Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Building confidence

This week we had our second foundational workshop with the pastors in the Battambong district. The new church at the district headquarters is just about finished being constructed with just some final cleaning to do (sorry no pictures). We used an upstairs open air porch for our gathering. The CHAD team was much better prepared this time and we were able to complete a full lesson in one day. The theme was “God’s extravagant love for the transformation of the world.”

My personal successes focused around language. I asked Mr. Thy and Tola to pre-translate some of the discussion questions into Khmer and had them print out the questions for me (I still can’t read anyone’s handwriting, only the precise characters as printed by the computer). I then made big posters with the relevant questions for each section. Then, when we gave our oral explanations (which are translated in real time) people could be simultaneously reading the task. I only made one mistake of putting a line-break mid-word. It would be generous to say that I recognized ¼ of the words I was writing, but there was some recognition and it was good practice for me.

The second big language success happened at the beginning of the day as folks were gathering. I was in charge of the warm-up (devotion), and I wanted everyone to collect an object and then share with a partner how that object symbolized God’s love. With minimal prompting and filling in with English words, I managed to successful say “before you go upstairs, please get a thing that is God’s Love and then talk together with another person.” The shocking bit was that the pastor I was talking with actually understood me!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Getting better

I am still low-energy as a result of having a cold last week. I stayed home for three days and rested since I was running a low-grade fever. If I were only a little bit sick like this in the US, I would just ignore it and plow on, so it is frustrating how debilitated I feel by being a little bit sick. Irene brought me by a mixture of herbs and roots and citrus that is a traditional Khmer treatment for flu. We boiled it up in a clay pot and let the smoke permeate the room. I stuck my face in it to breathe it in more and ended up with a bit of a rash. That plus some Benadryl and Robitussin seem to have got the cold mostly under control.

I am also totally munched to bits by either mosquitos or spiders or ants. I can’t decide what has been biting me. I had this terrible night where I woke up and there were a dozen of these pin-head ants in my bed and then I couldn’t sleep again. No, I don’t eat in my bed, but I did go to sleep with wet hair and Ken said that sometimes the ants are attracted to water.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Testimonials: my grandmother, a new business and a dream about a bicycle

I met Pastor Kieu Sophal last month when she brought a young man (Chamrong) from her congregation into Phnom Penh to get his ears checked as part of the hospital access training that Irene has been conducting. My friend Treasa was visiting at the time and we all got to chatting and Pastor Sophal wanted us to come to visit her village.

Sophal graduated from the Bible School in July and is just starting her first appointment. I tease Irene that we make a great visitation pair because all of the ladies love her and ask her for advice and all of the teenagers flock to me. Sophal has a young church and so she was excited to have us visit, emphasizing that I should give a testimonial. Treasa had left by the time we made arrangements, so it was just me and Irene.

Giving testimonials in not a big part of my tradition, in fact I’m not sure I have ever done it before, so I only have a vague sense of what was being requested. The scripture lesson for the day was from Proverbs about learning wisdom from our parents. (Proverbs is the most popular book of the Bible in Cambodia by my experience.) In the end I told a story about doing bible study with my grandma and some wisdom I learned from her that has been an encouragement to me. I think it was a hit with the old ladies.

Chamrong (the young man I met with Pastor Sophal at the hospital) did most of the translation for me. I got to hear other testimonials too, like one about starting a new business. Another young man went on and on with his testimonial and the translator was just quiet. I was listening hard trying to follow, and was excited because I thought there was a bit where he was talking about riding a bicycle. I was very pleased with my understanding. But, in the end it was a story about a dream, and Chamrong said he didn’t even follow it well enough to translate more than that. So much for my comprehension.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A singing competition

One of the highlights of my work is the opportunity to worship with various congregations.

Last week, I went with Irene to Pastor Pok Kosal at Ch’mol d’asan church. Irene preached on the miracle of the loaves and fishes from Luke, relating it to stories in her childhood where her mother would pack a mango or banana for her to take to school and how she would hide to eat it so she didn’t have to share. The theme being that God does miracles with whatever we provide to God. We have been emphasizing this idea of Kingdom mathematics in all of our training and projects recently. God doesn’t ask us to do more than what we can. We are invited to give what we have and God will multiply it.

After worship we all had lunch together. Another Korean missionary couple also joined in the service that Sunday and Irene thinks they were a bit shocked to see us sitting on the floor eating with everyone.

Each of the lunch groups were invited to participate in a singing competition. The lead group won 30kg of rice and everyone got a shirt as a prize. I am getting good at faking it through a lot of Khmer hymns, so I enjoyed participating in the competition with my group (we didn’t win), but I couldn’t figure out how to not end up with a shirt without insulting my host. Two weeks later it is still sitting on my desk waiting for me to pass it on again.

Singing Group #1 - the Winners!
Pastor Pok Kosal introduces
the prize for the best
singing group: 30kg of rice

The church has a bus (more like a jeepney for those who know Filipino transport), and after church the pastor delivered everyone home. It reminded me of my days in campus ministry when I would drive the church bus in Iowa. We got to see a new building that was just completed a month or so ago and will be used for kindergarten classes, although they are having trouble recruiting qualified teachers who are willing to work about an hour outside Phnom Penh. Irene also coordinated with the pastor who will be bringing a patient for follow-up care in Phnom Penh.

I also got a cute series of pictures of a mom packing up a kroma (scarf) for her son to carry home.

It was an exciting worship, full of joy and laughter.

You can see all of the pictures at