Sunday, June 14, 2015

Part of the Making of (His)tory

Last night I had the great pleasure to attend the live recording of the 3rd album produced by LIFEband here in Cambodia. The singers and musicians happen to be some of my closest friends and I was more than excited for this event! For the past three years this group of friends have been meeting together once a week to write and put to music original worship songs for the Khmer church, they have already produced 2 albums and tthe 3rd will release in September. 

God had promised through His word and through a vision given to one of the band members, that His presence would be with them during the night of the recording. And He's faithful to keep His promises. And so as a roomful of people stood and sang, worshiped and declared statements such as, "Give to the Lord blessing, glory, honor and power", "have no fear, God is here" and "God restores all that has been lost" we knew that He was certainly with us.

I believe, with many others, that the songs written for this album, titled, "Bold", are filled with an anointing that will release something into Cambodia. Not really release something new but rather release something that has been held in for far too long... The courage proclaimed in the lyrics to these songs will give the ones who hear them the freedom to walk in ALL the fullness of His Kingdom as it is here in Cambodia. These songs will relaese people to grab hold of what is already theirs-not things they have to wait for but ALL that is already given for them to experience now.

No more waiting for Him to restore all that's been lost.....He is doing it already!
No more waiting for Him to receive blessing from Cambodia....He is being blessed by this nation already!
No more waiting for Him to be with us so we won't fear....He is with us already!

This morning during worship at church (a mere 14 hours after the recording ended) God's presence was with us in such a tangibly powerful way!  Declarations were being made about ALL that God has in store for Cambodia as we sang that we wanted to see revival and His Kingdom come to this earth.  We want more of Him...and that's what it takes, more of Him and less of us (John 3:30).  I am so ready to keep walking forward into what He already has for us here in Cambodia! The Khmer worshippers have been realeased from their fear and silence and satan better watch out because they won't be stopped again!

I LOVE being part of the church in Cambodia during this season of its history. It is a season of realizing His truth, a season of receiving new revelations of Who He is and a season of rapid restoration of all that the enemy thought he stole!

Here's a video of one of the songs from the live recording of the 2nd album, last year. As you listen to the words agree with Heaven that Jesus will continue to be exalted in Cambodia, that chains will continue to be broken, hearts healed and dreams and visions set free over this nation!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XvX3j6ERpk0













Wednesday, May 20, 2015

5-5-5 Full of Grace

May is the 5th month of the year, this May I've been in Cambodia for 5 years and it is 2015! 

The number 5 has been one of my favorite numbers for a long time now (the other is 3, and the 5's above make a set of 3!). 
I've been taught and have come to believe that the number 5 represents God's grace upon humans.  God's favor, God doing for us what we cannot do in our efforts alone, God's goodness towards us to display His character so He can receive glory.  There are three biblical instances that I've come to view as backing up this idea.

First, is the fact that the 5th commandment is the only one given that has a promise attached to it (Exod. 20:12). This promise is not anything that we could bring about on our own-it's the promise of long life. Only God determines how long our lives on this earth will last.  Second is the strategy that God used in having David prepare for his battle with Goliath by picking up 5 smooth stones (1 Samuel 17). There was no chance that David would actually be able to kill the 9ft. giant Goliath with only 5 smooth stones-they weren't even jagged rocks that could have cut the enemy! In the end, David only needed to use one stone but, God had him take 5-maybe God knew this would feel the tiniest bit more realistic to David, I mean, if God said, "Take one stone" instead of, "Take 5 stones" it would have taken longer for me to agree if I were in David's place. God's goodness was in the preparation for David and shone through in the results as well.  Lastly is the story of when Jesus fed the 5,000 (which is really probably more like 12,000 when you add women and children to the number) with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (John 6:1-14).  The disciples were fairly certain that they were not going to be able to feed the crowd that had gathered but with just 5 fish and faith in God Jesus was able to feed the crowd and even have baskets full of leftovers! The disciples could tried all they wanted on their own to somehow conjure up enough food or enough money to buy enough food and it wouldn't have worked-this is something only God, in His grace, could do for them.

Now, I find myself having been in Cambodia for 5 years and being amazed by God's grace throughout that time.  When I first left America it was all a great big adventure and going to be so much fun! My first 4 weeks was completely that (and grace filled from the moment we arrived in Cambodia and the 17 year old on our team who lost his passport between America and here was allowed into the country!).

After that first month though, I found myself in some desperate need of His grace. I couldn't just force new friendships, I couldn't simply snap my fingers and be fluent in Khmer and I couldn't deny the need for Hope I was seeing all around me everyday.

His grace was the only thing that would make a lasting difference for me.
And, I still rely on His grace everyday.

I have wonderful, deep friendships here now and I need His grace to continue investing in them even though people come and go about every 4 months here.  I can understand Khmer REALLY WELL now and I need His grace to keep me learning in an attitude of humility.  I know the names and stories of some people who are bound by hopelessness in their lives and I need His grace to continually speak and offer Hope... Continually. Over and over and over and even over again....

So many things I can't "just make happen", His grace is a sweet necessity in my life.
Just as it was in Paul's life when he asked the Lord to remove a pain he could not remove himself and this is what God replied and Paul's wise response,

"But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Cor. 12:9).

Where do you need His grace in your life? God really enjoys pouring His grace out, give Him a chance and He might just surprise you with His grace for you.



Monday, April 20, 2015

Waiting Awhile

Tonight I posted this on Facebook right after watching the sun set:
When God paints the sky in brilliant colors and the sun is already gone it reminds me that sometimes He asks us to wait so long that everyone else tells us the good stuff has already come and gone, we've missed it and should move on... And then He gives us the best.

I wrote those words after watching the descent of the bright orange ball that illuminated the sky surrounding it with a much paler shade of orange.  It was pretty, as I think all sunsets that aren't covered by clouds are.  But then, I lingered a little.  I was hoping (okay, there wasn't a lot of expectation....) that the sky would become more vibrant and rich in color as sometimes happens after the sun has disappeared from view.  

And it did! The sky became an increasingly richer tone of sunset orange....the photo doesn't nearly capture it well enough. 


I hoped (even a little) so I waited... and He came through.

I'm not telling you that EVERY time we hope and wait God will come through in less than 15 minutes... 

Earlier today I sat with 3 different scenarios that all ask me and my colleagues here in Cambodia to choose to hope and then wait. And continue waiting. And still wait.

A young Khmer couple I've known for 4 years now who were married before they knew Jesus and now have a 1 and half year old son together are considering divorce. Today, I just wanted to shake this guy awake, tell him to grow up and start being grateful for all he has in his life.  His social workers and I talked a lot today about the Kingdom value of marriage and covenant, the enemy's desire to destroy family, our privilege to stand with God in helping others to experience Kingdom values in their lives and our responsibility to love this couple and not judge their choices but to be honest with them at the same time... In the end, we prayed. We know these 2 have to make their own choices, stand their own ground and we hope for God's best and we wait..... 

A 17 year old boy I met when he was 12 found himself standing in front of his social worker again today.  He's walked a loooong road in life already-parents both dead, brutally sexually abused, survived through gang fights and police brutality on the streets.... Then last year, he chose to go to a Christian drug rehab, he completed their 9 month residential program but received no help at all for his sexual abuse and had a very poor support system set up to receive him after graduation.  Today, a year after his release from that program, he is using drugs again, still hasn't addressed his sexual abuse, sleeps around, steals to eat.  He sat with his Khmer social worker, only a few years older than himself, and he said he needed help.  He wanted food, clothes and a house.  He's not ready yet to accept the real transformation that awaits him in Jesus.  We gave him some food, some clothes, told him he is always welcome at our center and we will keep hoping for God's best and waiting.....

There's a group of boys who have been repeatedly sexually abused by a foreign man.  They range in age from 5-13.  These boys are living in a residential facility not meant for boys and not meant for any victims of sexual abuse let alone male victims.  But, such places don't exist in Cambodia...not yet anyway. Their journey has been loooong and it is not over yet.  They will testify against their abuser, then they will return to homes where their family members don't believe they've been abused and eventually they will have to choose for themselves if they want lasting healing and freedom from torturous pain they walk around with.  One of these boys, a 10 year old, has begun to act out his abuse on others.  Tomorrow our counselors will go to see these boys as they have done twice each week since September.  We will continue to go to them as long as they will receive us, even after they are back at 'home' on the streets of this city.... And, for now, we are hoping for God's BEST for these boys and we are waiting for Him to act!

We don't only wait, we wait in expectation and we do what we can.  
-Sunset-I waited because I continued to hope it would be pretty. There was NOTHING I could have done to make that happen but I waited.
-Married Couple-we are waiting and speaking truth and love over them while we wait.
-17 Year Old-we are waiting and we give what we can when he's ready for it.
-Brave Boys-we are waiting and stand with them and tell them they are not alone and that we believe them.

How can I say we are hoping and for best and waiting for it even when these stories are so filled with injustice, mistreatment and evil? Because, I have lived through some injustice, mistreatment and evil and I know that God chose some of His faithful ones, even then-before I knew Him, to hope for His best in my life and to wait for Him to act.... 

And, truth is, I'm more than convinced that it's not uncommon for God to give us the most beautiful, the best parts when we will treasure them most....after waiting a while. 


Monday, April 6, 2015

When Painful and Favorite Collide -Easter

Easter is my absolute most favorite holiday of the year! Setting aside time to specifically be able to celebrate the resurrection of my Redeemer means so much to me.  Since giving my life to Jesus when I was 15 I have been so completely aware that my life is what it is only because of His power and grace.  

Worship sets that are full of songs declaring who He is, proclaiming the miracle that He lives today and inspiring a congregation towards going out and telling the world around them who He is and why He’s worthy are my favorite kind of worship! 

The story of His resurrection is one of my favorite examples of the esteem God has placed on women.  It was women who went to that tomb early that morning and because of their sacrifice (hey, early in the morning is synonymous with sacrifice to me!) they had the privilege of being the first ones to proclaim that He had risen!

Victory is one of my favorite things to participate in and Easter is so much fun because it is a day when the focus is on the already won victory of Jesus! Who doesn’t like to be part of righteous victory??? 

There’s SO MUCH to enjoy about Easter and I do every year. 

Yesterday was Easter and here in Cambodia it gets a bit overshadowed by the traditional Khmer New Year holiday which usually falls during the same week.  This year though, there is a week separating them and we got to CELEBRATE at the majority Khmer church I go to here!!! It was full of all of the things I just told you are my favorites and was probably one of my (wait for it….) FAVORITE Easter worship services ever!

There’s more to Easter though and this next part catches me off guard each year.  

I go home from church and am struck in such a tangible way with the fact that my mom and brothers haven’t celebrated with me.  Yes, I now live in Cambodia and they are in New York but even before the distance prevented us from celebrating together I’ve never had the experience of rejoicing over salvation and transformation with them…. They haven’t yet realized the gift given for them in His death and resurrection.  

So yesterday, as with many years past, I returned home from having lunch with friends and it hit….hard.  I sat alone on my porch swing, on the balcony of my 4th floor apartment in this hot, humid city where 97% of the people don’t realize the gift given for them either and I prayed a lot and cried a lot.  

I cried because I want my family to know Him.
I cried because I long for them to know who they are because of Him.
I cried because of cherished memories of Easter’s long ago… Family gathering at our house, coloring eggs for each member of the family (pets included!), waking up the next morning to discover that Peter Cottontail had left a huge basket full of candy and then hunting to find all those colored eggs mom had hidden while I slept... So many more, so much laughter, so much joy... Sweet, sweet moments!
I cried because of painful memories of Easter’s long and not so long ago… Police coming to break up domestic violence between grown ups, wearing outfits I knew had been stolen from a store the night before, visiting Gramma in the hospital that Sunday before she died the following Friday, that one Easter when on Saturday night I begged and pleaded for the drug dealers to be kicked out before the morning when my brothers and I would wake up but they hadn’t been… And others that carry hopes that weren't realized, attempts to make things that were not out to be as if they were.... The pieces of life His resurrection redeems and restores!
I cried because I sat on a swing in a place I love after a morning of rejoicing and I knew His perfect love for me while they don’t know if for themselves.  
I cried because I know that He loves them even more than I do, He gave His life for them….


This time of crying, those moments when I’m struck with how much Easter hurts- these are my own “Saturday before Resurrection Sunday” moments.  I know what’s on the other side and oh gosh am I waiting and hoping for the day those I love (and all those He loves) to recognize that Sunday is for them too! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Showing Up

This morning I had a Khmer lesson. I knew the lesson was going to happen. I knew what my homework assignment was from last week's lesson, 7 days ago.  I thought about doing that assignment multiple times during the week, I was aware that it needed some focused time on my part if it was going to be done well.  I was supposed to speak about HPC and what we do. "I want you to tell me about HPC as if you're in America sharing with a group of people. I want to know about the vision of HPC and some of the testimonies you would tell.  I want to hear your heart for why you are with HPC" is what my teacher had said.  Well, it takes me a good while to prepare for that kind of thing in English so I was well aware that I needed to give this thing some effort.

I really enjoy assignments that require real effort, hard work. After learning for 3 years with the same teacher he still knows how to make me go a bit farther each time. It's a great feeling when I know I've accomplished an assignment in Khmer and I gave it my very best.  I can tell and so can my teacher.  Those days make us both happy.

Yet, there I was last night chatting with my roommate, answering phone calls, scrolling through Facebook and only absent mindedly putting together Khmer sentences about HPC.  At the end of the night I already knew that today's lesson wasn't going to go over very well.  Going into a lesson and feeling like I don't know exactly what I'm going to say and how I'm going to say it feels really vulnerable to me.  Some days are harder than others when I'm trying to communicate in someone else's language and I know I haven't mastered it yet.  I want to feel adequate, competent, like I'm on top of things and oh my goodness do I learn so much from this whole speaking a second language thing!  Most times I probably just need a little perspective... I work with 25 Khmer colleagues who speak English as their second language almost every day and I think they're so brave, so smart and amazing simply because they're not afraid to show and try to have conversations in English, so why I can't I see that for myself about Khmer?   That's another post altogether, for now back to my unprepared for Khmer lesson...  

"Yvonne, tell me honestly, how long did you spend preparing this?" was his first question after my teacher listened to me stammer through 25 minutes worth of very little about HPC.  So I told him.  Next question, "Are you satisfied with this?" to which I again honestly answered no.  "Okay, so next week try again, I know you can do better" he said.  I was frustrated.  I like to move on, I don't enjoy feeling stuck.  I would have much rather just bombed and quit, moved on to something else next week so I didn't have to do a better job.  I did learn a few words and phrases today that I needed in order to better communicate about HPC and my heart.  I also got a new memory verse (because I did manage to memorize Romans 10:17 in Khmer!) which is always fun, 2 Timothy 1:7 in Khmer, woohoo!!

I knew going into this morning that I wasn't going to do my best and I really considered just canceling the lesson.  I'm glad I didn't.  I chose to show up instead.  I chose to beat my pride back with humility and fumble through a jumble of words that was my own fault for not investing in it the way I could have (and I really could have, it wasn't a week where I didn't have time, I just chose other things...). I showed up and was held accountable as I was forced to be honest.  I showed up and was given grace as my teacher patiently listened to sentences he knows I could have said more accurately, quickly and with much more ease than I did.  I showed up and heard words of mercy and encouragement as I was reminded that students are students so that they can learn not because they already know it all.  I showed up and was challenged (which, once I've let go of my frustration and accepted things for what they are, is motivating for me!) to give it my all next time.

Brene Brown writes in her book, Daring Greatly, "Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.  This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly." During today's Khmer lesson I was seen, it wasn't my best but I was seen. I was vulnerable and had the opportunity to be met with grace, patience, accountability, honesty and motivation to keep going!

And, this blog.... I didn't write when I wanted to this week but I'm writing now. I'm showing up.  I can be seen.  It's vulnerable, it's a risk.  It motivates me because if I can do it tonight then I can do it next time, too.  I'm choosing to see this morning's Khmer lesson as a victory because I really could have backed out, cancelled and gone to pick up a friend from the airport, but I didn't.  And this writing, right now, is an even bigger victory!

Jesus showed up for me, He did not sit on the sidelines and judge where I was. He walked the earth, He died on the cross, He was vulnerable. And, I certainly see Him, I honor Him in the ways He has showed up and how He'll continue to show up. So, yeah, when He asks me to show up for a Khmer lesson in honesty instead of backing out and letting shame and pride win, I will.  When He asks me to show up and start writing again, about things that matter to me, about vulnerable things, I will.  I will continue to dare to show up because He continues to meet me every time.

What did you show up for?  What will you show up for?  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

He Remains

One of the things that is most consistent as I’ve been living in Cambodia is that people are always on the move! Teams coming and going, joyous trips to the airport to meet friends who have packed up their lives in other countries and moved here, farewell trips to the airport as friends embark on new parts of their journeys, interns who are kind of on in-between ground-they come for more than two weeks but have a definite departure date. So many people always moving!

If you’re familiar with the DISC personality test I am an SI type which means that I really enjoy people and stability could be my love language. I like to know what to expect. I like to be able to prepare emotionally for changes.

I think there are two major factors that contribute to my deep desire for stability. First would be my childhood. I grew up in a home where very little was predictable. I never knew if the adults around me were going to be happy, hung over or high. When they were happy life was pretty great…when they weren’t it wasn’t. Now, as an adult, I really like predictability, I like having control over my environment, it makes me feel safe.

The second factor is the fact that I am visually impaired. I have adapted throughout my life so that I learn and remember things quite differently than fully sighted people. When I walk into a room for the first time I immediately begin mentally mapping it out as far as things that will stay consistent-how many chairs are there? Where are light switches located? Is there more than one entrance/exit? And this mental map will be filed away very exactly for future reference. I also make short term notes about things that change-what color shirt is she wearing today? Where exactly did my purse, jacket, shoes (I live in Cambodia, we take our shoes off inside!) get placed? If we’re eating a meal together, where are things located on the table and how can I tell them apart from each other? In this sense, predictability and stability make me feel safe and confident.

Due to my need for feeling safe and confident in my physical surroundings I have come to feel the need for those things in my relationships as well.

So, sometimes, living in a city where lots of people come and go gets exhausting. About a year and half ago I decided to invest more deeply in my friendships with local Khmer people. After all, they’re more than likely not going to leave after a few weeks or months! It’s been so good to be intentional about this. I have a few people who are real friends.

Then, last May, some of my closest Khmer friends that I work with began quitting their jobs. And I hated it.

In fact, the past few months have been full of people moving. The normal interns and teams (I’ve learned to accept this, embrace them while they’re here in the capacity that I can and say goodbye when they leave), my roommate of the past three years got married, the worship pastor and his family at my home church in America moved and two of my closest Khmer colleagues left for new opportunities. It’s (mostly) not been a lot of fun at all. I have cried a few of those cries that make your throat hurt and your eyes burn with hot tears. I have tried to convince myself that it doesn’t really matter that things are changing. I have asked God why He made me to care so deeply that it has to hurt when relationships change.
And through it all… 
Through the past few months... 
Through the past few years with some new challenges visually... 
Through growing up and learning to find Him and trust Him… 

He remains. 

He remains faithful; always providing roads for the old relationship to grow and other roads for new ones to begin. 

He remains wise; always having the greatest possible plan for me. 

He remains present; always ready to listen when I turn to Him. 

He remains patient; always letting me question and even grumble a bit about the changes. 

He remains loving; always reminding me that He created my heart to love deeply and He’s glad I do. 

He remains hopeful; always seeing the best for all involved.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Secure Next Steps

This morning I met with one of my favorite Khmer women who has become a great inspiration, partner in ministry and she provides a place where my heart can be known. We have worked together during the past four and a half years and this Thursday we will go back to work at Punlok Thmey after two and a half weeks off for Christmas celebrations and some much needed rest.

We spent time well this morning. Together with our iced coffees, notebooks and lots of laughter. As she prepared to put her outside shoes back on for the moto (mo-ped/scooter) journey from my house to hers she suggested that we pray first. I’m always up for this idea!

So, we began to talk to the King who loves us and greatly desires that we come to His throne and share our hearts with Him. We talked with Him about our hopes and desires for this upcoming year. Desires to see specific clients healed from heart disease. Hopes for certain staff members to learn to walk in their Kingdom identities instead of what their families and society lie to them. Desires for His name to spread throughout Cambodia.

We also told the loving King about things that weigh heavy on our hearts… The names of little ones who are still being sexually abused even as they leave our programs, the complications of overcoming a mostly corrupt government in order to stand up for justice, the difficulty of trying to speak hope into situations in which the people involved haven’t met Jesus yet and so they don’t understand what resurrection means for each one of us… So many heavy things on our minds and hearts. And, He listened to each one of them. He acknowledged our frustration, validated our anger and anguish and then He reminded me of such a simple truth that I just forget most times…

When we live our lives with Him we can completely trust every single next step we take. Every. Single. One. He already knows the future He has for us. He always has the very best in mind for each of us, He created us and a Creator values what He has made. So, we can walk secure and confident because He really only has good things in store for us.

When we know that at the core of our hearts, when our spirit resonates with The Spirit, we will not even think about worrying about the heavy things because we will know that He is good.

We won’t worry about the heavy things. We will engage with them though. We will partner with the good He wants to bring. We will speak life. We will validate the pain, the anguish, the losses. We will validate them because they are real in this world. Without them, what would our hope be for?

This morning’s time with my friend and my King was soothing to my heart. Hurts, uncertainty and frustration were validated. Then we were able to securely take just the next steps towards going back to work on Thursday. We will meet every situation with validity and hope because we know He is good and so we will follow Him.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Discipline of Slowing Down

Life demands that we slow down and even stop sometimes. We stop at certain traffic lights and signs, we stop when the batteries die in electronics, our bodies even naturally slow us down as we sleep.  God has created rhythms and slowing down is part of His plan. I'm not talking about Sabbath- that's a whole other kind of stopping.  I'm talking about a slowing down that allows us to shift our focus from one thing to another.  There are at least two major kinds of slowing down in my life. The first is on a daily basis and the second kind happens after a longer amount of time-sometimes every few months, sometimes every few years.

I am currently in America where I have been for the past six weeks and will be for the next seven weeks.  It is good to have a change of scenary, different pace of life for a bit.  During what has become my "normal" life in Phnom Penh, Cambodia I am met daily with the reality of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking of children, women and men.  Along with each new story that we become part of at our center for prevention and restoration comes the chance to believe a victim, form a strategy to help and pray for God's favor and wisdom as we go forward.

And then, at the end of a workday, I am presented the tasks of leaving the office and focusing on other relationships, to-do-lists and outlets in my own life.  It takes a lot for me to be able to treat what I do at our drop-in center as just one part of my life.  Everything in me doesn't want to stop thinking about, talking through, strategizing a case until it is in the best possible place it can be, until we have completely spent all of our energy and resources-beyond what is expected- so that a child is safe, a family has a plan for financial success, a teenager understands and can apply principles to give himself a bright future, a mother is given the best medical services we can find so she can continue to care for her children, a father is taught about the consequences his choices have on his family...... I don't want to stop, even though it's 4:30 and time to go home.

I know though that if I chose to keep going I would have nothing to give tomorrow. And tomorrow will come with its new stories and new opportunities for myself and our Khmer employees to help.

So, as I live in Cambodia I do choose the discipline of slowing down and shifting my focus so I am filled up by lighter things because I know it is what will help me keep going tomorrow.

But right now, tonight, I sit here in America with LOTS of time on my hands because I don't have daily committments or to-do-lists.  I've chosen to stop for longer than I'm allowed in Cambodia.  And as I live in this strange place of 'in between' where I don't have the same demands/opportunities that have become normal I find myself with different opportunities being given to me by my Creator.

Some days I'll see an article (or five) on Facebook about pedophiles in Cambodia and I have the opportunity to pray my heart out...His heart really.  I can just sit with the pain, the anger, the hope for transformation....all my thoughts and emotions can be what they may for as long as it takes for me to feel satisfied that I have given my heart, my attention, given my all emotionally to this thing that is so complicated and can never be wrapped up in one workday.

Other days I can't stop thinking about those I've grown to love in Cambodia. Literally, can't stop. I know what their days look like, I know when to pray and what to pray for because I'd usually be there with them.  God's heart of intercession blows me away when I slow down so much that I can feel what He feels, hope what He hopes and declare what He has already done and is yet to do! Allowing myself the time and space to partner with Him in this way is completely refreshing to my soul.

I don't want to leave my everyday life, it's not natural for me to walk away from things I'm invested in. But, I choose to seperate myself for a while slowing down and shifting focus because I know I need the things I gain here so I can be reconnected to His heart for me and for those around me. It reminds me of His character and I continue to follow Him.

I can't do this slowing down thing alone. In Cambodia I have friends who remind me (without even knowing it most of the time) that it's time to slow down and shift the focus to other things so we can continue well tomorrow.  There's a need for us to help each other slow down and shift our focus...


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Apology for Not Writing More Often!

I am writing this post simply to apologize for not writing more during the past year! I know that many of you who read have been receiving my email updates so you're pretty much up to date on all important things.

I do want you to know that I still operate this blog and the Donate link is correct and your gifts will certainly get to me :-)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thoughts on Heaven

I've been thinking a lot about heaven lately.  With little Sok being so sick in Cambodia I've found my thoughts wandering to my sweet friend, Jenn.  We met in college where she majored in Missions, taught me about kayaking and she'd bake blueberry muffins when she was stressed. Sophomore year she was diagnosed with cancer and 3 years later she died.  Before jenn died she would always talk about heaven and what things would be like in heaven when she got there.  She'd tell us not to be sad because she was going to be so happy-she'd have new mountain bike tails to explore everyday and she'd get to hang out with Jesus! 

In an email abuot Sok (a 6 year old boy in Cambodia who has been very close to dying a few times recently), a friend of mine wrote about how this sweet, precious boy wanted to ride a bicycle.  He's not had ample opportunities to do that as 6 year olds should.  Another friend told me about sitting in Sok's hospital room with him while the two of them shared a white board and some markers to take turns drawing pictures of heaven.  The thought of this scene brings a huge smile to my face every time!



In the middle of what could be seen as and understood to be some of the most sad, hopeless and painful hours of life both Jenn and Sok have shown me that Jesus offers a living hope...even to the dying ones. When we know Him and believe His words that tell us that He has gone to prepare a place for us we are blessed.  Not only are we able to hope  in what He's prepared but we can take it a step further by choosing to dreeam of it now.  

As Jenn told us of all the things she looked forward to about heaven we were able to rejoice with her. We didn't stop asking for her healing, we wanted her here, with us! But, we knew she'd also be just fine there.

As we teach Sok and countless others how to look forward to what awaits us in Eternity we offer freedom for them to have faith in something more than what the doctors and tests can tell them.

More importantly, we offfer freedom for those who are sick -and for those who love them- to let God be sovereign.  His thoughts and ways are higher than ours and we can't begin to understand why He does things He does.  But we can choose to believe that, just as He says, He has the best in mind for each one of us.  I really do trust that.  

The Bible tells us that heaven will be a new earth.  That makes me think that we will enjoy the types of things we enjoy now except they will be untainted.  And, we will be constantly in His presence, uninterrupted companionship with our Maker!

I don't know about you, but personally, I love thinking of Jenn enjoying those new mountain bike trails! And, I can't wait for the grandeour of heavenly sunsets... 



 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Memorizing God's Word With a Grateful Heart

I found this article this morning and it reminded me just how grateful I am for the freedom I have not only in the U.S. but, also in Cambodia, to read and carry around a physical copy of the Bible.  Today, I will indeed find a verse that speaks to me and begin to memorize it :-)

"MEMORIZING GOD'S WORD

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 NLT)

When China’s best-known pastor, Wang Ming-dao, was finally released from prison, he stated, “In these past twenty years, I have not had a copy of the Bible. Happily between the ages of twenty-one to twenty-four, I spent my time at home doing the housework and studying the Scriptures. I memorized many passages. These passages in my heart came out one-by-one and strengthened me. Had it not been for those words of God, then not only I, but many others, would also have been defeated.”

Pastor Lamb in southern China was in prison for many years at that same time. “I understood then why I had memorized so much of God’s Word while in Bible school,” he says. “I kept my sanity only by repeating Bible verses over and over.”

The best way the church can prepare for trials and persecution is by seriously studying and learning the Word of God. Christians need an overview of the whole Bible. Understanding God’s outline for mankind in the Bible aids in memorization as well.

What is the right attitude to bring to Bible study? Some read and study the Bible with the intent to get something from it to teach to others. But first, we should approach the Bible with the desire to see the goodness and loving-kindness of God and understand how “wide and long and high and deep” is His love for us (Ephesians3:17-19). Let His love show you His supply for your own need and then you are better able to meet the needs of others.

Second, approach the Bible with humility. Study the Bible to discover what God has said. Bible study is meant not merely to inform - but to transform.

In restricted countries where Bibles are in short supply, pastors are often in a quandary as to which of the many spiritually needy he should share these precious books with. Progress in Bible memorization is one method they can use for determining who will receive the available Bibles. One house church group in Vietnam decided to give them to the believers who were most determined to use them. The criterion used was memory work. So Bibles were shared only with those who recited flawlessly Psalm 119—all 176 verses!

Open Doors is committed to provide God’s Word to those for whom it is not available. “It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes....” (Romans 1:16)

RESPONSE
Today I will memorize a new verse from
God’s Word, the Bible.

PRAYER
Pray for the Christians in restricted countries
where there is a shortage of God’s Word.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS) 
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

That Christmas Feeling?

t's almost midnight and I'm in my room here in Cambodia surrounded by suitcases and backpacks as I (attempt) to finish packing so I can get on a plane headed to India10 hours from now! There is SO MUCH to be said about the whole India journey from the very beginning up until right now but it'll just have to wait for another blog because I have something else on my mind tonight....

I live in Cambodia, I've been here for 19 months now and this is my second consecutive Christmas season spent outside the United States.  And, tonight, as I'm sweating, wearing shorts, enjoying ripe mangoes...I've been thinking about what Christmas looks like in America and how very different it is from here.

Don't get me wrong, I've watched Elf, listened to Christmas music and even had a few hot chocolates this month but, that didn't make it 'feel' like Christmas.

Tonight my good friend Sara in Missouri called me so I could see the snow that had fallen overnight, we talked about Christmas gifts she and her roommates had exchanged and she told me about the new "Ninjabread" cookies she'll be making this week. But, still, it didn't "feel" like Christmas...

I keep needing to remind myself that next Tuesday is actually Christmas day. That one of the main reasons this team is going to India now is because it is Christmas and we want to share that with orphans and lepers! And then, I remember.

Christmas is not only about climate, food or traditions.  These are all certainly wonderful parts of the season (whether your food of choice is mangoes or candy canes) but they are not what any of us should be looking to in order for us to know that it is Christmas.

It is Christmas because Jesus came to the earth to show us His Father's great love for us!

It is Christmas because God is still alive and active today!

It is Christmas because His life has transformed mine!

It is Christmas because God has made a way for all mankind to be reconciled with Him, brought back into good relationship with Him!

It is Christmas because His presence will never leave us!

It is Christmas because of Him..... And that is more than enough for me to "feel" like it is Christmas.

I'm so grateful that He has led me to a place where I can so clearly why we celebrate, a place where all the noise and clutter of what we so often confuse to be Christmas is gone and I simply be with Him and know it is time to celebrate who He is.

2010-I celebrated Him with the Bailey family in Kansas City, we watched the Polar Express, ate Christmas cookies, drank hot chocolate, feasted on yummy food and exchanged gifts.... It was one of the sweetest days I've ever spent and I know Jesus loved it!

2011-I celebrated Him with two amazing families who had left the comforts of their homes in America and Singapore to come love on some Khmer kiddos! We watched Elf, ate Kentucky Fried Chicken, went on a boat ride with 25 orphans and ended up at giant church service (which we were all very under-dressed for after our boat ride!).  One of the most fun and spontaneous days I've ever spent and I know Jesus was laughing with us!

2012-I will be in India! A country I've never been to with a few people I know and many others I'll meet so soon! We will worship with some orphans, share a meal of chicken biriyani and spend many hours traveling to and from the orphanage in a van.  Jesus will be celebrated.

Whatever your Christmas looks or feels like this year be sure to take some time to celebrate Jesus, who he is and what He's done.....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

America--->Cambodia--->India!


I am SO EXCITED about what I have to share with you in this post!!!

I would like to tell you about a very unique experience I will be part of this coming December.  You may know that I have been living in Cambodia for over a year and a half and have been working with the Hard Places Community here since May 2010.  During my time here I have met and been able to work with some amazing people who are bringing the Kingdom of God to their nation in very tangible ways.

The church in Cambodia is in the process of being resurrected as many people are coming to know the freedom, healing and redemption offered through the cross.  And, I am convinced, I work with some of the most passionate Khmer people who long to see transformation in their people.  Not only that, but they long to see transformation and the name of Jesus glorified throughout the world. 

This is where you and I come in: we can help a few of them bring His love and truth not only to other Khmer people but to people in India.

The H.P.C. western staff who have been living in Cambodia are planning to take five of our Khmer friends on their very first mission trip with us to India.  We will be there for 10 days and we will do two main things.  First, we will put on a Christmas program for 25 children who live in an orphanage that the H.P.C. started in 2007.  We will also spend some time in a leper colony encouraging and praying with the people there. 

The total cost for each person’s trip is $1,500-this includes air travel, transportation in India, ministry expenses, meals and lodging.  If you would like to contribute financially towards this trip you may do so through the "DONATE" button located on the right side of this blog page, be sure to include a note that says who it is for or leave a comment on the blog! We are so grateful for your prayers for each of us as well! 

This is the really fun part-I get to introduce you to my very dear friends who will be joining us on this adventure....

Veasna is 20 years old and has  been working with the H.P.C. for almost 4 years. He is one of our lead counselors who works one on one with abused and traumatized children in our programs.  Veasna is excited to be the hands and feet of Jesus as he shows orphans that they have a True Father who cares for them and will never abandon them.  Veasna has a desire to see those who have been rejected by so many in this world know that Jesus welcomes them and has good plans for their lives.  He has faith that runs very deep and probably could move mountains if need be, I can’t wait to tell you stories of his prayers bringing freedom and transformation! 


Panha is 19 years old and has been working with the H.P.C. for almost 4 years.  He is our lead social worker and helps many families who live in extreme poverty.  He is looking forward to being able to show the orphans in India that they have a God who loves them so much that He sends people all the way from Cambodia to tell them!  He knows that although he does not come from a financially wealthy country he has much to offer the people he’ll encounter in India because he knows God’s love for them.  Panha speaks truth in a very powerful way and it will be fun to watch the Lord speak through him into the lives of people in another country!

Borey has worked with H.P.C. for the past year and a half and we are so glad to have him as part of our team! He is brilliant with people of all ages, he leads one of our Kids Club programs, heads up an outreach team, teaches Khmer to foreigners and is very active in a small group on the weekends.  He has been given a spirit that makes all around him feel welcomed and valued and I’m excited to watch the Lord use this to draw others closer to Him.





Sineath has been working with us for 3 years now.  She is also a counselor working with children one on one.  She brings the compassion of the Holy Spirit in a very powerful and tangible way to the children she works with.  I can't wait to watch as the Spirit leads her to love on the orphaned and hurting in India, I believe He is going to do some pretty amazing things through her....

Who am I kidding? I believe He is going to do some pretty amazing, even miraculous, things through each of them!!!

Thank you in advance for the ways in which you’ll join us on this journey.  Please let me know if you’d like to receive updates as we prepare and when we return!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Participate in Punlok Thmey!

One of our tuktuks
This is a very practical post to update you about what we have going on at Punlok Thmey Boys Center here in Cambodia.  Many people have asked for some specific information and I'm glad to provide it for you, the better you are informed, the more able you are to spread the word about how others can get involved too!

Showing off his
soccer uniform!
Each week we have about 65 boys from the ages of 3 to 18 come to any of the activities that we offer.  In the mornings the boys can be in English classes, a computer class or a play therapy type of room called the playroom.  In the afternoons there is a Kids Club program every day where kids play games, sing songs, eat a snack, do a craft and learn about Jesus.  There is also a weekly soccer program as well as guitar classes.

It is such a privilege to be able to give these boys a positive alternative to spending their days on the streets trying to avoid trouble.  We do not force boys to come to our center yet, every day you can find them here! To me this speaks volumes about how our Khmer staff build relationships and care for each of them.  In our center, there is an environment of love, compassion, mercy, respect and honesty that is difficult for a young boy to find in many other places in this city.  And, it takes quite a bit to be able to provide this.....


Here are some of the numbers behind the needs:
Guitar Lessons
  • $60-In one month we use 180 gallons of purified water to supply the boys and our staff with safe, healthy drinking water.
  • $90-One month of water and electricity for our four story building.
  • $50-one month of first aid supplies.
  • $90-One month for our 24/7 hotline to be operational and answered by a Khmer staff member.
  • $45-One month of cleaning supplies-toilet paper, trash bags, dish soap, floor cleaner, etc.
  • $75-One month of office and craft supplies.
  • $80-One month of snack for our Kids Club program
  • $30-One month of small prizes to give out as students progress in English classes.
  • $150-one month of gas for our tuktuk driver who takes boys to the doctor, pays our utility bills, picks up and drops off a boy who cannot walk and runs many other errands on any given day!
  • $1,700-One month of rent for our building.
  • $3,150-one month to pay fair, honest salaries to our 16 amazing Khmer staff members who make this whole thing possible!

Each month there are also miscellaneous expenses related to social work, staff medical insurance and staff training and care.

For example, just in the past 3 weeks we have taken one nine-year old boy to a specialist for a brain MRI which confirmed for us that he does not have rabies from the dog that bit him! This cost $180.  Another boy, this one is two-years old, had to have a surgery to drain fluid and it cost $150 for the surgery as well as hospital stay and food while in the hospital. And, we spent $65 for our staff to receive training from a partner NGO about drugs in Cambodia, how to recognize if a person is using them and how to help them.

Phew! All this can seem overwhelming at times, especially when looking at the big picture, but as I break it down it becomes much more manageable.  It has been such a rewarding journey of faith as we continue to trust God with every need and every penny that comes our way.
If you would like to be part of all the excitement that goes on at Punlok Thmey on any given day we gladly welcome your financial partnership as well as your prayers! You may give to any of these specific needs through the “DONATE” button on this page or you can go to our website, learn more and donate there! When you donate, please leave me a comment (so we can say thank you!) and include in your donation a note about where the funds should go.  If you are unable to donate financially right now PLEASE continue to pray for us in specific ways so that our needs will continue to be met!

My next blog is going to be about a missions project that we are doing with some of our staff and I CAN'T WAIT to tell you all about it!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Joel 2:25

About once a month I just need to take an entire day to myself to do things that fill me up, leave me feeling at peace and satisfied, today was one of those days.  Life just has a tendency to get busy (as if you didn't already know that) and at times mine is so busy that I miss Jesus.  Not like I miss Him as in we just keep passing by each other but, I miss Him, in my heart I long to be with Him, to talk to Him, to hear His voice.....

Right, so today I spent the whole day with Him.

Throughout the day I consumed a french press full of coffee, made some salad to eat for lunch during the week, answered some long overdue emails, prayed for many things, did some of a Beth Moore study on James that I haven't touched in weeks (months?), wrote in my journal, listened to Rita Springer almost nonstop (a bit old skewl, I know) and listened to two sermons. Now, I'm writing this as I make macaroni and cheese and get ready to go watch the Muppet Movie with a friend.  Such a GOOD, FULL day!!

One of the sermons I listened to was preached by my dear friend Amy, it was from a while ago as most of the sermons I have are on my iPod and have been downloaded, I don't usually delete them.  In this particular sermon she spoke about Joel 2:25, "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten...".  This is exactly what I needed to hear today.

I love the promise of redemption.  I've experienced quite a bit of "locusts" eating things.  My first eight years of life were the most "normal" and I have some good memories from them.  I was an only child until I was almost 9.  I had my own room and almost every toy I ever wanted, had extravagant birthday parties, at holidays everyone always came over to our place and my mom was the "cool mom" on school field trips.  When I turned 9 however is when the locusts began eating things that didn't belong to them.  We'll just suffice it to say that the next decade or so of my life was much less than ideal.

As a result I LOVE the promise of redemption and I've been able to see it being fulfilled in my life as an adult.  Not only do I love it about my own life but as I've begun to think about the boys at our center and how much redemption is in store for them....oh my gosh, I get so EXCITED!!!

So, tonight I'm speaking out dreams of life, joy, abundance, victory, peace and SO MUCH MORE for little ones who have had horrendous things happen to them in their very short lives.  I feel so privileged to be part of their stories of redemption.

Who do you get to come alongside and claim the promise of redemption over their life?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Injustice is Injustice But We Can Help

For the past few weeks Wednesdays have been a day for me to catch up on life outside of Cambodia, to send emails to friends, to see photos of new babies, to dream about and plan for a trip to China.... It's been a much needed break from the "normal" things of my life here.  I'm very aware, on a daily basis, of the insane amount of injustice that takes place here in Phnom Penh.  And, most of the time it's injustice that hits on a personal note of some form; a 5-year old who is sold for sex so his family can eat for the next few days, a 13-year old who has been abused and now rapes his 10 year old friends stealing their virginity, a young woman who chooses not to go to school because she has been offered a job making $1/.hour, a 12-year old who has been told to stop going to school so he can stay at home and take care of his mentally unstable mother.....

But wait, it's Wednesday morning here in Cambodia-taking a break, right? Yes.  I've just skyped with some friends who are moving here in about 4 months.  Then I read and replied to a few emails and commented on a Facebook photo of a beautiful new babl boy... And, I was just getting ready to write an update of my own to send out to many of you...

However, I came across a video that caught my attention.  It was entitled "KONY 2012".  I clicked play and waited a while as it downloaded.  When I started watching I wasn't aware how long it was but I watched the entire 30 minutes.  This video reminded me of something I became very passionate about back in 2006.  Do you remember the "Invisible Children" campaign? It was a venue to bring awareness about the atrocities happening to children in Uganda.  They were (still are) being abducted by a man named Joseph Kony and forced to kill. This man steals from children their families, their safety, their consciences and ultimately their freedom.  This has been going on for 26 years now. It is injustice.

So, this morning I thought I was going to take a mini break from the injustice happening right outside my apartment.  And, in a way, I did.

But I was reminded that injustice is injustice.  It is not a respecter of...anything.  By its nature injustice attempts to destroy respect, dignity, freedom, hope, joy....it is the ultimate ploy of our enemy.

Yes, I live in Cambodia and I personally know some people who are suffering horrific injustice, even today as I type.  And, there are people in Africa who are also victims of injustice. And in India.  And in Mexico. And in America.  And....all over the world.

I know that it's not my job to fix any of these things.  It's not your job either.  It is our privileged responsibility to ask Him, the One who gave His life to bring justice into our lives, what He wants us to do along side Him.  I'm very passionate about seeing freedom and justice brought to the ones I love here in Cambodia. I am also passionate about seeing justice brought in the way of capture to Joseph Kony.  I am passionate about justice.

So, I will post videos on behalf of Ugandan children.
I will send finances to missionaries in Nepal.
I will sign petitions on behalf of the oppressed in Guatemala.
 I will live in Cambodia with Khmer people.  
I will visit Ukrainian orphans.  
 I will always do whatever Jesus asks of me when He stirs my heart to move towards justice.  
Cambodia is not my "cause", ending human trafficking is not my "goal" but bringing justice- be it to the individual standing in front of me or to the masses on the other side of the world-
in whatever way He asks of me is what I will do.

What is He asking of you today? Watch a video and become more informed? Write a check? Spend some time praying? Call a senator? Perform a random act of kindness? Befriend a foreigner? Speak His words of truth and life to someone who is hurting? Ask Him and He'll tell you how you can help.....

"But let justice roll on like a river, 
   righteousness like a never-failing stream!"-Amos 5:24

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. 
   And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy 
   and to walk humbly[a] with your God." -Micah 6:8


Monday, January 16, 2012

Choosing Gratefulness

For the past few days I've found myself in a bit of a less than great attitude. And, while there are plenty of excuses for this (a headache that lingered way too long, saying goodbye to friends who visited for five weeks, the grocery store all of a sudden not carrying some the things I've become used to buying each week....on and on, blah, blah, blah...) I finally realized that I could choose to see things differently.
After a chat with a friend last night I've decided to intentionally choose gratefulness this morning in hopes of pushing away the unpleasant-ness that's building up.

So, here we go.  I'm blessed and am grateful for:

  • The Internet that allows me to communicate with so many friends around the world
  • My God who hears my prayers and the prayers of my friends 
  • The fact that I can speak enough Khmer to have conversations with the boys at the center without needing a translator
  • Knowing two of the best tuktuk drivers in all of Phnom Penh
  • The blessing of working with a staff who really enjoy their jobs and want to His Kingdom come in powerful ways to Cambodia
  • A water cooler when it is still 93 in my bedroom at 2a.m.
  • The tile walls in our kitchen that are an ever changing art gallery of work done by friends with dry erase markers
  • The blessing of living in a country where I can freely talk about and worship Jesus
  • My iPod
  • A cell phone system that allows the transfer of money from one SIM card to another
  • This season of God's providing in abundance
  • Airplanes so my friends can come to and from Cambodia for visits
  • The Boys Center where younger brothers come and know they are safe, known and cared for by Jesus and a staff of older brothers and sisters
  • Games of Jenga with Panha
  • Tuktuk rides to work with my sweet friend Somphoas that double as great Khmer practice times
Right, tuktuk rides to work, I need to get ready to meet my friend for our ride.  This has been a very helpful activity as I have a smile on my face that I'm sure will stick around as I've opened my heart to be looking for blessings.

Today will be a good day :-)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Being Taught by the Kids


Today was such a good day!

This morning I decided that I was not going to do ANY admin work at the center.  That meant I got to spend our three hour long morning being with the kids and our staff, WOOHOO!!!

On any Monday-Thursday morning from 8:30-11:30 there are various English, computer and playroom classes going on in the building.  Playroom is a unique setting where the boys come in for one hour at a time and sit in small groups of about 3-5 with one or two Khmer staff members.  During this hour the kids play with various legos, erector sets, playdough, race cars, do puzzles, read books....all while building relationships with our staff who are being trained in play therapy techniques.

Once a week we get a special treat when our friend Kim comes to visit! She and her family (husband and two sons) live in Cambodia and when she comes to the center she usually brings a fun science lesson to share with us! Once it was making volcanoes, another time we talked about the bones in our bodies and another we made kazoos out of straws! She also brings her sons with her-a 5 year old and a 3 year old.

Kim and her family have only been here for a few months so they are just beginning to learn the language.  This does not inhibit her boys from jumping right in and playing with "our" boys though! Today I was filled with gratitude, joy and....well, awe, really...as I watched her 5 year old son P. and one of our 9 year old boys, D., play together....

As soon as they saw each other this morning P. and D. began speaking with each other in the fragments of English D. has learned and Khmer P. has picked up.  They sat together in the "quiet room" and completed two puzzles.  It was so fun to watch because they were not just sitting next to each other working independently on different sections of the puzzles but they were truly cooperating to put together the entire picture.  These boys have only known each other for about 6 weeks and only interact once a week for an hour!  I LOVE the honesty of being a child and I especially love that these boys show each other kindness, acceptance and generosity.  This is what the Kingdom of God will be like....and even better :-)

Jesus tells us in Matthew 18 that unless we become like children we will not enter heaven.  I am so grateful for the opportunity He gave me to learn from these two today!  They do not even give any attention to their very obvious differences instead they saw their common goal and seized the opportunity to help one another, learn some new words from one another and have lots of fun together while doing these things!

Lord, would You help me to step out in courage in spite of the obvious differences....I long to enjoy simply living life alongside my brothers and sisters here without fear of mispronouncing a word, without hesitation at doing something differently than I've done in the past and without pride in ideas and theories that I think are THE right ones....I long to stand next to staff members and see these boys through YOUR eyes so we will see the same things in them, I want to stand with these boys You've put in front of me and hear YOUR words of Truth, Freedom and Promise for their lives so that I can join You in speaking them out in English and Khmer!