Archive for July, 2017

Upcoming Placements

At the start of this week’s blog I would like to say on behalf of my husband and I a huge thank you for all the lovely messages as we celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary.  We are incredibly blessed by the family we have and the friends who have come into our life since our journey began.  We do have so much to thank God for, our faithful guide, provider, protector, and Heavenly Father.

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This week has had its challenges especially with the renovations of the guesthouse.  David and Dren will be dedicating their time this week to oversee the building work as all the renovations were due to be completed at the end of July.  Progress is being made but there is still so much to do before our first guests arrive on 18th September for the Asia Elim Global Conference.  We are thankful that our friend Phil is arriving in 9 days to help with what we hope will be finishing touches.

We are excited to have two young people carry out a 9 month placement with us this year.  Heather McKee arriving in August and Hannah Newton in September; they have both been getting to know each other by messaging and we are delighted that they will be using their talents in Cambodia.

This is a message from Heather about her upcoming placement.

At the end of this month, I will be heading to Cambodia for a year to serve alongside Davy and Esther in Phnom Penh Elim. I just wanted to tell you all a little bit about what I hope to be doing while I’m out there! As a media student, I plan to get involved with the media requirements in anyway that I can, such things as photography, promotional videos and I also plan to keep you all up to date with a periodic vlog which I will post on Youtube so you can all tune in and see what I have been getting up to. I will also be serving in the following ministries: BeFree, the Early Learning Centre, serving in the local church, coaching the church dance team and visiting and helping the church plants in the local villages.

As you can imagine, I am very excited about this opportunity and am really looking forward to seeing how God uses me whilst I am there . I would love you to partner with me as I enter this new chapter and there are a few suggestions below where I would really appreciate your support.

Prayer. Please pray Gods protection and that he will open doors for me as he takes me out of my comfort zone. Pray God’s provision in every aspect of this adventure, that I will learn amazing things!

Practical: There are a few items of of equipment that would be very helpful. if anyone has any camera lenses for a Panasonic camera that they no longer use and would be willing to donate, that would be fantastic! Also microphones, memory cards or external hard drives would be very useful. Again, please speak to me for more information.

Finance: If anyone would like to support me financially that would be a huge help and greatly appreciated. If you feel that you would like to help in this way, please speak to me for details on how you could do so.

Thank you all so much, your kindness and prayers are so appreciated and I can’t wait to keep you all up to date with my Cambodia adventure!

Hannah has created a newsletter giving information about her placement.  From the first email correspondence we received from Hannah to officially meeting her on Skype we are excited about her heart to get involved in all areas of Elim Cambodia.

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We are also delighted to have Cherish Johnston spend 6 weeks with us from September.  Cherith has recently graduated from university and will be using her gift of music in the different areas of our ministries.  We are thankful to have 3 young women with a passion for mission willing to give up their time and resources to make a difference to the people of Cambodia.  Please pray for each of them and if you can help support them in anyway please do.  They will be sharing about their time in Cambodia on our blog and we know you will look forward to hearing what God is doing in and through them.

In closing, I want to give a mention to a very special lady who celebrated her birthday this week.  I am blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law Sandra, we would love to have been able to call in for a cuppa and take you out to celebrate.  You are so precious to us and at times like this its hard being so far away.  As you and Walter also celebrate your wedding anniversary today, know how much we love you both and thank you for being wonderful role models to us.  Sending much love and hugs today!

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My Esther

On Sunday I will have been married to my beautiful wife for twenty three years and what an amazing twenty three years it has been, for me anyway! Today I want to pay a bit of a tribute to the girl that lights up every room she walks into, I want you to know how special she really is, so here goes.

We met in August 1992 on a blind date, Esther was out with her sister Ruth and husband to be Billy and although she didn’t know it I was set up to meet her, we hit it off straight away and the rest is history. We got married on the 23rd July 1994 and our only regret was at this point we hadn’t given our lives to Jesus that was to come over the following traumatic 18 months of our lives.

It was around about March in 1995 when our lives were thrown up in the air when we found out that Esther had the early stages of bowel cancer.  At the start the doctors said they could control things to allow us to have a family and then do something about it afterwards but when they got results of biopsies they found out that the polyps had already turned malignant and that surgery was required straight away. So with no choice Esther had surgery to remove her large intestine leaving her with a man made pouch inside her. Unfortunately a two week stay turned into 10 weeks, one surgery turned into four and we very nearly lost her but thank God she made it through and in the last week of her stay in hospital just after we celebrated our first anniversary Esther gave her life to Jesus.

To be honest I was appalled at her decision mainly because I knew that if I did the same and surrendered my life to God I would have to reveal to Esther that I was living a secret life. But because of her faithfulness and the persistence of Eric Gillespie I eventually gave in and asked God to forgive me for my sins. At this point I had to reveal to my wonderful wife who was recovering from her illness that we were about to lose our house, and that we were around £35,000 in debt due to my gambling addiction. Esther’s response was we are different people now, we have God in our lives and we will fix this together. I didn’t deserve such forgiveness, such grace but that’s what Esther showed me; only saved seven weeks and she showed Jesus to me in her actions.

Over the next five years we struggled a lot getting things sorted but thankfully we did and you know what, never once did Esther complain about the things my actions had deprived her off. Holidays, nice clothes, a car just the normal things that she should have had but she never ever complained, never ever cast it up.   She really truly had forgiven me, me on the other hand I struggled a lot wracked with guilt for many years.

One of our deepest desires in life was to be parents, until you actually don’t have children it’s impossible to know how that feels. We know many other good people who have had to come to terms with that and it is far from easy. For many years we thought because of Esther’s surgeries that was the reason why we couldn’t conceive and we were sort of ok with that.  Until one day when after one of Esther’s check ups the doctor said to her that there was no reason why she couldn’t have the child she/ we so desperately desired. It was then we realised that their was a medical problem with me that dated back to birth and we had the awful moment when a top fertility doctor told Esther that she could have children but not with Mr Allen. His top advice was to take up a hobby or get a pet, in that moment my biggest heartbreak was that I had again deprived my princess of her heart’s desire. We both struggled with the acceptance of this news, it hit us hard, but I went of the rails, ended up with depression and very angry with God. It was the darkest days of our marriage, but again Esther didn’t give up on us she helped me through, she helped me with my struggles, she showed strength that no one really knew she needed to have. She was a rock in our marriage and single handedly saved us and kept us clinging to God.

After we came to terms with the fact we would never have children we started to see God shape our lives for something completely different. I had started Slice of Heaven at this stage, ran it for six years or so and then lost it down to bad management, something that although was heartbreaking in the moment really helped us see clearly God’s call on our lives. I remember the day I broke the news to Esther and she told me not to worry that God was in control and boy was she right, only months later while still working for the new owners I went to Uganda and while there God called me to missions.  The following year in the same place God called Esther in the same way. The result of this is we are almost six and a half years in Cambodia because God always had a plan and He had a faithful daughter who seen the bigger picture.

To sum up my lovely Esther, she is simply awesome in my eyes, so many people I know agree with that. She pours her heart and soul into the young ladies she work with in Be Free, she loves the rest of our staff and church. She deals with many people, children, young women who have been abused or have without caring had babies aborted yet she always shows love and dignity. Yet, and this is the thing most of you don’t know, has terrible problems every single day and has had for the last 22 years because she hasn’t got a large intestine. Not a day passes that she hasn’t got real difficulties with her health, yet she never ever complains and that makes her my Wonder Woman.

I am truly blessed to have been forgiven by God but also by my wife who has stood by me through thick and thin.  Today I want to honour her for allowing me to be her husband, I love my life, I love what I do here in Cambodia, I love my God so much. Thank you Esther for the past 23 years and for all the lives you touch on a daily basis, God bless xx

In closing I want to give a special mention to another princess in my life, our niece Jessica, who celebrated her 19th birthday this week.  We love you and are so proud of the young lady you are, we are thrilled to be your Auntie & Uncle and you have brought so much joy into our lives!

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Welcome Andrew & Abi

This week’s blog post is being uploaded later than usual as we have just returned from spending a few days in Kep.  Last Sunday evening we were delighted to go to the airport and collect Andrew and Abi who are traveling around Asia.  We have known Andrew most of his life and are thankful for our friendship with his parents and sister over the years.  Every time we are home on furlough we always enjoy catching up with the Williamsons and we are thrilled to actually have a member of their family in Cambodia with us.

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Andrew and Abi were given a tour of our centre and enjoyed spending time in the Early Learning Centre and next week Abi, who works in childcare, will spend more time with the staff and children introducing some new games to them.  They also visited Be Free and were given the task of helping to make Christmas decorations and they both did a great job.  They have visited Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields learning a bit more of the history of Cambodia, and we are thankful for our friendly Tuk Tuk driver Kosal, who has taken care of them and also shared some of his family background through those dark years.

Since the work in Kep commenced David has been coaching teachers and students at the nearby High School, he goes every Monday and next week there is a friendly match organised against the top team of the province.  To prepare for this David planned an extra coaching session on Thursday and it was a good opportunity for Andrew and Abi to visit Kep and see the work that is going on there.  David was delighted to have Andrew assist him, and to hear his feedback on the progress of the players;  they are both looking forward to the match on Monday.

On Friday I got to be a tourist with them as David had a sermon prep day.  We have been in Cambodia for six years and visited Kep many times for some R&R but have never taken the boat journey over to Rabbit Island.  So on Friday morning Andrew, Abi and I were dropped at the pier and boarded the boat with other tourists and a Khmer lady who was taking supplies over for the restaurants.  The 30 minute journey was hilarious as we were seated in the front row and compared it to being in the wet zone of a water ride in a theme park.  We were like drowned rats when we disembarked by climbing out of the boat onto a stool that was set on the shore, and then we waded to dry land.  We were then led by a guide to the other side of the island, just over a 5 minute walk to a beach with hammocks, a little restaurant and beautiful scenery.

The big surprise for me was David ringing to tell me one of our church members was arriving shortly with a team from his work and two of his children who were very excited about looking for Esther on the island!  I was paddling my feet when I saw a group of people and then spotted Marya and Odom who ran onto the beach and gave me the greatest big hug.  We were introduced to some of the team and they shared their lunch with us; they were so hospitable as anyone who has been to Cambodia will know the Khmer excel in this area of kindness.  Our return journey was equally memorable and I was relieved to see David on the pier in case I needed assistance disembarking, although soaked through I didn’t fancy swimming.  Thank you Andrew and Abi for being such good company and letting me chill out with you for the day.

We are now back in Phnom Penh, as I write this David is out with Dren purchasing showers for the guest house, we called in during the week and the renovations are looking great.  Andrew and Abi have gone out for coffee with Kosal driving them and later this afternoon Andrew will be joining the worship team practice for tomorrow’s service as he will be our drummer for the day.

Thank you for praying for the work in Kep, we rejoice as 7 people gave their lives to Jesus last Sunday – 3 adults, 3 teenagers and a 9 year old!  We celebrate with Sarak and Sophea who are doing an amazing job building relationships and serving the Lord in this place.

Tomorrow afternoon I will be accompanying the church plant team along with Andrew and Abi where we will go to Sarak’s community and visit one of the newer church plants.  They will get to experience another boat journey without the waves and meet more incredible Khmer people and children.  Pray for them that they will have good health and strength for the remainder of their travels. Next week they will share some of their thoughts and photographs from their time in Cambodia.

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Early Learning Centre Update

We start this week’s blog with great sadness after hearing the tragic news of the passing on of one of our friends Michelle McMurray. We are heartbroken for Glenn and their girls Jordanna  and Sheridan.   Please even if you didn’t have the pleasure to have known Michelle join us in praying for the family circle. We had the pleasure of meeting Michelle while out for coffee only three months ago, she was just lovely that day and we are so thankful to have seen her then. Glenn is a wonderful guy who is going to need everybody’s support in the days that lie ahead; if you can do that please do, it is hard to feel helpless 6,000 miles away!

On Monday I went to Kep as usual, we set off at 6am arriving before 9am with Sarak, Sophea and Harry.  After breakfast we went to a meeting with like minded Christians carrying out different ministries in Kep. Our Dutch friends Mart-Jan and Talitha hosted it and we spent about 5 hours worshipping, praying and sharing. It was refreshing to get to know others and to be able to assure people that what we are doing is to help build on what’s already been started by many of them. We know that building good foundations with people helps everybody move to reach their goals in community. When this finished Icoached football from 3pm until 6.30pm, we now have 3 teams to look after which is a lot of fun but also really hard getting to know names, positions etc.  Add into the mix that I’m no spring chick anymore and you can see the difficulties I have! Once we finished I returned to the centre with Sarak, had a quick shower, and drove back to Phnom Penh with Chamnap arriving home to Esther and my girls Meg and Ruby around about 10pm, quick dinner and then bed. That’s my normal Monday a bit crazy but it’s what is needed in this season and I do love it!

The rest of the week was pretty normal getting ready for Friday where we took all the ELC staff on a day retreat to talk about the goals Elim has for our ELC. Recently we have seen attitudes and standards slip in the centre and we felt we needed to refocus and introduce new ideas to help us become one of the best ELC’s in Cambodia. Nobody had deliberately fallen short of the standard but we could see lots of bad habits creeping in so we had it out in the Elephant Blanc hotel.

We revisited and reiterated our three main goals as an ELC:

1. To reach out to the families with the good news of Jesus, through their children.

2. To provide a safe and loving place for children to grow.

3. To develop children to their full potential.

Pastor Chamnap and I talked to the staff especially those who seem to have become cold in their walk with God, encouraging them that to be able to make goal 1 happen we needed to make sure we were healthy and capable of sharing that good news. Then Nita and Sokhom talked over existing and new rules and regulations to make number 2 a reality and finally after lunch we had Dawn Greenfield and her two helpers Mary and her daughter Mai teach number 3 our new curriculum, something we have needed for a long time and now we have it and it is brilliant. The wonderful news is everybody embraced what we were saying and were excited for this new dawn to our ELC. I want to thank them all for accepting the criticism, taking it on board and actually wanting to change, it shows we have good people and because of that I’m sure this is going to be a big success.

I have some thanks I need to say, first of all I want to thank Dawn, she has been a friend of Elim for nearly three years now, Esther and I love her and her wonderful husband Dave.  They are both around the age of seventy from New Zealand and have been involved in helping the poor and needy throughout Asia nearly all their lives. Dawn specialises in teaching teachers to work in ELC’s and has a full curriculum in Khmer already developed. Her salary is nothing, she just wants to sow into people’s lives, Dawn is one of God’s unsung warriors and we are so thankful for her input and help. I also want to thank Mary and Mai, Dawns friend’s, who have spent many hours helping prepare the curriculum!

I want to thank Nita, Sokhom and Chamnap for their work behind the scenes to bring excellence to what we do because I believe excellence belts out the name of Jesus and thats what we are about.  These children matter, every single one of them. If you sponsor a child be assured we are building principles in their lives that will stay with them forever, thank you for you sowing into their lives.

Finally I want to thank Lisburn City Elim Church for fundraising to help with the refurbishment of the ELC, along with their generous donation we have 5 people from Lakeside church in Southport doing a Tough Mudder run to raise funds. One of the competitors Kirsty Pennington is their youth worker and you can visit her Just Giving page by clicking on this link https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/k-pennington?utm_id=26.  We need to paint the whole building, buy new cupboards, toys, teaching equipment; even in our play park we need to replace two slide climbing frames which over four years have became dangerous, hence why they have been removed. We are so thankful for everything that is being raised but we need a lot to do it right, so if you can help please go to our donate button on the side of this page or send a donation to Elim International missions, the address is on the website designating it to ELC refurb and you can be a big part of helping us reach the goals.

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Lisburn Ladies’ Summer Special

Friends we are so thankful as always for your continued support through prayer and giving, we seem to keep asking for help, unfortunately when you choose to come to do what we do you see so much pain, sorrow and poverty that you reach a point where it would be wrong not to ask rather than wrong to ask. So we don’t apologise for continuing to encourage you to be a part of this journey with us, some can go but only a few, others must stay but they have their role to play too, thank you for being a part of our journey, God bless.

The Sky is the Limit

We have been going 100 miles an hour lately with many exciting things happening since we returned from our furlough mid May. Sometimes we are so involved we don’t actually see everything that’s happening in the same excited ways that others do because you are so close you don’t see the growth or successes.  All glory to God for what is taking place in Cambodia through Elim.

We thank God for all that has happened in the last six weeks; we have witnessed 9 people get baptised in our Phnom Penh church, we have praised God for the 7 people who gave their lives to Jesus and we have seen numbers take an upward turn at both church and the prayer meeting. We have been discussing and making preparations to commence an early morning Bible study before church starts. The youth of the church have spoken through meetings and surveys and in the next month or so we will be starting up a new weekly youth meeting. These new ministries  are exciting and will be completely focused on discipling people into disciple makers within their own communities.

In the church planting we can report that at least 6 people have given their lives to Jesus in the Saang province.  We are looking at having a joint Baptismal service in the 3 churches in Toul K’day over the next month or so. The church in Chroy Chrey has started to show signs of growth and we ask you to continue to pray for those that are coming that they will feel strong enough to be different in their community surrendering their lives to God. We are really excited that we have started a new work in Bayab village where one of our team, Dren and his wife Chanta’s family are from.  There is a lot of interest in the early days and we are looking forward to the days that lie ahead with the possibility of 13 surrounding villages ripe for the harvest. On Sunday Pastor Chamnap and I will be going to our 3 Saang churches with the intention to meet a person of peace in the adjoining village which is ready for our next church plant, please pray for this important meeting.

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Kep is going really well, there are 16 people already attending the church on Sunday mornings. God has brought other Christians along, one in particular Vannak who can play different instruments and is able to support Pastor Sarak and Sophea. Their youth group was launched last Saturday and they had an incredible 60 young people attend, most as a result of the English school we have been running. God is moving and we are seeing things really develop.  I am coaching 3 teams on a Monday afternoon and relationships are developing which I believe will continue to open new doors. Please pray for Sarak and Sophea and little Harry, they are doing a fantastic job but are very isolated and we are praying that they will make good friends whom they can rely on and trust.

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It is exciting when you look at what is happening not because of anything we have done but because of what God is doing.  The sky is the limit and we really can’t wait to see what happens next, please join with us in praying that the days that lie ahead will be even more fruitful than ever before here in Cambodia.