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

Looking Back

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At the start of a new year, it’s always good to revisit the previous year’s highlights and lessons learned. Through highs and lows, challenges and changes, the faithfulness of God is always evident! And for IHSI in 2013, we experienced many challenges and changes indeed. Several staff members went through the loss of loved ones, meanwhile many in Sak Saum brought beautiful new children into the world. Traffic accidents and health scares tried to steal joy and instill fear, but instead we are walking in peace and blessing. Political upheaval in the region has continued for many months, yet through it all God has protected each person in our care.

It’s hard to know where to begin when recapping an entire year, but below are a few of the many things that God has been doing in our church, Father’s House, and international ministry!

Gospel Community Church Saang

  • This has been a fruitful year for the church, with many new believers, a baptism, a baby dedication, a new Sunday School class, and lots of empowering opportunities for young people in the church to develop service and leadership skills. Building families and equipping young people for ministry are an important calling of the church!
  • Our staff organized not only a boys’ soccer team in the spring, but also a young women’s volleyball team at the end of the year. In addition to holding practices and playing games, both our teams have discipleship meetings and are involved in church ministries as part of their team-building activities. It’s a great way to grow each team member individually as well as build camaraderie in the community!
  • We are becoming a hub for helping smaller rural churches that do not have much support. Bibles, devotionals, books and audio Bibles from Messengers International have all been distributed to the Body of Christ in our area. During rainy season we collaborated with several churches to find families and widows in need of emergency relief, preparing and distributing 25 care packages with food and other supplies. We also provided training space for Operation Christmas Child to train  30 churches for their shoebox gift program!
  • Fulfilling one of last year’s church goals, we started a monthly group for married men to fellowship together, pray, and encourage each other.
  • GCCS staff and members of Sak Saum did repair work on several homes of elderly church members this year, as well as coordinating visitation to elderly and sick people in the area. We also donated food staples, clothing, hygiene supplies, and other items to those in need.
  • We held many events this year, including seminars, educational programs, a church barbecue, a free health clinic at three locations with a visiting medical team, educational, youth fellowship gatherings, our yearly Children’s Christmas Program for almost 400 children and a beautiful Christmas service for the congregation.

Father’s House

  • An exciting new partnership with Mission Community Church in Gilbert, AZ has allowed us to enroll Father’s House kids in a private school, a great step up from the school they had been attending and an answer to prayer! They are still adjusting to the newer, more challenging learning environment, but we are confident that this will be of great long-term benefit to each of them.
  • In addition to starting the kids in a new school, we were blessed to be able to trade in the Father’s House car for a van! This is great not only for transporting them back and forth to school, but for bringing the soccer and volleyball teams to games, transporting church members, and doing outreach.
  • In November we welcomed our newest child into Father’s House. Makara is a sweet boy who just this week made the decision to become a Christian. He loves coloring, art projects, singing and dancing, and playing soccer. Although he has some catching up to do academically and socially, we already see growth in leaps and bounds!
  • All Father’s House children are active in the church according to their abilities and personalities: helping with ushering, worship, children’s outreaches, Sunday School, visiting the sick, and being a part of church events. Several of them show great leadership potential, and many of them say their future life plans include wanting to be in ministry and help others like they have been helped! We are thankful for them and can see exciting things ahead for each one.
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International Ministry and Teams

  • In the fall the Hansons completed a whirlwind tour across the U.S., teaching at churches and colleges, meeting ministry partners, sharing the vision of IHSI, and doing fundraising work. This trip was very fruitful in terms of building relationship with new partners, and we believe that there will be more traveling of this nature in the future as God allows! To contact the Hansons for booking information, please email them at erich@ihsionline.org | ginnyh@ihsionline.org.

 

  • In 2013 we hosted many outreach teams, short-term volunteers, and visitors from all over the United States, as well as Russia and Australia. A few highlights of their visits included:
  • Children’s ministry at our Center and at other area churches
  • Dramas/songs/teachings at church services
  • A YWAM medical outreach with free clinics at three locations
  • Prayer ministry/teaching
  • Maintenance/service projects
  •  Visiting the elderly and the sick
  • Games and activities with local children
  • Constructing a playground at our Center
  • Human trafficking awareness seminars
  • Sak Saum English practice and relationship-building
  • Helping teach Center English classes
  • Attending women’s group and overnight stays with Sak Saum
  • Outings/educational activities with Fathers’ House and Loaves and Fish children

 

What has the Lord done in your life in the past year? What prayers has he answered and how did he demonstrate his faithfulness to you personally? Feel free to comment below, and tune in again soon for our next post, to hear about some of the exciting things in store for 2014!

-       In His Steps

Baptising Believers

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them

 in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...”

Matthew 28:19

As a church and a ministry, this past weekend was one of much joy and celebration! Staff, volunteers and church members all joined together at a poolside in Phnom Penh for a time of worship, testimonies, and a public declaration of faith through the water baptism of new believers. In our midst were elderly ladies, men and women from the Sak Saum, teenagers from our youth group, and one of the children of Father's House: a gathering that without God would have very little in common but that in Christ has formed a family and community!

It was so encouraging to see Christians young and old embracing the transforming new life they have been given, and sharing with others what God has done in their hearts. From testimonies of a newfound love for other others and being set free from destructive behaviors, to the witness of watching someone who once almost drowned and had held a lifelong fear of water overcoming that fear, the day was a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness and steadfast commitment to His creation, always with their good in mind.

We hope that as you look at the photos below, you would be encouraged by the work that only God can do!

Reaching Young Men

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Anyone who has done missions work in Cambodia knows that young men are a difficult demographic to reach. There is a void in the lives of many who have lost fathers to war and sickness, or who have been abandoned by parents and are spiritually orphaned. Without role models and positive mentors, boys grow up without learning what it means to be be husbands and fathers, how to respond to life's challenges, or how to think and plan strategically to care for their families. Discipline, teamwork, grace in the face of failure - these are traits that are not acquired for lack of an environment that values them.

One of the ways that In His Steps is compensating for this problem is by providing an outlet where young men can practice teamwork, grow in discipline, and learn good sportsmanship: our Gospel Community Church Saang soccer team! When paired with our ongoing Boys to Men group, the team is a great way to draw youth towards positive challenges and growth, both on and off the field. It is a venue not only for developing physical ability, but for discipleship and community-building.

Our team attending a sports seminar organized by the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia.

Our team attending a sports seminar organized by the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia.

Our team is made up of beginners, but already this season they have distinguished themselves with their practice ethic, fitness, and good attitudes, as well as many wins in the games they have played so far. They even placed second in a local tournament last month! We are so proud of each team member, not because of tallying wins and losses but because we see them working together, encouraging others, and doing their best. The lessons they are learning will prove valuable no matter where life leads them!

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Other Updates

  • Please keep founder/director Eric in your prayers as he and Ginny return to Thailand for several days next week for a follow-up check of his heart related to the emergency procedure he had in June.
  • Staff member Rhiannon has returned to Cambodia and is now in the process of readjusting to life and ministry while continuing her recovery. Please continue to keep her in prayer! 
  • Thank you for your continued intercession regarding Cambodia's election last week. There are still many concerns (read an insightful overview of the current situation here), but God is faithful and we are thankful that for the most part things are reasonably calm.

- In His Steps

Dedication Day

Baby Dedication

Throughout Scripture, the family unit is described as a sacred institution, to be honored, supported, and defended. Though we see much brokenness and decay in the world around us, the Body of Christ should be a place where family is not only welcomed, but built up and strengthened.

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Recently, parents at Gospel Community Church Saang took an important step in building their families on a strong foundation: dedicating a total of 9 infants and children to the Lord. Mothers, fathers, guardians and the congregation committed to help raise them according to Biblical principles, and to provide encouragement and support for each one on their journey to a personal relationship with God.

We feel so privileged to be a part of the work God is doing in each of families that dedicated children to Him, and look forward to ushering many more into the Kingdom in due time. What He begins, He is faithful to bring to completion!

Other News

As those of you who follow our Facebook page already know, staff member Rhiannon was injured in a moto accident last week and is now recovering from a broken scapula and brain contussion at a hospital in Bangkok. God has been very faithful in many ways throughout this situation. Please continue to keep Rhiannon in your prayers!

-In His Steps