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: www.aim4asia.org) 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: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4038249/#fullstory

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,