Friday, December 12, 2014

Arrival in Cambodia on December 12, 2014

Dear Praying Friends and Family,

As I begin this new adventure in Cambodia, as well as begin my first week here, I wanted to quickly send you a note to let you know I arrived safely in the country.

I will add a few details, for those of you who might be interested, otherwise, suffice it to say that the Lord clearly paved the trip and my first hours in the country.

My flight from Chicago was due to leave around 6:15 in the evening, but due to complications, we ended up leaving a little later than planned. However, due to the wonderful weather, we arrived earlier into Los Angeles than planned. The Lord also gave me the full row of seats to myself and I was able to get some rest in anticipation of the hours ahead.

My Los Angeles flight was also delayed, however most of this delay (1+ hours) was spent in the plane. I am grateful for two seatmates who were very patient and did not mind the delay. They were both Vietnamese. The gentleman directly next to me has been in the States for years, so he is very acclimated to the culture here. However, the lady on the aisle couldn't speak any English, so we simply smiled back and forth at each other. I did have the opportunity to share with the gentleman a little about what the Lord is calling me to do in Cambodia. He is a Roman Catholic, but I told him about my desire to share the Gospel with people in Cambodia and to see churches established.

As a result of the delay, I was a little worried in regards to being on time to Taiwan for my next flight to Cambodia. Thankfully, although we arrived an hour and a half late, I still had about an hour until my next flight was supposed to leave. Once I got to my gate, I realized this flight was also delayed. Thankfully it did not take too long for us to get on the plane.

Once into Cambodia, on Friday, the lines moved fairly quickly, I got my visa, went through passport control, then the baggage carousels, into customs. Then, I got to see my family and all of my friends from the Bible college. It was such a joy to be reunited with them all again!

Saturday, I had the opportunity to begin working at the music school. It was a neat opportunity to meet the kids I will be interacting with, as well as the teachers. Please pray that the Lord would work in hearts and that He would open up doors of opportunity!

Today is Sunday for us and I look forward to an exciting time of ministry at church with my family and those attending. Please be in prayer!

I will be sending out a regular prayer letter soon, but wanted to get this out the door so you could know I made it safely to Cambodia. Thank you for all your prayers! I know the Lord heard them and I appreciate your requests on my behalf!

Reaching forth to Cambodia,

Rebekah Fruin

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Week Nine in Cambodia

So, Monday was a good day to visit several things, but it was also a clear reminder to me of the need of the Cambodian people. They are even still suffering from what Pol Pot put them through back in the 70's and their infrastructure has not yet been rebuilt to the level of what it was before the Khmer Rouge. These people are desperately needy, but not only for physical and tangible items, although this is definitely true. They are seeking a reason for their existence. Religion, in and of itself, brings absolutely no help to them - they give their rice and money, get prayers from a Buddhist monk in return, but never have a relationship with the Savior who sincerely loves them and died for them on the cross. I have a job, a responsibility in this country, to share the Gospel of salvation with those that I meet. Their time may be long, or it may be short, it's impossible to tell, but Jesus Christ loves each of them distinctly and longs that they hear the Good News that He brought down to earth. It's a good reminder for me to do my best on deputation so that I can get to the field and have the opportunity to share this message with as many Khmers as possible.

Tuesday saw us on our way up to a nearby "zoo" in Takeo. We opted to have Tera drive us on the tuk-tuk. I was hoping my sister might be able to join us, but she had some school things she needed to take care of, so my brother came instead. We also had Tera's two children, Mary and Naan, come with us. We set out around 9:00 or so and were hoping to make it to the zoo by 10:00. This didn't happen. Partway through our trip (about an hour long or so), Tera had to pull over on the side of the road. One of the tires had busted, so we pushed the tuk-tuk to a nearby house for repairs. Thankfully, this particular house had a repairman, usually, so the supplies were available, but the repairman had actually left for a bit. Tera had been trained in fixing tires and motos, though, so he was able to start fixing the problem. He pulled the tire off the back wheel of the moto, found the hole, then started patching it. It was quite interesting to watch! He affixed some glue, then the patch, then placed it under a pot to melt into place. While waiting, the repairman actually returned, so we were able to watch him check out the damage as well. Thankfully, the Lord also opened a door of ministry during the time, as Tera was able to share the Gospel a little bit with the lady who was there at the house. Around 10:30, we were able to head off on the road again. We got to the zoo shortly thereafter. This particular zoo is interesting, as they have actually rescued several animals from various abusive situations. One elephant that we saw was actually missing the bottom part of his foot, as he had been in a fire, so they had a prosthesis from his knee down. Never thought I'd see an elephant use a prosthesis! At the end of our time there, we found the monkeys running wild around the zoo and handed them sugar cane. One mother monkey, with the baby hugging the front of her, walked around touching our legs and the tuk-tuk, asking for more. We got home around 1:30, then spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the marketplace in Takhmau.

Wednesday was another day for visiting the city. I was able to hire a tuk-tuk driver I knew already, so he took us and dropped us off near the King's palace. I had forgotten to check the times for the palace. We got there around 10:30, but since they break for lunch at 11:00 (until 2:00!) we had to wait until later to go in. So, we decided to walk down the riverfront area. We stopped at a little cafe for coffee and a sandwich, then checked out a local Wat (or temple). They are elaborately painted, beautifully built, but empty of truth. We also got to stop at a nearby museum, where we read quite a bit about the history of ancient Cambodian civilization. Then, we stopped for lunch before heading back to the Palace. The palace grounds are beautiful, but pretty restricted. We were able to see many of the buildings inside before I had to leave to head back home. My friends were able to stay in Phnom Penh and I went and found my tuk-tuk driver. He got me home in time for my last prayer meeting with Tera, Mi, Sophoa, and my family. It was a blessing to fellowship with them and to enjoy their company.

Thursday was the day that I had been eagerly anticipating. My dad offered to let my brother and I drive the motos with our friends around Phnom Penh. I had practiced driving the moto in Takhmau, where traffic is a little slower, but hadn't yet had the opportunity to go into the big city. Besides that, I would have a passenger behind me! But, we had a great time and the roads were very safe. Looking back, that may be because it was Chinese New Year and the traffic may have been less than usual. We stopped by our friends future place of abode after my departure so they could know the layout of the area. Then, we checked into various moto rental places, so they could get a moto when they got into Phnom Penh. After that, we checked out Independence Monument (a huge tower on a park strip in the center of town), Wat Phnom (the major temple in the area), Diamond Island (a local gathering place for festivities) and a shopping mall. The shopping mall was more for the shopping aspect than the fact that it was unique, but hey, you have to see everything, right?! Anyway, it was fun. We left around 5:30, to try to get home before dark, but as we hadn't eaten, we stopped at a place in Takhmau, enjoying the local food. The short drive home from there was in the dark, but not bad at all.

Friday was my last day with the students. I enjoyed seeing them again and spent every spare moment I could on their side. Around 12:00, we ate a "bai konchop" or 'rice in a container' (original, right?!). It is actually rice, with pork, then an egg on the side. The egg is either fried or boiled, depending on your preference. After that, we headed out for volleyball. It was very enjoyable and I kept hoping the day wouldn't stop. At the end of the day, I said goodbye to the students, making sure to give them all their last hugs and all that. We had pizza with the family, then my friend and I sat upstairs and talked for a while about all the things that had changed since we were in college together.

Saturday, my friend and her husband left to move to Phnom Penh for the next several days. They were going to rent motos and head out to Kep, a city about four or five hours away. My family and I spent the day cleaning at home, then just enjoyed each other's fellowship. Mrs. Johnson stopped by with the kids to say goodbye, then five of the students (the five singles) stopped by to surprise me for a couple of hours. We stayed outside playing games like badminton, then inside playing ping pong, for the next hours. We also had fun with the melon seeds, although I'm afraid we left quite a mess outside. Our fingers were quite messy, too, as the seeds were red from some sort of flavoring. But, we had an enjoyable time together. Then, I had to say goodbye to these dear friends again. I wasn't eager for that part. They graciously gave me a picture frame with a picture from one of the times we had all been together. One of the girls also gave me a beautiful orange scarf, so I'm looking forward to using that in the States. Once they left, my family ate supper, then I finished making sure I was ready to leave. We headed out the door around 8:30 that evening, getting to the airport around 9:30.

I'm going to blend the next several days, as hours on the plane kind of do that to you. But, I'll try to describe the main events. Once at the airport, one of the gentlemen called me up to the desk. He asked if I was military, which was kind of funny, but kind of nice. I replied I wasn't. Then, he said the plane was very full and asked if I'd be willing to possibly give up my seat if needed. He said if they ended up having enough seats, I could go business class. If they didn't, they'd either send me on a different airline or send me the next day business class. I didn't mind, so I said sure. Long story short, they ended up sending me that night on business class, which was a new adventure for me. It was nice to sit in the big comfy chairs and I ended up sleeping most of the way. Before we left, though, I was given a coupon for the VIP lounge, so I was able to sit in there while waiting for my flight. Once in Korea, I began walking up the long terminals for the exercise and to stretch my legs. My ankles had already swollen after the first flight, so I was hoping to get some of that swelling down. Plus, I eventually wanted to eat, which I did, stopping at Burger King in one of the food courts. After about three hours in the airport, we left South Korea. The plane wasn't very full, so I was able to switch seats partway through and have a large area where I could stretch my feet.

I finally arrived in Chicago, went through passport control, gathered my luggage, hurried through customs, then went in search of the bus to Rockford. My sandals and short sleeves were quite the sight, but I hadn't brought a jacket and I didn't feel like digging my socks out of my carry-on, so I left things as they were. Finally, after an hour and a half on the bus, we arrived in Rockford and my grandparents picked me up from the airport.

I have enjoyed the snow since I've been back, but have been earnestly praying that the Lord would work His timing for my return to Cambodia. I have to say the trip was a far greater blessing than I could ever have foreseen and I am eager to see the Lord bring me back to Cambodia soon. Please pray that His will would be done and that He would continue to open up doors for the Gospel to be ministered in Cambodia.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Week Eight in Cambodia

Almost done with this weekly updates! I do enjoy writing them and telling you all about life here in Cambodia, but I do have to say, it'd be much better if you instead chose to come and visit me sometime while I'm out here. Then, you could experience Cambodian life firsthand! For those that are adventurous, there's plenty to experience. For those that aren't as much, it might not be quite your cup of tea, but I'm sure I could find plenty of things for you to do and enjoy as well.

For Wednesday, I'm actually going to revert back to Monday, as I failed to mention a very important event. Years ago (maybe nine, now) the Lord led to the creation of the Baptist World Mission Bible Institute of Cambodia. Since then, graduation for the students has been taken very seriously. I'm not sure exactly how many graduations there have been, but probably only a few, and those that graduate take five years or more to complete all the requirements. My parents, in an effort to encourage and praise those that have completed the course, have tried to put on a graduation dinner for the graduates. Monday was the graduation dinner, as we would be having graduation on Thursday. After much deliberation a couple of weeks ago, we decided that instead of purchasing the supplies for the dinner and making it ourselves, we would simply purchase it from a nearby restaurant. We consulted with the Bible college students in regards to what foods might be appropriate and then ordered them. Leah was in charge of decorations and they were beautiful! She chose blue and silver and made the room look absolutely gorgeous. During the dinner, she was in charge of babysitting duty. Jonathon was also responsible for watching some of the children, but also ended up acquiring the responsibility of helping with food prep as needed. I was able to help direct the students during the meal as they would be serving the food and cleaning up afterward.

I'm sad to say, but ordering food and getting it to the table are two completely different things, plus my thoughts in regards to the names of certain foods were definitely not the things that came to me. The first thing on the order was a salad, so I quickly grabbed up the green leafy things and started to organize them into bowls. One of the students told me I was using the wrong thing, and after going through the take-out boxes, we found a seafood mandarin salad with cabbage that was actually what we had intended. I continued going through the take-out boxes and was quite startled to open one of the boxes and see ten half-sets of fish eyes staring up at me. Actually, they weren't fish, they were small eels, but I didn't identify the different. I wondered what those were for, and was told they were for the soup, along with those green leafy things I had used earlier. Someone went downstairs to prepare that. We ended up having quite a bit of food for appetizers, including prawn which could have still been alive in my opinion. Then, the main meal constitute of a whole chicken (including the head), squid and other such creatures, pork, and beef. The Cambodians seemed to love it and those that didn't just had plenty of room for the fruit platters (dessert) later.

Thursday was the graduation and was a stupendous occasion. Prep took a little bit, but was fun to do. In the background, during the graduation, there were those who were working on making the food. We had three full graduates, as well as multiple students who had completed sections of courses. Their families were proud to see them on stage and after the two and a half hour graduation, we ate the delicious foods that had been made. I got made fun of at some point for attempting to use chopsticks, but thankfully, since Cambodians don't generally use chopsticks, it's not something I'm too worried about using. I will keep practicing, though, in hopes of getting better.

Friday was another day for the medical clinic. This time, we had quite a few more patients show up. I was able to invite two of the girls from our Bible college to join me for this trek, as I wanted to have some assistants, as well as give them an opportunity to minister. They both had a good time working with the children during the clinic, and I was able to listen to Dr. Johnson and his assistant as they took notes from the various patients and give them the medicines they wanted. Thankfully, I was able to use many of the words I have already learned to give me a headstart on pulling out the correct medications. I think there were about 25 adults and 15 children that showed up and we were able to share a clear Gospel presentation with them before the event began. Please pray that the Lord would use the words that were shared to minister to each of the hearts of those that came.

Saturday was a fun day as I was able to reunite with some friends who came to visit. I am glad that they could come, both so I could get to know them again better and so that I could have a chance to sightsee a little around Cambodia before heading back home. My friends are teachers in China, but I knew them both from college. Otherwise, I want to share with you about the last college student, a young lady named Nim. Nim is one of the three married girls in our college and is currently expecting her first child. Her husband, Raa, is not in the college, but just graduated from the Bible Institute. He is one of the preacher boys and regularly goes to the village to preach at church. Nim is a very hard-working girl and it is easy to see that she gives her utter best. She has a ready laugh and is always trying to be a help to those around her. Please pray that the Lord would give her the strength she needs to balance her pregnancy, husband, college studies, and everything else in her life.

Sunday was the start of some new experiences for me in Cambodia. As a result of my friends being here, I had the opportunity to go to the Phnom Penh church service so my friends could hear English preaching. I had to leave the Takhmau service a little early, but we enjoyed the good fellowship in Phnom Penh. It was good to see the ministry there, as it's been several years (maybe 8?) since I was there last. I also enjoyed being in both Takhmau services through the day, but was very sad to say goodbye to my many friends at the services in the evening. I don't think the kids really realized that I wouldn't be back next week, but maybe that's good. I have made many little friends and I pray that I can come back and work with them again soon.

Monday was the start of the sight seeing tour. On this day, my friends and I chose to visit some of the sights that are well-known but very sobering in Cambodia. First of all, we started off by going to Cheoung Ek, or, the killing fields. This is the place where the soldiers took the people they wanted to get rid of. They have found many mass graves in these killing fields and this particular one is probably the most well known. They have created a little walking tour to help explain both what the villagers went through, as well as what some of the soldiers realized after the war. There is a huge tower of the bones of the dead that is in the middle of this field and walking throughout the whole place helps you realize better that these people have gone through so much. After that, we briefly visited at the Russian market (a souvenir place), ate lunch, then headed to Tuol Sleng, or S-21. This is the school where they processed and detained the prisoners before sending them to the killing fields. This particular place is comprised of the four main barracks where the prisoners were kept and many of the rooms are kept in the same conditions as previously, some even with the same beds and torture instruments. One of the things that struck me the most during that time was one of the rooms where they kept copies of the confessions of the prisoners. But, the thing that always amazes me, no matter how many times I see it, are the countless pictures of everyone that ended up getting processed through the school. I wonder what they thought as they sat there staring into the camera lens, whether they realized that this was essentially signing their death certificate, and what kind of hope they had during this time. It was definitely a very sober day.

Tuesday was planned to be a little more lighthearted. There is a nearby zoo, more like a wildlife preserve, that we wanted to visit. It is approximately an hour away by tuk-tuk (the normal mode of transportation for foreigners) so we left on our merry way. We were getting close to our destination, when our trusty driver decided to pull off the side of the road. We soon found out we had a flat tire. Thankfully, he is also skilled in moto repair, so after working on the tire for a while, we were up and running again. The zoo was actually pretty decent and a lot of the animals had been rescued from various circumstances. One thing we saw that was very surprising was an elephant who was missing the bottom half of his front leg. Instead, he was using a plastic prosthetic and making his way around pretty well. I guess a fire made him lose it, so the zoo was helping him get along. At the end, we fed the monkeys that were running freely around the zoo, then headed back home. Later in the day, we spent some time zooming through the market place (more like walking the moto) and checking out some of the local places. It was nice to take time to see Takhmau and to enjoy the beauty that is here.

One more update and you'll be all filled in on my trip! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to post them and I'd be glad to answer them!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week Seven in Cambodia

Week seven up and running...I hate to say this, but most of these days are starting to blend together a little! Now, that is not because I don't like the days, but because I enjoy them so much, it's hard to remember what happened each day! But, enough of this, I'll get on to telling you what happened with my week and you can decide whether or not you think I've got the greatest job on earth!

Wednesday was our volleyball day for the week. This time with the students has been so beneficial in a number of ways. First of all, it has built respect between each of us. Even those who do not play volleyball particularly well enjoy coming out for this event and just standing on the court. It builds a sense of camaraderie between the students, especially as the teams differ every week. Beyond that, it's a great character building activity and allows us to each see each other at our best or at our worst, depending upon our reactions. Every week, each of the students has excitedly asked which day we will be playing and everyone says they enjoy it every time. Still, this has been helpful for me as well, not only because I enjoy volleyball and not only because I enjoy playing with these students who have become my friends, but also because it allows me to see the great importance of doing organized activities with young people in a church. To me, this has become highly important, because it shows them how much you love them and gives you a platform from which to encourage them in their growth in Christ. I truly believe that these two months have been astronomically important in building a foundation of friendship with each of these students and I look forward to returning to get to know them better and to invest in each of their lives so that they can minister effectively to the country of Cambodia.

Thursday is (as always) our shopping day. One highlight of my stay has been to think of those who have done so much for me - my supporters. I have a great group of people and churches behind me that have been praying for me and supporting me not only during my time here, but also during my deputation travels. I know that I would not be where I am today if not for their intercessions on my behalf. I don't even know where to begin saying thank you for all you have done, but I do appreciate the many e-mails and letters I receive that are such an encouragement to me! Thank you! I pray that the Lord will bless you for all you have done for me.

Friday was a chance to minister at the Takhmau medical clinic we had at our church. My parents have been unable to do a clinic for several months for various reasons, but we really wanted to have the opportunity for us to do a clinic before I leave, as I believe this may be something the Lord would have me do in the future. Thankfully, my language teacher, Saam, is also a medical doctor, so he was able to purchase the supplies for the clinic. We were hoping for a larger crowd than what came, but I do believe we were an encouragement to the 10-15 people that showed up. We were able to pass out medications for a variety of things from tuberculosis to minor colds and scrapes. Most importantly, though, we were able to share the Gospel with each one of the individuals that came through the door. It was neat for me to see this firsthand and to be able to help Saam as he met with each of those that came. Please pray for the Lord's leading in this particular area in the future.

Saturday, my mom and sister and I were able to get some supplies for when I return back to the country. Most of these were counted as Christmas presents to me, so that was a nice blessing for my pocketbook :-) ! But, they were still an encouragement as I was able to pick out some dishes and silverware for when I come back to Cambodia. In so many ways, it is exciting to realize that even though I will be returning to the States shortly, I can look forward to that time when the Lord will bring me back to Cambodia. Another highlight of my Saturday (and of the entire week leading up to it) was that I was able to prepare a lesson for the children's services on Sunday. One of my favorite stories to share with children's classes is the story of Daniel, because there are so many truths we can glean from his life, plus the children seem to especially enjoy the many dangerous challenges that Daniel faced. I was glad to show the children the flannelgraph pictures and tell them about Daniel's decision to follow God when given the king's food and when faced with the lion's den. I wanted them to remember his obedience and his faithfulness.

Sunday was a blessing, but also bittersweet, as we found out that one of our boys, approximately 9 years old, was planning to move out to the province to help his grandparents hunt, trap, and fish in the woods for a living. This boy (he has one older brother and two younger brothers) comes from a very poor family and they are pretty desperate to make ends meet. But, they are so very eager for love and when anyone shows them any care whatsoever, they soak it up! I have enjoyed getting to know each of the three younger boys and have been able to love on them each week, but we were extremely sad to hear that Keet might be going away. He has been one of the children that listens quite attentively to the lesson each week and we prayed about how the Lord might allow us to send the Gospel with him, even if he did leave. Sadly, illiteracy is very common in Cambodia and we think that Keet and his brothers aren't able to afford school, so a Bible wasn't a very logical option. But, we do have a picture Bible that we were able to send with him. Jonathon was able to take it over to him, as well as a tract about creation, and explain that we would miss him. Thankfully, he was still at church the next Sunday, but we heard recently that he may have to go to the province after all.

Monday starts the week of my last week of lessons. Wow! It's hard to believe, but in some ways, kind of exciting. I think language study needs a break every now and then. I'm looking forward to seeing how I can progress my language knowledge when I return to the States, but I have been quite excited trying to use the language bits I know whenever possible. As potentially vain as this sounds, I find it quite amusing when I am able to read or say something and I shock the Cambodians around me. They exclaim that I can speak Khmer and then ooh or aah over the few simple words I said. Thankfully, I am able to make many whole sentences now, although it may take me a little longer than speaking would normally in English. But, I pray that I can continue to grow in this area while back in the States.

Tuesday was my last day of teaching! So sad! So, I'll tell you about Kun Thy, my second to last student to tell you about. Kun Thy is the sister of Kun Thea, another of our students in the college. They both live in a nearby city with their parents and have become quite involved in the Phnom Penh church. They help with the children's Sunday school and have been attending the English services. Kun Thy looks quite different from her sister, so although their names may be hard to differentiate, they are distinctly different. Kun Thy doesn't tend to like volleyball as much as Kun Thea, but she still tries and always smiles during the games. She is very studious and her English is quite good, so it is always fun to carry on a conversation with her. Please pray that the Lord would continue directing her steps.

Next week is going to be exciting, as I will be able to visit many sites in Cambodia, so I hope you'll enjoy learning a little about the tourism and history of Cambodia. God bless!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Week Six in Cambodia

Wednesday contained mostly anticipation for my trip on Thursday. Jonathon and I both made sure our bags were packed, as we actually combined our suitcases together, but each had a small carry-on bag with certain supplies. Throughout the day on Wednesday, we enjoyed the fellowship with everyone, but kept thinking of all that we would be doing in Koh Kong. Koh Kong is located on the far western side of Cambodia (although previous to my trip, I wouldn't have been able to tell you that one!). Once you pass Koh Kong, you will enter into Thailand after a short road trip. It is not a large city, although it has grown up as a result of it being one of the main ways to travel from Cambodia into Thailand. It is actually one of the recommended tourist spots, but that is more because of the province that it is a part of (Koh Kong province) and the island nearby (Koh Kong island). We had our regular Wednesday activities - including my English lesson with Saam, my regular trip on the moto around Takhmau for practice, volleyball with the students (since I would be gone Friday) and evening service with Tera, Mi, and Sophoa. What a blessing!

Thursday morning, Jonathon and I left bright and early on the tuk-tuk with Tera as our driver. We got to the bus station at 7:15, but weren't supposed to leave until 7:45. Well, after buying our ticket, we found out the bus would be delayed. It didn't get there until 9:00 and we were inducted into the world of Cambodian bus travel. We got on and found seats at the front of the bus, but after getting some stares from a nearby lady, realized we were in the wrong seats (we also kind of recognized what she was saying, so we were wondering if that might be the idea). So, we moved to the only two empty seats in the back, as ours had already been taken and we didn't feel like making a big fuss about it. Then, we proceeded to travel, stopping three times overall for bathroom breaks over the next six hours. Thankfully, during one of those stops, we were able to get off the bus, buy some food, and have our lunch. It was locally made Cambodian food, so we prayed specifically that the Lord would keep us safe through it. It wasn't too bad, although there wasn't much meat between the bone and pork fat. Still, the sauce with rice was good and the pineapple delectable. Finally, we arrived in Koh Kong a little after 3:00 and met the couple we would be staying with. They quickly took us to their house and we started joining them in their schedule. The evening included English lessons with one group of students while another group had a Bible study at 5:00. Then, we enjoyed dinner with some of the Bible study students. After that, cleanup, then fellowship and game time with the missionary couple. Bedtime was pretty early, but a blessing as we had been traveling all day and were quite tired with the experience.

Friday got us up bright and early and we enjoyed a hearty breakfast before heading out to the nearby hospital to experience medical life in Cambodia. We had been there a little on Thursday as well, but got to go again in the morning on Friday. We got to see some ultrasounds performed (one was especially fun, as we could see the little baby boy waving his arm around), as well as visit several of the patients and share tracts and the story of God's love with them. At 11:30, we headed home for English lessons at 12:00, then lunch, then went for a walk around the city to see some of the sights and to get to talk for a while. We saw some of the nearby mosques, as there is a large population of Chams in the area. After that, we headed home for English lessons and Bible study, then got ready so we could head out for supper at a nearby restaurant. During our time there, a nearby Thai group had come in to do an expo, so our trip to the restaurant included a detour to see the large crowds that were participating in the event. The drive was exciting in one aspect, as the electricity had gone out in the entire city shortly before we left. As a result, only those buildings with their own generators were lit. Otherwise, everything was dark. Arriving at the restaurant, it was also dark, so we ate the delicious food by candlelight. The young man who runs the restaurant is a Christian and has learned to make some pretty good food, including pizza, burgers, and chicken sandwiches, as well as ice cream cakes and pastries. We enjoyed the fellowship there as well and after arriving home and talking for a while, we headed up to bed.

On Saturday morning, we got up for breakfast, then headed to the bus station to catch our bus back to Phnom Penh. I had made the mistake of not purchasing our tickets for our return trip in Phnom Penh, so when we went to buy them with the same bus company, we found that they were sold out. Thankfully, there are three bus services to Koh Kong, although they are not all the same caliber. Still, we bought tickets with the second best (not grammatically correct, I know, but best for explanation) company and waited for the bus to arrive. This one was also late, but our seats were much closer to the front and open, so that was a huge blessing. Still, as we traveled, we realized that stops would be much more frequent and random on the bus. Plus, there was no policy with this one regarding extra passengers, so if someone wanted on the bus and there were no seats, they simply sat on the floor. This meant that we would stop for anyone if they looked like they wanted a ride. Eventually, my brother and I began to read and I got through a couple books before the time was over. Getting back to Phnom Penh, we ended up at a different station than the one we started at on Tuesday, so Tera finding us was quite an adventure as well. Finally, with the help of some friendly local policemen, we were able to get back to our home. Whew! But, it was fun and I would definitely do it again, although I think I'll take the moto next time :-) .

Sunday was good as always, although my cold was back full swing. It helped me realize how much I had missed things in Takhmau and how much the Lord has been working in my heart to give me a passion for the people in this city and even in Cambodia. During my time in Koh Kong, I realized that if the Lord were to lead me someplace else in Cambodia, maybe with people or things I'm not familiar with, I would be happy to go there and serve Him in whatever capacity. It simply clarified for me that His calling on my life and my surrender to it includes any part of Cambodia, not just those parts that I already know about. Thankfully, I was able to get a nap in on Sunday, although that did greatly affect my ability to sleep later on! We enjoyed a good English sermon in the evening after the Khmer services, then I was able to play badminton with my mom in the downstairs level of the Bible college.

Monday was back to business as usual. My brother has been exercising with me lately, and I had really enjoyed the break while we were gone in Koh Kong. Still, it was good to get back into the swing of things. My Khmer lessons had been going well, although some of the nuances of reading Khmer are sometimes quite tricky. I am definitely a slow reader right now, but I am trying to learn the how and why of certain things. For example, based on the type of consonant at the beginning of the word, your ending sound might change. For me, it is tricky to remember all the different rules that you have to keep in mind when you look at a word in Khmer. It seems like it could be read so many different ways! But, I am thankful for my teacher and his patience with me. It also makes me realize it is very important to take a good amount of time to learn this language. Russian was completely different, in that once you knew a sound, you could read it anywhere and anytime. The only rules you had to learn were grammar, which, while difficult, still were sometimes easier. Khmer, although considered an easier language, seems to be a much harder language to read. But, slow and steady wins the race!

Tuesday was normal Bible institute classes. As I am nearing the end of my time here, I need to make sure I finish each of the students, so I want to tell you a little bit about John. John is probably one of our oldest students in the Bible college, somewhere in his early thirties, but he is very energetic and already busily serving the Lord. He preaches nearby and already has a wife and adopted child. He gives of himself completely to his studies and everything I have ever received from him in schoolwork has been his best. He is always ready to smile! One thing that people do sometimes tease him about is his height, as he is shorter, even for a Cambodian, but he is outstanding on the volleyball court! It has been a joy to get to know him and the other students during my time here.

Well, it's off to the races again, and of course, this is late as usual, so I'm going to finish it so I can get working on week seven. God bless!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Week Five in Cambodia

Yikes! I can't believe a month has passed! I definitely have to admit that the Lord has been working mightily already this month as He has knit my heart even closer with that of the Cambodians! I think I would be perfectly content to stay here right now and be a full-time worker immediately. But, God has different plans for me as I need to head back and finish up the deputation trail in America. Still, my language teacher had to keep me on my toes today, as he asked if I'd yet been in the country in April or May. My reply was no, as I've only ever lived in Cambodia during the months of August through January. His answer to that was that I hadn't even been in Cambodia during the hottest times yet. Oh, boy :-) !

Last Wednesday actually ended up being pretty normal, so I wanted to tell you about Kun Thea. She actually has a sister that studies at the Bible college as well, whose name is Kun Thy. It took me a couple times the first day I met them to try to get them separated in my mind with their names. Still, it's not too difficult from there. They're not twins and they don't look identical, so you just have to remember when to keep the name going or when to stop it at the first vowel. Kun Thea is very sweet and has actually experienced life with some South Koreans. She and her sister ministered at a home for children when they were younger. Currently, they both teach Sunday school at the Phnom Penh church services. Kun Thea is busy and always keeps moving forward with her work, but she also enjoys having fun. She is quick to laugh and loves our volleyball time each week. We found out that one thing we have in common is our favorite color - orange. She is very good at English and keeps striving to become better at it.

Thursday was our shopping day, but it was also the day to drop off my visa to get it renewed. In Cambodia, you can easily get a tourist visa for a month, but after the month is over, you must get it renewed for another month. After that, you have to look into different visa options. Anyway, my original planning figured only two months, so I tried to keep it a couple days short so I wouldn't have to worry about paying extra for more visas. We went to the office near the airport and talked to the lady about my visa. She took my passport, gave me the receipt I needed after I paid, then told us to call on Monday to see about picking it up. The gentleman in charge of approving the visa wasn't currently in, but would take care of it. If it wasn't done Monday, I'd have to wait until Wednesday, as Tuesday was a holiday. Fast forwarding to Monday...when we called to find out about my visa, the lady was quite curious as to what in the world we were calling about. When we finally explained that I had dropped off my passport, she said she had no idea what we were saying and that she didn't have a passport under my name. Hmmm...Finally, we got things straightened around, she found my passport, and it is currently in my possession again. Hurrah!

Friday was an exciting day of visitation. We gave out almost all of the tracts that we brought with us, so that was very exciting. One disappointing thing to me on visitation is that most of the time I can't engage people in conversation. Of course, the main reason for this is that I don't speak their language. So, my personal goal during visitation is to genuinely smile at as many people as I can during the time we are out and to get them to smile back, so that I can then ask them if I can give them a tract. It actually works really well and they seem very receptive to it! One of the gentlemen I gave a tract to, actually spoke back to me in English. I was surprised as his statement wasn't a simple "hello" or "thank you", but "I have heard of Jesus Christ." I was able to talk to him for a few minutes and found out that he had previously gone to another church, but due to moving had not found a church yet. I had my brother come over, then Tera (the pastor) to try to explain how to get to our church so that he could come by for a visit. Please pray that we would have further opportunities to share the Gospel with this man.

Saturday was a great time in my book! My brother and I got to practice moto-driving and headed out to the nearby countryside. There are three main roads that lead out of Takhmau toward the country and we chose the one toward Svey Rolom. It is a nearby village and there is a good local church in the area. Two of our students at the Bible college, Moi Sim and Try, go to church there, as their dad is the pastor. We enjoyed the scenic route, dodging trucks, cars, and motos as we went through villages, market places, and open areas. We eventually reached the church and actually found several of the church people, including Moi Sim there. We talked to them for a short period of time, then Moi Sim invited us to her home, so we followed her there. We were able to see Try at that time and to spend a few minutes chatting with them about their dogs (and puppies), rabbits, and crickets. Now, in Cambodia, (almost) any source of protein is welcome. This does include crickets! So, Try actually raises a couple huge concrete blocks of crickets to sell to vendors for them to cook and then sell themselves. Thankfully they didn't offer any, as I wasn't too sure I wanted that day to be my day for eating them. But, I guess we'll see what happens in the future with that one :-) . That evening, my dad and I also had the chance to go with Dr. Johnson to the home of the neighbor lady at the institute. We were able to exam her medically and to give her health advice, but we were also able to share the Gospel with her and her husband. Please pray that they would accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, as they are both afraid of what that might mean for them in their lives.

Sunday was neat in that we got to talk with the Sunday school children about Jesus being the light in our lives. We helped them make a craft that was similar to a candle and the game was focused on the light of Jesus in our lives. While we did have one situation of kids that came to church only for the ride, most of the children come because they want to and they are hearing the Gospel each week. They are the next generation of Cambodians and it is vital that they realize that Jesus Christ didn't just come to the earth years ago and we talk about Him now, but that He died for each of their sins and the free gift of salvation is readily available for each of them. Please pray that they would get saved and that they would grow in Christ! Some of the kids that I have gotten to know a little more are Ruit, Yuon, Adu, and a host of others that I can't seem to quite get their names. Please pray that I can be an encouragement during this time to them as well.

Monday was a rough day for me with allergies, so Jonathon was gracious enough to take me out shopping for some allergy medicine. I'm not sure why certain places and things affect me, maybe it was the drive on Saturday. Anyway, thankfully we found some medicine, then I was good to go. Here in Cambodia, pharmacies are a separate entity. You can find one almost anywhere, but you can also find many various medications there. If you know what you need, you just ask around at the different ones until you find it. Still, it is always important to check the expiration date on a package, as well as the country it is from. Certain medications, while cheaper, may come from countries that include harmful ingredients. It is important to make sure you get your medicine from countries that are okay and safe, which then means you'll pay a little more. Later, on Tuesday, we went out to buy some more allergy medicine, as we wanted to make sure we were stocked as needed. We found out it was cheaper to get elsewhere, so I guess you still have to check prices on medicine as the "white tax" may be more in certain places.

Tuesday was pretty much the same as normal, so I'll tell you a little about Saren. Saren is currently expecting and is married to Pheap, one of the other students in the Bible college. She is a hard worker and although she struggles a little with English, she works very hard and does her best. She has had at least one miscarriage in the past, so please pray that this pregnancy will go smoothly. She keeps busy trying to rest for the baby, taking care of Pheap, and studying for school. She enjoys spending time with the other married ladies and she and Nim (another student) often ride together on the back of Pheap's moto. She is very sweet and soft spoken but has a very gentle countenance. Please pray for her that the Lord will help all to go smoothly with the pregnancy.

Well, I guess I'm a little closer this time to getting this posted like it should be. I will be heading out tomorrow to visit a nearby province, so I wanted to get this finished before then. I'm looking forward to visiting with another missionary and with getting some more ideas for future ministry. I'd greatly appreciate your prayers!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Week Four in Cambodia

"Su-a Sdai Chnam Tmai!" Or, Happy New Year in Khmer! Well, almost a new year anyway. It's exciting to be ringing in the New Year in Cambodia this year. The last time I did that was in 2004-2005 when I was visiting my parents over Christmas break.

Wednesday was, of course, Christmas and it was a huge blessing to spend it with my family! I am used to not seeing all of my family for Christmas, so it was a real treat to spend the time with all of them again. We enjoyed each other's fellowship throughout the day. The highlight of that day, both in a positive and negative way, was when we went out to view the Christmas lights. Cambodia, as a Buddhist country, does not really celebrate Christmas. Sure, there is the materialistic aspect and a lot of the stores try to throw out "promotions" for the foreigners to feel like Christmas is in the air, but most people have absolutely no idea what Christmas means. There is one road, however, that puts up many Christmas lights because of the businesses on the road. You can also spot Christmas lights throughout the cities, draped over different office buildings and restaurants. As we drove to the Christmas light road, traffic was horrendous. First of all, we were traveling at night, which is always a bad time to go into Phnom Penh as the streets become congested and packed. Second, there are currently many riots going on throughout Cambodia as the garment factory workers (and now monks, and teachers) are protesting for civil rights. After much turning around, weaving through cars, spotting squads of police officers in riot gear, and almost getting hit a couple of times, we made it to the two-block street that housed the lights. It was beautiful! I definitely enjoyed our three minutes of light viewing and we quickly turned around to go down the other side of the street and enjoy it again! Ice cream afterward was a welcome treat, although probably not quite the Christmas treat most Americans think of, then we headed home again.

Thursday was a nice day to simply relax and enjoy our time together as a family. In the morning, we were able to take things a little more slowly. The afternoon was a blast! We had planned to go play volleyball at 1:00. Somehow, the wires had gotten crossed and several students thought 2:00 was the magic hour. Once we made contact with them all, we waited for them to arrive. Once they got to our house, we all piled onto the remault (all 18 of us) and headed to the courts. We played three games and had fun spiking, bumping, setting, and serving. Some of them were rather good, others not quite as much, but we had fun all together. In Cambodia, you must rent the court, but the cost is minimal and well worth the investment into the unity of the college students and friendship with them. Afterwards, they came over to the house and we enjoyed watching the Wizard of Oz together in English. Snacks had been provided and they made short work of those. Most of the people present spoke English, but some had brought spouses or children. Thankfully, the movie had subtitles in English, but for those who didn't completely understand the language, the acting was perfect to portray the message.

Friday ended up being shopping day, as well as visitation. I don't remember too much from that day, so I'll share more about another college student. Moy Sim is the daughter of the pastor at the church in Svey Rolom. Her brother, Try, is also in the Bible college. She has a very sweet and outgoing personality. She is constantly being teased by Sophoa about being short, as Sophoa is probably a foot taller than her. (Cambodians are, in general, shorter than Americans, but this is not always the case. Some are taller than me, some Americans are shorter than some of them.) But, she doesn't mind too much. She gives it back in return! She is currently studying both English and Chinese and seems to have a good grasp on the languages. Years ago, I taught her mother piano, and Moy Sim is looking forward to learning it for herself.

Saturday was cleaning day :-) ! Try (pronounced Tree), as I already mentioned, is Moy Sim's brother. He is one of the younger students in the Bible college and I think everyone thinks of him as their kid brother. He has a great grasp on English and is always coming up with very logical questions. Once you answer a question for him, he usually understands the subject matter and does well trying to explain it to other students. He loves to play volleyball and does quite well. There are five married students in the college and five singles. He is the only guy of the five singles, but seems to be able to take care of himself in the midst of all the girls. He is able to have a good time with all of them, as his sister is always there with him. I'm not exactly sure how the Lord is leading in his life in regards to ministry, so please pray that He will continue to make that known to Try.

Sunday was a blessing again! I enjoyed seeing all the little munchkins, although it did end up being a little more exciting than we anticipated. In Cambodia, you must get permission from the local "poom" leader before you can start a church or pass out tracts, etc. We have that permission for Tahkmau, so we are very unrestricted in what we can do. Still, if someone raises a fuss about something you do, you may have to reconsider your actions. With so many children at church, it sometimes get a little loud. The neighbor lady across the road got quite agitated on Sunday and ended up throwing rocks at the church, hollering and yelling at my dad. Afterward, Tera was told that he needed to visit the "poom" leader and get some things straightened around. Please pray for this situation, as it is all quite a bit sticky. This particular lady is known for causing problems in the neighborhood and is not generally well-liked. Still, we want to have a good testimony no matter where we are and we don't want to create a ruckus by allowing the kids to be too loud. The Lord is working in the situation, as Monday morning her husband came by and apologized and asked us to examine his wife medically. We have an appointment with her on Saturday (with Dr. Johnson) to find out if she might have some blood pressure problems. Please pray that the light of Jesus Christ will shine through us and that we might be a good testimony to her and to others in the community.

Monday was back to school as normal and so much fun! I had continued language lessons over Christmas break, so that wasn't a problem. But, it was good to see the students again. I enjoyed teasing them about missing them! Leah also started a piano class with the students, which will occur every Monday for the next several weeks. Please pray for them, as most don't have regular access to a piano. Pray that they would understand the many things necessary in music. We will be doing a music philosophy class later in the year and have been meeting together as siblings on Monday nights to discuss what topics we should cover and the approach we should follow. My brother, Jonathon, is the one primarily responsible for teaching the class this time around, so I know he would covet your prayers in this area as it is a huge responsibility. We have been researching the topic throughout the last several weeks, reading through different books that we have and that have been recommended by others.

Tuesday was our normal walk to the institute. I did talk to the neighbor lady for a little bit and tried to get a blood pressure reading on her, but every time I did it, it changed. So, we'll see what happens on Saturday. Saren (pronounced Sarign) is one of the married students at the Bible college. I wrote about her husband, Pheap, previously. They got married a couple of years ago, but recently found out that she is pregnant. Right now, she is attempting to go to school full-time, while being married AND being pregnant. We are praying that the baby might wait (if it's the Lord's will) to come until the semester ends. She is doing well in her studies, although it sometimes requires that she works harder than others might necessarily need to. She is sweet and soft-spoken and has a smile always on her face. She is willing to ask questions, but sometimes doesn't quite know how to phrase them. You can always tell that she loves her husband and it is fun to watch them together. Please pray for her, as her husband is a pastor-in-training and one of Dr. Johnson's preacher boys. This will be a big responsibility for her and already requires that she goes out every weekend to the village (by moto) to help her husband at the churches he ministers in.

Well, I better run. I never get these written on time, so I'm sorry they're always late. Today (which is really Saturday) I am planning on taking a ride out into the countryside on the moto. We'll see how that goes :-) ! I pray your New Year has already started out in a great way and that you can already see the Lord working in your life.