First off, Cambodia is something to experience! Today was amazing! The team begins every day with worship and prayer in the bus to prepare us for our day. It’s such a special time for me to see the sights of this country and pray over it and what God is preparing for us. When we arrived at Rahabs Church in Svay Pak, we were greeted by our sweet new AIM brothers and sisters, families and children in the community.
Today was my turn to lead the Bible study for the young disciples. These Pre-teen and teenage leaders are some of the hardest working people I have ever seen. They have all be rescued from some sort of poverty stricken environment. The more I seek stories, the more I see God’s work flourishing there!! Pastor was sharing a story of a young man who was in front of us kicking a soccer ball around. Pastor shared that at the age of 2, this boy was given up by his father. His mother died of cancer and his dad remarried and did not want him or his brother! Pastor took them both in, and the boy, now 15, loves Jesus and goes to school and is one of the disciples that helps with the children!
These amazing disciples lead out the Kids Club everyday! (Kids club is where children from the brick factories come and sing songs about Jesus, play, and interact with people who love Jesus!!) During our bible study time, I had them get in small groups. First I had them encourage one another. Some shared how they were a good friend or how one took time to take care of them when they were sick. One young girl was at the point of tears when her friend shared what a sweet friend she had been. (Culturally in Cambodia it is very rare to show emotion.) After that I had them pray for each other in groups of 3-4. It sounded like beautiful singing while they prayed.
The AIM staff leader who is Cambodian and who was translating in their group shared that the disciples don’t get very many opportunities to share and pray like they did today. He shared that our time was very important for him because he needed encouragement and a time to share like we did today. He said he got so much out of watching the disciples share and pray it touched his heart and he was so blessed!!
After workshops, we headed to a brick factory to hand out rice to the families and wash the hands of the children! Going to the brick factories is so humbling. We have heard stories of the brick factory and the families and the poverty there. I’ve been to Kenya and have been around poverty, but the danger and poverty these families live in is extremely dangerous. The fact that this type of slavery still exits is appalling. It was quite a scene to experience. First we were hit with the different smells all around as we watched small children running in the filth around their parents and grandparents sitting and waiting for us! You see the evidence of their sickness from the illegal cloth burning and cole. Chickens, cats and even dogs were running around with the oven burning directly next to where these families sleep. Don’t forget it’s 98 degrees hot with the same in humidity. And, we are told that the factories are not burning as hot as they do in the winter months!
It’s completely unfathomable to me that these babies, the same age as my grandchildren, are living like they do. AIM staff is incredible with their outreach. They invite the children to Kids Club and the families to church and offer weekly free medical care! The families are so thankful for our visit. We pray over them and it appears they know and understand prayer!
After the brick factory, we returned to prepare for Kids Club! Honestly my favorite part so far is the puppet time!! Our team rocks! Phil and Jennifer have taken our puppets to another level, and the kids love it and I think our team looks forward to it as much as the kids! Today’s story was about the Good Samaritan. We could see and hear the kids coming into the building! Typically they start gathering around the window to the room we prep in! As soon as we walk out, we are lovingly attacked by little children, some very little! Some of the older siblings around six years old take care and bring their younger siblings who are as little as 1-2 years old to Kids Club!!
We had a blast with worship but we were all anticipating the awaited puppet time!! Just as soon as it started, a huge rain storm hit. Not like our California “rain” I mean RAIN like torrential rains! The rain lasted through the puppet show. It was so loud it was difficult to hear the lines of each puppet!! The disciples translating did an incredible job. The children didn’t budge– they were fully engaged and stayed connected to the story! It was pretty awesome! During Kids Club I recognized several of the children from the brick factory. What a blessing to have them involved in the program!
Once kids club was over, we loaded up in the bus and stopped at Daughters of Cambodia shop which is another organization that helps rescue women and men from sex trafficking! In fact the young women who work there were all rescued from sex trafficking. It was so cool to walk in the shop and immediately hear worship music playing!! Items there were also made by women rescued from that horrible life of sex trafficking.
I didn’t know what to expect in Cambodia, but what I’ve experienced and seen has touched my heart in a way only God can tug! I see the hope and love of Jesus in Svay Pak! I see the hope in the disciples! I see the caring for the sick and widows!
The verse that our puppet Lamby shared today was “love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself”. I see this happening in Svay Pak. I see this tiny place making a difference in the entire country one day.
Yes Cambodia has changed me! I will go back home with a different set of eyes!
MARK 4:26-28 “And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows–how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head…”
“…The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
“…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”
As we enter our 4th day working with AIM, I can honestly say that the time change, weather, and a “little” sickness was getting to me. I was tired. I wasn’t feeling well. I wanted to stay back and maybe rest a little more, but most of all I just wanted to feel better. However, while doing my quiet time in the morning, God reminded me of the reasons why I am here. I am here to do His Will, be His joy, His hands and feet, and because of that He will give me the strength to carry on through the day. He reminded me that when I rely on my own strength, I will grow weary. With that in my mind, I knew that God has my back and that whatever I need today, He will provide.
When we arrived at Rahab’s House, the disciples were finishing their daily devotional. I was so happy and joyful to see them and to be with them. I was still feeling a bit under the weather, but there’s a quiet strength there that I can feel which God has promised me.
On the first part of the day at our Arts and Craft workshop, the disciples completed their project of using recycled water bottles to start planting vegetables. They designed the water bottles, filled them with soil, and dropped in one or two seeds of vegetables. They had a variety of vegetation to choose from such as radishes, kale, onion, squash, carrots, tomatoes, & jalapenos, to name a few.
It’s amazing to see the disciples get excited to plant their own vegetables. Once we got started, they did not want to stop. It’s amazing to see that something so simple can bring joy to their lives and smiles to their faces.
We also taught them how to make earrings using seashell, beads, and pearls. Their creativity blows me away! And the fact that it doesn’t take much for them to be joyful is something you and I(!) can learn from.
Right after the workshop, we did brick factory outreach. It was a bit muddy due to the rain the night before. The teams were divided in half, and in our team 3 of us washed hands while the other 3 dried hands. I was drying the children’s hands, and I love that I was able to minister to them even if it was just something as small and insignificant as drying their hands. I gave them little hand and arm massages and prayed that even in that little gesture they can feel the love of God. One of the little kids about age 2 was naked and dirty, so the disciples gave him a quick bath. The look on his face was priceless. He was just adorable. Once he was dry, he ran back to his parents living in the little hut at the brick factory.
Most if not all of the brick factory workers and their families live in small huts around or at the brick factory. As the team walked through the brick factory, I can feel the heat radiating through the walls as the bricks were being cooked. It was hot!!! I can’t imagine being there during their hottest season with all of the ovens working.
After the brick factory, we went back to Rahab’s House and had lunch with the disciples. I sat with a couple of the young disciples and was happy to be able to serve and be present with them enjoying lunch and getting to know each other.
The second part of our day is the most challenging, and yet the most fun and rewarding time of the day. I said challenging because the kids are so rowdy and when they play, they PLAY! While we waited for Kids Club to start, we hung out and played with the children. They have such high energy. Trying to keep up with about 125 high energy kids is not easy, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything! Several little girls asked to be carried, a couple more asked to play a clapping hand game, and a few tried to climb my back (a couple of them succeeded without taking me down). Several times, I had a girl on my back hanging on to my neck, legs around my waist and another hanging on to waist with legs around my thigh not wanting to let go! I was hot, sweaty, and I’ve got two girls hanging on me not wanting to let go. All I was trying to do was not fall and hurt all of us. Despite it all, it was such a joy–all I could do was just laugh and enjoy these little precious moments I got to spend with the daughters of the Almighty. We sang and danced, listened and watched the puppet show.
They loved the puppet show! They sat down in rows of 4 (boys and girls separated) and they listened. They were very attentive and engaged in the play’s little Q&A. In the middle of the puppet show, the sky opened up and dropped gallons and gallons of water. But that didn’t hinder them from listening to the word of God, nor did they get distracted from
it. They were ‘drinking in the story of the bible’ and it was refreshing to witness.
We played a little game afterward and did coloring. As the day came to a close, and the kids were waiting for their turn to be taken home, the girls who were hanging on to me and a girl, who I assumed to be their older sister, came by and gave me hugs. As they were leaving, they looked back and waved and waved and waved. I prayed that they know how precious they are and how much God loves them. They all have a special place in my heart and I prayed for God to continue to watch over them and to use them for His purpose.
As tired and unwell as I felt in the beginning of the day, by the end of the day I was filled with joy, gratitude, and love. Little did those kids know how much they have blessed me, how God had used them to give me the strength and joy that I needed for the day. I pray that the little seeds that we planted this week will grow and be used to move mountains.
Today we finished our time in Cambodia serving with AIM. In just five days we made new friends and new family. There is something special about traveling to some place so far from home, and meeting a brother and sister you never knew you had. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Cambodia are vibrant, alive, and full of passion. Our team has felt loved, welcomed, and valued beyond compare.
I had the opportunity to lead, with Brianna, a workshop for the Disciples on leadership. Today, on our last day, we taught the disciples what it means to be a servant to our teams. We taught on the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. At the end of the lesson we had each of the Disciples wash each other’s feet. This was a powerful moment for all of us.
Today we also had the chance to take a tour of one of the brick factories. Through building relationships, AIM has been able to make an incredible difference in the lives of the families who work at these factories. Often, families work long hours, for little pay, in very poor conditions. AIM is now able to provide food for them, medical services, and schools for the children. While the greed of humanity has oppressed so many families, there are obedient Christians here who are carrying the burden, side by side, with the families here at the brick factories.
Kids club this afternoon was insane. We had over 200 kids from the community come out to participate, whereas on the previous days we were averaging between 120-150. We enjoyed a time of worship songs, puppet shows, and crafts. While many of these kids are rowdy and out of control, this is a place where they are safe. Kids club is a place where these kids can be kids without having to worry. Looking into the faces of these incredible children you can see joy, hope, and fun. You can see they are tasting the love of Jesus.
We finished the day going out to eat with the Disciples. I know I can speak for the whole team in saying we were blessed to share a special meal with these incredible people. They have such a great love for God, for each other, and for their community.
I am blessed to be on this great team. I am blessed by what God is doing in Cambodia. I am blessed by having even the smallest of part in what God is doing.
Oh Cambodia! I can’t believe it’s been a year since my first visits and here I am again. I am so amazed by all the growth in Svay Pak. God’s hand is truly over this community. Last year I marveled on the steps of buildings that were once brothels now turned into places for ministry. This year I looked over the balcony of the current school and praised God for the new huge building that has been erected for the new school. From the same view we could see a tall white building that was once the biggest brothel in the community…now abandoned. God is so good! The growth in the youth is also something to be celebrated. We saw countless faces from last year all grown up and in new positions of leadership. They are hardworking, energetic, passionate and hungry for knowledge. Our team lead different workshops for these young men and women and they were all so eager to learn. I was blessed to be a part of the leadership workshop! I was amazed watching them hang on to our every word. We talked about the leadership styles of Saul, David, Absolom and Jesus. Many of them already knew each story well. On the last day we read from John 13 when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. I know the story well but I was blessed as Joey uncovered special details and the meaning behind them. I loved getting to watch the disciples come into a new understanding of this passage. To wash feet was a lowly slave job, even seen as shameful. It was very powerful to discuss how there is freedoms in Christ in a culture that is bound by shame. We had the disciples wash each other’s feet as pray blessings over one another as they did so. In a lot of Asian cultures the feet are the dirtiest part of the body. It’s seen as offensive to show the bottom of your feet fans yet these young people knelt down and prayed blessing on each other and they washed feet. It was so incredible to see their vulnerability and emotions as they did this for one another. The only time we see a ritual like this is during a wedding. The parents’ feet are washed. To be respectful we made sure only men washed the feet of men and women where with women. In both rotations we had odd numbers. So we, as leaders jumped in and washed the feet of those left without a partner and had them wash our feet. I admit that vulnerability is not always my strong suit. So when two girls came in to the second session I breathed a sigh of relief and assisted with towels and filling to bowls with water. Once every one was done with the exercise I began to pack up. One of the girls asked “what about you?” Long story short, I couldn’t talk my way out of having these beautiful students wash my feet. Both girls prayed over me as they washed my feet and the young man joined in to dry them. It was extremely humbling for me. My life is to serve. My constant prayer is for God to take all of me and use me to his good works. We came as a team to be used by God and glorify him. To love and serve the people of Cambodia who stole my heart just a year ago. And yet here I sat, being served in such a impactful way. Our hope was to teach these young minds small useful tips of ministry that they can carry with them and use when needed. Some of them learned how to measure wood, use a power tool, stop an attacker, plant veggies, and to edify each other. On Monday we came in to a busy, tired and timid group. We wondered if we would teach them something they haven’t already learned from past teams. Last night at dinner we saw beaming faces reciting the very lessons we taught. People who were shy to speak where stepping up to give praises in English! It was VERY hard to say goodbye. We could’ve stayed in that restaurant all night. My prayer over our team was for divine appointments and special connections, from all the tears I saw last night I believe God answered my prayers. My trip last year was a huge catalyst for change in my life. After serving in Cambodia and seeing the transformation of an entire community I couldn’t go home and continue doing the same thing. I was so blessed to watch our first time teammates experience everything. I loved watching their faces as they tried new types of food, experienced the city through a tuk tuk and pick up rambunctious kids from kids club. It was so fun watching out big tough police officers sit and color with kids or make a puppet come to life. We laughed so much on this trip. Even though we were all dripping in sweat and tired we were filled to the brim with blessings as we loaded the bus each day. No complaints, just huge smiles. Last year our biggest Kid’s Club attendance was 175, this year we had over 200! The Khmer team explained to us that it grew over the week as the kids began to hear about the team. We discovered that we are the only team that brings puppets and T-shirt’s for the kids. They know that they are loved when they spend time with us. I am so thankful that AIM has worked hard to bridge gaps in their community and now hundreds of children have a safe place to hear about Jesus. One of the disciples thanked us at dinner for our hearts to serve. She said “this isn’t your country, this isn’t your culture, this isn’t your language these people are poor and yet you come and serve them with humble hearts. It’s hard work what we do and you can tell your team works hard to show compassion. Even though we are from different places we still love and work together and it’s because of God.” Last year we heard Pastor’s message at church. He spoke about how we are all one. United in Christ. For me this year felt like coming home. Serving with my family and I was especially blessed to do it with my mom on my side. They love I feel for this place is incredible and I am just praising God for allowing me to come back.