Thursday, August 25, 2011

Different Things About Cambodia (Part 2 of ?)

Back in February we posted this reflection about some of the differences of living in Cambodia. Now that we have been here for seven months (wow!), we thought it was time to write the next edition.

-We have a small office to work from home, but we haven't invested in a paper shredder. Instead we do the next best thing, we shred it ourselves. Or rather, we burn it ourselves. Zoning laws are non-existent here; we live next door to a sign-making factory and across the street from a workshop that produces steel poles. Both of these places leave a lot of rubble in our path. Needless to say, the industry on our street helps us to feel comfortable when we take our stack for shredding to the curb and light it on fire.

-We have a dog. The short version of the story is that we inherited her from our landlady. We love her and she provides much entertainment in our lives. We get nervous though when we walk her around our neighborhood because most people keep dogs not as pets, but as guards for their houses and compounds. While they are locked up at night, these dogs wander around the streets during the day. Our dog is in the toy dog category; we haven't weighed her, but we think she tops the scales at a whopping 10 pounds/4.5kg. Needless to say the big guard dogs could eat her for lunch! Therefore, we have learned that the best way to protect her (and ourselves, as a friend was recently bitten) from the vicious dogs is to carry a walking stick. It's kinda like we are hiking through the mountains, except we are on the streets of urban Phnom Penh. We know it looks silly, but all we have to do is threaten to hit the guard dogs with the stick and they run away.

-Another consequence of living in a tropical climate--there's no need for insulation. And there's no central heat or AC. Our house has open vents to the outside for air circulation in every room. On a similar note: We only have sheets with light blankets on our beds. We haven't worn sweatshirts (or really long sleeves for that matter) since we arrived in January. As a result, we have really awesome farmer's tans. While we try to put sunscreen on regularly (some of us are better about that than others), it is unmistakable that our skin is darker.

-The police are known to be unbelievably corrupt. They make $40 a month so they rely on bribes to supplement their income. Even though we are as legal as possible (very few people have driver's licenses, but we went through the hoops to attain them anyway), we know that we will be stopped by the police, if only because we are foreigners. On a friend's recommendation, we have created a wallet system to best navigate with the police. When we travel by moto, we make sure that our moto/police wallet is ready with lots of small riel (with no dollars) if we need to pay a 'fine'. It has to be easily accessible and organized and not have any dollars visible, just in case. So far we haven't had any serious run-ins with the police!

Until next time,
Rachel (and Becki & Kimberly)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August Update

In our last newsletter we began with the sentence, "Sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting." This theme continues as we have seen God use persistent acts of love to draw several families to Himself.

One of the joys of working with the children at Kid’s Club is getting to know their entire family. After our program ends, our Khmer staff often visit their homes to build friendships, understand their family situation, and offer assistance in whatever ways we can. This is a tangible way to help with physical needs and also to share the hope and faith we have in Jesus to meet the needs of the heart.

One such family has had many challenges over the past several months. Our team has helped them move houses four times! They would move into an apartment with the expectation of the rent being $45 a month. Once they moved in, the landlord would raise the rent to $70, and they would have to leave because they could not afford it. They were often one step away from being on the streets. Helping them move, playing daily at the park, teaching English, helping the children register for school – these are all ways that we have been able to love this family.

Recently the mother started asking questions of one of our Khmer staff. She couldn't understand why we would keep helping them even though they practice Buddhism. She asked if the Buddhist shrines in their house made us uncomfortable. We told her that we love her family, that Jesus loves her family, and we wanted to help them even if they didn't believe in our God. After many conversations, the mother and two older children accepted Jesus as their Savior. We are thrilled that our friends are now our family!

This is only one story; there are many more like it. God is working and we are thankful to be a part of what He is doing. Progress is being made on the Boy’s Center. Cleaning and painting continue, and it is exciting to think of the possibilities for ministry in the months to come. One new development - the Boy’s Center has a name, Ponlok Thmey, which means 'new growth.’ Please continue to pray for the work taking place with the families in the community around Ponlok Thmey.

It is hard to believe that we have lived in Cambodia for half of a year. We are thankful for the journey so far and we are looking forward to expanding and moving deeper into ministry. There is so much to learn! We are praying for refreshed vision and dreams from the Lord and looking ahead to new partnerships and adventures in the next six months.

Grace and peace,

Kimberly, Becki, and Rachel

Prayer Request

Please pray for continued wisdom and direction from the Lord for our work and our lives here in Phnom Penh. There is a lot to learn, and overwhelming need all around us. We are getting to know other anti-trafficking ministries and exploring ways to partner with them as we discover our own passions and gifts. We want to continuing following Him in all things.