Archive for August, 2018

Be Free 5th Birthday Celebrations!

Since becoming a missionary in Cambodia I have many highlights over the past 7 years and last night’s event has definitely become one of them.  As we celebrated the 5th birthday of Be Free there were so many emotions during the evening.  For those of you who don’t know how Be Free Cambodia started let me share with you now.

Just over 5 years ago our International Missions Director Paul Hudson visited Cambodia and whilst we were enjoying coffee and cupcakes began a conversation in which I shared a desire to help women who were broken, hurting and overlooked; and show them how valuable and precious they are.  Correspondence continued along with more conversation and the dream became a reality with the birth of Be Free Cambodia in August 2013.  Staff were employed Sokim – project manager, Channak – sewing teacher and Dany – counsellor.  Our centre was set up with work area, kitchen, store room, classroom, office and bathroom.  Training was provided to the staff and meetings began with organisations we would partner with.  Our vision has always been to become a bridge between organizations who rescued ladies from trafficking and exploitation to help with restoration, teaching life skills and helping the trainees find employment once they successfully graduated from our 12 month program.

In 5 years we have celebrated with trainees who have been honored during the 7 graduation ceremonies we have held.  Precious ladies are now in full time employment, providing for their children and many are a part of our church family.  So to reach the milestone of celebrating 5 years of Be Free Cambodia was a big deal to all of us.  Girls who have already come though the program were invited, along with the organizations we partner with, and we were especially thrilled that Paul Hudson was returning to Cambodia for his final time as our IMD.

The program began with a beautiful traditional Khmer dance, our newest trainee was one of the dancers and although nervous did a wonderful job.  Worship was led by one of our former trainees and the songs she choose were so poignant to the mission of Be Free.  At one point I noticed the 4 year daughter of one of our former trainees singing her heart out and it was just so beautiful to witness!

I was honored to share the history of Be Free Cambodia and also thank everyone who has made the past 5 years possible.  Sokim and Channak, have been such a support to me and it has been a joy to work alongside 2 godly women who have grown so much in their walk with God and their love for every girl who enters Be Free.  Nita and the staff in the Early Learning Centre love and care for the children of all our trainees, giving them the assurance that their little ones are in good, safe hands.  Pastors Chamnap and David have helped counsel and disciple the staff and trainees, and are always there when we need them.  We are blessed to partner with organizations that are doing their utmost to make a difference to the lives of women in Cambodia and we thank everyone of the staff that play a part in the transformation of our trainees.  We couldn’t run Be Free without the financial support of donors – churches, individuals, groups of people who faithfully and generously give.  Thank you for sowing into this ministry.

I wish you could have been there last night as the Be Free ladies stood on the platform and a couple of them shared from their hearts the difference in their life.  Tears fell as they spoke, thanking God and all of us for loving and helping them.  One  amazing young lady blew us away with her words sharing that none of them would be on the platform if it wasn’t for Be Free, that they are like diamonds, precious and valuable.  When we think of what they have endured and to see them smiling and encouraging one another, it brings tears of joy!

It was an honor to have Paul with us, he has always been so encouraging and supportive of Be Free Cambodia.  Every graduation ceremony he sends a message which is read out to the graduates and as Paul shared last night we know how special Be Free is to him.  Nita did an incredible job as Paul’s interpreter last night even getting emotional at the same time!  Thank you Paul for your constant support, advice, encouragement, love and prayers for Be Free Cambodia; what a journey it has been!  It wouldn’t have been the same if you weren’t here to celebrate with us Paul and we will all be remembering you in our thoughts and prayers as you begin your new role in ministry as a Regional Leader.  We know you will still be championing Missions and Be Free in each of the churches you will be representing and how blessed are they to begin a new journey with you.

In closing I want to especially thank David who always has and always will be my biggest supporter.  When the dream seemed too big and too scary for me, you encouraged and cheered me on.  You walked with me and helped in making the dream a reality.  You are my rock on this earth and I’m so thankful to be on this journey with you!

The evening finished with the presentation of a birthday cake and gifts to Paul, photographs, and refreshments on our balcony.  A huge thank you to all the Be Free girls who served and helped with all the preparations and to Georgie for being our official photographer during the ceremony!

We are looking forward to church tomorrow when Paul will be honored for his role as IMD and then a feast will be enjoyed together!  All of this and thoughts from Paul will be in next week’s blog, be blessed this week in all you do.

Thank you for remembering us!

I want to start this blog by thanking you for the many requests you have been praying for, we appreciate you and sometimes as we rush through ministry and life we forget to stop and thank those who walk this journey with us!

So here’s a few updates:

My Mum has had her fourth bout of chemo; it is and has been causing sickness and a real heavy tiredness with no strength. But my Mum and Dad are battlers and they will keep facing each day of this struggle focused on each other but more importantly on Jesus. My sister Kellie, brother Phil and their families have been amazing, please continue to pray for them all.

Rith, one of our church members and husband of Sokhom, has undergone MRI scans and many other tests to find out why he has been so sick for the last 18 months. The recent investigations have shown that he has an acute gastric illness, thankfully nothing more sinister was discovered. So we are praying with the new drugs he will soon be feeling fully fit again.

Chamnap and Nita are the proud parents of their son Eli who is almost 2 months now, he is doing really well and is thriving. Chamnap, Nita and Eli’s doting 3 older sisters love having him around and he brings much joy to all of us. As per usual it wouldn’t be Elim Cambodia without another little one about to join our family.   Please pray for Channak, our sewing teacher in Be Free, as she is about to have her third baby any day.  Her husband Songva, our worship leader, and their children Melody and Harmony are very excited about the new addition about to arrive.

Great news for Be Free is that thanks to Portadown Elim and the Ladies of Replenish, the large Elim New Zealand conference, we will be starting the building work for an extension onto Be Free. It will have a large visitors centre along with a counselling room and a store for all the beautiful finished goods. Esther has been waiting for this for a long time and we are so thankful to all who gave to make this happen. We will be blogging before, during and after photos of the work. The initial building work will be finished by the end of September ready for our New Zealand visitors early November to help us paint and finish the project. Please pray that as this facility is developed that we will be able to use it to help restore many more lives.

This week we have an extreme range of emotions welling up inside, we are so excited to welcome our boss, soon to be former boss, Paul Hudson here. We have really grown close to Paul and Greta over the past 7 years, we really love and respect them both so much. We are thrilled that Paul has been noticed and given an opportunity to flourish even more in his new role as Regional leader and National Leadership Team member. For those of you who may be one of the churches in his region and you don’t really know Paul this is what you will get. Your back covered, loyalty, honesty, experience to know what to do, 150% commitment, straight talking when required, a massive heart for God and the mission we have of bringing Jesus to the lost and vulnerable of this world. Buckle your seat belts it’s about to become epic! Oh and don’t forget humour, Paul is a very funny person; someone we love being around because laughing and having fun is good for your spirit. Finally he is one of the best preacher teacher’s I know, he is a wonderful leader but his heart has always been pastoral. Our loss is definitely your gain.

But we do have Paul here from Wednesday until Sunday night and we are delighted to be given this chance to honour and thank Paul for everything he has poured into us and the work here in Cambodia. One of the most significant things is Be Free and on Friday we will be having a party to celebrate 5 years of helping girls’ lives being restored and set free.

Next week we will give you a full report on Paul’s visit and may even have a few thoughts from him as well. God bless and have a wonderful week.

Life is Community!

If there is one thing the Khmer excel at it is community, they love to spend time together especially if it involves food! So in the lead up to the election weekend when a good number of our church family would be returning to their homelands to vote we decided to do church a little different.  Aly and Sok went to the market and sourced all the beef and vegetables, preparing and making beef kebabs at Elim; and at our house all the chicken kebabs were assembled with help from Liz and Jenny; and barbecued by David, Chris and Mark.  Corn on the cob was also on the menu along with the Khmer staple; rice!

Those of our church family who were still in the city met at Elim at 11am where we had church outside with worship led by Sarak, followed by a time of praying for Cambodia, for the National election, and the government leaders.  We are thankful that in the lead up and during the election, it was a time of peace and for those of us who were still in Phnom Penh it was a joy to get about with not the usual manic traffic.  We also prayed for Pastor Chamnap who directly after church was making his way to the airport to travel to the Philippines for a church planting conference.

It was then time for lunch, all the food was laid out and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the banquet that was provided.  There wasn’t much left over and there were full tummies and it was so good to spend the time eating and having fellowship together.

Another event this week which involved fellowship and food was Channak’s baby shower.  Channak is our wonderful sewing teacher in Be Free, anyone who has met her knows how gifted she is with a sewing machine; and she is so thankful to God for the talent He has blessed her with.  Channak and Songva, our worship leader, are soon to be a family of 5 when their baby boy Hassanah comes into the world.

Channak loves lasagna so on Tuesday morning Sok joined me at my home and with a little assistance made a gorgeous lasagna with salad for the guest of honor and all the Be Free girls.  Georgie joined us in the kitchen making a vegetarian option.  At lunchtime the girls met us in the guesthouse along with Nita, who is still on maternity leave. We all enjoyed our lunch and after clearing up all the dishes we gathered in the garden area for photos and prayer.  We stood around Channak with all of us thanking God for her healthy pregnancy and asking God to give her a safe delivery when the time comes.  Channak was delighted with her baby gifts and the girls carried everything to her home which is just round the corner where she has been instructed to rest and take it easy!

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When we are together doing something so simple such as having a meal together I delight in watching the girls.  Their faces are alive and they really enjoy spending time in each other’s company in a different setting than the work environment.  We are all looking forward to being together in the hospital and meeting our newest Be Free baby and then the next big event will be our 5th Birthday party which will take place later this month with a very special guest, our International Missions Director for the past 5 years, Paul Hudson.  Plans are already underway for what will be an extra special weekend to celebrate and honor all Paul has contributed towards the work of Elim in Cambodia.

Thank you for your continued love, prayers and support; we really do appreciate you.  Have a blessed weekend!