Summer Update: Cambodia and Panama

From the big cities to the little suburban towns of the United States- individuals left their comfortable state of being and gathered together for one purpose: To find their cause and bring hope to the hopeless.On June 14th, a team of 28 gathered in a hotel room in Los Angeles, all with desire to bring hope to a nation that was full of darkness: Cambodia. The team was well aware of the fact that the beautiful nation of Cambodia is a primarily Buddhist country, with 97% of the population believing in Buddah as the answer to life’s questions. However, this fact did not discourage the team, instead, it became a motivating factor to step onto Cambodian soil and be a light in the darkness.On July 7th, a team of 13 gathered in a hotel room in Miami filled with excitement to return to the islands: The San Blas Islands to be exact. A “picture perfect” series of islands off the coast of Panama, inhabited by a primitive people group known as the Kuna Yala Indians. The Kuna’s posses a rare beauty and kind souls, however, collectively they are longing for something that’s “unknown” to them: love. With no word for love in the Kuna’s vocabulary, the team moved with determination to show the Kuna’s  the beautiful and undeniable love of God.With the help of planes, buses, trains, tuk tuk’s, and boats the teams stepped onto the scenes, armed with boldness and the message of love. The teams were ready to bring light into the lives of the Cambodians and Kuna’s.Since the last time that the Go Team was in Cambodia, the church has grown immensely. The team was able to re-connect with several familiar faces including a very special young lady. A year and a half ago, the team came across a young mother who had never heard the name of Jesus. In an intimate setting, the team shared the story of Christ with the young woman and her family. In a little shack on stilts, down a curvy dirt road, a young woman devoted her life to Christ, accepting Him as her Lord and Savior.  The team left Cambodia, only to return a year later to discover the young woman had become a leader in the community, now hosting Bible studies out of her home. It is evident that people of Cambodia are hungry for something true, for God. They are a light shining bright.Throughout the New Testament, Christians are referred to as “brothers and sisters” and are urged to not only live lives pleasing to the Lord, but also to encourage one another in their faith. The New Testament Christians are encouraged to imitate the faith of someone they respect, that they may in turn become a model and an example to those around them. During the the team’s time in Cambodia, it was beautiful and refreshing to see the Cambodian church take this concept to heart. While they live in a country that is seemingly immersed in darkness, the Cambodian church is beginning to burn bright. Many of the orphans and villagers approached the Go Team asking them to be their “God Brothers” or “God Sisters”, essentially asking them to be their mentor and prayer partner.One of the last nights on Cambodian soil, the team traveled down to 136th Street of Phnom Penh, also known as the Red Light District. The team walked down the street with one mission in mind: to rescue women who are exploited and forced to service men, giving them a night of refuge. Splitting up into groups, the Go Team fearlessly dispersed into the Red Light District, inviting the women to a party for a Night of Refuge. Every night these women are forced to service men, and for $7 men can purchase them for the night and have their way with them. As the women and the team left the Red Light District, the women walked down the street with pride, knowing that they were special. As the team and the women arrived at the party, the women were filled with excitement as they realized that the party they were attending was in their honor. After much eating, talking, laughing, dancing and getting to know each other- the women slowly started opening up to our team about their paths, and how they ended up in the bars. We found out that many of the women have children, and working in the Red light District is the only way to provide for the children that they love so much. After a message and altar call, we witnessed the women starting to break down. That night, hope had come, the majority of the women we invited to the party dedicated their lives to Christ that night.On the opposite side of the world in the San Blas islands of Panama, the message of Gods love was well received by the Kuna Yala Indians. Over the past three years, the Go has sent teams to the islands off the coast of Panama to share the love of God to a people group who are desperate for a hope to cling to. Not only are they desperate for hope, but for genuine love. Though the Kuna’s live on a series of picture perfect islands, their lives are missing something key: God. As the sun rose, so did the team. Traveling from island to island, the team drew the attention of the Kuna’s through setting up carnivals for the children. It was through simple games that the team was able to gain the trust of the Kuna’s and have the opportunity to speak into their lives.

With passion in their hearts to see the change in the hearts of the Kuna’s, the team performed dramas for the Kuna’s that represented the gospel message. It was beautiful to see the Kuna’s receive truth and dedicate their lives to Jesus.

On a rainy day in the Islands, the team challanged one of the islands to a game of basketball. This particular island’s leaders had been very resistant to allowing a church to be built on the island. However, as the leaders of the island watched the team play a simple game of basketball with the Kuna’s, their hearts changed. The Leaders of the islands saw that there was something significantly different about the team, their hearts were full of beauty, hope, and genuine kindness. While to American’s this game basketball may seem “insignificant”, to the leaders of the island it displayed something more, it was something that ignited change in their hearts. After the team left the islands, the Kuna leaders allowed the Christians in the community to build a church on the island. Hope had come to the islands.

This summer two teams with forty one ordinary people were moved by compassion and were willing to be used by God were able to impact the nations of Cambodia and Panama this summer. Hope had come and lives were transformed by the love and healing power of Jesus. Throughout scripture the Lord beckons his people to “go out in to the world and proclaim the good news”, to “do good and plead the case of the widows and defend the fatherless”. This summer, the teams walked out in obedience and were in turn a part of a beautiful redemption story.

Written By: Lindsey Eryn Clark
Photo Credit: Dodge and Bel Pangburn + Lindsey Eryn Clark