Archive for August, 2014

Trusting through the storm

As a church and as a community we have had a very tough week but we are thankful that we serve an all sufficient God. A God whom we trust and cling to when the storm clouds close in, a God who knows best at all times!

While we were back in the UK one of our staff members; a young man called Panna and his wife Pisey had their second baby boy. We were told quite early on that the little one had a lot of health problems. The extent of these problems has only really started to be recognised by the doctors in the last two weeks.

 Two weeks ago Nita took mum and little Isaac to a doctor who detected a heart problem on top of breathing issues and other things. So we decided to get the baby to Siem Reap where there is a specialist children’s hospital, started a number of years ago by a Swiss Doctor. It is the only hospital of its type in Cambodia. When little Isaac arrived straight away they said that the heart would need operated on but first of all the baby needed to be built up. When Isaac was born he weighed 2.5kg and at the age of 3 months the baby weighs 2.2kgs a loss of 300gms!

Unfortunately they also detected that he had TB which is serious enough but on top of the heart and weight issues it looked really grim. When Nita came back to the city (a long 7 hour bus journey) we were told that the intention was to firstly sort out the TB and build the baby’s weight up and maybe in three months do the surgery. The next evening everything changed, the doctors realised they needed to operate straight away and although this was a major risk it was one they had no choice but to do.

As a church we came together, although we were not all together, and we prayed asking God to do something miraculous. I’m not sure how much hope the doctors had but we do have a hope and we clung to God. On Monday evening after a 6 hour operation little Isaac came through what was massive heart surgery. The first twelve hours were vital especially with the lung problem but again he defied the odds.  A team of five Doctors have been working really hard to ensure Isaac gets the care and treatment that he requries and we value those who have been praying not just in Cambodia but in the UK too.  We urgently need your prayers today as no sooner had I posted this week’s blog David rang me to say the latest news is not good for baby Isaac.  His lungs cannot function on their own and he has not been eating.  Our hearts are heavy for Panna and Pisey and in this storm all we can do is continue to trust and pray, knowing that God is there and praying that they know God’s arms around them like never before.  

On a brighter note Bill and Maureen Crawford arrived last Friday and we have enjoyed our first week with them. That week has included Bill starting a series on Abraham last Sunday, a few days down at Kep and then Happy Kids club with Sarak and the team. Both Bill and Maureen have been working along with our staff helping to sow into their lives. Sunday was a special time for Bill and Maureen as the church celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with them; the dance team performed and Nita presented them with a cake.  Please pray as the next week unfolds that they will be blessed as much as we are blessed having them here!

Enjoying the ferry

Enjoying the ferry

Happy Kids Club

Happy Kids Club

Every celebration in Cambodia involves cake

Every celebration in Cambodia involves cake

Bill preaching

Bill preaching

Finally this week we want to make you aware of our dear friend Linda Murray from Barry in Wales. Linda is running the Cardiff half marathon on 5th October to raise funds to directly support “Be Free Cambodia”. We need £45,000 to run the program next year and so far Linda has raised £7000. We know that many of you read our blogs but have never been able to be directly involved, so if you can help whether you personally give or a business you are involved in can donate please do. No amount is too small and no amount is too big, we will take any currency as well. If you can help please either email Linda at lindamurray246@gmail.com and pledge, Linda will then tell you how to get the money to her or donate directly through Elim International Missions to the Be Free Campaign Cambodia. Thank you so much, we are seeing lives changed dramatically through Esther and the team. If you want to find out more about Be Free Cambodia check it out on the Elim Missions website.

Thoughts from Team Guernsey

Phnom Penh has such a beautiful skyline. Especially at sunrise when the buildings are just black silhouettes backed by oranges and reds, or at night when the sky is lit up by lightning strikes, even in the day with the sound of motos and tuk tuks beeping horns in the manic city traffic. This city reflects its people. They are some of the most beautiful hearted people I have ever met. Straight away it was obvious from the moment we walked through the Elim centre where they were friendly and so grateful for all that was given towards the early learning centre. The Wednesday night prayer meeting showed the community and love for one another and they all enjoyed a good laugh guessing the ages of our team members who were interviewed. Thursday we went to the Happy Kids Club which is in a village about one hour and a small canoe-log ferry boat away. As soon as we arrived the children screamed a welcome. I think we fell in love with the place in that moment. We loved dancing and singing with them, playing games, creating crafts, and sharing stories which they were involved in through voices and actions. But the moment that touched my heart the most and that I will forever remember was seeing them worship. Eyes closed, doing actions throughout they sang both in Khmer and English ‘God is good to me Hallelujah’ with such passion. Here there were children who don’t have much at all by our western world standards, some with clothes that were ripped and dirty, small bare houses. Yet this was not something to pity at all in fact it was a challenge. Sometimes we struggle to worship God just because we don’t feel like it or life feels too hard yet through it all we should be able to sing ‘God is good to me’ and mean it! Challenge accepted. I was also blown away by the Sunday Morning worship. Their hearts obvious though everything in how they praised and worshipped! We could see how they had been so blessed by the worship teaching the week before. It struck me when we were worshipping to ‘let it reign’ how you would think that with them singing in Khmer and us singing in English it would clash somehow but there was such unity in the sound! Which really rounds up our week. We didn’t feel like we had come and were somehow separate; we felt that we became a community alongside them. We will be taking the people, the country and the impact left with us back to our churches and our lives – Lydia.

sunset over Phnom Penh

sunset over Phnom Penh

Heart touching moment

Heart touching moment

 Come and see for yourself

Amazing team, people and community spirit

Mad traffic and crazy roads

‘Be Free’ giving hope to young girls,

Orphans, widows and the vulnerable

Davey and Esther – a remarkable couple

In the care and strength of Jesus

A love which will not fade – Steve.

On the ferry

On the ferry

Happy Kids Club

Happy Kids Club

 Visiting Cambodia for the first time was a humbling, inspirational and am emotional experience. The common love and warmth of the Khmer and team Guernsey gave us an instant bond. Learning from each other, sharing and worshiping in our own language acknowledging that God in one voice was awesome. 

From our initial greeting of the children singing to us on arrival, to meeting the women in Be Free, praying in unison at the prayer meeting, spending time with the CFC children and Youth. Every experience had an impact and a story that I will be sharing with others. It was lovely to see the play area completed and the pleasure of how much it meant to all the people at the centre. So little from us can go so far and mean the world to others. It gives them experiences and opportunities they could only dream of and ask for in prayer.

I felt a week was really not long enough given the opportunity to go again I would certainly jump at the chance. I would like to thank the team for being so amazing and to David and Esther for your support and encouragement whilst I was with you in Cambodia – Debbie.

the blank canvas

the blank canvas

Team get to work

Team get to work

 From the moment we stepped off the plane to no luggage, we cried, laughed, sweated, left our comfort zones, and had our eyes opened to a whole new culture. Although Cambodia’s past is one of pain and brokenness from the rule of Pol Pot in the 70s, the Khmer people are amongst the most gracious people I have ever met. Walking through Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields left us dazed and yet we left with a deeper compassion and understanding for the older generation who have lived through the horrors, and for the younger generations who will hear the unbearable stories from their parents and grandparents. From learning about that horror of the past, to learning more about the present horrors of trafficking and exploitation, our hearts broke for the people who have gone through and are going through unspeakable tragedy. In light of this, every day was a constant reminder that although there is darkness and evil in this world, there is also light, truth and hope which ultimately overcomes. Whilst spending time in She Rescue, we watched two videos. One showed us the reality of trafficking in Phnom Penh, and the tears flowed as we saw innocent children being sold. The second video showed us the work that She Rescue do in restoring the lives of those rescued, and the tears flowed even more to see that there is hope in the darkest of situations. Seeing children having their right to a childhood being restored was incredibly precious, and the quote that they have on their wall saying ‘to succumb to the enormity of the problem is to fail the one’ is both profoundly thought provoking and true. The work that David and Esther do in Cambodia has shown us firsthand how love conquers and makes a difference in the communities and ministries that they work in, from the children’s ministry to Be Free and beyond. I’ve learnt that love hurts; it isn’t a mushy feeling but that it’s deeper, sacrificial and moves us to move mountains for the people God puts in our lives and in our communities. They are an amazing couple and I know our entire team have been so entirely blessed by their love and hospitality over the past week, and I for one cannot wait to go back – Emily.

Having fun with the youth

Having fun with the youth

 Rainbows, butterflies and compromise

The title for my blog entry is a line from the appropriately titled ‘She will be loved’ by Maroon Five. It really sums up our trip.

Rainbows: After deciding on a Noah’s ark theme for our day at the Happy Kids Club and as a theme for our mural, we did not stop seeing references to the story. We saw it as God’s way of confirming what we were doing was right.

  • On our first day we saw a rainbow from the roof of our hotel.
  • Our bathroom kept flooding.
  • There were some amazing thunder and lightning storms and heavy downpours.
  • We saw a rainbow coloured mirage whilst we walked along the river.
  • At Bloom cake shop there was a Noah’s ark cake!
  • Upon arrival in the UK we saw a rainbow as we landed. 

Butterflies: Our trip to the genocide museum and the killing fields was harrowing to say the least but amongst the horror of the past was a peaceful atmosphere that surrounded the killing fields. Grass has grown where there once were muddy, stinking pits filled with bodies of men, women and children; birds and beautiful butterflies now fly there, where they would have never flown back then with the loud political music being played to cover up the screams of the victims of this tragedy. 

Compromise: We almost had to do a lot of compromising when our suitcases did not follow us on the plane from Bangkok but luckily, we got them back very soon. This made us realise how much we rely on our material possessions in the Western world. Our other moment of compromise was having to use squatty potties in the village; an ‘interesting’ experience that is an every day feature of these people’s lives. It really made us appreciate running water. The everyday life of the people in the villages is full of compromise to enable them to put food on the table.

She will be loved: Spending time in ‘Be Free’ with the amazingly talented, beautiful and intelligent girls who have been the victims of trafficking was an amazing experience. It was lovely to see them so happy after having gone through so much. Our trip to the ‘SHE rescue home’ really opened our eyes to the trafficking problem, seeing how young some of the girls are and how the Cambodian culture sees it as ‘acceptable’ to sell your daughter’s virginity if it will pay off a debt. The home’s motto is ‘To succumb to the enormity of the problem is to fail the one’; even though trafficking is such a massive problem, we can make a difference to these girls’ lives one by one.

To round up, this was an amazing trip that has really opened my eyes to the problems in Cambodia. It has also made me appreciate my very comfortable life so much more. It was a brilliant chance to meet amazing people and to discover more about the beautiful country. It also showed me that a small amount of money can really go a long way and that it is not only those people you help directly that benefit; but their families and friends too – Jo.

Children loving their colourful playground

Children loving their colourful playground

Nita giving heartfelt thanks to God and the team for blessing the children in ELC

Nita giving heartfelt thanks to God and the team for blessing the children in ELC

 Cambodia has truly captured our hearts. From the moment we stepped off the plane we were welcomed with such love from our amazing friends David and Esther, and from there on we continued to be shown fantastic hospitality by the Khmer church. It’s hard to put into words all that we experienced but hopefully from reading the team’s thoughts you are able to get a glimpse of what it was like. It was such a privilege to have the opportunity to go to Cambodia and to get involved with the work David and Esther are doing. We want to thank them both for their kindness and patience (David we are so sorry you had to take six women shopping around the market!!!!) we will never be able to get Cambodia out of our hearts – Nicole.

official opening

Amazing representatives of Guernsey

Amazing representatives of Guernsey

Farewell Team Hanna, Hello Team Guernsey!

Since we stepped of the plane to our home in Phnom Penh we literally haven’t stopped, life is exciting full of God inspired appointments! After 11 weeks away we came back to a team that had worked so hard, kept things running and tackled some big issues, so I think it’s fair to say they were as happy to see us as we were them. 

We have just had 2 amazing weeks with our good friends John and Suzanne Hanna. The lives that were impacted and touched are too many to count. The worship team last Sunday along with Suzanne led the church to another level and we even had our own Big Sing where everyone young or old that could sing sang like a choir, it was special. 

Suzanne with the worship team

Suzanne with the worship team

The Big Sing

The Big Sing

 John and Suzanne were just lovely to be about; they ooze God and we really loved our late night chats and times together praying and worshiping God. Our church, our community, our village ministry and ourselves are stronger and more focused than ever after experiencing ‘Team Hanna’. We want to thank both of them for sewing into Phnom Penh Elim selflessly, humbly and with such beautiful hearts.

 Since we came back to Phnom Penh we have had many problems with our wee Meg, thankfully as I write this she is starting to be stronger. Meg returned from her stay in kennels with tick fever and kennel cough, thankfully an amazing vet called Pauline from Agrovet and a lot of prayer saved Meg’s wee life and we are so grateful. We now have our lively wee bundle of joy back. Praise God!

On Monday at 2:30 pm we hugged and said our goodbyes to John and Suzanne leaving them at the departure gate and immediately walked the short distance to the arrival area to greet the Guernsey team. Although they faced delays and arrived without their luggage they were smiling and happy to finally be in Cambodia. They are here for nine days and have a full itinerary. So far they have painted a colourful mural over the two walls of the Early Learning Centre playground which they also raised the funds to put in place. The official opening of the playground is scheduled for Monday afternoon when the parents will come along and the team will cut the ribbon! A shelter is being built at the rear of the building to enable the children to eat outside all year round – it will protect the boys and girls from the sun and the rain.  We thank the Guernsey team for providing the funds to make this happen.  The team took part in the prayer meeting, visited Happy Kids Club and took the full program there as well as helping with the English classes. They visited She Rescue and volunteered in their visitors centre and on Friday afternoon the girls worked alongside the staff and trainees in Be Free when 7 girls from Care for Cambodia came for a scrapbook workshop. The guys joined David for a football match with a group of boys from the same organisation. 

Team Guernsey arrive

Team Guernsey arrive

Colourful mural for playground

Colourful mural for playground

Creativity flowing in Be Free

Creativity flowing in Be Free

Boys and girls with their animal masks

Boys and girls with their animal masks

Shelter being built

Shelter being built

The team has been absolutely amazing and has displayed great team spirit in everything they have done and are a credit to team leader Nicole and the people of Guernsey. We have asked the team to share a few of their thoughts from their mission trip in next week’s blog and we know your heart will be touched as much as ours and the people of Cambodia. We want to say a massive thank you to all those who enabled the team to be here and supported them through their fundraising events and prayer. On behalf of the people of Cambodia we are eternally grateful. Please remember them in your prayers that they will have health and strength for the remainder of their time here and for safe travel as they head for home on Tuesday.

 In closing we want to mention our niece Claire who celebrated her 18th birthday on Wednesday of this week, we love you and are excited for what this year has in store for you and happy 16th birthday to our nephew Connor for Monday and hope you have an amazing time celebrating your big day!!

 

 

Guest Blogger John shares some thoughts….

1 John 3 v 16 – 18

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 

The above verse was my reading for today and it seemed most appropriate in capturing the overwhelming impression of our short 2 week stay in Cambodia. 

Since our arrival on the 29th July we have had the daily privilege of witnessing the hard work, resilience, dedication and love that our friends David and Esther pour out daily in this “Kingdom of Wonder!” David and Esther’s whole approach to missions here and more specifically in their interactions with the local Khmer people in their own tongue have been impressive. Whether they are meeting with members of their Church family, or encountering strangers on the street, David and Esther show Christ’s love to them in a way that we have found an inspiring example of Kingdom building. We would like to thank them publicly on this blog, as we have already privately, for sharing their home, their friends and their lives with us; it has been such a blessing. 

We have shared many profound moments so far … some “wonderful” while others “heartbreaking”. 

Our weekly pilgrimage to the ‘Happy Kids Club’ has been wonderful! We drove to the small village ‘Takeo’, several miles east of the city amidst a landscape of rice paddies, overgrown temples and mango swamps. The journey included us ferrying our jeep across the wide Mekong River on a rickety wooden boat and much laughter was heard as we thankfully got to the other side! 

Enjoying the ferry journey

Enjoying the ferry journey

The journey however was made all the more worthwhile as we experienced the infectious enthusiasm of the 90 plus village children. Our party was greeted with unbridled joy as the children sang out songs to Jesus. How they whooped, cheered and laughed at the antics of our drama depictions of Parable stories! I will have the children’s smiling faces and laughter imprinted on my memory forever. 

Suzanne in her element with the children

Suzanne in her element with the children

Happy at Happy Kids Club

Happy at Happy Kids Club

Happy Kids Club

Happy Kids Club

Enjoying a floodlit football match with some of the local men from the church and area was a standout moment for me. The fact that our team won 16 – 7 may have had something to do with it. (Did I mention I scored 5 goals?…. ) 

Witnessing my wife Suzanne teaching the worship team and choir of Phnom Penh Elim and help them write and sing new songs has been a great thrill. Standing with her as the church sang ‘Lay it all down’ in Khmer was a special moment for us both, and as we sang in English and the team sang in Khmer, we recognised afresh that God’s truth has a wonderful way of uniting God’s big family! Suzanne has worked tirelessly with the worship community and I am delighted to report that both she and the good folk of the church have grown in confidence and skill with each passing session. The great news is that there clearly exists a large number of committed spirit filled believers in the church here who are moving and growing in their gifts. 

Teaching dance to Youth group

Teaching dance to Youth group

Taking devotion in Be Free

Taking devotion in Be Free

with the worship team

with the worship team

One heartbreaking moment however was a late night Tuk Tuk journey through the boiling, dust caked streets of Phnom Penh. Under the sweeping glare of our flash lights we saw haunting scenes of the drama of human life played out. As we zipped past Karaoke brothels, child prostitutes seated on neon lit chairs waved at us with plastic smiles, as if waving goodbye to their childhood … tears fell as we prayed! 

While I have been shocked by some of the things I have heard about life here in Cambodia, I have become increasingly aware that the poverty, human suffering and exploitation is so prevalent that if exposed to over a long enough time one could become dangerously desensitised to the great needs on every corner. I believe there exists a moral danger for believers to view societal norms and practices wherever they live in the world, as just moral shades of grey – with no clear definition of what is right or wrong anymore. In reality however, regardless of the culture or environment we reside in, the Spirit of God, residing in us, instructs us through the Word and our conscience of the way of righteousness and the consequences of unholiness. I am reminded that we as Christians cannot leave room in our lives for ambiguity or ‘shades of grey’. 

Proverbs 31v 8 – 9 “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy!” 

Phnom Penh Elim is a shining light in this broken city! The fellowship is brimming with life, and potential, and the kindness, compassion and care they show to each other is helping to win this city for Christ! The continuing work here requires our prayer, and support in whatever capacity we can serve. As the church grows here we pray that God will add a mighty increase to their efforts for his glory.

Back where we belong

Greetings from Cambodia! As I write this week’s blog we have been back in the Kingdom of Wonder for four days and as I was out and about in the tuk tuk today I told Sokim it feels like I’ve never been away. As David mentioned last week farewells never get easier but we are thankful to God for giving us peace in our hearts as we said good bye to our loved ones. Our farewell service at Bangor Elim on Sunday evening will be one we will never forget for many reasons and all I will say is I told the girls in Be Free that they need to start giving me Khmer dance lessons!

Moments to treasure

Moments to treasure

We left Northern Ireland on Monday morning along with John and Suzanne Hanna, thankful from the outset as our luggage was all within the weight allowance. We were so grateful to have friends accompanying us home and it was exciting as David led Team Hanna and myself through the whole journey and transferring of flights. After four flights with much prayer as flights were delayed and travelling for just over 24 hours the time was actually here for the four of us to be arriving in Cambodia together. We came through the arrival gate and were literally pounced upon by Nita, Sokim and Dany whilst Chamnap, Sarak and Phannak played it more cool. We were all so happy to see them and they were surprised when John and Suzanne greeted them in Khmer. As we made our way to the car park Dren also arrived in the tuk tuk and helped organise all the luggage. We love watching visitors to Cambodia for the first time take in the traffic and innovative ways of transporting anything and everything and with John and Suzanne it would be the first of many new experiences from their time with us.

First photo in Cambodia

First photo in Cambodia

We drove straight to the centre and because of the flight arriving later than planned and then being caught with rush hour traffic some of the staff had already left for home. We were delighted to be reunited with those who were there and introduce John and Suzanne to them. It was then time to go home and we are honored to have our friends stay in our home. All four of us were experiencing surreal moments – David and I over the moon to have John and Suzanne with us, and John and Suzanne exclaiming ‘we are actually in Cambodia’!

There have been so many highlights already in our first few days back:

 reunion with the girls in Be Free and showing them all the resources purchased in the UK

 having the pre-school children welcome us home with banners, singing, hugs and smiles

 Visiting Happy Kids Club along with John & Suzanne and witnessing almost 100 boys and girls with the biggest smiles and beautiful faces praising Jesus with all of their hearts!

Melts our hearts

Melts our hearts

 travelling on the manmade ferry over to Happy Kids Club along with John and Suzanne, another surreal moment for them both

Boarding the ferry

Boarding the ferry

 All the staff praying for Sreyphoas on Wednesday, she had already left on maternity leave but called in to see us. We had joked with Nita via Skype to ask Sreyphoas to wait until we came back before she gave birth. Last night we received the wonderful news that her twin boys arrived safely and well weighing in at 5 lbs. 15 oz. and 5 lbs. 4 oozes. Mum and babies are well.

Sreyphoas with her daughter Davina

Sreyphoas with her daughter Davina

 Listening to the worship team as they sang ‘Lay it all down’, co-written by John and Suzanne, and very recently translated into Khmer with special thanks to Sarak and Jill. This was such a special moment for all of us but especially touching for John and Suzanne.

Suzanne sharing how Lay it all Down came to be

Suzanne sharing how Lay it all Down came to be

 Having devotions with the Be Free girls yesterday morning and seeing the joy in their faces and how they have grown in their walk with God. The Christmas cards and decorations that they have made are so beautiful and I’m so proud of all of them.

 The pre-school children as they welcomed John and Suzanne yesterday morning by singing to them.

Meeting the pre school children and staff

Meeting the pre school children and staff

 Being reunited with our wee Meg and enjoying giving plenty of cuddles and receiving licks in return.

Happy reunion

Happy reunion

We have thoroughly enjoyed sharing our life as it is now with our friends, and as much as we can blog about what our week is like, and show photographs; it is only when you see with your own eyes that you can know how special Cambodia and its people are. We are back after being away for 11 weeks and as we return to everything that is normal to us it does feel like we have never been away.

We missed sights like this

We missed sights like this

We totally feel like we are back to where we belong and as we have enjoyed the highlights listed above that have made us smile and given us tears of joy, there are also many things that could be listed as lowlights which break our hearts about this beautiful country. We know that as we look through our eyes and see the hurting, the broken, the destitute, the desperate God also sees. God help us and our church to be a light in the darkness in Phnom Penh and as that is our prayer here it is also our prayer for you wherever you are today!

The lyrics to a song by Vicky Beeching sum this up perfectly:

It’s time for us to live the songs we sing
And turn our good intentions into action
To bring the kind of worship You desire
And move beyond our self-absorbed distractions

The mountains are shaking
Could this be a great awakening

Break our hearts
With the things that break Yours
Wake us up to see through Your eyes
Break our hearts
With the things that break Yours
And send us out to shine in the darkness

It’s time to move outside our comfort zone
To see beyond our churches and our homes
To change the way we think and how we spend
Until we look like Jesus again

Here I am send me
To be Your hands and feet
Here I am send me I will go