Archive for November, 2014

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Or maybe it’s not, well at least maybe not for some people. I’m not trying to be all humbug but the reality is Christmas for some people is not all Quality Street, mince pies and mulled wine.

For once you don’t have to travel across the world or to another continent to see it, its right in front of you. Poverty and loneliness are two of the brightest, shining problems that people face. I’m not saying we should all cancel Christmas in any shape or form but I think we should think about what Christmas signifies.

In a discussion earlier with the Elders from our church it was suggested that people should dress up as Santa’s and give parcels out to the poor in our community. I have to say I was a little sad because this is a Buddhist country that knows nothing about Christmas, and although our act of giving is to show Jesus actually the spotlight would go onto Santa instead. It’s amazing how the world can be distracted by a man in a red suit and a beard when the focus needs to be on God’s gift to the world.

Honestly I want you all to enjoy the build up to Christmas, the carol singing, the Christmas continental markets and the cold weather. But I urge you this year to be like Jesus, the true reason for Christmas. Jesus teaches many times to care for the poor, the destitute, to give to those who don’t have, to comfort the widow or those who have lost someone maybe even a child. Others are desperate for children but put a brave face on so that others don’t notice or realise, we know that feeling. Christmas is when you can make a difference to those that are around you.  I promise if you look hard enough you will find them.

Giving is a response to God, it’s an act of obedience but don’t get sucked into the pit of giving to get back. It’s not about how it might help you or how you might be blessed.  Friends it’s not about us, it’s about Jesus the Saviour of the world.

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Mary the mother of Jesus was asked to take on the responsibility of raising the Son of God; most of us would have run a mile. She knew the risks – divorce, rejection from family and her community and even the possibility of being stoned. What did Mary do?  She accepted that God was with her and when God chooses you for something special he will equip you. What’s required from each of us is a giving heart, one that genuinely cares and is willing to give with no catches.

Who is God showing you this Christmas time that needs to see his love?  If you know you need to do something about it. Please let’s all try and show others this year it’s not just about ourselves but actually others count too. May God bless you and keep you safe this Christmas time.

A day we will never forget!

An event happened this week and as it unfolded I said to David, ‘this has to be mentioned in the blog’.

On Tuesday we travelled outside of the city to the province of Kampong Speu to visit the family home of one of our staff members.  Sunny accompanied us along with Sarak and Nita.  The reason for our visit was to meet with Sunny’s parents and discuss her wedding which is taking place next month.  A few months ago we were asked by both Sunny and her Father if we would take on the role of parents during the wedding ceremony.  When first asked we declined but as Sunny’s Father spoke to us, with tears in his eyes, we accepted and said it would be a huge honour to represent Sunny on behalf of her Mother and Father.

 This week as we sat with them, I held her Mum’s hand, with tears in my eyes as they discussed the various ceremonies and order of events.  This family is so precious to us, those who regularly read our blog will remember back to the beginning of the year when Bangor Elim raised funds to renovate the family’s home, building a bathroom, providing solar power, and mattresses etc.  Sunny’s mother suffered from negligent medical care about 10 years ago and has a condition now that her body shakes constantly.  Her family love and cherish her and every time we are there her 14 year old son Mattai and her granddaughters massage her arms, feed her, talk to her and tell funny stories.  They are delightful and simply amazing; and in between going to school are wonderful caregivers.

Because the province is over 2 hours outside of Phnom Penh we along with 20 of our staff are travelling to the village on the Friday night so the next problem we had was finding accommodation for us all.  Sunny’s Father took Sarak and David to explore possibilities close to the family home.  They returned with the good news that the nearby Korean church would be able to accommodate us.  They met with the Pastor and his wife who live in part of the church building and we really appreciate them and their hospitality.  It will be fun with one squatty potty and bucket shower between us all but we will have plenty of laughter and will enjoy the banter and craic (as we would say in Northern Ireland).

While the men were scouring the land for accommodation Sunny and her nieces showed us the family’s rice field and we tasted the seed in the stalk.  No chemicals are used and it tasted delicious.  Their field produces enough rice to feed their entire family for one year and when it comes to harvesting it will be Sunny’s brother and nieces who will carry that out.  Next to the rice field the land has a particular vegetable that is used a lot in cooking and Nita loves it.  She was in her element picking a bundle of it to take home for her Auntie to use.

rice seed

rice seed

Rice field of Sunny's family

Rice field of Sunny’s family

Nita, Hosanna and Sunny picking  vegetable

Nita, Hosanna and Sunny picking vegetable

We accepted Sunny’s invitation to stay for lunch and then there was a bustle of activity with Sarak and two of Sunny’s brothers attempting to ‘catch our lunch’.  When David realised they were going to use one of the family’s chickens to feed us, he begged them not to.  But the family explained that the chicken they were trying to catch was disobedient and didn’t care for its family!  Apologies to anyone reading this that is a vegetarian, if I was I think I would have run a mile at this point.  I will spare you all the gory details especially as I was trying to counsel David and didn’t watch the proceedings.  Sarak was in his element in the kitchen as he then prepared our meal of ‘Coca Cola Chicken’.  I was impressed and understand how families in the provinces live off the land as they gathered various vegetables and herbs and cooked in their kitchen.  Lunch was served and we can definitely say that we have never eaten chicken so fresh in all of our lives.  It was a special time as we sat with all the family, chef Sarak and his assistant Sunny had prepared a delicious meal for us!

Sunny always smiling

Sunny always smiling

Lunch!

Lunch!

As if that wasn’t enough drama for one afternoon at the same time as lunch was cooking, the family’s dog was in labour.  Right in front of our eyes we witnessed the first puppy being born and although it also was quite gory, it was fascinating.  I remember as a child our cat having a litter of kittens in my sisters and I built in wardrobe, which was the place she had chosen.  The dog has chosen a place next to the kitchen and had dug a little hollowed out space in the sand.  Mummy Dog licked the puppy clean and before we left it was having its first meal.  I must ask Sunny tomorrow how many puppies completed the litter.  So in the space of an hour we witnessed death and life in the animal world!!

Mother and baby

Mother and baby

Other news this week is another church family has moved into the Phnom Penh Elim community, I told Srey Mao who works in the Early Learning Centre that we need to buy a red WELCOME mat for their front door!  Srey Mao and her husband are also attending our marriage course and we are delighted that they are settling well into their new home and enjoying fellowship with other staff members outside of the work environment.  David called round to the community on Thursday evening as everyone was having dinner.  Mats were laid out and a banquet was laid before them, and they were all having a great time eating and chatting to one another.  The Khmer excel in doing community and this group of people is reaching out to their neighbours.  Two weeks ago three girls who live in ‘Phnom Penh Elim Street’ came to church and sat between Chantha (Dren’s wife) and Sokhom.  Pray for this community and for the landlord as our church family shine the love of Jesus in their day to day life.

Finally in closing I want to express our deepest thanks to Ruth McKee and the missions team of Bangor Elim for organising another successful Craft Fayre.  Thank you to everyone who attended, supporting the various craft stalls and in doing so raised funds for the ongoing work of Elim Missions in Cambodia.  I showed the girls in Be Free photographs friends had posted of Christmas cards and decorations they purchased from the Be Free stand and they smiled from ear to ear.  So thank you everyone who had a part in this wonderful fundraising event, we are most grateful.

I also want to thank my mother-in-law Sandra for taking a selection of Christmas decorations to the ladies meeting at Thriving Life church this week.  Again the girls were so happy when I showed them the photograph below.  You may never get to visit Cambodia and meet the precious young ladies in Be Free, you may never see their face but know that you are making a difference in their life and their family’s life.  You aren’t just buying a Christmas card or decoration, you are playing a part in their integration back into society where they know they are loved and valued! Pray for the staff in Be Free, we need wisdom for the situations that arise and pray for the trainees.  As you send or receive a Christmas card made in Be Free or you hang one of their decorations on your Christmas tree please pray for the precious hands that made it.

Thank you Thriving Life

Thank you Thriving Life

We appreciate you!

Well it’s 40 days to Christmas.  That used to freak me out; not because I worried about buying presents but because it meant I had reached the crazy time in work making thousands of desserts! I am thankful that in Cambodia we haven’t seen people buying each other lots of presents and the Christian community actually does celebrate Christmas for what it is.  The birth of our Lord and Saviour. Yesterday Esther got so excited about Christmas because we bought some new crockery, definitely one of those Mars and Venus moments!

Our marriage course that started three weeks ago is going well but I ask you to keep praying for all involved.  We have three couples getting married very soon, which means we have three weddings to attend over the next two months. So please pray for the couples.  Also we have three or four staff who are really struggling in their relationships with their husbands. In this country men don’t take responsibility for anything unless they have changed by finding Jesus. Men like Chamnap, Dren, Sarak, Rith and Dana are a good example of a husband and those who are also Fathers are a good role model so we are working together to try and bring about  change. Unfortunately with some that transformation will have to be Miraculous so we need your prayers to see change in hearts and minds!

We are constantly blown away by the people who support us and the work here in Cambodia. I’m not going to name people because I always leave someone out but you know yourselves who you are. Everyone who does things for us; raises money whether in coffee mornings, sponsored events like the Enable challenge or running half or full marathons; we honour you all and respect all that you do. Without you we wouldn’t have the resources we need to do God’s work.  We are so thankful God chose you to be part of Team Cambodia!

We want to say a special thank you to Brookeborough Elim for their support of Be Free Cambodia at their Winter Fair last Saturday.  Thank you Sara Allen and the team, I showed the girls the photographs you sent and they were really happy.

Be Free stall at Brookeborough Elim

Be Free stall at Brookeborough Elim

Today is a big day in Bangor Elim as Ruth McKee and her wonderful team will be and have been working tirelessly to prepare for their annual Craft Fayre. At the craft fayre this year you can purchase things made by the girls Esther is sewing into and helping transform in Be Free Cambodia. These like all the other goods are of the best quality and we would encourage you to go along, all money raised today will either help support Esther and myself or the running of Be Free. The details of the craft fair are as follows: Bangor Elim Complex, 13 Balloo Crescent, Bangor from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm.

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Good job Missions Team

Good job Missions Team

Christmas cards and greeting cards

Christmas cards and greeting cards

Felt Christmas trees

Felt Christmas trees

Two newest trainees making Christmas trees

Two newest trainees making Christmas trees

Finally it seems fitting to say a massive thank you to Audrey Williamson as she has recently stood down from the Bangor missions team. Audrey was one of the most dedicated members and Ruth told us recently nobody including herself realised how much work Audrey did.  We want to thank her so much personally as a friend and secondly as fellow workers for the kingdom. We pray that in the days that lie ahead that she will know all the hard work she did impacted many people and for that we are eternally grateful.

Thankful hearts

Church on Sunday was special as our friend and Missions secretary Ruth McKee gave a short presentation on how our sending church Bangor Elim support the work of Elim missions in Cambodia.  Ruth talked about the mission’s team and how hard they work all year organising various fundraising events.  She showed photographs taken during some of these events:

  • a night at W2G – where the ladies of the church heard about some special women in Cambodia and took prayer cards to remember them by.
  • Christmas craft fayre – with a wide range of individuals and businesses selling various crafts and the mission’s team having their own stall too.
  • Bike and motorbike show – the biggest event held each year with a huge display of cars and motorbikes, stunt shows, burger stall and lots more.

Ruth showed photographs of some of the families who sponsor children in the Early Learning Centre.  At the end of her presentation a video was shown to the church of the Bike and Motorbike show held this year.  The church family watched with mouths wide open at the stunt shows and we had to say to several of the young men not to try any of them out on their motos!  Afterwards Sarak did ask Phil if he could make a big ramp before he left the next day!

Ruth sharing about Bangor Elim fundraising for Cambodia

Ruth sharing about Bangor Elim fundraising for Cambodia

David spoke for both us when he talked to our church family in Phnom Penh about how much we love and appreciate our sending church family of Bangor Elim.  We value each and every one from the youngest to the oldest – each one plays a part in enabling us to be in Cambodia and serving God amongst the amazing Khmer people we are blessed to have in our daily lives.  We are honoured and humbled to be God’s ambassadors sent out by Bangor Elim and as I listened to Ruth share and as I watched the video I shed a few tears.  I was incredibly proud (in a good way) of our Bangor Elim family and I thanked God for all the love and support they constantly demonstrate.

Next Saturday 15th November the mission’s team is holding their annual Christmas craft fayre.  Pop along to Bangor Elim anytime between 10:30 am and 4 pm for an opportunity to buy gifts for your friends and family for Christmas. The coffee shop will also be open serving refreshments and yummy food all day.   Ruth and Phil and their daughters Emma and Heather left Cambodia on Monday and most of their luggage was cards and handicrafts from Be Free.  The girls in Be Free were so happy to help package up what they had made and are excited that this Christmas the cards they made will be displayed on mantle pieces and the decorations on Christmas trees all over the UK.  Please support our Missions team and in doing so you are making a difference to so many here in Cambodia.

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Also if you are in the vicinity of Brookeborough Elim church (300 Nutfield Road, BT94 4HL) today they are having a Winter Craft Fair from 10 am – 2 pm.  We were delighted to send an order of Be Free cards and crafts to Sara and hope they have a very successful day raising funds to support Elim Missionaries.

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The girls in Be Free are looking forward to seeing photographs of craft stalls set up with their handicrafts on display and we would also love to see your photographs if your Christmas tree has a Be Free decoration on it.  They are always so encouraged and happy and have the biggest smiles on their beautiful faces!

In closing we would ask you to pray for our church family and staff members who will travel back to the city this weekend after spending the recent Water Festival holiday with loved ones in their provinces.

Special times

Today is a special day in our house because it is my beautiful Esther’s birthday; she really is so special in a million different ways. Yesterday she was given cake and gifts from both the Be Free girls and the ELC staff. To be honest all the presents she received were beautiful, a lot of time and thought went into getting the right gift and that in itself shows what Esther means to everyone. Leading up to her birthday Esther received a beautiful letter from a very special young lady called Jasmine Doherty. It made her cry by the many nice things that the letter said and I know that it made Esther feel very special. Jasmine you are adorable and as much as Esther has maybe inspired you, you also are an inspiration and you are welcome to come to Cambodia anytime you are ready!

Blessings from Be Free

Blessings from Be Free

Sophea presenting cake from ELC staff

Sophea presenting cake from ELC staff

Over the past two weeks we have been overjoyed to have some of our closest friends and most loyal supporters here to share our lives. There have been laughs, smiles, tears and many other emotions but that’s what happens when you meet these Cambodian people, they are contagious. We have had a wonderful time and are very thankful to Phil for doing many jobs around the centre, while Ruth with Julie and now Heather and Emma have been a blessing in Be Free and the ELC. Thank you Ruth, Phil, Julie, Emma, Heather and the rest of Bangor Elim for continually supporting us to be here. We know how hard the mission’s team works and we really do as a couple and as a church community appreciate everything you do!

Recently we have launched two new ministries within our Elim community. The first of these is a one hour slot on a Friday at lunchtime for all the staff (30) to come together for a time of fellowship.  All the staff members sing, listen to a short word and then pray for each other and their communities. We have done this twice now and it really seems to be a great success.  The reason we decided to start this is because some of our staff can’t get to church on a Sunday and we want to help them have the fellowship that we all need as Christians. The other reason is to help everyone really bond as one big group that cares for each other.  Anyone who has met them knows everyone gets on and when we come together we encourage and support them as they strive to go into their own communities to shine the light of Jesus. Phil had the privilege to share on Friday and everybody thoroughly enjoyed what he had to say.

Phil bringing the message at staff fellowship time

Phil bringing the message at staff fellowship time

The second thing we launched in the past week is our Marriage course. We have been excited about this for a long time but were not sure how many would come. In Cambodia many of the problems they have are caused by difficulties in their marriages. Most of these things are because of a lack of knowing how to be a good husband or a good wife, how to communicate, how to solve problems and how to forgive.  On the first night last Sunday evening we had 10 couples with another 2 starting this week with us. We are so excited!  What an opportunity and privilege to be able to help 12 young couples on the journey of marriage. Please pray that this course will be as much a success as we are hoping it will be!

Our church is focusing on being a 24/7 church not just a Sunday morning 9-11am church. It is really exciting watching the church family really start to show Jesus in their communities and impacting people through action as well as word. Last Sunday I spoke to the church about Jesus who must be our example in everything and how Jesus really taught us how to be a light in our communities. Jesus was a student! Jesus was in the temple asking questions and answering questions too, we must really build a personal relationship with God! Jesus was a Servant!  By coming into this world, obeying God and completing his mission to the cross Jesus showed a servant heart. We must be willing to serve, do the unthinkable for those around us! Jesus was strategic!  Lazarus was in the tomb 4 days; Jesus used this to impact people’s hearts and seen lives changed. As we move out into our communities sometimes we need to be strategic, we need to have a plan! Finally Jesus was and is the Saviour! It was and is Jesus who deserves all glory, all praise, not you and me.  When we do things to impact it is Jesus who deserves the praise not you!  God’s challenge to the church in Phnom Penh and to you the wider church is that we get to know Him more, so that we can serve the poor and needy. Maybe strategically but remembering that it is Jesus who is the Saviour not you!

Finally Esther is not the only one celebrating this weekend.  Her brother Jonathan and Sister Rhoda both have birthdays so we hope and pray that you enjoy your special days and the year ahead will be full of blessings. Also we would like to congratulate my brother Phil and his wife Cara as they celebrate 20 years of marriage on Monday.  Again we pray much love, health and happiness into the next 20 years; we miss and love you all.