Loving Phnom Penh

Our team moved to Phnom Penh this past week where we will stay for the remainder of our time here in Cambodia—and it has already been a crazy ride.  I love Phnom Penh—I feel alive here.  There is so much going on in this city in every way—there is a lot of need, but there is also a lot of good happening.  God has presented our team with a lot of different opportunities to serve Him.  I had to break down my blog in a few different pieces—so don’t feel bad if you just pick one subtitle and read about that—that sounds good to me.  I just feel like I need to write about everything God allowed me to do this week—maybe there’s a little something for everybody. 
Cambodia Hope Association Orphanage
My team has been assigned to serve at the Cambodia Hope Association Orphanage while we are in Phnom Penh.  This orphanage was founded by a man—Rithy—who grew up in an orphanage himself and decided he wanted to start his own.  They have around 30 kids who stay at the orphanage.  The couple also provides meals and home visits to children who live with older siblings on their own in the surrounding neighborhood. 
I really enjoy my time with these kids—they are so full of LIFE, not to mention really intelligent.  I love asking them what their dreams are for their future because many of them have big dreams—I love that.  Despite their circumstances they are dreaming big and I think that has a lot to do with Rithy and the truth that is being poured into the kids all the time.  I’m excited to see what our team can do to move them a little closer to their dreams.  I think that’s what God placed us here for.
Precious Women
I visited an organization called Precious Women who’s vision is:  To see all exploited women who work at karaoke bars, beer gardens and brothels in Cambodia live with dignity, equality and hope.  That’s a beautiful vision.  Precious Women was founded by Solida Seng and it is the first outreach of its kind to women in Phnom Penh.  Each Friday, Precious Women’s outreach teams go out to Beer Gardens, Karaoke Bars and brothels in Phnom Penh to build relationships with both the women working as prostitutes there and the owners of the establishments themselves.  Besides just spending time with the women and men in these places that they work, the women are invited to come to the Precious Women’s Center and take advantage of the program that is offered. 
This past week, I was able to participate in the outreach that Precious Women staff/volunteers do every Friday.  The orientation to the program was phenomenal.  Solida and her staff take great care in their approach to going out into the beer gardens, karaoke bars, and brothels to meet with the girls that work there.  The orientation brought so much relief to me because they really take this issue and especially this type of outreach seriously.  On occasions that I have gone out, I can see how my presence could be helpful—and that is what I always pray for—or it could be completely useless and even harm those I am trying to provide hope for if I’m not constantly asking God for discernment and guidance.  Precious Women has established their own guidelines to help those who volunteer to do this work in an effective and ethical way.  I was grateful to see how this organization is choosing to handle this issue—I gathered a lot of helpful information that will be useful knowledge for me in the future.
(I have posted a separate blog about the services that Precious Women provides if you want to read more!)
My Obstacle: The Language
After participating in the outreach night with Precious Women, I realized a couple of things.  First, I need to know the language much better than I do.  It’s challenging with short term trips in foreign countries because it’s hardly enough time to learn the language at the level that I need to, so its been challenging to know what my purpose is.  I have been confused several times on this trip as to what God wants me to do here.  I have been trying to understand and catch on to the language but I don’t know enough to communicate what I want to communicate.  So, after going out with Precious Women and seeing how beautiful relationships were being built between the girls and those who could speak Khmer, I really didn’t know what God wanted me to do.  Additionally, I will not be here much longer so I hardly have time to build the relationships with these women to the depth that they really need to be.  So—I feel that God is telling me to step aside in this specific way. To let the people who are going to be here long term and who have been here long term, to do the work and relationship building that I so desperately wanted to do from the beginning.  I will still continue to seek ways to do outreach with those who I can speak with and for those I can’t—I will pray and know that prayer is first and foremost what God commands me to do.  
It’s hard realizing that my time is quickly coming to a close here.  I’m finding myself constantly asking God what His work looks like for me in every new day, because I know every day will hold something different.  I am encouraged by all the new things God is teaching me even in these last weeks of my time in Cambodia.  He will never cease amazing me.  Thanks for reading!

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