Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Coming Home

There are going to be a lot of changes in my family this next year. Nothing bad, but some stuff that I really feel like I should be around for. So I've started making plans to come home in May. But actually those plans have changed. I was talking to my friend the other day and she was talking about how it is difficult to be on the missions field because sometimes you have things in your past that you need to deal with, even if you never knew there was an issue. That's kind of where I'm at. For the last couple months I've been really feeling spiritually attacked because of something that happened years ago. I thought that I was handling it, and I was asking for prayer, but over the last month it's become increasingly evident to me that I need help handling it and that I need a support system closer to me than half a world away. So after a lot of prayer and talking with my family and staff over here I've decided to come home this week. So I will be flying out late Friday night. As of this moment, I hope to return at some point, but I don't know when/if that is what God wants for me so when I get home I will be praying about that and keep everyone up to date one that. 
This was decided yesterday. So today I will be telling all the girls and rest of the staff. If you could be praying for strength and the words to say that would be amazing. 
I really really  am blessed by all the love and support that you have shown to me while I've been here. I'm sorry for the short notice with this, but I want to thank you for all the prayers and emotional and financial support. 
Thanks so much for understanding. I look forward to seeing you when I get home!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Make it Work

I have no idea if you are a fan of Project Runway, if you have seen or ever even heard of the show and if not than this title will make little to no sense, but since I am a big fan I was very proud of the cleverness here and was literally laughing out loud when I wrote this. Maybe that statement speaks to either my failing humor or sanity, regardless, the title stays and I hope you are okay with that.

So we changed Wednesday night Bible Studies into youth group nights. We're starting out small, keeping it with our girls and then hopefully we will be able to expand and combine with two other churches nearby to make Rahab's House a hang out for youth in the area.  SUCH a good plan, in my opinion (and I can boast about it since it was not my idea. I had no part in that awesomeness). So we made a game plan, and came up with games and activities and a lesson with a slapstick skit in it so it could transcend the language barrier. And then, in true Cambodian fashion, someone ran into 11 power lines and a transformer cutting 90% of Siem Reap's electrical supply from Thailand before trying to flee the scene. As you might have guessed, we didn't have power for a bit (you know and water, which was kind of a bummer). But Tim Gunn would have been proud because we "made it work"! We re-figured our plan, changed out games, got new supplies and literally bought out one store's worth of candles (granted that was only $10 worth since it was pretty well picked through, but it still sounds impressive). We were ready for anything!

The big night was here! It was showtime! Our Garden of Eden was set, our cast and crew adequately rehearsed. As the story commenced, just as in the story of Creation, there was light! Oh words cannot describe the joy of an air conditioned office, light while using the bathroom, or having a water pump bring up shower water! Doesn't it just bring tears to your eyes at the thought? I know...me too. 

But for reals, it was so good. The actors were funny and the girls loved it! It was so much fun getting to watch the girls watch the skit, and then be able to share some of God's Truth with them. The part that was most exciting to me wasn't the throwing marshmallows at people's heads, or painting nails with eyes closed shut, it was the questions after I talked about how God covers our sin. One of the girls came and asked question after question about why God had to cover our sins, and what happens if we decide to love Jesus, but still make mistakes. It was such a blessed conversation! It's nights like that that make all the heat, the hard conversations, and the frustrating moments just so worth it. 

Unfortunately, I don't have a clever transition for the pictures I wanted to show. Here they are:

How do you find the stairs in staff housing in a power out-age? Like this:
Oh you know, just lighting up the stairs at the staff house 
  One of our awesome staff rejoicing at having light while using the bathroom.
Game time at "youth group". Playing 'Human Knot' 
Target practice with marshmallows. 
 Our Garden of Eden, and yes that is the serpent coming to deceive Adam and Eve.
 The girls watching from our purple couches.

Oh! P.S. I got my own apartment!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Some day are so fun. They literally cannot be described. The joy is beyond words and the rewards are abundant. Some days, the progress in a girl is small but feels like the greatest victory ever and you jump for joy literally and figuratively with them. And some days, some days are tough. Not because the job is hard, or things go wrong exactly, but because some days you just get so...tired. Tired of communication issues. Tired of finding cockroaches, rusty building material when you need them, and most certainly tired of counting receipts  Today, today was a tired day.

It started with three cups of coffee and for some reason, I just couldn't wake up. Never a good sign. You could feel it in the staff today too. Today was a tired day. And a busy one. After so many communication blunders that had to be fixed, only to find those "fixes" really just caused more confusion, and driving all over to find purple couches and orange paint (no Rahab's House isn't as horridly ugly as those two color combinations just made it sound. For the record they will not be in the same room) and loosing both sets of keys to Rahab's House (twice), I was so ready for the day to be over. I had had enough.

Just as I was getting ready to leave, one of the staff who had been struggling said she wanted to talk. I sat listening to her, and praying for patience as she listed all the things I am doing wrong. How frustrating I am because sometimes I speak too fast in English and too slow in Khmer. How the girls sometimes love me and sometimes hate me. She was angry because I asked to help me find the keys when she was trying to fix her phone. And then, just when I thought I couldn't take anymore about how I'm not enough of this and too much of that, she started crying. She began to cry and tell me how she felt like she wasn't enough. She talked about how she was struggling, trying to show girls love, but having a hard time figuring out how Jesus would want her to do that. The balance between being the good guy and the bad guy. By the time she finished talking, I realized, yes she was frustrated with things that I had done, but she was so bummed out and was in need of someone to talk to. God blessed us with such an open and honest conversation about her struggles and mine. About things that we need to work on to show each other love. And at the end, I was emotionally drained. Yes, it had been a good talk. A blessed talk even, but it had been a long day, and I wanted to go home.

I walked out to my moto, and wouldn't you know it, a whole group of kids from Kid's Club had shown up and wanted to play. And you know, that was cute, but I was tired. I tried walking to my moto and they kept stopping me. Tagging and running away, trying to tickle me, climbing on my moto and trying to take away my keys. And just when I was about to start crying, it was like Jesus said, "Look, if you're not here to play with kids and listen to a little crying from staff, why are you here? Now I'm trying to bless you with these kids, so smile and enjoy it." So I did. We played, and laughed and tickled, and although they never did get the keys, they did get to go for a ride on the moto. And I was blessed. Abundantly so.

We have Bible Study every Wednesday night at 9pm for any girl who wants/can join. Tonight it was led by a girl who six months ago had a major attitude issue and four months ago was actually put on probation and was one mess up away from leaving Rahab's House entirely. She led the Bible Study and did a great job. I didn't understand it all, but what I did understand I was so proud of her. When she finished, everyone literally began clapping for her. I was so proud of her. I almost literally started jumping for joy.

She talked about Psalm 5. And it was so perfect, and God knew I needed verses four and seven today. I was missing it. I was not allowing myself to be present for the joy God was bringing into Rahab's House today. I was messing up. And by His grace, I still got to experience it. And as I sit here writing this, knowing I need to be at work at 6:30 to take a schizophrenic man to the clinic tomorrow, I am so blessed to know tired days can be awesome too and that when I've had enough, He IS enough.

"You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell...But I, by your great mercy will come into your house." -Psalm 5:4&7

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cambodian DMV

If Cambodia had a DMV, this is how I imagine the booklet they give out would read...

When driving down the road it is important to watch and slow for the following:

  • Large buses full of tourists. The buses will crush you
  • Other motos
  • Herds of cows crossing the road
  • Dogs
*note: It is not necessarily important to slow for pedestrians. Use your best judgement


  • Just find a spot. Block someone else if necessary 
  • Motos can and should be put so closely together that no person can actually get on their moto to back it out

Safety Laws:

  • Drive on the right side of the road, unless it is more convenient to drive into oncoming traffic, then use your horn to let oncoming traffic know you are there.
  • Always wear a helmet while driving a moto. Passengers (including children) do not need a helmet while riding. If however you simply keep a helmet in the basket on your moto, that is safe enough.
  • Use headlights at night to alert other motorists of your presence, unless you are afraid of ghosts following you home, then you may leave your lights off.
  • Never use your headlights during the day. No exceptions.
  • Red lights are always optional
  • Two people on a moto at a time. But feel free to be clever and fit as many Cambodians/pigs/chickens/mattresses/propane tanks/groceries as possible
Oh Cambodia...

These pictures were just to help illustrate the point, but are not actually my pictures.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

They're Too Young

A dirt floor and rusted tables with plastic chairs for customers (most of which have giant cracks in the seats). Thick sticks are tied together and neighboring trees support the tarps that are tied together to form a covering. The 1 1/2 sides it has are plastic table cloths with holes in them, which does allow for a breeze I suppose, and of course a view of the emaciated cows in the grass next to it. Scraps of food that have fallen off the table are picked through by the scraggly dogs that wander around, and one can only hope and pray that their patchy "so greasy it has a gelled quality about it" fur doesn't come in contact with your actual skin. This, my friends, is where I spend many-an-afternoon. And let me answer this question now: yes they do take reservations, since I know you're all dying to go ;)

Bella and I do outreach in the community most everyday. It comes in different forms depending on what is happening, but mostly it is maintaining and building relationships. We have good relationships with three massage parlors and one karaoke club. We alternate locations throughout the week so we can spend time with each group of girls as well as in our own salon. Today was a karaoke day.

As we were sitting on cracked seats (and yes I am sad to say that today I had actual contact with a dog) and eating bananas with some girls, I realized I was in such an odd situation. Two girls we hang out with a lot were sitting sharing a drink and talking with us. They are 15 and 17, respectively. Several karaoke girls joked and laughed as they ate and played cards. Everything was  as per usual until I noticed what the two teen girls were drinking. They were drinking wine coolers. My first reaction was to stop them, then I remembered I'm not in America and it is legal for them to drink here. Then I thought "But they are too young! Who cares about legality of it! They're going through them like a thirsty adult with a box juice!" But even as I thought it, I couldn't figure out how that conversation would go, "Girls, I know your job requires you to get drunk every night with customers, but I don't think it's wise to be drinking that." Oh yeah. That would go over swimmingly. I couldn't figure out in what way Jesus' name would be glorified if the subject was brought up, so I left it alone. 

 As I was sitting in our salon shortly there after, I was watching a teenage girl waiting to get her hair and make-up done for work tonight. She was playing with a practice doll head. She kept braiding and unbraiding the hair. Braiding and re-braiding, over and over again. I've seen her there before, doing the same thing. Not talking, just playing with the hair. I asked her once if she wanted to work in a salon. She said yes, but could never afford to go to school for it. 

Today was one of those days where I have been so blessed by the conversations and time spent sitting and just being present with them. It is also one of those nights where my heart just breaks at the loss of innocence. I know there is no such thing as an appropriate age for this, but I wish she was at home playing with hair and they were at home drinking juice right now. Instead they're out working.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Back in the Bode Again

"Take it easy. Take it EASY!" Came from an overly anxious Bella sitting on the back if my moto as we drove through the streets of Siem Reap doing outreach. This was quickly followed by a quiet chorus of "Oh please don't kill me. Oh you're going to kill us..." As you can imagine, her confidence in my driving abilities is overwhelming.
Okay, yes I almost tipped us over once, but in my defense, we had a dog chasing us down the road jumping up and trying to bite us. And what help do I receive as I am trying to steer us to safety? Bella flailing around on the back of my moto yelling "It's going to bite us!!!!!" As she kicks her legs up repeatedly kicking my arm controlling the steering. But yeah, sure, I'm the one going to kill us...
Coming back from being home in the states for Christmas has had its moments. You know, it's 'This is awesome and I'm so happy to be back!' moments and of course the 'Oh my goodness I'd forgotten how scary driving in Cambodia is' moments. Well, followed by the "We might die right now" came an incredible afternoon.
For those that don't know, or have forgotten what I do, here's the short of the long of it. I work in Siem Reap building relationships with girls in the community that are currently working in brothels (aka karaoke clubs and massage parlors.) My job is to help girls in the community come to know about and trust our facility (Rahabs House) so that if a girl wants help getting out of sex trafficking she knows she can come to us and we will help in whatever way most beneficial to her particular situation. So most everyday, one of our awesome Khmer staff, Bella, and myself go out to foster these relationships.
After our harrowing drive to one of the massage parlors we frequent, we were met with an ecstatic group of massage girls. Armed with fruit we walked over to join the thirty plus girls sitting around tables. Several asked where I had been for so long and others kept saying how happy they were to see me again. Since building trust can be very challenging in the Khmer culture, I cannot even express to you the extreme joy I felt at being surrounded by so many loving girls.
We sat around and talked, ate fruit and yes I'll admit it, danced and sang (quiet loudly I might add) to One Direction. ( The best part of course being that the girls recorded me singing and dancing...always a joy to have those embarrassing moments documented.)
Fast forward a few hours. We've long since left the massage parlor and are passing out fliers that night to the karaoke club near us to let girls know about a party coming up.
We strategically go into the club just after the bulk of the girls arrive, and just before the bulk of the johns come. Usually we are admitted to pass out fliers and told to hurry up. This time, we weren't told to hurry. In fact the "ice moms" that usually sell the girls and are the ones who admit or don't admit us in, engaged us in conversation! When we went inside, a girl ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug and had apparently been asking everyday when I would be back. As we stood there hugging, some men came in for girls. My heart sunk. We were in SO much trouble. We are NEVER supposed to be in there while there are customers. If we see them, we've already messed up. And here we were, in the middle of the room with girls surrounding us.
But God was so good! Not one girl near us made a move to get the attention of the men (as is their job) and none of the guys seemed to even notice our presence. As a result, the manager and the "ice moms" didn't care we were there while customers were there. When we tried to leave, all the higher up staff stopped us so we could chat and catch up!
I could not believe it! For the staff and girls of both the karaoke club and the massage parlor to be so open and so eager to engage in relationship with us during work hours is truly a testament to how God is slowly turning some of the hearts in this community.
I was so blessed by the whole day I wanted to cry! Fortunately I didn't because if I had I probably would have crashed us and then Bella would never get on my moto again and then where would we be?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Of Mice and Men

I remember liking the book of Mice and Men. Although I did not fully understand Lenny's love of the mice, I respected his decision to care for them and felt his loss when he accidentally killed them. It is clear to me that I have changed since having read that book.

Two days ago we discovered a mouse living in our house. I felt no love or respect for it, and in no way wanted anyone to try and protect it. And I can say with no remorse, I felt no sense of loss at the idea of it's vacating the premises.

After Laura discovered the mouse hiding between the shelf and the wall, I took refuge upstairs in the living room and she went for a run. Upon returning we decided that it was not financially prudent to live in a hotel and eat every meal out in order to avoid having to go near the kitchen where the mouse has taken up residence. This left us with two options. First, to move. Simply forfeit the house to the mouse and admit defeat. Second, go next door and see if our neighbors could kill it for us.

I gave my best motivational speech. Think Braveheart status here. "Laura! We can do this! Let's just go downstairs and take care of this! Come on! We are adults!"

Evidently I fell short of Mel Gibson's performance because I was met with "Really Brittnay? Are we really adults?" It was a good question and it needed to be asked. Evidently the answer is no because neither of us wanted to deal with finding a new house so we literally ran down the stairs and away from the kitchen as fast as we could headed for the neighbors.

Expecting to find three grown men next door who could come over and rescue us from the perilous mouse situation, we instead found three tiny Khmer women and three little girls. We explained the situation (or rather Laura did because let's be honest, I don't speak enough Khmer to explain the urgency we felt) and being the wonderful and generous women that they are, they offered to come and help us.

Armed with a single broom,  our fearless neighbor Chanom headed over with a woman in her early 50s, a nineteen year old, a nine year old, a seven year old and a three year old. Laura and I took position in the rear. After telling them where the mouse was, Laura and I graciously made room for them in the kitchen by excusing ourselves into the other room.

Chanom 4'9'' weighing in at 100lbs in one corner and the two inch mouse weighing in at 2lbs in the the other. The bell dinged and they were off. Chanom swatted at the shelf knocking the mouse loose on its hold in the shelf. The mouse took evasive measures and darted across the kitchen sending the woman in her 50s onto the counter, the 19 year old onto the table, the 7 year old on a chair, the 3 and 9 year old into the other room with me and Laura outside into the street. Chanom ran around the kitchen swing the broom until the mouse hid under the refrigerator. Chanom swatted at it with such gusto it had no choice but to climb up into the cooling mechanism of the fridge. Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like the first round went to the mouse. At the start of the second round, Chanom came back to the fridge, armed with bug spray. She sprayed into the cooling mechanism. This intrigued all the bystanders causing everyone to inch closer to the action. The women climbed off our kitchen surfaces, Laura came back in the house and we walked near the kitchen entrance.

Seeing it had drawn us all out of hiding, the mouse took off headed right toward me. Laura, the three girls, the nineteen year old and I all headed for the stairs. It changed course and instead of leaving the kitchen it lapped it. When it came back round a second time we all jumped up higher on the stairs. Screams permeated the air as the sound of running and slamming the broom coming from the kitchen echoed through the house. The atmosphere was tense. Against my better judgment, I stepped off the stairs to get a better look. Chanom was swinging the broom as the mouse ran in circles and then almost as if sensing a change in the audience, it ran out of the kitchen and straight toward me. All the girls ran higher up onto the stairs, Laura was safe on the second floor, but I was exposed. I did the only thing I could do and jumped up on the outside of the banister. Screams filled the air as I clung to the banister hovering a mere one and half feet above the danger. Chanom-the champion that she is- went full speed in pursuit. Knees bent, broom over her head, Chanom did a waddle run while yelling a fierce battle cry and swing the broom. The mouse, seeing it had been bested ran out the door and down the street. We cheered and hugged Chanom, thanking her for her bravery. She had truly saved us, else we would have had to move.

After everyone had gone home, while we were cleaning up after the epic battle of the mouse, I had a revelation. In Tom and Jerry,when Tom is chasing Jerry, you feel for the poor little mouse. It's a lie. It's Tom who's the victim. I'm sure of it.