We traveled by taxi from the airport to our hotel, along the path were strings of storefronts - one right after another, advertising Karaoke as their business. However, in each of them sat lines of teenage girls scantily clothed in skin tight dresses and dolled up with make- up, revealing their true business. These images disarmed many of our team, and left us with heavy hearts as the stories of girls being sold, stood as reality before our eyes. This is “everyday” for these girls, to sit and wait to be served up for men’s pleasure.
But God is at work, even in the darkness. There are several ministries in which God is restoring and bringing hope for those here in Phnom Penh. He is speaking and using these ministries to share the Truth of His love. He is transforming minds, restoring and redeeming the broken, and changing the hearts of those who suffered. We were introduced to a few that same night. The hotel we were staying in and the restaurant we ate at were both ministries whose aim are to rescue girls, share the Good News and provide job opportunity for them to support themselves.
The hotel is actually tied to a chain of various business: the hotel - “White Linen”, a cafe - “Sugar and Spice”, a women only spa - “ Hands and Feet Spa “,…., all tying back to the same ministry, Daughters of Cambodia.
The restaurant, Jars of Clay was founded by a lady who originally hired 8 staff members and taught these women to manage the restaurant from the ground up, and to support one another. Currently, 4 of the original 8 run the business, they employees 20, have an extensive menu, and provide space for other ministries to sell goods: cards, book markers, clothes…, all serving to transform Cambodia. “I am one of the original 8, the other 4 of the us have moved on to other successful business,” B— tells me as she stands behind the counter, training her staff at the registrar.
And God lead me to think, whether married or not, we are called to submit first and foremost to our first husband. For believers, that is Christ. So what does that mean? …to yield to Christ, submitting and trusting Him even when we are at risk or the cost seems great?
I was humbled and prayed God would lessen my focus on my own self-center concerns, discomforts; and increase my heart to yield itself for His greater service. Today we would see a greater picture of submission and sacrifice as we worked along side a young couple who would share their story and are a modern day picture of Sarah’s submission to obey Abraham and trust God.
After eating breakfast we headed out to meet Beoun, Suchada, and their new son, Manna, who run the Cambodia Slum Ministry. This ministry started with God speaking to this young couple, and them individually counting the cost, understanding the sacrifice, and answering God’s call.
Their day starts in the early morning where Suchadda wakes up early to prepare food for the kids and lessons for the younger kids. It ends in the evening around 7pm, where Bueon finishes teaching the older kids, cleans up the room and resets it for Suchada’s morning class. We would be serving along side them, aiding Suchada with her lesson and taking care of lessons for the two sets of older kids with Beoun.
Traffic was horrible and we arrived a bit late coming in on the tail end of Suchada’s lesson. We helped the preschool/ kinder-garden age kids finish up crafts, a necklace of straws and fruit loops and traced their hands on papers in which each finger was given a letter that spelled out “Jesus.” We ended serving them lunch, a bowl of rice, egg and chicken. Suchada sent the last kid home with an extra bag of food, as she lovingly remembered to still care for one of her students missing today.
Beoun shared a bit of their story during lunch. They both grew up in the slums, areas ridden with poverty. “Growing up my parents did not care what I did. None of my community had parents cared or guided their kids,” Beoun said.
He became part of YWAM’s Discipleship Training and Studies program where he learned more about how to serve effectively. He met his wife, who was also part of DTS and serving in ministries reaching the slum areas of Thailand and Cambodia. He explains I liked her first, seeing we had the same heart for kids and the slums, but she didn’t like me.
She jokes holding their new son, Manna. “Sometimes it’s still like that. I no like what he does, we fight” she laughs, “but we fight and it bring us together.”
They laugh and agreeingly echo each other, “We fight for our love.”
Manna plays as Suchada’s holds him. A team member asks, when you were pregnant did you know it was a boy. She laughs and points at Beoun saying “He thought it was a girl, and then Manna come out and they say see it’s a boy.” She went on to say she realizes now it’s God blessing they have a boy. They can let him play outside and not worry, where as a girl they would have to more concern.
As they continue to share their story, we learn how their presences had transformed the community. They describe how the kids, when they first came, did not bathe and were left to run around. “We teach them to wash (themselves), comb their hairs and look nice. We say you no come to class if you not look nice. Now they all know. They clean themselves, put on their uniforms, comb their hair and come to class.” they say.
After lunch, we shopped for fruits as part of the lesson to teach the grade school aged kids English. We would be introducing each fruit and describing them to teach English adjectives and sentence structure. Additionally we would tie in songs and games to make the lesson more exciting and ending with eating a fruit salad.
Suchada stayed and chatted with a couple of us as we prepped the fruit salad in her house, while the rest of the team went to the class room to setup for the next class. Suchada shared more about how sometimes it’s hard and she wants to complain to Beoun, why we doing this? But then she looks around and is reminded that God has blessed her richly. She has a house, food to eat, and others around her have nothing. She laughs, “I not just have one kid (referring to Manna). I have many, I have all the kids we teach, they are my children.” as she points toward the classroom.
She goes on to share she would rather not teach the kids Sunday School, but Manna seems ok with it, and Beoun is called to worship, so she does it. With those words, Suchada reminded me of the thoughts God shared that morning. “…but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with he imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which in God’s site is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. …do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” 1Peter 3:4-6
Suchada and Beoun, are first hand pictures of what it means to lay down our lives, pick up the cross and follow Him. They sacrifice everyday, devoting their time, energy and resources to show these kids God’s love, teach them of a hope for more, reach and become more than beyond what their current circumstances would otherwise have for them.