Monday, December 12, 2011

December Update

Follow this link to see our end of the year update.

December Update


Thursday, December 8, 2011

On the Road to Svay Pak

Here are a few pictures that we took on our commute out to Svay Pak--a drive that takes about 45 minutes to an hour and is around 20 kilometers/12 miles.

First we must drive across the city of Phnom Penh...

...passing local trash dumps...

...the Independence Monument...

and wedding tents that take up half the road.

As we leave the city, the poverty becomes more noticeable.

The marginalized Muslim communities live on the outskirts of the city.

Then we arrive in Svay Pak.

This building houses a medical clinic, a church auditorium,  nine classrooms,  two offices,  two supply closets, two households, a kitchen and a computer lab -- all in five floors!

The view of the community from the back of the school/church. 

Becki having a meeting with the teachers.

And just for fun--never underestimate what can be carried on the back of a moto!  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year we are far away from the normal traditions and rhythms of Thanksgiving. The weather is a balmy 90 degrees, there are no paper turkeys and pilgrims decorating the aisles of our supermarket, and pumpkin pie does not abound. Despite being away from the normal American Thanksgiving, we find ourselves so thankful for the many things this year has held. We want to share with you a few things that we praise God for.
  • We are thankful for the friends that we have made in Cambodia over the last eleven months.  Heather, Jen, Sopheak and Borey (and many others) have encouraged us and walked through this first year with us.
  • We thank God for our language teachers. Moi Ding, Sopheap, Panha and Anin are endlessly patient and seek to help us speak the language well and understand the Cambodian culture.     
  • We are thankful for fun package full of Christmas cards from Cornerstone Church in Arizona!
  • We are thankful for our safe and peaceful home. It is a haven and a place of rest for us.
  • We thank God for you and the many ways you have blessed and lifted us up. Your prayers have sustained us and we could not be here without you.
  • We are thankful that God has been our refuge and rock as we have encountered both joys and struggles in this year.  He has been so faithful as we have followed Him into unknown territory.
“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

  1 Chronicles 16:34

We hope and pray that you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Equipping and Expanding

November Update

Our latest news is of how God has been so faithful to plant us where He wants us. We have new positions with Agape International Missions! Agape International Missions (AIM) is a Christian organization that fights child sex trafficking and seeks to restore hope to victims.

Seven miles outside of Phnom Penh is a village called Svay Pak. Svay Pak is known as a place where men can go to have sex with very young children. AIM has been working in Svay Pak for several years now, planting churches, establishing a medical clinic, reaching out to pimps, traffickers, and parents, and rescuing children being sold for sex. A year ago, AIM opened a school in Svay Pak with the purpose of providing a quality education and giving students a safe place to learn, to grow, and to dream for a future. Many of the children are at high-risk of exploitation or are already being sold for sex out of their homes. The local Cambodian church partners with the school and is heavily involved in trying to transform this community with the power of the Gospel. We are excited to be a part of what God is doing in Svay Pak!

So, what will we be doing? The school is still very young and in need of continued development, and our collective background is in education. The three of us, in conjunction with the director (our good friend, Jen Morgan), will train the Cambodian teaching staff, build curriculum, and develop relationships with the community. We will work to equip, build up, and expand the school. Because of the poor education system in Cambodia, the teachers at the school have very little training in being teachers – they are learning on the job (and doing fantastic!). Currently, the school has three kindergarten classes and offers English classes for the community, with a total of about 300 students. One of our big goals is to expand the school by one grade level each year.

The needs of the community are great. The poverty is profound. Drugs, domestic violence and sexual exploitation are a part of daily life for many people. Just recently, a six-year old student at the school was rescued from being sold for sex by her parents. She is now safe in a residential after-care facility. The situation in Svay Pak is dark, but there is hope!

We will be transitioning into our new roles through the end of this year, and then will begin full-time at the school in January. Our positions with AIM are volunteer roles and we are still missionaries sent through International Outreach Ministries (IOM). Our financial support structures are not changing in any way. We covet your prayers to cover us in this new partnership!

Prayer Requests
A smooth transition into work with AIM, especially as we are developing new relationships in the community.
Spiritual alertness, protection, and wisdom as we work in an oppressed place. 
Continued perseverance in our language study.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chab Dai Conference

Last week we had the opportunity to attend Chab Dai's two-day member meeting in Phnom Penh. Chab Dai (which means Joining Hands in Cambodian) is a coalition of Christian organizations working together to end sexual abuse and trafficking in Cambodia and around the world. This meeting provided us with an opportunity to network with others in the field and to learn about strategic thinking for the future. There were a number of sessions: panel discussions, information about current anti-trafficking research being done in Cambodia, and conversations about how to care for ourselves well while working in difficult situations.

One current crisis discussed at the member meeting is the plight of Cambodian domestic workers in Malaysia. 20,000 maids and housekeepers are currently employed in individual homes in Malaysia. These workers have few rights and are often abused and exploited for labor and sex. Recently, Cambodia halted the departure of maids pending the Cambodian government's negotiations with Malaysia for improved worker rights. CNN and others have been following these development -- read more about this issue here and here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Learning and Growing

Dear friends,

Fall greetings! We are sad to be missing the autumn temperatures in the States right now. The weather here remains quite warm, but we are becoming acclimated to it.

Thank you for your consistent prayers and encouragement over the past several months. We have now completed our internship with the Hard Places Community (HPC). Our time with the HPC was full of intense learning and hands-on service as we ministered to street children and their families; they live in extreme poverty and are at high risk of being sold for sex. Working with the children’s program at the park and the newly opened boy’s center were challenging and profound experiences for us.

Following this time of learning and growing, we decided to expand our education in the field of anti-human trafficking by partnering with new organizations. We are now focusing on three things. First, we are more intently learning the Khmer language, as this is critical to deepening relationships and engaging directly with those in need. Second, we are meeting with several other organizations that work in anti-trafficking in Phnom Penh to learn about their ministry and how to partner with them as we continue to learn and serve in this field. And third, we are volunteering to work on curriculum development with a few organizations in Phnom Penh. Given our background in education, we can use our skills to help advance the work of local projects that teach about preventing the abuse and exploitation of children.

The work of fighting human trafficking and sexual exploitation has many layers. Organizations often specialize and focus on just one or two areas in order to provide quality care. Then, by cooperating together, they can provide a complete spectrum of services to families. Some of these areas are: prevention, social work, rescue, counseling (aftercare), education, vocational/job training. Here are a few of the standout Christian organizations we have met with:

Daughters of Cambodia

Daughters of Cambodia has developed a unique model for Cambodia, one in which sex workers come directly to the organization from the brothels by their own volition. Daughters is not a shelter, but they facilitate the girls' exit from the sex industry by providing a number of resources and programs that enable them to sustain healthy choices for themselves.

Agape International Missions

Agape International Missions (AIM) provides holistic care to rescued victims of sex trafficking through a residential shelter. AIM is highly involved in equipping and mobilizing the local church to take action and helps build church-sponsored community centers and schools in areas with a high concentration of sex trafficking.

Precious Women

Precious Women is a Khmer Christian organization that reaches out to disadvantaged and vulnerable women who are working in brothels, beer gardens, bars and karaoke halls. Precious Women promotes value and dignity through counseling, job opportunities and life skills training.

Please pray for us as we continue to study the language, meet with organizations, and volunteer with various ministries. We hope to have more information in the coming weeks as to where our gifts and desires best match one of these groups and its’ needs. We remain committed to being in Cambodia and confident that God has us right where He wants us. Thank you for your continued partnership in our work here in Cambodia!

Much love,

Kimberly, Rachel, and Becki

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Different Things About Cambodia (Part 2 of ?)

Back in February we posted this reflection about some of the differences of living in Cambodia. Now that we have been here for seven months (wow!), we thought it was time to write the next edition.

-We have a small office to work from home, but we haven't invested in a paper shredder. Instead we do the next best thing, we shred it ourselves. Or rather, we burn it ourselves. Zoning laws are non-existent here; we live next door to a sign-making factory and across the street from a workshop that produces steel poles. Both of these places leave a lot of rubble in our path. Needless to say, the industry on our street helps us to feel comfortable when we take our stack for shredding to the curb and light it on fire.

-We have a dog. The short version of the story is that we inherited her from our landlady. We love her and she provides much entertainment in our lives. We get nervous though when we walk her around our neighborhood because most people keep dogs not as pets, but as guards for their houses and compounds. While they are locked up at night, these dogs wander around the streets during the day. Our dog is in the toy dog category; we haven't weighed her, but we think she tops the scales at a whopping 10 pounds/4.5kg. Needless to say the big guard dogs could eat her for lunch! Therefore, we have learned that the best way to protect her (and ourselves, as a friend was recently bitten) from the vicious dogs is to carry a walking stick. It's kinda like we are hiking through the mountains, except we are on the streets of urban Phnom Penh. We know it looks silly, but all we have to do is threaten to hit the guard dogs with the stick and they run away.

-Another consequence of living in a tropical climate--there's no need for insulation. And there's no central heat or AC. Our house has open vents to the outside for air circulation in every room. On a similar note: We only have sheets with light blankets on our beds. We haven't worn sweatshirts (or really long sleeves for that matter) since we arrived in January. As a result, we have really awesome farmer's tans. While we try to put sunscreen on regularly (some of us are better about that than others), it is unmistakable that our skin is darker.

-The police are known to be unbelievably corrupt. They make $40 a month so they rely on bribes to supplement their income. Even though we are as legal as possible (very few people have driver's licenses, but we went through the hoops to attain them anyway), we know that we will be stopped by the police, if only because we are foreigners. On a friend's recommendation, we have created a wallet system to best navigate with the police. When we travel by moto, we make sure that our moto/police wallet is ready with lots of small riel (with no dollars) if we need to pay a 'fine'. It has to be easily accessible and organized and not have any dollars visible, just in case. So far we haven't had any serious run-ins with the police!

Until next time,
Rachel (and Becki & Kimberly)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August Update

In our last newsletter we began with the sentence, "Sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting." This theme continues as we have seen God use persistent acts of love to draw several families to Himself.

One of the joys of working with the children at Kid’s Club is getting to know their entire family. After our program ends, our Khmer staff often visit their homes to build friendships, understand their family situation, and offer assistance in whatever ways we can. This is a tangible way to help with physical needs and also to share the hope and faith we have in Jesus to meet the needs of the heart.

One such family has had many challenges over the past several months. Our team has helped them move houses four times! They would move into an apartment with the expectation of the rent being $45 a month. Once they moved in, the landlord would raise the rent to $70, and they would have to leave because they could not afford it. They were often one step away from being on the streets. Helping them move, playing daily at the park, teaching English, helping the children register for school – these are all ways that we have been able to love this family.

Recently the mother started asking questions of one of our Khmer staff. She couldn't understand why we would keep helping them even though they practice Buddhism. She asked if the Buddhist shrines in their house made us uncomfortable. We told her that we love her family, that Jesus loves her family, and we wanted to help them even if they didn't believe in our God. After many conversations, the mother and two older children accepted Jesus as their Savior. We are thrilled that our friends are now our family!

This is only one story; there are many more like it. God is working and we are thankful to be a part of what He is doing. Progress is being made on the Boy’s Center. Cleaning and painting continue, and it is exciting to think of the possibilities for ministry in the months to come. One new development - the Boy’s Center has a name, Ponlok Thmey, which means 'new growth.’ Please continue to pray for the work taking place with the families in the community around Ponlok Thmey.

It is hard to believe that we have lived in Cambodia for half of a year. We are thankful for the journey so far and we are looking forward to expanding and moving deeper into ministry. There is so much to learn! We are praying for refreshed vision and dreams from the Lord and looking ahead to new partnerships and adventures in the next six months.

Grace and peace,

Kimberly, Becki, and Rachel

Prayer Request

Please pray for continued wisdom and direction from the Lord for our work and our lives here in Phnom Penh. There is a lot to learn, and overwhelming need all around us. We are getting to know other anti-trafficking ministries and exploring ways to partner with them as we discover our own passions and gifts. We want to continuing following Him in all things.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Summer of Guests

Summer is in full swing here and that means we have guests galore. It has been fun to have people visit us and see our work here in Phnom Penh.

In late May we had three ladies from Mississippi visit. They had a wonderful time teaching at Kids' Club, talking with a variety of NGOs, visiting Angkor Wat and taking in life in Cambodia.

Last week we had two friends from China make the trek down. They spent the week visiting children at orphanages, helping out at Kids' Club, teaching English at massage parlors, and encouraging us in our work. We had a wonderful time reconnecting with them.

Each guest is a gift to us and we love having the opportunity to give them a picture of our life here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June Update

Dreaming of a Boys' Center

Sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting. Step by step, many things have built upon each other in order to be ready to open a center for exploited boys in Phnom Penh. And now, it's happening! On June 15, the Hard Places Community will get the keys to our new building. The dream is becoming a reality! This could not have been possible without many months of hard work to prepare the spiritual and physical ground for this long-awaited project.

While working with children at Kid's Club over the past few months, the need for a center for boys has become all the more apparent. We know boys like Mike* who showed up last week with terrible burns, evenly spaced, along his inner-thigh. Someone saw this vulnerable boy on the street and did something evil. Each day we see Steve* who is bright and loves to learn. He wants to go to school but his family does not have the proper paper work. Now he is far behind the other kids his age. Oscar* comes to Kid's Club when he can, as long as he still has enough time to collect recyclables in his ratty sack to take back to his family at the end of the day. These boys and so many like them need a safe place to find love and hope.

One of the main reasons that it is possible for us to open this center is because of Traffick Jam 2011 ( Many of you responded to the call this spring and took a stand/walk against the darkness of human trafficking. The funds from this event made it possible for us to sign a lease and start renovations. We have teams of people arriving in the next two months to help with cleaning, painting, and construction, which are all important parts of getting ready to open our doors.

Thank you for all that you have done to be a part of this amazing endeavor! God has used you to be important building blocks in this project. Prayer warriors, Traffick Jam coordinators and walkers, our own supporters allowing us to be here to work in Cambodia, encouraging visitors, people spreading the word about human trafficking - all of you are a part of this. God is using YOU to bring his Kingdom here on earth!

We'll keep you updated on the developments at the Boys' Center in the coming months. Keep praying and spreading the word. God is up to something good.


Kimberly, Becki, and Rachel

* names have been changed

Rachel's Ramblings

Things are constantly changing around me, but one steady part of my life here is learning Khmer. Depending on the month, I go to my language school up to four times a week for a one hour lesson. So far, the focus is only on speaking and listening, not reading and writing. I'm continually amazed at my teacher's patience while I butcher the pronunciation and word order day after day after day.

Recently my teacher, who is a college student and also a believer, began teaching me how to pray in Khmer. Every lesson we switch off who starts the lesson in prayer. I have to write out my prayers the night before and then I stumble through them during the lesson, but I immensely enjoy learning language to express my spiritual life.

New Roles!

Pray for us as we transition in our roles within the Hard Places Community (HPC). Kimberly is taking on more responsibility as the HPC in-country administrator. Rachel will be doing resource development, setting up programs for the Boys' Center and training new staff. Becki will continue working with children in the park ministry while dreaming up the beginning steps of outreach to young women in the park.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Traffick Jam 2011

On Saturday, all across the US, people took part in Traffick Jam 2011, a nationwide walk-a-thon aimed at helping to eradicate child sex trafficking in Southeast Asia. Funds raised from the walk will be used directly to help the projects that we are engaged in here in Cambodia. Our team, the Hard Places Community, is committed to working in areas where there is a high incidence of trafficking in order to help bring an end to the sale of young children.

As we mentioned in our previous post, we are currently running a Kid's Club at a park in the heart of Phnom Penh. Because of Kid's Club, we meet children who hang out at the park everyday and we are developing relationships with their families. This park is an area where it’s common to find pimps and prostitutes. It’s also an area men go to looking for young children. The kids are incredibly vulnerable to exploitation. Indeed, some have already been sold.

The Hard Places Community hopes to have a boys’ center close to the park where we are currently volunteering. There are many organizations here in Cambodia who are helping women and young girls who have been abused or trafficked. There is relatively little focus solely on young boys. The risk of a young boy being sold is just as great. With this center, we hope to provide a safe place for boys to go, where they can have practical needs met and find help and hope. The funds raised from Traffick Jam 2011 will help to make the boys’ center a reality.

In solidarity with those who walked in the States, we and our teammates walked across Phnom Penh on Saturday. We started at 5:00am in hopes of beating the worst of the heat. We started at our house and walked to the Independence Monument and then on to the park.

Thank you to those of you who helped to coordinate walks in your area! Thanks also to those of you who walked or supported those did. Together we will help bring child sex trafficking to a grinding halt! (For more information, you can check out the Traffick Jam website.)

Here is a picture of our Cambodia team after our walk. We finished with breakfast together at a local restaurant.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kid's Club

One of the best parts of my day in Cambodia is Kid’s Club. It’s such a fun two hours, filled with much giggling, games and joy. The kids, covered with the grim that comes from living on the streets, have contagious laughter and the most precious hearts. Kid’s Club is always an adventure!

Here is what a normal Kid’s Club day looks like:

We leave our house in a tuk tuk with a box brimming full with supplies - crayons, scissors, an attendance book, a first aid kit, silly stickers and any other lesson materials needed for the day. At the park we are often greeted by a small group of children awaiting our arrival. They grab our supplies from the tuk tuk and dash towards the place we meet. If we are not careful, they begin rummaging through the box, trying to catch a glimpse of what the day’s lesson might hold. We pull out our bag of balls and spend 20 minutes simply playing with the children as they come from their various ‘homes’. When most have gathered, we give each kid a name tag, which they carefully apply to their shirts and we officially begin.

Because we have such a transient community, we often spend the first ten minutes introducing ourselves and reminding the kids of good Kid’s Club behavior. From there we sing some songs. This is one of the most precious times at Club. It is such a joy to hear 15 little voices sing songs with lyrics like “Jesus loves me and Jesus loves you” in the middle of a public park for all the world to hear. Then, with much gusto, we play a game like Moses Says or Red Light, Green Light.

After the game, we settle into our Bible lesson.
Once we finish, we ask the kids how we can pray for them. They tell us about their sick family members and friends. In unison we lift up these requests to the Father. Next, we split into groups and begin a craft. When we finish the craft, we share a snack together and, finally, remind them to come to Kid’s Club the next day. Then we gather our supplies, give last hugs, say good-bye, and climb into our tuk tuk. As we head home, our hearts are full of gratitude for Kid’s Club and the children that God has given to us for this time.

Yesterday the kids sat captivated by the story of God sending his only Son into the world to save us from our sins. For a craft, they were given a construction paper heart with John 3:16 written in Khmer and a piece of yarn that they used to 'sew' the border of the heart. Then they practiced reciting the verse over and over again...very loudly for all the park visitors to hear.

I hope this gives you an idea of our day-to-day life. Please keep praying for these kids.

Grace and peace,


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fried Bananas

Yesterday we went on an adventure with a friend. She showed us where the best fried bananas are in Phnom Penh.

This store has been on this street for 30 years!

The bananas get smashed, dipped in batter and then fried in this wok.

It was the perfect treat for a Saturday.

Here is the pile of banana peels that they go through in one day.

This is the view of the shop from the street.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Newsletter


These are the three words we would use to describe the last two months of getting settled into our new lives in Phnom Penh. During the last two months we started the process of learning Khmer, received some intensive training on trafficking and the sex trade here in Cambodia and began a park ministry for children at risk of exploitation. These are just the tangible things we have been doing.

Then there is the other realm of emotions which have accompanied these weeks. The stories we hear and now engage in have powerfully broken our hearts and challenge us to continue pursuing God’s shalom for this place.

At Kid’s Club, our daily park ministry, we sing, play games, and tell stories about Jesus. It's an amazing opportunity! The kids come from a variety of backgrounds, but most are profoundly poor and many are at high-risk of being abused. Several are already being exploited.

We recently learned about a trafficking situation with three of our Kid’s Club children. Our Khmer staff discovered three siblings are taken out at night by a man to 'have fun'. Their parents are paid the equivalent price of a latte at Starbucks. Each and every day while we teach, laugh and play with these precious children, we are also devastated by what we know happens to them each night.

This is a terribly sad situation and sometimes we are overwhelmed by the manifestations of evil all around us. In this case, the good news is that an investigation is beginning. The even better news is that we are able to pray and cling to the hope of a different life that Jesus offers these children. Please join us in prayer for this family. Lord, have mercy!


On May 7th people all across America will come together to walk ten miles in their neighborhoods to take a stand against child sex trafficking. Traffick Jam is a fundraiser for Hard Places Community to help open a center for exploited boys in Phnom Penh. We want to provide a safe place for boys to come and receive counseling, medical care, education, and freedom from oppression. Each walker commits to getting ten sponsors to donate $1 (or more!) per mile. Want to be involved? Check out or e-mail us for more information


Pray for our adjustment to life in Cambodia -- learning Khmer, ministering crossculturally, and living in a hot, tropical climate.

Pray for healthy outlets for us to process the stress and emotions of the difficult situations we see every day.

Pray for the children who attend Kid’s Club -- that they would learn about God’s truth and that they would be protected from the evil that surrounds them


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

House pictures

We are officially settled into our new home. Here's a link to our Facebook photo album that gives a grand tour. You don't need to have a Facebook account to view these pictures--just click here.

Different Things About Cambodia (Part 1 of ?)

Dear friends,

We have been in Cambodia now for one month! It's hard to believe what exactly we've already done--we've moved into our new house, started language school, begun training for our jobs and become familiar with the city of Phnom Penh.

Here are a few reflections from these last few weeks about the differences of living in Cambodia.

-Living in a tropical climate means that:
*60 degrees F at night or in the early morning feels cold! Some mornings we grab a jacket on our way out to Khmer lessons. We're coming out of the 'cool' season now.
*Constantly having a fan on means that EVERYTHING must be weighed down (money, paper, receipts, light plastic bowls). We are always chasing after a runaway something or alternatively, pepper or cinnamon flies back into our faces when we are pouring them on our food.
*Anything that might melt must be refrigerated. Even while we prepared dinner, the cheese and butter must remain in the frig until the exact moment we sit down to eat.
*Constantly having cold drinks on hand is a cultural must. We should always have a wide selection of drinks in the frig to offer guests.

-We use US dollars to pay for everything but we get change back in Cambodian riel. We are having to memorize what the appropriate change is with 1000 riel being a quarter and 4000 riel being a dollar. Occasionally we borrow money from each other for coffee or tea on the street and then realize we owe 60 cents or 75 cents but we pay it back with 4 or 5 bank notes of 100 or 500 riel each.

-Cambodia doesn't produce much domestically; nearly everything at the corner stores and larger supermarkets is imported, especially from Thailand, France, the United States, Vietnam and, of course, China. One difficult thing is that we are used to paying Chinese prices because we used to live in China. We have been in sticker shock as we stock up for our house--a plastic garbage can that we would have paid $1 for in China is at least $4 here. It's good because it is forcing us to reconsider our purchasing habits and see if we really need that bathroom shelf.

-Cars have steering wheels on both the left and the right. Technically, Cambodian steering wheels should be the left (a result of French influence) but neighboring Thailand has them on right because of British influence. As a result of the previous point, both are seen.

-Fighting against ants is a constant battle. Today alone we found ants on our breakfast food, on a shelf, in the sink, and in a cabinet. Our food will continue to have lots of extra little bits of protein as we figure out the best way to keep them out of our house. Ants are very, very, very smart little creatures!

-The post office doesn't alert you when you receive mail. You have to go to the office and ask if they have mail for you. There is no mailman! It feels weird to be in a country with so little structure to the postal system.

We imagine that every so often we will be posting new differences that we encounter!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Three Weeks In

Dear friends,

It's been three weeks since we boarded planes and headed to Cambodia. During the first week, each day felt like it contained a month's worth of experiences. God remains the same in all the new things - both good and hard - we are experiencing. He is still good and He is present here.

Currently, we are in language study in the morning and training in the afternoon. Each day we have heard different speakers from ministries in the city. We listened to a passionate women who works with a highly marginalized group - transvestites. There was great hope in hearing from a women who works in an assessment center where girls rescued from brothels first go to receive care before being placed back with their families (if it is safe) or in a longer term after-care. We were able to visit an after-care facility that works with both Khmer and Vietnamese girls who have been rescued from the sex-trade. One day we visited a community just outside Phnom Penh that is notorious for the trafficking of very young children, both boys and girls. In this community, it is normal for mothers to sell their children to pedophiles out of their own homes in the evenings. We visited with a pastor in this community and saw a care center that developed in the very building that formally was a brothel with young children. There is also a joyful school bursting at the seams with children from high-risk families, finally able to get an education and loving care from adults. The realities of evil and hope living next door to each other is very intense.

In a few weeks we will be done with training and will begin working at a local park to reach out to a group of children in high-risk and abusive situations. In the afternoons in this park we will be playing games, telling Bible stories, and teaching English. Through all of this, we will be developing relationships with the kids and getting to know their individual needs and circumstances and we will see how we can be a part of the story God has for them. We pray we can be a part of them knowing the power of God's love, the redemption of Jesus, and freedom from abusive situations.

A few days ago we were able to move into our more permanent home and we are thankful for a place to settle into. There is always so much to tell! Please keep in touch with us on Facebook and our blog. We thrive off of your prayers.

Much love,

Kimberly, Becki, and Rachel

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Moving Day

On Tuesday we moved from our temporary housing to our permanent home. It's a two story house with 3 bedrooms, an office and a guest room for visitors! As we are still getting settled, we don't have real pictures to show off, but we do have some from moving day.

We thought you might enjoy a timeline of this slightly crazy day, so here it is:

8.15AM-We meet our tuktuk driver at our temporary apartment and pile in with a few random bags of stuff.

8.20AM-We stop by our director's house to pick up her housekeeper. With two small children our director couldn't help us with cleaning and moving, but she generously donated her housekeeper for a few hours to help us with cleaning.

8.30AM-We go upstairs to Becki's room and pray for a few minutes to help focus before the busyness of the day sets in.

9.00AM-Becki and one of our Khmer teammates set out to the market in a tuk tuk. Rachel and Kimberly start sorting the piles of stuff that had been bought for the moving day.

9.30AM-Becki and company arrive at the market and begin bargaining for curtain fabric and other household items.

10.00AM-The water delivery people finally show up with 5 giant bottles of water for our house after being lost in our neighborhood for 30 minutes. Rachel stood out in the road and eventually waved them down.

11.00AM-One of our teammates arrives to help us with the chaos!

11.15AM-Becki meets another one of our teammates at the tailor to start the process of making curtains.

12.00 noon-Kimberly and Rachel start unpacking the boxes that had been shipped from China. It was like Christmas again finding all of our treasures that we said goodbye to in June.

12.15PM-Becki shows up with her treasures and some take-out for lunch so we eat our first lunch in our new house in the living room! We rest and regroup for a little while.

1.15PM-Yet another one of our teammates shows up to help us. We tackle moving some misc. unwanted things (left from our landlord) to storage.

1.30PM-Several of our Hard Places Khmer staff show up to help with the real moving part of moving day. Kimberly, two of the guys, and our tuktuk driver go back to our temporary housing to get our stuff.

1.30PM-Becki and our teammate start painting some furniture outside.

2.15PM-The tuk tuk comes back with all of our luggage and looks like this:

Yes, this is all of our personal belongings that we brought with us to Cambodia three weeks ago. We each have two suitcases, a purse and a carry on and they all fit on one tuk tuk.

Plus pillows and other random bags and still both guys plus the driver were able to fit!

2.30PM-Kimberly is busy trying to figure out what pieces of furniture we want from the second hand shop that was in the ground floor of our temporary housing. Rachel and Becki are busy at the house taking the suitcases to the various rooms.

2.45PM-The second load comes back looking like this:

There was three people, three shelves, two mattresses, one desk and one driver all in one tuk tuk!

3.00PM-Everyone sits down and enjoys a nice cold soft drink after all the moving.

3.15PM-Rachel heads out to get a PO Box from the post office, arriving 30 minutes later. She finds the right window after going to four wrong windows and begins filling out the necessary paperwork. Meanwhile, Becki and Kimberly are busy cleaning the kitchen and finding a home for everything.

4.15PM-Rachel finally secures a key and pays $13 for a whole year. She just happens to bring a treat of cupcakes home from a local bakery.

5.00PM-Becki and Kimberly head out for an adventure procuring furniture while Rachel stays at home hoping beyond hope that the internet people actually show up (we started calling them around 10am - when they were first suppose to show up).

5.30PM-The internet people do show up--all five of them! They climb up our front gate to install some cords and then wait around for a while to see if a signal is available.

5.45PM-Becki and Kimberly find some furniture for various rooms.

6.30PM-The internet people come in and begin installing the router upstairs.

6.35PM-The delivery guys arrive with some furniture that Kimberly and Becki sent back to the house.

6.45PM-Becki and Kimberly stop by the market and pick up yummy fried rice and fruit.

7.15PM-We eat our first dinner at home and debrief our day.

8.15PM-More cleaning and unpacking ensues. The goal for the end of the night is to have the main rooms of the house clutter-free. The office and guest room piles continue to grow.

8.30PM-The internet people finally get everything in order and we are online three hours after the initial process started.

9.00PM-The goal for the day is met and there is much celebrating!

We hope to have the house in order this weekend so we can take pictures and post them soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

First Thoughts

Two weeks. It’s very hard for us to believe that we’ve only been in Phnom Penh for two weeks. Each day feels like a month all to itself. I am seven years removed from all of my China ‘firsts’ and I really do not remember what it was like for everything to be so completely new. It’s as if time has no choice but to slow down in order for me to be able to absorb all the new information - all the details, the sights, sounds, smells, and people.

Not everything has been new. Asia, in many ways, is still Asia. I have been able to assimilate all the Cambodia ‘new’ not just into my United States schema, but also into my China schema. Very little here fits into my US mold, but a lot of it is similar to China.

Yet, Cambodia is so different from China. I see that more and more as each day passes. To me, Cambodia makes China look like the most predictable and orderly country known to man! With only two weeks under my belt that’s not a very informed statement, but for now it’s what I can see and give words to.

The amount of learning in these past two weeks has been extraordinary. I have not only started daily language study but also training in anti-trafficking for sexual exploitation. Our team has heard from several people who are working specifically with exploited boys and girls. Their stories are inspiring and overwhelming. The problems are enormous. As someone said recently, “there will always be more problems in Cambodia.” You can tackle one issue and then ten other serious issues will surface. There is no way to isolate the problem of poverty without intersecting with problems due to lack of education. You can’t work on reaching only sex tourists and not grapple with the supply chain of girls coming from the countryside or neighboring countries. Where does one even begin?

One thing I have taken comfort in these past few days is the fact that I am not the beginning. Many others have come before me and tilled the ground. For many years, people have been fighting for the lives and hearts of exploited and marginalized people in Cambodia and all over the world. I am joining a large Body of workers. ‘Together’ is such a powerful word. ‘Alone’ is scary. And we are not alone! Praise God!

I am eager to learn more from those who have already given so much to the cause. I know my heart will be incredibly overwhelmed at times, but I have teammates here and people all over the world who remind me that we are never alone. There is hope. Change is possible.

Here are some links to some of the amazing organizations we have heard from so far. As things continue here, we will let you know more about what we are learning.

Much love,


Daughters of Cambodia
International Justice Mission
Chab Dai
First Steps

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Exploring Phnom Penh

We spent the afternoon walking around the river front area yesterday. Here's a link to our Facebook photo album if you liked the pictures from our previous post. You don't need to have a Facebook account to view these pictures--just click here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

First Days

Dear friends,

We made it! After some long flights, we all arrived safely without any major snags. It's been less than three days and already we've gotten settled at our temporary guest house, acquired cell phones, met our teammates, had a stomach bug, explored the neighborhood and started language school. We'd give you a Khmer greeting, but we don't remember. We're going to blame that on jet lag.

On Monday we begin orientation and training with our team. This will jumpstart our education into Cambodian culture and the realities of the sexual exploitation that surrounds us. Soon after we will begin working with local children at a park that surrounds a Buddhist temple. More on that later! Also in the coming weeks we'll begin searching for an apartment to call home.

It's been quite a journey to get us to this place. Walking off the plane and realizing we were finally here - that this is our new home, our new country - was surreal. Thank you for all the support and prayers that have made this possible!

There will be many stories to tell in the days to come. We'll post pictures and more frequent updates on Facebook. Feel free to e-mail us any time; we'd love to hear from you.

Much love,

Kimberly, Becki, and Rachel

Wonderful snacks left for us by our team.

We are getting around the city in tuktuks.

Fried bananas and bread on the street--a very yummy snack!

A beautiful gate in our neighborhood.

A vendor selling coconuts.

I can't read Khmer, but I think this is a dentist!

Bamboo scaffolding at a construction site--notice how the wheels are up in the air.

There are NOT underground power wires in Cambodia.