April is Volunteer Appreciation month and we wanted to introduce you to some of our amazing volunteers who invest their energy in the work of Ratanak. We asked them a range of questions – from Ratanak to spiritual to food – and we hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as we do!
For our third week of volunteer features, we are pleased to introduce Peter & Sheri Phillips. They are Area Representatives in Cambridge, Ontario and represent Ratanak at various speaking engagements and promotional opportunities in their area and as far as Halifax! They are an incredibly gifted couple and we are so blessed by their heart and commitment for the people of Cambodia and the work of Ratanak.
1 / How long have you volunteered with Ratanak?
It all started when we volunteered to be part of a team, from Forward Church in Cambridge, that travelled to Cambodia to finish painting the Sanctuary(now hosting a kids club and other community-serving activities in a brothel district) in 2010. We fell in love with Cambodia and its people and were honored to become Reps the following year. We are amazed by the dedication of the Ratanak staff and volunteers who we have come to love and cherish – such a great team.
2 / What is your favorite Ratanak Moment?
There are so many, it’s hard to list them all!
Peter: Being in Cambodia, meeting with the partner agencies and feeling overwhelmed in praise and thankfulness at what God has done through Ratanak: aligning with partners to fill gaps and needs, hearing stories of changed lives and helping a broad spectrum of organizations launch ministries.
Sheri: The continual impact of the inspiring story of how God started Ratanak, has and continues to work in Cambodia. There isn’t a person who has heard the story and not been moved at what God has accomplished, even if they aren’t believers. In English class our oldest daughter, Victoria, had to write about someone who inspired them and wrote about Brian and Ratanak. The teacher was quite impacted by the story and keeps talking about it.
3 / What is your most distinct memory in Cambodia?
Peter: It is always the interaction with people that has the greatest impact. Listening to Pastor Chantha’s heart and vision for the people he ministers to. The opportunity to interact with the disciples and children while painting the mural in Rahab I. Included too is the Grannies night shelter – it is always a powerful experience listening to their life stories of hardship and loss be transformed by the offer of love, respect, basic needs, and the introduction of the power of Jesus Christ in their lives. It has facilitated significant physical, emotional, social and spiritual change in the lives of the Grannies that has rippled blessings into the lives of their children, grandchildren and communities.
Sheri: We were headed to Hagar for a second day of painting and when we got there, discovered the paint had been forgotten. I did groan inwardly, but the time available then was such a God-ordained opportunity. We did a prayer walk around the school and then the teachers allowed the older students out of their class to interact with us. We sang to them, played “Duck, Duck, Goose” and prayed over them. Something I will never forget.
4 / Why do you volunteer?
God has not put us here to live for ourselves and we have always had opportunity, both inside and outside our church, to be involved with and minister to people. Although we have had rich and full careers in working with vulnerable people, we wanted to begin to look “towards evening” – the last part of our life journey. Retirement is about 8 years away and we were seeking where God would have us involved after the “day jobs” were finished. Our step of volunteering to paint the Sanctuary was the first step of faith in seeking the Lord’s direction and leading for our lives. We could not have imagined then what we have had the privilege to participate in through Ratanak to date. We are evermore excited to see what the Lord has in store for using us as vessels for His service.
This verse from Isaiah 58:9-12, in The Message, resonates with us as framework for our lives in response to God’s command and promises:
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out of for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything; restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.”
5 / What is your day job?
We both work for the Social Services Department in the municipal government, the Region of Waterloo. Peter is the supervisor of a team in Ontario Works (Welfare) and Sheri is the manager of Child Care Subsidy.
6 / Who is one person, dead or alive, that you would like to have coffee with?
Peter: There are many but at this point, I would choose Brian – any time I spend with him is inspiring.
Sheri: Ann Voskamp – through her writings and ministry has taught me so much about being thankful.
7 / Who or what is your favorite biblical character, story, or passage?
Sheri: The Apostle Peter – I love Christ’s forgiveness and restoration of Peter after he denied Christ. It is a poignant picture of grace - we know what we should do and we don’t do it, and yet He still loves and forgives and has a purpose for us.
Peter: Abraham – starting from the point being called to follow God through his response to follow even though he didn’t fully understand where he was going or what he would experience. He moved forward in faith, did things that were hard, went to new and difficult places, was willing to sacrifice everything that was dear to him in order to obey his God. He wasn’t perfect but remained faithful until the end of his life. It is the challenge for my life to deny my own self-focus and live fully abandoned to Jesus Christ.
8 / What is your favorite flavor of ice-cream?
Sheri: Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!
Peter: Salted Caramel or coffee
9 / What is one place to visit on your bucket list?
Peter: Food tasting through Tuscany, Italy with Sheri.
10 / What super-power would you like to have?
Peter: Super vision to replace my slowly fading bi-focal eyes.
Sheri: To be able to fly – so I don’t have to take planes.
11 / What is your all-time favorite food?
Peter: This is really hard, I love it all…lamb or a 40-day, dry-aged striploin steak.
Sheri: Fresh baked bread with butter
12 / Cake or pie?
Sheri: apple pie anytime
Peter: both please