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.