Archive for March, 2014

More good moments than bad!

At the outset of this week’s post we would like to express our sincere thanks for your prayers on behalf of all the staff and children in the Early Learning Centre following our recent fire. All the electrical repairs, renovations and repainting have been completed and the ELC is up and running as normal. Next week Nita’s office will be fully functioning again when the furniture and computer are replaced. We really appreciate everyone who responded to the Emergency Appeal, without your giving we would not have been able to re-open as quickly as we could, thank you so much!

As I began to write this post I received the following message, ‘Just wanted to send you a little note to encourage you. I look forward to your weekly blogs and love that they help keep us up to date with all that is happening in Cambodia, good and bad!’ Well I am happy to say that this week has consisted of more good moments than bad and we thank and praise God for this!

David met with Chamnap and Dana last Saturday morning and during the eldership meeting discussions were productive and an 18 week Sunday schedule was created with sermon topics, along with who would be preaching and leading the service. Church on Sunday morning was well attended and one of the Be Free trainees sang a solo for the first time whilst the tithes and offerings were received. After the service the youth fellowship ate lunch together before spending the afternoon at the water park where everyone had a ball splashing about and going down the slides.

One of the highlights of David’s week is the worship practice on Tuesday evenings. Eight new people have joined the worship group and a youth choir is also being developed that will take part in the Easter Sunday service next month. It is exciting to watch individuals blossoming in front of our eyes and using their God given gifts and abilities. Volunteers are also undergoing training to take Sunday school and we are grateful to Nita and Leakhena who are heading up this vital ministry for the children of the church.

School was back in session this week with Khmer lessons for us and English lessons for the staff in Be Free. The girls are split into two groups based on their ability and they are a delight to teach. At one point I did draft in Dany, our Khmer teacher, to explain vowels and consonants. There are many sounds in the Khmer alphabet which we struggle with and it is the same with English, vowel being a word that is hard for the Cambodians to pronounce!

Be Free trainee writing her ABC

Be Free trainee writing her ABC

One of the trainees first English lesson

One of the trainees first English lesson

Dany helping me out during English lesson

Dany helping me out during English lesson

This week I have received many emails from churches and individuals who are selling or have received Be Free crafts. I take great joy in reading all of the messages to the girls who are really encouraged and happy that people are supporting them and loving what they enjoy creating! From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for your love, prayers and support of the Be Free Training Program, you are making a difference to the lives of each of the girls.

David and the guys have been busy this week assisting the contractor who is preparing the ground at the rear of our building for a playground for the Early Learning Centre children and a moto park. We have enjoyed seeing the progress and yesterday a truck arrived with what seems to be a huge delivery of cement bags which will be made up and laid on Monday. We are thankful to the team from Guernsey which will come out in August who have taken on this project which will bring so much joy to the children and staff of the Early Learning Centre.

Land for childrens play area and moto park

Land for childrens play area and moto park

Flattening the ground

Flattening the ground

Bamboo grid going in place

Bamboo grid going in place

Plastic layer nearly complete

Plastic layer nearly complete

cement being delivered

cement being delivered

David and Sarak in discussion with the contactor and all the cement which will be laid next week!

David and Sarak in discussion with the contactor and all the cement which will be laid next week!

We do value your prayers for the staff and children to have good health as there has been a lot of sickness in the past week; also the temperature is so hot that our energy is being zapped. In closing we want to wish David’s brother Philip a very Happy Birthday for Sunday, it will be down to Alex, Christopher and Eve to spoil you as Kara will also need to be pampered with it being Mother’s Day. We also send big hugs to our wonderful Mums who are always in our thoughts and prayers but we will be especially thinking about you tomorrow. We love you, miss you and thank God for you! We know Mothering Sunday is not a joyous occasion for many people for a variety of reasons and it is our prayer that you will know God’s love, peace and strength every moment of the day.

Our latest news and prayer letter is available and if you are interested in receiving a copy drop us an email at: davyandesther@gmail.com and we will send it to you. Have a blessed week, love and prayers from all of us here at Elim Missions Cambodia!

God is our Protector!

Last week we had the most amazing staff retreat, in total 28 of us set of to stay at ‘The Sanctuary’ in Kampot. We left on the Wednesday at 10.30 am and arrived around 3 pm after having lunch at a Khmer roadside cafe. We were greeted by our hosts Jean Paul and Donna along with their daughter Sarah.

The beautiful Sanctuary

The beautiful Sanctuary

Our private swimming pool

Our private swimming pool

One of the main goals of our retreat was to get real unity between our Early Learning Centre staff and the girls from the Be Free training program.  Of course we both had our expectations because we know our staff and by the time we held our first devotions we saw God really move in this amazing group of people. Jesus was our focus, we love Jesus and that was evident in the response to the word and our worship. We did many fun things over the four days but nothing equaled our times with God; they were simply special.

Our staff love to praise and worship God

Our staff love to praise and worship God

Over the retreat we walked on the top of Bokor Mountain through the clouds, it was crazy!  We also walked around Kep country park, swam at Kep beach, chilled in the hammocks and ate crab for dinner at the famous crab market. We had a ball, the retreat was magnificent and we came home refreshed and on a spiritual high!

View point at Bokor Mountain

View point at Bokor Mountain

In awe of God's beauty in the sunset

In awe of God’s beauty in the sunset

Card making workshop

Card making workshop

 On Sunday we received really amazing news from Suny,  one of our members of staff.  As you know Bangor Elim, our home church, helped rebuild her family home. Her mother has been Ill for over 10 years now and unable to stand unassisted.  When Pastor Gary was here a few weeks ago we visited the family, prayed for them in their new home and prayed that her mum would be touched. On Sunday morning while everyone was going about their normal business Suny’s mum got up by herself and walked to the toilet. It’s truly amazing!  We are now praying for complete healing, I don’t believe God starts anything without finishing it!

 
We have been seeing God do amazing things and we know that makes the enemy unhappy, but we enjoy making the enemy unhappy. We have always found that when we are sitting quietly the enemy leaves us alone but when we stand up and shout it out the enemy hates this and tries to break our spirit. But he can’t and he won’t because we serve an awesome God who protects and defends.
 
On Monday afternoon at 4pm local time Dren and I returned to the ELC.  When we arrived Dren said he smelt smoke and we both thought that Sarak was burning rubbish out the back. But he wasn’t.  At that point Dren’s quick thinking and actions prevented a catastrophe.  Inside the centre a fire had broke out in Nita’s office and was about to spread very quickly. Dren started dealing with the fire as I urged the staff to get all the children out of the building. We had over 70 children and adults in the building and praise God we got everybody out safely. It took Dren, Sarak and Phannah about 20 minutes to put the fire out and the damage was kept to Nita’s office, a bit of the store and hallway.  The ceiling in the baby room collapsed due to the excessive water needed to put the fire out. It was devastating for everyone, the men where heroes for the way they reacted and saved many people, the enemy tried but failed. Our spirit will not be broken!
Fire damage

Fire damage

We thank God for the amazing staff we are blessed to work alongside who spent Tuesday cleaning the centre following the aftermath of the fire and preparing it so the builders and electricians could come in and do the work they need.  We would ask you to please remember the staff in your prayers, that they will all be alright, especially that they won’t suffer from  nightmares and flashbacks. 

The total damage will amount to about £1400 to repair and replace items destroyed in the fire.  We know God will provide, He always does. If you feel you would like to help towards the cost of repairs and are in a position to do so please either contact us by email at davyandesther@gmail.com or get in touch with Paul Hudson at Elim International  Missions at  Paul.Hudson@ELIMHQ.NET.  Thank you for praying, caring and taking an interest in all God is doing in Cambodia.

Guest blog by Gez – Look Beyond!

Sue and I have been in Cambodia for eleven days and the time has flown.  Sue visited last year and we said we would both visit when we got the opportunity. This year that opportunity arose as we were invited to celebrate with Sokhom and Rith at their wedding, which took place last weekend.  This also gave us a chance to spend time with David and Esther and to catch up.  They looked after us well and this was very much appreciated.  (Esther I am missing the Mango smoothies already and it’s only been a few days since we flew on to Vietnam and Bali).   

Taking part in the hair cutting and perfume ceremony

Taking part in the hair cutting and perfume ceremony

Sokhom and Rith exchanging rings

Sokhom and Rith exchanging rings

 

We have seen lots of different things in Cambodia, in respect of how people live, work and survive. As with most countries, irrespective of how rich the country is seen to be on the World Stage, there are the rich and the poor.  This is evident in Cambodia. The fallout from the conflicts which have ravaged the country over the years can be seen all over.  You can see the poverty on all streets.  Poor infrastructure, the lack of Government money to make improvements and the general desperation of the people trying to survive is hard to miss. As a surveyor, I found it hard to get my head around that you can have new apartment blocks sitting between the poorest of housing.  You have people clearly who are working and doing ok, happily living next to a house constructed from corrugated sheets and plastic bags. Yet despite all the heart wrenching scenes you see daily and the unique smells and sounds, God can be found there when you look.

I am not really sure what impacted me most on my visit.  Each day I saw different people and situations where God’s love was demonstrated and worked through those who are part of the Phnom Penh Elim church.  It was humbling to see those that have not got a lot, still give out to those around who have even less. The church is doing exactly what it says on the packet – doing life together. The church, the body of Christ is there to preach the Gospel to those who yet don’t know God, to teach and encourage those within the body, to uphold one another, to be accountable to one another.  I saw all that and more in the church family and that was encouraging.   

On my last hour or so at the centre, before departing to the airport, I sat on the top floor landing area of the centre. Next door to the centre is a piece of land that is used by many to dump rubbish on.  There are a number of trees and shrubs, but the land is overgrown.  At first there does not appear to be anything much happening.  However, as I started to look beyond the obvious, a whole new world appeared. The trees had flowers on their branches, birds which look just ordinary had wings tipped with white.  Two words came to mind “Look beyond”. When you do look beyond, what may seem dull is actually delightful, what may seem boring is actually beautiful, what is ordinary is actually extraordinary and what at first may seem mediocre is actually majestic.  I think that really summed up my Cambodia experience.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

Recycling point across from tne Elim centre

Recycling point across from the Elim centre

In all things and in all situations, when we look beyond, we can see God’s hand at work, creating, directing, encouraging, and loving. I clearly saw that over the last few days.  Bless you guys; keep doing what you are doing.     

19 Baptisms, a Dedication and a Wedding!

At the outset of this blog David and I would like to say a massive thank you to Bangor Elim for the blessings they bestowed upon so many individuals and families during Pastor Gary’s visit. It was humbling and heartwarming to witness demonstrations of love in action being poured out and as I write this I am smiling as I recall seeing tear filled eyes and huge smiles accompanied by thank you as people accepted generosity from a church family thousands of miles away.

David and I loved every moment of Pastor Gary being with us and it was made extra special as we celebrated our third year anniversary of being in Cambodia on Sunday. We held a Baptismal Service and it was wonderful to hear 19 young people testify about when they became a Christian and what Jesus means to them. The joy on their faces as they shared was incredible. It was a treat for us to have Pastor Gary as the guest speaker and a novelty for him to preach for the first time without his shoes on. For those who don’t know it is Khmer culture not to wear shoes inside. The church service also included a child dedication and 4 month old Sophieya was as good as gold as Pastor Gary held her in his arms and prayed for her.

Pastor Gary preaching

Pastor Gary preaching

The service ended and the congregation made their way outside for the candidates to be baptised. A swimming pool was purchased specially for the occasion and we are grateful to Dren who stayed overnight at the church ensuring it was filled and ready for Sunday morning. The atmosphere was exciting as each candidate entered the pool, a Bible verse was read out specifically for them and then they were prayed for before being baptised. Cheers and applauding followed as each candidate rose from the water with huge smiles and faces filled with joy! It was a special delight for me to witness two of the trainees from Be Free Cambodia as they were baptised; please remember all the candidates in your prayers as they continue on their journey with God!

Baptismal Service

Baptismal Service

As with all special Khmer celebrations cake was served and then it was time for the children to have some fun splashing and swimming. A wonderful end to an amazing church service. On Monday it was time for Pastor Gary to say his farewells but as he said in church last Sunday Cambodia has a special place in his heart and it will be hard for him to stay away! And who knows but Starbucks may even be here for his next visit!

As you read today’s blog we will be celebrating the wedding of two of our staff members Sokhom and Rith. We are thrilled that they are getting married and pray that they will know God’s richest blessings upon their new life together as husband and wife. It’s been lovely to spend this past week with our good friends Sue and Gez from Dewsbury Elim. When Sokhom was blessed with the opportunity to spend a few months in the UK Sue and Gez were one of the couples who hosted and looked after her and then Sue visited Cambodia for her first time in January of last year along with the Lifelink team. It’s brilliant that both of them are able to be here especially for Sokhom and Rith’s wedding. Another special person to Sokhom was collected from the airport today, our Kiwi friend Jude who visits once a year specifically to use her giftings and skills of managing Early Learning Centres. Jude has known Sokhom for many years and is thrilled to be here to celebrate her special day. We will be excited to give Jude a tour of the new ELC next week and look forward to renewing fellowship with her.

Open air kitchen

Open air kitchen

In closing we would value your prayers as we hold our first ever staff retreat next week. We ask for safety whilst we travel and a time of refreshing, fun and enjoyment for everyone!

Guest blog by Pastor Gary

As I sit down to try to gather my thoughts and pen a few words about my week here in Cambodia, I have to say, I am at a loss. I don’t know where to begin or how I can ever communicate even a little of the impact of this week. I am rarely at a loss for words but I am not sure I can actually describe the beauty and the heart of the people I have met here.

This week I have had a fresh revelation of the power, beauty and influence of the local church. In Phnom Penh Elim I have found a vibrant, growing and powerful expression of the church of Jesus. I have found people, who in spite of their circumstances, live with real joy and outstanding faith. I have found a people who are passionate about reaching the lost around them with the good news of Jesus and have a genuine love for each other. In the midst of some pretty horrendous poverty (with the average monthly salary $100) I found a group of believers who smile and laugh, as much or more, than any I have ever met. I came here thinking and praying that in some way I might be a blessing and encouragement to the church and in truth they have blessed me and encouraged me in greater measure than I could ever return.

I haven’t the time to tell you everything that has blessed and encouraged me this week (I will bore Bangor to death with the stories for weeks to come) but let me mention just a few things.

On arrival on Tuesday night I stood in a worship practice listening to tunes I knew but words I didn’t and was blown away as I watched, mostly young people, lost in praise and worship.

On Wednesday we visited a little girl called Pon. Many of you will have heard or seen the video of her story. David and Esther befriended this little girl and found she and her family were living in an abandoned cinema with many other families. We visited them in their “new home”. It is a disused shop front at the end of an alley. They welcomed us with amazing warmth and hospitality and were so proud to show us their new home. Pon is a real street wise hustler (for want of a better word) who sells bracelets and bags on the street. This kid is around the same age as my own daughter and I am actually choking back tears as I write, just thinking about the life this kid has had to endure. But Pon is a survivor and is incredibly bright. She studies at school and was proudly showing us her “A” grade school work but then she was in hustle mode. She challenged me to a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. If I lost I would have the privilege of buying some of her bracelets for $2 and if I won I didn’t have to buy. Now I was going to buy anyway, so being the competitive person I am, I decided I would win the game. It was the best of 3 and I never won a round! I left with my wallet $10 lighter and my arm a woven bracelet heavier.

Pon securing my new bracelet

Pon securing my new bracelet

On Wednesday night I had the privilege of sharing at the prayer meeting, I did so in true Cambodian style… barefoot! Young people as young as 11 gathered together to pray! And afterwards as we were leaving some of the young people could be heard in the church singing and praising God.

Praying for one another

Praying for one another

Thursday we travelled out a couple of hours to the province with Sarak to his Happy Kids Club. This involved a trip across a river, on a ferry (a homemade wooded raft thing with what looked like a homemade engine). Under a house on sown together hessian bags a hundred kids, gathered to sing, hear stories of Jesus, play games and colour in. Sarak has a heart to win these kids for Jesus, try to give them some sort of education and ultimately plant a church in his home village and I believe this young man will do it! (To help the kids club Bangor Elim, just today, bought them proper tarpaulin to sit on and desks for their work)

The ferry

The ferry

Happy Kids Club

Happy Kids Club

Sarak and Panna

Sarak and Panna

Friday we headed in the opposite direction to another village. It was only maybe 30 miles from the city but took 2 hours because we had to travel on dirt tracks that even the four wheel jeep struggled with. We went to visit Suny’s parents. This is the family that Esther and David wrote about in last week’s blog. We went to see the work that Bangor Elim had so generously paid to have their home renovated. It was amazing! They were beyond grateful and their lives have been impacted in a way that they had almost given hope of seeing. Pastor Chamnap was telling me that the family have been praying to God for help for 10 years and faithfully waited. They were almost at the point of giving up when God moved through the hearts of Phnom Penh and Bangor Elim. Oh and I took them a house warming gift – an led flat screen TV (all of Bangor Elim is laughing)

With Suny and the TV for her family

With Suny and the TV for her family

On Friday night Bangor Elim got to treat the staff and volunteers of the church, the Early Learning Centre and Be Free Cambodia to a meal out in a restaurant followed by a trip to the ice cream parlor. This is something that hardly any of these people could ever afford and I can’t begin to describe the looks on their faces.

There are many other things we have been involved in this week but mostly I have just been trying to bless these beautiful people in any way we can. For instance we have been to the mattress shop every day! We are their best customers EVER! So far we have bought about 15 mattresses (and we need to go back for another one today). Many of the families in the church sleep on the floor because they could never afford to buy a mattress, so we have been buying them like they are going out of fashion! I have heard a hundred thousand “thank-yous” this week, many accompanied by tears (theirs followed by mine) and each time I have had to try to say to them “don’t thank me, Thank God and the people of Bangor Elim. I said at the start of this blog post that this week has given me a “fresh revelation of the power, beauty and influence of the local church” well I have seen it not just here in Phnom Penh but also in the generosity and love shown by Bangor Elim. To those from Bangor Elim reading this I want you to know I am constantly blown away by who you are and what you do and if you could see even a glimpse of the impact we have been here this week you would be astounded. So thank you.

With Sarak at the mattress shop

With Sarak at the mattress shop

By the time you read this we will be in the middle of a busy weekend. A leaders training day, a wedding, a dedication, a church service and a baptismal service oh and a visit to the mattress shop! Please pray that God will move in what we (all of us) are part of this weekend here in Phnom Penn.

My final words (I am almost finished – not bad for someone lost for words) are reserved for David and Esther. As your pastor and as a church we hope you are aware of how much we miss you in Bangor. We hope you know how much we value you BUT I want to say, having seen what you are doing and what God is doing through you here in Phnom Penh, I know I speak for all of Bangor Elim, when I say “we couldn’t be prouder of you”