Thoughts and reflections from the Ratanak team who visited Cambodia for a training trip last month. These training trips are to prepare staff and volunteers who are speaking on behalf of Ratanak on a regular basis so they have a fuller and deeper understanding of Cambodia and Ratanak projects. Read our previous post (here) for more on what we did, saw, and experienced!
Pam and one of the Grannies at the Haven Night Shelter
"When I looked at the daily schedule before I left, I thought to myself, ‘How am I going to manage the range of emotions I will experience in the difficult lives of the Cambodian people?’ Instead what I experienced was HOPE….everywhere we went, I saw God at work in one way or another. It was so encouraging to see Him rescuing, healing, moving, writing stories on individual hearts, loving, touching, molding - HE WAS EVERYWHERE! God has NOT forgotten Cambodia - He is all over the place wooing people to Himself!"
– Pam Bredin
Jessica holding baby Ratanak
"This trip to Cambodia was the first time I have visited a country having so much historical knowledge and awareness of the current issues faced by the people. My eyes were opened to how intertwined and deep some of the systemic issues are, but even more so I was blown away by how evident God’s hand is at work in this country in spite of this, as He works to mold, shape, and restore this beautiful country. I expected to leave Cambodia with a heavy heart because of how this country has been torn apart, but I instead came away with an overwhelming sense of hope, justice, peace, and optimism. God is clearly moving into the neighborhood, including some of the darkest places where it seems no hope is to be found. My heart has grown three sizes (excuse the Christmas reference) with love and compassion for the people of Cambodia and I feel incredibly honored and humbled to serve and love them."
– Jessica Kwee
Amy carrying a young Cambodian girl
"Being in Cambodia for the first time, the trip was a blessing and an eye opening experience for me. Cambodia itself is such a beautiful, lush, and serene country, but being able to meet the staff of our projects and partner projects firsthand and having the opportunity to meet the people that our projects have helped in person, has deepened my love and connection to this country even more so. It is so encouraging and heartwarming to see the hope and the potential that the people of Cambodia have as they work towards recovering from the deep seeded trauma they have experienced more than two decades ago."
– Amy Wong
Janice enjoying sitting at the back of Reaksa’s (a Ratanak partner) truck
"A couple of weeks back in Canada and I still find myself thinking often of Cambodia. My first mission trip in 2008 was difficult in many oddball kinds of ways, but this recent two-week vision trip was one where, as a friend of mine encouraged me, God redeemed my first experience. I left feeling inspired, challenged, humbled, encouraged and excited – it was wonderful to meet and hear firsthand from those on the front lines who are right in the middle of the mess, trusting God to do His work through them. To be able to see with my own eyes, even in a little way, the effects these ministries are having on the people they are serving in Jesus’ name. The work is hard and long, to be sure, and we swoop in and swoop out, not necessarily seeing the heartache and trials up close and personal – but I am blessed and grateful to be part of an organization like Ratanak, that partners with other NGO’s who strive and who, themselves, strive to serve God and Cambodia with excellence and integrity. And may God get all the glory."
– Janice Henderson
Paul posing at Angkor Wat
"This trip was my third trip to Cambodia. I initially visited Cambodia in 2001 with Brian McConaghy and a couple of members of my church to look at the orphanage we helped get off the ground. At that time Cambodia was still working itself out of the stone age that the civil war and the Khmer Rouge era had reduced the country to. The streets in Phnom Penh were largely unpaved and dust from the dirt roads coated everything, including the inside of our nostrils. Seven years later I had the privilege of returning to help one of our partner organizations get their foothold established in a brothel district by renovating Rahab’s House. Many of the streets in Phnom Penh had been paved since my first trip, but the city still looked the same. This time I was amazed at the changes to the city skyline. A couple of dozen high rise business building were in various stages of completion… the city was taking on the airs of a prosperous Asian city. Construction was happening everywhere, the old French colonial buildings being razed in favour of newer buildings, each one at least a few floors taller than the predecessor.
Gone too are the roads filled with mopeds. Mopeds and scooters still abound, as do tuk-tuks, but luxury cars and SUVs have largely taken over the roads. Some may see this as a positive sign of a thriving economy, but the result is slow traffic and grid-lock. When a street is closed because of a special event, protest or accident, the area turns into a huge parking lot, with moped/scooter drivers being the only ones able to negotiate the mess by driving between the stopped cars, riding on the sidewalk, and even riding on the wrong side of the road. Despite the perceived chaos on the roads, the drivers all appear to be respectful of each other and work collaboratively to move forward.
I was surprised with the lack of the in-your-face sex industry on this trip. It seems like the predatory men and the for-sale young women have gone underground. I still saw signs of exploitation, but not to the extent that I saw five years ago. Even along the riverfront, a popular place for pedophiles to groom young girls, there was no sign of this activity. Whether it was the recent election with its subsequent protests or the advances of the NGOs fighting this injustice, it appears that the people involved are being more discreet.
I learned a lot about the work that Ratanak and our partner organizations are involved in. The need is great, the impact of our ministries is tangible, and the risks of failing is high. Each organization articulated the difficulty of working in Cambodia, but also shared amazing stories of God’s grace. Consistent was the theme that you have to commit to the long-term. Transforming the people and redeeming the country will still take years, but God is laying a solid foundation. My prayer is that it will happen in my lifetime.
Highlights of the training trip was meeting the people who we serve, in the cake shops, restaurants, gift shops, prisons and night shelter. I just wish that I could speak Khmai and hear their stories first hand. It was a privilege spending time with them, as well as Reaksa and the many from our partner organizations who took the time to share their journey with God in Cambodia.”
– Paul Dylla
The men on a “side trip”
The ladies on a boat tour in Phnom Penh