Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Okay/Not Okay

Happening across my blog page today, I found this draft message that I've never posted, from goodness knows how long ago. Reading it, I love tracking the journey God is taking me on, the days, weeks and months that are building my character. Today, I've had a fab day. Phil and I have spent the whole day chatting, getting vision and excitement for the season we're in, and the next. I know at some point though, I'll need to revise this lesson, to look back see what God's brought me through, and I figure someone else out there might want to do the same.  So here we go, musings from months ago....

Occasionally you get a season where you don't realise it, but sneakily, over time, you're taking on burdens that are not your own, trying to fix things by yourself, that were never humanly fixable and blaming everyone around you for not noticing how much you're struggling under your independent veneer.

The crux of it is, that we all go through stuff that hurts. That rubs us up the wrong way. That leaves us feeling bruised and lashing out. But here's what I know. My God is bigger. I believe in a God who so longed for a relationship with me, that He sent His perfect child to die so that I could live. So that I could have a reason to live. Not so that I could escape hell by the skin of my teeth and smelling of smoke, but live a life full of purpose and destiny in relationship with a living, loving God.

So how the heck do I marry those two things up? Huge burdens and abundant life? For me, it usually means telling my 'feelings' to back the heck off and grab a whole load of perspective.

Do I have everything I desire for my life right now? No.
Do I see a way of achieving those things within time scales I've planned? No.
Do I understand the things that family and friends are going through that I'm helpless to stop. No.
Do any of those things that I desire have the keys to my eternal happiness? No.
Do I have anything, any wisdom at all for the time scales I've created? No.
Do any of these things, these failures, make God love me less? No.
Can I see the miracles in how my family and friends turn to, and witness for, Jesus through everything. Yes.
Am I where I feel God has called me too? Yes
Am I surrounded by people who love me and will work through my stubbornness to help me if I let them? Heck Yes!

Yesterday I could list all the things that I felt were going wrong too easily. The weird thing was, I was happy about some stuff, but heavy with the weight of other things I was holding. I knew I was where God was calling me, but then was questioning him on the other things He hadn't ticked off my list yet. My troubles are not that big. I can list them to make myself feel better and to have each validated as a reasonable trouble/excuse by anyone who fancies reading this. Some of them are valid, and others sound an awful lot like a petulant child having a hissy fit when spoken out loud. Compared to a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb, they're certainly all teeny tiny. Compared even to the things happening around me to people I know and love, they're minuscule, but I was continuing to bury my head in being busy and try to manage/fix/put out fires as much as could, all the time ignoring/forgetting that God has better for me. And God did it again... stood to the side and let me take worries back off Him, because He's gracious like that, He gives me free will to keep my troubles to myself or to invite Him into them. And even when I bury myself in troubles or burdens of my own making, there He is, all the time calling to me, telling me that He has better plans for me than this, telling me to lift my eyes and look up at Him. But best of all He then catches me when I wobble and fall. When I admit I'm not strong enough to carry it all. When I heard a while ago the story of how someone 'happened' to be walking past the cinema we met in for church, 'happened' to be invited in, 'happened' to love it and want to come back and 'happened' to have a family member excited about God but having no one to go along with, who can now also come, God reminded me how His plans are well in advance of ours, that He will bring specific people to specific places at specific times, because He's not forgotten that person sat by themselves, the person suffering with burdens too big to bear, and He will step in, He will open doors, and He will take those burdens from us if and when we invite Him to.

And one last thing... perspective, and gratitude will get you a long way. But accountability will magnify the effects of the first two massively. When a friend can speak into your life, help you identify where you are taking on burdens that are not yours, where you're being stubborn and not letting people help you, a friend who can laugh with you as you realise how trivial some of your worries are, or who can cry with you and pray through the stuff that is very big, very real and very scary, those friends help move mountains for you, or help you turn them back into molehills. The more I listen to those friends, the more my perspective shifts and my heart settles. The more I sit at the feet of those friends, the more I want to love others the way they love me, the way Christ models love. So my next step, and maybe yours, is to get alongside someone, and love them even harder, even more thoroughly, with even more grace and also with even more truth.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Leaving... On a Jet Plane

And now, the time has come!
Rather than facing the final curtain or anything else that song suggests, we are off! Mombasa here we come!
Some of you will be familiar with the journey we've been on these last few months, but to catch everyone else up, here's a quick summary of our journey so far.

At the end of November we decided to join the team going from Freedom Church to launch a new campus in Mombasa, Kenya. We applied, went through interviews and joined the awesome team saying goodbye to friends, families and careers to start a new life in Africa.

Originally planning to leave in July, we faced a hiccup in the visa application process, and ended up saying several rounds of goodbyes as we then delayed our flights until- you guessed it- today!!

So now, with less than 2 hours before we fly, our life packed in 4 cases and some hand luggage we are off and wanted to take this last opportunity on British wifi to say a huge thank you to everyone who has stood with us, supported us, asked for updates and prayed for us, committed to giving to us monthly as we start this new adventure, and encouraged us with their love all the way.
We can't thank you all enough. We're so very excited for this new journey, and know that much of what we are doing would not be possible without your support!

Thank you friends! Can't wait to share this adventure with you!

Phil and Beth

N.B. For anyone wanting to get alongside is financially, either on a one off or monthly basis, if you pay tax, do go to www.give.net/parkies or if you don't Email us for our bank account details.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Parkys Go Mombassive

Hello all,

Quite a few people have asked us for information on how to support us while we're away, which is awesome, humbling and hugely encouraging. Thank you!
We have lots to catch you all up regarding our journey in how and why we ended up deciding to move to Kenya, and when we're going to be setting off. We'll be blogging again soon, but for now are popping this information here (before we forget to!).
We would greatly appreciate anyone who is a UK tax payer giving through our give.net page at www.give.net/parkies as the charity that runs this fundraising page, Stewardship, are able to claim back the tax paid on any donation. They take a very small fee of 3%, meaning the overall gift is still significantly increased even after the fee is taken.
The example they give is that on a £10 donation, £2.50 is claimed back, £0.38 is taken to cover their admin fees, with the recipient getting £12.12.
If you're not a tax payer, you can still set up payments through give.net, as it is a very simple way to donate. A reduced 2% admin fee will be taken from that, but we can give our own bank account details as an alternative to give directly to us with no fees being taken.
give.net is the fundraising front page of Stewardship, a charity set up to facilitate people's giving. As a charity, they keep make the fees as low as possible and don't make any profit from the process, any unused fee-money at the end of the year is given back to charity. Anyone wanting to give to multiple charities, or even multiple individuals on the Kenya team for example, can set up a Stewardship account, which effectively means you can create a 'pot' of money and give out to whichever cha rities and individuals you would like to support from there, the benefit being that if you set up an account either with stewardship or give.net, you only have to fill out gift aid and direct debit forms once, and any donations will only have a fee deducted once. You can also make gifts anonymously if you wish.

Our fundraiser page: www.give.net/parkies
For more information, head to give.net and Stewardship.org.uk

Ps. If you want to take a look at our previous adventures in Cambodia, keep scrolling down, and to keep up to date, do subscribe to follow the blog! 
Huge love to you all!

Phil and Beth Parky

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Everything is Something

Wow! it's been a long time since  blogged, a lot has been happening, but in lots of little bits. I've been writing notes for blogs on the backs of scraps of paper and today is the day the make it into the online world.

I've met with some awesome people over here, and been reminded about how awesome the people I know back in the UK are too. A lot of the meetings and conversations I've had have been pointing in the same direction and this thought that has been with me for the last couple of months. 

Everything is Something.

One thing that has been on my heart for several years, in increasing measure as I find out more about it, is Trafficking. Human Trafficking. There's increasing awareness of this modern day slavery in the UK and in America as cases have been brought into courts and the public arena. There have been people aware of this for a long time, and the more cases that come to light, the more prevalent people realise it is. Within the building of football stadiums in Qatar, tomato fields in the southern United States, strawberry pickers in my home town of Hereford, domestic slaves in London, New York and so many other locations. There are so many factors that cause it, perpetuate it and maintain it. What bugs me so much, frustrates me to the point of exhaustion at times, is people's wilful ignorance of it. their manipulation of facts to deny it, or their use of people's horrifc experiences to further their own cause. Examples being:
The man who came up to me in the UK, having seen my 'No More Slaves' emblazoned bag, and told me that 'No Englishman would have a slave, it's all those other people, it's their problem, they should do something about it, we don't have to' (After trying to explain some facts and being shouted at, I removed myself from the situation before I punched him)
The (European) man here in Siem Reap who saw the same bag and declared 'yes... the amount they pay us musicians, in Europe almost makes us slaves'. At first not understanding what he had said, I'm afraid I didn't challenge him on this view, belittling real slavery as an actual problem, needless to say, when that situation next arises, I'll have a quicker response ready.
People who have claimed that if people are paid anything, no matter how little, then there is nothing wrong in their situation. Yes, the definition of slavery used to mean that someone received NO pay, but surely now we understand that low-waged employees, kept in company accomodation at extortionate costs, with all sorts of added fees reducing a minimal pay-packet to barely enough to buy food let alone anything else, heaven forbid they need medicine etc...?? Surely we can agree that 'it's not proper' at the very least?!?!
The story here about a woman who has set up various projects around Cambodia giving work to girls formerly working as prostitutes, who was then found out to be manipulating and exaggerating the histories of some of these girls to build her reputation. While it was supposed to mean that more people would support her work, and was successful for a while in this, it also created a distrust among people looking to support this kind of project and now unsure whether any of the stories they are hearing are genuine, or made up to pull pounds out of pockets.

So here's the thing. Slavery is real. It is a big problem. Slavery and trafficking are utterly linked, and while people may not define them as exactly the same thing, let me tell you some truths about them both. Slavery and trafficking will always trap, manipulate, enslave and hide. While cartoons for children through to life experience as an adult make us think that it's all down to a typical 'bad guy' or 'villain', these monsters in society are insiduous, hiding in the darkness, shielded by ignorance, by fear, by denial, and fed by our desire for cheap clothes, cheap food, cheap buildings, cheap cosmetics, cheap technology, cheap sex. And it can happen next door.

So why am I ranting on about this? Because I need to do something about it. Because I can't sit idly by and pretend nothing is happening, when karaoke bars in Siem Reap, in the next street to where I lived had girls lined up like shoes in a shop, waiting to be chosen. And while I would love to go in and grab girls out, lead them by the hand and promise them a better life, there are so many barriers. Organised crime, criminal gangs, bribery, police corruption and even a culture of 'honour' all tie in and make 'rescue' hard. Really hard. People have said to me 'those girls have chosen that life, it's their career'. Stop for just one moment and listen to yourself. On career day at your school, how many of the girls that you knew put their hands up to the chance of becoming a prostitute? Was that even given as an option? I doubt it! And if it had been, who would wilfully sign up for it? What place of poverty and fear does a family have to be in for a daughter to grow up knowing that her 'best option' for supporting her parents as they grow old, and to help put her siblings through school is to sell her body, auction off her virginity to the highest bidder, let the greatest acts of intimacy become a matter of commerce? But because of poverty, because of lack of education and lack of other careers, because of a culture where family comes first and you work every hour of the day to support those around you, and because of the ugly demands for cheap sex from tourists, this is their best option. Their most guaranteed income. And so because they 'chose' it, we accept it?

I could rant on this all day. My frustration at the culture that holds them there, but mostly at the tourist culture that promote the 'market' for it and the denial that there's any real problem just make me want to yell. A lot. But here's the thing... I'm learning to turn that frustration into action.
I learned that I couldn't go in and rescue girls, I wanted to get involved with Christian NGO's helping girls get out, but I the doors I pushed never opened. However. I found my something. I found somewhere I could invest my money. I found the place I could switch to shopping each week where I knew that my money was being put to good use. For the sake of anonymity I can't tell you what or where that place is, but I can tell you that I found a group of people turning lives around, introducing people to Jesus, and impacting a nation, one intake at a time. And it made me want to look for 'that place wherever I am. It's not my place to tell the stories of those lives affected, they are not my stories to tell, but the parting smiles of the lives I brushed up against were the ones that touched my heart most. God can and will use anything and everything you do to affect the lives of others. So here's my challenge.

Find your something.

Find the one thing you can do, that you can change that will affect someone's life. Start buying fair-trade. Bananas, chocolate, clothes, coffee, cotton, please change one thing. Sponsor a child through education, give in to organisations educating farmers on how to produce more from what they have. You can't do everything, but you can start somewhere. I've had people tell me about how people are managing to get round fair-trade practices and they're no real guarantee. Or that '-%' of sponsoring a child goes on admin rather than to the child. Yes, people will always find a way to do the minimum possible, some organisations are better than others, but is that really an excuse to not put our money where at least some effort is being made? Don't let the few abusing the system stop you investing to make the system better. No, fair-trade isn't perfect, but it's a start. Yes, some money must be spent on admin, so that other people can be reached effectively and using the rest of the money most efficiently. Don't like the taste of fair-trade products? Well, get pestering your favourite manufacturers and ask them about employment and resourcing policy. Don't want money going on admin? Do your research to find out exactly where donated money goes. I'm not asking you to become a crusader and donate every waking hour to a cause. But please, please, don't let the enormity of the problem of slavery and trafficking overwhelm to the point of no action at all. Let your heart be moved. For you it might mean finding that cause and charity that you are passionate about and get sponsoring and giving. It might mean having to up your clothes budget so you can buy products not pieced for pennies and sold for pounds. It may be to get blogging, get letter-writing, passing on the passion of what you want to see changed. You don't have to change everything, but if I can persuade you to realise just one thing, please know that

Everything is Something.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Home from Home

We've known it's been coming, but it's incredibly strange to be in our final week in Cambodia. We've got all these dates and plans buzzing round our minds, sorting, tidying, packing, distributing pots and pans, collecting up little things to take back home... but there are moments of stillness where I can reflect on the 13 months that has passed, and all that God has done.

Transition is a funny time. Simultaneously full of joy and tears alike. Wanting time to fly forward so we can see faces of loved ones we've not seen in so many thousands of hours, but hoping time will stretch and slow to mean precious moments with friends we're leaving behind aren't rushed. We're packing up the physical, shedding things that have served us for this time, and taking new things that will remind us of this time for months or years to come. As well as the physical organisation, we're getting to grips with what we're going back to the UK to do, and what we're moving from here in Cambodia, mulling over all that God has done in that time.

Home from home. What an odd concept. We accustom ourselves to a pace of life, a space to live in, markets to frequent, people to socialise with, even preferred routes around the city. And then things change. I consciously chose early on not to refer to the UK as home once we arrived here in Siem Reap, because I knew it was important that I gave my heart to this place, that I was committed to it, and not refer to home as a location, a city, habits and food choices from a place so very far away. Instead, Siem Reap became home. But now we're leaving home, and going home, and then moving home. If you can't get your head round that, fear not, I'm still working it out myself. We leave Cambodia, travel to Bangkok, fly to Heathrow, head to Hereford, sort and plan, then move to Cardiff. There's a lot going on... but anytime I even think about getting a bit overwhelmed by it all, I'm reminded that I'm at home already. Wherever I am. I have my handsome hubby at my side, and my Saviour in my heart. I am at home wherever He takes me.

And what am I actually doing today as my part of the transition process? I'm making a cake. In the rice-cooker. Because I can, and because it will make some little girls very very happy. And I figured as I'd promised the recipe to several people round about (because cake is important) I've put the recipe below, with pictures along the way. Given that I have no weighing scales, let along an oven, there's a fair bit of intuition/guess work going on in these - which does of course mean you may have to make cake more than once (shame!) to perfect the art...
Be prepared, cake rarely looks good in it's beginning stages, but it will be scrumptious once baked!

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake:
150ml yoghurt
150ml oil (flavourless, vegetable/sunflower etc)
3 eggs
200g sugar, mostly white sugar, with a bit of brown sugar or golden syrup added in for
A couple of drops of vanilla essence (optional)
40grams cocoa powder
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (sometimes called baking soda)
pinch of salt
Chocolate chips (optional)

With no scales, here's how you make this cake:

 Take 1 small yoghurt pot, empty contents into a bowl.
 Using the yoghurt pot, measure the same amount of oil, add it to the bowl and stir
 Add 3 eggs and beat together
Add cocoa powder - about 2-3 heaped tablespoons,  you can add more later to taste, just depends how chocolatey you want it!
 Add sugar. Depending on the size of the bag of sugar, add the right proportion of it. If you have a 1kg bag, add 1/5th of the bag, if it's 500grams, add 2/5ths of the bag.

 Add brown sugar for a deeper taste. You can replace some of the white sugar with brown sugar, or add a little golden syrup

Mix well together, making sure you have no lumps of sugar or cocoa powder
Add a couple of drops of vanilla essence to bring out the chocolately flavour. It sounds crazy, but it works!

Next, add a pinch of salt...

 ...and the flour...
 ...and the baking soda.

Mix well...
 Until you get a soft dropping constancy that looks a bit like this.
Put a little bit of oil in the bottom of your rice cooker bowl and spread it round to cover all the surfaces and then pour in the cake mix
If you have a rice cooker like mine, it just has an on/off switch, so turn it on, and when it clicks off, leave it for a few minutes, then turn it on again. You'll need to do this for about 1.5 hours I've found...
The base of the cake will always be more cooked, and the top middle, always a bit more squishy, because that's how cake comes out without heat controls! :)
You can test if the cake is done by poking it in the middle with a skewer or a sharp knife. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Normally, leave cakes until completely cool to turn them out. If you do that with this it will come out in pieces. So wait for the cake to be cool enough to handle. Run a plastic knife, or soft/non-metal palette knife around the edge, turn the cake out onto a plate and turn the right way up. Done! Ta-da!!

And now - for the instructions for
Banana and Chocolate Chip cake:
120g butter/margarine
180g sugar
3 large bananas (8/9 Cambodian eating bananas)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
240g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
100-120g chocolate chips

 Melt the butter in a pan
 Add half white sugar
 And half brown sugar
 Melt and stir altogether, then turn the heat off underneath
 Peel and roughly chop the bananas
 Beat 3 eggs, then add vanilla essence and thoroughly mix

 Add flour...

...salt and baking soda and stir to make a very thick mixture...

... Like this

Mash bananas with a fork

Add the bananas...
 and the egg mix into the pan, and thoroughly mix
Stir in chocolate chips at the very end so that they don't melt too much when you stir them
Use a little bit of butter on your fingers to grease the rice cooking pan
Pour the mix into the can, and cook in the same way the chocolate yoghurt cake is cooked. This is a bit of a thicker mix, so it will probably take longer.

Enjoy either of these with a cup of tea or coffee. And then make sure you've washed and packed all your underwear! See you soon England...

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

All change!

It's nearly 2014!!

Well it is here anyway!
Can you believe it? 2013 gone already? Feels really crazy that another year is done, I'm another year older, maybe a little wiser, and have made another year's worth of friends and had as many new adventures!  It's also been nearly a full year away from the UK, from friends and family we've grown up (or at least grown older) around. Having left the UK on January 11th 2013, it's been a long time away from everything we thought of as normal, and a huge year of growth for Phil and I individually and massively so as a couple. We had one very wise friend calling 2013 'The Year of the Parkys', and that's been true on so many levels. I'm amazed at what God has brought us half way around the world to teach us, and ever grateful for the grace and patience with which he has taught us, and for faithful friends who have supported and loved us through this year and enabled us to be a part of the Freedom Siem Reap Campus, which is also unbelievably nearly a whole year old!

In Freedom Siem Reap, we've seen huge growth, we've seen numbers come and go, but a faithful core grow and expand, and deep character develop in each of them. We've made lifelong friends, seen them take huge steps of faith, inviting friends, seeing them saved, and brought this year to a beautiful close with our last event of 2013 seeing 11 people get baptised. Fizzing yes!!! Every church plant, every campus have their trials, their frustrations and their learning curves, but with every next step we're privileged to see an individual take, each time we hear another person say that they feel like they've found a place they can call home and that they've found their family, we know that we're getting something right. That God is using us in this place to reach the lost, the hurting and the broken, and He is using Freedom Church as part of His plan to do it.

I've got another blog coming with some more on the experiences we've had here, some of the things close to my heart etc, but for now I want to take this blog to tell you a little about what's next for the Parkys...

Some, but not all, will already know that we're heading back to the UK at the beginning of February. We'll be saying goodbye to Freedom Siem Reap on the 2nd and then travelling to Bangkok to fly from there. We're really excited to be back on British soil and see family and friends again in person, but it'll be bittersweet, as there are so many people here that we may not see again. And what then? The next chapter for us is getting close, and getting exciting!! We're going to take some time out to see family and then... We're going to be moving to become part of Freedom Church Cardiff!!
We're currently investigating potential jobs and accommodation in the Welsh capital, but most excited about getting rooted in to the Freedom campus and seeing what God has for that city!

There's another blog or two brewing, but for now, for 2013, thank you for your love, support and prayers, and I'm excited for all that 2014 will bring.

Cardiff here we come!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Merry Fizzin Christmas!!!

I'm back!!

It's been an age since I last blogged and there are various reasons why it's taken me this long to get back round to it, but here we are. It's Christmas season and though it feels incredibly surreal, Christmas was had in 22°C heat and on a sunny day.

Now before you get jealous, 22°C during the day - lovely! 14°C at night, with just a couple of sheets, gaps under the doors and windows plus no heating, well - it gets a little chilly to say the least!! We made it most authentic we could though with stockings to open, as 'Santa' found his way to our room, (even if his choice of wrapping paper was questionable), friends round for lunch and a party in the evening. Christmas Dinner was courtesy of a rice cooker and a frying pan - 'Roast' chicken, 'Roast' Potatoes, countless vegetables and lots and lots of gravy (even if I had to serve it in an ice-cream tub because you haven't got a jug) followed by Apple Crumble and Homemade Custard. Amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, but probably best I didn't get photos of the food, I'm not sure my grandma would be impressed with my presentation!!

It's been such a strange season being away from so many people we love though, and it barely feels like Christmas without our family all around us, but it's been a good check for what Christmas is really about, and to get thankful for so much around us. Christmas... the promise of hope. The start of God reaching out to earth, sending His Son in human form because it was the only way to restore our relationship with Him. Even though they both knew what it would ultimately cost, Christmas is Christ with us, from now on, forever.

So no matter where you are, and who you celebrated Christmas with, whether you like Christmas trees and twinkly lights, if you have lifelong faith or none at all and even if you want to start the conversation about the pagan midwinter festival, we celebrate Christmas because no matter where you are, no matter who is around you, many or few, no matter whether you could afford a real tree instead of a recycling a fake one, whether you got huge presents or none at all, we celebrate because this time of year represents God reaching out through Jesus because He cares. He cares about the mess you're in, the stress you're under, the crisis you're scraping your way through, the opulence that is or isn't fulfilling you, or the happiness you're celebrating. He cares enough to meet you in the middle of it, wherever across the world you are.

Merry Christmas friends. Love to you all!