God IS…

God IS…

 

       This post is late. Like, two weeks late. However, I think that I needed a little bit of time to process my thoughts a little better. We were recently in Cambodia, Siem Reap  and Phnom Penh, and this was one of the best and most difficult times of my life. Why was it difficult? I don’t think I can really explain it thoroughly in this “brief” post, but here goes nothing. While we were in Cambodia we had the opportunity to visit the Killing Fields and S-21 both in Phnom Penh. These were some of the darkest places that I have ever been in my entire life. Let me give a brief background on these two places. The Killing Fields are the sites of multiple mass graves that were a result of the brutal Pol Pot Khmer Rouge regime that plagued Cambodia during the mid 1970’s. There were graves here that held the remains of more than 400 people. There were graves here that held the remains of only mothers and small children. There were signs all over the place that said “Don’t step on bone fragments” because, the rain was still bringing them up to the surface. There were trees that had strips of clothing, from those killed here, wrapped around their trunks. There was a memorial stupa that contained over 5,000 skulls and numerous other bones from the unfortunate people that were caught up in such a horrible moment of history. Then came Tuol Sleng, or S-21, a “detention centre” for Khmer Rouge prisoners. This is a somewhat misleading name as only 12 of the ~20,000 prisoners survived their detention here. I suggest the more appropriate name of “death centre” for S-21. This, for me, was much harder than the Killing Fields. S-21 is a former high school, turned death centre, turned museum. It seemed that S-21 was much less curated and visitors were allowed to see the raw, untouched (to an extent), nature of it. For example, there were several rooms that were used as interragtion (torture) rooms. In these rooms were pictures of what these rooms were used for. In one of the rooms there was a picture of a body, seemingly lifeless, lying on a wire bed frame with shackles, and a pool of blood lying eerily beneath. Looking towards the center of the room you see that same wire bed frame, with the same leg shackles, and a blood stain on the floor in the same place as shown in the picture. S-21 was well documented by the Khmer Rouge, and walking through the museum is proof of that. There are numerous rooms with what seemed to be endless pictures of the prisoners. Each one had a number beside it, and as you walk through the rooms the numbers increase. Prisoner 1, prisoner 5, 16, 78, 346, 1331, 12675, these were all individual people, with individual stories, unique families, created by God for a unique purpose, and I thought loved by God. Where was the love of God in this place? Where was it in the midst of this evil? Was it in the scratches in the cell wall of a prisoner, counting the days to freedom, only to find out that his freedom would never come? Was it in the mothers being torn away from there babies only to watch in horror as their infant child was killed in front of them? WHERE WAS GOD? Why didn’t he stop this? These were the questions that I struggled with, and still am struggling with as I write this blog. Something like this, something utterly and totally evil in every way, was allowed to happen to a people so innocent and warm. *Side Note: Cambodian people are some of the kindest and most loving people you will ever meet.* Why did God let this happen? As I pondered these questions God brought me to the book of Job. Job, righteous and upright, God fearing and honourable, was afflicted with terrible suffering. He lost almost all of his family, he lost his wealth, he lost his home, and he lost his health. Why? Well you see… I don’t know. But I do know that God was still good and still loving even through that suffering. Through suffering Job was able to praise God for his goodness and mercy all the more. I saw that in Cambodia. We talked to a few people who had been alive during this turbulent time in Cambodia’s history and they all seemed to understand how good God is, how much love He has for them, and the endlessness of His mercy. This is where God is. We were able to see how God used such a horrible event in history to raise up a generation that is so passionate and so convinced of God’s love that they have inspired many others to follow in their footsteps. God has shown them the depths of His love and richness of His mercy. I wonder now what the lesson is for us to take from this? God loves us? God is good? God shows mercy? Yes. All are good. But, I think that the overarching theme of this is that God is. PERIOD. Not was, not will be, but is. In every moment of every day God is who He says He is. Malachi 3:6 offers some encouragement “For I the LORD do not change, therefore you, O children of Jacob are not consumed.” Sometimes we go through crappy situations, we lose a job, don’t get into the school we wanted, have a terrible illness, a loved one passes away, or maybe you lost your family. It is easy to get caught up in the fact that we are suffering and lose sight of who God is in the midst of this. We don’t always – actually, we seldom – know why God allows us to suffer, but the thing that we can always know and keep our eyes fixed on is that God is who He says He IS.

HAPP(me)NESS

As I watched little Chinam, a three year old Cambodian bundle of endless energy, jump from the railing of a classroom building into a small pile of construction sand below I realized something. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but, I knew there was something about him that was unusual. Last week, we spent time in the city of Siem Reap in Cambodia, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most unspeakbaly amazing places I have ever been able to go. There was something so welcoming and friendly about the community there. Not just friendly because they wanted us to feel welcome, but a genuine, raw warm and welcoming spirit that just flowed from them in everything. However, this was not the thing that caught my attention the most. I kept noticing something about the people here as they worshipped, worked, ate, slept, and generally just lived in community with each other. Something just seemed to be present at all times. It was only on the bus as we were travelling from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh (the capital city) that I realized what that something was, it was JOY. Joy was what had stood out to me so vividly as I watched how they went about their everyday lives. They seemed to be so happy all the time, but looking back I no it was more than just mere happiness. The people that we were working with did not have much, and they knew that, but that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that the church yard was so flooded that they could not work on the wall that we were supposed to be helping with. They had found the joy of the Lord in every situation. This joy is deeper than happiness that solely depends on circumstance. This joy was the undercurrent of their lives, the constant stronghold in their lives. This made me think about how so often I find myself in a bad mood or upset with my life because my circumstance is not what I wanted. My faith would be tested and I would lose heart and tell God that he had gotten it wrong again, I wasn’t supposed to face hardships or trials. But that isn’t a particularly biblical view of the Christian walk is it? James 1:2-3 says that we should “Count it all joy, my brothers” when our faith is tested because that will produce steadfastness. That’s pretty different from the whole “pursuit of happiness” idea, isn’t it? Our joy, as followers of Christ, is not dependent on the circumstances that surround us, whether that be a flooded church yard, or bad job, or no job. The joy of the Lord is th undercurrent that constantly flows beneath the trials and tribulations of this life. The people that we had the privilege of spending time with exemplified this kind of joy so beautifully and that is something that I will take with me as I mve on in my journey. God’s joy is constant, regardless of circumstance. Always has been, always is, and always will be available to us. That’s beautiful!

UPDATE: We are in Phnom Penh until Tuesday and then we are off to Thailand for a bit. I have really appreciated your prayer and support! If you feel so inclined to support me financially while on GlobeTREK you can do so through the Donations page in the dropdown menu or visit Prairie College Donations. Also, our friends Darren and Minako from Work of Your Hand will be in Canada speaking at a few churches and what not so you should go check them out! It’s and amazing ministry.

My Lighthouse

         The words of “My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective are ringing in my ears, and have been now for a few days. There is something so tangible about the comparison that they draw between the promise of God to lead us through the trials of this life and the lighthouse as it promises to lead ships safely through the dark and uncertain sea that they sail in. I had the priviledge of being part of a worship night when I was back at college for a couple nights this past week. As I was there only to make preparations for GlobeTREK I was feeling quite flustered with all the last minute details that still needed to be figured out, along with a great deal of uncertainty about how this whole trip thing was actually going to work. I sang out the words to the song and Immediatley I felt the comfort of God’s knowledge surpassing peace. I felt Him reaching out to me as if to say, “Just stop trying to swim agaisnt the current and let me guide you.” Tis was an amazing moment to say the least. However, I then thought to myself “Does this mean that we will never be harmed in life?” It was then that another song played and one of the lines talked about finally reaching heaven’s eternal shore, and the promise of eternal life. Another flood of peace hit me! God does not promise to keep me safe from the physical harm that this world may bring, He may choose to protect me, but, He does not promise it. What He does promise is that, with our faith firmly rooted in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, He will bring us safely to the eternal shore of Heaven where we will dwell eternally with Him. This is a promise that Has been true and always will be true, however, we often put things in the way don’t we? Somehow we take something that man deems as more important than God’s promise to heart and let those things control us. Through the chaos of my preparations for GlobeTREK God has given me new eyes and a new understanding to see and accept HIS truth as real in my own life. I look back at the things I worry about and they all seem so foolish! My teasure does not exist in this world but trather in Heaven and I have no reason to fear what this life may bring before me because my hope and faith is in the neverending, unceasing, and everlasting God, my lightouse. 
GlobeTREK Update: We are in Beijing for a few days! It is such a cool city so many cool places and the culture is unreal! Also, every second store there is a food stall of some sort so that makes me happy haha. Thank you for all your prayers and support as we have been travelling and continue to do so! God has definitely blessed our team and I thank you for being a part of that blessing! Stay tuned for more….

To Him who is able!