Archive for January, 2013

Guest blog by Sue

Thanks first to David and Esther who I didn’t know prior to arriving in Cambodia. Now long life friends!  There is so much more to this mission trip than people will ever know and so I thank my Heavenly Father for this awesome experience!

I arrived in Cambodia only 12 days ago, yet as I write this blog, it seems like a lifetime has passed by.  I’ve had the most amazing opportunity to see and experience so much in such a short time. I know that the people I’ve met have really got under my skin and as I said in an email this morning  “I could be Cambodian, I love the people and love the food”. So what can I say to sum up my short time here?

I’ve been impacted by lots of different things but what sticks in my mind most are the individuals:

One day we visited a Kids Club for the local children. There was one little girl probably around two years old who had Down Syndrome.  She was wondering around the room carrying her treasure:  a bottle of water she shared with her sister. She stole my heart!

We visited a local village where twenty thousand people work in just twenty factories.

More than just a lorry full of people!

More than just a lorry full of people!

A little boy running around pulling his home made toy  – Yes it’s a paint roller tied to the end of a piece of string!

A little boy and his toy

A little boy and his toy

On a visit to one of the local centres I looked into one of the workrooms and the eyes of one of the teenage boys burned right into me. I saw him again when I had the privilege of sharing God’s word at their church service. Though no photos were taken I will never forget him!

A little girl carrying a camping gas canister that she was taking to the shop to refill so the family had fuel to cook with.  I asked if I could take her photo and though she couldn’t understand my English, she nodded her head. I gave her what to us is just loose change but she walked back from the shop with a big smile drinking a bottle of pop.

Prior to arriving in Cambodia I started to read “Survival in the killing fields by Haing Ngor” –  a survivor of the Pol Pot regime.  It is so hard to believe that in my lifetime; human beings have treated their fellow friends and neighbours with such unspeakable senseless brutality.  Yesterday the atrocities were brought to our very front line when we visited the local crab market on the sea front at Kep. An old lady stopped and asked us to buy her home made sweet chilli oil. She had poured the oil into empty water bottles and was selling it for less than 30p a bottle. We couldn’t understand much of what she said but did make out that she was 83 years old.  When I asked how many children she had, her eyes filled with tears as she shared that her children, both sons and daughters were all killed by the Khmer Rouge and yet she had the most beautiful smile!

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Beautiful lady at her sweet chilli stall

Beautiful lady at her sweet chilli stall

The saying goes “every picture tells a story”, well so far I’ve taken 1340 photos. Here are a few that I’m sure tell their own story and may give you a picture of what Cambodian life is all about.

Buddhism & Lots of idols!

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Transport – Cambodian style

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The choice is yours: meat or fish? (flies included!)

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The last picture I want to share tells more than what can ever been shown in a picture.

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Cambodia is full of sadness as children as young as three years old are sold, often innocently as parents sell their children to what they think is a better life.

But on the streets garage doors are flung wide open  showing young girls sat on chairs ready to be sold for the evening to fulfil the desires of rich foreign men. The enormity of the issue could be overwhelming but amongst the tears shed there are glimmers of hope. Out here there are many organizations who spend hours rescuing and inputting into these young lives. Many Christian’s share the love of Jesus with those who are in bondage and bring hope to what seems like hopeless situations. There are many who cry out at night and are bound by those who overpower them and It may seem impossible to make a change but one of the sayings of one of the rescue centres reads:

“To succumb to the enormity of the problem,

 is to fail the one”

Jesus said “I have come to preach the good news to the poor

and proclaim freedom for the prisoners,

 to heal the sick and set the oppressed free,

 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”            

  (Luke 4;18-19)

 

And so with these words I head into the remaining seven days of my stay in Cambodia with my heart open and my eyes fixed on Jesus. Is there maybe just one person I can reach out to and make a difference?

How can you impact ‘the one?’

Lifelink ladies

On Saturday morning we returned to the airport to meet and greet the Lifelink team, eleven ladies who would be spending the next week on a mission’s trip in Cambodia.  The team leader, Mandy Campbell works with Elim International Missions organising overseas teams and placements and is also the chairperson of Lifelink.  The vision of Lifelink is to make a difference in the lives of people across the world that are suffering – for the poor and those who are treated unjustly.  The purpose of this team coming to Cambodia was threefold – to see the work Elim Missions is involved in, to be informed and made aware of the growing trade of human trafficking and the commercial sex industry and to purchase ethical trade items that can be sold in the United Kingdom in their ‘Shop with Integrity’.

Only one of the ladies had been to Cambodia before so it was wonderful to watch their expressions and hear their comments at the sights they witnessed on the bus journey to their hotel.  They quickly became aware that there are no health and safety rules or traffic restrictions on the roads in Phnom Penh.  Once settled into their hotel, we arranged a tuk tuk tour of the city.  Straightaway they were exposed to the heartaches we see every day – children begging, the vast divide of poverty and wealth, vacant expressions on the older generation who survived the Khmer Rouge and women who are exploited in the commercial sex trade.

On Sunday we were delighted that our boss and Director of Elim International Mission Chris Jones was our special guest speaker in church and it was a thrill for him to see the church family of Phnom Penh Elim worshipping God and enjoying fellowship together.  The team were welcomed with everyone introducing themselves and sharing which Elim church they attended in the UK.  Once the church service was over and snacks were demolished it was time for the monthly ladies meeting to commence.  Three of the Lifelink ladies took part – Mandy gave a brief background to Lifelink, Nita shared about ‘Shop with Integrity’ and Linda delivered a message to encourage the ladies in their walk with God.

In the afternoon the ladies went to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choung Ek Killing Field to learn about the history of the Khmer Rouge and how the Cambodians suffered under the rule of Pol Pot.  The aftermath of this almost forty years ago is so evident in Cambodia with extreme poverty, poor education, corruption and psychological issues affecting most of the population. Although never easy to visit either of these places we find it is beneficial to those spending any length of time in Cambodia.

On Monday most of the team spent the morning in the Early Learning Centre cuddling babies and playing with the children.  Two of the younger girls on the team are in their final year of university; Hannah is studying Film and Documentary while Gabby is studying Film and Television.  With John Martin, responsible for all elements of creative design in EIM, spending a few days in Cambodia at the same time, the girls were put to use videoing some material that will be used to promote Elim Missions in Cambodia.  At the same time both of the girls are making a film during their time here that will go towards their studies at university.  It was wonderful to watch Hannah and Gabby using their natural gifting’s and abilities; and we will be very excited to see their movies when they are released.

Monday afternoon was spent in an area outside of Phnom Penh renown for child trafficking.  The ladies spent time chatting with the Khmer Pastor who has a passion for this community and whose church is rapidly growing as one by one parents who once saw their child as a commodity are coming to know Jesus and then realising their child has value and truly is a gift from God.  The ladies made their first purchases for SWI here as a factory is in place where people from the community earn income making jewellery, t-shirts and cushion covers.

In the past year God has enabled us to network with wonderful organisations based in Phnom Penh and we were thrilled to introduce the team to Daughters of Cambodia (www.daughtersofcambodia.org) and She Rescue Home (www.sherescuehome.org).  At Daughters the team were given an informative tour of the centre where men and women who have left the sex trade are given employment by making fair trade products which are then sold in the Daughters visitors centre. The ladies enjoyed a beautiful lunch at the Sugar & Spice café before shopping for themselves and SWI.  All I will say is anyone coming to the shop after the team were there would have had very little choice in their purchases.

Shopping at Daughters

Shopping at Daughters

She Rescue is a safe haven for girls who have been rescued from trafficking, rape, prostitution or are at risk of any of these things.  The ladies were given a history of how She Rescue was founded and watched two informative and thought provoking films which impacted each of us.  We were then put to work in the stock room pricing jewellery, silk scarves and bags which would be exported and sold to raise funds.  The team were also given an opportunity to purchase some items which are made either by the girls in She Rescue or by their families in the provinces.  The two hours that we worked was a massive help to the staff and they were so thankful.  We appreciate the warm welcome we received and the time that was given to us.

working at She Rescue

working at She Rescue

The team were also taken to the village of Our Dong, it was here that our first mission’s team built homes and then the church planted mango trees.  We were met by Kevin and Leakhena and the team were given some background information on their ministry ‘Manna4Life’ before having a walk through the community.  The mango trees are looking great, the families are taking care of their individual tree and Leakhena has taken on the role of inspecting and treating as necessary.  The women spent time chatting to the families and could sense the hope that exists in this place.  Women from the community had made a beautiful lunch of curry, rice, pumpkin and bread followed by a selection of Khmer fruit – rambuttain, dragonfruit, mangostein and mango.  We were so well fed and many of the team thought it was their nicest meal in Cambodia.  We really appreciate Kevin and Leakhena for sharing their passion with us and thank the ladies of Ou Dong for their wonderful hospitality.

children fascinated with Gabby's camera gear

children fascinated with Gabby’s camera gear

Josie giving a child a drink

Josie giving a child a drink

Buffet lunch

Buffet lunch

We were blessed to be able to take the team to a workshop in the centre of Phnom Penh were the employees make the most beautiful handbags, purses and jewellery.  The staff are either victims of landmines, polio or underprivileged.  Silks are dyed by hand in the provinces and many people earn an income whilst able to live with their families.  The owners of this organisation provide accommodation for their staff that live in the city, food is prepared for them and they earn a fair wage.  It was wonderful to watch the items being created, much of it by hand, their craftsmanship is amazing.  The ladies were then taken to the shop and once again to see the items on display which we had just watched being made was pretty special.  Needless to say the ladies excelled in the area of shopping!

Mandy on a mission for Shop with Integrity

Mandy on a mission for Shop with Integrity

This week has been intense with a lot of information being given to the team about life in Cambodia and I know it will take time for the ladies to process all that they experienced during their time here.  We have thoroughly enjoyed hosting this group of women, we have made new lifelong friends and I have no doubt that many of them will return to Cambodia in the future.  David and I personally want to thank each of them for the hearts they have for missions and the passion they have for helping those who are suffering in this world.  In the week they spent in Cambodia they have made a huge difference to the lives of so many and we are eternally grateful to them.  It is our prayer as they return to the United Kingdom and they share their stories and experiences that more people will grasp the vision to be a link in changing the lives of those who are hurting, vulnerable, at risk, suffering from poverty, lonely and show the love of Jesus to them.

Lifelink Ladies

Lifelink Ladies

We bade farewell to all of the Lifelink ladies yesterday except for Sue who is with us for another two weeks.  Sue is the associate pastor of Dewsberry Elim and we are looking forward to spending the next fortnight with her as she ministers in the church.

In closing the winner of last week’s photo blog competition is Gary Parkinson with his quote ‘This ain’t heavy, he’s my brother’. Gary you will receive your prize when we return to Northern Ireland mid March.  Thank you for all your entries, it was very hard to choose a winner!

Photo blog competition

We have had a busy start to the New Year.

Yesterday we were delighted to collect our boss Chris Jones and John Martin from the airport, they will be with us until Tuesday morning.  Today we return to the airport to meet eleven ladies from Elim Lifelink who will spend one week with us. These are the ladies who give so much time and effort into raising funds for missions worldwide, as well as running the programme “Shop with integrity”.

Next week we will tell you all about the week that lies ahead but because of our busy schedule we thought we would share with you some photos from the last few months in Cambodia.

Please pray for the team as they encounter many things for the first time, and that God will speak deep into their hearts.

Rice being delivered to the centre

Rice being delivered to the centre

Staff uniforms on the line

Staff uniforms on the line

Chamnap and Nita enjoying the view at Bokor mountain

Chamnap and Nita enjoying the view at Bokor mountain

Esther and Nita at the waterfall where the only thing missing was water!

Esther and Nita at the waterfall where the only thing missing was water!

Church football team proudly wearing kit donated by Bangor FC

Church football team proudly wearing kit donated by Bangor FC

Delighted to meet two more Spurs supporters!

Delighted to meet two more Spurs supporters!

A sight we see far too often - children in the cart while their Mum or Dad try to earn a lving collecting recycling items

A sight we see far too often – children in the cart while their Mum or Dad try to earn a lving collecting recycling items

This little piggy goes to market!

This little piggy goes to market!

Spare tyres

Spare tyres

Only in Cambodia

Only in Cambodia

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Those of you who know Esther will know how much she loves to take photoraphs, this is one of her favourite images from 2012. To enter our very first competition all you have to do is think of a caption, send it to us via email or by commenting on the blog and we will pick our favourite.  We will give a prize to the winner when we return to the UK so get your thinking caps on!

Have a blessed week with love and prayers from us to you!

Happy New Year

In this first blog post of 2013 I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a Peaceful New Year on behalf of the leadership team and church family of Phnom Penh Elim.

We celebrated on New Year’s Eve with an overnight retreat for the church. Fifty three adults and 16 children gathered at L’elephant Blanc, a complex 20 minutes outside of the city with accommodation and a swimming pool. It was refreshing to watch some of our church family enjoy themselves in the water, perhaps for the first time. Life jackets and floats were given out to those who were less confident. After a full afternoon in the water, an appetite was worked up and at 7pm a barbecue dinner of chicken and pork kebabs, and of course rice, was devoured by everyone.

Keys ready for check in

Keys ready for check in

Probably the first time Somnang has been in a swimming pool

Probably the first time Somnang has been in a swimming pool

Kebabs ready for the barbeque

Kebabs ready for the barbeque

A large room was made available for us to hold a party which commenced at 9pm. At the beginning we didn’t think the Khmer would stay awake until midnight but the games brought them back to life. I saw a different side to quite a few people during musical chairs, some very competitive people and I learnt a new technique courtesy of Ryma, our worship leader, who was the outright winner! Pass the parcel was also played with very good sports carrying out the forfeits. David and Chamnap acted as MC’s for the evening and did a wonderful job keeping us all entertained.

Girls round of musical chairs

Girls round of musical chairs

The final between Rith and Ryma

The final between Rith and Ryma

All too much for Cheara who enjoyed a sleep instead

All too much for Cheara who enjoyed a sleep instead

Danika ready to start 'Pass the Parcel'

Danika ready to start ‘Pass the Parcel’

At 11pm we enjoyed a time of praise and worship, reflecting on 2012 and thanking God for His faithfulness and blessings during the last 12 months. We stood in a circle praising God for prayers that had been answered, lives that have been transformed since coming to know Jesus and a church family that has grown. It was then time for the countdown to the New Year which was met with cheers and ‘Sewer sa die ch’nam timey’, when translated in English means ‘Hello New Year’. We introduced a new tradition to the Khmer of singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ with everyone linking arms and they seemed to enjoy it. The group remained holding hands as Chamnap prayed at the outset of 2013 for the church to know God’s leading and direction. There was an air of expectancy and excitement in the room and we are trusting God for even greater things in the life of Phnom Penh Elim this year. At this point a few people headed to bed but most took the opportunity of having another swim. I only lasted until about 12:30 and then called it a night especially as breakfast was being served at 7am.

Breakfast buffet laid out

Breakfast buffet laid out

New Year’s Day was very chilled out, with the group enjoying the opportunity to have another swim or simply chat with one another. Tuk tuks were organised to transport the group back to Phnom Penh as several were spending the rest of the day with family before going back to work the next day.

Cheara enjoying a swim on New Year's Day

Cheara enjoying a swim on New Year’s Day

On Wednesday evening we were honoured when our dear friend Sarah Melvin accepted the invitation to bring a devotional thought at our church prayer meeting. She introduced something that is carried out at the start of a new year with the worship team in Bangor Elim. Everyone was given a piece of paper which is folded in half. On the top half we were asked to write three things God did in our life during 2012. Next we were asked to write a prayer for 2013, things we would like to see happen in the incoming year. Everyone then folded up their letter, wrote their name on the front and they were placed in a sealed envelope. During this year, Chamnap and David will pray over the envelope in addition to each individual bringing their particular petitions to God. What blessed my heart during this task was watching 8 year old Dom, the son of the church elder and worship leader, filling in his letter with just a little bit of help from his grandmother. The church is excited and there is an air of expectancy over what God can and will do in 2013. If any of us who joined for worship that first Sunday in our new centre in February were told 300 adults and children would be present during our Christmas service, I wonder would we have believed it. We would have wanted to and hoped to believe but I’m not sure if we actually would have.

Dom writing his letter of thanks and prayer to God

Dom writing his letter of thanks and prayer to God

We want to thank Sarah Melvin and Sarah Newman for coming to celebrate Christmas and New Year with us in Cambodia.  They were a joy to be around and their being here eased the moments when we missed being with our loved ones in Northern Ireland.  We all agree that this was a Christmas and New Year that we will never forget. They embraced Cambodia, fell in love with the people and know what a special place this is.  They are in our thoughts and prayers as they return to Bangladesh and their jobs as teachers.

Beautiful flowers from Sarah and Sarah

Beautiful flowers from Sarah and Sarah

Time to say goodbye

Time to say goodbye

Please pray for Chamnap, David and Dana as a new church year commences. They need God’s wisdom in matters relating to the church family, building, following the vision and seeking God’s direction for the future. Our Discipleship courses commence this weekend – the worship team will study on Saturday afternoons and the congregation are invited to attend before church on Sunday morning. We have wonderful material courtesy of New Life Fellowship for which we are very grateful and we know everyone who participates in the course will hugely benefit from it and their Christian walk will have a firm foundation and they will grow spiritually.

None of us know what this year will bring, what struggles we will have to face, or hardships we will endure but one thing we can be sure of, God is already in it. He knows our circumstances before they come to pass and He promises to be with us. We should not fear but put our trust in Him. Whatever you are going through as you enter 2013 be assured that God is with you.

Deuteronomy chapter 31 verse 8

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.