Dear friends and family,
This past year, my sabbatical was a time for listening more deeply to God’s voice. I learned more about trusting God as I let go of ministry roles and my community in Cambodia for 6 months and relied on God’s provision. God was gracious and provided comfortable places to stay in Seattle and a car to borrow through friends at BelPres. I also found someone to sublet my Cambodia apartment! Other sabbatical blessings were spending time in the church community (including singing with the choir), connecting with church partners and visiting Midwest friends and family.
I attended a prayer weekend and retreats facilitated by spiritual mentors in Seattle. The highlight was a week’s retreat on the Isle of Iona, Scotland (through the generosity of BelPres). Initially, finding solitude was difficult. However, God spoke to me of my need for community as well as for solitude and balancing the two. (E.g.: A group member provided a listening ear when a hymn reminded me of the loss I still felt over my father’s death two years ago. Exploring the beauty and history of the island, I finally found solitude.)
I also received confirmation that I’m still called on a journey to serve cross-culturally. As I sat in a quiet corner of the Abbey church, I glimpsed a sailboat in the harbor. St. Columba sailed from Ireland with a group of 12 in 563AD. Legend says they let the wind guide the boat. They landed on Iona where they established a Christian community, learned the local language, built relationships with the Picts* and Anglo-Saxons and shared the good news as far as Russia. I’m now certain that my call remains to walk alongside Cambodian young leaders.
Returning to Asia late July to attend our CRM staff Conference, I finalized my return to ministry with a 3-day DOVE retreat (a Cambodian organization). At the DOVE retreat, I was moved by the staff’s passion to develop young leaders to bring healing to Cambodia, and their willingness to make personal sacrifices for this vision. During the fall (2016), I continued to mentor staff and DOVE Onyx Leadership students.
The DOVE Onyx lessons draw young leaders into a deeper relationship with God, remove burdens and bring healing. As part of my call, I want to help develop more contextualized** spiritual formation resources in the Khmer language. The spiritual formation lessons were taught this year primarily by Cambodian staff and volunteers. Davy, a Kampong Cham Onyx student, is a divorced mother and a counselor for young women recovering from human trafficking. She said, “After the lessons, I found my personal spiritual character. We have our own way to come to the Lord, in a way that He created for us. Now I’ve unlocked myself from years of reluctant relationship with God and am feeling so free and joyful to go to Him.”
Pisey, a Phnom Penh Onyx student said, “It has healed my pain, hidden for a long time and gave me hope that God will never give up on me.”
Many young leaders have lived through traumatic experiences in the past. I’ve begun learning more about inner healing prayer. Starting in October, the Phnom Penh Onyx men and women met separately for 4 lessons about healing processes. I enjoyed revising and helping facilitate the Women’s lessons together with “F,” a Thai missionary, fluent in Khmer and gifted at inner healing prayer. One of the 2013 leadership alumni (an amazing, resilient Cambodian woman) volunteered to help with the final Women’s lesson in November. It was powerful as the young women received healing and saw themselves as beautiful and loved by God. I’ve also continued to learn from a former teammate, who moved to the US the summer of 2016.
This month (January), I continue to learn about peace building through an online course using reflection to determine how each person can use their talents advocating for justice and peace. I’m dismayed at the hatred and fear openly displayed in many countries. I’ve mourned at the violence in conflicts around the world. I am appalled that some have raised the unjust WWII internment of Japanese-Americans as a precedent for how to treat neighbors we mistrust.
In November, I went to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum with the Onyx students for a Khmer church history lesson. I felt a swirl of emotions: the weight of suffering by victims and survivors of the Khmer Rouge; the hope of these young leaders wanting transformation in their society and a personal strong determination. I came away asking, “What more can I do so hate and fear don’t win? “
In December, I was reminded that the birth of Jesus means there is light in the darkness. On Dec. 10th, I joined a few Onyx students for the International Human Rights Day celebration in Phnom Penh. After initial resistance, authorities allowed about 1,000 people to gather publicly in support of freedom of assembly and of speech. Riot shields were laid down. We met several young Cambodian Christian leaders serving as human rights observers and as a light in the darkness of injustice.
For 2017, I pray your burdens of the past are removed and you experience the light that dispels darkness.
*Picts-a tribal confederation of peoples, living in eastern and northern Scotland during the Late Iron Age and Early Medieval periods, thought to have been ethnolinguistically Celtic
**Learning takes place when teachers present information in a way that students are able to construct meaning based on their own experiences.
Lynn Ogata will be at BelPres to speak about social issues in Cambodia on Sunday, June 4, 12:15 pm UC-105 .