"Encourage one another and build each up… Up up up up up up up!" This childhood song came to mind as I thought about Cambodia and the reasons we ventured across the world to visit the beautiful people there in Phnom Penh. We have spent the last several months planning and praying that we would could be effective catalysts in bringing generous doses of encouragement to our partners and brothers and sisters in Christ on the other side of the globe.
Because of each of your prayers and support, we made it there and were able to connect with, give gifts, serve alongside of and pray with leaders from several different organizations as well as our partners, Precious Women. We are the body of Christ. There are many parts but one body. We live all over the world and we all play different roles in the family of God. What an honor it is to encourage one another and build each other up as we work towards knowing and sharing the love of Jesus.
A Little About Cambodia
Cambodia is a smaller East Asian country tucked inside of surrounding countries Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Buddhism rules as the main religious group. About 95% are called Theravada Buddhists which is the same type of Buddhism found in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. The poverty is blatant. The country is recovering from the tragedy of the Khmer Rouge, a genocide that resulted in the deaths of millions in the 1970’s. Cambodia is considered an unreached people group as less than 2% of the population have relationship with Jesus Christ.
Human Trafficking in Cambodia - There is a Great Need for Justice
Cambodia is a source, transit and destination country for trafficking with Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, being one of the main destinations for trafficked victims. Human trafficking is considered a crime in Cambodia, but nonetheless they have a significant child sex tourism problem. Reported traffickers are not just organized crime syndicates, but are parents, relatives, friends, intimate partners, and neighbors. A UNICEF survey indicates that 35% of Cambodia’s 15,000 prostitutes are children under the age of 16. We personally saw children begging on the streets or selling jewelry.
We were part of going to a local Beer Garden to interact with the women working there. Sometimes a brothel will be connected to the Beer Garden or Karaoke Bars. Girls who are uneducated, coming from impoverished families, and desperate for work of any kind to make some money are the most vulnerable to being trafficked through these different types of businesses. Labor trafficking is another major issue. Many children are not able to go to school. This makes them much more vulnerable to being trafficked. As more laws are put in place, more trafficking takes place as an underground business. This is similar to how trafficking takes place in the U.S. Money and demand fuels the fire of trafficking.
Hope in the Darkness
There are flickers of light that have been lit all over the country of Cambodia and all over the world. These lights are beacons of hope in the darkness. They have been lit through the body of Christ choosing to rise up and take action in partnership with the power of the Holy Spirit in overcoming the powers of evil at work in our world. Catalyst Ministries is one of these lights. It was lit by Julie Ryan five years ago when she decided to take a stand against the great injustice of human trafficking.
Catalyst is a three fold ministry impacting the community of Bloomington-Normal as they invest in single moms and their children, as they minister to women working in Massage Parlors, and as they work to bring restoration and freedom to women within their safe house, Catalyst Farms. Catalyst also holds a partnership with organizations in two different countries. Precious Women is the organization Catalyst partners with in Cambodia. The other partnership is in the Middle East.
BE the Catalyst
How can you be part of overcoming injustice and lighting a candle in the darkness? Jesus proclaimed this incredible truth and we as his body have been called to do the same and greater things in Jesus’ name. "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV). The Spirit of the Lord is on me. The Spirit of the Lord is on YOU. You have been anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and healing for the sick, and to set free those who are being oppressed!
You have the capacity to be a Catalyst as you partner with the body of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit along with Catalyst Ministries. This is as simple as investing in daily conversations with God as you listen to what steps he wants you to take to partner with what He is doing. That is how Catalyst was birthed. It was birthed through prayer. Each one of us has something in our hands that we can give. My challenge to myself and to each of you today is to ask Jesus what He has placed in your hands that you can use to set captives free. Then do not wait, go do it!
You can work together in community with others at Catalyst Ministries to help light a candle in the darkness—locally or in the developing world! For we are the body of Christ. We are here to encourage one another, and build each other up. We are here to bring justice, to reflect the image of the light of the world, and to be the catalyst! Thank you for partnering. Thank you for taking action through volunteering, giving, and praying alongside of us. Please check out our website for opportunities to make a difference with us. You can find us and get in touch at www.catalystministries.net Thank you for being part of bringing hope to the darkest places. Until all are free!