Sunday, April 25, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Its been a while since we blogged. Not surprised really, life happens and things just sort of move on. It isn't front and center in your life. Job, family, bills, etc. But I have not forgotten.
Those children are in my heart and my mind every day. I think about them, I miss them. I wonder what they are doing.
I wonder if they have eaten today? Did they get to sleep through the night without worrying about their safety. Have they been hugged today? Have they been told that someone loves them?
Every time I look around at the excess that my family has, the toys my daughter just leaves on the floor, not to be touched or even looked at for days, maybe even weeks, I think of the little girl I saw who was playing with the tape reel of an old broken cassette tape and the boy playing with sticks, in the midst of so much trash. Those images stick with me.
I think about the school at CHO, where orphans and trafficked children live. A woman I met while we were there said she would love for each child to have their own soft, stuffed toy. They don't. My child has dozens.
Today when my daughter was playing outside in the water hose and her pool, I think of the children I saw playing in dirty water.
When I don't finish all my food, I think of the waste and wonder if those kids have eaten even once today.
I miss them.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Of all the things that I saw while I was in Cambodia, especially Poipet, the thing that bothered me the most, that I felt could be easily fixed was the abundance of trash everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It was disturbing. I understand that if the people are so desperate that they will sell their children so that they can eat, that they can not afford to pay for someone to take away their trash but seriously why wont the government do something about this problem? I hurt for the people that they do not even understand basic sanitation. The children live amongst this filth. As you can see from the first 2 pictures the children are having one of their school on the mat classes right in the middle of the trash and animal waste.
Funny huh? God is good like that. He has a sense of humor and he is always listening.
Remember what I wrote a few posts ago, that I was afraid to go and really see people who had been trafficked? I talk about it here at home and fight it and all that goes with that, but going to a place where I will actually see it made me think of what it might be like for someone who supports AIDS research but then is actually given the opportunity to sit next to someone while they are given the news they have the disease or to sit next to someone with the disease while they are in the hospital?
Well, God showed up in Cambodia in that exact scene. And the person who needed to see the sick with AIDS was me. I have never been in the presence of someone that sick. Someone who is struggling to breath, to eat, or to drink even a tiny bit of water. Someone who is so frail and weak that you cannot imagine how they have any strength at all.
One of the amazing things that CHO does is provide nursing care and food for some of the patients at a government hospital in Poipet. Because we wanted to get a holistic picture of what CHO does, this hospital was on the top of our list of places to visit our first morning on the ground. The hospital, as you can see from below, is not providing the kind of care that these patients deserve. Right now the patients with AIDS and the patients with Tuberculosis SHARE a room! The hospital is a concrete building with no air conditioning, open windows, no sanitation and very very little medical supplies.
There were 5 women here with AIDS and 2 with TB. The TB patients do wear masks over their faces but seriously they still SHARE a room with women who are extremely sick with AIDS.
Most of the patients here don't have family. Most of them are ostracized from their family and only have the nurses here to care for them. The woman pictured below is an exception. The woman in the green skirt and orange top has her husband to care for her. He was there while we were there, rubbing her arms and legs and caressing her hair. He too has AIDS, but he is healthier than she is so he cares for her. It was a very touching scene, the nurse says he comes often.
Friday, April 2, 2010
But I don't think the Holy Spirit is going to let that happen. He is working at our hearts. He is calling us to not forget what we have seen and heard - much as Peter did the early church. But it is going to be difficult.
In going to Poipet and Siem Reap we not only want God to teach us - and to impact our hearts - but we truly want to help the local church and partner there to bring Life Transformation on their community. We want to see the demand for these children reduced by a healthy society. We want to see the education of the children improved, along with their health and family relationships. We want to see businesses flourish and clean water made available. We want safe neighborhoods, that are clean and no longer laden with bacteria. We want a police department and legal system that protects and serves the people, especially the children.
Our team is readying to meet with GlobalX staff to discuss how this might come about. Pray for us to be well prepared and intent on finding how Jesus would walk inPoipet. May we clearly know and see His purposes and learn to work together serving our new partners in Christ.
According to our blog, it looks like we never arrived back to the States. Let me assure you, we are alive and well back home in Atlanta. :)
We’ve been home now five days. One minute it seems we never left and the next, I dream that I’m still there in Poipet or Siem Reap.
What a whirlwind our journey has been. I’m still trying to make sense of it all (which is an extremely taxing and impossible..if I might add..task).
There is so much work to be done it can leave you paralyzed for a bit if you allow it. But we can’t allow it! There is so much need and as the Brooke Fraser song says, “now that I have seen, I am responsible.” What a statement. What a truth.
So where do we go from here?
Now that we are home, back to our lives, jobs, family and friends…now that we are back into our routines, I don’t want to forget. If I’m really honest with you, I have a tendency to allow the things that overwhelm me to drift away. Not always…but sometimes.
Cambodia has changed my life…as it should. I’d hate to experience and see what I’ve seen and not be changed. That would be tragic.
Continue to pray for us..but more importantly, continue to pray for the people of Cambodia, CHO, White Dove, IJM and especially those women and children bound in the chains of human trafficking…may it one day be a distant memory here on earth.
Monday, March 29, 2010
It is amazing the number of people that we have met serving God in Cambodia who have attended and been impacted by a North Point Church. Yesterday we visited the new office of the International Justice Mission in Siem Reap and there met Laura, a recent graduate of UGA, currently serving on an intern assignment in Phnom Penh. She had attended both the Athens and North Point campuses and seemed excited for some connections from home. She and one of her co-workers joined us for dinner – at our guesthouse. We also met Heather – a young woman from Marietta (Mount Parin North) who works with White Dove, an organization working to rescue and equip young women.
IJM is just in the process of opening a new office in Siem Reap as they seek to develop a presence and expand their influence with the Cambodian government and legal systems. Pray for them as they seek to locate indigenous Christian Lawyers, Social Workers, Administrators and Investigators. This is not an easy task in a country primarily made up of Buddhist and Hindus. Less than 1 percent of the population are Christian.
Bonnie did a great job of describing for us issues of sex trafficking in Cambodia and the niche that IJM was seeking to fill. Bonnie is a Social Worker and part of the team who engages when an orchestrated rescue is being planned. IJM investigators will have determined that “minor girls” are being prostituted in a certain establishment and will coordinate with Cambodian Police and Courts so that a successful raid and rescue can be initiated. They not only want to free the girls – but also collect sufficient evidence and forensics to lead to a prosecution of the perpetrators. Prior to the raid, the IJM investigators and operators will have collected video and physical evidence of the child abuse – but hopefully keep their investigation secret enough that word is not leaded out and the young girls moved to another location and out of reach.
When the raid takes place, Bonnie and her social work comrades will immediately take charge of the under-age girls. They will provide them a care kit containing many things that help to put the child at ease, including some fresh appropriate clothes, toiletries, maybe an Asian Doll or some games to play. A raid can be very traumatic for a little child who is already grossly traumatized and distrustful on anyone – especially men – and often policemen. Local police sometimes turn their heads, for the various favors that they are offered at the Brothel - free of charge.
Many of these children do not have legal documents reflecting their birthdays – they in fact are likely in the country illegally. They have been told to lie about their age and to do everything they can to protect their owners. It is a difficult task to separate truth from fiction in this environment. The local police need to treat these girls as the victims of abuse – regardless of whether they are in the country legally, and regardless of whether they had the physical opportunities to flee. Children can easily be put under the mental and emotional control of an adult who controls their food and self identity and continually threatens physical harm to the girls or to their families or children. IJM works as an advocate for these children along with local indigenous lawyers and social workers. The children will be assessed in a placed with an appropriate church or NGO who can lead them towards recovery from extreme abuse.
Once the child is through the various crisis stages – IJM will work to see if effective testimony can be given. This testimony is critical for a comprehensive prosecution of the perpetrators (Brothel owners, recruiters, etc) As stated in Isaiah 1:17, it is important to “rebuke the oppressor,” but the greatest impact of a successful prosecution is the testimony that it provides to other pimps and brothel owners, that they are no longer safe from substantial prosecution – and that they are likely to find themselves behind bars in very difficult circumstances.
While the release is very important to the individual girls that have been rescued – the greatest impact comes from improvement in the police and legal systems, equipping the indigenous people to care for their owns. Rather than just individual lives being saved – IJM works to eradicate systems of injustice which if allowed to continue will result in an ever increasing number of victims, regardless of how many are rescued.
IJM has a primary focus on underage children who have been taken into this sexual darkness. While it is true that their systems are designed to protect the minor rather than attack prostitution in general, adult prostitutes of legal age may also benefit from IJM’s actions if they are seeking relief and another way of life.
Prostitution isn’t necessarily illegal in Cambodia, as long as the woman is over 18. It is however illegal for a business or individual to be involved in the buying and selling of sexual services of someone else. This sometimes makes the prosecution strategies more difficult and complex, thus experience is paramount.
Pray that this new IJM location will be blessed by God and that they will be able to hire the Christian Staff that they need to make this new office effective at transforming the rule of law in Cambodia – protecting children in ways that the church may find difficult to address.