Archive for February, 2016

Thank You!

I would like to start this week’s blog of by saying in this past week there have been four birthday celebrations in our families.  On Monday our eldest niece Alex turned 20 years old, Alex has grown up into a beautiful young lady who is passionate to live for Jesus and we are excited as we watch how that journey continues to take shape.  Esther’s sister Debbie celebrated her birthday on Tuesday.  Debbie makes the most amazing celebration cakes and cakepops but she was too busy with orders for everyone else that she wasn’t able to make a cake for herself.  Debbie we hope you have a belated birthday and get to enjoy some yummy cake!

On Wednesday our wonderful nephew Andrew who for many years was known as wee Andrew turned 16; he is not wee Andrew anymore in fact he is more like giant Andrew who is now over 6ft tall. We are also so proud of him in how kind he is and that he is growing into a real young gentleman. Also on Wednesday our sister in law Helga celebrated her birthday and we know her family and friends will have spoiled her with lots of lovely treats.  Alex, Andrew, Debbie and Helga we love you all and pray you have a really fun and blessed year ahead!

On Monday past our boss Paul Hudson turned fifty but sadly his birthday coincided with his father in law’s funeral. It was a tough day as you would imagine for all and we ask you to pray for Paul’s wife Greta and the whole family circle at this time. We are very blessed to have a boss like Paul, he has the biggest heart to help everyone that he meets. That’s why he made a special appeal on his birthday to get 2000 people to join the pound for pound scheme in Elim Missions. What it needs you to do is sign up through the website to pay £4 a month, £48 a year, by direct debit to Elim Missions General Fund. A lot of people don’t like giving to general fund but here is the reason why it needs money; if something unexpected happens and all the money is designated how can we cope with unforeseen emergencies? Whether it happens in Zimbabwe, Brazil or Cambodia if there is no general fund the situation can’t be helped. How much is another £4 a month, I say another because I know many of you support us and others very generously and we deeply appreciate it. But to show that we feel this is important Esther and I are giving £4 a month to this because we believe in Paul and we believe in Elim Missions. Click on the link if you want to help or know more http://www.elimmissions.co.uk/missionaries/give.asp

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Get involved if you can!

We have had a number of guest blogs recently and hopefully you have seen what Cambodia is like through fresh eyes. We would like to say we have had a really special February, firstly with the most amazing young lady Sophie Moore someone who may have only been here for a short time but impacted people everywhere she went. Then we had the honour as always to have Pastor Gary Beattie and Alan Lowry from Bangor Elim with us and we simply had a fantastic week. Once again Bangor Elim you have been so generous to the work here in Cambodia and we just want to say a massive thank you to each and every one of you!

We now have a really good vehicle to assist us as we go to the provinces and this week as Sarak and I travelled to the village we were blown away by the difference it made to the journey! It was fun going on the boat with it for the first time and then being able to bring a mattress and other things in the back was so helpful.  Everybody in Elim Cambodia says a big thank you! Also you blessed a number of the young single mums with clothes, mattresses and many other things too, so thank you for all the sacrifices you have made within your own lives to make these things happen. Ruth McKee thank you so much for everything you and your team do, we wouldn’t be able to do half of what we do without your persistent fundraising and love for this nation!

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First time on the boat

Today has really been an opportunity to thank people and it coincides with the Enable conference in England. A conference for men who have stood up and said by their actions that they are not willing to turn a blind eye to the girls that are being abused throughout this world. Over the past 2 years The Enable Challenge has raised £30,000 to help run Be Free Cambodia and we are so blessed and thankful for these men. By raising money, by sacrificing their time to train and by being an example of what real men are, they show young girls who have been brutalised by men, that not all men are monsters, that not all men are disgusting, but that real men want to help rebuild their broken lives not destroy them. Well today we speak as a voice for those broken lives and we say thank you, thank you, thank you for showing Jesus to the world, God bless you all!

To the Ends of the Earth

My name is Alan Lowry and I am an elder in Bangor Elim, the home church of David and Esther Allen, Elim missionaries serving in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Over the last week it has been my honour and privilege to accompany Pastor Gary Beattie on our weeklong visit to Elim Cambodia, and resulted in me preparing this week’s guest blog. My wife Caroline and I run our own business, and over the last number of years it has given me the amazing opportunity to travel extensively for work, but this was my first time in Cambodia, so I apologise in advance for any commercial comments made as I struggled to comprehend the infrastructure and sustainability of a country such as Cambodia. Most weekly blogs update on the amazing work going on in each project, so I wanted to look at the wider context of what impact this has outside the four walls of Elim Cambodia. Ok so that’s the disclaimer over!

We travelled from Belfast through Manchester and Hong Kong to arrive in Phnom Penh early on Tuesday morning, and after visa, immigration, passport and luggage carousel queues, we exited the small airport to hugs and embraces from Esther and David. They were delighted to see us and renew our friendships. Dren (a truly amazing and gracious servant of the Lord) was on hand in the tuk tuk, and that was the start of my Cambodian experience which I will never forget. There is nothing which will prepare you for the sights, smells and sounds of Phnom Penh! Frying fish, barber chairs, moto scooter repairs, live chickens, mobile coffee shops, fake iPhones and fried spiders are just a few of the things for sale on the pavements and every street corner.

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Dren the Legend

Phnom Penh is the most random and chaotic city in the world. Traffic on the wrong side of the road, overloaded moto scooters, tuk tuks, pickup trucks, all jostle for space on congested roads. The city is a permanent car park yet nobody get agitated or aggressive. Poverty is everywhere and yet new car dealerships are popping up selling Jaguar, Rolls Royce and Bentleys whilst the majority of the population live on $100 a month. New filling stations aim to replace the corner shop selling petrol in glass Coke bottles by the litre! This is a city with a population of over 2 million where the majority of people travel by moto scooter but not everyone possesses a license to drive! It is no wonder there are 10 deaths a day on the roads here. Travel safety is something to always remember in your prayers for the whole Elim Cambodia team and their families.

After arriving we travelled to Elim Cambodia and what a place it is. A beacon for God’s love in this ‘lost’ city. Using every available space for English classes, Early Learning Centre, Church building and Be Free ministry, Elim Cambodia punches above it weight many times over as it impacts hundreds if not thousands of lives every week. What a blessing David and Esther are to Phnom Penh and what a blessing Cambodia was to us.

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Wonderful welcome at the ELC

I wasn’t really aware of Cambodia’s chequered history when I went.  I knew briefly about the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields, but as I travelled round I was intrigued to research the history that made this country what it is today. ‘Old wives tales’ still run through generations and some recent mothers we visited wear woolly hats, even in 35 degrees, for 6 weeks after their babies are born as that is tradition. One new Mum was told not to shower for 4 weeks after the birth! Monks go on a daily alms round to collect food and money; the act of alms giving assists in connecting the human to the monk and is often perceived as giving the laypeople the opportunity to make merit.  And yet against this backdrop Elim Cambodia is growing in numbers and strength, bringing the gospel of the saving grace of Jesus Christ to a dying nation.

On our first day we visited baby Hadassah, new-born just last week to Chamnap and Nita. Chamnap is associate pastor in Elim and Nita runs the day-care centre. Hadassah was the Jewish name of Esther the saviour and redeemer of her people Israel and means God’s hidden righteousness. How amazing a young baby born into this country who can grow up to be the redeemer of her people. I didn’t know the tradition of removing your footwear before entering houses (Gary had failed to share that with me) so while everyone else slipped on and off their flip flops, I had to tie and untie my track shoes every time! The idea of removing your shoes before entering houses reminded me of Moses at the burning bush when he was standing on holy ground. The houses of these believers were indeed ‘Holy Ground’.

One of our main goals of our week was to purchase a new pickup truck for the work of planting and supporting churches in the outlying villages. So early the next day David, Gary, Dren and I (our newly formed purchasing consortium) set out with great enthusiasm to buy the truck. After we had visited 6 or 7 garages without success our passion was deflated. There were hundreds of pickups for sale, but nobody on the forecourt knew anything about the cars or what price they were. Nobody was expecting to sell a truck that day. There was no expectation. This is one issue in Cambodia as the people have low expectations as that is the way it has always been! Anyway the good news was that we managed to negotiate and purchase a truck with money collected from Bangor Elim and that will be used to the glory of God for many years to come as Elim Cambodia plant more and more village churches.

 

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Selfie with the new pick up truck

The new truck was going to take a few days to get ready and reupholstered (for $100) and so we set about our second objective of blessing and honouring as many of the people David and Esther have daily contact with, as we could. Ruth McKee and her team from Bangor Elim had collected an amazing amount of money and it was our undoubted privilege to help distribute it. Gary and I had both brought a lot of items with us including chocolate, baby and children clothes and crayons. We purchased mattresses, pillows and covers, rice cookers, electric fans, door mats and mosquito nets and distributed them to anyone we were aware of who needed them. Truly God’s love in action and such a humbling experience to see the poverty these people live in. These are God’s children and yet they have absolutely nothing. Nothing prepares you for the awful conditions and housing these beautiful people have to live in. And yet they are content and overjoyed with the simple blessing we were able to distribute to them. They thanked us over and over again. What an experience.

 

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With some of the mattresses that were bought

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Delivering a wardrobe

The ongoing work in the Early Learning centre and Be Free is amazing. The staff and workers are totally committed to Jesus and their calling in Elim Cambodia. Mid-week prayer meetings, bible study, worship practise (I even played drums), and church were all part of our week spent there.

 

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Spot the new drummer!

On the Thursday we went to the village church plant. Two years ago Elim started a weekly kids club here with over 200 children attending and a church was planted in September; the whole village has been impacted by the love of Jesus. Our visit was to see the kids club and for Pastor Gary and David to baptise 11 people from the village who had been saved through the work there by Elim through Sarak and his wife Sophea (who incidentally gave birth to their first child the next day, named Harry after Harry Kane from Spurs!).

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Looking forward to seeing the new pick up on the ferry to HKC1

The whole village turned out and it was an amazing day. We bought the children Coke, sweets and rice cakes and when the ice cream cart arrived we bought every one he had. We distributed new clothes for the children. Esther measured them and the 12-18 month clothes we had brought fitted 4 and 5 year old kids. What a transformation from a village who had never even heard of Jesus, or his love for them 2 years ago, to salvation, impacted lives and people on fire for the gospel. It could even be the start of a revival!

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HKC1

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Enjoying their icecream

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Those who were baptised, youngest 11 and oldest 79

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Community photograph!

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Sarak’s Father 

Cambodia has a very bad reputation (rightfully) for sex exploitation, and that’s what ‘Be Free’ was set up for. Traveling around the area at night you can get a picture of the depravity and scale of the problem. It is indeed huge. Pray the authorities will outlaw this as they seek to build a sustainable city and country. My daughters are 20 (Alana) and 17 (Courtney) and to see the lives of girls younger than them, initially ruined through the sex trade, but now redeemed through God’s love and saving grace, is heart breaking and yet so encouraging for the amazing work that is being done. Please remember them in your prayers and your giving.

I could write for ever about how we were impacted by the love and heartfelt compassion shown by David and Esther and the whole Elim team but I’m sure you get the idea by now. It was an absolutely awesome and inspiring week and for everyone who prayed and gave, it is my prayer that you know God’s richest blessings on you and your family, as only eternity will tell the impact you have had on so many people’s lives and circumstances. Cambodia has stolen a little piece of my heart and I pray through these simple words it will do the same for you. Gary and I are truly thankful to our wives, Sonya and Caroline, for releasing us to this work for the week, and their unfathomable love and support for us through it all.

Bless you all for your heart for the people of Cambodia.

Alan

 

Sophie in Cambodia

“Give away love like you are made of it.” I heard this quote just before I came to Cambodia and it totally sums up my amazing friends and hosts this week, David and Esther Allen. The entire week I watched them as situation after situation, without fail, they gave of their love and time as if there was no limit to it. They deeply cared about every person we met and I loved getting to meet their Khmer and International friends who sang their praises. They also provided me with a lovely sense of home as they let me become part of their family as they loved me, fed me, and just looked after me so well. You know how much you guys mean to mean and how special this week has been for me. Thank you for allowing me to come and be a part of your lives in Cambodia.

As I stepped off the plane early on Monday morning it felt so surreal actually being in Cambodia. I had envisioned this moment many times before and now that it was really happening it didn’t feel real. After hugs and lots of smiles being reunited with Davy and Esther, my journey from the airport to their home impacted me more than I could have expected.  I had my first glimpse of the heartbreaking situation that many young girls in this country have to face and live daily.  We drove past too many KTV bars, lit by neon lights and I saw countless young girls sitting, waiting for the next customer to arrive. It seemed all too normal and it was so sad to see.

After a good rest, on Monday morning I made my way to the Elim Centre.  As soon as I arrived I was introduced to some wonderful people, many of whom I have read about but was now getting to meet in person.  I had a special welcome from the kids at the Early Learning Centre and I just stood and smiled as they held their signs saying “Welcome to Elim Sophie”. With my heart very full and happy I was introduced to the precious girls at Be Free.  I couldn’t believe I was actually in Be Free Cambodia. I have a number of different items that the girls have made and getting to see the beautiful lives that this ministry helps was so special. Before dinner that night, we went to visit some of the local people in the community and I got to see where a lot of these people live. I was left speechless and moved by the little that these people have, yet they are so thankful and full of joy.

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What a welcome!

The next day I was able to help Sokim write out a weekly schedule for the Be Free girls to follow. I met this wonderful girl briefly last year when she visited the UK. It was so special to be with her in Cambodia and to meet her gorgeous daughter Cheira.  That evening I got to enjoy my first fry since I have been away from Northern Ireland (which has been just over 5 months). It did my tummy good!!  On Wednesday morning I spent some time at the Early Learning Centre as one of the staff members was absent. I loved spending time with the kids there and getting to know the amazing staff who work there each day. That afternoon I was back in Be Free and one of the most moving experiences for me of the whole week was when one of the young new trainees told me that she knew a song in English and I asked her could she sing it for me. I had to hold back my tears as she began to sing “Deep, deep, deep down, deep down in my heart, Jesus”.  What an amazing ministry Be Free is. Providing hope and skills for precious girls to help them have a different life, who otherwise would probably have to be involved in horrible situations to earn money. Over the week I was inspired by wonderful Esther as she gives of herself daily to these girls, as she teaches them different craft and life skills and mostly she is such a constant figure of love and support in their lives.

Then came Thursday…One of those special, amazing and surreal days I will never ever forget. We started the day by heading to the village of Sarak and Sophea. I had been looking forward to going here all week. With our trusty driver Dren and with Davy’s music playlist we were ready to go.  When we arrived at the village we were greeted by smiling and happy children (very apt that the kids club is called Happy Kids Club).  This was a community who don’t have a lot of material possessions but have a hunger for Jesus. I loved watching Sarak and Sophea lead the kids club and seeing the heart that they have to share Jesus. My favourite thing was listening to the kids singing “Yes Jesus loves me” and in that moment I knew it afresh again too. Such a presence of God in that moment, in the village, in the middle of Cambodia.  We left the village in the afternoon as we had a very special place to be in the city.

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Selfies at HKC

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The children love colouring

I have never been at the hospital while anyone has given birth before so for me it was an absolute joy and honour to be asked to be there and meet Nita and Chamnap’s new daughter.  This night was so incredibly special and little Hadassah arrived safely and is absolutely beautiful. Chamnap, Nita, Sarah and Naomi I want to thank you again for allowing me to share in this time with your family. I love you all and you have such a special place in my life and it gives me a great excuse to come back to Cambodia and see Hadassah when she has grown a little.

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With Nita and Hadassah

Over the next few days I got to join in the devotions with the Be Free girls, I visited the famous Russian market and I was able to share a short word at staff church.  I also had another moving experience as I went to visit the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng prison. I knew very little about the Khmer Rouge before coming to Cambodia but after hearing many stories of the atrocities that happened here and the many lives impacted by this period of time, I came away with an even greater sense of love for the people in this country. Despite such a sad history, God is restoring this country and bringing much beauty out of darkness.

I had been looking forward to going to church all week and on Sunday it was amazing to finally be in the church service of Elim Cambodia. Most special for me was watching Davy, my Campaigner’s leader from many years ago and close family friend, lead and serve this church with such boldness and passion. He was made for this role and I loved hearing him preach about forgiveness. The entire week I watched Davy guide and mentor younger Khmer men and it is so obvious that they respect him and really look to him as a great role model in their lives. Davy just constantly provides help for whoever needs it and nothing is ever too much to ask of him. Another reason why I love Davy is because he made me a delicious pavlova to go along with the gorgeous Sunday Roast Esther had prepared for us. It was a great afternoon in Cambodia. That evening I got to go with Davy to the evening service at church.  Davy was speaking about not worrying and how God provides what we need.  He asked the girls who were there what they most feared. For me many thoughts came into my head about my own personal fears, family, job, future etc. but when one of the girls said she worried about having enough money to buy food each month my heart sank and I just couldn’t believe that this is the reality for many of the local people.  I have never in my life had to worry about where my next meal will come from.

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With Davy

Monday was my final day in this incredible place and I was so sad to be leaving so soon. I finished my trip by sharing a short devotion at Be Free and the girls prayed for me as I got ready to leave. I got to visit the best cupcake place I have ever been too, and then I said my goodbyes to some dear new friends.  That night I got to enjoy one last meal with Davy and Esther and some precious cuddles with my new best pals, Meg and Ruby (Davy and Esther’s adorable doggies).  As we sat in Davy and Esther’s living room before we made the journey to the airport I couldn’t have felt more proud or blessed to have been part of their lives this week.   As we journeyed to the airport we drove down the same street where my time in Cambodia began. Images of young girls being exploited in a way no one should ever have to be. When I made it to the airport and said my emotional goodbyes to the precious Allens God just kept saying to me “I am the God of this city and the king of these people”. And with that I have hope for Cambodia and for the rest of this broken world that He is the King and one day He will return to restore everything to the way He intended it to be…and in the meantime we have Him and we have hope for each day.

Cambodia, your people and David and Esther I love you!! Thank you for a life changing experience.

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Beautiful sunset

A surreal and special week!

One of the hardest things about being on the mission field is the separation from friends and family; we are thankful for modern technology which enables us to keep in touch instantly but sometimes your heart aches just to have a chat face to face or give a loved one a hug.  Cambodia is our heartland and we love the journey God is taking us on; we are so blessed to do life with incredible people who have a passion to see their people come to know Jesus.

This week we have been thrilled to renew friendship with a very special young lady who is also serving God far from home in China.  Sophie and her family have been friends of ours for many, many years and when she messaged us back in October to ask about visiting we were excited that finally we were going to spend time with her in Cambodia!  Sophie’s flight was due to arrive at midnight but due to weather conditions was delayed over two hours; again we are thankful for technology as we were able to track her flight.  We knew Sophie would be worried about inconveniencing us but we were just looking forward to seeing her smiling face coming through the arrivals gate!  When the three of us were reunited we took a selfie and sent it to Sophie’s mum so her parents knew she’d arrived safe and well.  Despite it being 2:30 am by the time we got home we couldn’t go to bed just yet, we chatted for a while and were so happy that Sophie Moore was actually in our house!

I am not going to share too much about this week’s activities as Sophie will be our guest blogger next week but it has just been amazing to go through our ‘normal’ schedule and at the same time observe Sophie embrace the Cambodian people and life with the beautiful heart and attitude which she has.  Sophie has spent time with the girls in Be Free and will be taking their devotion on Monday morning, and she filled in for one of our Early Learning Centre staff working with the pre-school children one morning and was just in her element.  We went to Happy Kids Club on Thursday and were invited to a Khmer wedding in the afternoon but at the same time Nita was going to be having her baby by C-section and she asked us to be at the hospital for her.  The family of the wedding understood and when Happy Kids club ended we walked to the wedding tent just a few minutes from Sarak’s family home and met the bride and groom and both sets of parents.  Photographs were taken and we thanked the family for inviting us and apologised that we were unable to celebrate their special day with them.

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Sophie at HKC1

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On the ferry

We returned to Phnom Penh and to the centre for Nita’s baby shower, it was a special time as all the staff gathered round her to pray and give encouraging messages.  Nita did get emotional but was able to say a few words to all the staff thanking them for their support and encouraging them to work well together.  We all know that although Nita has 3 months maternity leave there is no way she will not come to the centre; the staff are all family and will enjoy helping care for the new baby while Nita can just rest and chat to everyone.

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Just before going to the hospital

At 5pm David, Sophie, Dren and I arrived at the hospital; we prayed with Nita before she was taken next door to the delivery suite.  Chamnap waited in the hall outside, nervous and anxious about his wife.  Family members arrived and it was just such a surreal experience; and totally different to what would happen in the UK.  We felt very honoured to be present and will definitely be an occasion we will never forget.  Just after 6pm Dren came into our room excitedly shouting ‘she’s here!’ and we followed him across the hall where the door was open into the room where the new baby was being cleaned; Chamanap was with the nurse watching in awe!  Dren told us we could go into the room, as the baby was clean!!! After congratulating Chamnap we stood with him and watched as his new born daughter had her first injection and got dressed!  Hadassah is a beautiful baby girl weighing 3.2kg / 7lbs and we are thrilled for Chamnap and Nita and the whole family.  Big sisters Sarah and Naomi sat beside the cot where their little sister lay with Sarah taking the first pictures and announcing her arrival on Facebook! It was another hour before Nita was brought into the room, her body shaking and cold; similar to Naomi’s birth which many of you will know the story of David being at the hospital while I was at home watching the Royal wedding! Blankets were wrapped round Nita, Chamnap didn’t go for a walk in the car park this time but soothed his wife with comforting words while I held her arms and reassured her she was ok.  The shaking eventually stopped, Hadassah enjoyed her first bottle and with both Mum and baby doing well we left, promising to return the next day.

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Beautiful Hadassah

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Protective big sisters

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Proud and happy Father

On behalf of Chamnap and Nita thank you to everyone for your thoughts, prayers and messages of support; they are really touched and encouraged.  Sophie and I returned to the hospital yesterday and apart from the Dr we were the first to hold Hadassah and we feel very honoured indeed! Nita was doing better and will be in hospital until Monday morning.  I’ve told her we need to arrange a home visit next week for Pastor Gary to meet their new addition and pray for them as a family!

We have thoroughly enjoyed Sophie being with us this week; we still have three full days to enjoy her company and she already knows she needs to come back again.  There is a Khmer outfit which was altered for Sophie to wear to the wedding which will remain here for her next visit!  Sophie will share some of her thoughts from her time in Cambodia in next week’s blog and we would ask you to pray for her as she returns to China and resumes work and life there.  It has been such a joy to have Sophie in our home, and in our life here and as her former Campaigner leaders, we are so proud of the beautiful (inside and out) young lady she has grown into.  Stephen and Lesley, she is a credit to you both and it is going to be very hard for us to say ‘see you later’ on Monday night!  But we still have 3 more days ……..