To Thailand With Love

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Today Socheatha, an AIM counselor, and I will be leaving to Thailand for two weeks with Savry and Kahna (but without Stevee, Arella and James) for their heart surgeries. All the funds were raised and now these girls will be able to get the medical help they need. Thanks to all who contributed!

I ask you now to continue to pray for:

  • Safety as we travel and peace for the girls as they leave their country for the first time
  • Guidance of the doctor’s hands as he performs the surgeries
  • A quick recovery with no complications for the girls to deal with
  • A safe return to our families

Thank you, again, for all of the love and support you’ve shown financially and through prayer. You have truly been a blessing in the lives of these two and many more in Siem Reap.

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Benefit Dinner for Cambodia (February 11, 2012 @ 5pm)

If anyone is in the area and interested, the awesome folks over at the Romanian Baptist Church of San Leandro are putting together a benefit dinner tonight February 11, 2012 at 5 pm for the girls that we’re working with here in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Over the last two months with your generous support, we’ve gotten this mission started. We’ve leased a building, furnished it, and have run begun classes in English and Computers. So far we have about 20 children in our morning session and as many as 10 girls who come to study in the afternoon from a nearby brothel/karaoke club.

It’s amazing to see God’s plan unfurl. So far we’ve successfully removed three girls from the brothels and we’re currently working adamantly for four more who have begun to open up and reach out. These girls have the opportunity to start fresh and in the process, come to know God.

In the last month, we’ve held two clinic sessions and done numerous over the phone consults with our organization’s doctor, Dr. Carla, who has dedicated the next five years of her life to working with the people of Cambodia and especially to the girls we are helping.

Please come to the benefit dinner as they’ll be showing a video we put together with what has happened so fat and what is planned from here on out. Also, we’ll be attempting a live Skype!

The dinner will be held at 14871 Bancroft Ave, San Leandro, CA 94578 at 5 pm. All proceeds will go directly to helping the girls.

Thank you all for your support.

Lygia, Steve, Arella, & James

My First Clinic Experience With Karaoke Girls!

We started a free clinic at Rahab’s House Siem Reap! It is exclusively for the karaoke girls in the community. We do not treat anything major, just common digestive issues and STD’s. Nothing that requires a physical exam or anything invasive.

Two girls told Savry, our Assistant Director/Translator, that they were interested in getting some help at the clinic so we scheduled our first visit! I was so excited to see some of the Karaoke girls that were trusting enough to come to our place. I know the clinic is free but many of the locals that have heard about our place were turned off by the fact that we are a Christian organization and would rather not have anything to do with it. At the same time I was also pretty nervous because they were the first girls for me to see by myself and although I helped Dr. Carla for a few hours at the clinic in Svay Pak, I absolutely did not feel prepared. Thankfully Dr. Carla was not busy at the moment so I was able to call her with the details and get her orders/recommendations.

When the girls came in we went over their symptoms/concerns and with Savry’s help, I was able to explain the problem, why they were feeling the symptoms, and even give out prescription medication for their problems (with Dr. Carla’s approval, of course). What I couldn’t help but notice during all of this was Savry’s reaction. I noticed she became teary-eyed during the translation and I could tell that she was hurt by what the girls were saying about themselves and it was difficult for her to hear and then pass on the information.  Cambodian culture largely believes these girls are trash and that includes Christians, often times. While Savry has been helpful and kind towards the girls (even gone so far as to house two of them with her), it has been hard to tell whether she was mimicking our behavior or whether she genuinely cared (we’re inclined to believe she genuinely cared but we are biased because she tries very hard to appease us at all times). But in this particular incident, she seemed to humanize them more than ever before. Our prayer is that if there are any preconceptions about these girls in her mind, that God would truly dispel them.

Because of these girls’ condition and medication requirement, we told them that they really need to stop drinking in order for the meds to work properly and for them to get better.  Both of them shared stories about how they are forced to drink despite their medical conditions. They both laughed nervously and said they couldn’t stop even though they wanted to. If their boss saw them go throughout the night without drinking, it would result in them being fired, if not worse (threat of violence, physical abuse, placing debt on their family, etc). That is so frustrating! They cannot up and leave their job despite their health. They know it’s doing them harm, yet they are in psychological chains, bound to the club.

“Three rules in dealing with Cambodians: Be patient. Be very patient. Be extremely patient” -Reaksa Himm (a survivor of the Khmer Rouge who was buried alive with his dead family, author of two books, and devoted Christian). We met with Himm today and this was the best advice he gave us about Cambodia in every sense. He explained how we can no longer think about life the way we did back home. This isn’t the fast paced life where everything gets done instantly like we are used to. Everything takes time. A lot of time. This is most important to remember when thinking about the girls in the community. It will take time for the locals to trust us. It will take time for the girls to trust us. It will take time for them to see change and believe there is hope for them and put effort to make a change. Our job is to offer an opportunity and do our best to show that they are loved no matter what and there is hope and to do it patiently.

Kagna: Beautiful Coincidence

Kagna (Top Left), Mother (Top Right), Siblings (Bottom) in their home made of branches and straw.

Savry, our savvy interpreter/secretary/all-in-one, is extremely thoughtful and on fire for God (and if you know me well, I don’t throw around the “on fire” tag loosely).  She decided to go visit a family in a village outside of town last Sunday because she hadn’t seen them in a while. She and her friend had gone to this village in the past to minister to the people there and pray for them. She arrived to find that the mother of the family had been injured in some sort of domestic violence by her alcoholic husband. On top of that, she recently had found out that her daughter, Kagna (pronounced Kah-nee-ah), who was supposed to find some reputable work in town had been doing rounds at a Karaoke club to bring in some extra money since her father basically drank what little income they had.

Now, call it what you want, but this is at the very least some beautiful coincidence because Kagna was not particularly fond of the Karaoke scene and her mother was not okay with it at all.  The two of them had been talking about her going to Phnom Penh, the capital city, in search of work as a waitress or something. The truth of the matter is that she probably would have ended up working in Phnom Penh as a Karaoke girl, as well, especially since she speaks no English and has no prior work experience or education to speak of. This is where we came in. Savry promised that if Kagna wanted out, she could help get her out. She talked them out of going to Phnom Penh, where her fate would no doubt be the same, and coming on board with our program. Now, instead of riding her bicycle for an hour into town each night, slapping on a ton of makeup, doing up her hair, and trying to put on a fake smile for some pervert, she has a much better living situation, access to proper eduction, and food delivered to her mother and siblings each month.

Kagna is 21. She’s a bit older than the girls we’re specifically trying to target but she was reaching out. She had shame in her eyes at the mention of her “job.”  We visited her tonight and I get the sense that she’s in a state of part disbelief, part anxiety, and part fear. I think she’s in need of some hope and consistent, proper love.  As we know, she’ll only truly find this when embracing Jesus, something we hope she’ll do at some point in the future. I also know she can benefit from your guys’ prayers.

Mr. Vanna

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Meet Mr. Vanna.

He’s been our Tuk Tuk driver just about every day since our arrival in Siem Reap. He speaks a little English; just enough to understand where we need to go and for him to assist us in shops where people speak less than him. He’s very soft spoken: not the typical cheeky-type Tuk Tuk driver. His Tuk Tuk is simple. No flashy signs or gimmicky catch phrases. He’s always courteous and jumps at the opportunity to help us with anything but not in that expectant way like so many others. For example, we had some furniture delivered that needed hauling upstairs. He phoned a few other drivers and they came, carried the stuff up, and left without so much as even waiting around for a tip.

Earlier this week, Vanna had an accident with me (Steve) and our two employees (don’t worry Lyg and kids weren’t there). Our Tuk Tuk flipped on its side and we got a little banged up but we’re fine. It wasn’t his fault; some crazy kid was blasting down a bumpy dirt road and got way too close to us. As Vanna swerved to dodge a terrible pothole, they made contact and we went down. As we were in the other guy’s hood, and a bunch of witnesses came up out of the woodwork, Vanna was ‘proven’ at fault. I think he handled it with total class, even when being so terribly wronged.

Anyhow, the point here is that he’s a genuinely nice fellow. That’s not to say he doesn’t have his own dirty little secrets, of course. Nevertheless, as we hope to be acquiring a car soon, it seems as though we won’t be needing his services much anymore. We were thinking about that a lot this evening and it’s saddening because we don’t want to lose the opportunity to minister to this guy.

So we were thinking, how do we stay in touch with Mr. Vanna? While he’s friendly, I don’t think he’ll be hanging around just to chit chat. The man needs to earn a living. So we decided to offer that I teach him English for an hour 3 times a week free of charge. We genuinely believe God can change his heart and don’t want to miss the opportunity to be the catalyst for the gospel in his life.

More than him just being a good guy, Tuk Tuk drivers are some of the most instrumental assets to the sex-trafficking industry. That is, with no foreknowledge to the whereabouts of a brothel (or equivalent), a tourist can hop into any given Tuk Tuk and tell them they’re looking for a good time. The driver will give them options: do you want young girls? Older girls? Khmer? Vietnamese? Etc. And they get a cut from the owners for the referral. So for us to bring a Tuk Tuk in our area to Christ means one less avenue for perverts to get off, one less hand to be greased in corruption, and potential insight to the scandalous state of affairs in Siem Reap.

Pray for Mr. Vanna. Pray for us to be proper examples. And pray that God would have Vanna turn to Him. Ultimately it’s up to God.

Church in Siem Reap

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The reality that we’re actually living in (versus simply visiting) a new country is finally setling in. We’ve been slowly developing a routine with the kids and tonight we even found a church to call home: the Christian Fellowship of Siem Reap.

The church is comprised primarily of the small Christian ex-pat community of Siem Reap. We congregate in what I understand to be a Korean church during other hours, which is nice because most of the Koreans we’ve encountered until now were weird, drunk men at our hotel who shuttled to the Korean karaoke bars and equally strange Korean women who took pictures in front of the foliage at said hotel and shuffled to and fro with obnoxious speed and volume.

Anyhow, I’ve digressed. I’m happy to say we felt really welcomed at church and while it’s not quite home, it is a community of devoted believers from around the world and we’re glad to be a part of it.

More to come.

Napping in Tuk Tuks

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So, we’ve spent the last few days trying to secure the things we need for the next year (apartment, fridge, stove, beds, pillows, AC, etc) in Siem Reap. We’re finding that at home, what might’ve taken half a day to accomplish, here it takes days. Needless to say we’re adjusting to Cambodia time and I’m not referring to time zones but rather to their seeming indifference to time altogether. That being said, James and Arella have been spending many afternoons napping in the back of Tuk Tuks (think motorcycle hauling a covered diner booth without the table). It’s been trying and we’ve barely just begun!

However, I’ve written all of this to say that it is not in vain. Last week Don took a girl out of the karaoke bars and had her promise to never return in exchange for a proper job. That basically means I’ve now hired her! Well, praise God she’s been coming in as promised every day so far. I’d like to
take this opportunity to ask you to pray for her as it’s difficult at this point to say how she will fare.

Of course I believe God has big things in store for her. Pray that she will receive Him so she can receive true hope. Also pray that we will be the proper sort of examples to her.

We’ve also been blessed to be able to hire a second employee named Savry. She is an interpreter and Khmer teacher to us and a mentor and English teacher to the first girl. Her task is not an easy one. Please also pray for her safety and guidance. She has been a true blessing so far.

We’re here!

We made it! Thank you to everyone for your prayer and support! We arrived safely this evening and will be getting started early tomorrow morning. Continue to pray that we would accomplish the work set out for us here!

Nefarious Farewell Dinner


We’ll be hosting a farewell fundraiser this Saturday, October 22, 2011 at Grace Romanian Baptist Church located at 3832 Whitney Ave, Sacramento, CA 95821.  Join us as we screen Nefarious: Merchant of Souls courtesy of Exodus Cry.

We’ll be serving dinner at 6pm and showing the movie afterwards.  Check out the Trailer at www.nefariousdocumentary.com.

The event is free but we will be taking donations to support our year long mission work with Agape International Missions.

If you cannot make the event but still wish to support our ministry, please go to www.gherebean.com/donate.

Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to our family’s blog. Over the course of the next year, we’ll be updating this blog with information from our trip to Cambodia. We will be uploading as much content as possible to showcase all the awesome things God is doing through Agape International Missions!  Please bookmark us and check back frequently!