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Getting there – but not quite Cambodian yet

I have my days that make me smile as I realize that I am adjusting pretty well. Then I’m humbled as I realize I still have a long way to go…nothing bad, just not ready to be brave yet.

I am feeling pretty comfortable riding moto-taxis and to both Chet’s and my amazement, I am actually learning my way around the city quite well. I can even redirect my sometimes confused moto driver. I’m liking motos so much that I’m even thinking about learning how to drive one while here in Cambodia!

I realize, however, that I’m not so Cambodian when I don’t want to take a moto-taxi to transport 2 – 15″ wall fans – but I did. The driver held one and I held the other. I was still feeling uncomfortable holding just one fan, but my true realization that I was a wimp came when I passed a moto with someone on the back carrying 4 foot square plates of mirrored glass. I guess holding on to 1 fan isn’t so bad after all.

Tonight I had dinner with some of the pastor’s wives. It was a great time together and I ate my whole meal with chop sticks!! I’m doing pretty well with them. I’m learning the ways:)

Last night, however, when I went out to buy a grilled chicken from a street vendor, I got queezy as I saw the head still on the chicken 😦 Nope, not Cambodian yet. I had them remove the head (I couldn’t even watch) before I bought it. My moto driver asked if he could have it. He was laughing at me, but was quite excited for his “bonus” of the chicken neck/head :o)

Chet and I don’t like having to take the car out at night, it is sooo hard to see. Motos, bicycles and pedestrians are everywhere, all dodging in and out of traffic. But tonight…..I became a little more Cambodian!

As I said, I went out with some of the pastor’s wives. They drove their motos and I was one of passengers. I actually felt safer at night on the moto! I don’t think it was a special covering on us because we are Christians – I think it was because tonight we/I were the ones doing the dodging in and out instead of having to watch for those doing it.

Language is coming along…slowly, but it’s coming. I have learned my necessary phrases and enough little stuff to get a driver where I need or to ask for a few of the things I want. My driver last night told me I speak very good Khmer!! What a very nice compliment. But one of the phrases I have learned to say is “I can only speak a little Khmer”. You see, many times I am giving directions or asking for something and suddenly my driver (I use different people) thinks I can carry on a whole conversation! Woe….hold on, that would be a “No!”

Oh, one more funny thing to tell you. You know back in the states when it is taking forever for your food to come in a restaurant we say “They must have had to go kill the cow, pluck the chicken…etc”. Well just so there are no misunderstandings for any of you who are coming to visit; here in Cambodia, that may very well be the case!!

It is hot here, very hot! We miss people terribly!! But I am grateful for the adventure that God has us on here. I’m being pulled/pushed beyond my comfort zones – but blessings follow. I laugh at as many things as I get frustrated with – so at least there is balance :o) God continues to be faithful.

I’m adjusting. I’m getting there. I’m much braver than I ever thought I’d be. But even though I’m sure – no, I know that I’ll continue to expand my horizons and grow in the next 2 years; I don’t think I will ever be Cambodian, but I’m happy to be their friend.

April update

On April 16 we will begin our 4th month here and we’ll be in the heart of the HOT season! Every day it has been anywhere from 94º-100ºF with a “real feel” of 108º-112ºF. As I look at the forecast (a dangerous thing to do) I see that it will soon feel like it is 114ºF! I’m living here and that still just seems unfathomable!! No wonder people here are so skinny, they are practically melting away!

While on weather, we have had (and actually enjoyed) 2 rainfalls. We were told these were out of the norm because they were so early in the year, however the glimpse they gave us into the coming rainy months was probably fairly accurate. Since everything around here in the city is concrete, when it rains it floods all low lying properties. The Wesleyan Church national office is right next door to our apartment. When it was built it was on higher ground. Roughly ten years later, however, it is the lowest ground in our neighborhood and yes…it floods. The morning after the first rainfall Chet attended a DBA meeting. When he returned home at 4 pm he said that the water was down to his ankles! So while we enjoyed the rain for the brief relief it brought from the heat, it proves a sobering fact for many people. Not sure what to expect of daily life in a couple months when it starts raining everyday.

Amanda and Bekah have gotten involved with the int’l youth groups. Amanda as an adult leader and Bekah as an excited student. For Amanda it has definitely been her social connection here. She has enjoyed being apart of the planning and prayer team as well as just hanging out with new friends. For Bekah it has also been a good place to meet friends and connect since there isn’t much interaction with homeschooling. Late last month they attended a middle school retreat at a resort on the ocean. I definitely believe it was one of Bekah’s highlights so far!

The Kampong Cham women’s retreat was a huge success! It was so amazing to meet with the women in the middle of nowhere, under a tent in the heat to learn about God and praise His name together! The really amazing fact is that there were easily 70 women from 2 small house churches that had started 7months and 1 year ago. If 70 is just the women, think how big, with spouses and children, the communities are in such a short time!! They are most hungry to learn. Pastor Kieth and his wife have done a phenomenal job!!

Our time at Daughters has been quickly rewarding but now we need to reassess where we can best be used. The women who are taking care of the children have done an excellent job in following a new schedule, learning to play and read with the kids as well as how to clean things properly. We really aren’t needed that much with them anymore. Within the last month, however, Daughters has also taken in boys who have been victims of sex trafficking, so today was my first day of teaching them music with belleplates. This will be a learning curve for all of us. Hopefully a rewarding one:)

Please take a moment and check out Daughters web site – it truly is an amazing organization! You can check it out at www.daughterscambodia.org.

On March 31st we put Amanda on a plane to London. She is traveling Europe for a month with a friend trying to keep God the focus of their trip. They are praying each day to know how they can be used and hoping that He will also help make clear what Amanda’s future should hold. Whether she should return to the states and stay or return to Cambodia and continue helping with the youth. She would greatly appreciate your prayers for safety and ministry.

This last week the WBI held a youth conference (ages 14-23, average student being 18-19) with over 100 in attendance! It was a busy week for them from early morn – evening. We went out one night to help with games, and Chet had the opportunity to speak at one of the early morning sessions. An extremely hot week, loss of electricity almost daily, but not a loss of His power – by the end of the week 38 were baptized and many made commitments to Christ!

Bekah and I are continuing to adapt to the Cambodian culture. We are now frequent moto passengers. Yes, we have moved from the comfort of a tuk-tuk to sitting on the back of a moto …Bekah sits side saddle! It is quite up close and personal (both to the driver and traffic within touching distance) but it is cheaper…so our ventures continue:-) I just don’t like being pointed out as the prize from other moto/tuk tuk drivers as we pass.

Once again we thank you all for your support and encouragement to us. We are still in the learning curve of ministry here and continue to seek what exactly His plans are for us. Your prayers are much appreciated!

Serving Him,

Chet, Virginia & ‘Bekah

March 12, 2010 – Virginia’s reflections

“Some boast in chariots, and some in horses; But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God” Ps 20:7

“Trust in the LORD forever, For in God the LORD we have an everlasting Rock” Is. 26:4

Siem Reap

Cambodia is truly a beautiful place. This last week we were able to enjoy a long weekend and travel to Siem Reap for some site seeing and R&R. We visited Angkor Wat (the largest temple) as well as several other smaller ones near by. IMG 1389 IMG 1449

 

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As I look back at the photos it is a little surreal to know I was there and honestly I know because of the heat that I missed a lot of the fine detail that make up these historic sites. Their intricate art work is especially beautiful and awe inspiring when you remember that they were built 900 years ago! But despite their beauty and symbol of great power past, they stand empty and I am reminded that there is a much greater Master Artist & the only One that we can place our eternal security in.

We also visited a floating village on Lake Tonle Sap which was quite interesting. This is a poorer people group who make their living by fishing and have an actual community on the water complete with the traveling vendors:) I was startled to suddenly have a soaking wet 7-8 yr old boy standing next to me selling coke. As I looked around I realized that his father had just pulled his boat next to ours and the boy had hopped aboard! IMG 5621

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The village also included a Catholic church, a school with 250 students enrolled (multi sessions per day to accommodate all the children) and a fish market where Chet, Amanda and I were brave enough to hold a Python.IMG 1547 IMG 1543

I have to admit that my pulse raised as it’s head wondered toward my body despite being told that it was not venomous.

Back in town we enjoyed some good ‘ol hamburgers from the wonderful Blue Pumpkin:o), shopped the markets (which were much nicer, cleaner and roomier than ones in PP) and cooled off in the pool. Amanda & Bekah tried their hand at making pottery which was a highlight for them IMG 5684 IMG 1582

 

and I was coaxed to try the fish foot massage. I didn’t last very long and don’t think I’ll be doing it again any time soon. My feet are way too ticklish!

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Other opportunities

This last Monday was ‘Womens Rights Day’ in Cambodia. Resie gathered the pastors’ wives together for fellowship in her home and I had the opportunity to speak to them from the Word. It went well but it is very difficult to get used to speaking thru a translator! At the end of the month Resie, Ma’am Graced and myself will travel to Kampong Cham to team teach a gathering of 70 women. Pray that the Holy Spirit would guide our hearts and minds as we prepare for this.

New Observation

I saw my first car being towed today. A log tied to the underside of each vehicle’s bumper was the “chain”.

Daily life

OK, we are now pretty well settled into our apt. and getting into …well no routine because I don’t think that work exist in Cambodia;-)

I have survived and I think finally beat the ants in the war for our food. They are persistent little pest (and I do mean little, measuring only about 2mm). I would come into the kitchen daily to brush off or throw away food before spraying to kill them and starting the whole process over then next morning. But alas, the landlords son to our rescue with a new spray that has seemed to do the job. When telling our woes to other missionary friends that we’ve met we were told there are 3 levels of missionaries. If you throw out the food, you are new. If you remove the ant from your food/drink and continue eating then you’ve been here awhile. If you see it and just think ‘more protein and eat it anyway, you are lifer:)

Chet finally got his drivers license. Actually he does pretty well here. I know that doesn’t surprise anyone back home. Night time driving, however, we just don’t like! It is still the same chaotic driving but with 90% less light. And where did that pedestrian come from anyway?!? Our first night time driving experience came Wed night when we took Amanda & Bekah to youth group. It was hard enough finding the place to begin with because it isn’t marked, but picking them up…almost impossible. Yes we did get turned around and found ourselves by the Russian market, but that was God’s blessing to us because at least we knew where we were and could start all over.

We went to a Cambodian birthday party for Vicky (our Landlords granddaughter) Wed. night. She turned 19 and looked like a princess! It was way fancier then anything we would attend in the states. It was almost like we were at a wedding reception. Three tier cake with roses, satin covered chairs, 4-5 course catered meal (which they prepared in the courtyard and had to carry up 80 stairs to the party room), music, and plenty of alcohol (no we didn’t partake). It was really FUN. We were seated with Vicky’s friends from school so we were able to converse with people who also showed us the ropes of what we were to do, including how to eat with chop sticks:) The food really wasn’t bad (although I know there were things in there that we would not cook) but we have one by one paid the price of eating it if you get my drift:( Finally, when they sang happy birthday, they shot off gi-normous party poppers and foam. It was hilarious!! Good time had by all, but we really do need to get dressier clothes. We felt quite honored to be invited and hope and pray that we will be able to build life changing relationships with the landlord and his family.

We visited Daughters, where the girls and I will volunteer. I’m really impressed with what God is doing with that organization in only 3 years. They are set to open a gift shop and restaurant in March. Soon to follow will be a spa. The girls and I were pampered Friday so they could practice pedicures, manicures, and messages. I never mind being a guine pig for that sort of thing!! Visit their web site daughterscambodia.org

Chet begins teaching 2 days/week at the WBI this week. It is going to go a little slower than expected because the students are still learning Khamer typing and English. Pray for those poor students – they are getting a lot at once!

Chet actually preaches at the Good News church tomorrow. Something that I don’t think he was expecting to do (at least so soon) but will do fine.

Our language lessons began this week. We felt a bit overwhelmed/defeated after our first lesson. I am, however, soooooooo thankful for Sue who gave us a head start, it made the second lesson seem not as painful. It will require practice… lots of practice! But what did our parents teach us? Practice makes perfect?!

Do any of you remember the song “Burn Baby Burn” ? I can’t find the lyrics, but at least that part of the song plays in my head each time I climb the 60 stairs to our beautiful apt. I’m wondering how long it will take until my thighs are accustomed to it?

Karaoke bars surround us. I first pray for the girls that may be abused each night, then I close our windows and my ears to the singing that would not stand a chance against Simon Powell:)

Didn’t think I would Ever hear myself say this but….I MISS THE SNOW! We are still in the cool season. It has been in the upper 80’s – mid 90’s, but with the humidity (and we’re told it’s not humid) it feels like 105* Oh help me when the heat comes. The only good thing I can figure with Cambodian weather is that it cancels out menopause. I never know when I’m having a hot flash any more – it’s just a constant given;-l

A couple of things we have incorporated into our schedule have been family devotions after dinner (really enjoying that) and for our entertainment…mosquito tennis! Snap, crackle, pop!!

That’s all for now – till next time.

Virginia

The Torch

As I was watching the Olympic torch (which has been in a 104 day relay) being carried into the opening ceremonies, I wondered about our own Christian relay and the torch of Christ that we are to carry…perpetually. The Olympic torch is lit before each celebration by the sun on Mt. Olympus in Greece. Our charge came from the Son on the Mt. of Olives. He told His disciples to rise and pray that they may not fall into temptation. In Corinthians we are told how to run the race well, to run with aim and not fall into temptation. And again in Eph we are told to pray at all times in the Spirit, being alert and with perseverance for all the saints. That’s right – our teammates! We are to pray for them that each time they open their mouth they may speak with boldness the mystery of the gospel. So my question for myself and you is “How well are we carrying the torch?”

I guess this thought has been on my mind since coming to Cambodia. There are so many times I’ve not been fervent in prayer, not recognizing warfare for what it is. My eyes have been opened to the facade of evil. As Eph 6:12 says “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the powers, the world forces of this of wickedness in the heavenly places”. I need to be team player and pray constantly, not just for myself but for those we’ve come to work alongside. The church is in a slump…why? Well I know the root of it.

While part of this overwhelms me, I was reminded today of Josh 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” As I read this it occurred to me that He not only created the map but the road that we are on. He knows every detail of our journey intimately before we take even one step. We are where He needs us to be, armed with His strength and guided by His Spirit in all He ask of us. So I’m praying today that I not only will be a good teammate, supporting my co-workers for the kingdom in prayer, but that I would be an example for them to follow.

So I ask of you; please pray for us and for the Cambodian church so that the Kingdom of God can advance with power!

Serving Him,

Virginia

Weeks Blessings

by Virginia

God has been most gracious to us this first week plus. Lyrics to a song that keeps coming to mind are “God will make a way, when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me. He will be my guide. Hold me closely to His side. With love and grace for each new day He will make a way, He will make a way.“ One of the ‘ways’ is how He has shown Himself through our new friends and host Greg and Resie. They have truly been our lifeline as we are getting acclimated and set up here in Phnom Penh. We move into our apt tomorrow (Wed) and I feel a little like a teenager who is about to have the apron strings cut (although I know I won’t be abandoned)

Some highlights from the week…

We found an apt and have power-shopped the last two days to get set up. Feels a bit like when you first get married and are starting with nothing. We have been able to stay under budget for two reasons. First is our landlord,.he has been most generous supplying beds, wardrobes, dining table and chairs and possibly a TV and stand (not a necessity but would be nice if we have it). The place is more than I could ask for. It is beautiful and he has been very accommodating. I pray that we can build a positive relationship with him and the others in the building who have done all the work on our apt.(It’s brand new, as in they are finishing it up today!). The second reason we have been able to stay under budget is due to Resie and Greg who know where to shop and also speak the language so they can bargain on our behalf. The savings will allow us to get a car, instead of just a scooter, which will be nicer in the rainy season.

Scooters…Amanda, Bekah and I have all rode on a moto-taxi. The girls liked it but I don’t feel so comfortable on it. I enjoy the tuk tuk much more. A tuk tuk is a carriage pulled by a scooter. We loaded a tuk-tuk today as we did our power shopping!

Church has been wonderful. Both the Chapel at the WBI Sunday, where 4 countries were represented (Cambodia, Japan, Philippines, US) and the Int’l church (ICF) which I know represented many more nations but whom all spoke English. At the WBI I only understood the reading of scriptures (because I could read it myself) but afterwards, speaking to the people was so encouraging. Hearing their faith walks and reasons for being there (which was the message of the morning) blessed my heart. Diversity blended into oneness and unity. Later in the afternoon when we attended ICF I was reminded of the sovereignty of God. If I truly believe in the sovereignty of God then I am right where I need to be at any given moment to learn what God want me to learn. A great perspective to keep in mind, later when I am feeling scared, discouraged, lonely etc, that I must count it all joy knowing that in His perfect plan I am where I need to be to be molded into the likeness of Christ. I just need to remember the prayer of surrender that brought me here and will keep me going each and every day.

OK now a few funny things.

  • A 5′ refrig being delivered on a scooter standing upright between the driver and the person behind it.
  • A sign on the back of a truck “How’s my driving?” along with a phone number. If you have experienced the driving here or seen our videos then you would know the irony of this. There really are no rules.
  • An ice cream sandwich is what it says – ice cream between a sub bun. I think Subway should adopt this:-)
  • People like to pinch or poke Bekah (OK she thinks this is annoying not funny)

Well there is a glimpse into the first week of our journey here. Please keep us in your prayers as we begin our life here and I promise to keep you posted regularly as well.

Acts 2.42 – bookends on the first week

Our first week in Phnom Penh is behind us now and we’ve experienced much in the way of cultural and environmental differences and stress.  Processes that in the US may sometimes be stressful are definitely stressful for us here;

… going into a store (without an interpreter) and trying to determine product features and availability and not being able to do so… looking at houses and apartments and trying to discern the balance between embracing and living in the culture and living in a retreat from the culture… struggling with the desire to get to work and get it done (and knowing that those here are also anxious for us to do so) and realizing/knowing that the skills and abilities that we do have will be best utilized when we take the up front time to get ourselves oriented to our new environment… being reliant on others to interpret and navigate this new culture while knowing that their own culture and background impact how they have learned and experienced Cambodia and that that is impacting choices and decisions that we will make as we move forward…

…but… on both ends of that, through gathering with other believers on Sunday we were able to worship, and receive encouragement and exortation.  Last week we heard teaching on how David turned to God (reflected in the Psalms)  for orientation as he looked to God for wisdom and direction, how he turned to God in times of disorientation and confusion and how he looked to God for reorientation when he had been lost or gone the wrong way.  This week we looked at the early church and how they didn’t just stop at learning and knowing the teachings of the apostles they actually lived them out.   We were called to live out what we know.  Learning and knowledge are not ends to themselves.  We really only learn and attain knowledge when we actually implement and  live it out daily and discuss it in the midst of our day-to-day experience.

God knew that this week we would need to know that others have experienced disorientation and turned to Him for their orientation and reorientation.  He also knew that after this first full week we would need to know that walking our talk and putting into action what we already know of Him is what leads to real learning and relationship with Him.  And so fellowship with other believers, as bookends on the week, has been sustenance for us and I know will continue to be going forward.