Friday, April 11, 2008

Binn Im's ministry

Binn Im is the assistant pastor at Prekedai Methodist Church in a village about an hour down some dirt roads outside the provincial city of Batambong in Cambodia. Binn Im's story begins several years back when she received a gift-loan of a pig to raise through her participation in the Women's Association of the United Methodist Mission Initiative in Cambodia. She struggled to care for the pig and overcame several obstacles, including the death of her second litter and slow weight gain, to pass on piglets to another woman in her community.

It was during this time that Binn Im was responding to the call to ministry in her life. She applied and was accepted to study at the Methodist Bible School in Phnom Penh, where her son was also a student. Last year she graduated and was appointed as assistant pastor to her current rural congregation.

Four months ago, Binn Im welcomed a medical mission team to her church through the UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission) partnership with CHAD (Community Health and Agricultural Development). The medical mission was a success and many people in her village received care. Binn Im has been working since then to ensure that those who need follow-up care are able to make the difficult journey into the provincial hospital at Batambong or all the way to Phnom Penh and serving as a patient advocate for them.

In the meantime, Binn Im has also continued her own discipleship training by attending workshops with the CHAD partner organization "Cheas Ponleau" (Bright Light). At Cheas Ponleau she was introduced to the concept of a seed-project. This is an approach to development where pastors are encourage to facilitate a group project using local resources.

Binn Im recognized the suffering of people in her community during the rainy season when there is insufficient rice to eat and local merchants charge 100% interest for a short-term loan of rice. She had a vision to start a rice-bank on the church property. With the approval of her District Superintendent Rev. Treung Bunny, Binn Im worked with a group of 15 families in her community to construct a barn to store the rice on the church property.

One church member traveled to the mountainside for 2 day to cut the trees for the frame. Other families donated nails and bamboo slats as they were able. And all of the families worked together to weave the thatch pieces to create the roof and walls. In two weeks the community had together build a small barn to store rice, something none of them had the resources to accomplish alone.

Through several visits, CHAD staff continued to support Binn Im by facilitating community discussions about how to write by-laws to govern a rice-bank. The community discussed many potential pitfalls, and because of their experience working together to build the rice-barn, they had the confidence to devise solutions to foreseen challenges and commit to continue working together regularly to avoid those future un-foreseen challenges. Yesterday, CHAD also provided a gift-loan to enable the community to purchase the initial rice to start the bank.

Binn Im knows that this is not the end of the story; the rice-bank is not only a means to address poverty-alleviation for the current 15 families who form the rice-bank group, but also an exercise in discipleship. She is continuing to nurture the community, so that as their faith and the rice in the bank grows that new members can join and eventually (in three-four years) they we be able to split and establish a new rice bank for more neighbors.

We love because God first loved us. Through your generous gifts, Binn Im was mentored into her role as a pastor and has been able to begin her vision of a rice-bank in her community. And through your continued prayers, Binn Im and her community will grow in their faith and learn the joy of giving. CHAD staff will continue to walk this path with Binn Im and her congregation, starting with a workshop on water and hygiene in two months time and continuing as the community identifies needs and areas for partnership. We hope you will continue to walk with us too.