difference to peoples’ lives here in Phnom Penh.

In closing if you are reading this and have not yet made the decision to give your life to Jesus, don’t put it off any longer – ask God to forgive you off your sins and begin a new life with meaning, purpose and a future.  Trust me, you won’t regret it, in fact it will be the best decision you will ever make!  If you feel challenged by this speak to us by email, we would love to pray for you.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

 

 

 

 

 

Busy, exciting times but loving it!

I would like to start off by saying a big thank you to all those who sent me birthday wishes last week, it was very much appreciated. Another year older, how time flies, anyway this week has been the usual crazy pace with so much to do, we thank God for giving us the energy to keep going.

Our week started off doing some preparation work for the two short term mission teams joining us over the summer months. In July we have four girls coming out from the UK, the team leader is Megan Jones, daughter of our boss Chris Jones. In the team we have 3 other girls, Rebecca and Rachel (who we haven’t met yet) and then our very special friend Emma McKee, who will be joining us for an extended period of time and will be helping primarily in the Early Learning Centre. We are extremely excited about all four girls coming to Cambodia and what a blessing they will be to everyone they meet. In August we have a large team from Lurgan Elim coming and again we are so excited about what they will be doing.  Please pray for each person as they prepare for their visit to Phnom Penh, especially team leaders Megan, Rick and Ruth Preston.

Ian & Katrina at Phnom Penh airport

At the minute we have the privilege of having our good friends from Stafford Elim with us, Pastors Ian and Katrina Dunphy.  Their role is to impart some teaching and mentoring with ourselves and the Khmer leadership team as well as ministering in the Church.  We  are working with Chamnap studying Fundamental Truths of Elim Four Square Gospel Alliance, Homiletics and Hermeneutical Principles. If you don’t know what these are Google them. As you may guess this is heavy stuff but extremely rewarding and we are very grateful for the sessions we are spending trying to learn more and more in leadership and preaching techniques.

We have a special affiliation to Stafford Elim and we pray as Ian and Katrina serve God for the fortnight they are here that God will bless them and their congregation back home.  At this point we would like to thank Stafford Elim for their continued support financially and prayerfully.

Language lessons continue to be fun yet challenging and we appreciate all your prayers as we study. The schedule for today is the Men’s ministry in the morning with Ian being the speaker, then in the afternoon a 3 hour discipleship course, add to that two Skypes and it becomes a busy day again. Last Saturday the ladies had their first get together with 13 in attendance and from what I have been told it was a good meeting that they all enjoyed.  Katrina will be speaking at the next one on Saturday 16th June, please pray for her as she prepares what God has put on her heart to share with the Khmer ladies.

Having a snooze while Grandma is at Ladies meeting

We were able to show practical Christianity as a church to its fullest this week to a lady aged 48 and her 6 year old grandson who have been fellowshipping with us for the last few months.  The problems for her are firstly she has aids, not progressive at the minute but none the less HIV positive, and secondly they were homeless so we decided as a church to find them a home.  It is a small room with a bathroom but it is her room, it has been painted and we are in the process of getting what she needs to make it comfortable for them.  Both of them were thrilled when they were taken for the first time to their new home and handed the key. They now have their own place where they will be safe, secure and dry; a place they can call home! Just a thought that if any of you would like to help with this or any other projects for the poor please email us at:  davyandesther@gmail.com and we can give you ideas on how you can help. We have a small poor fund set aside and all money donated to this will be used to help those in need.

Blessings to you all, we are appearing live on Sunday at Bangor Elim church technology permitting.  If you can make it please do, we would love to see you, church starts 10.30 am – see you then!

Weddings, Birthdays, English & Khmer classes

Today is David’s birthday so although it is ‘his turn’ to blog one of my gifts is allowing him to relax and enjoy his special day.  As I mentioned in last week’s blog we were having a weekend of wedding celebrations.  On Saturday morning we arrived at the centre at 7 am to find it totally transformed in true Khmer style for the wedding of Srey Rom and Abraham.  The groom didn’t sleep well the night before, a combination of nerves and excitement.  It was a special moment when David and the bride’s father took Abraham to one side and prayed with him before the ceremony.  The wedding was scheduled to start at 8 am but the bride was allowed to be a little late.  We knew the bride was definitely coming as she was getting ready in one of the rooms, so there was no panic.  David was honoured to be given the role of leading the procession of the groom and his attendants into the church.  He had to carry his Bible and was given firm instructions to ‘walk slowly’.  The gong sounded, music played and the men made their way down the aisle.  As the music continued the bride and her father made their entrance.  This was a Christian Khmer ceremony and several aspects of the wedding were very touching.  At one point the bride and groom sat with their parents and thanked them for everything they have done, for the love they have always shown and the support they have always given.  During the service Nita and Chamnap sat beside David and me translating the dialogue between the Pastor and the bride and groom.  Instead of the Groom being told ‘You can now kiss the bride’ – you sniff each other! We have seen this happening as a sign of affection towards babies and young children – you sniff the skin on their cheeks.  So the Bride and Groom took it in turns to sniff each other’s skin watched on by the Pastor saying, ‘instead of kissing with your mouth, use your nose!!’ The congregation and the Bride & Groom chuckled at his comment!

The ceremony was lovely and we wish Abraham and Srey Rom God’s richest blessings as they begin married life together and we were thrilled that their wedding day was the first to be held at our centre.  Here are some photographs from their special day.

Elim Centre decorated in Khmer style

David wating to begin procession

Close up – David was told to bring a big Bible!

 

Bride & Groom lighting unity candle

Thanking Groom’s parents

With the Bride & Groom

Our friend Julie volunteers with the Bong Paoun organisation were teams of two (one Khmer and one foreigner) act as a big brother/big sister to children living in the slum villages of Phnom Penh.  Their role is to visit the children once or twice a week, spend time with their family and basically check they are all doing ok.  On Sunday we were delighted when Julie and her partner Chamna brought 3 families they are caring for.  The church members welcomed them, making them feel at home right from the outset.  The younger children happily joined with the other boys and girls for Sunday School.  Please pray for these families as we at Elim Phnom Penh show them the love of Jesus.

Congregation on Sunday

Chamna sharing her Bible with her paouns

Bible story during Sunday School

Straight after church it was time for wedding number two of the weekend.  The bus was loaded and we set off following Chamnap in his car which was also filled with guests.  The journey required us getting on a ferry and crossing over to the province where the family live.  The ceremony had already taken place and guests were enjoying the wedding banquet.  Two tables were prepared for us and several courses of food arrived (photos below).  Our Khmer friends devoured the dishes with David and I being a bit more cautious and sticking to the boiled rice.  Chicken were running round our feet and music was blasting from the most gigantic speakers I have ever seen.  The guests were certainly enjoying the music with many of them dancing in Khmer style.  After much persuasion by the girls I was coaxed to join them on the dance floor.  Thankfully there is no video footage of me trying to carry out Khmer dance.  It is more to do with hand movements and they make it look so elegant, I definitely need to practice a lot before I try this again!  The welcome and hospitality we received was amazing and we are thankful to Sokhom and her family for inviting us all.  We do hope and pray her sister and new husband will be very happy together.

All smiles for going to wedding

First course – pigs ears on plate at front

Second course – fish

Possible third course!

Where’s David?

It was back to Khmer lessons on Tuesday where we began to learn vegetables in Khmer.  Our favourite is garrot – prizes in the post for anyone who guesses what this might be!  I also had a school outing to the market where Rotha helped me choose David’s birthday present.  She was very disappointed that most of the sellers speak English in the Russian market so there is not so much of an opportunity to practice your Khmer.  When we learn more words we are going on a field trip to the market near her home where we will try to converse in Khmer whilst shopping.  Rotha will be working alongside the team coming from Lurgan Elim in August and in preparation for this we have begun to teach her some Norn Iron expressions.  Her homework for Tuesday is to learn ‘what’s the craic?’  She giggled when we first taught her this and what it means and quickly wrote it down in her notebook!

This week I started teaching English to four adults who are wishing to improve their listening and writing skills.  Before you ask, David is not one of the students (yet)!!  They are lovely young people who are so grateful to be given an opportunity to communicate better in their workplace and daily living.  The classes are for an hour from 5.30-6.30 Tuesday to Thursday, with Chamnap taking the class on Wednesday evenings.  Please pray for us as we do our best in this new area of ministry.

On Thursday David was surprised in the centre with a birthday cake; three of the girls also celebrate their birthday at the start of June so there much excitement as the rest of the staff and children sang Happy Birthday.  As we have said many times in our blogs it is extra hard being away from our loved ones during special occasions but our Khmer family really care about us and help ease the homesickness bouts.

Birthday boy & girls

Next Sunday 10th June is Missions Sunday in our home church Bangor Elim and like last year we will be taking part in a Skype during the service.  In the last few days we took some video clips that hopefully will be made into a little movie that will be shown.  We have many outtakes from shooting the videos and will try and put them together, they are very funny indeed.  If you don’t have a church you normally attend and live near Bangor, why not go along at 10.30 am and give us a wave when you see us.

In closing we really want to thank the Missions team for all their hard work during the Bangor Elim Car & Motorbike show, we received many messages from people saying the burgers were delicious!  A big thank you to everyone who visited the Missions Burger stand and in doing so supported the work of Elim Missions in Cambodia.  Thank you, thank you, thank you on behalf of everyone in Phnom Penh whom your support makes a difference in their life!

God bless you! – Som preah ang braw dean bow dawl nek!!