This is my 13th journal entry as part of the OCC Volunteer Discovery Trip. The material relates to the 11th journal day but publication here will not align to that actual day/date. The original day that this journal corresponds to was Saturday 6 February.
The other articles available for this series are:
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #1: Introduction
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #2: God First
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #3: 7 Days Before You Depart
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #4: 6 Days Before You Go
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #5: 5 Days and Counting
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #6: 4 Days – Not Long Now
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #7: 3 Days Left
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #8: Less Than 48 Hours!
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #9: What Will Happen When You Return?
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #10: Today Is the Day
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #11: Day 2
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #12: Day 3
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #13: Day 4 [this article]
READ HEBREWS 12:1
God’s Discipline Proves His Love
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
I am always encouraged by hearing testimonies of how God empowered Christians to overcome sin. I am even more encouraged by the examples of others who take sin prevention seriously and are victorious on a regular basis against daily temptation. It is a cliché but, “the best defence is a good offence”. Pre-emptively strike today by seeking God in prayer and Scripture reading.
Are you struggling with overcoming a sinful habit? What actions can you take to help you “cut away” whatever it is that is trapping you? Here are some helpful verses:
1 Corinthians 10:13
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
2 Timothy 2:22
Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.
In preparing to come on this 10-11 day Discovery Trip, I approached this as any other overseas travel. Based on my previous experience of travelling to Europe for a month in September 2009, I knew I would travel light. Having three Samaritan’s Purse t-shirts helped simplify some of the clothes selections, but I consciously also picked out long sleeve shirts. This choice of clothing also reflects my previous experience of travelling to Singapore/Malaysia where I know I can get around with long pants and long-sleeved shirts in spite of the hot humid weather. One new thing I had done in the lead-up to the trip was to get two Kathmandu zip-off pants, which provided light-weight comfort and the additional benefit of being used as shorts. Other than boxes of paint-sets and bubble toys that our church group had agreed to bring to Cambodia, I was travelling extremely light. At the airport, my suitcase weighed less than 10-kilograms, which impressed the others. Generally, most people are impressed by how small my suitcase is when I travel. Technically, my suitcase can be brought on-board as carry-on luggage, but the last few trips has seen me check it in mainly because of other contributing circumstances. For this trip, the circumstances that led me to check in my luggage was the fact that we were travelling as a group and that we were also bring three boxes with us.
With that insight covered, let me refocus properly on a more accurate interpretation of the bible verse and “stripping everything off that weighs us down”. Identifying the sin that so easily trips us up is part of the process and first step towards addressing the actual sin. I shared in our small group time for devotion on how I am very mindful of the sin of pride and how I find it challenging to die to myself every day. The topic of pride had surfaced throughout the month of January during the lead-up to the trip, so my sharing was timely and relevant given the topic for devotional study here. In my role as a life-group leader, I am all the more conscious of doing or avoiding to do things according to my own strength, and relying on God’s strength and wisdom. Dying to yourself is a journey the individual has to undertake as part of drawing near to God and growing our faith. I know that for me, over the years God has guided me and helped me shed my pride to embrace His love, peace, strength and wisdom. I try to apply this in all aspects of my life, listening and hearing Him constantly. Having the mindset that we belong totally surrendered to God is not easy, particularly when you see the way the world glorifies the self/individual. Having a heart of selflessness taps into the previous day’s teaching on who is truly great in this world according to God’s eyes.
The other sin and thought in relation to what holds us back from God I shared on was the battlefield of the mind. For me, God has shown me that our minds are one of the greatest battlefields between the devil and God. One of the most dangerous mindsets can be to think that the notion of God is simply a construct of the human mind; that we are ultimately our reality and that we invented God. Now, I totally do not subscribe to this mindset, but it remains a legacy of my past un-renewed mindset, prior to my faith and salvation in Christ. Intellectual and academic approaches to God tend to walk down this garden path, and can be a dangerous journey if God does not intervene to reveal Himself and re-orientate us to a God-centred faith. Through Philippians we are reminded and encouraged to think about things that build us up, not tear us down. For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].
On Saturday 6 February, we continued our shoe-box distribution but this time, before proceeding with that activity, we had an additional hour+ for activities. We had 24-hours notice to prepare so we planned four different groups of activities:
- Painting (utilising the paint-sets that the Clayton Church group had brought over)
- Songs and dancing
- Bible story-telling
The sports activity had more volunteers to cope with the physical nature of the ball activities. Using the soccer balls that the group had bought at the Sisophon market, this activity was better suited to the older kids who were able to quickly pick up the concept of soccer. The painting activity was slightly more intimate as an indoor activity but still very rewarding for the 3-4 volunteers who facilitated the program. About 80 paint-sets were pooled together so that the paintbrushes could be shared and allow for multiple use instead of limiting each child to a single paintbrush and set. Colouring and painting the set drawings was a familiar activity for the kids since their classrooms already exhibited some of their recent work. The noisiest group by far was the songs and dancing activity! The ladies in charge of this group taught the kids the song Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, which was highly interactive and educational for the kids to learn about the body parts in English. The final activity was the one I was involved with and together with two of our ladies, we narrated and role-played the story of Zacchaeus. The story of Zacchaeus was sourced from Luke 19:
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
After the story we also spent some time asking the kids basic comprehension questions – was Zacchaeus a naughty man? Who can relate to being naughty? What was Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus? What does that teach us about Jesus? Who wants to be friends with Jesus? We would then end in a short prayer. In the first class, the kids did not make the connection that Zacchaeus was a naughty man, so I adapted and started to use the kids’ water bottles to represent the tax collector and his wealth, to help convey the naughtiness of Zacchaeus which helped address this initial shortcoming. One of the other improvements I made to the role-play was to turn the classroom into Jerusalem. Role playing the characters in verse three was role played by running around the desks and kids and thus, immersing them into the story as part of the Jerusalem atmosphere. The remainder of the 20 minute session was spent playing the game Do This, Do That which helped to build the interaction with the kids. The groups rotated over the hour-long period and with each rotation we were able to adapt and improve. For the game, the three of us facilitators rotated the role of leading the game.
Having bonded with the kids for the first hour made the second half of the morning and the shoe-box distribution a much easier experience, particularly since we had broken the ice with them. The kids were more relaxed and friendly overall. We repeated the same process of sharing why we had come, sang a song (Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes) before distributing the shoe-boxes. Similar to the first day, this shoe-box drop had plenty of shoe-boxes available for distribution although we ran out of the older age group ones and had to use some of the younger age group boxes. Generally, trying to get this part of the logistics and organisation accurate is arguably not possible. After leaving the school we walked to the edge of the property to observe the new school building foundations that had been laid and were now being built upon.
Crossing the road, we took an extended walk down to the local village beyond the school. Here we were able to visit homes and present some of our toys as gifts to the kids. We also had the opportunity to observe and look out for more of the bio-sand water filters. The morning was a good showcase that demonstrated how the various Samaritan’s Purse programs interact and are delivered in differing orders. OCC > Water > School.
The Water for Kids project is a use case specific to the school environment.where toilet facilities and clean water for drinking and education in hygiene are delivered. In the afternoon, after lunch, we visited the Krah Por Village school which has 690 students. Initially a Japanese source donated two toilets but since then, SP has built a further eight plus added in a hand-washing trough. SP had also installed a plastic tank based BSF to supply drinking water to the whole school community. The water source for this BSF was rain-water collected from the building roof. Additionally, as part of the encouraging the sense of ownership, the shelter fencing and roof of the facility was constructed by the local community. All students were issued a SP branded water bottle which also was labelled with the verse John 4:14:
But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
Truly, it was touching to see both physical and spiritual needs being met and delivered by SP. Indeed, whilst we were surveying the facility, a number of kids came by and demonstrated their application and use of the BSF – and filled up their water bottles. Another bonus during our visit to the school, besides the friendly volleyball competition that took place between the local Cambodians (bus drivers and SP staff) with us visitors, was the timely arrival and quick introduction of the SP Program Manager in charge of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – another US expatriate. The Program Manager was Sinoon’s boss and together, there are another nine paid staff members not to mention the 100s of local volunteers.
In this way, Saturday’s program helped us appreciate the before and after impact of SP constructing and investing into the schools of Cambodia. The final observation to share here was that all the schools are government schools and thus, follow the national policy and have spirit houses prominent at the front of a school property – the Buddhist belief is that these spirit houses protect the school from evil spirits. The reality is that even though SP is a Christian organisation and we bring the Gospel into these school communities, the government could very easily change their current open door policy and clamp down on the Christian-based programs. For now, SP Cambodia is blessed to be able to work and deliver these programs to the community whilst simultaneously bringing a message of hope and love that is Christ-based. Our SP host taught us that SP believe this compromise is acceptable and a better outcome where Christianity can be freely pointed to as the originating source of this form of love as delivered through the programs for education, health, water and safety. The alternative and possible future where Christianity is disallowed would limit the impact and outreach of organisations like SP since then specific Christian private schools would be the only place where SP could operate. Only God can continue to keep this open door policy intact and allow His Kingdom to flourish in a society like Cambodia which remains 98% Buddhist officially.