Celebrate Recovery – Cambodia 2016

In the fall of 2014, CrossRoads Church Celebrate Recovery group hosted a networking meeting for other groups in Western Canada to attend. One of Celebrate Recovery’s Canadian Directors ( Deb ) from southern Ontario attended to speak in several sessions.  (It was our pleasure to host all those that attended, and we hope to do it again soon ).   Shortly thereafter, Lois, the CrossRoads Celebrate Recovery ministry leader received an inquiry as to whether she and her husband, Dwight, would be willing to join Deb in introducing the Celebrate Recovery program to Cambodia. Dwight and Lois were indeed willing and that trip took place in the spring of 2015, presenting training sessions to approximately 60 church leaders and local NGO staff over 2 sets of training sessions.

In the fall of 2015, CrossRoads Celebrate  Recovery was again requested by Celebrate Recovery Canada and the Cambodian NGO that hosted the event, to return for follow-up training for previous attendees, and to introduce the program to a new group of church leaders.  Shown here, preparing to depart Vancouver, is our team, Dwight, Lois and Bobbi, all from CrossRoads CR, along with Kellea from Forward Church CR, in Ontario.


What practical purpose will Celebrate Recovery serve in Cambodia you may ask. Cambodia is a small country that was rocked by a civil war and genocide in the 1970’s.  The internal death toll was 5 – 10 times that of what we hear happening in war zones today.  This has resulted in a form of post traumatic stress with emotional consequences that have affected 2 subsequent generations. There are many, many ways in which the gentle process of the Celebrate Recovery program can bless the Cambodian people.

From feedback we’ve received, our first trip in 2015 has already resulted in 400 people being touched by Celebrate Recovery, offering healing for emotional scarring and beginning to change lives.

3 After a grueling itinerary separating us from Alberta by 14 time zones, we reached our destination in February 2016. Here is Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia as the sun sets. It looks very modern, from a distance, but don’t let that fool you. There is an abundance of poverty living between new buildings under construction. Some buildings we were told, are stuck in mid construction, because builders ran out of money.  Around the city there is an abundance of new industrial complexes being built, much of it for lease.  We guessed they were being built on speculation.  From what we were told wealthy individuals from other Asian countries own many of the businesses in Cambodia. The Cambodian people themselves are still recovering from the genocide that destroyed their families, their culture, their economy and their country between 1975 and 1979.

Our host NGO in Cambodia was “Prison Fellowship Cambodia” (PFC).   They work from small and very modest facilities accomplishing great things.  These are great people, working hard to care for 800 children of prisoners (inmates) around their country.  (They could use more support).  They also provide additional food to prisons to supplement the meager rations supplied to inmates by the Institutions.  In so doing they have earned the trust of the Institutions and are allowed to offer vocational training to prisoners to equip them with a skill of some sort when they are released. Possession or selling of drugs there can net a person a 20-25 year sentence. Conditions are not very comfortable in Cambodian prisons. Children of prisoners,  if very young, may serve time inside a prison with their mothers.  Those children fortunate enough to be cared for by others on the outside, are usually considered ‘bad luck’ and may be ostracized in their community.   Prison Fellowship Cambodia offers counsel and support to tiny Christian churches around the country to locate, care for and monitor these at-risk children.

Donations that were raised in Canada and the U.S prior to this trip helped pay for Cambodian church pastors and leaders to travel to these sessions.  Bus fare, accommodation and meals for the attendees – all are paid by our team’s personal contributions and donations from caring people.  Otherwise those Cambodian church leaders outside the capital could never afford to attend.

The average wage in the country is $2 a day …. some make more, some less.  But you can imagine that on that wage,  it’s hard to get around much when they pay the same price for gasoline that we do !!

We spent much of the day prior to each of our training sessions preparing the facilities, planning and adjusting our agenda as needed, to be applicable, and then reviewing our individual lessons.  The room offered pretty tight quarters but we managed.2

The training sessions were 2 days each.  That’s 2 days of sessions, breaks, more sessions, lunch, breakout practice sessions, all being interpreted back and forth between English and Khmai. You get the idea !!  🙂

The day following the training sessions was usually a debriefing time to evaluate the involvement and response from the attendees.  PFC will continue to connect with and encourage the attendees in our absence.

Bobbi and Kellea did a great job, especially considering it was their first time ever doing this type of outreach, and then having to do it through interpreters, which adds to the complexity of the event.

Although Dwight, Lois and Kellea had been before, we wanted to take Bobbi to the Killing Fields memorial so she could more fully comprehend what this country has suffered through.  ( likely none of us can come close to comprehending it … but we try ).

This is only 1 of 200 to 300 ‘killing’ locations where Pol Pot and his regime exterminated anyone they thought a threat.  Those with education, professionals, doctors, lawyers, etc.  If you wore eye glasses, you probably didn’t live long.   Infants beaten against a tree.  Adults killed in many horrific, but ‘inexpensive’ ways.  😦

Pits served as mass graves and were approx 15 feet deep … though they are mostly silted in with shifting sand now.


10,000 people died in this one place alone.  Men, women, children … even a large number of the rebel soldiers were not immune from accusation and subsequent death.  (1.5 – 3.0 million in all at various places around the country).

Ok, enough sad stuff … on to better thoughts and memories.

These boys were playing in some ponds out behind the Killing Fields memorial.  They were covered up to their necks in mud in one pond.  Boys will be boys … anywhere, I guess !  🙂


Then, they rinsed off and were working with some kind of fish net or some such where you see them here.

Our Tuk Tuk ( pronounced ‘Took Took’ ) is a carriage pulled by a motorcycle.  It is reliable and inexpensive transportation.  Even on a hot day ( 34 C, in this cooler season ), the breeze blowing by cooled us. This day, our driver had his son at work with him. We were 3 hours at the Killing Fields memorial and he waited that entire time for us.  We dropped the little fellow off at home on the way back into town, though. “Mom” came to meet him at the end of their lane/alley.


Traffic in Phnom Penh can be challenging.  But the locals seem to maneuver it with ease (and patience).  We ran into rush hour on the way back … with a bit of a traffic jam at one intersection. “Motos” squeezed past our Tuk Tuk, and we, in turn, squeezed past vehicles.  We got a lot of exhaust in our faces that time …. !! Eventually we wormed our way through into less congested areas.


Our 2nd training location was a 5-6 hour drive from the capital. February is nearing the end of the dry season. Things didn’t look very lush in the country side, and won’t until the rains come later. This is a sample of the countryside on our way there.


Our new training location is to be at a Bible School which happens to be directed by a North Korean Minister, who is teaching Cambodian youth. Former graduates come back to teach pre-school and young grades. It is a nice place with lots of potential, though it is not quite finished yet. There is likely a shortage of funds to finish it.


Since the weather is nice, the windows were mostly just bars to keep out looters. It didn’t always work as we heard that small children would be used by thieves to squeeze through the bars.

There was no air conditioning here, so we welcomed any breeze that blew through.  Lois is doing this session with help from our main interpreter, Phanna  ( pronounced “Panna” ).


We had 6 of the school’s seniors join us for the training.  They were preparing to become pastors or ministry leaders around the country.  Lois said that one of the young female students did a perfect job when she had opportunity to practice what she had learned about facilitating a ladies group.

At the end of the 2nd day … Certificate time…


and group photos.


Certificates for training sessions are very significant to small church leaders, and are prized.

Following our 2nd training session Dwight said that the best part of the trip for him was… getting to spend some individual time with 2 of our training participants.

The first young man picked me up on his moto and we went to his house. This young pastor serves a small church of around 30 people, and works as an English teacher part time and holds a 3rd job to support his family.  His oldest son is in grade 1 or 2, the younger two sons will go to school when he is able to save enough to also send them to a good school.

He then took me to the far side of his small city to visit another attendee of the CR training, a Pastor-mentor of his who lived on a little acreage.  These 2 pastors are planning on using the CR material together in a joint effort in their community.  I got to ask about their lives, the local area, their ministries, and simply enjoy their fellowship.  One 24 inch fluorescent tube lit the main room.  So this is how it appeared as we visited while darkness fell.  What a sweet family !  🙂


The people we met and worked with in Cambodia are incredible. They love their country and want to serve their people. Please lift them up in your prayers. They need God’s wisdom, protection, and provision.

And finally … we were in transit on our way home. We could hardly wait to get to our own routines, our own beds, AND cooler temperatures.


Thank you again for the blessing of your prayers and assistance in making this happen.

Please keep in mind that several future trips are needed to continue equipping key Cambodian ministry leaders in the Celebrate Recovery program. Our goal is that soon they will be self sufficient in the ongoing training of their churches. If you are interested in assisting (prayer and/or finances) with this very worthwhile outreach, please feel welcome to contact the CrossRoads Celebrate Recovery leadership.

One Comment on “Celebrate Recovery – Cambodia 2016

  1. I am the CR Director for our church; Living Stones in Crown Point. Our church does missions and has started a ROAR Bible College in Phenom Penn. In June we will be going their on a short term mission trip. I will be in charge of doing a VBS for approx. 200 children. It will be 3 days. I want to use a couple lessons from the CR children’s curriculum. Just wanted some feedback if you have done that before. I have done a lot of VBS here and one in Mongolia and feel that the best choice for teaching would be the CR lessons (I think the children would be helped best through those lessons. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thank you and God bless.

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