Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #10: Today is the Day

This is my tenth journal entry as part of the OCC Volunteer Discovery Trip. The material relates to the eighth day of actual journalling but publication here will not align to that actual day/date – Day #1/Monday 1 February.

The other articles available for this series are:

  1. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #1: Introduction
  2. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #2: God First
  3. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #3: 7 Days Before You Depart
  4. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #4: 6 Days Before You Go 
  5. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #5: 5 Days and Counting 
  6. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #6: 4 Days – Not Long Now
  7. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #7: 3 Days Left
  8. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #8: Less Than 48 Hours!
  9. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #9: What Will Happen When You Return?
  10. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #10: Today is the Day [this article]

Journal Guide


Isaiah’s Cleansing and Call

It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.

Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”

Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

Isaiah was quick to respond to the Lord’s question. I love that God is willing to use people beside the best looking, wealthiest and smartest. He uses all types of people but His qualifications are not like ours. He is willing to use “everyday people” to do extraordinary things. However, He does not just call us and then leave us wandering around. He gives us the power and direction we need in order to accomplish our mission. You have been called to be involved in God’s mission and you have said “Here I am, send me.”

Describe how God called you to be part of this mission experience: What do you think God hopes to accomplish through all of the efforts of you and the Discovery Trip team?

Journal Write-Up

Whenever I read that passage from Isaiah I think of the song I See the Lord:

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne exalted,
And the train of His robe
Fills the temple with glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
With His glory

Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy is the Lord of Lords

Thus, to commence this devotion on my own, i sang this song in worship to God. Partly shared as my introduction to the whole team on the first night, being a part of this Discovery Trip in Cambodia is the culmination of the last two~three years for those of us on the Clayton Church OCC team. Each year, we have increased and grown in our team and personal effort. Accordingly, our output, as measured in terms of the number of shoeboxes collected, has increased in proportion: 300 > 450 > 750+. Being a part of this trip in 2016 will help personalise what God is doing here in Cambodia. It will add weight and authority to everything the team proclaims later in 2016 when we ramp up our efforts to supporting the 2016 campaign. Our testimonies and stories of how God used each of us as His hands and feet will inspire and encourage others. This is part of God’s longer-term vision for OCC and Clayton Church.

Cambodia has long been a place called out by God for His people at Clayton Church. This nation is a specific nation that we are X focused on as a long-term mission field. Seeing friends spend dedicated amounts of time (4 weeks+) is part of His divine plan. Whilst I do not believe God has or is calling me specifically to serve in the overseas mission field in this kind of extended way, it is clear that I am to support people that will.

God will use me to encourage and support friends/brothers and sisters who do spend extended periods of time in Cambodia. The Clayton Church mission teams who have made the trip in 2014 and 2015 reflect this close proximity to myself, notwithstanding the current 2016 team. I pray that during this coming trip, the children I come into contact with will help provide a unique encounter with God. Building God’s kingdom here on earth, specifically in Cambodia, is a journey that is still emerging. May the energy and enthusiasm of the younger kids rub off on the whole team.

Reflection of Events

With the final team member arriving this morning, we paid a visit to two of the culturally significant landmarks of Cambodia:

  1. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
  2. Choeung Ek Killing Fields

To talk about highlights when visiting these landmarks is the wrong idea. These are not happy places where one can have a highlight. Instead, there are memories and experiences from learning about the sordid past which have the greatest impact emotionally and spiritually. Visiting both places automatically made me feel less happy and I treated the sites with respect and sincerity. For both the museum and killing fields, Samaritan’s Purse (SP) organise audio tours so that we could visit the various 15+ locations within the site at our own pace. For me, the biggest takeaway for the day was that after following through the entire audio tour of Tuol Sleng, I had the extra time to sit with our local SP host and learn about how the place affected him personally. He did not just lose relatives, but his own birth and existent was at stake here. For a short period of time, his mother, whilst pregnant with our host, was imprisioned at Tuol Sleng and placed on the list for torture and execution. However, through God’s grace and favor, a change in prison cell guards saw his mother and all prisoners in that block freed. Thus our host’s testimony shows God’s hand at work.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and S-21 prison complex was hard-hitting and the worst, most graphic narrations and depictions were hard to stomach at times. They made me feel sick inside and all the happiness sucked out of me. At the end of the tour, I spent time praying and restoring my soul by recalling and marveling at just how God’s love was and is so much greater, bigger and sovereign over these extreme evils perpetrated by man.

The Choeung Ek Killing Fields were another grueling experience. I entered the memorial stupa where the 17 layers of skulls and bones were stacked. The killing tree and magic tree were both horrible uses of nature. The way these complexes were designed for such evil is truly hard to fathom, let alone understand. The closest logic to the whole concept and “justification” was “to remove grass you have to remove the roots” – you kill the innocent children to prevent them from growing up and seeking revenge. In this way, you can see that pregnant women and babies were in no way safer than the general population. The magic tree had speakers playing music from it – a means of drowning out the sounds of dying people as their heads were bashed against the killing tree. Added to all the other security measures helped to hide the truth from the general population.

Combined with the meticulous record keeping, which had been an import from Nazi Germany, a few of us kept wondering why? Why did the Khmer Rouge keep records, particularly at Tuol Sleng, of all their victims? Photographs and files of prisoners acknowledge their existence and former identities. Given the purpose was to destroy these people, the preservation of their identity seemed pointless to me. However, the records today help to show the world that genocide was practiced and helps the families and survivors in their grief. Overall, I felt comforted by the fact that these very worst moments in humanity only emphasis how much greater and encompassing God’s love is for us as sinners. I added this sentiment, without the God reference to the visitors book at Choeung Ek.

Lunch was held at Jars of Clay, a restaurant ministry established by Christian women. The name of the restaurant sounds familiar but should not be mixed up with the Christian band of the same name. For some reason, I suspect the place has been mentioned by previous mission trip/teams who have been to Cambodia over the last few years. Bringing up the business page on Facebook would suggest this is the case since church friends who have been to Cambodia have also liked the venue! The food on offer is a vast and diverse range. I think this wide range of food options coupled with the large group size (18~20 persons) is why the kitchen struggled to cope with bringing out the meals quickly. Whilst a number of people in the group ordered western dishes like parmagianas or spaghetti, I selected the Asian option of a meat & vegie stir-fry combination with rice.

The afternoon session for Day #2 was when we visited a Health Centre built by Samaritan’s Purse in 2011. The local area where this Centre is located was once swamps and rice paddy fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Over the last five years, even as late/recent as two years ago (2013-2014) the main road had only been constructed as sealed asphalt. Whilst SP funded the building construction, the government had added a brick wall along the north and west property boundaries. The centre is approached from the east, traveling westward along the north-boundary road and then turning left onto the perpendicular (southward) road where the entrance and hate is located.

The Health Centre is manned 24×7 by the head doctor who is also provided a residence which accommodates the doctor, her husband and daughter. This doctor has served at the Centre for the last year and is supported by a team of six staff under her. All staff were out on call whilst this main doctor was our sole host receiving our team. She eagerly shared photos with the team from recent babies delivered. Apparently this doctor took it upon herself to take the photos and provide a hard-copy to the parents as part of her duty of care. 

Increasing the awareness and accessibility of the clinic has seen 15 babies delivered in January 2016 with another one expected in the evening of 2 Feb! Awareness is important since the cost of trying to get to a hospital in the capital city requires paperwork and may incur additional fees from both the ambulance as well as doctors at the public hospital. Should a patient attend this local health Centre, the doctors can tap directly into the Phnom Penh hospital system and help the patient avoid unnecessary paperwork and costs. In some extreme cases this has made the difference between life and death because patients have been known to die whilst trying to work through paperwork or raising funds for just the initial treatment and diagnosis. Being served in the SP-provided health Centre cuts through the paperwork and waiting.

Growth of the health centre has seen an additional extension to the facilities with a large raised water tank and an isolation chamber for patients with contagious diseases.

The final outing for the day was an hour-long river cruise held in the late afternoon. During the cruise we were introduced to a number of Khmer/Cambodian cultural artefacts. This included things like the “kromar”scarf for women, the sarong, dried fish, plus other minor items.

A traditional Khmer dinner was served at Khmer Surin. At the dinner, we were treated to musical entertainment where a guy played the Sita.