Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas greetings from Cambodia

Merry Christmas friends!

This is not a traditional holiday season in Cambodia, but I have been enjoying a few gatherings around Phnom Penh in preparation for Christmas including lessons and carols last night.

It is however, the rice harvesting season. Tomorrow I will head up to Kampong Thom, a region that was hit hard by the storms this season and lost much of its crop for this year. The Methodist Church is involved, together with many others, to continue to distribute rice to those affected. Alongside this, the CHAD program continues to work for increased food-security through the formation of cooperative rice banks. I will get to celebrate with the formation of two new groups in the Kampong Thom region.

My hope is renewed by the promise of Emmanuel, that God is and will be with us as we work with each other.

peace, Katherine

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Small Miracle

from Martha Parker, Individual Volunteer in Mission

I don't know how this really happened. I only know that when I prayed with a young girl in Cambodia, the prayer was answered. I would like to tell the story from my point of view.

My daughter Katherine Parker is a missionary in Cambodia working to improve the lives of the poor. I am a community health nurse in California, serving the elementary schools of Mill Valley, my home community. The schools have a long break during the summer and I volunteered through the UMVIM program of our church ("United Methodist Volunteers in Mission"). I raised money for my expenses and to provide funds to carry out the work of the CHAD program within which Katherine works. "CHAD" stands for community health and agricultural development.

While in Cambodia, Katherine and I visited a newly formed congregation in rural Kompong Chhang province. At the end of the Sunday worship service, the pastor told us that one of the families that was present that day had lost all hope of finding help for a 12-year-old daughter who had a heart that was not healthy. The mother said she had been to many doctors in Phnom Penh and that the girl needed to have surgery, but the family had used up all its money. In fact, she said she had sold all her land to try to get help for her daughter. She said her husband had deserted her and that she and her three children were destitute.

What I had learned from Irene Mparutsa, the nurse with the CHAD program, was that the government hospital in Phnom Penh would care for the very poor if they had documentation from their village chiefs. I also knew that CHAD had pastors who were trained to assist families with the process of going through this system. I asked the mother if we could pray about this, and the congregation and the family prayed together. I asked the mother to prepare her documentation and gather what she needed and that we would contact her. Then, I talked directly to the young girl through an interpreter. The girl said she wanted her heart to be healed, and we prayed together.

Being a nurse, I knew she probably had lived with the condition her entire life. The mother said the doctors just told her not to drink coconut milk; they did not say anything else she could do. I could feel a murmur when I placed my hand on her chest, probably something that would have been corrected as a young child in the US. It was like looking at medical books that were 50 years old about children who had murmurs that kept them from activities and that meant they always would be tired and weak. This girl had difficulty breathing and her muscles were not well developed, because she had to rest so much.

The following week, I started my volunteer teaching of the nurses at a hospital in Phnom Penh. I found out from CHAD's Irene Mparutsa that a team of Methodist missionary heart surgeons from Korea were coming the following week. All was very vague and we had no easy way to communicate directly with the woman and her daughter other than by going to the village that was a three-hour drive for us.

We reported to the pastor and made plans on our end to help the girl come for the heart clinic, but were disturbed to hear back a few days later that the girl's condition had worsened, that the mother was also sick, and that they had set out from their rural village for Phnom Penh with their letter from the village chief, but *without* the information from us as to the specific hospital to which they should go.

I was so upset! I had so hoped to connect the girl with the heart surgeons from Korea, who I had learned were doing their surgeries at Phnom Penh's large public hospital. All I could do was continue to pray, and I asked my home congregation and healing prayer group in Mill Valley also to pray.

Another week went by, and still no one had word of the woman and her daughter. The surgeons had come and gone. Katherine and I visited the village again and we all continued to pray together.

Two more weeks passed and, one day, the pastor called Katherine and me with the joyful report that the girl had returned to the village! She had had open heart surgery and was better! We drove the three hours to the church that Sunday . . . and, who was there? The girl herself and her mother arrived by bike at the small bamboo-stilt church, beaming and praising God for the miracle of the surgery.

We asked where she had the surgery and it was at the hospital where the missionary team of Korean heart surgeons had been, and it happened the week that they were there. Did they do it? No one knew, except that the girl now had a heart to provide her a normal life.

If I have ever seen a miraculous answer to prayer, this is my witness.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Mission Conference

Last week I served as a Conference Secretary for the First Annual Session of the Methodist Mission Conference in Cambodia. It has been a busy month as my assistant Vannak and I put together the "Conference Book" of reports and I worked together with Pastor Var Borom to take minutes of the Conference. It is incredibly exciting to be part of the church in Cambodia during these formative stages.

During Conference, the Implementing Board shared a vision based on Isaiah 54:2 of "Expanding God's Kingdom in Cambodia" and shared our goal of establishing an autonomous structure for the People called Methodists in Cambodia. These are goals laid out for how to establish an autonomous (not independent) church: self-governing, self-propagating, self-supporting and self-theologizing. This year was a milestone as we previously were organized as a "meeting" and now we have met for the first time as a "mission conference."

There were many exciting reports at Conference that pointed to the successful steps in increased autonomy. There is a time-line in place for the goal of self-government to be achieved by 2016 with the election of the first Cambodian Bishop. To this end, we celebrated the ordination of 11 new Deacons and 8 new Elders. Self-propagation has always been a strength of the church in Cambodia. Many new baptisms and full membership reports were given and for the first time congregations were designated as Local Church, Preaching Point or Outreach. The Treasurer gave an astounding report on the goal of self-supporting. The "5% offering" from local churches to MMC increased from $364.06 in 2007 to $3,729.36 in 2008 and the Cabinet resolved to raise $10,000 from local congregations in 2010. The first book of Cambodian sermons will also be published this year towards the goal of self-theologizing. The vision is moving forward.

The vision for the CHAD program parallels this development, has grown, and is bigger than just establishing livelihood development projects for rural communities and training health advocates. It is also to help create local organizational structures to continue this work. We are focusing not just on the current activities, but the long haul, and how to support the next generation of the church in Cambodia to continue the work of being the hands of Christ in this world.

At the same time, Bishop Roy J. Sano reminded us that sometimes we get caught up in building organizational structure because that is actually easier than the hard work of creating a just and peaceful society. He encouraged us to stay focused on our true goal.

CHAD is excited for the coming year again to support the Social Concerns Committee (SCC) of the MMC as it implements its vision: Inspired by our faith in God, Methodist Mission in Cambodia churches are working together with communities to improve the quality of life and to respond to emergency and disaster situations in Cambodia. Using the Community Based Organization (CBO) model from The Philippines, CHAD is helping passionate pastors to establish what we are calling Local Social Concerns Committees (LSCC) in some of the communities where we are working.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced in all of our work as CHAD is monitoring and following up to support the various projects and ministries as they face challenges and adapt to meet current community needs. One immediate dream is that the LSCC will be able to work with the SCC to help solve some of these problems so that we few folks in the central office don't spend all of our time running around the country on crisis calls. The long term goal is that there will be transparent structures in place to initiate ministries of social concern that lead to personal and communal transformation.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

An open letter about chickens to the Vacation Church School children in Bakersfield, CA

From your missionary in Cambodia, Katherine.
To the children, youth and adults of the church in Bakersfield that gather this week for Vacation Church School: Grace to you and peace.

“I always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in my prayers, constantly remembering before our God your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For I know, brothers and sisters, beloved by God, that God has chosen you… And you have become imitators of Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 6a NRSV)

I hear that you are learning about Caring for God’s Creatures this year. In Genesis, we learn that God wants us to care for God’s creatures in the same way that God cares for us. And so, I write to you again this year in the style of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians to remind you of the words from Isaiah that “The Lord is the everlasting God; God created all the world. God never grows tired or weary.” (Isaiah 40:28b NRSV)

Here in Cambodia, we raise a lot of different animals, such as fish, frogs, crickets, cows, water buffalo, pigs, ducks and chickens. Raising chickens is an important part of family life. Every family wants to be able to have a few chickens, even in the city.

One of the hardest parts of raising chickens is getting enough food for them to eat because all animals that are raised by families need to be fed by the family. This is how we take part in caring for God’s creatures. If you have a pet dog or cat or fish, you need to feed it every day; the same is true for chickens. Chickens in particular love to eat vegetable scraps. What happens when you don’t eat all of your dinner? In Cambodia, the chickens get to eat all of the left-over vegetables; they help to keep the farm clean. The left-over rice is dried in the sun and the chickens get to eat this too. Chickens also love bugs. They are particularly fond of termites and worms. A lot of families have a termite mound at their house, which is good for feeding both the chickens and the fish.

Last week, I went to visit the Minister of Agriculture in one province. He was very happy to meet me and to hear about the good work that our churches are doing. He encouraged me to support more families to raise chickens. It is a very good way for the church to help the poorest people in the community. Raising chickens is not too hard and it can give a family a good sense of accomplishment. The United Methodist Church, through the CHAD program is helping families to raise chickens in three ways.

First, we provide gift-loans to community groups so that they can start raising chickens. A group of about five families starts working together, and each family receives about five chickens. When the first baby chicks grow to about bantee size, they are given to a new family. In this way, the gift of chickens from the church is passed on from family to family until everyone in the village has a small flock of chickens. Chickens get sick very easily, and this can kill off an entire village of chickens, so this is an important way for the church to help a village rebuild after a natural disease epidemic. The initial gift is not very big, just a few chickens for a few families, but because people share with their neighbors, everyone can benefit.

Another activity of the church is to start savings and credit groups. Every week, members of the savings group contribute a small amount to their savings account. Families can then take a small loan from the savings union to help them expand their farm. Many families will take a small loan of $25 for three months to help them buy chicken feed from the store so they can produce chickens to sell. When the family pays back the loan, the interest stays in the community, thus increasing the community's wealth.

The third way the church helps is to provide technical assistance about how better to raise chickens. Through our partner organizations, we can share information about proper housing for chickens and improved feed such as worms. Chickens are not very smart creatures; they need the help of families, especially the children, to go in and out. In the morning, it is the responsibility of the children to shoo the chickens outside where they can hunt for bugs and vegetables. Then, at night, the children need to gather the chickens back to their safe house again so they don’t catch cold or get stolen. With research from our partner CelAgric (which is funded in part by Heifer International), the church in Cambodia has distributed information about how to build better chicken houses. We have also provided information about what vegetables are best for improving chicken health. During my meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, he encouraged me to start teaching more about worm farming so that families would know how to raise worms, which can also improve the diet and health of chickens. We hope to start a pilot project about this in Methodist Amen Church in Kampong Chhnang province soon.

Learning about Caring for God’s Creatures is an important activity for the children in the church here in Cambodia and I am glad that you are also interested in learning these same lessons. We can sing praises for God’s care of creatures by saying: “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, and bring forth food from the earth” (Psalm 104:14). We are all made in the image of God and called to continue taking care of God’s creatures. Thank you for your care. Beloved in Christ, pray for us in Cambodia as we continue to keep you in prayer as well and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Alcoholism

This summer I have made a commitment to visit two churches in Kampong Chhnang (Solang Kandal and Methodist Amen) every other Sunday and lead a Bible study on "Mobilizing the Church." This is one of the core curriculum models being used by the CHAD team to help churches organize a local social concerns committee that can plan and implement community development activities. Last week at Solang Kandal, we studied the Good Samaritan story (Luke 10:25-37) and talked about “who is my neighbor.” It was a challenging lesson, and the class worked really hard at thinking about what it means to love your neighbor.

Alcoholism is a huge problem in Cambodia, and Solang Kandal is no exception. During rounds last week, while my mom was volunteering at Center of Hope Hospital (a free hospital for the poor in Phnom Penh), she observed 3 of the 12 beds had folks in their 30s dying of liver failure.
At a previous meeting at Solang Kandal, we prayed for a young man that wanted to come to Phnom Penh to study at the Bible School, but his non-Christian, alcoholic parents were resistant because they didn’t want to lose his labor on the farm. The pastor had invited the parents to meet with the church community and was working to help them accept that this is a good opportunity for their son to improve himself. I only observed a little of the exchange, but I admired how the pastor was able to work with the parents.

This week, two of the women leaders of the church shared during the lesson about the struggle of having alcoholic husbands. After become a Christian, one woman stopped giving money to her husband to buy alcohol. It is not easy, she said. They argue a lot; he still finds other money to drink, and he blames her for many things. We talked about how as a Christian she wants to love her husband and wants the best for him, and so she no longer supports his alcoholism by giving him money. This was a very powerful example to the class of what it means to love your neighbor. Sometimes, loving our neighbors (or our family members) means not enabling them to go down a bad path. I think it was also helpful to the members of the community to be able to express their pain to an outsider and to have it acknowledged. As a guest in the church, I cannot solve the problems, but I can help provide a space and encouragement for people to give voice to problems, and we can pray together for guidance. In the middle of our conversation, one of the alcoholic husbands joined the meeting and was able to participate for part of the Bible study.

This week the pastor called me with encouraging news. The man who joined the meeting had not drunk any alcohol this week and he had been helping his wife with the farm. Even he was able to find encouragement in the discussion. Please keep praying for these families. It is not easy, but our faith gives us hope, and hope gives us strength, and day by day with God’s help we can persevere.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Giving blood in Cambodia

On Tuesday, my sister Janet, Piseth, Irene and I went down to Kantebopa Children's Hospital to donate blood. In order to get a transfusion, the family of the patient has to supply donations of blood equal to what is transfused. When school is in session, CHAD facilitates students at the Methodist Bible School to volunteer to help needy families. You can read more about the young boy that CHAD has been helping to get quarterly transfusions in a story by Irene.

There is also a story by a volunteer from the recent UMVIM Medical Team from Colorado. Thanks to the whole team! You can continue to support medical welfare for children and those in Kratie with a donation.

It has been great to have my sister Janet volunteering here for the last month. We've been working with the small-business development at Mau Bourn's church, and following up on some of the recommendations in the mid-term evaluation of the CHAD program by our partners in the
Methodist Church in Finland.

thanks for your continued support!
Katherine

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Easter Greetings from Cambodia

This is a special year when Easter coincides with the three day Khmer New Year festival. It will be quite a celebration. The rains are just starting to bless us with some cooling in the early evenings. In Cambodia we call this time of year when the rains return as the New Year because it marks that the time to begin growing rice is here. Farmers are out harrowing the fields and those with some irrigation are already starting to flood the paddies with the little remaining water in the ponds.

Community Health and Agricultural Development (CHAD) just had a major evaluation with our partners from the Methodist Church in Finland. Lots of good feedback! A new story about prison outreach ministry is available. Thanks for reading. Thanks, also, for your continued support through prayers, visits and financial contributions.

Happy Khmer New Year! Happy Passover! and Happy Easter!
Katherine

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Prison outreach ministry

Last time I was home in California, one of my partner churches in Bakersfield gave me two suitcases of health kits prepared by the VBS kids to bring back to Cambodia. During a recent visit to Kompong Chhnang for a Medical Outreach Clinic, I shared the kits with Rev. Ean Hun and his wife Pastor Sophean. They were very pleased to receive them in support of the prison outreach ministry of the church in Kompong Chhnang. They shared a few stories with me about the significance of this ministry.

The prison in Kompong Chhnang has 280 men in terrible conditions. Rev. Hun said that the men have to sleep in two-hour shifts because there is a shortage of beds. There is also a shortage of food, resulting in swollen bellies and a prevalence of itchy skin rashes due to insufficient soap and hygiene supplies. Rev. Hun has been visiting the prisoners, and, when available, bringing food (basically only men who have relatives who visit have food to eat), soap and detergent for washing clothes. He has been leading a Bible study and recently distributed 12 bibles to men who have been participating.

He was very pleased to have the health kits sent from Bakersfield and shared them with the men with whom he is working. We talked a bit about his hope to be able to provide soap, detergent (for washing clothes) and liniment oil to all of the men, at another point in the future. He also hopes to establish a library of Khmer language literature for the men to use during their one hour time each day where they could have access to such a collection of books.

Recently, one of the prisoners Rev. Hun has been working with was released. Rev. Hun has invited him to stay at the church and to lead a nearby church group without a pastor.

This is a wonderful partnership that has come out of the Bakersfield generosity. I am so pleased that we could support the outreach of the Cambodian Christians in this prison ministry in this way.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Visiting the vulnerable in Cambodia

Christianity only became legal again in Cambodia in 1992, but I have never really focused on persecution faced by folks that choose into this new faith. I was visiting a church this Sunday to give them encouragement and we were talking about reaching out and visiting the lowest people in their community (a difficult discussion for me, personally, to be having with folks who are very poor farmers themselves to start with). I asked if there were any AIDS patients in their village, and if people looked down on them as shameful. They said, yes, and that they had been visiting them. But then they went on to tell me that actually, some AIDS patients looked down on Christians. I was really shocked because it gave me some perspective as to the persecution that Christians here face.

Thank you for your continued prayers and notes of encouragement, it means a lot to me and it means a lot to folks in Cambodia when I can share with them that they are not alone in these struggles. Thank you also for your continued financial contributions, even in these challenging economic times, to enables us to continue this work.

Blessings.
Katherine

Monday, March 23, 2009

Language update

I am almost finished with Book Two for learning reading and writing in Khmer, so my teacher asked me last week about what I wanted to study next. Basically, she told me that I am doing fine with reading and writing, but my conversation skills are lagging behind. This is understandable since I work in an English language office and always travel with a translator when I go to the field.

Last weekend, I took a plunge and decided to travel to the province of Kampong Chhnang by myself. On Saturday, I visited the church of Lun Sokom. About a year ago, they started a saving group in the church. The 20 members of the group (both Christians and non-), each save 1000 reil ($.25) every month. They have also been giving out small loans of about $15-25 to the members (repayable in three months). Three members took loans last year in order to buy feed to start raising chickens. They pay 3% interest. According to an earlier plan, they would start the savings group and after they demonstrated its success, then CHAD would come in to provide additional capital, which would allow the group to give larger loans out to the members. I went to evaluate their progress and also to introduce the curriculum "Mobilizing the Church," which is a Bible study designed to facilitate group formation.

Lun Sokom has relativly good English and said I didn't need to bring a translator. Turns out, he was a great Khmer teacher. He forced me to speak as much as possible in Khmer and also to listen hard to the group (only translating enough back to English so that I didn't lose the thread of the conversation). I probably only actually understood about 10-20% of the dialogue, but it was enough to know that they were on track and would continue to work on the suggestions I introduced.

On Sunday, I joined church at Plau Nou Chivet (Way of Life). While I still don't actually understand most of the hymns, I am getting much better at reading and singing along and can catch about one-half of the words.

I then went on to Solong Kandal Church where we continued with the "Mobilizing the Church" study. I brought a local translator, Nara, with me. He was a good group leader and we had a very dynamic workshop. But he didn't do so well as a translator. He kept forgetting to keep me in the loop. So, I just had to struggle along with my own understanding for most of the day. (Luckily, I basically knew what we were doing.) The congregation at this church is really warm and welcoming, and I always feel like a member of the family when I visit.

Last time I visited Solong Kandal (church of Pastor Sophean), we talked about the past outreach activities of the church and a bit about their future plans. Currently, they worship in the house of one of the members. It is a very simple house, the type that is often translated into English as a "cottage." (The house has walls made from woven palm leaves, rather than bamboo slats or wood. It also has a metal roof, which is nicer than thatch, but hotter than tile.) The church members are very active and have worked hard to raise funds themselves for various things. They are engaged in a lot of visitation (to the poor, alcoholics, etc.).

This time we were talking about "outsiders" and how we can be more welcoming to folks different from us. It really struck me about how marginalized Christians are in Cambodia when I asked about visiting people with AIDS. They said that there are folks with AIDS in their community and that, yes, they have gone to visit them. I asked if they experienced that people sometimes look down on people with AIDS. They said yes, but also that sometimes the people with AIDS looked down on the Christians!

They have also been collecting rice through a first-fruits offering. Recently, they sold a portion of their rice and bought a small paddy field (50 square meters) for $580. It will be used to grow rice to raise additional money for the church. They are asking CHAD to partner with them to purchase some farm equipment (such as a hand tractor or threshing machine) that they can rent out as a small business venture to raise funds for the church. Since this is a much more costly investment than CHAD usually engages in (about $3000), we are moving very slowly and making sure that everything is in place first.

From a learning perspective, I was feeling really proud since I went by myself. Even though I still can't actually follow the conversation, I was able to pick out a lot of words and when I knew the big picture I could keep up in a way. It also gave me more confidence to travel by myself and to use pastors or local translators rather than bringing someone with me from Phnom Penh.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dry season activities in Cambodia

February is "rodou broamg" (dry season), which is also the wedding season since the rice harvest finished in January. So, in a country where the majority of people are under 30, you can imagine how busy (and joyful) this season is. I see at least 2 or 3 ceremonies taking place every day no matter what part of the country I am visiting.

Here in the Community Health & Agricultural Development (CHAD) program, we continue on! We have almost finished the Theology of Development training for the pastors in Battambong and are investigating which district to target next. Good Samaritan Health Training is going in the Kandal district, and Local Social Concerns Committees are being organized in Svay Reine and Kompong Thom districts. The recent result of all of these trainings? 2 new rice banks, a savings & credit group and a water distribution system for an arsenic-contamination prone region. You can support this work with your donation.

with love & gratitude,
Katherine

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The gift of knowledge

From time to time, I meet someone for the first time, but I know them instantly because the ripple effects of their ministry in the world have been hitting me for a long time. Pastor Sophean, the wife of Rev. Ean Hun, is one such person.

Pastor Sophean came from humble beginnings. I don’t know much of her story, only that she had to stop school at just second grade. I can’t tell you when or how she became a Christian, only that she did. But when that happened, her passion and desire to know God’s Word was so great that at the age of 35, with the help of her family, she learned to read. A woman with formal education only up to the second grade was inspired and empowered.

To look at her ministry now, you would never guess her background. She brings a fervor and passion to prayer that is unique. She led the opening worship service on the second day of our medical mission clinic with Louisiana UMVIM at Chrolongkok Church. Even our volunteers from the US commented to me later that they could feel the spirit move when she sang and prayed, despite the language barriers.

But, I could have told you this before I even met her because of my experience working with one of the churches she started in the northern part of Kampong Chhnang. In a house church, less than two years old, was one of the most vibrant and generous ministries I have seen, engaging in outreach not only with external resources, but also with rice from their own bowls. In addition, I was so impressed because she had trained the congregation to have the best record keeping I have seen of any church in Cambodia.

She has nurtured many young folks in the faith, inviting them into her house and teaching by her example. Pastor Lun Sokom said that when he and his wife were living under her care as youth, that she was very strict with them, instilling a sense of discipline reminiscent of John Wesley’s Holiness Club. Pastor Lon Sokom's love and respect for Pastor Sophean is obvious.

Sophean is currently a student at the Methodist Bible School in Phnom Penh, and her teacher, Rev. Romy del Rosario, is greatful for the depth of experience she brings to all of the classroom discusions. Her quest for knowlege is inspirational. And I could go on and on.

It was a joy for me to join in the wedding of her son last week; I pray for continued blessing for this wonderful woman and her family.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Volunteer opportunity to make kits

It is a blessing for me to have the opportunity to work in Cambodia. There are so many compassionate folks who are interested in helping with the work here. We are sustained by the prayers of many people around the world. And the financial support is what allows us to continue to serve folks. I have also come to appreciate the provocative questions that folks ask me. Especially when they challenge the approach we take. This kind of dialogue really helps me to analyze how we engage in this ministry and how we could do better.

Lots of folks have asked how they can be in partnership with us here. There are lots of ways, especially the prayers, financial support, and questions. However, sometimes folks would like a project they can do in their home congregation. Projects are great because they can be used as an activity to engage a group of folks in your congregation and serve as a learning experience for how and why we are in mission. For this reason, my colleagues and I here in Cambodia have started thinking about some different kinds of projects that could be carried out in US local churches that would both be beneficial to Cambodians and also be helpful to US congregations as a tool for learning about mission.

What we are thinking about basically is making "kits." There are significant limitations to these projects. The cost of shipping things from the US to Cambodia is prohibitively expensive. Therefore, while there are certain kinds of kits that we can use and things that you can put together, you need to take into consideration shipping costs of whatever you have put together. We have a variety of mission volunteer teams that come to Cambodia. Therefore, it is only cost effective if you can coordinate with someone coming over to use some of their airline allowance to bring the items. Please consider packaging the items in containers (e.g., suitcases) of not more than 50 lbs that are ready for checking on the airline. Please do not begin a kit-making project until you have a plan of how your kits will get here. In addition, my colleagues and I here would be happy at an opportunity to discuss with you in advance a kit-making project -- so that anything undertaken would be the most useful.

We can't always use a great quantity of these things, but these are items that have been requested by our pastors and partners as things they could use:

Cell phones

(Used) clothing for resale business startup

Kits for prison ministry

Refurbished laptop computers

Digital cameras

Credit and savings group record keeping kits

Reading glasses

Home health kits for volunteers at medical mission or for pastors

Friday, January 16, 2009

News from Cambodia

Some exciting news! The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the MOH (Ministry of Health) for CHAD (Community Health and Agricultural Development) was finally signed this week. This is great news as it will allow us to accept volunteer medical teams to come and work in Cambodia with much less hassle than before. Irene (our community health nurse/missionary from Zimbabwe) has done all of the hard work getting this through, and I have learned a lot about government relations watching her work. You can support our health-care ministry
with a financial contribution.

In the Cambodia Daily this morning was a reprint of a New York Times opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof called Where Sweatshops are a Dream. If you didn't catch this or some of his earlier pieces on sex-trafficking in Cambodia, I highly recommend them. One of my fellow missionaries, Clara from Bangladesh, is working to help provide enrichment programing at an orphanage that is working with the population that Kristof writes about. You can contribute to that ministry.

It was great to connect with old friends and meet many new faces last month when I was traveling in the US. I am back in Phnom Penh now, trying to get on top of the backlog of work. I've posted two quick stories at http://chad-cambodia.blogspot.com Thanks for reading and
your continued support!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A new school

Sam Oeurn, assistant pastor from Spien Church, stopped by our office today to share about his new business. He has just purchased a school he named LTS (Language and Technology School). He wanted to know if we would come and participate in the ceremony to welcome students for the new semester.

It was a novel request for me, but as Oeurn shared more about his vision for his church and for Cambodia it became clear. Oeurn's dream is three fold: 1) that folks will have the knowledge for a better life, 2) that folks will have the resources to accomplish their dreams, and 3) that the church will have good leadership.

It is big investment for Oeurn, a young man in his 30s, to buy and run this 10-teacher school with 250 students. (There have been 50 new students in the last month since he took over operations!) I know that he prayed a lot before taking this step. But I understand that his vision is big and that he doesn't see this as running just another school in Cambodia. He sees it as a way that he is living out his faith. We are all involved in building a better world (in religious terms: The Kingdom of God), and Oeurn sees his part in this as providing education for kids in his community.

I think it is exciting to see a young Cambodian take his faith seriously and listen to how it influences major life choices. And I applaud him for being able to articulate how this step is helping him to live an authentic life true to his vision and calling.