Archive for April, 2014

Joyful hearts

Our week began with a special Resurrection Sunday service, unfortunately when Easter directly follows the Khmer New Year holiday some of our regular church members are still out of the city visiting with their families. But we still had a good number of our church family present and some of them brought family members and friends along with them for the first time. The program included three of the girls from youth performing a dance; our friend Jill sang ‘Above all’ with Sarak during communion and Chamnap brought a challenging message speaking on Jesus’ death and resurrection. Lunch of rice and pork was made for everybody and we appreciate Kimon, Nita and Sokhom cooking for all of us.

Easter Service

Easter Service

In this past week the temperature just seems to be hotting up making our energy levels fade. During staff devotions each morning a united prayer request is that we would have energy and not feel so tired. We all are thankful for fans and the staff in Be Free have been repositioning their work stations to benefit from them. Preparations began this week packaging up greeting cards and key rings that we will have on sale at each of the venues where we will be sharing about the work of Elim Missions in Cambodia. The girls are very excited about their creations and despite us currently ‘enduring’ hot season we have begun planning the production of Christmas stock.

Be Free keyrings

Be Free keyrings

Yesterday Sokim, Channak and I went out in the tuk tuk with our shopping list to buy the supplies they will need stocking up on cards, envelopes, buttons and material. Our last stop was at Orressey Market, which is where we purchase most of our resources, it is like a maze. Channak always leads the way taking us to each of the stalls with rarely taking a wrong turn. When all eight of us go to the market I am like my Mum when we were children and on an outing always counting 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 to check all my siblings and I were present and accounted for!

Market highlights

Market highlights

This has been an exciting week for the Early Learning Centre as work continued in the playground. On Monday morning the rubber mats for the playground flooring were delivered along with all the play equipment. When the pre-school children went outside for lunch we could hear their squeals of delight when they saw work being done in their playground.

Work underway

Work underway

By Thursday the children didn’t have to wait any longer as the moment had come that they had all been waiting for. The pre-school children were split into two groups and it was wonderful to witness each group enter their brand new playground for the first time. Before they played each group formed a circle and the staff prayed thanking God for providing their playground and for safety while the children played. It was beautiful to watch the children squeezing their eyes shut as they prayed and when Amen was heard, the boys and girls ran in and explored their new play area. Listening to the children’s laughter was brilliant as they played with their friends, many of the boys and girls would never or rarely be able to go to a play park so to have their very own one at their Early Learning Centre is amazing.

Just missing the children

Just missing the children

sheltered from the sun

sheltered from the sun

Secured in the ground

Secured in the ground

ELC playground

ELC playground

Praying before playing!

Praying before playing!

Let's have fun!

Let’s have fun!

Big kids having fun too

Big kids having fun too

When Nita, our ELC manager, saw the finished playground for the first time she wept tears of joy. She is so happy for the children and had been praying for a few years that the boys and girls could have an outdoor play area. Nita took a collage of photos and her comment on Facebook read ‘It’s so exciting to see the new setup of a playground for the children at Elim ELC. It’s beyond my imagination. I could not stop my tears to come down again this time. But it’s a joy. It’s a happy time and I am thankful to God’s faithfulness, grace and love’. 

We want to take this opportunity to thank the Delancey team from Guernsey who took on this project and for all the fundraising they have done to make this possible. We will formally thank Nicole and all the team when they come to Cambodia in August, part of their time here will include painting murals on the walls of the playground and then we will have an official opening ceremony which the families of the ELC children will be invited along to. I have joked with Nita saying she will probably cry tears of joy then too when she says a few words of appreciation on behalf of the staff and children!

We have a busy week ahead of us commencing on Sunday when we are blessed to have a team from Thrive church, Rangiora spend some of their two week itinerary ministering in our various ministries. We are looking forward to renewing fellowship with Pastor Chris and some of the team members who we already know from their two previous mission trips. The team are from the home church of our good friend Julie and she has organised a fully packed program where the team members will use their giftings and skills enabling them to be a blessing to those they will work with and we have no doubt that they will also be blessed by the Khmer people they will spend time with. Pastor Chris will be sharing in church tomorrow, the team will take part in Happy Kids Club, one of the girls will spend a day in Be Free sharing craft ideas, a group of girls will spend time in the ELC, a Healing school and special Healing services are also taking place. We are excited about the week ahead and we would ask you to pray for the team that they will have an abundance of energy, have good health and know God’s anointing and guidance in every aspect of their ministry time here.

No Greater Love

This week has seen the New Year being celebrated for the third time in 2014. The first was obviously what we have always known as the New Year. Then we had Chinese New Year on 31st January which although it is not one of the official holidays in Cambodia is still one of the most celebrated festivals during the year. The Festival is mostly celebrated by Cambodians with Chinese descent and ethnic Vietnamese. Finally on Monday at 8.07am the Khmer New Year Festival officially commenced. Chaul Chnam Thmey, in the Khmer language, literally means ‘Enter New Year’, and the holiday lasts for three days. New Year’s Day is the end of the harvesting season when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labour before the rainy season begins. Everything shuts down in the city with everyone heading to their home provinces to spend time with family. Tuk tuks and mini vans were crammed full with food and supplies which individuals take home as gifts for their family members living in more rural areas. In the lead up to the Khmer New Year we spent time praying with our staff and church members who don’t yet have Christian families and therefore when they return home are expected to participate in all the Buddhist ceremonies which accompany this festival period.

We really needed a break so we headed off to Siem Reap with our good friends Jonny and Jill Hamill as well as Jill’s sister Jenny, and their friend Sopheap. Jenny is visiting for a couple of weeks, this is her second time in Cambodia and during the week she celebrated her 30th Birthday. Because her big day coincided with travelling back to Phnom Penh we had a celebratory meal on Wednesday night with each of us giving a little speech to the Birthday girl and finally Jenny also gave a few words. We know how much Jonny and Jill were both looking forward to having a family member visit and we pray all three of them will enjoy the rest of Jenny’s time here and have a blessed time together.

Almost eating in the kitchen with tornado fan

Almost eating in the kitchen with tornado fan

Happy times

Happy times

We had an extremely chilled out couple of days and we got the chance to really rest up which will help us in the lead up to heading back to the UK. The next four weeks are going to be busy with so much preparation to make things easier when we are away but we are thankful we have great leaders in Nita, Sokim, Chamnap and Sarak.

Before we headed off to Siem Reap we were able to get all the work completed in getting the centre repaired after the fire. We were able to not only get Nita’s office refitted, repainted and rewired but also replace her computer with a new laptop. We also replaced all the furniture required for her office and the baby room was also restored. We are so thankful for all the support we received from the churches that raised money towards our appeal. It never ceases to amaze us at how much people are behind us and the work here in Cambodia. If you gave money or remembered us in prayer or sent a message of support we want to thank you for your blessings and we in turn pray a blessing into your lives and situations.

Another update is in relation to Happy Kids Club. We are so thankful for Sarak and Phanna; they are totally consumed with seeing their own community won for Jesus. They are so desperate to see their own flesh and blood saved they would do anything. Next week we will be starting English classes in the village and then on our return after furlough, we will be ready to start our very first house church. Exciting times and an example to us all, Sarak didn’t just worry about his family and get on with life. He spoke to them face to face with the challenge of bringing Jesus to his community. Thank you Father for giving us men like Sarak who want to shake this country no matter the cost.

In closing this week we want to say the biggest thanks of all, to Jesus. It is the most important weekend in the Christian calendar but many people focus on things that have nothing to do with the truth that the Cross is all about. Why do people not know? Because we are not telling them. It scares me how many people we have failed to tell or reach over the last year here in Cambodia; we are not even scratching the surface. I know we are all busy, but isn’t it as well that Jesus wasn’t too busy to take your place or mine. He took our punishment for our sins, He brought hope, and He brought life! We should be shouting from the rooftops. What is stopping you from giving your life to Jesus this Easter? Or if you have already took that step what is stopping you from sharing the truth you have already found?

A very Happy Easter to you all, thank God the stone was rolled away!

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Keep the Love

On Thursday afternoon the craft area in Be Free was cleared away and all the tools put to one side as instead of producing cards and key rings the staff and trainees were attending a workshop. Our good friend Julie who arrived in Cambodia exactly one week after us is a Trainer, Facilitator and Coach who works in leadership development. A few weeks ago I saw photographs from a teambuilding workshop she took at an organisation here and I was thrilled when she was available to do the same thing in Be Free. The afternoon consisted of teambuilding games, studying the Bible, discussion and reflection.

The Khmer love games and our first game illustrated how within a team trust is extremely important. We all stood in a circle with our shoulders touching. Each of us had to take turns standing in the centre with our eyes closed and arms folded and trust that our teammates wouldn’t let us fall as we swayed and were supported by their hands whilst our feet stayed together and didn’t move. I went last and my heart was a little anxious as I closed my eyes but then I relaxed when I felt the support of the girls as I rocked forward and backward, their hands guiding me within the circle. Afterwards we sat down and shared how we felt during this exercise; all agreeing that we had belief in our teammates not to drop us and it also proved that we needed to work together as a team.

The next game proved that the Khmer are more flexible than foreigners. In groups of two we had to sit on the floor back to back with our arms linked and stand up without touching the ground with our hands or arms. The first couple to do this made it look easier than it actually was, standing up within seconds. I kept apologising to my teammate as I was unable to maneuver myself off the ground and we just kept laughing. She deserved another chance with a different partner and Julie offered, I didn’t feel so bad when they couldn’t do it either. After a third attempt she was successful and we all had lots of fun trying and cheering each other on.

Impossible for me!

Impossible for me!

Julie attempting

Julie attempting

We then went into the classroom where the word TEAM was written on the whiteboard with Julie asking what this meant to us. The following words were given: trust, encourage, celebrate success, help and belief in teammates. We looked up Romans 12:3-8 in the Bible and read about the body of Christ.

 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

A true example of teamwork was displayed when without being asked one of the staff quietly read the passage to her colleague sitting beside her who is not yet able to read Khmer, it was a beautiful moment and one which touched my heart. When asked what the girls thought this meant they shared that the body (team) is a gift and we should appreciate it and each other; we are responsible for different things, we each have our own job, we need each other, and be generous to each other with your gifts.

In the classroom

In the classroom

The girls were then split into smaller groups and each was given a different scripture passage to read and discuss about what it said about teamwork in the Bible. For anyone who wants to read for themselves look up the following scriptures: Nehemiah 4:7-23; 1 Corinthians 12:17-20; Mark 6:7 and 1 Peter 4:8-10. We then came together, reading each passage and sharing our thoughts which were: find solutions to problems together, pray together, care for each other, protect each other, serve each other, communicate, and bless each other. God does not expect us to ‘do life’ on our own and that is the beauty of teamwork.

Bible study

Bible study

A photograph was taken of our very full and illustrated white board before it was cleared and the word SYNERGY was written. Julie did a very good job of describing what synergy meant to Dany who worked out how to say it in Khmer before explaining it to the girls. This was illustrated by Julie and me using elastic bands – when we held one elastic and both of us pulled against it, it snapped. When we did the same thing with two elastics they stretched but didn’t break and when we used three they didn’t stretch as much. Julie explained that when one team member is missing, the work will still get done but everyone will be stretched.

We then read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, the perfect Biblical description of this: Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

The final exercise in the classroom was for the girls all to say what they thought Be Free stood for. This was the highlight of the teambuilding workshop for me as between them they created the core values for Be Free Cambodia. They are listed in the photograph below, we kind of came up with a ‘in-house’ motto all liking the quote ‘Keep the Love’.

Core values

Core values

A final team building exercise was carried out which took longer than expected and involved piggy back rides and lots of strategy. During all the games it was interesting to see those with natural leadership qualities stand out. Finally we sat together in a circle and each person wrote their name at the top of a piece of paper and then handed it to the person on the right. On the piece of paper we wrote a few words about what we felt that individual brings to the team of Be Free, folded it up and handed it to the next person. This continued until we had written something on each piece of paper. When our piece of paper was returned we spent a few minutes reading what our team mates wrote about us, everyone feeling loved and encouraged.

Strategy and Celebration

Strategy and Celebration

After devotions the  following morning we spent some time discussing the workshop and I asked the girls if they wanted to share their thoughts. Comments ranged from loving the various games where they helped, listened and supported each other, the Bible verses really touched one girl’s heart, creating the Be Free core values, talking about the body of God, and one girl loved everything and is just so happy!

During the workshop I sat back and watched how the team in Be Free worked together, co-operated, helped one another, trusted one another, felt safe to speak from the heart, and supported one another. I love these girls and am so proud of how they have accepted each new teammate and love them as they love a sister.  They are a wee family and I am so blessed to have the priviledge of ‘doing life’ with them!

All of us really appreciate Julie giving up her time and the girls have already told me they want to do this again, so from all of us at Be Free Cambodia, thank you for everything!

In closing we want to give two very special ladies a mention, David’s sister Kellie celebrated her birthday yesterday and my wee chum Julie celebrates her birthday today. You are both in our thoughts and prayers and HAPPY BIRTHDAY wishes from the two of us!

The Birthday Girls

The Birthday Girls

Six weeks to go!

I have said many times that we are totally privileged to have two homes. Phnom Penh is where we live, work, go to church and spend most of our lives. We treasure these people, they are our brothers and sisters, and some are like sons and daughters. Several of the young children call me DA which is the Khmer word for Granda. I’m not so sure how happy I am with that but it makes the Khmer and Esther laugh. God has blessed us and continues to bless. I think the biggest testimony to how wonderful our Khmer family are is how much they affect anyone who comes to visit. Everyone goes away smitten by the community we belong too and we love it. Add to that the most beautiful adorable photogenic wee dog Meg and it is going to be very hard to say goodbye as we head back to the UK.

Our other home is of course Northern Ireland and it goes without saying we desperately miss our family and friends. It will be amazing to see our parents again after 13 months along with our brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces. We really can’t wait. Everybody will be taller than Esther and we will even be able to get chauffer driven by our niece Alex. We love our church and can’t wait to bring updates and see all our dear friends who love and support us. So as you see it’s a mixed up life but we love it.

There are many highlights we are looking forward to but will mention just a few. Esther’s brother David is getting married to Dee in Cork on the 24th May. The big excitement other than the wedding itself is the fact that the whole family will be together for the weekend and that is magnificent. Another exciting occasion will be celebrating when our niece Jessica turns 16, we have missed so many birthdays and it will be so special to be home this time. We will be in Northern Ireland from the 16th – 31st May and will be speaking in Bangor Elim on the Sunday 18th May. We are spending the month of June in England and will return to Northern Ireland for the month of July.

We will be visiting several churches in mainland UK, our tour starts in Guernsey where we will be speaking twice. We will also be speaking in Stafford, Crewe, Longton, Selly oak, CLC Birmingham, Kingstanding, Dewsbury and Harrogate on Sundays as well as other churches midweek. We are really excited about sharing in these churches about what God is doing in Cambodia, and especially about our new Be Free program which is changing girls lives daily.

Please pray for us as we prepare over the next six weeks to return to the UK. If you attend one of the above churches or are able to come to any of the services please do, we will give a more comprehensive timetable when we know it. Please come expectant and willing for God to challenge you and speak to your heart and ours as we share about how awesome our God is. Without God we are nothing, we could do nothing but with God we can do everything through Him who strengthens us.