Sidewalks in the Sky [Jeff’s 1st Blog from Cambodia/Philippines]

04 Feb

Sidewalks in the Sky [Jeff’s 1st Blog from Cambodia/Philippines]

The high life in Phnom Penh: waterfront property with a great view

Dear Friends,

A sign should be posted, I thought, that warns those fearful of heights not to enter. I was walking into a riverfront slum, one in which every home was built on stilts—some very high stilts. Even the sidewalks that weaved through this collision of cobbled-together buildings were built on interconnected stilts that tied everything together in what seemed an uneasy truce with gravity. I didn’t want to look down, as it was impossible to avoid seeing the ground far below through the gaping gaps between boards—but if I didn’t, a slight misstep might seriously ruin my day!

I had come to visit Lighthouses—sanctuaries in the slum communities of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where children can come to receive love, hear about God’s love for them, and learn about the dangers of human traffickers who stalk poor communities like these in search of easy, desperate prey. They are places where relationships are formed, and kids receive attention they need. As the small ministry team makes their weekly visits, the children also see relationships between healthy adults—a rare occurrence in these communities—modeled before them on a regular basis.

Heaven’s Family is grateful to be working through the Human Trafficking/Slavery Fund to rent two of these “front-line” slum houses for a year, and I could see some of the early fruit already. Lighthouses are recognized by the children as a safe place. Adults look on with cautious acceptance, sensing that our presence there is good for their children and their community. As their hearts soften to our presence, we believe they will also soften to the message of the gospel. Pray with us that the children will be protected, and, long term, that the entire community will be transformed by Jesus’ love.

Below are some of the photos I took that tell the story…

At left, like one giant treehouse, children play on a ramp used to reach a floating home; at center, although this entire riverfront slum is built on stilts (except for a couple floating houses), I was told the lower homes still flood during the rainy season; at right, team members very carefully navigate the maze of springy, rough-board “sidewalks” that connect all the homes—some of which are more than 20-feet above the trash-carpeted ground below (not looking down as one walks could be fatal!)

At left, children excitedly line up at the door of this slum community’s Lighthouse; at center, a reverse angle, looking out from within the door in the left photo; at right, one of the many maze-like sidewalks—or perhaps more the equivalent of streets—that wind through the stilt community

At left, another riverfront slum community, only partially on stilts; at right, inside the most sturdy Lighthouse I visited (this one even had a tile floor!), where the children are seen during a brief lull in the chaotic action (the children are very excited when the team shows up each week to tell stories from the Bible and play games)

These delightful children showed up at the third Lighthouse I visited that day

At left, a girl down by the river; at right, a young man proudly displays his fresh marker-drawn tattoo

The boy at left with signs of likely abuse, left, and one of our team members hugging a woman she had just prayed with who had been recently beaten (she had fresh, open wounds and bruises on her face and arms covered with bruises), right. Signs of abuse are everywhere in Cambodia, especially among the poor. A large majority of adults over 30 suffer post-traumatic stress disorder from their experiences during the horrific reign of the Khmer Rouge in the late 70s (a period of time often aptly referred to as the Killing Fields), and subsequent political instability into the 80s and 90s. This trauma resulted in dysfunctional behaviors passed on to their children.

Above and below, just a few of the incredibly beautiful children of Cambodia

I plan to send another blog from Cambodia in the next couple days, and then from the Philippines during the second leg of my trip. I hope you stay tuned. Thanks again for helping protect children and bring change to minds and hearts in Cambodia.

Because of Him,

Jeff Trotter
Co-Director, Human Trafficking/Slavery Fund

Parting Shot: …loving the one

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