Monday, March 12, 2007

Light of the world

It’s Sunday afternoon. I should be taking a nap, but I’m not sure I can sleep. So much going on, so much I haven’t gotten done.

I’m alternating between great confidence and great dread on this whole café plan. Everything here takes about four times as long for me to accomplish. I can’t just pick up the phone and make an appointment with a restaurant supply place; I have to call one of our staff members, have them contact the supplier, contact me, etcetera, etcetera.

I’m far from fluent in Khmer, but my pronunciation is pretty good, so after I carry out the niceties (“Hello/how are you/my name is John/where is the bathroom/your children are very smart/check please”) I get in over my head very quickly, because people assume I can understand them. And most people only speak tik-tik angleh (a little English), so a translator is in order. Unfortunately, I haven’t had one available for some potentially important conversations with potential vendors, so I’ve had to take a business card, smile politely and hope I can get the info I need from some other source. Sigh. I’m hoping next week will be better café-wise.

Anyway, my other main goal for this trip – getting Jeff immersed in our ministry here – is going extremely well. Apart from a few embarrassing moments and some minor cultural faux pas, he has done great. I think he’s in love with the country, the people and our work among orphans.

Jordan and Ali are also doing well. Jordan’s hanging out with Jeff and I, and Allison is chilling at the student center under the the watchful care of Srey Mao, Sana, Srey Houen and the other girls. Much fun.

Two nights ago we funded an outreach for the college and young professional group at Narin’s church, Gospel Commission Fellowship. Jordan and I sang and Jeff taught. About 85 people attended the event, which was held at a hotel not far from our guesthouse. Afterward, Jeff, Jordan and I went down to the riverfront to check emails and drink coffee. Jordan and I finished before Jeff, and we decided to walk along the banks of the Mekong. Jordan was still carrying the guitar – we were afraid to leave it in the car – and when we sat down on bench, he decided to play.

For a while, he just noodled around with some chord progressions, and I did some jazzy scat vocals. We got lots of smiles and thumbs-up from the locals. It was only after a crowd of Caucasian men walked up that I realized that we were sitting in an area filled with heavily made-up girls plying the wares of their very old profession. I rolled my eyes and muttered my expletives as Jordan continued to play.

As we watched the guys make their nauseating overtures, Jordan began strumming the chords to one of the songs we had sung at the outreach. I began to sing “Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness, open my eyes let me see…” The men, who appeared to be Dutch, smiled and said in heavily accented English, “You sound goot.” I raised my eyebrows, but declined response. Clearly, they had no idea what we were singing. After the men left with their ‘dates,’ A very tired, haggard-looking woman holding a mostly-naked baby boy asked me in Khmer, “Are you a Christian.” I answered, “Ba. Knyom Christian-te.” In English she said, “I used to sing that song. Now I cannot. I have not enough money. The man, they offer me money to sleep with them. I do not want to do.” Her eyes welled up with tears, but none fell.

We both ran out of each other’s language before long. I prayed protection over the woman and her baby, and left wondering how long it will be before she dies of AIDS, and like the parents of so many of our children, leaves her baby to the horrifying fate of survival on Phnom Penh’s mean streets. Jeff, Jordan and I spent the next half hour or so walking the streets, singing and praying blessings on the poor working girls and curses on the men who abuse them. It was quite an evening.

Yesterday, we took the orphans and college students to the waterpark. For about $150 (which included the cost of food), we were able to treat about 40 people to an entire day of fun. Orphans at a waterpark. If that’s not a picture of heaven, I don’t know what is. At any rate, I spent about 6 hours splashing and sliding and climbing up the stairs to the waterslides. I tore up the skin on my toes and sunburned my arms, my nose and the tops of my feet, but it was worth it. Amazing. For the price of a nice pair of dress shoes, we were able to enact both a symbol and a sign of the Kingdom for a bunch of kids who, until a few months ago, were outcasts and alone. Thank you, Jesus.

Last night I slept poorly, and at about 3am I had a startlingly intense dream. In my dream, Jordan and I were singing “Here I am to Worship,” (the song from the waterfront) and I felt a gun pressed to my neck. A voice commanded me to stop singing, and I was immediately unable to move or make a sound. A wave of terror swept over me, and then I realized that I was dreaming. I began to pray, and then I woke up. I never really got back to sleep.

This morning, I woke up unable to sing. I tried to practice the song, which we were scheduled to perform at Narin’s church, but I couldn’t even hit the first few notes. Thankfully, I recovered just in time for the worship service. Odd, I’d say.

Well, I should probably stop typing. A few of the students are coming by to take us to a kickboxing match. I’m praying that I’m not on the fight card. I’m out of shape and old, sunburned and sleepy. Maybe I should have taken that nap…


Karen said...

sounds like spiritual attack, so i'll be praying about that. take care of yourself john. god bless you for what you and the rest of the group are doing.

erica said...

Yeah, we're praying.
And I'm praying lots of favor on the cafe venture. Don't be discouraged. You're getting it started. God's timing will be perfect.

Beth said...

Continuing to pray. Especially for your protection. If you weren't making an impact, the enemy wouldn't waste time attacking...but God wins this one...because of you guys the name of Jesus Christ will be exalted among people who wouldn't know him otherwise.

And we'll all pray for the woman and her baby. Who knows the impact you and Jordan -- through God's mighty power -- had on her?

I believe that God will bless your obedience. Romans 1:14-15: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

God bless and much love.

zena said...

maybe pray about going back and singing there again. sounds like such an occupied territory, that your voice may have been the first ray of light in a long, long time.

bless you guys! i'm praying for you.


Tim said...

Man, oh man.

For starters, and though I'm sure it's easier to write this than to actually do it, I'd suggest that having that particular dream is a *very* encouraging sign. I'm certain that you're all making an impact over there (worship songs in the red light district?! Excellent!), and that God is busy making straight paths for you, et cetera. In the midst of this the opposition can't sit still. Also, apparently, can't lay a finger on you ... if they could, they would. Ergo, the dream is an effort to scare you out of what you're doing. It's probably also their "A game" right now.

If God is for us, who shall be against us?

Good on you, all of you. We'll continue to pray for you all, and the kids, and the 'family business' you're working on.

kirsten said...

just wanted you to know that some strangers are praying for you! all of your posts make me weep-- joy or sorrow, i'm not sure.

say howdy to jeff for me!

Mindi Lannon said...

I can remember these places you speak of. I am praying for your protection, strength, encouragement, and for God to set up the appointments you need...and HE wants you to have.

My heart is breaking for that woman. God please protect her and her precious baby!!!!!! Change her life!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, John, for being so explicit.

I agree, strongly, with what Tim writes, here.....

With St. Patrick's Day coming up, etc., I found a quote from his Confessions....

"therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the LORD deigned to bestow on me.....our way to repay Him is to exalt Him and confess His wonders before every nation under heaven."

Blessings of Love and Comfort and Courage and the Joy of the LORD, which is our strength, over and with you and the team, John.


Anonymous said...

All I can do is weep with each new vignette you share. Words fail me, so I'll keep praying. Deneen

Anonymous said...

The story of the woman and her baby pierced my heart. I woke up praying for her and for your protection. Satan hates the work you are doing. Thankfully, we know who wins. You are on the right side. Light pierces darkness; even a small glimmer.
Maybe God will give you the gift of tongues as you pray for folks like her - to speak fluently in her native tongue. It is not unprecedented.
God bless you and protect you.