Friday, July 29, 2011

The Beauty of Cambodia

 Just some photos that I like....

What Am I Doing In Cambodia???

Many people have been asking me what exactly I am doing here. I realize now I haven't really said. During the week, I spend my mornings at a place called the Freedom Center. The Freedom Center is a second step home from the Rapha House. The Rapha House is an international organization that helps girls who have been rescued out of trafficking. At Rapha House, girls have access to counselors, and they are kept in a safe and secure location. It is a sort of rehabilitation center. The Freedom Center here in Battambang is somewhere the girls can live and learn specific skills. They teach sewing and salon services. I have been spending my mornings with six girls who have been learning how to style hair. Most of them also have learned how to give manicures and pedicures. I have taught the girls how to properly clean their tools and space. I have also talked with the director and helped him choose and purchase some things which might help them. For example, they all had hair cutting sheers, but they were all covered in rust. The director didn't see any problem here until I showed him how ineffective they were, so he immediately went out and bought them all a new pair. They have mannequin heads they practice cuts and styles on, and they have improved immensely since getting their new sheers. It is a lot of fun working with the girls, but sometimes it is very challenging. They all have such traumatic pasts, and I can see pain in their eyes all the time. They are strong though, and we have a great time together. I have a translator with me there who works very hard. I wish I could share some of the photos I've taken at the Freedom Center, but I can't because of safety reasons. So then, every afternoon during the week is when I teach classes at the Youth Center. I'm teaching an English class and hip hop dance. Both are so much fun. I've had a lot of fun building friendships with my students. Most of them were very shy in the beginning, but they're slowly opening up. All of the other members on my team also teach classes in the Youth center, but in the mornings they go various places. These places include an orphanage, a nearby village, a local cafe, and Jeevit's House. Jeevit's House is a home for children who are HIV positive or come from families that are. They have a child sponsorship program as well, and they help provide rice to needy families. We all also take time out to go out and take photos. There is much beauty here, in both the land and the people. It has been an amazing time here so far, and although there are challenges and frustrations, it keeps getting better. Please keep us in your prayers. As always, thank you for taking the time to catch up with me and my adventures!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hope in a Generation

Every day that I am here, I am falling more and more in love with this place. God speaks to me so much about the people of Cambodia. It is so exciting. I'm stoked beyond measure for the future of this nation. Last week, my team went on a prayer walk through the city of Battambang. Since that day, my eyes have been opened up to the amount of hope here. A lot of evil has been allowed in and welcomed in this land. Darkness has penetrated through so deeply, yet at the same time God is present here. He has always been present here, He has never left, He has just been ignored. This means there is still hope for the Khmer (Cambodian) people! God speaks to me and tells me He has already begun moving here and in this next generation. Before, I had this idea that it was coming, something was coming; just around the corner is something big. But now I have encouragement knowing it's not just coming, it's already started. I am excited to be here in the middle of it. I totally expect to see full out revival in Cambodia in the near future. This land needs to be, must be, reclaimed in the name of Jesus. He is bigger and mightier than all of the demonic presence here. There is a unique situation here in Cambodia. I've mentioned in a previous post that there was recently a mass genocide. Because of that, the country is very young. 80% of the population is under the age of 30 years old. This young generation is hungry for truth. They are hungry enough for it that they will receive it, it will spread throughout the nation, and this country that is 93% Buddhist will become a Christian nation. I say this with complete faith that it will happen. It won't, however, happen without prayer and hard work. God keeps giving me the word HOPE for Cambodia. I see so much hope in the young people here. It gives me chills to think about it. Please keep the young people of this nation in your prayers.

I see these young faces, and I see hope!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chom Reap Suo, I made it to Cambodia

       It's Tuesday, July 5th, and I'm currently sitting in an air conditoned cafe with wireless internet in Battambang enjoying iced coffee and spring rolls. Does this sound like outreach to you? It doesn't to me either, but it's quite nice.
bread and jam breakfast in Phnom Penh
      Our team landed safely in Phnom Penh last Monday evening after about 24 hours of travel time. (Korean Airlines is amazing) Our plans were to stay at the YWAM base in Phnom Penh before heading here to Battambang. Our contact who picked us up from the airport informed us the base was full and dropped us off at a hotel. At first, we were a bit worried as we were now on our own in a city none of us were at all familiar with, but it ended up being a huge blessing. We quickly immersed ourselves in the culture of the country. We were flagging down tuk tuks, shopping at the market, finding banks and bus stations, and exploring the city. Learning how to barter in the market is fun, I feel like I'm getting it down pretty well. Immediately I felt welcomed by the people here. Cambodian people are very relational and welcoming. If you smile, one is almost always returned. The hotel we stayed at seemed to be in a pretty modern and westernized part of the city. There was a mall within walking distance where we found some good food and ice cream and western shopping for the essentials.

my new friend Kusal
        Our team spent a day going to the genocide museums. In the late 1970s, there was a mass genocide of Cambodian people by the Khmer Rouge, a government organization. The goal was to kill off all the older and intelligent people in order to raise up a generation according to their ways and rules. Though the killings lasted several years, they were not successful in their intentions. It is very sad, and it was so recent. It is easy to look around and see the effects of what happened in the 70s. The majority of the population is under 30 years old. If someone is over 30, they were most certainly directly affected by the killings. I met a man named Kusal as I was waiting for a tuk tuk outside of the market one day. He asked if I had been to the museums and informed me his father was killed by the Khmer Rouge. I wasn't sure how to respond, but it brought forth such a realization of just how recent this tragedy occurred.

       After spending a couple of days in chaotic Phnom Penh, the team was excited to head to Battambang. We took a 5 1/2 hour bus ride and got here late Thursday afternoon. We got to get settled in at the YWAM base. Our room is cozy with 5 bunk beds in a row and a few shelves to be shared between 10 girls. I'm thankful to have a western style toilet, and the cold showers are a blessing after spending our days in the heat of this city. Battambang is bigger than I expected, but it is much calmer than Phnom Penh. Our whole group bought bicycles to use as our main source of transportation. It has been quite the adventure learning how to maneuver through the streets here, dodging motos, cars, buses, and tuk tuks. 
our group purchasing bicycles in Battambang

       We are all getting anxious to start full time ministry. We feel like we've pretty much just been on vacation, but it has actually been a really great transition time. I am slowly picking up on the cultural differences here and trying my best to be respectful. I have enjoyed just sitting and observing the people around me. I am excited to begin teaching. Each afternoon Monday through Friday we will be helping teach classes at the youth center run by the YWAM base here. I have two classes; English and hip hop dance. The mornings will be spent in various different ministries. Those will be starting this week. I'm ready to dive in and start building relationships with the amazing Cambodian people.
       I do have several prayer requests. The spiritual atmosphere here is very heavy due to all the idol worship. There are monks walking around and chanting everywhere, Buddhist temples, and strange statues. The spirit of fear and is quite prevalent here. Also, there appear to be many addictions. The poverty is evident everywhere I look. Please pray for the Cambodian people to be open to God's love for them, and open to the teaching we may bring to them. Please pray against spiritual attacks our team may come under. As always, thank you for taking the team to catch up with me on this journey and support me and my team and the work we are doing.