Sunday, October 5, 2008

Adventures in Cambodia


It's been awhile! Sorry to keep you waiting on an update. This should be an interesting post... a collection of emails that I have sent people and a list that my sister friend Stephanie made of Cambodia. Enjoy :)

(Steph's list) - YOU KNOW YOU'RE IN CAMBODIA WHEN......

- The waitress is picking her nose while taking your order
- When you adjust the shower and it falls off the wall
- When your vegetables are being washed in the same bucket that the person's feet are in
- When Raid becomes your new deodorant
- When the bathroom sink falls off the wall ( was a really lucky catch)
- When you have to ask if the meat on your plate is snake or chicken
- When your lungs have to siphon the oxygen out of the air
- When your Tuk Tuk driver doesnt care if you dont make it to your destination alive
- When Jelly Grass Drink becomes the new Coke
- When you become a little toooo regular....
- When sweat starts acting like God.... it never leaves you
- When cockroaches chase you
- When you mistake a rat for a cat
- When it takes half an hour to load your hotmail (!)
- When you run around with dogs and naked kids
- When your street smells like a urinal
- When its ok to stop and poo on the sidewalk (yes this one happened after church)
- When your shoulders and knees become 'private parts'
- When your supermarket groceries come to a figure of 290,000 (ie 70 US$)
- When your skin forgets what hot water feels like
- When you pray protection over your bed each night (from rats, cockroaches, lizards & mosquitos)
- When hand sanitizer replaces your moisturiser
- When ants swim in your cereal
- When driving up the wrong side of the road is fine
- When people wash their dishes in the mall bathrooms
- When amonium and charcoal tablets become your multi-vitamins

And this is just the first week.. :)

So more serious stuff thats been happening... We've been to an aids orphanage, it was really hard but so rewarding to be able to put a smile on those little faces and bring dancing to the lifeless bodies. We're planning to pump some money into the orphanage and buy them things to play with.

We spent a day cleaning up the streets. This was a really cool experience and made a big impact on the local neighbourhood. (I might have to show you a photo sometime so you have a concept of the amount of rubbish, scraps, poo that is all over the place). While we were doing this we came across a lady sifting through a dumpster so we bought her some groceries for her and her little son.

We did maintenance on a tiny local church here in Phnom Penh... there were a few little surprises that we're still getting used to! (rats and man-eating cockroaches). While we were there they asked us to run their service on Sunday.

We saw some of the sights a few weeks ago... the killing fields and the torture centre that was used by the Khmer Rouge during the 70s. And the temple of skulls from some of the 2 million that were brutally murdered. It was a really heavy day. We're hoping to go see Angkorwat on a day off its one of the 7 wonders of the world and only 5 hours away.

Email 1 -

We went to church this morning, I lead two worship songs while Luke played the guitar. I am hoping to have more opportunities to do this, I like it a lot! Right now we are at the mall in a nicer internet cafe. I am using my leaders laptop. This week... there is trash everywhere here, all over the streets. We didn't have any ministry set up on Thursday so we prayed about what we should do. We felt like we should walk the streets and pray and pick up the trash. In the bigger picture, the whole city is littered with trash, we walked maybe a handful of small streets. Made a very small, temporary impact... the streets we picked up would be covered with trash again within the day. I don't think that was the reason why we did it though. It was more to set an example to the people who witnessed. That we aren't any better than them, we here to help. In the afternoon we visited an Aids orphanage. We walked into a small room that had three windows with decorative bars over the windows. Small children were sitting all over the floor. I sat down next to three of them and one of them sat in my lap. I played with him for a while but I couldn't help but notice a little boy just sitting in front of motionless. staring off at the wall. I reached forward and tickled him a little bit but he didn't even respond. The two kids on my lap left and I pulled the other boy towards me and held him in my lap. He wouldn't look at me. Stood up and he laid his head on my shoulder. So sweet. We looked out the window together and I was finally able to get him to look me in the eyes. I decided to throw him in the air and when I did he burst into a smile and laughed! So I did it again and again. There were little paper animals hanging from the ceiling and I lifted him up to touch them. Long story short by the time we left he was playing on his own, smiling and happy. The transformation was beautiful. I won't forget him. We will be having bible studies with local small groups this week. I think I am going to lead one about the book Esther.

Email 2 -

We are doing bible studies with each other yesterday and today to get feedback from the group before we start tomorrow teaching Cambodian small groups. I went yesterday morning and we read the book Esther, I focused more on the verse about how Esther became a Queen for such a time as this, to save the Jews. She was a Jew who through God's favor became a Queen and in turn saved the Jews. Beautiful story of our lives... God's grace welcomes us into the royalty of the kingdom of God and He determines the time and the place in which we shall live... we aren't given this position only for our own benefit but for a greater purpose. I can't imagine the boldness and trust in God it took for Esther to go before the King and plead for the lives of her people. Very inspiring. I then shared a bit of my testimony and correlated it to the story of Esther. I think it was effective and I'm excited to share with the Cambodian people.

Yesterday afternoon it rained so hard. The streets were flooding. Some people from our team went to the store to buy things for dinner and had to take a tok-tok back because the water was up to their knees! Thunder was really loud too. Exciting!

SO... A tuk-tuk is a motorbike with a carriage type sitting thing (haha) attached to the back of it. Two benches to sit on. We are able to fit four of us on each bench and then someone else sits on the floor with their legs hanging out the back. Its fun :) The driving is so crazy here, but you don't feel unsafe because its normal! The lanes in the road really don't mean much, two lanes going different directions can become three going on way and one another, because of people trying to pass each other. No street lights at intersections, you just put yourself out their and cross in between the oncoming traffic. People stop and let you go because that's just how it is! Quite humorous :)

Email 3 -

So we started bible studies this week... it was a bit different than we all expected. The small groups weren't small groups, they were actual families and our idea of teaching in a classroom in a church was completely off. We have been doing two sessions a day one at 8 and then one at 2. We have two tuk-tuks come and pick us up and then we drive out to a family's home and sit with them in their house, give a testimony from one of us and then someone else teaches something from the bible and then they tell us their testimonies and what God is doing in their lives and we pray for them and then leave. It is so amazing! The first day was a shock. We were all expecting to pull up to a church building and go inside to teach young people but the driver stops on the side of the road next to all this trash and the rice fields in the background and tells us to get out. We all were a bit confused but we got out and the pastor was over by this shack. He motioned for us to come in. The family was sitting up on this wooden platform that had a straw mat laying across it. Flies were everywhere. I have never seen so many in my life. The family was smiling at us and then they just started to sing Khmer songs. David preached about the Law vs. Grace and rats were running around in the garbage about 10 feet from us. Welcome to Cambodia... We went to about 8 homes this week and each one was different. The first was probably the poorest. I lead the bible study on Friday afternoon and I felt like I was suppose to talk about the power of praise instead of talking about the book of Esther. So we drove out to the house of of the main roads and the road was extremely bumpy. Ruts filled with water, we were all laughing and bouncing everywhere. We got to this massive puddle/lake in the middle of the road and the driver revs the engine and floors it... we made it half way :) Two people got out and pushed the rest of the way. The bible study went great. God really gave me peace and it just felt like we were a huge family sitting down and sharing together. A Cambodian lady shared with us that she lives out in a home that gets flooded when it rains and she has to walk through the water to get to her house. She has a little girl and is pregnant as well. Her husband is having affairs and doesn't let her leave the house. Only on Fridays and Sundays to meet with her Christian friends. She sometimes doesn't have money for rice and is worried she won't have enough money for a good hospital for her baby. After church yesterday we went out to visit her. Walked through water up to almost our knees to get to her house and she cooked us a small meal. Felt so blessed. Small home with water marks on the wood where the water came up to during monsoon season. There is another team here from Kona, Hawaii that is part of the health care school and they were able to find a midwife here in Cambodia that is willing to help this woman. We told her this and she was so blessed. Her eyes would get all watery and she said, "I am so happy today, thank you, thank you." Other families we visited had prayer request that they wanted their kids to go to school but it was too expensive and they needed that money to buy food. They said school was 1000 reil a day per child. That's only 25 cents. And yet even the education system can be corrupt. Those who pay more get better grades. It is so hard to know where to start in such a corrupt, unorganized, needy country. Need is literally everywhere, just like the trash. It has been such a blessing though to build relationships with these families we are visiting and knowing that we are making an impact on their lives and encouraging them. On our way home from her house yesterday we floored it through the massive puddle again and then some random lady on the side of the path was holding two crabs. She started walking towards us and holding them out. I thought she wanted us to take a picture so I got out the camera, nope, she throws them into the tuk-tuk and stands there smiling and laughing to herself as we scream and wonder what is going on? haha. We rode the whole way home with our feet up on the seats and two crabs running around on the floor. Then our tuk-tuk stops working and 5 guys immediately swarm us seeing if they can help while another guys stood at the back saying "one dollar" and pointing at his motor bike, haha. That's the culture, if you stop people just come over and hang around to help. We have our nightly entertainment of leaning over the balcony and watching the rats run all over the alley. We bought some rat traps a few nights ago and put oreos in the middle and it was a huge event. They were huge sticky plates so when they stepped on them they would get stuck. A guy ended up trapping one in the corner. Shows how much there is to do at night when we resort to messing with the rats...

So today is our day off and I'm not sure what will happen. That's usually how it goes... We leave in a week for the life center. I might preach at a church next Sunday? God is completely stretching me!

Thanks for all your prayers and love, until next time... xoxo