Archive for April, 2019

Introducing Sokim, Manager of Be Free Cambodia

Hello, my name is Sokim and I was born on 16th July 1992.  My childhood was very difficult as I was sold by my family when I was 5 years old.  Until I was 12 years old I was treated so badly by the two families I was forced to work for, as I was sold again to a second family when I was 10.  At the age of 12, I was set free and taken to a Christian organisation in Phnom Penh where I was looked after by a house mother along with other children.  At the age of 18 I became pregnant with my daughter Chiera and I was abandoned once again.  Life was difficult as I was studying at school as well as raising my daughter, with no family to help me.  When my daughter was 2 years old my counsellor introduced me to Elim’s Early Learning Centre where Chiera became the first child to receive a full scholarship to be cared for enabling me to continue with my study and part time work.  I immediately became part of the family of Phnom Penh Elim church attending the prayer meeting and church services every week, and getting to know friends as well as growing in my Christian walk.

In May 2013 Esther met with me and shared about what Be Free Cambodia would be, and offered me a job as manager, I prayed about it and responded the next day that I would love to take up this position.  I loved getting the rooms in Be Free ready for the girls who would become our first trainees.  When I was in Hagar I learnt how to make cards and I was excited about teaching this skill to the trainees.  Because of my life and the hard situations I experienced I knew I could love the girls and teach them about how much Jesus loves them too.

Working in Be Free is challenging and sometimes heartbreaking. I feel sad when a trainee doesn’t finish the 12 month program, usually from family pressure to earn more money working in the sex industry.  My heart is broken when a girl leaves because I want them to have a better life from graduating and getting a job that she wants to do with a good salary.  

But being in Be Free is also rewarding and we celebrate each trainee who completes the program, graduates and starts a new job where they are able to provide for their child.  We thank God that they have good relationship with us and are part of the family of Elim Cambodia.

In 2015 I was honored to be invited to the UK as guest speaker at the Be Free Gala Dinner, my story was shown and Paul Hudson, IMD of Elim Missions interviewed me.  At the start I was so nervous as there was over 200 people present but God gave me the words to say and took away my nerves.  I loved being in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; it was so cold one day that I even saw a little bit of snow for the first time in my life!  I loved the food, especially mushrooms and the Chinese noodles.  I thank God for this experience and I have many wonderful memories of the people I met and the places I was able to visit.  In churches I was able to share about Be Free, about how God is transforming the women we are blessed to teach and make a difference in their lives.

For five years I was a single mum to Chiera and although life was not always easy God has always been so good and faithful to us both.  I started to pray to God for a husband for me and a daddy for Chiera.  One night I had a dream and a face was in the dream, a man that I had known when I was in the Hagar organisation.  When we were younger Somnang loved me but then circumstances changed and we lost contact with each other.  Following the dream I was able to get in touch with Somnang and invited him to church.  We began to get to know each other again, Somnang met Chiera and the three of us started to spend time together.  We got engaged in May 2016 and were married on 8th October 2016.  God blessed our wedding day with monsoon rain meaning the evening reception had to be moved into the church. Somnang and I smiled through it all saying that God was pouring his shower of blessing on our married life together.

We are now the proud parents of Chiera, aged 8 and Daniel who is 16 months.  Chiera loves being a big sister and having a Daddy who loves her so much.  God has given me the family I have longed for, for such a long time.

When I was young I never knew love, and now when I am in Be Free I don’t want the girls to feel the same.  I want the girls to know they are loved and are a daughter of the King.  I always prayed to God to help my life.  Sometimes we have a bad life with difficult experiences but we need to trust God, he always encourages us, always loves us and always blesses us.  I tell the girls that God loves us all so much, he never left me, at times I may have felt lonely but now I trust God and know he always had a plan for me, I know I have more than enough from God, he always knows what I need.

When I work with the girls they share about their bad life and I encourage them that they need to be strong, I understand how they are feeling and I share with them from my own experience. 

I am so thankful for the role I have in Be Free.  From seeing the transformations in the girls’ lives from when they first start the program until the graduation ceremony, they smile, know Jesus and have a good job.  Some of the girls are part of the worship team, I am also in the worship team and it makes me happy to see them come to church and have a good relationship with God.

On behalf of all the Be Free team I want to express my deepest thanks to the churches and individuals who support Be Free and make it possible for women in Cambodia who have had a difficult life to join Be Free and have their life changed.  Keep praying for Be Free Cambodia, for the staff, trainees, and organisations we partner with. I am so thankful for all the teams and individuals who have visited over the past 6 years, working with girls, transforming our centre with our new rooms, teaching new skills and loving everyone in Be Free.

My dream for the future is for Be Free Cambodia to have a small salon and cafe where trainees can learn how to do beauty and make coffee.  When teams come the trainees can pamper them and practice their skills; and then when they are trained can work in a beauty salon or coffee shop; enjoying working in a place using skills they have learnt.

I am so thankful to God that I have a good life now and know Chamnap, Nita, Sarak, Sophea, David, Esther and all my big family in Elim Cambodia.  God is faithful and loves me so much!

I will close with my favorite verse that always gives me comfort and encouragement.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

Introducing Chamnap, International Leader of Elim Cambodia

I was born in 1983 in a middle class Buddhist family, I have 2 older sisters and a younger brother. I started to walk when I was 1 year old and was living a normal life as a child up until I turned 2 at which point I contracted the polio virus and this prevented me from walking until I was nine. It meant for 7 years all I could do was crawl and drag myself about. As a child my parents were so worried that I wouldn’t walk again so they went to a Buddhist fortune teller who told them that this was my punishment for breaking a bird’s legs and this was my Karma. He said that I would never be able to walk again and my parents believed him but challenged it by taking me to many different types of doctors to see what they could do.

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I started school when I was 9 which was three years later than most children.  School life was tough, I got bullied and mocked for the way I looked as I walked and just not being able to do the same thing as others. This was difficult but I persevered in school and finished my year 12, I had a few friends who stood with me and always supported me when others treated me badly and I still have a close relationship with them today. My parents also pushed me because they believed I could succeed when the many voices around them wanted me to be pushed aside. I will always be grateful to my parents for this.

In my final year of school my father passed away and this was a major problem as not only was he a good man and a good father but he supported us all. My sister had to stop university and get a job so my younger brother and I could finish school.  My Mother took 2 years to come to terms with the loss, it was a very traumatic time for us as a family.

After I left school I worked for two years in a training centre with World Vision Cambodia and this went very well. So much so that at the end of the 2 years I was offered a job as the child sponsorship program officer. This was where I first heard about God as I had to attend weekly Bible studies and devotions. It was 2004 while still working for World Vision that I made a decision to give my life to Jesus, I didn’t know a whole lot at that time but I do remember making that decision. A short time after that I left World Vision to start a Christian organisation with my friends called Chrysalis, to help people who had big disadvantages in their life. It was during this period of my life that I met Nita who is now my wife. She then brought me to Elim where I was baptised in 2008. At this point I was working for Hagar and doing some church activities on Saturdays and Sundays, this was when I started to have more of a pastoral role within Elim.

Nita and I met in 2007, we fell in love and we decided to get married in 2009. Nita had a daughter already called Sarah who was 4 when we met. Sarah is now 17 and I love her very much, she is my daughter and I am so proud of her. We have 3 other children Naomi who is 8 years old, Haddasah is 3 years old and Eli is 10 months old. God has truly blessed us as a family and we love each of our children so much.

I started working full time for Elim as a pastor just over 3 years ago but had been serving part time from 2012.  It has been such a joy to watch the work flourish through our city church and church plants, our Early Learning Centre, Be Free Cambodia and also our new Guesthouse. I have known for many years that God had put a big vision and passion into my heart for the lost, needy and disadvantaged. In September 2017 at the first Elim Global South East Asia conference held here in Phnom Penh, I had the privilege of being appointed National leader of Elim in Cambodia.  David and Esther were so pleased to hand this role over to me and I count the responsibility as a total honour to be chosen by God to have this role. Both my wife and I love our family, our church, our work but most of all serving our awesome God.

I believe that God has only just begun to build his kingdom here in Cambodia, and although we are sad to release David and Esther to return to the UK we totally trust God in the days that lie ahead. David and Esther will be working tirelessly in the background helping us in many ways to keep moving forward. We will miss them but we are very focused and ready for the next chapter and we need you all to continue to be a part of that journey. So what’s next?

Later this year we are starting church planting in association with the Elim missionary from Nepal Bhab Ghale and Pastor Steve Kempton. We believe that we are going to see many churches planted over the next 10 years, please pray for this as we select our fist batch of church planters. The vision we have is to see Cambodia saved through evangelism, discipleship and planting a church in every village. Also we want to see our Phnom Penh church keep growing through our youth ministries and cell groups. Please don’t think that because David and Esther are leaving that we are going to take it easy or fall apart, on the contrary we are going to be more determined and work even harder to make God’s vision come to fruition.

Please, please, please keep praying, coming out with teams, supporting financially and any other ways you are involved. We have always said we are all in this together, we need you to play your part as we play ours. We value and love you all for your generous hearts.

I leave with my favourite verses, scripture that many of you will know already, let us all take up the call on our lives that our Lord and Saviour Jesus gave us all.

Matthew 28 v 18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The Future is Bright!

Over the past 8 years I have had many exciting moments in Cambodia.  One of the stand out times was when Pastor Gary Beattie from our home church in Bangor Elim and I got to baptise 11 people in one of our villages as the sun was setting. But I have to be honest this past week has been absolutely amazing. I have just returned from our first ever youth camp and I must say I am so proud of our whole team for everything they did to make this happen.

We set off early on Tuesday morning in our own mini bus plus a 45 seater bus we had hired, arriving just after lunchtime. There was 48 young people from Phnom Penh and 11 that joined us from Kep so 59 in total; it was extra special to bring two of our youth groups together. Everyone got of the bus full of excitement even though they had travelled so long. The expressions on their faces when they saw the beautiful place we were about to stay at was a picture and a half. Shalom Valley outdoor pursuits centre was only opened at the start of this year by the amazing Alongsiders organisation. We actually were the first group to stay that wasn’t alongsiders so Elim will forever be remembered for being the first.

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The first afternoon was spent playing games run by Sok, Aly and Dren with everyone entering in and having so much fun. Each of the young people where assigned into four teams and they competed against each other.  Aly and Sarak had designed and organised t-shirts to be printed so everyone felt they belonged. On the first evening we had our worship praise time and it was just so special to see so many young people worshipping God in such a passionate way, remember all these things are so new to so many of them. As I said a few weeks ago we had 24 young people saved over the last few weeks and on our first night we witnessed another 13 come to faith, it was just wonderful.

I had the total privilege to speak at the three services and I felt God wanted me to look at the three characters from the parable of the Prodigal son. The first night was all about the younger son coming to his senses and returning to the father, entering into a true relationship with him. The second day I spoke on the older son and how as Christians we need to be so careful how we treat others and even more careful that we are actually living a life that represents our claims that we are Christians. The final one was about the Father’s love for us and we again had four decisions on the second night, followed by a call to battle to win our friends and families.  It was fantastic to see around 35-40 young people standing at the front ready for the battles ahead to win the victories of their loved ones lives.

On the morning of the second day everyone took part in the excellent water pursuits provided by the centre, a really fun time with lessons to be learnt about trust and teamwork. On the final morning we had a trip to the beautiful Kep beach and we again had the privilege of baptising 13 new Christians. Afterwards there was much fun in the water and on the beach. The camp drew to a close with us praying for each other and then a four and a half hour drive home. Needless to say we are all shattered but what a significant week!

I have many to thank for financial support and prayer support, so a big shout out to Bangor Elim, Lynette and Michael, Sophie Moore and Coastlands youth, and Martin and the Ballyhenry church. Also to our leaders Aly, Sok, Dren, Sarak, Visal, Chantee, Kaka, Somnang, Zac, Jonny, Rocer, Piseth and of course Pastor Chamnap.  Every single one of you made this happen, your reward over the past months is seeing around 40 young people between the ages of 15-30 coming to know Jesus. Something special is happening I believe, a real move of God and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

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I need to encourage our friends here in Cambodia, go to Shalom Valley with a team and you will have a five star experience. The accommodation, food, facilities and the outdoor activities are excellent at an affordable price. The staff were phenomenal as well, just so helpful. To Craig Greenfield and the Alongsiders team well done, we celebrate with you and want to encourage you that God is already blessing the place. Also a big thank you to Cana Transport for looking after us so well also, may God bless you and your business.

Today was a day we would all have liked to stay in our beds but because we are about to start a ten day holiday time with Khmer New Year and then Easter we held our big staff party. The staff receive their bonus which enables them to travel and visit their families in the province; games are played, followed by a massive water fight, Khmer dancing and then a BBQ. It was epic and yes we got soaked. We want to finish the blog by wishing all our Cambodians a very happy Khmer New Year.

We are all in this together

Over the last 8 years while having the privilege of serving here in Phnom Penh we have watched as God has been doing amazing things in Nepal. During the last 10 years over 170 churches have been planted by our Elim church planters Bhab Ghale and Steve Kempton. If you talked to them they would say they have only planted 1 or 2 themselves and then trained many people the way that they believe church planting should be done. Trust me the methodology that they use came out of blood, sweat, tears and mistakes in the early days. But you can’t deny when you see and hear about the healthy churches that are being raised up, and the vision they have is this “one church and one trained leader in every village”.

So 2 years ago while in the UK I had the opportunity to talk to Steve at the ELS conference and shared our vision for church planting in Cambodia.  To my surprise Steve said that Bhab and himself would consider coming out to have some conversations about whether the same methods would work in Cambodia that have been so successful in Nepal. So we both decided to pray that if it was of God it would happen and that it would be perfect timing as well. We sent a few emails back and forward and then last year again at conference we talked and this time we agreed to have the guys come to Cambodia to meet our team and take this to the next level. Steve actually flew a few weeks later to Bangor in Northern Ireland to meet myself and Chamnap to start explaining a bit more about United Vision for Nepal.

Once that meeting happened we all needed to look into four very busy schedules and come up with a plan that suited all. The result of that was Bhab arriving on Monday morning and Steve arriving on Monday evening. The rest of the week was much more than we could have ever expected. On Tuesday Chamnap, myself and the church planting team Dren, Sarak, Sok and Piseth told our story of all that we do and why we do those things. We talked about the vision that we have as a team and what part each of us play. Then on Wednesday morning Bhab and Steve talked about what God has been doing in Nepal, they gave us an insight into how the training works and the whole methodology around it. In the afternoon Bhab worked with our team vision casting and seeing if the methods they use could work in Cambodia. We quickly could see that the cultures are very similar and that this could work as long as we all are 100% committed to it.

Thursday was a day where a lot of decisions were made, a joint vision going forward, planning who would be trained as the first batch of leaders, what comes next and an agreement between UVN and our guys. I stepped out of this bit because I wanted Chamnap and the team to totally own anything they agreed and the results were so exciting. Bhab and Steve have committed to coming and training over the next number of years and our guys have committed to completely getting behind and endorsing everything they train. Chamnap and his team will oversee the new church planters being trained up.

The word beautiful comes to mind, two men along with a working board back in England willing to not only continue to do it in Nepal, but now give it away along with their own time and money to see Cambodia won for Jesus too. This is what the church is about working together Kingdom building no matter what the cost. This is a day that Elim Global should be celebrating as we work together in cohesion to see the lost find Jesus and be discipled.

I want to ask you to pray for all of this for Chamnap and the team here as they set about finding God’s chosen people to plant churches. Pray for Bhab, Steve and United Vision for Nepal for continued provision as they sacrifice their time and money to fly here. I also want to thank once more Steve and Bhab for their servant hearts totally sold out to see people transformed by Jesus.

Just in closing I want to give you a quick update about our youth.  On Tuesday we will be heading off to Shalom Valley Outdoor pursuit centre. We have 64 people attending between the age of 15-30, please pray for the three days we are there.  Over the last few weeks we have seen 24 of the youth make first time decisions to follow Jesus; it has been unbelievable.  Aly, Sok, Sarak and all the helpers have been amazing as they have really brought the group on a journey. We hope that many more will find Jesus at the camp and on the Thursday morning we have 6 people so far wanting to be baptised down at the beach in Kep. Thanks to all who have supported the camp to take place, we appreciate everything you have done to make it possible. Please continue to pray as Pastor Chamnap and I have the privilege to share the gospel with them three times, that we will see more people surrender there lives to God.

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