We feel so blessed to be part of the journey of Iris Cambodia. Its hard to summarise the last 7 weeks; but I hope this gives a small insight.
After so much anticipation we finally moved to Phom Penh. We felt so excited, we were here where God wanted us to be! It was a great feeling to be at the start of something so special. We started off really busy; moving into our beautiful base, buying furniture and trying to work our way round this huge and often chaotic city.
The first morning we were here we started language class at the university. We were picking up momentum and we were making contacts with other NGO’s, making friends and learning more about the many needs and problems of Cambodia. We even did a few outreaches to the brothels/bars with a visiting team from Northern Ireland; who were so awesome and really blessed us! We met some really precious Khmer girls who we continue to have relationships with and praying they will know the love of Jesus.
Then one day the excitement wore off a bit...We weren’t here on a short term mission and we weren’t going home any time soon. The realisation dawned on me and I began to feel a bit lost and useless. What would people think back home if I didn’t have a big list of things I had achieved this week? Things seemed to be taking longer than I had anticipated and the language was coming on very slowly, which made me feel frustrated, stupid and a bit inadequate. In addition to that I realised I don’t really like being sweaty/dusty all the time; I do not like rats and cockroaches...and so many things here don’t make sense! Sometimes things can be really frustrating for example; one day we went to take a little boy to the hospital and I was appalled at how we were treated as we were left all day waiting only to be told we had to leave as the clinic was over and they didn’t have time to see the boy.
It was on a day like this that God reminded me that ITS NOT ABOUT ME ...ITS ALL ABOUT HIM! It’s not about keeping myself busy and striving to love the lost – it’s about BEING STILL and knowing that HE IS GOD and then FOLLOWING HIS LEAD. If I do that then He will give me the ability to love this country as my own and he will give me the grace to enjoy living here! I just need to trust Him with everything.
Of course I “knew” this already but it is hard to actually do, especially after coming from a culture where I worked 60+ hours a week as a hospital doctor and everything is “Go go go”. I realised that in the busy-ness of the previous weeks I had neglected the most important thing – my relationship with God and without making that a priority I might as well go home!
A street in Svay Pak
In a place like Cambodia its essential to view things from heaven’s perspective, otherwise you could get overwhelmed with the scale of the problems and poverty here. Many people are so hurt and many have lost hope which stems from years of hardship and a devastating genocide.
One example of the scale of some of the issues here was highlighted a couple of weeks ago when we visited Svay Pak a community located about 30 minutes outside the city. Three years ago there was a study conducted which said approximately 70% of parents in that community sold their children for sex. The culture of this community was so messed up! What they perceived as normal was so twisted and perverse!
Walking around this place you could feel the darkness and the despair – however since Agape International Ministries has moved there has been a huge improvement. In fact they moved their premises into a place which was previously a brothel where children were sold and kept in locked cells like prisoners! They have slowly brought the light of Jesus Christ to this place and changed people’s hearts. There is still a long long way to go, as you still see barangs (white men) visiting the village looking for a way to satisfy their twisted desires.
Heavy rains on our street left our neighbours flooded
We had the privilege of working in the Clinic at the centre, which we plan to continue for a few more weeks. We had an eye-opening bitter-sweet time there. We met so many great people who were living lives which reflected the love of God and naturally causing change. However at the beginning it was tough for the first people who moved there determined to bring hope and a change for the better. They were spat on, swore at and even had rocks thrown at them, but gradually over the years through perseverance in love they earned the community’s trust.... I am sure if they didn’t see things from a heavenly perspective and know that God is faithful with his promises they would have left a long time ago.
Praise God they didn’t leave as they now continue to impact many hundreds of lives there. Seeing this testimony of God’s faithfulness inspired me and I remembered that even though the country’s problems are so big, Gods love for this nation is even greater.
We have also recently had Gillian join our team all the way from Northern Ireland and she has a real gift of leading worship. Since she moved here we have had some incredible times of worship in our prayer room. We also have access to a base right in the centre of one of the darkest areas of Phnom Penh right in the centre of the red light district, we have held worship here a number of times which has felt so powerful. This new season of worship has been amazing and really helped to get us focused on God and not us - which is what we needed! We have also been able to have amazing nights were we are just lost in the presence of God – amazing, and really refreshing!
Cambodian Christian Kids Club outreach right opposite our house!
We are starting to feel more settled into our local community which is such a lovely place. Opposite our house most days there is a Christian Kids club so we often hear the sounds of local children singing about Jesus which is great!
We have also found a church we enjoy, it has a nice community feel and has a good mixture of Cambodians and foreigners. In addition the pastor and his wife are from England and only live a few houses down the street from us and have the same last name as us!
God has been starting to open some exciting doors for us and bringing us together with some really great and inspiring people. Steve has started to help with a football and bible study class with the street boys and Sahra and I are hoping to start a medical clinic in the red-light area working along-side the Hard Places Community. Both these opportunities were not in any way from our own striving/organising but purely doors that God has opened for us and we have just put one foot in front of the other and followed him.
Celebrating our wedding anniversary in style
We also feel God is really highlighting the girls who work in the bars/brothels in one of the biggest red-light areas of the city. There are 1000’s of girls who work here in such misery and are desperate for the love of Jesus. We have started going out more regularly and really feel God is wanting us to really pursue these treasures in the darkness! We are very excited to see how God’s going transform their lives.
So gradually through our time here we are learning more and more how to trust in Papa God. We haven’t forgotten our long term vision or the main reason why we are out here but we are learning how to trust in His timings, at His pace and in His ways. Sometimes this is difficult because we just want to get stuck in and start making change happen but we know His heart and intentions are better than ours and we need to trust in this. Please pray that we can continue to do this more and more as we continue to walk in the plans He has for us out here.
~Lots of Love ~ Mollie and Steve
-Please pray for continued protection for us, especially in driving around the hectic city on the back of motorbikes all the time and pray for our continued health.
-Please pray that our whole team would become family – as its hard being away from family, and also please pray for our team directors who are amazing and who are leading us in this adventure ! Pray that they would be so so blessed and that would God would provide miraculous provision they need as they step out in faith!
-Please pray for the members of the team who aren’t here yet – that there time at home is really precious and that God would prepare them well as they are about to move out here.
-Please pray that God would give us courage and strategy especially in our new areas of ministry
-Please pray for our friend - lets call her A , she was coming to church with us but has stopped . She is a girl we met in one of the bars and it seemed like God had huge plans for her life ... please pray protection over her and that she will break away from her old life
(If anyone is interested in learning more about Cambodia and the problems it faces regarding sexual exploitation of children I would really recommend the film about trafficking across the globe called Nefarious).