Sports in Saang

Last week we hosted a two-day seminar and sports tournament at our Center in conjunction with EFC (the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia). Four churches from our area sent multiple soccer and volleyball teams to learn about sports ministry and play a series of games against each other at our Center and the local high school. Some great lessons and discussion times led by GCCS and EFC staff were followed by girls’ volleyball games on Thursday afternoon and a full day of soccer on Friday.

This tournament was the first opportunity for our girls’ volleyball team to compete, so naturally they were nervous and extremely excited! It is fairly unusual to have sports competitions for girls in Cambodia, so it was great to see our girls growing in confidence and holding their own on the field. Despite their lack of experience and some threatening thunder and rain, after several intense playoff games they went on to take first place!

The following day there were a series of soccer games, and our GCCS boys’ team gave their all, playing hard and maintaining good attitudes despite some injuries and facing intense competition. In the end, they scored second place in the tournament, and our goalie won the title of MVP!

We are so thankful to be able to hold these kinds of events, and to have a great group of youth on our teams and great staff to coordinate and facilitate. What a great way to build camaraderie between churches and involve local teens in a positive pastime! We plan to have many more such events in the future, but in the meantime we hope you enjoy the photos below (click the gallery to view more).

- In His Steps

Boxes of Blessings

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This morning we held a special children’s program for kids from impoverished families who live in a nearby village. We’ve been looking forward to giving out the Samaritan’s Purse OCC (Operation Christmas Child) shoeboxes we received this year, and after completing a children’s Bible study initiative from OCC with a core group of children, it was time to give out the gifts to a larger group!

The kids were clearly excited about the event, some of them arriving early by an hour or more. There were 85 of them, ranging from age 2-14 years old, with some of the littlest ones accompanied by parents or older siblings. While waiting for the program to being, they ran around outside and played at the playground in a frenzy of anticipation!

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After short lesson from Solomon came the main event: giving out the shoeboxes from OCC. It is always fun to see the looks on children’s faces as they open presents and discover everything from toys and school supplies to toothbrushes and new clothes! Many of them carefully surveyed the items in their box one by one with delight, before placing them neatly back inside for safe-keeping. Most of these children have few personal possessions, and even the simplest of gifts is treasured! 

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We are thankful for Samaritan’s Purse and their giving to our
community and many others. Please join us in praying that the children who received a shoebox today would feel blessed, would begin to attend church, and that they and their families would come to know Christ as they experience His love.

-    In His Steps

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Fun and Games

For Children’s Rights Day this year, we wanted to do something that would allow kids of all ages to have fun and practice teamwork. So we invited kids that attend our weekly Children’s Program and daily English classes to an afternoon of sports activities and races, and encouraged them to bring their friends and siblings to sign up as well. They all formed teams in different age categories, and had a lot of fun in the days beforehand recruiting friends to come play, choosing their team names, and practicing sports together.

On Sunday afternoon the air was filled with excitement as kids started arriving. Despite the heat that day, over 100 children packed into the church sanctuary to watch a drama about common family issues, hear an inspiring message from Eric, and cheer loudly as each team was announced and led out to the playing field for sack races, relay races, throwing games, and more!

It was great to see the kids enjoying themselves and working together. Below is a gallery of photos so you can catch a glimpse of the fun. Be sure to click through so you don’t miss any!

May Update

A few months ago we brought your attention to the situation of Sokchea, a beautiful young girl with what appears to be cerebral palsy. Since our last post, we were able to find a wheel chair for her to grow into! She had been getting used to it little by little and it's been very helpful for allowing her to experience more at our church services. This is an answered prayer!

 We also have continued to see many small steps forward with Sokchea's strength and motions. She can sit with support longer than ever before, and continues to show a strong desire to exercise, often lifting her arms and legs to practice movements even when we are not there.

A recent team visit was great for Sokchea because a team member who is experienced in caring for the disabled was able to give us a lot of pointers on how to help her more. Another friend on the team also helped connect us with a PT who had great advice as well. We are so thankful that God who knows Sokchea's needs is putting people in our path to help. Please keep her in your prayers!

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Recently we had the opportunity to celebrate the life of an amazing and special woman: Yay Phait, a 100 year-old member of the church and an inspiration to many. She has seen so much history, lived through deprivation and abuse, and knows firsthand God’s faithfulness. Yay is not at all shy about telling anyone she crosses paths with about Who her trust is in!

For Yay’s 100th birthday, we wanted to gather together so that we could honor her and express what a blessing she is to the church and community. Volunteers, visiting team members, and staff from every part of IHSI ministry pitched in to barbecue two whole pigs, make side dishes and tea, set up chairs and tables, and serve food. Yay Phait was seated at the place of honor with her children, grandchildren, and friends.

Yay Phait blew out her birthday cake candles for the very first time in one hundred years, surrounded by so many who love her! She also received some beautiful portraits as a gift from the Hansons. Then we had a time of testimonies where people young and old shared about how Yay has inspired and encouraged them.

It was a privilege to celebrate Yay Phait’s centennial birthday and see in a small way how her life and character have rippled out to influence so many. Join us in praying that Yay has many more years of health, provision, and joy ahead of her!

We hosted a church team from Illinois for an outreach this month, our second team from Rockford First! This all-women team was a great mix of individuals from all seasons of life, and they did a great job making friends with Sak Saum, local kids and youth, and the children in our programs. During their outreach, they taught English classes, did church/Sak Saum visitations to the sick and elderly, taught our staff new songs and games for ministry, shared in church and with our staff, did art projects with Father’s House and neighborhood children, helped with Yay Phait’s birthday, attending a Sak Saum anti-trafficking seminar, and more!

Below are some photos from their outreach. And if you or your church group is interested in learning more about doing outreaches with IHSI, please click here!



How Far Does Love Go?

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As you may have seen last week in a prayer point on our Prayer Room page, for nearly six months IHSI/Sak Saum staff have been visiting a 9 year-old special needs girl in a nearby village. Though her name, Sokchea, means “healthy”, she has already survived so much: an attempted abortion, possible fetal alcohol syndrome, a botched medical procedure, flat head syndrome, and years of neglect and rejection. She has what appears to be cerebral palsy, and due to her family’s lack of education and fear she has lived her whole life being told she must lie still and not try to move. She never received therapy, adequate nutrition, or even kind words; in fact she would often hear her mother tell others just how much of a burden to the family she was.

Now, Sokchea has a new caregiver, and a new outlook on life thanks to daily visits by people who come to encourage her and help care for her. Simple things like bathing, sitting or drinking water pose difficulty for Sokchea. Despite the challenges, it has been so exciting to see her smiling with a sense of accomplishment after completing basic acts like moving her arms or legs to exercise. And even though she is currently non-verbal, she definitely is an opinionated and feisty little girl!

The years of neglect and rejection have taken their toll on Sokchea, but we believe that there is much more hope for her than her birth parents ever imagined. None of IHSI staff have any formal training in caring for special needs children, but as best we can have been trying to teach Sokchea simple stretches and exercises to improve her range of motion and strength. Despite our own limitations, we see a lot of positive growth in her ability to do basic motions that months ago she had little control over. Now she can even sit on someone’s lap and look around for a few minutes holding her own head up, which she had never done before.

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Our team of church volunteers has brought Sokchea to Sunday services several times, much to her excitement.  Even the short ride from her house to our campus seems to make her so happy. We envision someday being able to bring Sokchea to attend a soccer game, join Sunday School, or watch our annual kite flying contests! Surely it is God’s heart for her that she would become part of a community where she will be valued and included.

Small steps of progress and simple acts of love can add up to a big difference for someone like Sokchea. But she also has real physical needs that would be benefitted best by receiving professional care from a physical therapist or someone experienced in working with individuals who have cerebral palsy. We also are hoping to get her a retro-fitted wheelchair or one we can modify ourselves, because although Sokchea shows great interest in going outdoors and seeing new places, that is something which is difficult to facilitate currently.

We are hoping that as you read this blog post, you would start to dream with us on Sokchea’s behalf. Are you or someone you know a qualified physical therapist? Would you or they be able to spend some time, even just a few weeks, here with us in Cambodia as a volunteer working with Sokchea and training our staff in how to approach long-term therapy for her?

If that does not sound like you, what about helping to raise money for a wheelchair and/or exercise equipment? Your youth group, business, or circle of friends could find creative ways to help us broaden Sokchea’s horizons and give her a chance to experience more mobility and freedom than she has ever had.

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 How far does your love go? If this post has sparked something in you and you feel you could help Sokchea in any of the ways mentioned above, please go to http://ihsionline.org/connect/ and send us a message with the subject “Sokchea”. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

-IHSI