Monday, January 18, 2010

Fun Times with Emily

In every village we went to there were large Buddhist and Hindu statues that resembled traditional stories and tributes to their religion.

One of the stories apparently included a dragon eating a maiden and it was located in the pond across the street from our hotel. Jacki went to explore and take some pictures after breakfast one morning and Emily and I braved the moto and tuk tuk crowded street to join her for our photo op.

I think we did a good job acting out our own version of the story.

Guilt and Shame v. Joy and Strength

I just finished reading this passage from Nehemiah 8. The basic gist of the story is that the Israelite people hadn't been reading or learning from their book of the Law very well, often or much... They decided to try again... Once the priests and head guys read the book to them and explained what it meant, apparently they started weeping...

The response from their teachers, not what I expected... v. 10 "Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!"

I think this story resembles a lot of what I have felt over the years. But praise Jesus, I am starting to learn a new reality. Instead of getting discouraged or heaping on more guilt and shame when I realize I am falling short of where God wants me to be, I need to start rejoicing that I am even aware of the need and the truth to change and have started the journey. God's strength will help me change.

Does guilt ever keep you from praying or reading scripture? 
Do you ever feel worse about yourself after spending time with Jesus?

If you answered "yes" you aren't alone, but hear the Good News! You don't have to weep and mourn or hold on to guilt and shame... Jesus provides freedom.

God is rejoicing that you are even starting to follow him. Allow The Lord's strength to fill you and change you. The words of scripture even tell us to throw an awesome party!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mission, Methods and Resources

This post is one that I write with humility and still some trying to figure it all out, but it comes out of the most uneasy place that I felt while I was in Cambodia. The title reflects my work with the non profit minor at NCSU. When I was in grad school I helped teach a couple non profit classes. One of the things I did was help the students think through the challenges and benefits of bringing together your mission, methods and resources with integrity and a couple other values that are escaping me at the moment.

Anyways, after our dinner in Battambang we headed back to the Trade School to do a few interviews. The intention of having several of the women tell their stories was so that we could bring back a video and show it to our churches to get support.

Having individual stories to share and real faces to go along with the often overwhelming reality is helpful in raising money and motivating action.

However, I could tell that Randa was pretty stressed about asking the women to share. I was uncomfortable because it wasn't my idea, but I was the one who would be sitting next to these complete strangers and telling their stories into the camera as if I were their friend...

One of the things I learned during training in trafficking work is that having people share for publicity can be hurtful and exploitative, even if we mean it for good... I asked Brian (Board Member) if the women were okay with sharing their stories, he said, "They will share them..." People, will do a lot of things that aren't the best for us...

Anyways, I didn't ask any other questions.
Honestly, I just wanted to know the stories myself.

So, Randa, Setun (camera man) and myself set up for an interview with Sarim and Saran. Sarim had to stop half way through and shook her head like she didn't want to continue. She didn't speak any English, so I just put my hand on her leg and looked her in the eye.

Hopefully I communicated compassion.

After the interviews were over I asked if I could hug them. They received this well and I do feel connected to Sarim and Saran more now than I did before and hope that they get to fulfill their dreams of working in a factory or owning their own sowing shop. I did see hope in their eyes and thankfulness for a chance for a new way of life.

Transform Asia is doing a lot of good, and this is evident from their stories.

Just like when I was in grad school, balancing mission, methods and resources is still a challenge for non profits who desire to help and need money to do it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Belief in Process

I receive a "voice of the day" update from Sojourner's... this is what it said today...

"Throughout the gospels we are repeatedly told that after some word or deed of Jesus "his disciples believed in him." The point of this statement is not that up to that point they had no faith, but rather that their faith deepened with the passage of time. To believe in God is more than simply to profess God's existence; it is to enter into communion with God and -- the two being inseparable -- with our fellow human beings as well. All this adds up to a process."

- Gustavo Gutierrez, from his book We Drink from Our Own Wells

I agree with Gustavo, my faith is a process. This morning I was reading in the Psalms about God's goodness and justice and how the Lord gives His people good things. I started thinking about all the hard things that His people also go through and was having a hard time reconciling it all... here is how I tried to process it this morning in my journal...

"Dear Jesus, Some of this stuff is really hard to understand. There are all of these promises about your goodness and justice in the Psalms, but yet there is still so much destruction, even for those who are clearly your people throughout the ages. I try to understand, but I just don't get it! I think this is okay-- to not get it-- but I want so badly to be able to explain things. Help me to rest in your truth even when its messy..."

Then I started listing all the people facing brokenness in their lives in various ways. As I cry out to God for others I know it makes a difference. I just can't explain it all. I'm glad its a process. God is good and trustworthy, just confusing sometimes.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Battambang Trade School

We made it to the Trade School just after lunch time. This part of Transform Asia seeks to prevent the sex trade in a variety of ways. They welcome women and men into this residential program. Here they take English classes, learn computer and sowing skills, develop a relationship with Christ and have fun.

The individuals we met here were super friendly and could speak a little bit more English than the women in Kampong Chhnang. One of the girls was probably my favorite the whole trip. She just took hold of my hand from moment one and wanted to talk and have help with English. She brought out one of her lesson books and we did our best to learn some new words.

The rest of the group left me at the Trade School to go help a women with an infection in a rural town just outside the city. I decided to stay and hangout. We ended up playing volleyball for a few hours. I was pretty darn good :)

Our game ended pretty suddenly though, and I was like, "What is going on?"... Someone informed me that they had English class, and I was going to be helping them... OKAY...
I went to class with my new friends and helped them learn how to move from singular to plural. They were eager to learn and did a great job. It was fun to be a part of their learning environment.

After that, I got informed that the rest of my crew was already at dinner... so, I would have to jump on the back of the guards moto bike and get taken to our dinner spot.. YEAH!! I was breaking rule #2 from my husband, no riding with strange men on moto bikes... but, he worked for the organization and drove pretty slowly, so I felt safe and it was fun to say that I had actually ridden on one of the motos :) I made it safely to dinner and then we headed back to the Trade School for a few hours that evening... those occurrences will be shared in the next post.

The Road to Battambang

Emily & I met Nit at the Women's Center in Kampang Chhnang. She is a 10 year old girl whose mom didn't have enough money to care for her. Her mom offered Randa the opportunity to purchase her and although, Randa declined buying Nit, she arranged custody for her and planned to transport Nit to the orphanage where she would begin a new way of life with 59 other children in Anlong Vey.

On the car ride to Battambang, I realized how awesome Emily is with children. Nit wanted to play with our cameras and play peek-a-boo for about the entire 3 hours. My patience wore off after about 15 minutes, but Emily held strong for at least 2 hours... at least she did on the outside. Nit was so sweet and well behaved, she truly wanted to soak in every ounce of the journey.

We made it to the Trade School and she was welcomed with open arms by the individuals there. It is amazing to watch the love between people and the welcoming environment that Transform Asia provides for its residents.

Unfortunately, Nit's mom is apparently an experienced con artist... after we had left Cambodia she made her way to the orphanage and demanded Nit back in her custody, although the paper work was complete, the village chief decided that being a true mother counts for more than the level of care Nit would receive. So, Transform Asia had to give Nit back to her mother.

They have since learned that her mom has "sold" or "borrowed" her to various orphanages throughout Cambodia only to go back and get her later. Its some kind of scheme to provide for herself and her children. It doesn't really make sense to me, but to someone in poverty who is trying to figure out the way to make it, maybe it does... Our prayer is that Nit will remain safe and be spared from the sex industry.