The past two days we have spent in slums outside the city of Phnom Penh. There is a ministry here called Children At Risk and there are about eight to ten permanent people here that go out into the slums 4 times a week to share Jesus with the surrounding community. We primarily worked with and were lead by two married couples… Melanie (from Chattanooga, TN) and Tim (from Cambodia), and Daniel and Frieda from Sweden. It was so cool to get a long-term missions perspective from them. It is so evident that God is using them in huge ways to effect these people, it is like they have been called to this tribe, this people group and refuse to abandon them, they are all really passionate about being consistent and sticking it out even when it seems redundant.
These slums have been relocated in the past year from inside the city to the outskirts. The government forced the people out because they no longer wanted to see them, eventually the people were literally imposed upon, tear gassed, and taken out in the middle of the night. This was the real deal, house after house made of tarps, random pieces of wood for walls, dirt and dust floors, trash everywhere, naked children, kids using the bathroom in the middle of the street, people lying around everywhere and then ten of us, ten white people walking around with broken hearts and praying, asking how to react and speak to these people.
Yesterday we were a part of a Father’s Day program and it was seriously chaos. We got there, decorated this little room with posters and balloons and then the kids and families starting piling in. Immediately all of the kids took an interest in us and we all began to play with them and hold them and hug on them. They were so receptive of our love, it was heart breaking in a way. This little girl, Rya, came and plopped down in my lap, took my arms and wrapped them around her and held on tightly. She looked up at me and although we couldn’t verbally communicate because of the language differences her eyes spoke, I could literally hear a thousand words through the way she looked into my eyes and held onto my arms. My first thought was, I want to take you home with me. Sometimes it is so hard to grasp the realities of these kids’ lives and to wrap my brain around the fact that I really can’t do much but sit here and give her every single ounce of love in my heart, in this moment. God is using this and is still teaching me from it. Nothing breaks my heart more than to see the conditions these people live in. My prayer everyday is that I never become numb to seeing it and that God would continually use us to show His love to them in whatever way it may be and to also realize new ways to bring help and justice to these people. I also pray that they would be given a spirit of diligence and a desire for living like they have never imagined. So that all happened yesterday, I haven’t even gotten into today…
I think my favorite thing about the ministry that we are working with is the day to day diversity and wide spectrum of things they use to reach these people. This morning we woke up and got out to the slum fairly early to have worship and intercession with the ministry family, it was incredible. It is always so cool to worship with brothers and sisters from different nations in one tongue. Ah I love it. Our intercession time was also amazing, there was a real spirit of restoration and expectation. We prayed into domestic violence, drug addiction, sex trafficking, laziness, sickness, male leadership and true conversion. (Ephesians 4:17-28 and 1 Peter 2:9) Afterwards we went out into the slums and did family visits. God is so consistent in breaking my heart for these people. The first woman that we visited was all alone because her husband is really sick. She invited us into her home and her hospitality was so kind considering she had literally next to nothing. We prayed for her as stray dogs, chickens and flies swarmed the room. After praying she looked up and I could see the love of Jesus in her eyes, it was pouring out onto us. It is always humbling and surprising to get so much love and encouragement from those that we are trying to love and encourage.
We continued to walk around and meet families and pray for them and then it started to really rain. To stay dry we ducked underneath this big structure with a roof that was packed, shack to shack, with families. The children immediately started coming over to us, singing, playing and holding our hands. These children have such playful spirits and so much joy in their hearts. These two little girls sat on my lap and again just clung so tightly. Sometimes I think it is more than my heart can handle and just when I think I can’t take anymore I am comforted by the Spirit in such obvious ways.
We were back at our guest house by one, grabbed some lunch and then headed out again. This time we went to see a fellow YWAMer that has temporarily moved to Cambodia to get a taste of long term missions. This girl, Sarah, did her AW80 DTS two years ago and has now chosen to live here and work to help girls that have had their lives taken away from them because of prostitution. The ministry is called Daughters and they take in girls that haven’t been sold to brothels and pay them to do different types of art. These include sewing, metal making, crocheting, cake baking, etc. They are providing a chance for new life and ministering to them all at the same time. I loved this! It was amazing to actually see first hand what I feel so familiar with, as far as FairTrade opportunities and instituting a way to actually see change happen. I couldn’t stop thinking of my mom here and what an incredible chance it is to bring Cambodian culture into the States through selling Daughters products at her store, Theophilus, while helping these girls create new life and draw closer to Jesus. What an opportunity. This is where my heart is. I love this stuff. I love our time in Cambodia so far. I just really feel like we are being used and getting a taste of what different long term mission opportunities are out there.
It has been a really long and packed few days. Tomorrow we are heading to Siem Reap for a four day holiday/midway debrief time. I am so excited! We are waking up to a six hour bus ride and then have a very relaxed agenda for the next little bit. This came at the perfect time, I think the whole team is feeling like it is time for a rest.
Ever since we got to Cambodia I have felt very refreshed and ready to listen. I am putting my arms and hands out and saying, God I’m willing and listening… use me. I have had a huge desire to be in tight communion the past few days and I just feel God helping me commit my mind to Him and others on a daily basis, because I am asking Him for that. That is my prayer for today and tomorrow and the rest of my life.