Archive for November, 2012

Who knows we belong to Jesus?

It is amazing how we go through the year with so little illness; there is so much sickness and disease in the areas we work. Unfortunately it caught up with us this week, Emma and I were sick for a couple of days, but poor Esther has been sick since last Saturday. She is feeling a bit better but is extremely weak and fragile. Please pray for her that she gets properly back on her feet soon with her usual bubbly attitude.

Last Sunday was extremely busy and when your wing commander is sick you know it’s going to be fun. We had church in the morning with another dedication, this time it was beautiful Melody, her mum Channak and dad Songva were so proud as they came to the front and promised to bring Melody up in the ways of the Lord. It was a special time for the church and I am sure you will join with us in praying God’s blessing for their little family.

Dedication of baby Melody

Proud parents Songva and Channak

Chamnap and David praying for Melody and her parents

After church a group of us got ready to go to our language teacher Rotha’s centre. Rotha and her husband Sinat are true living legends in our eyes. They both have jobs teaching Khmer and English during the day to raise the money to run their centre. The centre comprises of classrooms for English teaching free of charge to the local factory workers who are uneducated and unable to afford education. They do this five nights a week, giving up all their free time to impact people’s lives practically living out Jesus. At the weekends they have kids clubs and church all in this little centre. The bit that choked me up was the tiny little room with a mattress on the floor and a rail with a few clothes on it. Rotha explained this was their room, they put everything into Jesus and the pennies that are left help them to scrape by. They are amazing, it is not a sacrifice to them it is their duty too love the poor and show them Jesus through their loving actions. These people are the true heroes of this world.

 Without Esther the thought of kids club becomes daunting when we are taking it, add to that Sokhom being in England and we have lost a major part of our team, but praise God we are richly blessed. Rotha’s young girls warmed the kids up with some games and dancing, then Dorae taught the children a new chorus brilliantly I might add. It was then over to Nita who spoke about the lost Son, finally Sophea did craft with them and we finished by giving out some snacks. In total there were about 70 children there and they all seemed to really enjoy it.

Kids Club

Children enjoying the games

Dorea teaching a new song

Going home with their craft and a snack

After the kids left church began there was a mixture of youth and adults and probably around 45-50 people there. Chamnap had the pleasure of speaking and God used him to encourage people and speak into people’s lives directly. Everything about the service was special, and if you knew the area they live and work in you would appreciate how they shine their light, their Saviour from the rooftop.

Church service

Chamnap bringing God’s word

I believe God’s challenge to us all this week young and old, is how do each of us live on the edge for Him. Do we give our all until it hurts or do we muddle through, I’m not just referring to money in anyway, what about your time and your energy. Rotha and Sinat give everything for Jesus because they understand their lives belong in their entirety to him. How do you show the world that you belong to Jesus? Or do they even know you are a Christian, I used to live like that! How many of us stand tall and tell people we support this team or that team, wear their colours with pride, argue and defend our teams passionately, showing a commitment, a loyalty and even nearly shoving into the worlds face, and that’s what you do when you follow something with your heart. So my question is why are we not like that about Jesus, think about why are you passionate and in people’s faces about your football team, but a lot of people don’t even know who you believe in never mind what. We need to be more vocal in our neighbourhoods, in our home, towns and cities. We need to use Rotha and Sinat as our example, your mission field begins at home, and I wish that I had shown more urgency for my friends, family and work colleagues than I maybe did. The past is in the past now it’s time to let people know that “You Belong To Jesus”.

GLS debuts in Cambodia

Marc & Gayle in their favorite mode of transport

There have been so many highlights this week that I don’t want to leave any of them out but I will try to keep each of them brief. We were delighted to spend four days with our friends Marc and Gayle, this was their second time in Cambodia and we hope their visits will be an annual event!  Shortly after they returned to Northern Ireland following their first time in Phnom Penh God put a longing in Gayle’s heart to reach out to those being trafficked.  Following months of preparation, planning and prayer the Freedom Project Ireland was launched a couple of weeks ago.  FPI is a new iniative focusing on raising awareness of Human Trafficking in both North and South of Ireland.  They wish to engage with the PSNI, Government officials and other Non-Government organisations and together their aim is to put a stop to this inhuman crime.  The couple of days we spent with Marc and Gayle were extremely beneficial and they were able to spend time with organisations and individuals whose mission is anti-human trafficking in Cambodia.  Please pray for Marc, Gayle and the Freedom Project Ireland team, visit the website www.freedomprojectireland.com where you can find out more information.

Pom at church on Sunday

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent with Paul Hudson, Elim International Mission’s Development Director and Pastor of Dewsbury Elim.  He is responsible for creating strategies for training abroad, both for Elim missionaries and the many pastors and leaders Elim is in relationship with, as well as developing mission training in the UK.  It was wonderful to spend time discussing the church side of the mission here and share with him our vision and goals for the future.  On Sunday for the first time we had over 100 in the service and it was amazing to stand back and see what God is doing in our fellowship.  When we were putting together his itinerary, in addition to meeting the church elders and leadership team, and visiting the staff at the Early Learning Centre, we asked if we could take him to visit Pom and her family.  Paul regularly reads the blog and as soon as we mentioned Pom’s name he said ‘I would love to and can I buy them some food’.  Nita came with us, and when we picked Pom up from school she said, ‘I don’t want to go home, I want to go to church again.’  Although Pom came to church on Sunday, her mum and grandfather were unable to join them because of a big Independence Day ceremony taking place.  They have promised to come this week, so please pray nothing stops them.  Armed with a sack of rice, fish and eggs we made our way into Pom’s home first. Her mum is keeping much better and was so pleased to see us; we spent some time in her home chatting before going to visit the rest of the family.  They were so thankful for the food and David told them that although we care for them, Jesus loves them and cares for them even more.  The grandfather’s response was that we would know God’s blessing and faithfulness in our lives.  Please pray that we will have wisdom to know how we can help this family, whom we believe God brought us to.

The big day arrived

After more than a year of planning, prayer and sleepless nights the day had finally arrived, the Global Leadership Summit was going to take place for the very first time in Cambodia.  It has been an immense honour and privilege to be a part to the steering committee were more meetings than I count were held to make GLS happen.  It would not have been possible without the 100 volunteers who gave up two full days in addition to all the time they spent in training.  The doors opened at 7:30 am on Thursday morning and 372 leaders arrived, of which 81 registered on the day.  The registration process was straightforward and the greeters, ushers, staff on the information desk served over the two days with smiles on their faces permanently; no matter how tired they were feeling.  The technical team faced the biggest challenges, and although the enemy tried to cause havoc over problems with headsets and DVD players being unreliable God was sovereign!  The prayer team were wonderful covering every moment of the event in prayer, so many things were beyond our control but God intervened!

Bill Hybel’s opening session

It was amazing to see God touch the lives of Christian leaders in Cambodia, inspiring and encouraging them through the eight sessions.  The two worship teams were anointed in their ministry and the sense of God’s presence was tangible as everyone worshipped, at times tears rolled down my face as I witnessed the passion the Khmer people have for their Lord and Saviour.  Pastor Jesse (New Life Fellowship) and Pastor Ann (International Christian Assembly) facilitated over the two days along with two Khmer Pastors Koy and Bora translating.  We were thrilled to have Gary Schwammlein, Executive Vice President of WCA International as special guest for the first GLS in Cambodia.

Wonderful worship

David and Paul attended the event along with our Khmer leadership team while Viv volunteered as an usher.  They thoroughly enjoyed the teaching they received and we will sit down as a team to receive their feedback from attending GLS.  One of the highlights for me was during a particular worship song following the final session of Day 1 where T D Jakes spoke on Exceptional Leadership. From my position in the auditorium I looked over and saw our Khmer pastor Chamnap, David and our youth leader Sarak singing with their arms linked together.  I am so proud of how these three men want to reach the children, young people and adults in Cambodia with the love of Jesus.  I tapped David and Chamnap on the shoulders and asked if I could join them, it was a moment I will cherish as I stood between the both of them as we were all challenged to stand in the gap and encourage those who lead us!

Elim delegates

Please pray for each of the Christian leaders as they return to their church or organisation that they will be encouraged, equipped and empowered to ‘Lead where they are’ reaching the lives of many more Cambodians for the Kingdom of God.

GLS Cambodia volunteers

In closing we want to give a wee plug for the Craft Fayre being held at Bangor Elim today, it only costs £1 to enter, there will be numerous craft stalls where you can make a start on your Christmas shopping.  All proceeds go towards supporting the work of Elim Missions in Cambodia and there are even some goodies just flown in that will be available to purchase.  It is open from 10:30 am to 4 pm, go along and say hi to the Missions team and give them a hug on our behalf.

Go along if you are free and in the area

Highs and lows

This week has been one of extreme highs and lows; with us encountering the most heart wrenching situation to date during our time in Cambodia. But before I share this with you and ask for your prayers, I want to tell you about the amazing service we were privileged to be a part of on Sunday.

I was invited to speak at a church in Takeo province, about an hour from our home. One of our staff Srey Mao and some of her family attend here and we received such a warm welcome by the congregation. Over 100 people turned up and we were blessed to see how Cambodian Christians in the province do church. There was such a hunger to learn more about Jesus and it was an honour to be given the chance to bring what God had placed on my heart. I talked about the Prodigal Son, first of all the younger son and his obvious back slidden state, and then the older son who although seemed the perfect son had hidden sin in his heart, the type of sin that only God knows about. I finally talked about the Father and how no matter what his sons had done, he didn’t and wouldn’t ever stop loving them, all he needed was that they return to him, to his open arms. Praise God an elderly lady accepted Jesus and five young men recommitted their lives to God.

At the end of the service I played Suzanne’s beautiful song “Lay it all down” and asked people to come forward and lay all their sorrows, burdens, sickness, broken heartedness or sin at the foot of the cross.  Basically refocusing their lives on Jesus, over half the congregation were on their knees, there was such an anointing in the sanctuary.  God truly blessed and moved in people’s lives, it is such a blessing to be able to be part of what God is doing right now in Cambodia.

This was a high now to a low.  On Sunday evening we went out for dinner and our little street seller friend Pom came in to say hello. We were expecting her to give us her usual sales pitch which involves her smiling a lot and then we end up buying something!! She is ten years old but is much more mature than that.  Anyway she wasn’t her usual chirpy self, when I asked what was wrong she wouldn’t tell me but then she turned to Esther, dived at her and broke her heart in Esther’s arms. She finally told us that her mother was knocked down by a car and was in the hospital, she was terrified yet was out working trying to raise money to pay the hospital for her mother’s treatment.

It was too late that night to go to the hospital, so we decided to go with Emma and take Pom on Monday morning to see what we could do. Thankfully when we met Pom her mum had been able to go home and we were invited to visit her. Nothing and I mean nothing could ever have prepared us for what we were about to encounter. Both of us have been in many slum villages in Uganda and now here in Cambodia and I promise we have seen some ghastly unimaginable things, but never have we witnessed anything to the depths of poverty that we just walked into. It was like walking off a normal street down an alleyway and in that moment becoming part of a movie scene from Oliver, sadly not much spooks us anymore but this truly broke our hearts.  The alley ways were pitch black,we entered a building where we walked through puddles and past huge rubbish dumps around the homes. It was so dark and even though it was only 11:30 am there were hundreds of bats hanging from the ceiling and flying overhead, it was horrific. We entered a home and were introduced to Pom’s mum, who although is 25 years old looked 18.  Her home was one little room with cardboard walls.  The three of us helped with the cost of the medical fees, it was the least we could do and gave her mum a big basket of fresh fruit. After chatting for a while, we finally left traumatised and numbed that this could go unnoticed or ignored in a city that seems to be making a comeback out of the dark past.

Rubbish dump inside their building

Pom with all her family

It’s been eating away at us all week, how can we help? What can you or I do? Please let us know if you can help in anyway, obviously finance opens doors, but not as much as prayer, please join with us and pray for Pom and her family and the community they live in, her mum is improving daily.

We returned on Friday morning to check how the family were all keeping.  During the conversation Pom’s mum asked could five of her family come to church on Sunday, we were speechless. Our God is unbelievable, please remember our service on Sunday, as I preach that God will speak into their hearts.

Pom opening a gift sent from Northern Ireland

a new top Pom is going to wear to church on Sunday

All the girls together

Srey Lyn & Pom

On a lighter note our special friends from home, Marc and Gayle Bunting arrived with us on Thursday.  Up until now we have hardly drawn breath as we are trying to get through so much together but Esther will tell you more about that in next week’s blog. Pray that the rest of their time will be beneficial to us all.

Overjoyed to have Marc & Gayle with us

 

Crab, chocolate and of course, cake!

It would be wrong of me to start this blog without saying a big Happy Birthday to Esther who celebrated being 21 (x2) on Thursday. Thank you all so much for your messages it really made her day, you don’t know how much it means to receive those birthday wishes especially when you are so far away from friends and family.

We had an amazing break in Kep – quiet, peaceful, not much to do, bliss. Esther enjoyed lying by the pool reading and I was able to write some sermons which helps me over the next few weeks especially as we have quite a packed agenda. The highlight of the break was finding a place called “The Rusty Keyhole”, I know it doesn’t sound special but I have never seen or ate Barbeque Ribs like what was served up to us they were magnificent.

The infamous ribs at The Rusty Keyhole

We would both like to thank our boss at EIM Chris Jones for blessing us with the break, also to Nita and Chamnap for the extra responsibility in the ELC and Church while we were away, and to Paul and Viv for helping them keep things running smoothly.

We arrived back on Wednesday in time for the prayer meeting with a large polystyrene box full of freshly cooked crabs. Our Khmer brothers and sisters were delighted; we especially want to thank those who came for the first time –MINA – just because there was free food! Wednesday was Viv’s birthday and she was surprised with a cake to celebrate.

Fresh from the crabmarket in Kep

Getting stuck in to the crab and cake

Didn’t take long for this to happen

Esther’s birthday commenced with her teaching English in our home for the first time to a group of girls from a local spa. We are blown away by how this opportunity came about; Esther is building relationships with these girls and through this will eventually teach them about Jesus, watch this space! While Esther did this I carried out my fortnightly visit at the prison which is always interesting and blesses me every time I go. When the English lesson ended, Esther and her friend Julie, whose birthday was on Monday, took a trip to the Post Office to check for mail and enjoyed a celebratory birthday coffee in a flash new coffee shop by the riverside. In the afternoon we went to the Early Learning Centre where the staff and children were lined up to greet Esther as they sang for her, let massive party poppers off, gave her a present and yes you guessed it more cake. We finished the day off with a meal out at Comme a la Maison which as usual was beautiful and then a couple of skypes with family.  Emma, Esther and myself were over the moon when two parcels came in the post filled with all of our favourite things – a perfect end to a special day.

The birthday girls celebrating over a coffee

Home schooling

New students surprised their teacher with cake

Awaiting the birthday girl

Srey Poas presenting the cake

With our favourite crisps

Esther with her favourite chocolate

This weekend is especially exciting for me.  In Phnom Penh there is a large Khmer church called New Life, they are a Godly example to us as we build God’s kingdom in Cambodia. The senior pastor, and his father the founder of New Life, have become personal friends of ours and they really want to see us grow. We are so thankful for the support and encouragement they have shown us and for the advice they have given us in leading a church in Cambodia.  They have a number of church plants in the provinces and I have been asked to preach in one which is about an hour outside of the city. It is an honour to be asked and I believe that God has a message for them, please pray that God uses me and that I am open to his leading.  I am taking my trusty friend Suzanne Hanna with me, although she will be in Northern Ireland, she will be singing “Lay it all down” over the congregation as I challenge those who have walked away or have never yet accepted Jesus to come to the front and get rid of their burdens at the foot of the cross.

As I finish up I want to say we are remembering all of you as you read about Cambodia each week.  We pray that you will be blessed for the love and support you show to us; we miss and love you all. Thank you for being part of our journey!