Saturday, December 18, 2010

November 2010 WorldVenture Appointees & Paraclete Staff

Great News!!

I have some really exciting news to share! Just last month I was appointed by WorldVenture to serve as a missionary to Cambodia! WorldVenture will be partnering with my church family at New Braunfels Bible Church in New Braunfels, Texas to equip, guide, and spur me on as I prepare to launch into long term mission ministry in Cambodia. I had the privilege of joining 14 other missionary appointees (five couples and four other singles) and the WorldVenture Paraclete Center staff for two weeks of candidate orientation in Littleton, Colorado. Each appointee has a mentor, a member of their church who has agreed to fill a special role in teaming up with the missionary to aid in the process of preparing to get to the field. I am delighted and honored to have my dear friend, Renee Garner serving me in that role.

Our mentors joined us for several days of our orientation, so it was really nice to be reunited with her during that time. It was a busy time, with a lot of information coming at us, but it was also exciting to be entering into a new and even more intentional stage of preparation for long term missions ministry, and getting to do it alongside some other really wonderful people.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Chanty, Srey Ma, & Srey Mao

These are the sweet Khmer young ladies who live in the Cox family home, where I am currently staying. They have been my voluntary Khmer language coaches as mentioned in my update.

This Little Piggy Went to Market

I never saw this when I was here last summer, but I've seen it a bunch of times this trip. At first I wondered if the pig was already dead because I couldn't believe it wouldn't be squirming. But then I did finally see one of them moving its legs. I guess they have resigned themselves to their fate and given up, but growing up on a farm I never saw any of our hogs go to market so peacefully!

With my friend Srey Moch

Cambodia 2010 Update #2

I figure it’s about time for another update, so here goes.  This was a week of firsts:
  1. My first time to help make homemade tortillas - they are really expensive to buy here so the family who is hosting me right now usually makes them from scratch. Yummy!
  2. My first time to direct a tuk tuk driver using only Khmer - I didn’t always use exactly the right words, but I got the message across and got to my destination.
  3. My first time to ride in a ferry across a body of water - went on a trip to a village with Cathleen Jones from Children in Families (more about that in a bit).
  4. My first pedicure - Got it done for $3.00 (US) at the new Daughters spa. This is the ministry I worked with last summer when I was here which provides job training and employment as well as other resources to enable exploited women to get out and stay out of brothels.  
Since the time that the rest of my team left, I have been staying at the home of the Cox family.  Chris and Victoria are missionaries here and have three sweet little girls. They also have three great Khmer young ladies from their church living in their home. Chanty, Srey Ma, and Srey Mao have been helping me learn Khmer. They like to have a little fun with me too. One of them had me repeat the phrase, “K’nyom jong baan b’day.” I dutifully followed along and they all began to giggle. It translates, “I want a husband.” Nice. I joked back with them that maybe I should practice that one when they ask for announcements at church on Sunday. OK, maybe not. I’ve been encouraged that I am starting to become more familiar with the language. When I was first here last summer I wondered how I would ever get it. I’m far from even a survival-level mastery of it, but I’m excited when I can pick out words and phrases as people are talking and know what they mean. And my tuk tuk experience is evidence that immersion works!

I have been able to meet with a few more organizations since my last update. One of these is Mercy Medical Clinic. They provide medical care to impoverished Cambodians in and around Phnom Penh. They treat people regardless of their religious background and are also openly evangelistic, providing opportunities for patients to hear the gospel in a variety of formats. They have Khmer  Christians serving as chaplains in addition to solid Christian medical staff, so there are many opportunities for patients to receive prayer and to talk about spiritual things. I am scheduled to go back on Monday to shadow their PT for part of the day. Then on Monday afternoon I will meet with the director of the Phnom Penh Center for Independent Living which is made up of Cambodians with disabilities who are working to create more opportunities for people who are disabled.

Oval: Village GrandmasAs I mentioned previously, I went with Cathleen Jones out to visit a rural village this week, about  2 ½ hours drive (including the ferry ride) outside of Phnom Penh. She is one of the missionaries that our team met with during my first week here. Her ministry, Children in Families, is advocating a move away from the institutionalization of children who are orphaned or endangered and has started a foster family program which has been very successful so far. We visited with some very sweet Khmer families who have taken in such children, a number of whom have disabilities. I know that it gets hard to read these updates if I try to cram too much information into them, but I would love to tell you more about the great work that this organization is doing, the way that God is transforming Cambodian society through programs like this, and how I was encouraged by the possibility of being involved in something like this one day. So, just ask me! I’ll give you all the detail you could possibly want – I’m very excited about it!

Praises and Prayer Requests:
  • Praise God for health, safety, and His provision during my time here.
  • Praise God for the wonderful learning opportunities I’ve had this trip.
  • Praise God for lifting my spirits when some of the spiritual heaviness here started weighing me down. (Thanks for those of you who prayed about this for me!)
  • Praise God for the growing Cambodian church.
Prayer requests:
  • That I would make the most of my remaining time – just a little over a week left!
  • That what I have learned would stick with me both to inform and to encourage my preparation for the future.
  • For continued health – body, soul, and spirit during the rest of my time here.
  • For the continued movement of God’s Spirit to transform Cambodia one heart at a time.  

Grace & Peace, 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cambodia 2010 Update #1 (note - some material is inappropriate for children)

"Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell."

A number of you are probably familiar with this famous quote from C.T. Studd. This past week our team met a missionary couple here in Cambodia who are doing just that. Don & Bridget Brewster, along with a number of Cambodian Christians, run Agape ministry (their website is: which operates out of a former brothel (now called Rahab’s House) right in Svay Pak, an area in Phnom Penh which is infamous for being the worst area for human sex trafficking of prepubescent girls. When pedophiles come to Cambodia for sex (and many do), they come to Svay Pak. This is where the highly publicized bust which was featured on a Dateline special several years back occurred. To see transcripts & video clips from this episode online go to:

This visit was one of the most sobering of our trip, though, as heavy as it was to see the magnitude of suffering being inflicted on precious young girls, some of whom are the same age as my own nieces, there was a lot of encouragement in seeing the kind of impact that this ministry and some of the others we have been visiting are having. It’s an amazing feeling seeing girls, some of whom have been rescued through the raid that was publicized on Dateline and others like it, singing songs about Jesus in a Kid’s Club and knowing that there are believers here who are taking a stand for them, protecting them from the pimps, and seeing that they receive education, counseling, and other resources which will help them to live free from the bondage for which they once seemed destined.

Don & Bridget, and many of the other missionaries with whom we have had opportunity to visit, recognize that there is a spiritual element to all of this which can’t be missed. This is not just a social problem and it will take much more than humanitarian and legal intervention to combat it. Cambodia will not be delivered from the spiritual bondage which is holding her captive without intense prayer. There is a realization that it is not enough to rescue and restore those who have been victimized by this horrendous evil, though we obviously are mandated to do this as followers of the God who redeems and restores. The “demand-side” of trafficking must also be addressed. Don Brewster recognizes this and has begun an outreach ministry to the pimps through an exercise facility called “the Lord’s Gym.” Several former pimps have given their lives to Christ through this ministry and have gotten out of the sex industry. The numbers are relatively small and may seem like just a drop in the bucket in comparison to the enormity of the problem, but it is significant that the power of the gospel is compelling them to leave one of the most lucrative business ventures available to them in a place of such abject poverty.

As you can imagine, there is much more that I’ve experienced here in just one week than I can possibly describe in one update letter, but I’ll try to give a brief summary of what’s happened & what’s ahead. First of all, I need to apologize for taking so long to get an update out. I was very haphazard about getting out the final update from my trip last summer. If you did not receive one you can see it on my last post here. It is entitled "Cambodia 2009 Wrap-up" and I posted it on March 4, 2010. Also, I need to back up a little to let everyone know that since my last trip to Cambodia I have graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Cross-cultural ministry. My sister and brother-in-law have graciously invited me to stay with them while I am in this transition phase preparing for long-term ministry in Cambodia. So, after being in Texas for nearly 18 years, I moved up to Minnesota in May and had a little time to settle in before traveling with my immediate family to attend a great family reunion in Colorado and taking off from there on July 10 to fly in to Phnom Penh & meet my ministry team for this trip. The purpose of this trip was to explore potential partnership relationships for long term ministry. I am in the process of applying for candidacy with WorldVenture, a great mission organization with whom I have been in communication for the past few years, and the team I have been with this trip is made up of other potential candidates and our leader, a World Venture missionary in the Philippines. We met with the following ministries during our week together: InterServe, Children in Families, Yejj Training Center, Chap Dai, Daughters, Agape/Rahab’s House, Hagar, and IJM. I could say so much about each of these ministries, but I will just say that I was so impressed with the people that the Lord has put in place here and the impact they are having. For me personally, I definitely felt that I had met some “kindred spirits” and I was very affirmed in my hopes to be able to partner with some of them using the gifts and passions the Lord has instilled in me.

The team’s time together has come to a conclusion. I am going to continue hanging out here until August 9, meeting with a few more organizations on my own to continue to develop a picture of what is currently being done for people with disabilities & their families, what still needs to be done, and what is needed to facilitate it. I also hope to continue to get a feel for what it will be like to live in Cambodia as I hope that will be a reality for me before long.

So, that’s what’s happening with me right now. Feel free to connect with me about any of the ministries I’ve mentioned or any other questions you may have. I’ll try to get another update out at some point and I do have pretty decent internet access if you want to e-mail me, Skype, or chat on Facebook (12-hour time difference from CST). I’ll conclude for now with some praises and prayer requests:

Praise God:
  • For the willing hearts of missionaries we have met here. Many of them came when it was much less inviting than it is now. I admire them so much!
  • For the work that God is doing in the hearts of many Cambodians and the way that change has begun to occur through His redeeming love.
  • For safe travel and relatively good health for our team while we’ve been here.
  • For the amazing connections we’ve been able to make while here.
Please pray:
  • For the spiritual battle that is being waged in Cambodia. The light shines so brightly in places, but the darkness is thick.
  • For the work of the ministries that have been mentioned as well as many others.
  • For safe travel for my team members as they return home. One member will be traveling into Vietnam & Thailand for about a week before returning to Cambodia for a few days & then traveling home.
  • For continued guidance for me in making additional contacts and that I would really hear the Lord and be sensitive to what He would have me learn during the remainder of my time here.
Thanks so much for all of your support, love, and prayers!
Grace & peace,

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cambodia 2009 Wrap-up

FINALLY! - a post-trip report. I really did need a little time to let the most significant things settle out in my mind, or this would probably be a 10-page letter. Overall it was an amazing experience and I saw God do some significant things in the midst of our circumstances and in my own heart.
Those of you who received my “on the field” updates already heard that the first few weeks were pretty rough. I thought I knew what culture stress was like from previous mission trips. I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be this time around. The combination of heat, communication difficulties, frustration with trying to remember unfamiliar name pronunciations, loss of freedom & independence, and, among other things, trying to carry a Western schedule into a non-Western environment resulted in constant exhaustion. I told the Lord that I was willing to return to Cambodia long-term if that was His will for me, but He was going to have to make the calling clear because, at that point, I just couldn’t see how it was going to work! Bit by bit the Lord changed my perspective, however. I began to settle in and things gradually became less overwhelming. The puzzle pieces started falling into place so that within another week or so I was saying to the Lord & to myself, “Yeah, I can see myself living here.” At this point, I really do see it being a good fit with the calling the Lord has put on my heart, along with my skills, experience, and temperament. I’ve concluded that the Lord is indeed calling me back to Cambodia for long term ministry. I will graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary this May and I am praying for His direction in preparing myself for what He has prepared for me. As you have faithfully prayed for us during this two-month trip, please continue to pray for me in this preparation time, and also please continue to pray for Cambodia.

So, now for the trip highlights. I’ll break them down in list form:
The main ministries:
1. Logos International School – taught 5th & 6th graders for 2 weeks: devotions, science, computers, & arts & crafts. It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to lean on the Lord.
2. New Hope School – taught English to Vietnamese high schoolers. It was a really great group of kids and we had such a wonderful time.
3. Daughters – worked with some dear young women who have left working in brothels to start new lives through this ministry: built relationships and helped with putting together a catalog to market their products.
4. TEEac – Assisted with data entry for a ministry providing theological education materials.

My 4 favorite things about Cambodia:
1. The beautiful, warm, friendly people – The people are outwardly friendly, in general, though at first it felt difficult to connect because of the language barrier. I did not make friends here as quickly as I did in Russia (with Russians who spoke English). Once I did have the chance to develop friendships I quickly felt the kind of connectedness that is a big help in feeling at home in a place that’s not my home.
2. The culture – Though it certainly has negative aspects, as all cultures do, I appreciated the relaxed, community-oriented nature of this place. Everywhere I looked I saw people gathered together. They even get together by the hundreds to do aerobics at Olympic Stadium.
3. The food – Okay, I know that’s not very spiritual, but it is a relief whether you’re living some place for two months or for a number of years to find that you not only can tolerate the food, but you really like it!
4. Seeing God at work – God’s activity was very real to me in our own circumstances as well as the testimonies of numerous first generation believers. When I asked how it was going from Buddhism to Christianity, time and again I heard them say that Buddhism didn’t have answers and Christianity did. As Christians we might presume that what is reasonable to us would be reasonable to them, but this has not always been the case for Buddhists presented with the claims of Christianity. I believe it is clear that God has been at work in breaking down the stronghold of Buddhism which has blinded the eyes of these people for so long. In terms of our personal experience there was an event which took on tremendous significance for me. During our final days in Phnom Penh a baby was brought in to Daughters. She was being cared for by her aunt who was trying to save her life. The baby was just five days old and had spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal column does not close correctly around the spinal cord, leaving it protruding out in a pouch and causing paralysis below that part of the spine. The baby was unwanted by her mother & no one in her family was willing or able to pay for the care she needed, so the hospital had sent her home to die. Being a PT, I was asked by the ladies at Daughters to take a look at her and see what we could do to help her. I fell in love with her within moments but was struck with a feeling of helplessness as I realized that what she needed went way beyond what we could offer her. I was able to do dressing changes and a little massage and movement of her legs, but she still had an opening where her spine had not fused that was leaking cerebrospinal fluid. I didn’t know how long her body could keep up with producing more to replace what she was losing, but, aside from that, she would surely develop a deadly infection before long. I was reminded of II Chronicles 12:20 where Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, receives word that they were about to be attacked by a combined force of three different armies. They were ridiculously outnumbered. With all the people assembled, Jehoshaphat prays to the Lord for their deliverance, concluding the prayer with, “…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” Exactly! All we could do was look to the Lord, our resources were completely insufficient. And the Lord came through – a day or two and many prayers later this precious baby was back in the hospital and receiving the care she needed. (Ask me if you want to hear the full story). Looking back at the account of Jehoshaphat, it is interesting that, though the Lord promised Judah that He would fight this battle for them (which He did), they were still instructed to take up their positions. Seems like an analogy for missions in general – we are insufficient for the task on our own, but He calls us to “show up” and watch Him accomplish things that we never would have imagined.
Some specific praises and current prayer requests:
1. Praise God for answering your prayers! We had a great team who worked together well and came to really love each other, we were all kept safe and stayed relatively healthy. All of these were specific things that I asked you all to pray for. So, thanks for the prayers and thanks be to God for His gracious response!
2. Praise God for how He has been and continues to be at work in Cambodia, building His church.
3. Pray for God’s guidance in choosing a mission agency for the long term. I’m considering staying with CrossWorld or going with World Venture. They are both great organizations but, since it is a long-term commitment, I want to choose the best fit. This is my number 1 prayer request right now because I need to be able to get going with the application process.
4. Pray for my perseverance to finish well at DTS now that I’m in the home stretch.
5. Pray for God’s direction for the “in between time” following graduation from DTS and prior to returning to Cambodia.
6. Pray for people to partner with me in this ministry through prayer and financial support.

Grace & peace!!