Tuesday, June 5, 2012

God Be With You...

...until we meet again!

We have experienced three amazing weeks with one of God's best friends and most devoted followers. This afternoon we told Sokhom and SreyNang goodbye and watched them drive off heading back to Phnom Penh and their daily service for the Lord. Tomorrow Sokhom will graciously turn the other cheek as a former colleague will take custody of the Camry Sokhom's daughter gave to him and had shipped over the Pacific from California. In all truth the car belongs to Sokhom and the colleague should have no claims on it; however, Sokhom does not believe it to be right to dispute another Christian in court. This is just one more evidence of his total surrender to his Lord and Savior. God is with him and will once again bless his faithfulness. **** Angkor Watt is a fascinating 30 square kilometer area of ancient castles, palaces and temples dating back to AD 700 and forward. There are more than fifty architectural wonders lying in the jungle of the Siem Reap area. Today we climbed to the top of three of these and walked the grounds of a fourth. The massive stone structures rival anything I have seen in my travels. The size of individual stones which were carved from mountains no longer standing baffled us as we tried to fathom the process needed to chisel each one to fit so perfectly forming colonnades, bridges, columns, arched roofs and massive swimming pools on multiple levels. Then, once in place, every inch was carved with intricate designs and murals of life in the days of the Khmer region. We walked the ancient paths and climbed steps carved by Khmer people many centuries before the continent of America was discovered...long before the Incas came into power in the Andes or da Vinci sketched his architectural designs. We saw and touched stones carved to depict the battles between the Khmer peoples and invading civilizations using metal breastplates, chariots pulled by a single horse and spears. Ten foot high walls lining the arena in which the king would have watched elephants battling one another for sport were carved with murals depicting the fights. Enormous trees dating back hundreds of years have grown up in and around the ancient walls and toppled ruins-their roots winding in and around the stones much like the ancient seven-headed snaked depicted in every wall or bridge of Cambodia. The trees, God's amazing handiwork, were so intricately formed with such mighty and splendor that seeing them from high above the canopy of their interwoven branches and tangled limbs was absolutely breathtaking! **** Looking into the surrounding jungle and knowing that was the setting God used thirty years ago to camouflage Sokhom and Phauline and their tiny baby as Sokhom charted out a path into Thailand and freedom from physical bondage. We all are spellbound how God guided him back in the thick of night through the thicket of trees, shrubs and vines to the exact location he had carefully harbored his wife and child. God had plans to deliver the descendants of the kings and serfs of Angkor Watt through a young boy rescued from sure death many times over during the Pol Pot reign of terror. God had a blessing in store for two willing pilgrims from west Texas to walk alongside His servant and friend for a brief moment in time and to witness true discipleship as he passes his faith to the next generation.

Monday, June 4, 2012


As we drove into town on Saturday afternoon, we were amazed at the number of motors, tuktuks, cars, trucks, vans and buses loaded down with people, bags, bread and more people. We felt the exodus of Phnom Penh as all patriotic Cambodians took advantage of the four day weekend to return to their village to vote on Sunday. Then on Sunday we felt we had entered a quarantined zone when we went in for lunch. The normally congested streets were empty, many of the roads blocked off and most of the businesses (including our first two restaurant choices) were closed!

Today we once again found ourselves swimming upstream on a long two-lane highway leaving the city to travel almost 400 kilometers to Siem Reap. Travel was made even slower with the massive road construction along the way. Just when you think you have seen the countryside and experienced the culture, God allows more surprises and pleasures to cross your path. I am always amazed at the way everything seems to be so departmentalized here. In the city you will drive down a street and pass store after store of the exact same items. The next street is just as specialized. It is almost as if the city is zoned. The countryside seems to be the same. We drove through a village where every house, every yard and every vacant space was covered with large woven bamboo trays of tiny red peppers drying in the sun. It was a most beautiful sight! Another village was decorated with high piles of rice husks in every yard. We stopped to sample one of the pyramid piled lotus fruits we had seen in every market. And found huge grapefruit-like fruits at one of our pit stops along the way. The vendor peeled through the thick rind for us and we enjoyed its sweet sections for quite a distance down the road. We did not stop for the freshly plucked ducks hanging on a pole on the back of bicycles parked along a three-mile stretch nor for the ten-inch sections of bamboo steamed with fresh sticky rice and black beans that lined another two-mile stretch. There was a brief pull over to snap a shot of the granite carving near the mountain where it is mined, but we missed the photo op of the water buffaloes!**** Possibly as entertaining as the ever changing landscapes of rice paddies, fruit trees, bamboo, rolling hills and flat plains were the vehicles we passed. Busses loaded to overflowing with twenty to thirty perched on top reminded me of the highways of India. I caught the motor loaded with a shipment of ducklings, but missed the one the first week here carrying four live pigs to market upside down. The motorbikes continue to astound me as families pile high their belongings and perch confidently behind or in front of dad as he weaves in and out of the traffic...often avoiding the bottlenecks along they way. But today I noticed for the first time several pickups with both cab and bed loaded with passengers and a shelf welded on above the bed with another eighteen perched above the interwoven exhaust fumes of the traffic...a total of 35 or 40 in a two passenger pickup truck. The gas station was not busy as we passed, so I was able to share that with you as well.**** Early this morning the sounds of children once again echoed through the halls of the school. Four little boys had come back to tell me goodbye! The four CBS students and Chanthy's sweet family all joined them out front to bid us farewell as we climbed into a very packed car and headed to Siem Reap. Chanthy and SreyNang both wrote sweet notes to send us on our way. **** This evening we explored the market here so SreyNang could pick up some dried fish and then enjoyed a buffet dinner before retiring to our rooms. Tomorrow is an early morning of touring for us before Sokhom and SreyNang start the long journey back home midday. Our flight leaves late tomorrow night, so we will explore a little on our own before heading to the airport via tuktuk.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Super Sunday

The day was absolutely perfect from opening my eyes to retiring. Srey Nang made French toast & Sokhom made sticky rice...two of my favorites! There were 27 children who came for Sunday school singing for 30 minutes in English. With most songs we stopped and put a bookmark into the children's Bibles who brought them with them at the scripture represented by that song. They loved putting the cross at Matthew 27 and the ark at Genesis 6. Other bookmarks had the scriptures written on the back giving them a place to start in tackling their new Bibles! Now the stories we have told and translated over the three weeks will make more sense and be embedded in their minds and hearts. Our theme today was the great power of God in our individual lives using the stories of David and Goliath and Daniel in the Lion's den to illustrate that theme. Our song for the day was "My God is so Great." They were adorable singing, praying and listening attentively to me and to Srey Nang's translations. She has also grown so much in translating skills over these three weeks! We ended the session after worship was over and the adults came to watch us sing several songs and to stay and play Head and
Shoulders and Hokey Pokey. Perfect Sunday morning. **** We followed Paul & Debbie & Linda from the Ship of Life through the streets of Phnom Penh looking for a Thai restaurant. When we finally found it, it was closed for election day! The second Thai restaurant was closed, so we settle for an Irish one, Rice Paddy. Great Chicken Amok for me! Right across the street was the voting tent and lines of voters. We watched several walk by our outdoor table with black fingers-dipped in ink to indicate they had voted. It was fun to visit with the Pinkleys again before leaving and to share our experiences with them. Paul was excited to take eight Bibles provided by Mary's project back to the ship for his staff and a lady he has been studying with using the old Bibles based on the KJV. I gave Debbie and Linda "Richly Blessed" bags and Bible studies I had left. They were glad to have a physical memory of the three times we shared. **** Back home for ten minutes before the children began gathering around the house. I was using the rest hour to sort through left over items, pack and cool off from the 102 degrees and 100% humidity! Finally at 2:20 I decided that it was easier to join them than try to keep them quiet and collected in one place. We sang through all of our songs, played with bullfrogs and frisbees, played our games and sang the lollipop song! I distributed all of my goodies to those that had missed classes along the way and tried again to say good bye, but my little photographer wanted a last photo shoot, so he gathered my camera and all the kids for one last picture. The kids all had hugs and one drawing from fourteen year old Chornai who had earlier had stitches. **** This evening all of those left here instead of traveling to vote piled into two vehicles and went to Suki Soup for dinner. It was the first time some of them had ever been to a restaurant! The table has a big soup kettle built into it. You order from the menu the ingredients you want in your soup. The wait staff brings stacks of containers with meats, fish and greens to pour into the pot. Srey Nang and Phalika tossed each item in at the right moment to make everything ready at once. The two pots were quickly dished and eaten by twelve and a half hungry mouths! It was quite an experience. Because this was a holiday, there was little wait staff, the only choice today was the chef's special with lots of items in it...something Fatima would call refrigerator soup! **** Sokhom and I worked at translating/typing up the future plans for supporting the CBS graduates with chicken farming. Then final items hit the bags for tomorrow's six hour journey to Siem Reap. Our flight will leave from there Tuesday night. My return to Midland will take 27 hours from the time our flight lifts off from Cambodia till it sets down in Midland; however, I we will leave Seoul, Korea at 11:30 Wednesday morning and arrive in Dallas DFW at 9:30 that same morning!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cambodian Culture

We have entered a culture and semi-entered into it as fully as possible in a three week period with NO language skills. When you look at the writing system and try to decipher its composition and meaning, you want something to click. You want it to come clear to your mind...for the figures to at least be recognizable. Spanish, Portuguese and most European language use our basic alphabet system and are phonetic. Even Ukranian letters have phonetic meaning explicable to an English speaking person. In my three weeks here, I have begun to hear and reproduce names without having someone write them in my alphabet. I have not been successful in learning even the simplest phrase in oral K'Mer.
That frustrates me. I am amazed by my young students who not only write fluently in their own text, but can replicate the written English language! Even as young as five give it a good try! Occasionally I have a teen who struggles and gets help from a younger child. I have to be impressed that they try! I am leaving my children with 18 new songs, 8 firm stories from scriptures, 3 group games and lots of new vocabulary. When I return to Phnom Penh, I hope to visit in their school and homes. **** This month has been the national month of campaigning. This weekend, Friday through Monday, the world seems to slow down to a crawl. Friday and Monday are national holidays so people can travel home to vote. Each goes to his own village where he is registered to vote. Voting occurs on Sunday afternoon. Tomorrow we will have worship at 8:30. I will hold Sunday school for the children who are still in town during the worship hour. **** This afternoon after English class we ran to town looking for an ATM. We visited the mall. What a shock to my system! This looked nothing like anything we have experienced in the past three weeks. We traversed five floors of specialty stores, elevators, escalators and specialty restaurants such as Swensons getting from the parking garage back down to the ATM. The people were dressed in western style and shopped as families, groups of teens or couples out for an afternoon stroll. Advertisements for 3D cinema and sales clerks that spoke English were abundant. Less than five miles from our school, and yet my children have never seen anything like this in their lives. They are unaware of its existence!**** Our time here is winding down. As I write this evening, the CBI students are rehearsing for tomorrow's service. Their preparations are well planned. Their voices unite in harmony and in parts as if in rounds. The love and joy they experience in the Lord is evident in their praise...in their faces...and in their treatment of others. After worship they will disperse to their villages and return on Tuesday. Monday morning Sokhom, Srey Nang, Joe and I will head northwest to Siem Reap to tour the ancient temples often referred to as the eighth wonder of the ancient world. Our plane will leave from there late Tuesday night.

Friday, June 1, 2012

An American in Phnom Penh

Joe's classes concluded today with the students' final presentations from the book of Genesis. Their poise and command of the Scripture knowledge has certainly advanced. **** Tonight the men took over the hot fires to prepare dinner for twenty five hungry souls. No rice was served. Joe and Sokhom treated the students and staff to a good old fashioned American staple...hamburgers and french fries! Only four of the 22 had ever eaten a hamburger, so Srey Nang, Phalika and I put them together and served their plates for them. They were excited at the idea...a little surprised at the sight of the product...totally unsure about the process for eating such a concoction! As soon as they sat down to eat, the layers began coming apart and one item at a time tasted. Soon it was apparent that directions for eating a hamburger were in order. Facial expressions conveyed their amazement for the burgers were good quarter pounders intended to fill young men. The ketchup was another perplexing item on the table, but none was left at the end...nor were any of the heaping pile of French fries...nor extra tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickles--oh, yeah, there were pickles--not their favorite item on the plate. It was fun to see Sokhom take over Srey Nang's apron and stance at the charcoal pit for the three-hour tour in the kitchen. (The men now see what the three women do with their time all day!)(I let Srey Nang choose another apron to replace the one that now belongs to Sokhom!)****Later we wanted to show a movie and serve Fritos and onion dip, but the only movie we could come up with that they hadn't seen recently was a children's DVD I had brought. At least it was a recap of the book of genesis they have just finished studying with Joe. And at least it had subtitles of the spoken English so they could try to read along. And at least it had some of the songs I had taught the children and had introduced to the students. They liked the Fritos and dip.****Earlier as I had gathered with the students for our noon English lesson, the intern who assists Dr. Linh came in to say one of my children had had "a tragedy" and was in the clinic. I went out with him to see what had happened and found my fourteen year old Chorni with a two inch gash in the back of her head. They had cut a four inch diameter circle of her beautiful long black hair to expose the gash. Of course she had another eight of the children standing around her as she sat in the chair waiting for whatever was going to happen to her next. I stood next to her holding her hand and entertained the children with songs while the intern sterilized his instruments and prepared the tray of materials for suturing the wound. Chorni grabbed hold of me with both hands as the syringe came off the tray. in Tola's hand. Tears flowed as she squeezed the life out of my arm and sniffled to hide her pain and insecurity. After tugging and pulling, snipping and cutting, Tola settled for two stitches carefully placed to hold the gash together. Next came the question of how to keep it covered with no razor for a clean shave. They wound up winding an elastic bandage around her head and sending her off with antibiotics and Ibuprofen to last a couple days. She insisted on staying for English classes to start an hour later. Chorni had cooked lunch for her family today and had given her three younger siblings more than their share of rice. When her father came in to eat, there was not as much rice left as he wanted, so he had shoved her causing her to fall into the corner of a wall. Later from the third floor veranda where we were having class, she saw her youngest brother sitting in the drive of the school. She went down and brought him upstairs with her. Soon she heard her other young brother downstairs and also went down after him. This provided a perfect opportunity for our youngest regular member of the class to step up and be a leader. Four year old Yancu took the Memory cards of Noah's Ark animals and carefully set them out in a four by eight array, carefully pronouncing the name of each animal to the best of his ability and waiting till his two new pupils repeated the names! I was very impressed. After class, Choni returned home with her siblings to fix dinner. Another connection was made to the hands and heart of Jesus. "Jesus Loves the Little Children"