It was January 8th, 2012 when my friend Michael first told me about how God had put Cambodia on his heart. It’s funny because minutes before he told me that, we had been praying over my friend Seth. We were praying specifically for him but for whatever reason the word, Cambodia appeared in my mind in big white block letters. And I couldn’t shake it until I finally prayed Cambodia over Seth not having any idea why until after the prayer when Michael told me of how just a week earlier at a conference in Atlanta, Jesus had put it on his heart. That same night my friend Marrisa called me just to let me know she was leaving in a few days to go to Cambodia with a group for a couple weeks. I began to think there was something significant about to start happening.
Prior to that night, I had thought about Cambodia maybe once in my life. And that was back during my junior year of high school when I was in a class specifically focused on America's war history. We learned about how America bombed Cambodia for a little while around Vietnam time and there was a guy in the class that would bellow, “Cambodia” in the deepest and most Zeus-like voice that he could whenever our teacher would mention it. Other than that, Cambodia was truly as foreign to my mind as any place could be. I left for San Diego to work with Invisible Children the day after Cambodia was brought up for the first time and within a week, the country had been mentioned randomly about four or five times. And it just kept happening. I shared this with my friend Lindsey one night over a cup of peppermint tea and quickly the same thing started happening to her. So I couldn’t get away from Cambodia. Naturally I learned as much as I could about it. I read a book and some online articles about the history of the Khmer Rouge genocide in the late 70’s and knew some quick facts. It was always a side thought for me until last June when I sat down to watch a documentary about sex trafficking that a friend lent me.
I have been interested in fighting injustice ever since I went to Uganda for the first time in the summer of 2009, which is why I worked for Invisible Children last year. For the past many years I have been learning more and more about the diverse and widespread injustices all over the world and one that has crushed ever since I first heard about it in the summer of 2011 is sex trafficking. I can still remember the exact seat I was in in the auditorium of the University of San Diego when Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission, shared about it at an Invisible Children conference called the Fourth Estate. The documentary I watched last June is called Nefarious. Much of the documentary focuses on Cambodia. Over the 90 minutes or so that it lasts, I became more and more unstable from the evil that I was hearing about. There was a scene where it described a seven-year-old girl who was raped and killed and they recovered her bloody pajamas after the murder. Those images have been burned into my brain ever since. I mean to the point where I lose sleep over the state of sex slavery in Cambodia and the rest of the world. I know it sounds cliché and I understand that to say I am “passionate” is a great buzz word/phrase but I honestly feel like I am downplaying how I feel in many ways, not inflating it by saying those things. I have been emotionally and physically haunted by this evil.
August 2012 I moved back to Fayetteville and in September my parents came up for a football game. We were eating together before the game and when my parents asked Cody and I if there was anything new going on, I promptly and simply told them that I had decided I needed to go to Cambodia in the summer (as you can imagine, not exactly something a mom loves to hear). I didn’t know how it was all going to happen yet but all I knew is that I had to go see Cambodia. Too many dreams and too many words and too many instances had happened in my life about Cambodia. I came to a place where I decided that I had to see the country, walk up and down the red light district, and stand in between the mass graves of the killing fields in Phnom Pehn. About a month later I was working on rough draft emails to send to different missionaries asking them if I could sleep on their floor for a month or so as I planned on just exploring the country and seeing what it was like, when I met Lauren at a coffee shop. It turns out Lauren was a missionary in Cambodia for a season and went to my church and was planning on taking a team back to Cambodia this summer. I was in from day one.
Next Friday I am getting on a plane and spending all of June and all of July in Cambodia. We are working with different NGOs and getting a glimpse of what it would be like to work in anti-trafficking as a career. We will explore different ways of preventing the sex trade, rescuing the girls, rehabilitation and other aspects of all that encompasses anti-trafficking work. It was is going to a two month vision trip and to call it a dream come true is about as accurate as I can put it. I am so blessed to be going with my twin brother Cody and my good friend, Michael (yes the same Michael that spoke Cambodia over me that first night) among six others, who are perfectly and divinely knit together to make this summer exactly what it needs to be.
God is so good to fulfill the deep desires He puts in our hearts. He could have let me go anywhere to see what anti-trafficking would be like but He allowed me to go the exact place that He has intertwined so intricately with my last year and a half.
If you would like to be kept up to date with our team’s adventures, updates, and prayer needs please send me your email, so I can add you to the list. This summer is going to be wild and we desperately need a committed group of friends to pray for us and encourage us.
I do not expect to step off the plane at the end of July and know exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life (although that would be great). However, I do expect a great amount of clarity of what way Jesus wants me to continue to pursue work in breaking the oppressor’s rod and spreading His Kingdom as we march on to fulfill the Great Commission in Jesus’ name. Please pray for me in this way and for our team to have unity and for protection over us as we go deep into Satan’s playground. Pray that our team’s eyes are opened to the horrors of sex slavery and human trafficking but also see the great hope of healing and eternity in Jesus. And pray that we can be a great encouragement to the organizations we will be working with as they stay and work there full time and as we just learn and see how they do their work.
This summer and for the rest of my life I am trusting that Isaiah 58:6-12 is much more of a promise than it is anything else. Hallelujah for hope, justice, and the immense and unexplainable love of a very real and present Savior.