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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Not Just a Month, but 8.5 Years of Awareness

October is breast cancer awareness month. Not that I or any of our family needs to be reminded of the significance of breast cancer and path 
of destruction it creates. 
1 out of 8 women will be diagnosed with this disease in their lifetime. 
Traci happens to be the one in our pack of eight. 
The news will never be pleasant and the moments leading up to her first surgery almost nine years ago, were some of the ugliest moments of my life. Addison was only two years old and the other kids have only ever known Auntie to be sick, bald or too weak to wrestle. Addi and I often took the train down to Portland to visit Traci and many sleepovers followed as the years pasted on. The disease spread not only to her lungs, but continues to advance throughout her bones. There's been two bald parties after I shaved her head shinny and too many conversations of terrifying results that quite possibly could have given us more more worry than we fretted over. The tumor markers keep rising which causes fear of the unknowns for the outcome. 
One thing stands as the hero in this journey. Faith. 
Traci's faith has been an example to many around her showing how good God still is as she fights everyday for her health. She is the prime example of what not giving up looks like. 
A few weeks ago, my husband was doubled over with food poisoning. As he struggled to keep water down, he made a remark that, yet again, reminded me of the eternal strength my sister fights with, "Traci has done this everyday for years. I have nothing to complain about."
Recently, a few of my e2 friends ran a race most would not give two seconds of thought towards. This is just one story of how Traci has influenced others through her struggle with cancer. This is what he says...

{ Josh, Tami, Kyle & Ken }
"We don't know each other, but we belong to the same family, and I see that our Abba Daddy has moved only as he can.  
I have a little story I would like to share and that I hope will bless you in some way.  

As I worked and trained to run the White River 50, I experienced such clarity and connection with the Holy Spirit.  It was one of the hardest, physical, emotional and spiritual journeys of my life, and I am continuing to see the fruit of that.  Some of that fruit is found in the #319.   When the opportunity came to choose the number I would race with, instead of choosing on my own, I just prayed.  I prayed that the number that I would run with would have a greater significance than just being a number.  When my number showed up, Habakkuk 3:19 came to mind and I was immediately drawn to its significance for my own race through the mountains and all that I would face on July 25th.  I felt His presence and blessing in what He had given me.  That this hard thing that He had called me to, and drawn me so close to Him in would be completed with Him, under His strength, not mine.  When Steph grabbed me at church before our run, showed me her tattoo, and told me your story; I felt His presence and blessing all the more.  I knew that the Holy Spirit was showing me the greater significance in the number I was given and what I was to do on the day of the race.  I, not even knowing you or having met you, would run for you and pray for you when things got hard for me on the trail.  Your "trail" has clearly been more difficult than mine - 2 massive surgeries, piles of pills each day, loosing your hair, and all of the other stuff that comes along with cancer.   I know that just like for me in the hard things of this life,  Daddy has been with you each step of the way, He has brought "family" alongside to "run" with you, "walk" with you and even "crawl" with you. He has given you the strength to not give up.  He is with you, His power is being made perfect in you, and all of those that are being touched by your amazing life and story in Him.  
As I sat in church this morning praising Jesus; it came over me again that it is in the hard things, that all of the best things happen in and around us to bring us closer to Him. I also had the thought that you are quite possibly going to win the biggest and best race of all...the race home to sit on Daddy's lap.

I hope to meet you someday and to hug the lady that ran 50 miles in my heart and prayers."

This is what awareness looks like. It changes people. Impacts people. Encourages us to keep going and to never give up. 
Traci, you have made us all aware of the incredible power of God's faithfulness as you fight each new day with the fuel of the Holy Spirit guiding you; leading you; carrying you to the ultimate finish line. God has never once left you, or those racing with you, alone in this battle. Though the mountain may seem impossible to climb, we still move forward because there is beauty to be seen in the journey. I am eternally grateful for having the chance to be your sister and for our kids to have the strongest Auntie cheering for them in life. 
Thank you for showing us what a warrior of faith, a child of the Lord's army, looks like under battle. 

I continue to run for all of my Hero's:
Traci, Gigi, Lorna, Aunt Carol, Victoria and Kathy
All in the fight or restored. You amaze me. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Can She Really Be 11?

In the rush of packing and organizing where everyone will be and go during our trip, was Addison's 11th birthday! Thanks to some dear friends, we were able to enjoy the last of the hot summer sunshine as Addi and her friends splashed in celebration. 
I honestly can't believe it's been 11 years since I held her for the first time. 
Oh, those sweet moments where it was just the three of us and there was no pull of attention from others. It's amazing how you can look at your babies face and years later still see those engaging eyes, the innocence of her youth and need for mommy to still hold and snuggle what I see as my baby girl. How the newborn face then changes into a pre-teen, but still holds the qualities you held for the first time...it was like yesterday. Oh, sappy moment. 
Addison, Daddy and Mommy were smitten by your beauty from the moment we met you and still are stunned by your beauty today. God has helped you walk through some silent moments and gave you a voice that now encourages, has fun, shares advice and offers compassion to those that need it. You have made solid friendships that we all adore and know that Jesus loves you which gives you a foundation for life. We are so proud of how hard you study for school and love to see your gift of creating things turn into beautiful art work. I love that my love for organizing things has been passed on and that you have a talent of styling hair. Daddy loves that he has a riding partner for his motorcycle. 
You balance us well!
Thank you for trusting us with your life. Thank you for giving us grace in our parenting and forgiving the first time try-outs as we grow with you. Thank you for always offering to help even when you don't feel like it and being an amazing big sister...button pushing and all!
If you can slow down the growing up I would appreciate it...
Knowing that won't happen, thanks for wanting to still hang out with your Dad and Mom, for going and having your nails done together and for still needing a snuggle or two. Your beauty goes further than skin deep as Jesus flows through you like a shining star. Addison, you are a complete joy to watch as you grow and mature. Happy Birthday Sweets!

{ Pool Party }

{ Annie, Addi, Kayden, Eve, Jordan, Teija, Darla & Pearl }

 { Shark bait, Crunchy Seashells, Long Boards (bacon per request), Fish Chum & Pool Noodles. Addi choose to make her own cake and did a fabulous job. }

{ Thank you Hollie for the delicious Cake Pop Beach Balls! }

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Marriage Revived

Dysfunctional communication.
Intimacy misplaced.
Secrets locked in hidden places.
Submission abused.
Disoriented expectations of marriage expressed.

Same struggles. Different culture. Same goals. Different expectations.
There is no difference in the struggles marriages in Cambodia cope with than those dealt with in America. Our cultures are vastly different making the goal of a fulfilled marriage much more challenging as expectations are not met and simple lessons not taught. Understanding a little of the culture will prove the success of what happened last weekend as we invited Hans Molegraaf from Marriage Revolution, to speak at New Life Church in Phnon Penh. 

In order to best learn about the culture marriages live in, I had to ask lots of questions. What I learned  was that essentially, marriages are set up for failure. Men are free to live out their sexual desires, but women are expected to stay pure until they wed. Communication is unannounced and conversations are simply non-existent. If you have anything positive or negative to say, it's just not said at all. Holding hands in public is not accepted and even within the home, intimacy on a playful note is not familiar to this culture. Most families sleep in the same room making sexual tension creatively impossible. Much of the young marriages have no example to follow as many of the generation before was lost in the war. Divorce is uncommon as it's expected of you to stay in an unhealthy, unhappy marriage rather than divorce. 
This is a set up for complete failure. Far from God's intentions of marriage.

I don't believe for a minute that those married want to live like this. I believe it's because they don't know any better or have been taught anything other than what they know. That's what made this weekend so incredible.

Tim and I both knew that we we're called to lead a marriage conference in Cambodia. We also knew there were others better than ourselves to make it happen. The layout of the conference was broken into a few sessions; one for just pastors and leaders of the local church. Tim and I offered support, friendship and prayer as we allowed Hans to share what he's been taught through his marriage. His message is simple: It all relates back to Christ. 
What we experienced after the first session brought us to tears. First, was the unashamed worship resulting in many crying out to God, praying, shouting and singing in many voices to a God that some have just been introduced to and others known for a few years. There was no fear of singing a wrong note, worry about hands held high for too long or boundaries of staying in your seat. It's been awhile where I was brought to tears watching others worship; I can best sum this up by saying it was genuinely unique. 
As Hans found his groove pausing for the translator and keeping his thoughts in order, couples quickly flipped through the pages of notes we had printed for them. It didn't take long to engage these folks. They were hungry for marriage education even if we did ask them to work through awkward projects turning face to face with each other. After the first project, we saw tears, hand holding, a spark being lit and men comforting their spouses. Pastor Sophea asked for couples to share what they had learned after the first session...unreal. I quickly joined in, sharing a few tears of joy, only a few hours into the conference. God was already working in the hearts of the couples in attendance. 

Hans continued to passionately share with a group of Life Giving Network (LGN) pastors and their wives the next morning and again that evening to the entire group. I had noticed one women struggling during worship in the small group gathered. As Hans spoke about accountability among pastors and how to maintain community when in a place of leadership, my heart gravitated towards the women in supporting roles. There were intense interactive conversations and confessions coming into the open and being shared. An extremely powerful time as they learned that community was found together and with each other. 

Later that night, the content was more about the roles of a husband and wife; not an easy topic in this culture. I was able to share a little about how forgiveness played an important role towards my submission to my husband. First, as I was submitting to Christ, and secondly, how in the act of being obedient to Christ, I extended forgiveness to Tim. This then led to more one on one time as couples shared with one another; where more healing was taking place. 

One woman shared that she never seeks counsel with her husband and wants to help him be a better leader which means she needs to seek advice from him and listen to his ideas.
Another woman said she now feels she has the power to speak in boldness, in Christ, to her husband when he's being abusive.
A young man stood up and shared with the group how he only ever shares the negative issues with his wife and felt guilty for not speaking 
into her; encouraging her. 
Another guy stood up, his wife by his side, and said he has never spoken a word of encouragement to his wife before and wants to change that. 
Many couples commented that they now see they need to give each other forgiveness in one area or another after harboring bitterness for a long time. 
A few told me they were excited to go home and tape the project instructions to their walls so they could continue the work once home. 
After a time where couples were asked to pray together; face to face, holding hands and asking for forgiveness, I noticed one couple struggling to speak yet alone face each other. It was the same lady that had tears streaming down her face the day before. I silently sat in front praying for them as I tried to examine their faces. I couldn't take it any longer and walked over to them. 
Pain is a universal language. 
This wife was experiencing the pain of betrayal and struggling with how to navigate the emotions that were overwhelming her. I was honored to share a little of my heart with them together and pray over them as a couple. It was a beautiful thing to see this relationship find traction in healing together and learning ways to communicate with each other as both husband and wife were given new tools to implement within their marriage. Being apart of this couple expressing the desire to reconcile their marriage was a highlight for Tim and I.  

We take for granted that we can drive to a book store full of self-help and proclaimed step-by-step guidelines to fix our problems. The people in Cambodia have access to books, but many have not been taught to enjoy reading. It's on a must have, stand by rather than a hobby of choice. With poor communication and many just learning about Jesus, finding healthy marriages with a steady heart beat is rare. Watching many couples come alive; laughing together, praying tougher and diving head first into the painful projects was a bigger deal than words can express. You got a sense of healing taking place as couples sat alone seeking God to speak to them directly and also together as they worked through difficult topics. You saw husbands comforting their wives as they shared hard stories of the past. The prayer is these couples and pastors of out-skirted villages, will take the conference booklets back home and read them over and over. That they would continue to dig deeper into God's Word learning and seeking biblical counsel as applied to their marriage. 

Tim and I felt honored to sit in the back and to be blessed attending Marriage Revolution as we sharpened our own marriage. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Hans on a personal level and to see God work in his heart as he offered his story to strangers. The impact of a stronger marriage will influence all the young kids that scattered under our noses. The newly married and those expecting were given great advice and encouragement that will set them up for success to example to their own families. To witness this was a gift. In a society that hears and sees much about separation, divorce and discontentment, this was a glimpse of hope that Cambodia will someday have healthy marriages, strong Christ-centered marriages from border to border. 

Same problems. Same struggles. Different area of the world. 
Our need for Jesus to be the true foundation, vibrant and alive in all our marriages is very much the same. 

 Our marriage is a testimony to many who prayed for us and to a God that saves all that is good; all that is ugly. Nothing stands unworthy of His grace.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Comforts Hijacked with Humility

Tim did his best to prepare me for what I would experience here on the ground. I've seen his past trip pictures and knew it would be no Lynden with fresh manicured lawns, pristine yards, clean streets and cloroxed homes. He prepared me well. Here's my best to describe in a "few short words" what I was introduced to this past week...

As we near the end of our time here in Cambodia, I've only had my stomach in my throat just a small handful of times. A pause in air movement passing a fermenting pile of trash alongside the road caused a quick moment of immediate mouth breathing to avoid the smell from being burned into my nostrils. A turn in the Russian Market leading us through the "fresh" produce and meats made me rush to provide deodorizing oils to prevent the urge to vomit in the skinny walkways between booths of foods and goods. The warmer it gets, the more pleasant the transforming trash becomes.

{The entire pig, dragon fruit, silks, shoes and fresh meat. }

And let's talk about trash.
There is a garbage system, but I'm convinced it's one that runs on a When-I-Feel-Like-It business mentality. Bags upon bags of sealed tight garage, most of which that is not contained, scatters the streets with everything not in use. Many will come along in a tuk tuk and pick up items that could have potential recycling purposes. When the garbage trucks do come by the people toss the trash on a corner where men pitch fork the bags into a truck to a disclosed area.
Old water bottles and glass coke bottles become the new container to sell gasoline in along with plastic bags that are used and can be found hanging from the scooter handle bars. Discarded cement, metal, plastics and perishables have become part of the landscape here in the city and outside villages. It becomes part of their homes, provides places of rest for those in need of a seat and creates cushion for some to walk on. The ironic thing to me is when it rains or at the end of a day, you'll pass a home where a woman is sweeping her small claimed piece of cement in front of the family store, with a bristle broom clearing it from dirt and excess water. At most a four foot long entrance to their home that is kept clean with pride for what is rightly theirs.

The road system is respectful, out of control and completely undocumented. There is an unsaid rule about merging and allowing cross traffic to not get smothered by multiple cars, scooters, moto's and large trucks as all four directions best said, go at once. I'm not quite sure you could possibly teach drivers ed here because the one rule is to always assume they don't see you or will stop. Seattle traffic at rush hour is a breeze compared to the mayhem that manages on the dirt, gravel, sometimes paved, pot-hole riddled roads. Some pot holes as deep as a foot and almost the width of the street. The side street New Life Church is located on, had a special birthday or wedding happening on it. We knew this because they popped up a tent on one side of the road.
Yep, in the road. Crazy, but quite common.

These people are extremely talented balancer's as well. Moto's with 20 mattresses tall will maneuver through the roads. Scooters with a family of five cruising through town. One family had the dad, helmet on as only the driver is required to wear one, driving with a large plastic bag in front of him, his sleeping young son leaning against the bale of a bag with his tongue hanging out taking a peaceful snooze. Behind dad was his daughter snug between him and mom who had her hands full of goods too. How anyone could find a moment to have sweet dreams baffles me?!! This little guy managed quite well. It's also common to see people holding an IV bag up high with the needle still inserted into a vein. Medical attention taking the drive-thru approach. 

We saw many motors with live chickens hanging upside down tied to the handle bars or animals across the back ready to be brought to the market. Cows crossing the street, goats grazing through the rancid piles of trash and last night as I was leaving a home, rats scampering across driveways from pile to pile. What you often see next to a rusted out bike or tuk tuk is a Range Rover or Mercedes. The blend between the lowest of lows and wealthiest of wealth is strangely beautiful. It works. There is such respect in this community even with the diverse gap between the rich and the poor. The difference back home is we don't mix the two and shun the opposite we live in. 

If you're familiar with Cambodian culture, then you would know how significant the killing fields are in the placement of history. 343 killing fields to be exact in the country of Cambodia. We visited one and that was enough. Some still have not been visited as they are protected with land mines to prevent the disgusting truths buried underground to be found. Even the narrator in my head phones had a sobering voice as we walked through the grounds. The place of the killing fields was morbid, dark and very real as the rain had unearthed some of the rags and bones of those executed by the regime. At the end of the tour you could watch a video, but I had seen enough at that point and chose not too. I was done. The fact that anger and resentment doesn't rule over this land is a miracle in itself. We later visited the prison inside the city walking through cells and torture chambers of those captured before the guards sent them out to the killing fields. Unbelievable history. 

 { This is one of the last of two survivors from the prison. }
 { Rags and bones uncovered from the recent rain. }

Recently our power went out for close to 24 hours. There was an urgent need to clear the fridge of perishables that had potentially gone sour due to appliances not keeping them cool. Here, the power goes out regularly and in the summer it's on a scheduled outage to keep all the air cons and fans running fairly from neighborhood to neighborhood. Eggs sit in the hot sun, meat hangs in the heat. The wires resemble something of a matted rats nest after not combing ones hair for a week. Yesterday, I saw a guy fixing a wire as he stood on the top of a ladder leaning against the clump of wires between poles. We were told of one guy who was electrocuted by these wires and his buddies thought best to toss him in a puddle of water to help him.
There is a vast gap between an educated decision and that in which is made. Most fires begin with electrical shortages from not having large enough wires for the wattage running through the lines. And let's mention fires. If your house goes up in flames there is a fire department, but in order for them to take action, you have to pay them what you feel your place is worth before a trickle of water is sprayed. If the house is worth less then what it cost to put it out then you let it go up in flames. I'm not sure my brother would be able to implement this procedure at his station back home.

 { Visiting the Village Church/School & handing out suckers while dodging cows. }

 { High fives and 4th/5th grade classrooms. }

In all the community that I've seen here, authentic joy radiates through the rush of life: the kids, the smiles and colors of life. There are pages of a story being told in the eyes of child here. There is no such thing as a bland backdrop to life lived in the city. There is hope in the villages as schools are being built and having church on Sunday. ( Thank you Koi & Reny for sharing this hope with me.) There is new life offered as programs are building the young generation up to be successful and empowered through Christ. There is contentment beyond my comprehension as what they know is all they've had. I have grown immensely seeing the many smiles on faces young and old, having the kindness offered and hearing how a little help has opened windows of opportunity. I left in tears as I was the one richly blessed this week. A little confused leaving as I truly do wish I could stay longer.
Flying out in the daytime, I was able to get a glimpse of the land from up above. What felt like we covered miles of city was just a small footprint of ground.
I was left with this thought:
We covered no more ground then that of which takes claim to a Lynden zip code. The life that is lived, abused, taken advantage of, tossed by the wayside and discarded is too much for most of us to grasp. But, I was given a little insight too witnessing life fully lived, completely dependent, appreciated and craving more of the beauty of life with Jesus as King. Those we met this past week, I am confident will be the catalyst that starts a wave of change in the hearts of many. It's impossible to miss the radiant passion for Jesus that grows deep within and by no means can be contained.
For those who prayed for us during our time away...thank you.

{ Spent an evening with the Single Women's group from church. }
{ Pastor Sophea & his wife Jenny, Hans Molegraaf & the Broersma's. }

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

His Daughter's Heart

{ If this touches anyone great. This post is me processing so it's written for me more than any guilt trip, feelings of sadness or depression that it may cause. You can also read more about this in a previous post here. }

A broken culture.
A daughter in need of rescue.

I knew what we were going to tour and the things we'd see, but nothing, absolutely nothing, quite prepares your heart for when you stand in the place such putrid acts were once performed in Svay Pak, Cambodia.
Nothing can guard your heart knowing a little girl; a mother's daughter, died on the wood slated bed in front of you from the slavery she was a prisoner to; tired, weak, hungry and alone.
Across the street another ex-brothel stands with the owners now selling food goods as their previous operation was shut down. 
A community known to once be the most notorious epicenter of child-sex trafficking now slowly being redeemed and reclaimed by grace. God's mercy's are being made known through people like Chad, who willingly gave us a tour of AIM

Our tour began in the first building where a church sits on the second story and a medical clinic operates below with volunteers giving out medicine and advice. The room through the gated doorway was packed with young and old seeking medical attention. The street outside strewn with trash, much like everywhere else in Cambodia. Dogs roam and try to smell your feet as well as chickens that will soon be dinner for some. Moto's line the street as the quickest means to travel, kids joyfully playing badminton in the dirt, some with shoes most without, and families of old sitting waiting for someone to buy a used bottle of gasoline, soda or fresh picked fruit to supply funds to feed their families. From a distance I hear an unpleasant cry.
The adjacent building is one that provides hope to kids where needs are not being met at home. It is the AIM Foster Home; a once operated brothel. Three little ones sat on the floor playing with the Foster Mom as she tried to calm one and the others beaming with smiles as we entered. The power had gone out earlier in the day so just the front room was lit as daylight filled the tile floor. Chad then walked us into the sleeping quarters where all the beds have been occupied with foster kids. There is no government paperwork that begins the moment the kids are dropped off. There is no government assistance or tracking for these kids. All the bunk beds were neatly made with bright colored sheets and linens. A painting of Jesus was largely displayed on the one cinder block wall. Look closely and you can see where walls once stood creating multiple private rooms where girls were sold to men; locals and foreigners. 
It is a known location. 
A single room has been left in remembrance to a chosen daughter who was left hungry, tired and her child-like, worn out body laid exhausted from the daily needs of sex-driven men. I did my best to hold myself together, but honestly, I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry out to God asking why. 
The back door had been cemented shut so there was no option of escaping for these girls trapped in hell. 
Upstairs is known as the Pink Room. This is where the virgins would be held and sold off at a high price. It was then I choked back more tears as all that went through my mind were our two precious, innocent daughters at home, who trust completely in us protecting them from all harm. Here the sparkle of a child is stolen as the parents, the ones held responsible for their child's life, are the one's placing them directly in harms way only to pay off a debt or make a little money. My heart shattered.
Down the street is where we met Matt who is in charge of the sewing factory. Again, with no power it was a quiet room with stilled sewing machines waiting to make their daily production goals and wages. There is beauty in what AIM has done taking over buildings and creating jobs for the locals. The women who work here are mostly not survivors to sex trafficking, but have connections to siblings or families that have been sold to pimps. Matt has provided security within these jobs and also a platform to share Christ to those that enter. A devotion time has been set aside and mentoring is provided. Matt's wife Sarah, operates the Foster Home. 
Across the street is my favorite as a gym has been set up to engage the young men in a tangible way to create relationships within the community. Tires, boxing gloves and traditional fighting is being taught here, but more than that, Christ is being shown to men who otherwise would never have had the chance of knowing a forgiving God.
Around the corner sits another ex-brothel turned place of employment. This building has all rescued women sitting behind the sewing machines. When we walked through, the day was done and all the girls were upstairs in their English class as the organization provides multiple ways to keep the girls involved and not forced to go back to being sold. The primary goal is to protect the girls, integrate them back into the community and teach them how to properly care for their bodies. 

I'm not sure I could have seen more. My eyes were stinging from the pain and anguish behind such amazing improvements to a war-torn community such as this one. There is good that is flourishing from such evil. The devil is struggling to take foot, but there is still immense work to be done.
Our tour was done, we said our goodbye's to Chad and we took our seats in the Tuk Tuk provided to get us back to our hotel. I had no words to share with Tim. I didn't know how to process what I heard and saw. I felt confused as to how any help would make a little difference. These volunteers packed up and have been living in these conditions for two to four years most with scars from locals stealing and accidents on the pot-holed dirt roads. A sacrifice I'm not sure I'd be able to fulfill if asked to go.

That night we met with the ground organizers, Pete and Debbie Livingston. What a joy to end a dark afternoon with the news they brought to the table that evening. 
21 girls, ages 6-17, rescued just that morning; the potential of a higher number in the end being close to 100.
God is still good...

I struggle knowing we serve a righteous and just God when many are still slaves to such horrific acts against them. I struggle knowing that on our way back we passed many KTV's (karaoke bars known to sell girls) and locals just pass by like it's another Starbucks on the street corner. I struggle to understand a culture that accepts these practices and doesn't want better for their people. I struggle to understand a male having no guilt in forcing himself upon a child. 

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners."  Isaiah 61:1

I may not be able to do anything making a significant difference in the war over sex trafficking. I may not be able to pack up and move to hard areas such as all those working at AIM. I may not ever understand a culture that allows such torture to be done to their precious little ones. 

I can pray. I can proclaim the truth through word and prayer that God will have His justice when the time is right. I can pray that more of these unprecedented raids will expose the faults of those benefiting from the actions of greedy men. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
And what gives my heart a little ease, a peace knowing those on ground here in Cambodia, are sharing what many have never known...
"And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them."
Mark 10:14-16

I will come home changed. I will come home with a different view and knowledge of something I never fully understood or maybe wanted to understand. A new need to protect what is commanded to be innocent until marriage will be guarded with my entire life.  I will pray that someday, these little girls, not much older than our youngest, will someday know what it is to be loved, known and worth the protection of their Heavenly Father. To be loved without fear.

{ Chad Smith, our tour guide, in front of the medical clinic. }

{ The tan building, second on the left, ex-brothel now place of employment, provides funds for the ministry by creating screen prints and T-shirts to be sold internationally. Yes, that's sweat. It was very hot. }

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cambodia Through My Eyes

The balance between leaving the kids and excitement of what's to come was quite hard for me this week. All the school binders were properly labeled, organized and campus teachers were informed of Nana and Papa being in charge of our precious babies. A few loads were made with bikes, pillows, favorites and clothes. Lists were typed out and special gifts were carefully planned to give the kids something to look forward too in Mommy and Daddy's ten days of absence. The drop off was made and the tears flowed. Oh bother. Myriam couldn't have made it much worse with her multiple run-backs of kisses and tight squeezes. 
God has blessed Tim and I with willing parents to take on all three kids. Still never easy for a mama to say goodbye.
The first task was to fly to LA and then, thirteen hours later, land in Shanghai with a day lay over. I have never been spoiled as much as I was on this long flight. From food to personal slippers and a lay down bed with pillows...
it was not torture. 
Tim and I had one day to tour as many sites as possible in Shanghai and we did just that. Tim's hand circulation was a bit restricted as we taxied our way to downtown and I quickly learned we were far from the quaint driving down Front Street back home. This was no 25mph folks. 
Ironically, the taxi driver dropped us off right in front of Starbucks...go figure. Much like home, they too are everywhere in China. With coffee in hand we visited People's Square where we immediately were immersed into culture. I'm extremely grateful for the many squats and workouts I do in order to provide me with sturdy thighs while squatting over a hole in the ground. 
The one thing that stood out most about this was the endless amounts of umbrellas with sheets of paper attached. Little did we know what was happening until we dug a little deeper and found out what was REALLY happening. The trusty Internet said this about the display of umbrellas: 

"It has been described as "match.com meets farmers' market" with a low success rate. In many parents' eyes, parent matchmaking gatherings such as the Shanghai Marriage Market are the only way to uphold a traditional dating style for their children in modern China. The parents walk around chatting with other parents to see if there is a harmonious fit only after their children's standards are met.The marriage market at People's Square has existed since 2004.  As of April, 2013, it costs approximately $3.20 USD for an advertisement that is displayed for five months, and marriage brokers provide full access to phone numbers for a $16.00 registration fee."

 { People's Square...a.k.a. Marriage Market }

{ Open dental office in People's Square. Hundreds were lined up for work. }

Our next many steps were to visit The Bund which is much like walking the Seattle boardwalk. Huge freight liners and loaded cargo barges were busy up and down the river. Thousands of people walking about and our little greeter of a mom exposing her son, legs held back peeing in the bushes. Squatty pants are the main deal here for infants and I'm thinking potty training Myriam may have been easier if I had some of these hot pants. The smoggy views were stunning of one side business and the other old with historic architecture. Once we walked the river wall, we crossed over to Old Shanghai. We were even offered to have tea with a local who spoke great English and was giddy to meet us. With little time we had to pass. 

{ The Bund water view. }

Old Shanghai was by far my favorite place of the day. If eyes and faces could tell I story, then we read many books yesterday. The alley's were laced with clothes drying above and wires that looked more like a mental teaser game then functional electricity. Family homes were also store fronts. Hair salons squeezed in tight between apartments. Food carts parked along the crowded streets offering fresh fruits to meat on a stick. There was bamboo walking trails and places to fish for baby koi. Then we walked into the old temple market where I was certain Karate Kid was going to sneak around the corner and bust out a move. From the colors of items sold and on the buildings to the faces, it was eye candy for our sight. We chuckled thinking about the reaction our toe-head blondie would have in a see of dark hair families such as the ones we walked through in this area. 

{ This is no crusty, boxed fish sticks. }

Now, you need to understand that I grew up on boxed fish and have issues with worm-like textures of certain foods. So, you can imagine Tim's surprise when I suggested Sushi for lunch and put the barriers down to try Sashimi along with other colorful, delicious rolls. For the little time we had, I feel like we experienced China's best on a plate. After another jaunt to what looked like the Beverly Hills of Shanghai, passing about ten bride-to-be's (apparently Sunday is the day to get married), we caught a taxi back to the hotel and boarded our final leg to Phnon Pehn
And now we sit, breakfast buffet consumed and ready to tackle our first day on ground. We are so grateful that God first, got us here safely and secondly, have had communication with our kids. The skies are dark with loaded rain about to fall and the forecast looks stormy. We do have a motorcycle, but if this continues I may just experience my first Tuk Tuk ride. Either way, the circulation may be restricted some more.
Let the journey begin...