I must be totally honest and tell you that when Steve told me God had asked us to live in a slum for a month and give away a lot of our valuables I initially felt overwhelmed, scared and a bit angry. We had just left so many loved-ones in Phnom Penh and were trying to settle into Sihanoukville ; a totally alien place to me. I honestly felt heart-broken leaving the home I loved in Phnom Penh and all the people I felt I was abandoning. It was such a refining time of reminding myself that God has everything in his hands and his timings are perfect and I could truly trust Him. So on top of all these grieving emotions and feeling so unsettled I felt this was the final thing God was taking from my hands. I didn’t realise at that time but it was the best thing I could have ever hoped for.
Steve and I didn’t know which slum to live in so decided to drive to them all and pray and seek God on which one to live in. After visiting a few slums the realities of what we were doing started to hit me. We had been to nearly all the slums and the sun was setting and I was feeling discouraged but then we both felt to go to one last one; a dangerous slum and where many illegal activities go on including trafficking. As we drove through this huge slum I felt so excited ; I knew this was going to be our new home !
So the next few days we prayed and decided to go see if we could find a place. Before we went in we were reminded of a number of dreams and prophecies about railway tracks. Steve also saw a picture of a plant pot as we were praying. So we started where the train tracks are and started walking until we saw a place with lots of plant pots (unusual in the slum). Steve sat down and got a drink and started chatting to the people there and me some Khmer friends were drawn to a young boy who was crying. It turned out this boy was in such pain, as he had fallen while climbing and a rusty sheet of metal had sliced a huge chunk of his leg out. He was taking antibiotics but was sobbing in pain and had a fever. I knew it was serious ; and if we didn’t do something it could be life-threatening. After chatting to his mum and explaining the seriousness of the situation we were soon on our way to the best hospital in town. The doctor explained if this had been left another few days he would have lost his leg! After a few hours of IV antibiotics and minor surgery we headed home ; but as the leg was so serious we had to take him back to the hospital every day for further antibiotics and dressings. Whilst at the hospital I formed a very close bond with his mum Srey* who was so sweet. When we arrived back in the slum his grandparents greeted us and expressed their gratitude. We asked them if they knew of anywhere we could stay and they said they would find out for us. On our way to the hospital God told had me that this boy would open up a doorway for us into this slum; so we were both excited!
The next day when we brought Prou* back from the hospital, his grandad asked us to move in with them. He said he wouldn’t feel happy if we stayed anywhere else, as it isn’t safe and they could protect us. Both him and his wife insisted we move into their home; and he said we could live there for free as we had helped Prou* so much. He then said, with tears in his eyes, that fate had brought us to their family and now we were part of it ! I just knew in that moment that this would be a very special relationship. So the next day we moved into the best room of their house; with a mattress and even electricity. The only difficulty was that there was no bathroom/ toilet ! The whole community did share a raised rusty corregated iron structure which had a hole in the bottom and you could use if you were desperate – but at night time it was unsafe as you had to cross over the train tracks to use it. So Steve and I felt we would pay to build the family their own toilet and washroom ; partly because I couldn’t imagine no toilet for a whole month ! Also I didn’t really like having a bucket shower outside the house whilst the whole village stared at me ha ha!
I will never forget that first night ; something I had been dreading , but it was such a joy ! Surrounded by the most adorable children, all of who wanted to play games and to have lots of hugs and by our new family who were the sweetest and most sincere people. From day one we were told we had a new Cambodian mum and dad and so they really were just like parents ; everynight telling us we needed to have showers and go to bed ! Also it was great because we had 8 new brothers and sisters and countless nieces and nephews including sweet Prou*.
It wasn’t easy to always eat everything put in front of us, but Gods grace was over everything and I could stomach much more than I normally could. We also managed to use the make-shift and frankly scary toilet until the new one was built; as I watched the rats and cockroaches crawling around under me. At night time we got soo hot and the sound of rats crawling around us and the smell of their urine was a bit unnerving, plus the shouting of the drunken men outside and the extremely loud tv’s next door. But we got used to it; it wasn’t that bad! God was protecting us and giving us the strength.
From dawn till dusk we both had children hanging off us; craving love and attention. I could see that many of these children received no affection from their parents and even when they cried no one would comfort them. So it was a joy to be able to show these kids that they were so precious, important and loved. We often told them about who they were and slowly we started to see changes in them. It was also amazing to spend a lot of time just sitting and chatting to the mommas and all our family. Our mum and dad had heart-breaking stories about how they lost two children and many siblings during the nightmare Khmer-Rouge genocide. We got to sit and listen and pray for them and the more we found out about their lives the more love and respect I had for these precious, hard-working and generous people. Our parents would always say they have a small house and wallet but they have big hearts; which was absolutely true!
It wasn’t long before we had the whole village wondering why we were there and who we were. We always told them the truth; that Jesus had told us to live there for one month and that we wanted to learn from them and to bless them. Soon Sunday came and God told Steve to invite one person to church and that Jesus would do the rest, in the end 16 people (mainly kids) came with us the first night. Our friend’s van was packed with people from our village; it was so exciting ! It was the best feeling in the world to have such enthusiasm in going to church! It was a fantastic evening and by the end many of the kids had told me they wanted to go every week. It was really interesting as when we got home our Cambodian dad told the whole family that they should go to church as it is “good for your brain”! Everyday the children asked me; can we go to church again today? It made me so excited to see their hunger for more of God .
A few days later I became really sick and had a fever and chills and felt really dizzy. I knew this was more than just a cold as I literally couldn’t get out of bed. So I began to pray and worship God and he gave me a picture of the kids gathered around me praying. So I asked Steve to get the children to pray for me. They did pray for me; even though they didn’t understand . I wasn’t healed straight away but I had a renewed strength to get out of bed. Steve and I then drove around for about 20 minutes just worshiping at the top of our lungs and praying for the area. I came home totally better. The kids couldn’t believe it; as they had seen how ill I was before and had felt the fever on my skin. Since then they now know that Jesus wants to heal all sickness and disease. It really awesome to see how these children see things; it teaches me so much!
"Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" James 2:5
Each day God opened up more opportunities for us to share our testimony and about Him. Our mum and dad listening to their new audio-bible every night and thanks to the church most of the adults who were going to church had their own bible. By the second week two packed van loads were going to church and by the end of the third week forty four people joined us to church. At the end of the service four adults , including our Khmer granddad and two of his children, gave their lives to Jesus. Six children also decided to follow Jesus a few days before that at a separate eve.
I was now realising what is truly valuable in this life .... it’s not what I thought before. I would spend forever in the slums if I could see hope and new life spring up in places of darkness , if I could watch Jesus turn lives around and bring his love to lives where so much hurt and poverty has dominated. By living with the poor I had learnt so much! I had witnessed true generosity, true self-less love as our parents would give us the best of their hard-earned food , their best room in the house. Despite communication barriers and also cultural differences our new family never criticised us or shouted at us but were always patient and kind and accepted us for who we were, even if we did seem very strange. I also saw the heart-breaking side of poverty and broken families and the deep darkness so many people live in. One night one of my sister’s husbands threw himself into the sewage lake near the house as he wanted to die. He was dragged out and all his children were crying and screaming and he eventually regained consciousness ; only to throw himself back in again. Every night we could hear the sounds of intoxicated men hitting or screaming at their wives and children. Countless times we heard parents speak curses over these kids; it wasn’t easy ! But amongst the garbage and the rats and the smell and the heat each of these people , each of the kids were like sparking diamonds ; loved by their heavenly father , each with an incredible destiny and purpose. They taught me so much about love and I am forever grateful for them.
Now we are in love with this family and the whole community. It was extremely painful to move out of their home. However I do know that God finishes what he starts and we both truly believe great things for this slum. One night I got a picture of God started a small flame which would grow into a roaring fire; I know He is bringing revival here and I am so thankful that we can be a part of it in some way. God in his goodness and kindness gave me a new family in a place I had felt so alien to. In addition to that He has given us an amazing team, who have been an amazing family also and have been there to help equip us to love this community; whether thats been helping with de-licing of the kids, or being able to have the odd shower at their house, our team has been such a support to us and we couldn’t have done any of this without them. God made us dependent on them too; which has really helped us love and appreciate them so much.
We don’t know what happens from here but we do know that Jesus has a plan.... we really feel He wants us to live close to this slum and use our home in a way which can be a blessing to them. Whatever God’s plan looks like I have learnt that He is good and He is trustworthy! He doesn’t ask us to do things which are bad for us; but always which will help us grow and which will teach us so much. I also realise that as much as I love these people, God loves them so much more and is desperate to see them living in freedom and walking in their identity as his children; healed and restored!
Looking back I laugh and think that I was ever worried about what God has asked us to do ; He handpicked us the kindest family in the whole slum and set us up to inherit them as our dear Khmer family who bring us such joy everyday we visit, and we still continue to visit them every day.
My biggest lesson; sometimes it’s so so good to do things we are incapable of doing without Him! Everyday having to rely fully on Jesus to just survive the day is a great place to be; it reminds us that through Him all things are possible.
Thank you so so much for your continued prayers and loving support, we love you all deeply. Some other really exciting things have also started to develop during our time here in Sihanoukville. We will keep you posted! God is more glorious and incredible that we could ever imagine, to Him be all the glory.
Lots and lots of love,
Mollie and Steve x x x
(*Names of persons have been changed).