… playing volley ball …

I was very queasy on that Friday morning.  I chose to stay in the hotel and slept right through the entire morning.  I found it such a waste to sleep when I flew for 24 hours to come to Cambodia but spent almost 9 hours sleeping away.  I wanted to go out and smell the heat and greet the people.  Yet my body would rather sleep and my eyelids were heavy with the pulling of gravity.  I was alone in the hotel room with all the lights staying on.  I still felt a bit uneasy to be alone in the hotel.  Who knows what had had happened in that hotel room?  Yet I praise God for my room-mates who made it an utmost priority to pray over each corner and door frame and even the painting hung across from our beds, we prayed against any demonic forces and bound them in the name of Jesus so that nothing of darkness would have the audacity to disturb that room and space for we claimed that room and space under the jurisdiction of our Lord Jesus.  I slept all the way to 11:30am and finally my phone rang, it was Beth at the end of the phone line.

“How are you feeling, Jessika?  Do you think you are ready to come with us to Newsong Center?”  (PS. Newsong is a high security, long term after care facility where the girls once rescued from the brothels will begin their journey of healing as they go through intensive counselling, have their first taste of a ‘normal’ life, begin their first experiences of going to school, and learning to cope with all the trauma they have endured.)

“I think I am okay though I still feel very queasy and a bit nauseous.” I answered hesitantly. “Jessika, you are a mama, what would you advise Heather in this situation?

“Umm, I would advise Heather to stay home, but I am Jessika, something rebellious in me is telling me to get out of the hotel and just go.  So, Beth, I am going with you.”  I answered with a surge of confidence.

An hour later, I was walking around Newsong Center with the same queasiness in my stomach.  I found a chair to sit on whenever possible when Samol (Newsong Center Director) and Sisrat (Assistant Director) were talking and giving us a tour around the classrooms and bedrooms where the girls have activities.  I sat on one of the chairs listening quietly and also fighting the urge of throwing up in that scorching heat.  The classrooms were all located on the rooftop where the heat directly seeped through the cracks and heat up the entire classroom. Finally after the tour, we walked back out near the front entrance and saw 30+ girls gathering around the front yard. They were about to have a volley ball match.  They named themselves “Mango Team” and “Apple Team”.  Those who weren’t playing were being assigned to be the cheerleaders.  Oh, how loud they were when they cheered for their team.  APPLE-SOL-SOL!!  MANGO-SOL-SOL!!  They waved their leaf branch with fierce and energy, they jumped and cheered with confidence and assertion. They didn’t care the sun was burning, the temperature was rising, they stood right under the sunbeam and all I could see was the beautiful images of God who rescued, redeemed and restored them.

We sat there for about 15 minutes, and apparently the girls were inviting our team to play against theirs.  The somewhat rebellious fiber of me wanted so badly to jump right out to the court.  Beth looked at me, “are you sure with all your queasiness?”  I was not sure, but I thought to myself, I am here in the Newsong Center, sitting under the shade of the tree??  No way.  I looked at Sarah Surh who looked at me, “Jessy, just go!”.

Well, there I was standing with my team, we huddled like we really take this game very seriously.  We even prayed to Jesus that we should WIN.  There I was standing under the scorching sun waiting the ball to be served from the girls’ team.  I know I was standing and living in a dream.  I was standing in the courtyard of Newsong Center for which we prayed, we donated to, we cried over many girls’ stories, here I was standing, still standing, looking at the volley ball, unmoved, deciding to allow my eyes to drink them all in.  Each of them stood across from me in such confidence, poised, energetic, working together as a team.  One face caught my attention.  I saw her on the previous Sunday at the Sanctuary in Svay Pak.  She was one of the two girls who first went back to Svay Pak after her  rehabilitation stay in Newsong.  It was her first time back to Svay Pak where she was sold to sex traffickers.  On that Sunday, she was there singing with her housemom and another girl.  She has very very long hair.  When she was singing, her fingers were resting on the pink bow on her messenger bag.  There was a shield of shyness, yet when she sang, she looked right into my eyes, then dashed her sights across the entire 2nd floor of the Sanctuary.

Only 5 days after my first attention paid to this one girl, B, there she was standing and guarding the net with strong and firm grip of the ground.  There she was eyeing every ball served and came her way.  There she was slapping the ball and hitting on our side.  There she was giving her team-mates high 5 when we expectedly and totally lost our ground when Stephen didn’t even have a pair of proper shoe (who would play volley ball in socks only?)  Yet one of the girls who came to him and gave her pair of Crocs to Stephen so he would not trip over every time he tried to save the ball off the ground.

I looked fiercely towards the sun.  It was hot, however my heart was even more so, my heart was on fire, for I was standing across this troop of beautiful girls who now found their identities as the daughters of the King of the universe.  They found joy and strength.  They received care and love.  They pride themselves no longer a sexual commodity, but a priceless jewel in the eyes of their heavenly Father.

There I was standing and trying my best to serve the ball, (how I love my arms were all reddened by every hit), our team lost at the end.  I walked across the net and made sure Bopha saw me approaching her.  I held up my high 5 waiting for a return from her.  Ouch!!  She gave me the most fierce high 5 I have ever had in my entire life.  I can feel the burn on my palm once she hit it.  Yet I enjoyed it as it rightly coupled with my heart also on fire for these girls, a heart also set on fire for my King Lord Jesus who brought us here witnessing His redemptive love.

And the last thing I noticed was that all my queasiness were long gone.  What queasiness?  What nausea??  Phew!!

Isaiah 61:3 “to  bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

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