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.