Hi! We are Matt and Emily Guenther. We are newlywed young adults who had the opportunity to be part of WEFC’s young adult trip to Phnom Penh Cambodia this spring. We would like to give you a bit more insight on what we experienced in those two weeks and how God worked in and through us there.
We are going to follow the format we used that we used for our debrief sessions on the trip. Each person on the team was challenged to share something:
- Broken - what is something we saw that broke our hearts?
- Beautiful - what is something that struck us as beautiful or Godly?
- Something that will really stick with us.
About halfway through our trip, our team had the opportunity to go for a prayer walk in a very spiritually dark place in Phnom Penh. This place was the Red Light District, and it was a time where we split into groups and were challenged with walking through the 4-5 blocks of the Red Light District in Phnom Penh. Going into this walk we expected that we wouldn’t be able to see that much physical evidence of sex trafficking and prostitution. As we typically think that it is an issue that is hidden and not very advertised. However Cambodia has some interesting laws about these issues, and we were very surprised with how advertised it actually was. It was incredibly sad to walk down the streets and see neon light signs garnering your attention, with rows of young woman in revealing outfits sitting below in the store front. It looked as if they were sitting in a line, just waiting, moving up spots until they were met by a man who would enter these outdoor bars/stores.
Seeing actual exchanges of money and young woman made it feel so much more real than anything we had ever heard about prostitution and it really broke our hearts. To see young woman the age of many of the people on our team or younger, sitting there waiting for mostly foreigners to come, make small talk with them, and then walk inside for the “exchange”. One of the most broken parts of this, was just how advertised and touristy they were making these streets feel. As mentioned, everything was so lit up as if there goal was to entice you to buy something like a store. Except it wasn’t an item these men were buying, but young woman.
We were really at a loss for words, and it was a very emotional experience for us and our whole team. We are very thankful that we got a chance to pray in these streets and pray for these woman being victimized, and for the men who have such a warped meaning of love in their minds. We know this will continue to break our hearts whenever we think about it, but it serves as a reminder to keep praying for them and that whole district in Phnom Penh. We know God is working there, and we pray to see that district become more and more diminished every day.
While in Cambodia we had the opportunity to build a house, well, and bathroom for a wonderful couple. They were in their late fifties/early sixties and had never had a proper house or a source of water of their own. The husband had a leg injury and was unable to work, and the wife worked full days collecting cow manure for the equivalent of 50 cents a day. The couple had a son, who passed away a few years ago. They never imagined their situation becoming better - never mind having Canadian young adults raise money and fly across the world to build them a new home. The build took three days of hard work in extremely hot weather, but was one of the most rewarding experiences we have ever had. When it came time to dedicate the house and hand over the keys there was a lot of emotion. The husband was speechless and wept, and the wife gave us many thanks. We were able to pray for them through a local missionary who translated. It was beautiful to be able to give the gift of hope to this couple, and share the love of Jesus with them. God saw this couple in their need and sent us to bless them.
We were also able to engage with lots of children from the village we were in. They would gather in the morning at the build site, looking on with curiosity. In time they ventured nearer to us and we were able to play with them; play catch, soccer, take instant camera photos with them, paint the girls’ nails, and braid their hair. Several of these kids were present at the dedication, and Melanie challenged them to take care of the couple receiving the house, as if these were their parents or grandparents.
3) Something that will stick with us
Matt- In Cambodia we met a lot of missionaries who were so incredibly inspiring, faithful, and loving. We saw amazing work done by so many, and it was such a blessing to see the work and progress that these missionaries had made doing God’s work in Cambodia. One couple that particularly stood out to me were Vandhi and Katina. They were a young married couple who had met at YWAM in Phnom Penh. The main thing that really stood out to me about them was their incredible faithfulness and trust they had in God. The way they demonstrated their trust in God by giving up so much to serve him was so inspiring.
One day we were at a village outside the main part of Phnom Penh and on a little break we took our tuk tuk’s to a piece of land that was only 25ftx50ft. We found out that this was going to be not only the couple’s new home, but also a English training facility. This was a huge leap of faith, as not only was it a very big financial decision, but they were moving quite far away from the area they had previously lived, and they were doing it to reach and unreached village. It was very amazing to hear how they were putting almost all their money and support that they raise into this new house/training facility. The trust and faithfulness that they demonstrated in our time there was inspiring, and it was amazing to hear their plan of building this new home/training facility and moving to a different area to minister to a new village. The way they act is truly the definition of putting your faith sand trust in God.
Emily- In the village Vandhi and Katina were working in, we got to hang out with some super fun kids, run a kids club, and do hair washing and lice treatment. I was in between hair washes when a lady ran out of her home holding a little baby girl. She plopped her in my arms and began speaking to me, but of course I didn’t understand. I motioned to the child’s head, then to the bucket of water and the shampoo in front of me, “Do you want me to wash her hair?”. The woman shook her head, I motioned for Vandhi to come and translate. He told me that the woman wanted me to pray for the baby girl, as she was very sick. Carli, Melanie, and a few others came over. They laid hands on the baby in my arms and we prayed for healing in Jesus’ name.
Later in the evening, as we were recalling the events of the day, Vandhi shared that that interaction earlier in the day was the very first time that someone in the village had come to ask for prayer. He said that before the family would have instead gone to a witch doctor practicing black magic to try and have the baby healed. I was extremely honoured to be part of that milestone in Vandhi and Katina’s ministry, and to be able to pray, and continue to pray, for that little girl.
Please continue to pray for the furthering of Gods work in Cambodia. He is truly doing amazing things.
~Matt & Emily Guenther