Archive for November, 2013

A new chapter for Sarak and Sophea

Sunday 24th November will be etched in Phnom Penh Elim history for the rest of time. Sarak and Sophea both church and staff members became husband and wife and what a day it was. It was the first wedding in our new church building and the first time Pastor Chamnap and myself officiated at a wedding.

The morning commenced for us at about 5am when Esther and Nita headed from our house to get their hair and make-up done. Chamnap and myself followed to the church at 6.30 am. The next 6 hours had everything related to a Khmer wedding including many changes of outfits and hair styles. It started with the Groom’s procession with Sarak leading the wedding guests carrying platters of fruit and gifts with his parents to present them to Sophea’s parents. After this we were served a breakfast of pork soup which was tasty but just not as good as an Ulster fry.

Sarak leading fruit procession

Sarak leading fruit procession

The wedding party

The wedding party

Sophea's first outfit

Sophea’s first outfit

The formalities then began with 2 MC’s representing each family as they bantered a bit about the bride and groom with the wedding guests. Khmer traditions were performed with the parents first of all tasting the fruit to ensure it was good quality. Then family and friends pretended to cut the bride and groom’s hair followed by spraying perfume; symbolising cutting away their bad habits. Both sets of parents were honoured with Sarak and Sophea thanking them and then washing their feet. This is always an emotional time for the bride and groom and their respective parents. Finally family and friends were given an opportunity to come forward and bless the bride and groom with a financial gift.

Thanking Sarak's parents

Thanking Sarak’s parents

Honouring Sophea's parents

Honouring Sophea’s parents

Youngest members of the bridal party amusing themselves

Youngest members of the bridal party amusing themselves

The men have style

The men have style

Second outfit

Second outfit

Third outfit

Third outfit

It was then time for the Christian ceremony with the wedding party led by Sarak’s parents and then Sophea’s mother escorted by one of the male attendants. David and Chamnap accompanied Sarak into the church followed by the male and female attendants. Sophea and her father finally entered led by a pageboy and flower girl. Sophea’s father gave her over to Sarak and Chamnap opened in prayer.

Sophea with her Father

Sophea with her Father

The Bridal Party

The Bridal Party

The worship team led us in 2 songs and then both sets of parents came forward and lit a candle representing each family. At that point Sarak and Sophea joined us on the stage and I had the honour of bringing a short message God had laid on my heart. None of Sarak or Sophea’s families are Christians and the fact they had agreed to their wedding ceremony taking place in church was a massive miracle in itself. So I really felt led to speak about the greatest love of all, an unconditional love, a sacrificial love, in one word JESUS! After the message Sarak and Sophea said their vows and then took their family candles and lit the central candle bringing unity between the two families. Before we pronounced them husband and wife, our elder Dana and his wife Ryma along with Esther and Chamnap’s wife Nita came forward and gave a few words of advice for Sarak and Sophea as they begin the journey of married life. Dana prayed and then we all stood to applaud the newlyweds.

In worship

In worship

Wedding vows

Wedding vows

Exchanging rings

Exchanging rings

It's official

It’s official

Mr & Mrs Dong

Mr & Mrs Dong

It was a truly special time followed by lunch and then 3 hours rest at home before we attended the evening reception. We all had a lovely time there with Esther taking plenty of photos. The bride was beautiful and the groom handsome but it is their hearts that shine the brightest; they are on fire for God and that my friends is a better place than any other to be in.

Evening outfit 1

Evening outfit 1

Evening outfit 2

Evening outfit 2

Evening outfit 3

Evening outfit 3

Evening outfit 4

Evening outfit 4

Finally as I said earlier the families were totally opposed to a Christian wedding as it goes against everything they believe in. As a church we prayed for months with great faith that God would perform a miracle and change their parent’s hearts and He did! On Sunday night after the wedding was over and everyone had gone home, both families sat in a circle and discussed the wedding. Everybody said that they enjoyed every minute of the church service and they were glad they had allowed it to happen. God is at work and I believe we will see them one by one turn to Jesus. We serve an awesome God, a God who loves and cares, and a God who deserves our everything. Join us by praying for Sarak and Sophea for their life together and that by their example their families will turn their lives to God.

Favourite photograph from their honeymoon

Favourite photograph from their honeymoon

Weekend Wedding!

The weekend has finally arrived for the wedding that has been anticipated and prayed about for over a year. On Friday afternoon the wedding tent was assembled where guests will enjoy breakfast and lunch during the morning ceremonies. The proceedings will commence at 6am with the fruit procession and the church service will take place at 11 am. It will be a very early start for all the guests but especially so for the bride to be Sophea who will probably start to get ready at 3 am. Last night I was chatting to my brother who is a professional wedding photographer and is also getting married next May. I was telling Dave about some of the Khmer wedding traditions and he’s very happy weddings in the UK don’t commence as early as they do in Cambodia. Sarak and Sophea are very excited about their special day as is all of the staff at the Early Learning Centre and the church family. It is the first wedding that will take place in our new church and we know it is going to be a very special occasion. I have been asked to be the official photographer so there will be plenty of photographs in next week’s blog.

Wedding tent

Wedding tent

For the past three weeks David and I have been studying Khmer in our new building. Our teacher has formed her own language school and is using some of our rooms as a starting point. From next month Dany will be working along with me in the craft training centre, helping with translation, communication and teaching English to the staff and girls who will be in the twelve month training program. During the past few weeks Dany has been getting to know Sokim and Channak and as a young, married Christian lady is able to relate to struggles they may have and is a wonderful role model and example to them. I now don’t have just a one hour lesson each day as every time Dany comes upstairs and into the craft room I must speak Khmer not English with her. Yesterday Dany had some free time and so I helped her make a Christmas card for her husband. At one point I taught Dany the expression ‘Don’t give up your day job’ when she inked the wrong end of the letter stamp. We did laugh about this and when Dany had completed the card we were all very impressed with her skills. Even more importantly Dany messaged me last night to say how happy her husband was with the card she made with love for him!

Dany with her first handmade card

Dany with her first handmade card

I have never been a fan of Dr Who. I think this stems back to my childhood when I can remember hiding behind the sofa when the dallaks appeared. However, I often talk with family and friends about wishing I had the Dr’s tardis to transport myself home instantly or have it to transport loved ones here. This week has been one of those occasions when I learnt on Tuesday night that my Dad was not well. My sister skyped me once my Dad had been treated in hospital and they were hopeful he would be able to go home the next day. I was then able to ring my Mum and it was comforting to know he was in good spirits and the worst was over him. Last night it was good to be able to see my Dad via skype and tell him how much we and our church family and friends are thinking about him and praying for his recovery. It is so difficult being thousands of miles away and not being in the position to get in the car and visit but we know Dad is in the best hands as people all over the world have been praying for him and we have already seen prayers answered! Thank you to those who have sent emails, messages and scripture verses just at the perfect time; we do know God’s comfort and peace at this time when it is hard being separated by distance. Please continue to remember my parents James and June in your prayers and that day by day my Dad will feel stronger, have more energy and be back to full health and strength.

It was my turn to take devotions with the staff yesterday and the verse I shared with them and my teacher taught me to say in Khmer is found in Philippians chapter 4 verse 6.

Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.

This week as I have been anxious and worried about my Dad, my Heavenly Father told me not to be anxious but to talk to Him and by doing so I will know His peace and comfort. Whatever situation you find yourself in today or in the future, don’t be anxious but trust in the Lord and know how much He cares for you!

Happy Kids Club

As many of you know we were able to employ our first church staff member at the start of October. Sarak came into the job with everyone having great expectations of what God will do through him. His official role is to be an assistant to the pastors, but he will be given every chance to learn more and hopefully one day in the future will himself be a pastor. I have always believed in his talents and in him to use them, so it excites me to see him grow in front of our eyes. As a church we are looking to find ways that we can work to impact communities where the residents are classed as outcasts.

An outcast is someone who has been rejected for any number of reasons, ranging from unfortunate circumstances to bad decisions to matters took out of their own hands as they are abused physically, mentally or sexually. So we want to make a difference, the way that Jesus did, and if you know Jesus you will know He didn’t tiptoe in or out of communities.  No, Jesus was known by everyone! Why, because Jesus oozed love, he cared for the sick and healed them.  He loved the poor and wanted to help them! Jesus didn’t do things to please others; he did things to please God!

Since Sarak joined the team he has been doing work mentoring young men from Hagar and teaching the guitar to some of our up and coming musicians. He also has been compiling translated songs for our computer data base and even translating some new songs. Sarak came to me when he first started with us and said he wanted to go to his home village and bring Jesus to his own community. His plan was to start with a Kids club leading to English lessons and then eventually planting a church in his community. I asked him to show me the plans and what he would need to make this possible.  The first request was help with transport to get there every week; it is about an hour and a half on a moto each way. The second was the amount he believed we needed to see the program through, it was approximately $7000 but that included a church being built and a full year of resources.

The first we sorted easily thanks to Pastor Chris D’ath from Thrive church, Rangiora in New Zealand and his very kind congregation. Earlier this year Chris had pledged to buy us a moto when we were ready for one to go into the highways and byways. So I contacted him with Sarak’s vision for reaching his community and within two weeks the moto was bought. The second isn’t going to happen for a while because we just don’t have $7000 but that was a completed project. I suggested we do what we would do anywhere in the world and that was start with the kids club and trust God will provide.

So Sarak started his Kids club which he called “Happy Kids Club” two weeks ago.  He set off on his moto with his friend and volunteer Pannah and they went to his hometown in Kandal Province. The first time they went 24 children joined them and they met in Sarak’s family home and they spent time singing songs, colouring in and having a snack. On Thursday past they took the projector and screen (on the moto) with them and they had around 100 children and adults watching Madagascar 3. They haven’t tiptoed in or out of this community, people want to know who these people are who brought a cinema to their village. In Cambodia and throughout the world Elim wants to impact communities and plant churches and we must do it with Jesus at the centre of it all.

Happy Kids Club

Happy Kids Club

 

I must say a big thank you to Thrive for the moto, as a church we send our love and can’t wait to meet up again when you come in April/May 2014. To the churches in the UK that specifically designate money for Sarak’s wages you are making a difference through him, bless you all! Finally to Paul Hudson and the team in Malvern, thank you for your new vision that you shared with us and every other missionary on Thursday via Vsee, we are excited!

Chatting with IMD Paul Hudson and fellow missionaries via Vsee

Chatting with IMD Paul Hudson and fellow missionaries via Vsee

 

Please pray for Sarak that he will always keep his eyes on God, that he will always be willing to learn and will become a giant in this country for Jesus. Next Sunday Sarak and his fiancée Sophea who works in our Early Learning Centre are getting married. Both their families are Buddhist and have been against a Christian wedding  but praise God Sarak and Sophea have stood firm and will be married in our church with their family joining them in the celebration. It will be an honour and privilege to preach and perform the ceremony with the help of Pastor Chamnap as he translates for me. Please pray that as so many Buddhists attend the service that the Holy Spirit will stir within them, softening their heart and giving them a desire to know more about the God Sarak and Sophea love and worship!

Sarak and Sophea

Sarak and Sophea

 

God is building giants in this country; people like pastor Chamnap, Sarak, Dana, Dren, Rith and many others in Elim. Please pray for these men as God builds an army for the battles that lie ahead!

Finally we want to introduce you to the newest addition to Elim Cambodia family, Jasmine arrived safe and well on Friday morning 2am Cambodian time weighing 5.5 lbs delighting her parents Srey Mao and Chantha and big brother Rayu.  Nita and Esther visited mother and baby yesterday and both are keeping well.  Thank you for praying for the safe delivery and continue to pray for Srey Mao and Chantha as they enjoy the new member of their family, their beautiful daughter Jasmine. 

Srey Mao and Jasmine

Srey Mao and Jasmine

 

Blogging by candle light!

It’s Friday night and I am writing this week’s blog entry by candlelight. Before you think we are having a romantic evening, it’s simply because the area we live in is having a power cut! So far there’s been no electric for over 3 hours and we are hoping it returns very very soon! Every time we endure a power cut we do think of those who are less fortunate and never are blessed with electricity or perhaps only can afford to have light for a short period of time each day. We are thankful for candles and with the scented ones very kindly sent out by friends and family our home is very cosy and smells lovely.

Back to this week’s happenings. On Sunday morning we were blessed to have Carl Beech the founder of ‘’Christian Vision for Men’’ as our guest speaker. Carl challenged us all to draw closer to God and listen for His voice to help those we come in contact with each day. The Khmer love hearing stories and it was wonderful to watch the congregation siting on the edge of their seats as Carl shared true life examples of when God urged him to get out of his comfort zone and speak to total strangers. As a church it is our prayer as we begin to reach out into the community that our eyes will be open to the people God wants us to impact and by being obedient situations will be completely turned around and lives will be totally transformed.

Carl and Chamnap

Carl and Chamnap

The Men’s Ministry was re-launched on Sunday afternoon with 25 men in attendance. Zoran who is the CVM representative in Phnom Penh will be involved in heading up the men’s ministry along with Chamnap and David. Zoran spoke about the reasons for having a ministry for men and then Carl shared about CVM and how it was founded. We are grateful for Carl and Steve worshipping with us and are excited about Phnom Penh Elim Church working together with CVM in our men’s ministry. For more information on CVM visit their website at http://www.cvm.org.uk

I was out of action for a couple of days with a rotten head cold – our Khmer friends just kept saying ‘’it’s our cold season’’. I dosed myself on cold and flu tablets and took to my bed for 2 days and thankfully it cleared up. The girls worked away in the centre completing an order of Christmas cards which will be going to New Zealand and experimenting with new craft ideas.David has had a busy week meeting on several occasions with the builder and electrician overseeing the rennovations. The work is coming along really well and should be completed in another two weeks. The staff at the Early Learning Centre are excited about their new home and it will be great for everyone to be under the one roof. We thank and praise God for all the ministries under Elim Missions Cambodia and for all he is doing in and through each member of staff and family represented.

Tonight all the Elim staff gathered at the Early Learning Centre to say farewell to one of our family commencing maternity leave. The arrival of Srey Mao’s second child is within the next two weeks and she will return to us in three months with her baby who will be cared for also. It was beautiful to witness all the staff surrounding Srey Mao and praying for her and her baby. We are all very excited as we await the news and look forward to meeting the newest addition to the Early Learning Centre. Please remember Srey Mao in your prayers at this very special and blessed time. Every occasion is celebrated with a cake of course; Srey Mao didn’t eat her piece but took it home for her son Rayu instead!

staff praying for Srey Mao

staff praying for Srey Mao

Srey Mao with her cake

Srey Mao with her cake

I’m finishing the blog today (Saturday), we finally went to bed giving up on electricity coming back on – we woke when the fan came on in our room but after a few seconds the power was off again! Finally after a power cut lasting 7 hours we had electricity! That was shorter than our last one a week ago lasting 10 hours!

Today Cambodia celebrates the anniversary of its independence from France which took place in 1953. As the holiday falls on a Saturday it carries through to Monday and workplaces including our two centres have the day off. Enjoy your weekend, whatever your plans may be. Until next week x

Independence monument

Independence monument

Happy Birssday Esther!

Yesterday was a special day in our household as Esther took another step towards the big 50. But although that did depress her slightly Meg and I did our best to make her day special.  (With all our blog posts this has been edited by me, Esther, and the big 50 is way, way off in the distance and I am still closer to 40 that 50).

The day started with coffee and presents and then onto to work where Sokim, Channak, Sarak and Dren gave presents and sang in true Khmer style ‘’Happy Birssday to you’’!  At lunch time we went to the Early Learning Centre and Esther was greeted by Nita and the staff.  They sang, gave handmade presents and cards and of course there was cake!

Meg with Esther's birthday gifts

Meg with Esther’s birthday gifts

Gifts from Sokim, Channak, Sarak & Dren

Gifts from Sokim, Channak, Sarak & Dren

The birthday girl with all Elim Cambodia staff

The birthday girl with all Elim Cambodia staff

Woul'dn't be a celebration without Khmer birthday cake!

Woul’dn’t be a celebration without Khmer birthday cake!

Esther was allowed the afternoon off and  chilled out in the bedroom with the aircon on watching her all time favourite movie ‘’The Sound of Music’’.  I was busy being busy in case I was expected to take part watching and listening to Esther sing. In the evening we went to a restaurant called Fox and Esther was surprised that our really good friends Jonny and Jill Hamill and Dave and Hayley Saxby joined us. It was fun with amazingly good food an excellent way to spend a birthday evening. As if this wasn’t enough for one day a Skype with Ruth, Jessica and Andrew completed Esther’s birthday. You always need a little bit of home to keep you happy on special occasions.

This last week has been full of meetings, the elders and I spoke at length on Saturday about our vision for the next 12 months. At the minute I can’t say lots about that but it was very fruitful and we are focused on the way forward. After church on Sunday a meeting was held for those interested in impacting the local community where everyone was given the opportunity to share what was on their heart and how they would like to reach others with the love of Jesus.  We are re- launching our men’s ministry on Sunday so please pray that the men will come and that God will use us to impact lives. Esther met with a team from Hagar during the week and is another step closer to having young ladies commencing the training programme.

We have begun a new building project in the centre which will see the ground floor turned into 2 levels, where we will move our Early Learning Centre into the bottom floor and on the upper level we will have church offices and conference area. This saves lots of money with only renting one building but also brings all the staff under the one roof. We would like to go on record thanking Paul Hudson and the team back in the UK for trusting us in this latest adventure.

Some points we value your prayer for:

Pray for the building work that everything will be completed safely and on schedule.

Esther is about to start to take vulnerable young ladies into their training programme, pray for these people and for Sokim and Channak in the role they will play.

The church is growing in depth more than size at the minute; we are delighted to see our brothers and sisters being prepared by God for the exciting things that lie ahead! Praise God for his constant provision in all that we do!

Thank you for caring and supporting the work in Cambodia either prayerfully or financially; without you and your help and encouragement we couldn’t do what we are doing! We are a team and thankfully our leader is Jesus at the centre of all we do, blessings to you all.