Thanks for all your prayers, care, and support.
Our team has completed our first week in Cambodia. We are all safe and relatively healthy...just a few upset stomachs and one fall on a slippery floor. We are deeply grateful for this in a country with so much illness and danger. Even in a comfortable hotel, our team faced numerous challenges and health risks. Not to mention developing world traffic that really is as dangerous as it looks.
On the positive side, we are all serving well together and developing a deep trust and love for one another. Perhaps more strikingly, each of us is also developing a deep love and respect for the Cambodians we are serving and learning from.
The first retreat we facilitated was for young leaders serving in a Big Brothers type of program for at-risk Cambodian children. Their fierce determination to not see their little brothers and sisters fall prey to drugs, gambling, enslavement (literal) and other perils in a very poor country was truly inspiring. They are part of a younger generation that is fighting for the future of Cambodia. Even when given opportunities to travel or study abroad, they come back to serve and sacrifice because they love their country. Our spiritual formation exercises were received extremely well and we were deeply encouraged by their willingness to engage, listen prayerfully, and share courageously. We have good people with us, familiar with the Cambodian culture, who are guiding and equipping us for effectiveness.
The following day was jam-packed with visits to five Phnom Penh ministries which are giving all they have to bring about change. Three of them are directly involved in rescuing and rehabilitating young girls from the sex trade. We were all deeply moved by the complexity and breadth of this problem and the risks being taken by these workers to intervene for freedom and dignity. They are often threatened, sometimes at gunpoint, but trust in God and refuse to give up.
Our second retreat was for a group of these anti-trafficking workers. None of them had ever been to a retreat center (Shalom Valley in Kep) before. They loved being together, the opportunities to worship freely, and especially the fun of a team-building exercise around a very muddy low ropes watercourse. Again, we were surprised by their eagerness to engage in contemplation and share vulnerably about their experiences with God. Many said that they had never had the opportunity to express what they heard God saying to them in a passage of Scripture, but they loved how empowered and respected this made them feel. Several shared some form of breakthrough from serving God to sensing Him being with them in ministry.
Our team now has a couple of days break to process what we have learned about this amazing country. It is unbelievably poor and traumatized but also so full of hope. Many people here are in a battle against corruption, trafficking, injustice, and environmental degradation. The challenges are huge, but they will not give up the battle. It is humbling and inspiring to be in their presence. A new generation is taking up the struggle against evil and is ready to give up their lives.
Please pray for us as we prepare for our next retreat: we have 40+ pastors, some very senior, some very young, registered. Our longing is for them to receive good biblical teaching and to also open themselves to encountering God firsthand to be touched, healed, and changed.
We are learning what it is like to offer spiritual formation to people engaged in a life and death battle to save their country.
With deep gratitude for your support and companionship,
Mark and Petra
Mark and Petra are Professional Coaches and Spiritual Directors. They draw from rich lives in pastoral, marketplace, and real-life experiences. They have been a big blessing to Tenth Church over the years, and Mark has the distinction of being my spiritual director. -Patrick Elaschuk - Pastor of Global Missions