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Friday, April 10, 2009

Concert Benefits Organization Devoted To Helping Abused Cambodian Children

By PATRICK BUTLER
Religion Editor


Could a trafficked child standing on a dirty street in a far-off foreign country have an inkling that hope was coming to them from Tyler, Texas? Could they imagine a modern American church packed to the balconies full of worshippers asking God to rescue them?

Could they imagine a new life, far from the cruel hands of exploitive adults?

Hang on, hope is coming was the message that resounded April 5 at Rose Heights Church of God. Lindale transplant and international "worship" leader Paul Baloche made a hometown stop with his band to give a mighty push to Tyler native Kenny Rigsby and the "new generation nonprofit organization" For The Silent.

SPREAD THE WORD: Kenny Rigsby, a member of the “For the Silent” organization, speaks during the benefit concert.

In a loud affirmation to For The Silent, a ministry to sexually exploited children in Cambodia, nearly 1,000 worshippers gathered to hear the band belt out the best of the Baloche catalogue of modern worship favorites, then take a break to hear Rigsby describe what life was like for rescued children.

"It's amazing you guys," said the 27-year-old Rigsby, who'd been in Cambodia with his wife, Julie, in October researching ministries reaching out to children. Dressed in century running shoes, jeans, casual shirt and a loose tie, Rigsby said, "The hope in the eyes of these children as they're being restored is unbelievable. This is the hope of Jesus. This is the kind of power of hope possible when the Body of Christ rises up and begins to work out what we're saying here tonight, when we go out and bring hope and live the way Jesus told us to live."

Church goers raise their arms in praise during a benefit concert at the Rose Heights Church of God on April 5 in Tyler. The concert was held to raise money and awareness for victims of human trafficing.

The plight of trafficked children, Rigsby told the Tyler Morning Telegraph, is compounded by a Cambodian culture reeling from economic distress, cultural mores that permit certain types of exploitation and stretched thin law-enforcement agencies that can't fight the tide of sex trafficking.

At the Baloche concert Rigsby showed a video of a young girl rescued from life of slavery in a Cambodian brothel who said Christ saved her "so my life can start being a blessing, and become beautiful again." The girl said her "life was like a lotus plant" that grows out of mud and becomes a flower.

In the now silent building, Rigsby paused and added the painful kicker.

"Out of the tens of thousands of exploited children, fully a third of them are boys," he said. "All the efforts to help the children are made towards the girls, but there are zero programs anywhere in the country trying to help the boys. No one is helping them. They have no hope. It's almost impossible to find funding for boys but we know God loves and cares for boys and girls."

That disparity will change and more than a modicum of hope will soon be on its way to the forgotten, overlooked and silent children who cannot speak for themselves, if Rigsby can do something about it. Up to 12 ministries will implement a yearlong training program for long-term counseling, educational and restorative programs aimed exclusively to boys with financial help from For The Silent.

"You paid for this benefit concert," Rigsby quietly said, "but there is an opportunity tonight to give more. All of the money given, 100 percent, will go to funding the training programs. Nothing will be skimmed off the top."

It's a worthy effort from a "trustworthy ministry," said Baloche, who said he liked the "next-generation aspect" that For The Silent represents.

"There are so many wonderful nonprofit organizations in Tyler," he said, "but I want to commend Kenny and Julie. Their effort has moved me because it's the next generation, the heart of the 20-somethings. It gives me hope for the future and lot of hope for America."

Baloche called for Christians to make use of the short time they have.

"Pray and give God the few short years we have," he said. "Then your light will shine forth like the noon day. He loves children in Cambodia, Thailand, Asia, Africa and North America. The Lord still loves the world and we've got to be part of it. It's not hopeless, but if we don't do it, no one else is going to do it. Unless people do what Jesus said, there is no hope. Nothing happens until we pick up our cross and follow him."
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Thai, Cambodian PMs discuss border clashes

PATTAYA, Thailand (AFP) — Deadly border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia were caused by a "misunderstanding" and will not harm ties, the Thai premier said Friday after meeting his counterpart.

Abhisit Vejjajiva and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met on the sidelines of an Asian summit here, their first encounter since three Thai soldiers died in fierce gunbattles near an ancient temple one week ago.

"During our bilateral talks we discussed the latest incident," Abhisit told a press conference after the meeting.

"It happened because of a misunderstanding. The incident will not affect our relations and we will use channels of communication if anything happens in future."

Abhisit said he would also visit Cambodia on April 18 to meet King Norodom Sihamoni, Hun Sen and other senior officials.

Tensions flared last July when the cliff-top building was awarded United Nations World Heritage status and four people died in clashes the following October.

Ownership of the temple was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 but the two countries are in dispute over five square kilometres (two square miles) of land around the temple which has yet to be officially demarcated.

Abhisit said that he had also discussed cooperation on their overlapping maritime zones and talked about financial assistance to improve the road in Cambodia that links up their border.
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