Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On my decision to move to Cambodia

I wrote an email recently talking a bit about my decision to move to Cambodia:

My arrival in Cambodia is a culmination and a beginning. A culmination of years of dreaming and planning, and the beginning of finding my way in my new home.

A few years ago, around the middle of 2008, I read a book called “The Road of Lost Innocence.” It is an autobiography of a young Cambodian woman married off as a teenager, sold into sex slavery, forced into prostitution and eventually helped to escape. She later went back to Cambodia to start up 2 organisations (AFESIP and The Somaly Mam Foundation) that rescue and rehabilitate children and women trapped in slavery. She has done this at great cost to herself and her family. Up until this point I’d been developing an interest in development and poverty but my interest was broad and a little vague. You know when you’re about to take a photo and you hold the button down halfway and the picture blurs and then finds its focus? That’s what happened to me. This story caused an internal focus, an aha moment where I realised this was what I wanted to give my life to, the pursuit of securing freedom for others. The more I read on modern day slavery and human trafficking, the more compassion for those trapped welled up in me. I felt my heart breaking for the many women, who through coercion or desperation sell their bodies and souls to survive. The numbers are staggering, an estimated 27 million people in slavery worldwide, and yet God hears the cry of every single one of these people. He hears their cry and is acting on their behalf, turning our ears to hear what he hears, breaking our hearts over what breaks His. He is raising up modern day abolitionists all over the globe who will not rest until His Kingdom has come. This is an issue the church is increasingly vocal about and I have been greatly encouraged to find many churches and Christian organisations involved in very effective anti-trafficking work.

The first question most people ask me is, why Cambodia? Another one that’s come up is,”why go there when trafficking is a problem here too?” Cambodia is a nation that grips my soul in a way I struggle to articulate. Having never been there nor ever meeting a Cambodian, I cannot say why exactly that is but I’ve known for years that I wanted to not just visit but experience living in the country. Whilst trafficking is a worldwide problem, including in South Africa, for a number of reasons I think that it is more concentrated in Cambodia and that there is a lot more being done to help the victims there. I am new to this and have no experience in this field and so I’m really hoping that my time in Cambodia will be an opportunity to learn and grow. I have looked at a number of organizations and so once I arrive I’ll set about finding one to volunteer with and where I can hopefully get some mentoring, perhaps in time do an internship. Another reason I’m going is that I want to travel and have an adventure I’m going on faith, trusting that God is calling me and it’ll become a lot clearer once I arrive.

I think that we hold the romance and the reality of what we feel passionately about in tension. Currently I am heavily on the romance side but soon will immerse myself in the reality and I hope that in doing so, the questions I have about what exactly my role will be there will be made clearer. That said, I hope to never lose the romance.

The deciding factor in going to Cambodia has been the great sense of peace I've had about the move, as well as the number of doors God has opened since I started planning to go. In May last year, my mom got lost in a car parking lot and while trying to find her car, she bumped into a girl who used to live in Harding. The girl asked her what I was doing and on hearing my plan to move to Cambodia this year, she suggested I contact friends of hers, a South African family living in Phnom Penh. I soon did that and since then the van Rooyen family have been the most incredible blessing to me. They have answered my questions, told me about job opportunities, looked at a potential house for me, encouraged me and are hosting me until I find my own place.

I’m going out a little trepidatious (as of now, that is a real word) and a lot excited.  I feel very loved, from hugs to sms’s to finances to prayers to encouragement to phone calls to excitement on my behalf, I have felt incredibly loved and supported. My words don’t do justice to the depth of gratitude I feel.

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