Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Children Mandated to be Sent Back to Their Villages

Many Changes at the Center Peace!
Big changes are affecting COP in that government is mandating that all the younger children (5-14) to be sent back to relatives. They will be returning to less than harmonious situations and where we know for sure that they will not be sent to school, used as child labor around the house, for farming or collecting recyclables, COP can keep them. Assessing all the COP kids, we decided that we cannot send 2 children back, a brother and sister who just have nowhere safe to go. The local government authority in their community will sign off on receiving them and will monitor how they are doing with their relatives and keep COP informed. If there are serious issues, they will send them back to COP.
Back to the Villlage

" One of the reasons we want to keep our support level up is to help sponsor our children who will be sent back to their poor villages with school supplies, shoes, clothes, or bicycles to get to school which is often far away." 
Please consider this when you decide to donate or not.

Our young people from ages 15-20 can stay at COP, but it will now be a "Home-Stay," more like a dorm situation. Fifteen teens will continue to live at COP, along with 3 children ages 9-12 who literally have no place to go.

Mr. Vichet (19) enrolled in training with the Katie Korpi Salon last year and is doing very well. One of our girls, Ms. Srey Neang (17) will be applying this month and hopefully she will get accepted into the program. This could be a start of a great career for both as Michael Fairfax offers top of line training cosmetics and hair styling. We also have two young adults studying at YWAM DTS for six months, sponsored by Pastor Jenny Oh.

Day Care Ministry- COP kids help teach toddlers (below right)

Last January, we began a day care service at COP for the working poor, the vendors who bring their kids along in tow to collect recyclables and sell street food. We have 18 children, 2-5 years old and on a daily basis do exercises, learn Khmer and English, play with toys, color, draw, sing fun songs, and learn manners and how to get along. Their parents are amazed to watch their kids show daily improvement and positive development in their lives emotionally and academically. Neighborhood poor want to send their children as well, but we are full now. We need toys, books, games, etc., if you are planning to visit the kingdom.

Srey Saophaun, below, teaching Pre-School for Vendor's Children

Stalled Pepper Farm

With a loan from an Australian church, we were able to purchase some land to begin a pepper farm with the hopes of making COP more self-sustainable. We were hoping to get some more loans or donations to buy equipment and begin planting by this June but loans did not materialize. Please consider helping us here. We have 3 weeks to find a loan of $15 to begin planting. If you are interested, please contact us for details. We now have land, but that’s it.

COP Soccer Team Ready to Play at DOVE's  Ball Field

Ready for Action 

Ramon, a college student at COP began a soccer team a few months back for COP teens and young people in the neighborhood. The neighborhood people warned us that these kids were bad, but we found them to be great kids. Now they have something positive to do with their time and energy, and some attend our Sunday gathering regularly, others just come to fun activities, and some just hang out at COP when they feel like it. The team has both lost and won some tough games. Brian’s friend Mr. Kimlieng (coach/player) broke his leg playing, but seems to be in good spirits (see photo below) So far, it is been fun and a learning experience.

Poor Mr. Kimlieng with broken leg, left. 

Mr. Johnnathan and Ms. Yorean (Pich) 

The children I have been taking care of since a young age are almost mine. Soon Brian and I will be the official parents, in the eyes of the Cambodian government, of Johnnathan (12) and Yorean (9). Thanks to the two individuals who helped with donations for lawyer fees. We expect all the documents to be signed with a month.

A Request to You from COP: Please do not skip.

COP will be losing a major donation of $1000/month ending in July. Unless we can replace that, it will be very difficult to continue to provide care and education to youth from impoverished and extremely difficult backgrounds, and the children of vendors in our Care Day Center, and the youth in our neighborhood. If you really care about COP, please commit to a monthly donation of $50 or $100 to keep our community operating. See donation info below. Please help us. 

How to donate:

Go to
Go to “Donate and find Brian Maher.
Scroll down to recurring donations. Put in $ where asked and designate to COP. 

Or, if in Cambodia, call Bophal Yos-Maher 012-923-181 

God Bless you, Bophal

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hell No, We Won't Go!

"Adventure Retreat," a phrase that could mean so many different things to so many different people. For me it meant a sore back from sleeping on the hard ground, or bamboo slats, using a squatty potty, and no guarantee I would have hot water for the packets of instant coffee I brought along. All of that came true, by the way. Gone are the days of wanting to sleep on the mountain peaks in the depth of winter or anything similar.

The ONXY Adventure Camp took place at a place called Yowk, 30 kilometers off a National Highway in the foothills of the Ural Mountains. Yowk is part of a national park system and we camped at the base of a series of seven water falls that stretched upward for about two kilometers. The swift coursing water ran clear, cold and clean. It was impressive. Vysal did a good job in selecting the site, which is a popular picnic spot on holidays. No one ever proposed the idea of camping in tents there, and we were the first. Some of us slept in tents, others on the wooden raised platforms for picnicking. A few students were disappointed because they didn’t get to sleep in a tent as that would be a first, and badge of honor for them.

To my delight, there was no cell phone service available. The 50 or students from DOVE’s 4 Leadership Training satellites, along with retreat leaders could only use their phones to take photos and for flashlight use. 

We arrived at noon, and after a brief rest and orientation to surviving in the wilderness, DOVE coordinators led team building games, some of which were rather challenging and involved being tied together, and carrying a member of their team up the mountain trail and back in competition with the other satellites. The rest of the afternoon was spent climbing up the lower section of the falls, swimming in the frigid pools, basking in the sun on large smooth rocks, and taking many photos. All were continually impressed with the beauty of the descending river and the falls. 

At the campfire that evening Seila told the story of Seang Ang, a Cambodian pastor/Evangelist who risked his life during the Vietnam War and with the underground church to share the gospel post Khmer Rouge. Seila emphasized that real leadership is more about scars than stars, and that this generation of youth have yet to be tested like their forefathers.  

Next morning students from each satellite went on a separate Emmaus Walk, and then shared their own personal life stories with the members of their group until lunch. Many broke down as they shared about their emotional pain. In our last 3 ONYX cohorts, rarely have we found a student  who had not been touched by some sort of emotional trauma, mostly family related.

That afternoon, all the students climbed all the way up to the 7th level of the falls- the very top. They had to cross the strong coursing waters a number times, negotiate slippery rocks, scale massive boulders and steep inclines. None had done this before, and the women were touched and impressed that the men tested slippery rocks and the depth of the water before helping them across, as well as helping pull them up the steep, slippery algae-covered rocks. That morning, only a few feet from our campsite, I slipped on wet rock at the edge of a gentle pool and banged up my arm and leg pretty good –thanks to my over-sized and soaked Birkenstocks. Seila forbid me to go to the top for fear of a repeat performance on a slippery precipice. 

At the last minute, a number of students called saying they were too busy to come, so we had about 75% of the ONYX students in attendance (about 50 students). This was discouraging but we working with what we had was a blast. That night at the campfire, many testified that they too, wanted to cancel as everything else seemed more appealing than living through adventure retreat and leaving their comfort zone, but they were overwhelmed by their experience over the weekend, and testified that they really made the right decision, that being pushed out of their comfort zone produced all kinds of fruit they didn’t expect. The provincial women felt awkward being around so many people they didn’t know, but were so glad to make new friends through the ice-breakers and team building exercises. These normally shy provincial girls were transformed into comedians as soon a microphone hit their hand, and told us how they had tried everything to convince themselves they shouldn’t come. The ONXY students chirped with laughter as they enjoyed listening to their own peers. 

The following morning, I gave a short devotion about the Celtic Tradition of “Thin Places,” where life crises and nature come together causing the membrane between earth and the spiritual realm to become very thin (speaking in metaphorical language). Moses, Elijah, and Jacob and others in the Bible were able experience the presence of God at thin places. I sent them out by twos to find a secluded and beautiful spot, maybe a thin place, and settle in for 30 minutes. They were to say only one short prayer to invite God to be present with them. I asked them not pray anymore, not to think, but to listen, smell, feel, taste, and observe all aspects of nature around them. Today you are going to read the first Bible, the illustrated one – God’s creation. They came back for debriefing and some had written poems, some had sketched pictures, and others heard from God in different ways and were deeply touched. We continued to listen to students share their personal stories in a very candid and transparent ways, assuring them that what shared stayed in the group. 

I, myself was not looking forward to this retreat for another reason, and that was that I had bonded very closely to last year’s cohort and felt I could not drum up the emotional energy to disengage with them and begin the process with a new group. The retreat broke down all such barriers for me, and for others who had different barriers. Before I went, I said; “God, I am not expecting much, only to get through this and back to the comfort of good coffee, a soft bed, a fan, and a sit down toilet as soon as I can. But I really hope you surprise me.” And He did.

Peace from Brian, post-Adventure Camp in Cambodia.