Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in Holly Springs

Matt and I had a great time this Christmas with Matt's family. They are so fun to hang out with... everything from worshiping God to cooking good food to counting baseball cards to playing board games...

We need to see each other more often!
Merry Christmas :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Not to be a downer, but reality just kicked me in the head...

I was clicking through the pictures on my computer of my trip and trying to think about the next thing to post about the adventures we had in Cambodia. I started looking into the faces and eyes of the women in the pictures. The ones in the previous posts... they all have stories...

Their innocence and smiles mask deep pain and exploitation. These women have been raped, beaten, forced to do things that I can't even imagine. Its real... slavery, sexual abuse, depravity of mankind...

Thanks be to God that these individuals are in a safe place and getting the care, love, and healing.

If you have some extra moments, please say some prayers for their hearts, minds and bodies. Look at the pictures... let their eyes speak to you.

Please pray for the women and girls who have yet to find their way to safety and caught in the midst of darkness.

I believe that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. But we need prayer warriors to help and people to wake up to the need to change the way we view our own sexuality and that of others.

There are women and girls in Cambodia in pain.

There are women and girls in Raleigh in pain.

We all need healing.

Will you be a part of helping?

The River Community

Just around the corner for the market in Kampong Chhnang there is a river. We learned that there is an entire community of people who live on the river in floating houses.

Most of these folks are very poor Vietnamese families who couldn't afford land... so they build houses on the water. Very resourceful.

The problem is that there is a lot of pollution now. We watched folks in their boats coming back and forth from the town and walking around carrying goods on large hats on top of their heads. I wonder how you learn to do that and have such wonderful balance???

The stench here left a few things to be desired, but its a bustling place with lots of people around.

More from the New Development Center

We stayed in Kampong Chhnang overnight so that we could spend some additional time with the ladies in the morning.

Emily is amazing with children and hung out with Baby Sam while we were waiting for dinner. Randa has taken in Sam because his parents were too poor to care for him and thought the best option would be throw him in the river... Randa's compassion is contagious! She took him in and has been working with the other ladies at the center to nurse him to health. He was precious.

One thing interesting... They don't use diapers there during the day... basically the babies just hang out on blankets and then when they do their business its in the open or on plastic or over the grass?? Anyways, Emily fed Sam, and as she was handing him back to the other woman to take care of him, he decided to poop everywhere... I'm so glad that I wasn't there to see it!

The next morning we spent time hanging out with the women and attempting to communicate with them. It was a bit challenging because none of them spoke a lick of English. However, the spoke fashion and hair... I got to participate in a fashion show because I was the only one in the group who is the same size as the Khmer people... I tried on the shirts they were making and did a little cat walk for them. They loved it.

Then we went down stairs and my I got my hair straightened and a bit of make up to go with it. After my make over was complete we had to say goodbye and hop in the car to drive to Battambang for our next adventure :)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Isaiah 9:2-7

Its a mystery still in many ways, but hope comes in the midst of pain and Jesus' birth brings us a promise of a new way of life through a savior, a vulnerable baby... who calls to us to follow him...

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness --
on them light has shined.
[3] You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
[4] For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
[5] For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
[6] For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
[7] His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Spiritual Gangster

On Saturday Jenn gave me a cool little trinket that says "She wants to be a spiritual gangster". I think that I am going to use this is my new mantra!

This is a semi break from the Cambodia blog for prayer request and update on the life of spiritual gangster here in Raleigh.

We just found out today that Nit (photo here) needs prayer. She traveled with us from Kampong Chhnang all the way to Anlong Veng to the orphanage. Her mom had offered to sell her to Ronda and although Ronda refused to pay, she gave her custody. We'll today her mom decided that she wanted her back. Nit is in danger of being trafficked into sex slavery. Please pray for her safety and for her mom to decide to take her back where she will be loved and cared for.

I put the picture of these beautiful flowers because they are the hope in the midst of the storm.

As you may know, part of our work here with Jubilee is also to reach out to the Foxy Lady here in Raleigh. We took a step of faith and went in on Saturday to hang out for a few hours. This extremely awkward encounter paid off in a few new relationships. Its hard to enter people's pain and I don't want to broadcast others' issues on the internet, but I would ask for your prayer and also praise God that the process and consistency is worth it.

If you know me very well, I have contemplated stopping our outreach several times over the past year because I didn't think we were getting any where... patience, consistency, time, trust... okay, I think am starting to get it.

So much fun being a Spiritual Gangster!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kampong Chhnang

We finally made it to my favorite destination of the entire trip. The New Development Center... This the home for women who have been in prostitution and/or sex slavery in Cambodia. The Center has capacity to help 90 women for one year stints. It is a beautiful compound full of areas for relaxing, learning, living, praising God, and also a guard stand decked with an AKA 47.

The women there are so precious and fun!

First we went into the "city" because several people wanted to by sim cards for their phones. Unfortunately, if you don't have an iPhone its hard to connect across the world so those attempts were slightly unsuccessful.

Ronda met up with a few of the women to go shopping for our dinner meal in the market and we headed out to the river area. (This will be a separate post).

We got a tour of the center and met some of the instructors. We learned that they currently do not have an English teacher. This is one of their biggest needs... someone to go and stay for an extended period of time and teach ESL... any takers??

The program includes a sowing school and a cosmetology school. They make school uniforms, traditional dresses, shirts and do awesome hair and make up. Although we couldn't speak to each other because of the language barrier we were able to speak "beauty". Several of the girls got a hold of me and straightened my hair. It was such a treat. You may also notice in some of the photos that my eye brows are a bit darker than normal... I got a bit of heavy make up on the eye are completed as well :) It lasted for a few days...

A few things to note about the center: The women learn about Jesus and have help with healing through their trauma through God's power, but currently they do not have any counseling to help with overcoming the abuse. I'm amazed at their resiliency and willingness to learn a trade and desire to interact with strange Americans. They can sure put on a happy face. But, what I have learned is that in the Khmer culture people don't really talk about their problems. Ronda may be the only one who gets their story... they need safe spaces to experience grace and healing.

One of the things I am working on is getting them the Hands that Heal Training. Its an international curriculum for survivors of sex trafficking. I am hopeful for more depth of healing to occur for years to come. Please pray for those doors to open and those dots to connect.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Truck Stops on the Cambodian High Way??

Our van was loaded with a variety of soft drinks and waters for us to enjoy as we made our trek around the Tonle Sap. One of them was called "Green Mate"... I decided to try it, YUCK! It tasted like a mix of cotton candy, sugar and melon juice... needless to say I had to pour it out when we arrived at our first potty break.

Before leaving we were warned that places to stop to use the restroom were few and far between. So, I didn't have my hopes up very high. The first place we stopped was something similar to a bus stop. There was an open air shop for food and beverage and then a row of urinals... outside... no doors... just against a wall... Oh, the joys of being a man!

Thankfully the women's rooms had doors on them, but they were what one might describe as a "squatty potty". I think I coined that term while were on the trip. It is basically a toilet in the ground. It is still white and clean, but you stand on either side and squat down. Then you dip a scooper from a pot of water and pour that over your excrement and it washes down the hole... squatty potties... I don't miss those.

Then, back in the van and on to visit where Transform Asia is in process of constructing a University. This University is going to be for humanities training, a school for doctors and nurses and medical clinic. The humanities department will serve to train up pastors and leaders for the Khmer people and the clinic and doctors will be a huge blessing to many in the immediate area and also throughout the country once they complete their schooling.

The site right now only consists of a small farm of sweet potatoes and a cleared off field, to make sure there are no land mines around. We walked the grounds and heard about the vision. Todd was most stoked about being involved with helping them to construct this complex and is working with them to form a committee for planning and development. We each found our niche. Its pretty cool to see the sparks flying uniquely amongst us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Eating Adventures

*First, I have to make a disclaimer that I don't have all the photos that I want to share because my photography skills leave much to be desired. I can't wait until I receive the pictures from my traveling companions considering that the St. Johns snapped 900 + and I ended up with a meager 114. I'll add them as the come in...

So, after the church gathering we headed out to lunch. As a group we decided that Ronda would order for us at our lunches and dinners and we would all share the delicious cuisine laid before us. From the conversations I had with the St. Johns prior to leaving I thought we were going to have a subsistence diet of rice and beans for every meal, but this was far from the case, we ate very well and I am even now inspired to cook more asian food because it is so awesome.

The first thing I discovered is fish sauce. I'm not exactly sure what goes into it, but wikipedia says, "Fish sauce is a condiment that is derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment."... not appetizing?? Well, its served at every restaurant with chilies and garlic. You can use it as a dipping sauce or to pour over your rice. I decided to try it and loved it. It has a flavor similar to soy sauce but is lighter in color and a little bit less runny. If you ever see it on a menu don't let it scare you. I have definitely shied away from fish sauce descriptions before, but now I am a new woman, bring on the fish sauce :)

Steamed White rice is the staple of the Khmer diet for sure. We had it at least 2x a day and could have as much as we wanted. The waiters would come with a steaming bowl and keep scooping it onto your plate whenever you took a break from eating. At this point I was still a little sketched out my the meat selection, but am trying to go with everything. Just focus on the conversation and don't worry about the sanitation... okay, okay, okay... it worked for the most part!

During lunch we chatted about life with Ronda and she has some pretty freaking awesome stories. I asked her how she came to know Jesus. She met him in the Refugee camp while trying to learn English....

You see, when Ronda was 16 she had to flee Cambodia because of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Her father and much of her family were murdered and spent weeks in the jungle dodging mines on her way to Thailand to find safety. While in the Refugee camp she desperately wanted to learn English, but all of the places they were teaching it kicked her out, all of them except for the Christians... so, she learned english through the use of the holy scriptures. These spoke to her heart and she came to start following Christ. The way she told the story was a beautiful picture of God grabbing her heart when she wasn't even looking for it, but in a way that was clear and sweet... Ronda's passion for Jesus still oozes from her every pore.

After lunch we packed into the big blue van and were off to Kampong Chhnang... no, not the same blue van as we have, but VERY similar!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Sunday Morning Worship Gathering

I was way pumped about attending Transform Asia's church service because somehow I thought I was going to be able to mystically connect via the Holy Spirit with their inner thoughts and prayers. Well, it didn't quite happen as I had imagined...

Don't get me wrong I enjoyed and am excited to see so many young people praising Jesus, but I just didn't get the miraculous warm fuzzies I was expecting.

The coolest thing to me was how many young people are leading this church community. It doesn't come as a big surprise considering that the majority of the Khmer population is under 30, but to see them leading worship and teaching the sermon in a room of mixed ages was inspiring.

One of the convictions I walked away with from this trip is that really, in order for Cambodia to change, this generation and then next one to come are going to have to work hard and with God's power to shift the direction of an entire culture. I got a glimpse of that happening through this church that we had the privilege to be a part of for a short time.

The gathering was quite familiar to me... rock band, drummer, electric guitar, base, tambourines, a worship leader with a tight leather jacket and all of them had super trendy hair cuts. I wonder if they read Rob Bell and Donald Miller too?

Anyways, then an older guy got up and start talking. I realized he was reading a passage of scripture. He read the entire chapter of 1 Kings 18. This was their text for the day. It seemed like it took him 20 minutes to read it, how could people be paying attention, I thought? Oh yeah, they understand what he was saying... it actually probably only lasted 5 minutes.

After the younger pastor got up to teach, I read the scriptures in English. These words reminded me of my trip to Israel, I actually got to visit Mount Carmel and we reenacted the scene with the prophets of Baal. That is something I will never forget!

So, I got to thinking... there are so many visible idols and false gods in Cambodia (almost every hotel and restaurant has an alter to Buddha or another god). What was the pastor saying? Is this story more applicable to them? What are the people here thinking when they hear this? Are there people in this room that used to worship false gods actively? What type of conviction do they experience?

Then, I thought... do they have it better than we do in the West? Their false gods are actually other named religions, we have false gods the are masked as beauty or riches and accepted by our culture and not outright worshiped, but worshiped... Do we even know how much we need this story?

These are just a few of the questions that are rolling around as I encounter a seemingly extremely different yet eerily familiar culture on the other half of the world.

Just the beginning

Welcome to my Cambodia trip musings. I am going to share a series of stories and pictures from my recent trip to Kampuchea (the "real" name for Cambodia). The french named the country Cambodia when the colonized it, but the Khmer people still call the country Kampuchea.

Jacky, Todd, Emily & myself arrived at the airport around 4AM on Fri, Dec. 4th to prepare for our journey across the international dateline. After about 30 hours we arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital city. When we rolled in Saturday night I made the comment to our Khmer friend Ronda that the city seemed quiet, she laughed... I later found out why...

We pulled up to our hotel and checked into our rooms for the night. Emily and I were still wide awake and decided to break cardinal rule #1 (via Matt Rowe)... lets just walk down the street near our hotel and check to see if there is a bar or something? We made it about 10 feet outside of the hotel lobby and quickly turned around. Phnom Penh is one of the creepiest, darkest cities I have ever been to. Safely back in the hotel Emily decided to take a shower and all I could hear was, "This is so stupid"??? What?

I was confused, but their bathrooms are set up WAY different from ours. There is no separation between the shower and the rest of the room, it all kind of flows together, no shower curtain, no lip to stop the water, just water water everywhere...

After finally catching some sleep we woke up and headed for breakfast. There was a nice buffet in our hotel, stacked with soup, noodles, rice, stewed veggies??? oh good, some eggs and toast too :)

We also were introduced to dragon fruit. kind of like a kiwi, but not as tart.

Then, fully caffeinated, we walked around the block with our full group in completely day light, so no fear or danger... I realized why Ronda laughed when I said the city seemed quiet. There are about 4 million people who live in Phnom Penh and they all drive little moto's about 10-20 deep on narrow two lane roads. An occasional car or bus will honk and whip around them.

Carts full of fruit and other items are spilling out onto the street everywhere. Once we made it back to the hotel our driver picked us up and took us to Transform Asia's church service. I didn't know that my experience with Phnom Penh was much less than complete, but those stories will wait for our final 2 days when we returned from the country side.