Awakening Kick-off

Today marked the first official day of the Awakening Prayer Summit.  We had an awesome breakfast at Cafe Laurent, and then piled into the trucks to head to the missionary office for prayer and devotions.  Pastor Dwight led our devotion this morning, and spoke on God-centered prayer.  I’ve heard this idea in so many different ways in so many different places over the past month… making sure our prayers are truly focusing on who God is instead of just rattling off our wish list.  Perhaps God is trying to get this through my thick skull?

After devotions we hit the road, and our first stop was an area off the side of the highway marked by temples and spirit houses.  The view was incredible, a very vivid reminder of how awesome God’s creation is.  You could see forever across the valley with tall, green mountains serving as a backdrop.  Because of this view, Khmer people call on this “mother spirit” here to give protection to the whole area.  They use the temples and spirit houses to burn incense and leave food and drinks as offerings for this spirit.  How incredibly sad that so many are starving to death, yet they will waste the little food they have on an altar for what is essentially a demonic spirit!

At one end of this area was a large pile of stone and rubble where once stood a rather large temple for this particular spirit.  James told us of a missionary some years ago who was deeply troubled by this area of spirit worship and the evil represented by this temple.  He came to the place and poured out his heart to God, asking God to overtake this place and break down these strongholds.  When he returned to this area just days later, the entire temple had collapsed, crumbling the stone idol inside… very powerful.

We spent some time praying over this area and for the Khmer people.  It is so scary to realize that these people are daily calling on a demonic presence.  Satan has such a hold on these people, and they have no idea- this is all they have ever known.

We traveled on to a village area on the side of the highway just over a bridge.  We split into groups to prayer walk through this village, and our group went under the bridge to find just a few homes and stores all made of wooden slats and built on stilts.  We were greeted by their tourism guy, who wanted to sell us a boat tour down the river.  Lynette explained to him what we were doing there, and he just smiled and kept saying, “Amen!”.    We walked around and prayed, and the poverty level was astounding.  Ladies were in a pasture drawing water from a community well while water buffalo rolled in the mud and two children walked their cows down to the river.  It didn’t even seem real.

James stayed up by the highway talking with people during this time, and he was blessed with a great contact.  The missionaries had visited this area previously and passed out videos.  One woman remembered him, told him she had watched the video, and said she wanted to learn more.  (They call people who want to learn more, “Seekers.”)  She expressed interest in joining a Bible study, so they are going back in two weeks to see what they can get started there… this is a huge break for them!

We left there and returned to Koh Kong for a traditional Khmer lunch… I have no idea what it is called, but we were served plates of these large yellow food pockets stuffed with bean sprouts, vegetables, and ground pork.  There was a tray of greens on the table beside it- various types of large lettuce leaves and a lot of different herbs.  We had to tear off a piece of the pocket and place it on a large lettuce leaf, then add some other herbs and roll it up, dip it in peanut sauce, and eat it.  It was very different, unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before.  Even scarier than the food was the bathroom behind the restaurant.  You walked down a path to a cement “outhouse” with a squatter toilet (toilet down in the ground) and a tub of water for “flushing.”  It was pretty gross, and to top it off, this one was equipped with a small plastic mirror on the wall and a toothbrush holder with two used toothbrushes in it (complete with bugs crawling around).  Do they not see how that is a disease waiting to happen?

We moved on to the next section of prayer walking after lunch.  My group started outside of the busiest wat in town, which is the Buddhist temple.  People come here to offer their sacrifices and request special blessings from the monks, and orphan children and misfits are taken in to be cared for by the monks.  It struck me that the people coming in here are so desperately seeking… seeking forgiveness, seeking peace, seeking spiritual fulfillment… but they have it so wrong.  Can they not see that they walk away from that temple completely unchanged?

We moved on to a street known as the “red light district.”  Every woman living on this particular street is a known prostitute, and many of them are stricken with AIDS.  However, their society views this very differently from ours.  Prostitution is just a job… it is a way to make money and provide for your family.  Yet, at the same time, the women are not deemed as marriage material.  They are not allowed to marry.  The Khmer term used to describe them is literally translated, “broken woman.”  Lynette told us of a news interview with one of these women some time ago.  When asked why she would choose this lifestyle that leads to AIDS and death, her response was one that lacked all hope.  She could die doing this job and send money home to her family in the village so they can live, or she could not do this and stay in the village and die from starvation with all of them.

As we walked through we saw several young children playing alone on the porches.  They are children of the prostitutes, exposed to so much more than we could ever imagine.  Their innocent eyes have seen things most of us could not begin to fathom.  One image that will forever haunt me is the sight of a baby crawling around on the porch.  Behind him was the face of a ghost.  She was a very young woman with a ghastly pale face, sunken in cheeks, and vacant eyes.  She was clearly suffering from disease, but more so suffering from this lifestyle of pain and emptiness.  When I looked at her, I was overcome with this deep hurt for her- it was beyond pity.  It was as if my heart literally ached for her.  I was looking into the face of sin and death and destruction, and that picture is forever etched into my mind.

Beautiful view
Gathering to pray
Spirit houses
Idol in the temple
Village under the bridge
Other side of village
Everyone loves a sucker!
Getting water at the well
Traditional Khmer food
Red light district
Red light district

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