January 31 Update

Our devotional today is Luke 1:38. God chose an ordinary woman for the humble beginnings of his Son. Despite possible consequences such as judgment of unbelievers and separation from her family, Mary made a decision. She would rather be in difficult circumstances within God’s will than superficially happy outside His will. Mary chose to praise her Lord, who protected and blessed her.

All members of the group are here and we had our first full day together. We began with worship and prayer with the WR central office staff.  It was a huge blessing to sing with the staff (them in Khmer and us in English.)  The spirit of God was present!  We were also struck with the diversity of the body of Christ.  After worship we met with the World Relief senior management team to get an overview of the programs and mission of World Relief Cambodia.

First, some historical background: World Relief Cambodia (WRC) has been working in Cambodia since 1991, when Vietnam still occupied the country following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge. It began by establishing one of the first micro-credit programs in Cambodia, providing small loans to poor women. Out of this initial work, a child development program and a maternal & child health program were established. WRC now operates programs such as microfinance, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, child development, human trafficking prevention, disaster response (as needed), church mobilization and leadership development. Each of these programs was, and continues to be, interwoven with the ministry and growth of local cell churches, modeling WR’s mission to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable members of their communities.

Before lunch we stopped at Toul Sleng, Phnom Penh’s genocide museum. It is a former school that was used as a prison and torture center during the Pol Pot regime. Of the approximately 20,000 people who came through the gate, only 12 left alive.  Our visit to this place was another reminder of the destruction of society and the family unit that the country is still recovering from.   We won’t forget the encouragement our WR translator gave us to not carry the burden of the place with us, büt to go out, brush of the dust, and carry the good news of Jesus with us. 

For lunch we ate with the Executive Director of Chab Dai, a Christian coalition to end human trafficking.  In Khmer, Chab Dai means “joining hands.”  The members of this organization are devoted to working together to end sexual abuse and trafficking.  World Relief is a member of Chab Dai and is committed to working to prevent the problem before it starts. 

After lunch we traveled to the outskirts of Phnom Penh to visit a World Relief HIV support group.  Our time with them was very moving.  Women in the group shared their stories of how they became HIV positive, including a girl who was trafficked by her sister, wives whose husbands were unfaithful, and women who had made bad decisions in their lives.  They shared the sense of hopelessness they felt when they received the diagnosis, their despair, rejection by community members, and even desires to end their lives.  The women are all believers now, and expressed the hope they have in Christ.  The love of Christ and for each other is how they are able to cope with the disease.  Members help each other with things like housing, getting medical care, and remembering to take medication. 

In the same community we visited a World Relief adult education group.  The focus of the lesson was recognizing ways that people are trafficked, including being sold by family members or being deceived by empty promises of employment and money from strangers.  Members of WWS were able to participate in a drama that reinforced this lesson. 

We were blessed to learn, pray, share, and be with the people we met today.  We have lots of pictures but uploading them to the blog is extremely slow with our limited internet.  We encourage you to visit the WWS Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Women-Who-Stand/228158503866943 to view pictures. 

Thank you for your prayers.  We ask that you continue to pray for our continued health.  We also ask that you pray for the women we have met today, thanking God for the testimonies that they shared. 

Dulles Airport – Saturday morning

 

You might have known or heard that Shayne Moore, author of Global Soccer Mom, was supposed to be part of our group.  Unfortunately, she needed, hip surgery in early January so wasn’t able to join us.  Still, she is with us in spirit, and as you can see from the picture, she is with us two-dimensionally.  In the spirit of that wonderful children’s book, “Welcome, Flat Shayne!  Glad to have you with us!”  We will send regular updates of what Flat Shayne is doing and seeing while she is “with us”

And Tomorrow We’re Off

Excerpt from Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren

“When members from my church are preparing to go on a short-term international trip, they frequently ask, ‘What will we do while we’re there?’  I tell them, ‘Perhaps the most important thing you will do is just show up’…  What I’m suggesting is that in our hurry to do something, it’s easy to rush past the people we’re visiting.  There will always be a need for action, for tangible solutions to complex problems.  But as Christ-followers, let’s be sure to be with people – to look them in the eye and listen to their story, to spend a few moments entering into their experiences, whether joyful or painful.  This is how the invisible God becomes visible.”

As a reminder to those who know, and information for those who don’t, tomorrow, some Women Who Stand/Baltimore members are off to Cambodia to, as Kay Warren writes, “show up.”  We will visit World Relief’s programs in Cambodia.  As you know, WWS/Baltimore is committed to supporting World Relief’s programs in Cambodia, particularly the HIV and anti-trafficking programs.   We are looking forward to “entering the experiences” of the people we meet who are served by these programs.  We are excited to hear God speak to us, individually and corporately, through these experiences.

We will share regular updates with you, including stories of the people we meet and the programs we see.    Feel free to share any questions in “Comments.”  We covet your prayers:

– for safe travel and health.

– for our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to be open to what God wants us to see and learn.

– for order and peace with the families we leave at home.