Archive for June, 2013

Learning in more ways than one

Do you know sometimes we get it wrong? I’ve learnt this the hard way this week but I believe it will actually help me learn more than one lesson and that’s good! It’s been one of those weeks when we have had more than one big issue to deal with on top of persevering with the language and keeping on top of all the ministries we are involved with.

We need prayer for wisdom in a number of things and a real assurance of God’s leading in the days that lie ahead. One thing is for sure we have an awesome God who we love to serve and with God’s guiding hand we are so excited about the future for Elim Cambodia.

On a day when we needed some craic to lift us and make us smile, God provided that by sending Jonny and Jill Hamill to our house on Thursday night. We love spending time with them as they are a breath of fresh air and people we love and respect.  Their time in Cambodia has not been easy but they are walking proof that when the call is on your life God will help you overcome.

We had a beautiful lasagne dinner made by Esther, it was perfect and then we had homemade lemon meringue pie, I wouldn’t like to say who made that but it turned out ok! Then Jonny and I had a game of “Gope Brewing” the Khmer name for a reasonably popular game back in the UK. It has nothing to do with homemade drinks and is not illegal I promise. Please try to guess what the English name for the game is, oh did I mention I won! (No Cambodians or Jonny or Jill allowed to enter)

Jill happy with her dessert

Jill happy with her dessert

Hurry up and take the photo so I can tuck in!

Hurry up and take the photo so I can tuck in!

We thank God for the friends he has given us in Cambodia, these are the people who step into the shoes of family and friends back in the UK when we just need a hug, a word of encouragement, support or advice.  We appreciate the faithful and daily prayers from friends, family, and brothers and sisters in the Lord – some of whom we have not even met. Trust me, your prayers, even when you don’t know specifically what we are facing each day, are heard by God and we know we are being upheld by God’s people.

Our Cambodian family is getting bigger and we love every one of them.  My Brother Chamnap and his wife Nita are as always in a different league to us, simply magnificent in all they do and an inspiration to all, we thank God for them every day.

Our week has ended on a high, we received good news about an upcoming project and the facilities required to make it all happen. I’m not going to say any more about this, you will need to read next week’s blog to find out more! We want to thank Chris Jones, Elim’s National Leadership Team and Paul Hudson for believing in us – we won’t let you down!

Finally we are entering a time of uncertainty in Cambodia as preparations have begun for the General election which will be held on 28th July.  Please pray for us as a nation that what God wants will come to pass and Cambodia will be won for Jesus, and that it will be a peaceful month!

Early Learning Centre makeover

This past week has been a busy and exciting time within the Early Learning Centre.  We have been blessed to have our first house guest, Jude, a friend we have known for almost 2 years stay with us.  Jude manages 10 pre-schools in her home country of New Zealand and uses her annual leave to visit Cambodia and impart her knowledge of early learning.  This was Jude’s first visit to our new centre, although her fifth trip to Phnom Penh and she was very excited about being reunited with staff she has got to know over the years.  After an initial tour of our centre and introductions to new staff members, Jude spent the morning first of all in the pre-school section and then with the toddlers and babies.

Our staff have benefitted from Jude’s expertise in the past but were keen to improve their skills.  On Monday evening when the children were all collected by their parents, Nita organised food for the pre-school staff and then at 6pm Jude held a workshop entitled ‘The Classroom Environment’.  The staff interacted with their thoughts and ideas on why the classroom should be set out in particular areas of play to encourage learning, taking notes as they went along. Then it was time to put down the books and get practical.  The classroom space was cleared and old artwork was taken down from the walls. The whiteboard, tables and chairs were moved into a room designated for lesson time giving more space to the overall classroom space.  The teachers the rearranged the room into different spaces where the children would learn through play – reading corner, art and crafts area, building blocks and animals, house section – dolls and tea set, jigsaws and puzzles etc.   The staff were very excited as they worked in each section and saw it come together.  Some of them were playing with the new toys commenting that as children they never experienced this.  The end result was amazing; despite staying on after work for an extra two hours the staff were happy and were excited about seeing the children’s reaction.  The next day was a public holiday to celebrate the King Mother’s Birthday so we would have to wait one more day to see the children in their new environment.

On Wednesday morning once we returned from language school, Jude and I went round to the centre and upstairs to see the pre-school children.  It was a joy and delight to witness the children playing in each of the areas and exploring their newly set up environment.  The staff also were very happy because the children were content and excited to learn new skills.

The children love this area  of play

The children love this area of play

New puzzles

New puzzles

Book corner is a favourite area

Book corner is a favorite area

Being creative with glass beads

Being creative with glass beads

Loving the new baby doll

Loving the new baby doll

Co-ordination skills

Co-ordination skills

On Thursday evening it was the turn of the Toddler staff and once again after work and dinner their workshop commenced. Some of the staff had taken the opportunity to check out the newly set up pre-school area and this is where Jude carried out their training.  Her first question was what they thought of the new set up, their answers included – lots of new and exciting toys and the room looked so much bigger.  Jude chatted to the staff about the importance of working with 1 and 2 year olds and how much their brains develop in the early years.  In the second hour the staff moved downstairs to the Toddler area and began setting up the room.  It didn’t take long to get each area in place and then Jude talked through the different skills that the children would learn and how the staff could interact with them.  Everyone went home tired but excited to see the children’s faces the next day.

Toddler training underway

Toddler training underway

We called round mid-morning and what a transformation. Before the children were using one third of a room with limited resources. Now they had a full room and the children were having a great time. Huge smiles on faces met us as we went through the doors and you could see the children engaging with others and playing in each of their new sections. The staff were overjoyed in their new environment too. Before we left the children went outside to have lunch and I took another chance to look in on the pre-school children.  I tried to take photographs without the children catching me out but once they spot the camera they become models! When I looked in downstairs at the Toddler area, the staff had done a wonderful job tidying up each area ready for the children to enjoy it again in the afternoon.

Toddler area before picture

Toddler area before picture

Building blocks and toy animal area

Building blocks and toy animal area

Slide and soft play area

Slide and soft play area

Reading corner - little books are in the hanging pockets

Reading corner – little books are in the hanging pockets

His wee face is a picture

His wee face is a picture

Wooden spoon and bowl and he is happy!

Wooden spoon and bowl and he is happy!

Girls having fun

Girls having fun

At this point we want to say a huge THANK YOU to Jude for once again giving up her precious annual leave especially when she hasn’t had a break from work in 20 months. Jude we appreciate the time and expertise that you have imparted to our staff and therefore the huge benefit that the children attending the Early Learning Centre will receive now and in years to come. On behalf of the pre-school staff and children we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the resources you have gifted them with, we appreciate them so much and will treat them with love, care and respect. We pray that during the remainder of your time in Cambodia and as you ‘feed your heart’ by inputting into other organisations that you will know God’s richest blessings as you carry on the journey God has for you!

We were enabled to set up a completely new learning and play environment for the toddlers  because of the gift we recently received from the young people of Dewsbury Elim. You were here to see the before and now through photographs can see the after! Thank you so, so much for your generous support through which the lives of our toddlers will be improved dramatically.

Jude is with us for one more week and the staff want to learn as much as they can.  So even on their day off tomorrow, they are attending a half day workshop on ‘Child Behaviour’ and will be asking Jude questions they may have in relation to their work.  Next week each section – Babies, Toddlers and Pre-School will have one evening workshop and we are grateful to our staff for being so welcoming and appreciative of Jude’s knowledge.

In closing I want to wish my wonderful Mum a very Happy Birthday for tomorrow.  Mum you truly are one in a million and both David and I love you to bits, have a very special day and know you’re in our thoughts and prayers for tomorrow and the year ahead.

How bright is your light?

Before we start to tell you about our week I want to draw your attention to a young family, a family who have chosen to serve Jesus with all they have and at the minute their missionary journey is far from easy. Richard Ellerington, his wife Regi and three young children are doing amazing things in France.  God is blessing the work but at the minute they are getting it tough. Richard made a short DVD clip that you need to watch, please visit the Elim Mission website at www.elimmissions.co.uk  and click on the prayer line link. Friends please pray for these guys, we met Richard at Elim Bible Week, he is a legend and is so passionate about seeing lives changed through Jesus. If you can do more than pray if you can give to help them and subsequently the work in France please send your gift to Elim International Missions stating your desire to support Richard Ellerington in France. Please visit the link it gives you an idea of some of the things our brothers and sisters are up against as they serve Jesus.

On Sunday we had our latest baptismal service and it was wonderful, we would love to have a baptismal service every week. In total there were fifteen people ranging from the age of 12-63. There were ten ladies and five men. The service was exciting from the outset.  We had once again hired Logos International School facilities and had put the chairs out in the gymnasium. Everybody was excited and we spoke to the candidates preparing them for the events ahead. During the service we asked all 15 their name, age and most importantly when they gave their life to Jesus. After this we had a child dedication where Dren and his wife Chantha dedicated their daughter Kanika. I brought a short word challenging everybody but mostly those that were being baptised, to not be content with just getting baptised but to get involved, use their gifts and spread the good news, be a missionary in their own life and its circumstances. We finished with communion and then headed to the pool.

Bus load in good spirits

Bus load in good spirits

Congregation

Congregation

Dren, Chantha and Kannika

Dren, Chantha and Kannika

Praying for Kannika

Praying for Kannika

Baptismal candidates

Baptismal candidates

One by one our brothers and sisters were baptised Thida and Esther read the promises, a Bible verse for each candidate. Chamnap then prayed and Sarak the youth pastor, Duncan and myself alternated in the baptisms. It was a really special time, nothing is better than seeing people grow in Jesus. We then had lunch followed by an hour and a half of sheer madness and fun in the swimming pool, this ended what was truly a fantastic morning.

Thida reading promise in Khmer

Thida reading promise in Khmer

Rith getting baptised

Rith getting baptised

Lunch being served

Lunch being served

Cooling off in the pool

Cooling off in the pool

Anyone would think that was enough excitement for one day but not us, we came home to have a Skype with our home church Bangor Elim. Gary Faulkner and the technical team were awesome as usual in setting everything up and we had a really good chat with the church. Ruth McKee was excellent in her role as interviewer and then afterwards in her presentation to the church. We want to thank our pastors, Ruth and the mission’s team who never stop working tirelessly to enable us to be out here, and the fruit of that is days like Sunday, we have an awesome God. It was so good to listen to the worship and then hear Pastor Gary’s very challenging message to us all. Friends don’t fall into the trap that someone else will do it, give Jesus your best, give Jesus your all, sign up to use your gifts.

Esther took her first prayer meeting on Wednesday night and I’m sure it won’t shock you that she used candles in her talk. She challenged us all to shine our light in this dark world as bright as we can.  In closing friends what are you doing for Jesus, do you shine your light bright in your home, work and church?

How bright is your light?

How bright is your light?

Another year older!

I would like to start this blog by saying a big thank you for all the birthday wishes I received. It is as we often say hard to be away from loved ones at these times but we do have amazing friends and Khmer family here who made it a special day.

Spotty birthday cake

Spotty birthday cake

This week took us back to school.  It isn’t easy to return to the classroom especially since I last was in school in 1986; almost 30 years ago. Any of my language teachers including English would definitely laugh if they thought of me trying to learn an Asian language. We are going from Tuesday through Friday morning from 7 am – 8.30 am and then home for further study. Please pray because it really is almost impossible, it will be an act of God if we ever become fluent but I promise we are committed because of what the results will be when we can properly communicate with those we love to serve.

We are really excited about the future of Elim in Cambodia.  In the next week Pastor Chamnap and I will be talking to those we see as future key leaders in the church. Our plan is to take a small group through a comprehensive discipleship course and by the end of it we hope to have future Pastors which would fit into our plans of church planting. It’s really exciting times and we are so blessed to be part of what God is doing here. On Sunday we will be baptising at least 12 people who have put themselves forward to follow Jesus example and in act of obedience will follow him through the waters. Please pray for each of them! They may suffer for this decision because of the public declaration but they all know that God will protect them, such faith!

On Monday both Esther and I had the privilege to baptise a friend of our friend Julie, her name is Imogen who is visiting from New Zealand. She had wanted to get baptised and felt that it was just right to do it now. She won’t be here for our Baptismal service on Sunday so we had a quiet service with some friends – Kristin (American), and Adam and Colleen and their three children (New Zealand). We heard Imogen’s testimony, Esther read a promise to her, and then Julie and I baptised her, the water was so shallow we had to sit on our knees but we were still able to do the baptism, it was beautiful.

Imogene's baptism

Imogene’s baptism

Finally we would like to publicly say a massive thank you to a very special lady, who has been such a big part of the Elim International Missions team for the past twenty five years. Yesterday Kathy Cooper stepped into retirement; it seems nearly weird to even talk about missions without Kathy.  We wish her well, we pray health and strength to her and her family and that they have many years ahead to enjoy the grandchildren. Kathy thank you so much for always being there, knowing everything and always blessing through encouragement in the tough times as well as the good times. You will be truly missed!!

Samuels team in Cambodia

We were thrilled to spend the past week hosting the ‘Samuels team’ from Dewsbury Elim church in England.  Their Pastor, Paul Hudson, and newly appointed International Missions Director who will be taking up his post in August, led the team.  Over the past two years Paul has been discipling the group of young people and completion of their training leads to a short term mission trip.

As the trip fell over half term break and most of the young people are going back to take exams, they literally hit the ground running.  As they were only going to be in Cambodia for one Sunday, we started our church service at 10:30 am instead of the usual 8:45 am.  David, Chamnap, Dren and I met the team at the airport; they had been travelling for close to 24 hours and were delighted to reach their destination.  Their first reaction to Cambodia was the intense heat and once on the bus was amazed by the traffic, we love to watch the expressions of those visiting Cambodia for the first time, and even though we are here 2 years, we are still mesmerised by the sights we see every day!

We arrived at the centre and church started with our worship team leading a couple of songs and then the team introduced themselves before taking the rest of the service.  Chloe shared her testimony, Charlotte and Hannah sang whilst Tom and Catherine played the guitar and keyboard for them, Becky brought a short message followed by all the team performing a drama.  This was really special for our church as the drama they did was the same one our drama team have done in the past.  It is such a powerful message that Nita, I and many others were touched so much by it.  Paul then delivered a message about how much we are loved, adored and cherished by God.  Nita then presented Paul with a cake to celebrate his upcoming role as International Missions Director.  A team of ladies led by Bong Paula served lunch of chicken curry and bread; we really appreciate all the preparation and hard work they did to feed over 100 people.

Nita presenting Paul with celebration cake

Nita presenting Paul with celebration cake

After church we drove the team to their accommodation to let them unpack, have a quick shower before returning to the church for youth fellowship at 4pm.  The team organised by Emma their youth leader carried out a programme of variety of games, Bible study and discussion on the subject of trust and our youth leader Sarak taught the team a couple of Khmer songs which was great fun!  Snacks of Khmer fruits were then served and the team were brilliant in trying out some exotic and unusual treats.

Because the team were only with us until Friday morning a full programme was arranged for them to see and do as much as they could in the time allowed.  On Monday morning a visit to the Daughters centre took place and we thank Heather for being so wonderful in sharing about how Daughters was founded and the incredible work they are doing in transforming lives rescued from the sex industry.  The team had been fundraising for an entire year and were thrilled to meet Ruth the founder and present her with a gift towards the on-going work of Daughters in Cambodia.

The youth team presenting gift to Ruth

The youth team presenting gift to Ruth

Following lunch at one of the Daughters cafes the team set off to learn about the history of Cambodia under the regime of Pol Pot by visiting the S21 Genocide Museum and the Killing Field of Choung Ek.  This is not a pleasant sightseeing tour but important to discover what the Khmer people endured not that long ago.

On Tuesday the team spent their morning in the Early Learning Centre splitting into groups and spending time with the babies, toddlers and pre-school children.  I was thrilled to meet our newest addition to the ELC with our cook Sreyphoas returning to work with her beautiful baby daughter Davina settling into the baby section.  Davina was born during our period of furlough so although we had seen photographs it was wonderful to give her a wee cuddle – both Mum and baby are doing well.  The team also gave a gift towards the work of the ELC along with resources and clothes which were sorted out and will be distributed amongst the children.  The team fell in love with the children and really enjoyed spending time with them and the staff.

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The team with ELC staff and children

The team with ELC staff and children

A tuk tuk tour of the city was arranged in the late afternoon and during this we went for a walk along the riverside.  This was one of the biggest challenges for the team as they were exposed to the darker side of life in Cambodia.  In broad daylight we saw old white men on the lookout for young Khmer women and girls.  There were street children trying to earn a few dollars selling bracelets, in vulnerable and at risk situations.  We drove to the restaurant where we had booked dinner and asked the staff if we could meet in a private room for 15 minutes.  We spent the time praying and weeping for the sights we had seen, that God would protect, rescue, transform and heal lives in Phnom Penh.

We set off early on Wednesday morning to spend the day with Kevin and Leakhena from Manna for Life ministry in the community of Oudong.  Kevin and Leakhena are valued members of our church and we have strong ties with the families who live in Oudong, a community which was once a slum village in Phnom Penh which was demolished and relocated outside of the city.  After sharing the history of the community, the team went for a walk meeting some of the families and hearing their individual stories.  Lunch was made by Leakhena and one of the ladies from the community who is 7 months pregnant.  Her younger daughter also helped bringing the food across and assisting her mum.  The food was delicious and we were privileged to meet this wonderful woman who helps Leakhena in so many ways on a daily basis.

After lunch the doors of the building which will act as community centre and school were opened and 120 children presented their ticket to attend the Kids Club – they had registered the day before after invitations had been given out.  For the next hour we sang songs, played games, made animal masks and heard the story of Noah.  We would have been happy if it had rained because all of the team, the children, and the mums were sweating like we have never sweated before!  But the children had an amazing time, the team were brilliant and the children went home happy with a bag of treats probably to have a shower! We really appreciated Kevin and Leakhena’s hospitality and seeing the community spirit despite what they have come through really encouraged the team and shows with God in the centre there is hope.

Children queued up for Kid's Club

Children queued up for Kid’s Club

Children with their animal masks

Children with their animal masks

Some photographs from Kids Club

Some photographs from Kids Club

On Thursday morning the team were picked up at their accommodation and spent the morning with Chamnap sharing about the organisation he is involved with Hagar International.  They spent time at a group home where five young men live – one suffering from severe autism and four with cerebral palsy; the group interacted with them before visiting a foster home where one young girl who suffers from cerebral palsy lives.

In the afternoon we went to the office of SHE rescue, an organisation founded out of Citipointe church in Brisbane.  We were met by Dave and Hayley who have been working with SHE for over a year and gave us an overview of the background and amazing work that is done to protect, educate and transform the lives of girls who come to SHE.  The team were then put to work stamping gift bags which are used when SHE merchandise is sold, so a production line was set up with some stamping, some attaching tags and finally the bags were put in batches and wrapped in cling film.  Before we left the team had an opportunity to buy wristbands which are made in the microfinance business by families who have come through the SHE programme.  We are thankful to Dave and Hayley for welcoming the team and giving their valuable time up for us.

We called into the Early Learning Centre for one last time not only for the team to say goodbye to the staff and children but also for David to be surprised with a birthday cake.  The staff and team all sang Happy Birthday as Kimorn presented David with his cake and Sarah gave him a gift from all the staff of a lovely pen.

Kimorn giving David his birthday cake

Kimorn giving David his birthday cake

On Friday morning after a very intense and eye opening five days it was time to bid farewell to the Samuels team as they began their journey home to Dewsbury.  In the next few weeks they will each have an opportunity to share with their church family the impact Cambodia had in each of their lives and what God has challenged them with during their time here.  We thank each and every one of them for being God’s ambassadors whilst they were here and showing and sharing the love of Jesus to the Khmer people.  We are also thankful to each of the organisations who accommodated the team and for that we are grateful.