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A Letter From Joyce Ting

Dear Family,
I sincerely hope everything is going well with you all back home. Sorry for disappearing for a while... I confessed to a friend recently that the longer I am here the bigger Cambodia becomes and the smaller and smaller the rest of the world. Last month marked one year for me and I think closing in on this length of time helped identify a transformation in my perspective on life here. Sometimes... most of the time... the difficult, tragic, heartbreaking things entirely outnumber and overpower the things that are good. I've become much more accustomed to how things operate in this culture, my organization, the community we serve, the projects we do. And where I originally was curious, intimidated, to learn how things worked, I now understand it enough to be more cynical and discouraged by it all. For those reasons it's been difficult to share lately because I don't want everything to come across negatively. Maybe the best place to be is looking back on situations and being able to share how Jesus came through and the valuable lessons I learned from it. But I feel like I'm perpetually camped out in the lesson learning corner, and I haven't been in a place of confidence in a long while.

So I decided I'm going to share with you an abundance of praises. Hopefully that will act as an encouragement to you, and secretly, selfishly, I hope it will be for myself as well. I have this suspicion that a lot more good things happen regularly than I choose to see, I just need to make an intentional effort to see them.

Do you remember I told you about the new retail store project I took on at the beginning of the year? As things progressed it became pretty obvious we were talking about two distinct roles... operation side and production side. We hired another girl (who worked previously with another local organization) to take on operation side, which works wonderfully because she is also one of my best friends here. So many dates and deadlines have passed, to the point that I'm nervous to plan more than a couple weeks at a time. Most delays are caused by things we cannot control, such as the landlord making us meet up with him a total of 6 times before he actually had the completed contract. And when we started demolition we discovered one wall was made of particle board and rain water started pouring out of it. But we have a location. And we've started demolition. We have been making such wonderful progress in all areas, including partnerships with people in the States who have chosen to give us a POS system for free, and I finally put together an order for our initial inventory. We've worked the store into our production schedule and our first 1,000 shirts are slated for completion middle of June. I CAN'T WAIT!

Over the last couple weekends we celebrated two weddings... one of the girls at our employment center married one of the music directors at the church, and one of the girls at our restoration center married the man who runs our gym ministry. Everyone dressed up, we ate Khmer food, we threw flower petals, we danced around fruit tables. It was such a fun time of celebrating with the couples and also hundreds of people from their families, the community, church, within the organization, former team members who had visited, other NGO's. My favorite part is knowing what Godly, solid men our girls are marrying. With broken, abusive marriages largely the norm here, how incredible is it to know these two young ladies have been rescued and restored and have found men who love the Lord and value them the way they deserve.

Khmer New Year happened in the middle of April. It is one of the biggest holidays here, next to the King's Birthday this month, and we were able to take off a whole week of work for it. Four of us took a trip to Vietnam, hitting up four major cities spread around the country. It makes me laugh because we traveled by plane, train, boat, bus, motorcycle, ferry, bicycle and car, just like Green Eggs and Ham. :) You know what I said earlier about Cambodia becoming bigger and the rest of the world becoming small? It helped immensely to get out for a bit. It was very easy comparing Vietnam to Cambodia because they are the same kind of SE Asia, only Vietnam doesn't have garbage strewn on every street and their government is so much less corrupt and their people have so much pride in their nation and we got progressively more judgmental of Phnom Penh the more we realized what we had gotten used to isn't actually normal everywhere else. So I was surprised how incredibly relieved I felt as we crossed the border back into Cambodia and things got progressively more familiar. We all looked at each other, laughed and said "It's good to be home." This city is not the greatest vacation spot but the people are beautiful and generous and they are our family and I love it.

Our investigation team recently signed their MOU with the government and have made several arrests already. It's been very helpful having their official government capacity and experience because they considerably broaden our options when we encounter trafficking situations. Sometimes it is our own girls being resold by their parents, sometimes a sister or a cousin we're tipped off to who is trapped in a brothel, sometimes one of the little ones at our school being sold in the community. There are more stories and lives than we're able to defend right now but the prayer is for our reach and capacity to grow. They have also been frequenting KTVs in the area and following leads on foreign pedophiles. One of the latest arrests resulted in the newest little one at our restoration home, a tiny 4 year old. It was very difficult at first and she spent much of her time sitting quietly, with silent tears rolling down her face. But she is blossoming and getting to know the other girls and actually has quite the penchant for hugs. :)

The other night I was meeting up with a friend for dinner on the riverfront when I got a call from our lead investigator. We had gotten a report of a known trafficker leaving Svay Pak towards the city with three children under 10 who were not her own. It was a Sunday evening so the rest of the team wasn't in the vicinity to track them in time. Our investigator had heard we were on the river and asked us to be on the lookout for them and follow if possible. It killed me thinking of those three little ones being delivered that night with no problem, and we looked out for a good half hour before it became evident they had turned off early. It really throws me sometimes, the reality of what happens in this country and of our lives here. We spent the rest of dinner processing and trying to work through God's role in all this. I'm not remotely close to being able to resolve it in my heart or mind but I think that is the struggle in knowing.

So all that to say, there is an incredible lot of things happening here. Thank you for sticking with me on this insane journey and for your willingness to be a part of all this.

Much love,
Joyce