“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it… And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
MARK 4:3-4, 8-9
Whatever it takes for as long as it takes to restore a broken life
THE HAGAR MISSION
Seated there waiting for our breakfast, the veranda café of the Anise Hotel was filled with the animated chatter of church family when Pearly paused. I followed her gaze: A tiny old lady with a bulging China bag slung over her shoulder trudged into sight, stopped, glanced about warily and then lowered slowly, until she was finally hidden by tall plants along the hotel’s porch. From her bag, she drew out long swathes of cloth.
“Hang on,” murmured Pearly, rising from the table and moving to the porch. A young boy I recognised as hotel staff approached them, but rather than chasing the vendor off, I realised he was acting as translator. Soon, Pearly was paying for a length of checkered fabric and returning with a smile, leaving a small group of tourists who had drawn to the woman after her.
This is the story of Hagar, of women and children living at the dangerous junction of Phnom Penh’s traffic, and of people who reach out to make a difference. But of course, it’s not quite so innocent. In this once-French colony, bustling with clanking tuktuks and glamorous expatriate bars, locals are often seen with frank faces and friendly smiles. But as the tale of Hagar’s clients show, those who are invisible are society’s greatest victims: Boys repeatedly sold by their families to syndicates to beg in Thailand because their disabilities made them otherwise useless. Girls violated by male relatives because of the belief that intercourse with a virgin would boost a man’s vitality. Men held in unspeakable conditions on a fishing vessel for years until many died, never seeing land and whose families never received the promised money. Every story was unique, painful and stark.
For four days from 21-24 Aug, the team from WRPF – Pastor Kenny, Elder Paul, their wives Jenny and Miriam, sisters Molly and Lily, Abe Sim, Emily Leo, Pearly Tan, Joel Mo and I – had the privilege to walk alongside Hagar Singapore’s team – Executive Director Michael Chiam, his wife Lynette, staff-volunteer Camy Low and Chairman of the Board, Jimson Cheng – as we witnessed Hagar’s work in Cambodia.
Right from the beginning, I wondered at the greatness of our God. More than twenty years ago, Pastor Kenny, uncle Paul and uncle Abe had met the founder of Hagar, Pierre Tami, when he preached at a WRPF youth camp. Pierre had shared that he felt led by God to reach out to Cambodia, and in particular to reach out to victims of human rights violations. The three men – with as little as they had – responded that they would raise the seed money for a shelter.
Thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold later, Hagar has offices in 10 nations, and provides programming in Cambodia, Vietnam and Afghanistan. This is known as The Whole Journey – Hagar’s term for the full recovery of these victims and their reinstatement into mainstream society – comprising protection, recovery, economic empowerment, reintegration and societal change. It was to this long, often heartbreaking, but, ultimately rewarding journey to which we bore witness to through the eyes of Hagar staff, foster families and survivors.
We met Hagar’s former clients who had been inducted into Hagar’s care as children, been through the Whole Journey and are now adults with a passion to contribute back to society. Visits to social initiatives affiliated to the organisation, such as Hagar Catering Restaurant and Joma Bakery, showed hosts of young, bright-faced adults cheerfully taking orders and cashiers – we later learned that many were Hagar clients; Meeting Pierre himself and most touchingly, visiting two foster families on the outskirts of Phnom Penh who raised clients alongside their own children. To see the dedication of each one of these people was more beautiful than the monuments at which wide-eyed tourists gawked. Often too, our hearts were warmed by stories of many who had come to faith through the persistent love of Christian volunteers and foster parents.
So as I sit here, thinking back of the children’s faces in Hagar’s Community Learning Centre compound, of the four shy teenagers standing behind their foster parents, of the smiles on Pastor Kenny, uncle Paul and uncle Abe’s faces that merely whispered of the fullness of their hearts, I realise how far I have to go, and how much I have to do. But I also gain strength from this dream that someday, this little that we now sow will be fruit in God’s vineyard. To always desire to stretch out our hands to the invisible with God’s heart for the broken.
Reflection by Millicent Chen, member of World Revival Prayer Fellowship. The Church amongst a few other institutions provided the first seed money that was needed to start the work of Hagar in Cambodia in 1994. They had also put their hand into building the very first shelter for Hagar Cambodia. Now, after more than 20 years, they revisited the work that they helped to start, and are left in awe of the progress enabled by God and committed partners and donors all these years.
This partnership is one that Hagar is grateful for and hopes to continue growing as we embark on a new era with the refreshing of our vision for the work in assisting vulnerable women and children who are mistreated and abused through trafficking, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation.
If your church or company has a social community programme and would like to explore possible collaborations, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org