Archive for March, 2015

Celebratory Cake!

Anyone who regularly reads our blog will be aware that celebrations in Cambodia are always accompanied by cake. Last week we shared the wonderful news that Sokim and Nita were granted visas to visit the UK and on Sunday they were given the opportunity to share in church what they would be doing during their time there.  Jill who has been their English teacher over the past few months introduced them in Khmer encouraging us all to smile and be supportive as it was very nervous being on the platform, especially if you are not speaking in your mother tongue.  Both Sokim and Nita were brilliant, their English has improved so much and they spoke clearly and confidently; first of all thanking God for blessing them with this opportunity.  They talked about what they were looking forward to and also asked the church to pray for them during the long journey and whilst they are away from their children.

During the week another church member received the news that she too was successful in her visa application to join her husband Janny who moved to Australia in January with a scholarship to study for two years.  Sokun and her two daughters left Cambodia on Thursday and we are delighted that their family is now reunited and although we will miss them; are excited for the journey they are on.  Sokim, Nita and Sokun were each presented with a celebratory cake on Sunday which the church family enjoyed!

Celebratory Cake

                   Celebratory Cake

On Wednesday the girls in Be Free were thrilled to spend the day with our special little visitor Lori and his Mum Dany who is still on maternity leave.  Lori is now 7 weeks old and enjoyed all the attention from his aunties in Be Free.  Dany is a wonderful mother and it was a delight to watch her care for little Lori who was as good as gold all day.  Sokim, Dany, Channak and I spent some time chatting about when we would be in the UK and we are grateful for the support Dany will be in our absence.  Dany also got to meet our newest trainee ‘S’ who has been with us for almost one month.  She is a wonderful young woman who has endured a hard life but is resilient, strong and thankful for the opportunity to be loved, cherished and is a wonderful addition to Be Free Cambodia.  We can’t go into a lot of details with regards the trainees but we would ask you to uphold them all in your prayers.  The Khmer New Year holiday is approaching when three of them are planning to visit their families in the province and a lot of financial pressure is upon them.

During devotions

        During devotions

Morning nap

            Morning nap

New trainee 'S'

        New trainee ‘S’

I am thankful this week for two wonderful friends of ours who have begun volunteering their time in Be Free.  Naomi, who is a member of our church and also one of our English teachers, now comes into Be Free on a Monday to teach English to our trainees.  Colleen, who we have known since day one, is not only a great friend but a wonderful nurse for us and any visitors who have minor ailments.  Colleen visited Be Free on Tuesday morning and we chatted first with Sokim and Channak about what they thought we needed and then all of us sat on the mat on the balcony, and discussed medical queries.  Colleen will visit Be Free every Wednesday morning where she will teach the girls about a particular subject and then ‘Colleen’s Clinic’ will be open should anyone have something they need advice or help with. Colleen will also be there to support Channak in Sokim’s absence and as she speaks wonderful Khmer will be easy to communicate with.  We are so grateful to both Naomi and Colleen who are willing to dedicate their time and make a difference to the girls in Be Free.  Colleen will also be meeting with Nita each week to help with the medical side of things in the Early Learning Centre and this will be a huge help for Nita and all the staff.

At the end of this blog post we would like to wish a very Happy 16th Birthday to Heather McKee for your big day tomorrow and also many happy returns to David’s brother Philip as you celebrate your birthday on Monday.  I’m sure you both will be spoiled and we look forward to seeing you very soon.

Thank you Jesus!

Over the last few months we have been working tirelessly along with the International Missions office to try and get visas for two of our senior staff. Nita as you will all know by now is the Manager of our Early Learning Centre and is completely dedicated to God and Elim. She is married to Chamnap, one of our pastors, and has 2 children Sarah aged 13 and Naomi almost 4. From the moment we came to Cambodia Nita has been a big influence and part of all that has happened over the last four years. Sokim is the Manager of the BeFree Cambodia project that Esther oversees.  Many already know her story but in case you don’t you can see it on Elim’s International Missions website. Sokim is a single mum with one daughter called Chiera who is almost 5 years old.  Every day we look at Sokim and see complete and total restoration in a life that should still be deeply broken. But instead we see the beauty that is brought from being a friend of Jesus!

Last Monday we got a phone call to go to the Visa office as a decision had been made, so nervously we went, hoping and praying that it was part of God’s plan. Both Esther and I had been with Sokhom a few years ago and knew what a British visa looked like. So when Nita handed me the envelope I quickly started frantically flicking from page to page until I found the thing we had been waiting for. The reaction of Esther and Nita was to start shouting thank you Jesus in as many languages as they knew which was actually two, English and Khmer. Then we had to wait to find out about Sokim, my biggest fear was that one would get and the other wouldn’t but praise God, Sokim’s visa was there too! There were tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of excitement and many prayers of thanks. The jubilation in that moment was exhilarating and there are many people who need thanked.

Overjoyed!

Overjoyed!

In the UK we want to thank our IMD Paul Hudson and John Martin for not only wanting this but really supporting it all the way, to the amazing Julie Cook for all the work in chasing everything and everyone who needed to help. To the pastors of the churches we are visiting and the staff and lecturers of Regents theological college we thank you for your letters of invitation. In Cambodia we must deeply thank our very good friend Jill Hamill who translated many documents, without her help we would have had many more headaches. Her company Clear Translations is brilliant; I could not recommend them enough and if you are in Cambodia or even out of country but need translation work done please contact her at admin@cleartranslations.info.  Jill has also been preparing both girls for speaking English in a public arena; the improvement over the last months has been amazing. Finally we want to publicly thank God for the blessing of the trip to the UK, obviously Esther and I can’t wait to see family and our friends but to be able to bring a big part of our lives back with us to meet you all is incredible.

Just to let you know we have some definite dates that you can put in your diaries and if you are free please come along to those meetings and make yourself known to us. We will be speaking in Selly Oak Elim church, Birmingham on Sunday 19th April; we will be taking the mid-week meeting at Coventry Elim on Thursday 23rd April. In Northern Ireland on Sunday 26th April we will be involved a little bit in the morning service in Bangor and taking the whole service in the evening with a supper to follow. Then back in England we are taking part in the morning service in Stafford Elim on the 3rd May.  We are in the UK for 3 weeks and only in Northern Ireland for 1 week so unfortunately we won’t get to see many people, but we will have time to chat on the Sunday night at Bangor so please come along it would make it so special to see as many friends as possible.

Please pray as we prepare for this exciting trip, we need to buy some warm clothes for the girls so they don’t freeze to death, remember neither will have experienced temperatures much under 20 degrees. We also need favour with travelling and we are trying to source a car for the weeks we are in England, starting and finishing at Heathrow. Also neither girl has travelled any distance before, they both have children and as we count down the days they will have mixed emotions so pray that they have a peace in all things. We hope and pray we get to see as many of you as possible!

She is more precious than jewels

Anyone who regularly reads our blog will be aware of the many national holidays celebrated in Cambodia.  Every year on the 8th March is International Women’s Day, as it fell on a Sunday the government declared Monday as a day off instead.  We are incredibly blessed with the women God has placed around us either on staff working in the Early Learning Centre and Be Free, or in our church, or teachers in our English school or those who regularly volunteer in our village ministry.  In today’s post we want to honour the women of all ages and nationalities who serve God in whatever capacity that may be.

Firstly we want to thank our amazing staff who do a wonderful job of caring for the babies and children in our Early Learning Centre.  Anyone who works with children knows how tiring it can be, and as we are now enduring hot season, our energy levels drain but still the staff give 100% in how they love and tend to the little ones in their care.  Nita who interacts with the parents, organisations we partner with, team leaders and all the staff does an amazing job, and she is worth her weight in gold.

ELC staff

ELC staff

In Be Free we are thankful for the staff and the roles they play.  For Sokim, who manages the program and teaches the card making side of things, for Channak who instructs the trainees in all craft related projects and Dany, our counselor, Khmer teacher and Bible study leader.  All of them work well as a team, meeting regularly for support and encouragement, and discussing areas where they may be struggling in and want to develop and grow.  We all adore the trainees who are currently in our training program but it is not easy dealing with situations that crop up and problems that arise.  Because of the nature of the work we are involved in we can’t always give a lot of information but we would ask you to remember the staff of Be Free in your prayers as they work tirelessly to help the girls who come through the program put the past behind them and work towards living a better future.  Dany, is on maternity leave and we really do miss her being around, we have telephoned a few times seeking her advice and for that we are grateful.  Last week Sokim, Channak and I visited her to give baby Lori a gift that had arrived in the post.  We were delighted to meet her Mum as well and enjoyed spending time together.  Today is Dany’s birthday and we wish you every happiness today and for the year ahead.  God bless you and your wee family.

Happy Birthday Dany

Happy Birthday Dany

In our church we are blessed with the amazing ladies who volunteer in so many ways – Sunday school, prayer ministry, worship and musicians, translating, communion, praying for offering and technical team.  When we have special events it’s the women who help with welcoming people at the gate, ushering visitors to their seats, preparing the food and serving it.  We value and appreciate each of your servant hearts and know that you do what you do because of your love for Jesus.

We appreciate the female teachers in our English school who volunteer especially after working a full day and our staff who take turns helping out at Happy Kids Club both in the province and now in the centre on a Thursday night.  These activities take energy and commitment and we really do value the women as they put others before themselves.

We began this week with a holiday for women in Cambodia and our week ends with a celebration for women in the UK.  Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and David and I will be thinking about our wonderful Mums and how blessed we are.  We love you and thank God for you.  Our thoughts also are with those who will find Mother’s Day a difficult day to get through; it is our prayer that you will know God’s comfort, love and peace like never before.

A woman's worth

A woman’s worth

In closing we have been asked to promote an event which is being held as a joint fundraiser for Bangor Elim Family Foundation and the work here in Cambodia.  The wonderful Belfast Community Gospel Choir are planning a night of fun, laughter and inspired singing on Saturday 9th May at 7.45pm in Bangor Elim.  Tickets priced £10 are available online at http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/bangorelimcomplex, our missions team will be helping out on the night and we would really value your support plus you will have a great night out!

All the event details

All the event details

Selfies, Visas, Kiwis and Prayers!

Last July we had the absolute pleasure and privilege to sit under the ministry of Malcolm Duncan at Wondrous, Elim Ireland’s Bible week. We had heard about Malcolm from close friends who had attended the year before but we could never have imagined the anointing that he has, he is literally one of those people you could listen to all night long!

So when we found out that he was here in Phnom Penh and wanted to meet up with us you can guess that we would move heaven and earth to make time. We were so excited as we headed to his hotel, he is truly an amazing person and we were getting a meeting all on our own with him. Well I am so happy to say he blew us away with his humility, his love for Jesus and his absolute passion for missions. What an honour to have this meeting yet he kept saying the same to us. If you have never heard him preach, go online and listen. Before we left Esther asked for a group selfie and Malcolm in true Northern Irish fashion happily obliged.

Selfies with Malcolm

Selfies with Malcolm

As we have progressed through this week we have been really focused on reapplying for Nita and Sokim’s visas, they were turned down the first time due to lack of documentation. But on Thursday we went back with everything we hope in place and we now hand it over to God so please  join us in praying for a positive speedy response!

After visas were submitted, the view from the top of Phnom Penh tower

After visas were submitted, the view from the top of Phnom Penh tower

We have also had other visitors this week.  On Thursday we had the Miller Rock stars from New Zealand with us and it was just super to be able to show them around the work of Be Free and the ELC. They also got to see our new church happy kids club in operation with 80 or so kids, it was really buzzing as Sarak and the team did an amazing job as always!  Last night we had the delight to catch up with our dear friend Betty, also from New Zealand, who we have known for the last four years.  Betty has been visiting Cambodia for over twenty years and we are always blessed when we are in her presence.

Pre-school children welcome the Miller Rock stars!

Pre-school children welcome the Miller Rock stars!

We recently started a prayer initiative in the church and I wanted to share the points we concentrate on each day so that when you are praying for us and the work you have a different daily focus.

Monday – Be Free: for the staff Esther, Sokim, Dany and Channak; for the 6 trainees that God will really impact their lives and help restore happiness and self-worth.

Tuesday – Early Learning Centre: for Nita as she oversees everything, for the 15 members of staff and all the children that attend.

Wednesday – Church: for Chamnap and David as they pastor along with Sarak, as well as all our leaders and ministries, pray for God’s provision and guidance.

Thursday – Village Ministry at Happy Kids Club and Sarak and his wife Sophea as they work so hard to build a God centred community in the village.

Friday –  English School: 150 students on the books and 6 different classes, pray for Visal, Di Mong, Rith, Esther, Sophea, Sarak, Naomi and Thida as they teach; Chamnap as he teaches English from the Bible, and also our Happy Kids Club in the church for all the students aged 15 and under.

Saturday – Youth Group with the main leaders being Thida, Sarak and Sophea.

Sunday – Esther and myself as we try to be wise in our decision making, that God’s kingdom is at the heart of everything and that we are always focused on the outcast, the poor and the needy just as Jesus would want!

Thank you for your prayers, we value them more than anything.  As always please also pray for our parents and our families, for health and strength back in the UK. In return we pray a blessing over you all that God will move in the way that your heart desires, in ways to build his kingdom and heal those that are sick!