by Renee Burkhalter

Places all over the world have reputations—some good, some bad—some well known, others not so well known.  Google “city of love” and you’ll find Paris.  Google “windy city” and you’ll find Chicago.  Google “child sex trafficking” and you’ll find Svay Pak, Cambodia.  It’s an international reputation Svay Pak deserves.  This village of abject poverty 11 km outside of Phnom Penh is a place where hundreds of young girls are trafficked each year, many by their own family.  But reputations can be changed.

About 18 months ago a church was planted in Svay Pak at Rahab’s House, a former brothel turned community center.  The mission of the church was to bring the unconditional love of Jesus to the village through ministries designed to meet educational and healthcare needs as well as spiritual needs.  In doing so, it was hoped relationships would be built that would bring heart transformation and an end to child sex trafficking.  Slowly relationships were built and today over 300 villagers are attending the church’s weekly services, including 177 adults.  The average adult church member earns $1.25 per day.

Last Sunday during church services the pastor shared about the disaster in Haiti, including showing photographs of the devastation.  As the church heard his words and saw the photographs, a very counter-cultural thing happened—they openly wept.  Then they committed to pray for the people of Haiti, and as they left church one person after another dropped money in a basket to be sent to help the people of Haiti.

The offering for Haiti totaled $52.44.  We might be tempted to say, “Isn’t that sweet.” But it’s far more than that, it’s miraculous.  It’s miraculous that people who struggle to get by on a $1.25 a day would so willingly sacrifice to help others a world away from them.  And from a worldly perspective an offering of $52.44 might be considered insignificant, not so from God’s.

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting

their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also

saw a poor widow put in two very small

copper coins.  “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this

poor widow has put in more than all the

others.  All these people gave their gifts out of

their wealth; but she out of her poverty

put in all she had to live on.

Luke 21:1-4 NIV

 So, should the reputation of Svay Pak be changed?  Not yet. There’s a long ways to go, but the embers of change are glowing.