Thursday, May 19, 2011

Evaluations with Methodist Church Finland and emergency response by churches in Cambodia

Last week we had a wonderful visit from a delegation of the Finland Annual Conference (Swedish speaking) of United Methodist Church (aka Methodist Church Finland). It was a young volunteer from Finland, Pontus Fred, who seven years ago thought that we needed to have an agricultural development component of the ministry here and secured the original funding for a Rural Agricultural Development program from their mission board. The CHAD program has grown in those seven years, merging with the health ministries, formation of the Social Concerns Committee, taking on a larger community development and outreach role. The Methodist Church Finland has been a vital partner, and supportive in our goal to localize the development ministries as an authentic expression of the emerging church in Cambodia to reach out to its neighbors in life affirming ways. Therefore, it was a joy to have the delegation visit us for an evaluation. We looked at several successful projects, as well as those that have struggled and reflected together on the lessons learned during our partnership.

One of the churches we visited was in the village of Raksmey in Kampong Thom province. They have 4 successful projects running that include both church and communities members (3 are funded by CHAD, 1 is funded by World Vision). While on a monitoring visit last January, Mrs. Sophal and I were inspired by the initiative of this church. She and Mr. Thy returned to write a story about some of the ways this church is reaching out. Last year, UMCOR's Mellisa Crutchfield facilitated a workshop on emergency response for church leaders where she highlighted the importance of having a plan because it is really the folks on the ground who are the first respondors in any situation. One of the stories that came out of our visit to Raksmey is just that, when a cooking fire destroyed seven homes in a nearby village, it was due to the good stewardship of the rice bank committee at Raksmey and the faithful repayment of its members, that within a day, they were able to mobilize 500kg of rice plus a cash offering to bring to these distraught families. We talk a lot about the security a rice-bank provides to ensure food through the hungry season, but it also provides this other kind of security, allowing the community to respond to disaster in their midst.

There are several new stories on our blog including the one about Raksmey, a weaving group a Prey Cherteal and hopefully by then end of the week a story about a cancer survivor. Thank you for reading and for sharing in this outreach.

On a personal note, I am happy to report that my visit to the USA was a wonderful success. I joined the Cambodia Consultation for just one day, but was inspired by the stories and the dedication of so many to support this country. I was also able to successfully submit and defend my masters thesis on Bacterial Contamination of Drinking Water in Rural Ghana. I completed the research three years ago before I was called to Cambodia, but the concluding steps were put on the back burner as I engaged with my work here. I am so appreciative to my adviser Dr. Robert Metcalf and the faculty of the Biological Sciences Department at Cal State, Sacramento, that saw me through the process, encouraged me to continue and gave critical and helpful feedback.