It's Saturday, and the party at Agape Restoration Center (ARC) finally arrived.  By way of background, through ARC, Agape International Missions (AIM) provides rehabilitation, restoration and transitional living to girls rescued from sex trafficking in Cambodia. ARC is a safe and secure home and it is the goal of ARC’s loving and nurturing Cambodian staff to return hope for the future to each girl entrusted to their care and to prepare her for successful reintegration into society by providing for her physical, psychosocial, education, vocational and spiritual needs.

Quite fittingly, our day opened with a devotion centered on justice - what that means for us in our lives, especially given our experiences over the last week.  We have each been challenged to understand God's vision of justice in light of our own lives and the disparate experiences of the people we have served in Cambodia.

We arrived at ARC a little early to learn more about ARC and the life stories for a few residents and take a tour of the facility, which included a brief meet and greet with several teachers, counselors, house mothers and other ARC staff.  For safety and privacy reasons, we must limit what we post here (and certainly no photos).  Suffice it to say that each girl staying at ARC has faced tremendous adversity - often including rape and other physical violence and emotional abuse in addition to human trafficking. 

We had the privilege of spending the better part of five hours at ARC.  The girls performed some traditional Cambodian dances, including the coconut dance that symbolizes friendship and courting, as well as several contemporary Christian songs in English.  From the eldest young lady to the smallest girls who performed "If You're Happy and You Know It," their smiles and welcome exuded joy, enthusiasm, and love for Christ and for us.  After they completed their performance, it was our turn. 

Through a valiant ARC/MPPC team effort, we transformed the cafeteria/multi-purpose area into a tropical paradise (not a terrible stretch given our location) with grass-skirted tables, confetti, streamers and balloons, paper lanterns, parrots, an inflatable palm tree and hanging luau decorations.  We welcomed girls and staff gathering in the room with colorful leis, sang happy birthday to two of the young residents, and then had a delicious, homemade lunch of chicken curry and Khmer fish curry soups.  (Thanks so much to the ARC kitchen staff for the yummy grub!)  There was much chatter and laughter over the lunch hour.

Soon it was time to head to activities.  Bubbles were anticipated to be a favorite, but quickly gave way to a early downpour of rain.  Nail painting also quickly took off, with interest in face painting and limbo building thereafter.  But volleyball proved a huge draw and, after about 30 or so minutes of the other activities, many of the girls and MPPC team members (who were not painting faces and nails) gravitated to the courtyard for a lively game . . . ongoing sprinkles and mud notwithstanding. 

Far too soon it was past time to leave, so we packed up our supplies, shared some hugs, wiped some tears and headed to our next appointment:  Bloomasia.  After a physically and emotionally taxing week, the team retreated into the sugary delight of cupcakes!  (And, yes, they tasted as good as - or, if it's possible, even better than - they look in these photos.)  This writer favored the salted caramel, but heard oohs and ahs over several varieties, including the red velvet cake, passion fruit coconut, and peanut butter cup.  The victorious flavor will not be called, however, until late tomorrow after a final tasting of the lemon raspberry "take-away" cupcake that awaits in the fridge.  The kicker, here, is that Bloomasia is a wonderful organization that also serves the purpose of our trip.  Again, for safety and privacy reasons, we have intentionally limited the information and photos posted here, but you may visit their website for more information about the organization: 

As the sun set on our final day of service, we started the debriefing process.  We have encountered so much in Cambodia - through the children in Kids' Club and people of Svay Pak and the brick factories; Pastor Chantah, Bunthen, the staff and disciples at Rehab's House and the Lord's Gym; Don Brewster and Agape International Missions; the staff and the girls at ARC; the staff, mentors, and ladies from Hagar; and the staff at International Justice Missions, as well as our visits to Cambodian historical sites including the detention center and the Killing Fields.  Each of us has a journey that continues, as we unpack our experiences and emotions and assess God's message and plan for each of us.  Please pray for stillness that God's voice will carry through the distractions and emotions, discernment to identify that which comes from God (and to distinguish that which does not), and courage to follow God's path for us.