Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Inn

Last week was a busy one.  A week full with a team of 51 college students who came to work with Asian Hope and serve the people of Cambodia.  The team was from a college ministry called the Inn in Seattle, WA.  A college ministry very similar to the one both Chris and I worked for called the Annex.  It was fun to once again sit across the breakfast table from a college student and talk about our life, their life, what we are doing, and what they aspire to do after graduation.  College students will always be dear to our hearts, as we both feel that was a stage in our lives that we both saw tremendous growth in our faith, in our relationships with friends and family, and also in how we saw the world.  And not to forget, it was the time when we dated, and learned how to love one another.

Needless to say we were tired when the week was over, and did take the entire weekend to get the gears back in neutral and recover from some small illness.  However, we were more than happy they came and saw our work here.

Our prayers go out to their team, their leaders, and their ministry back in Seattle.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prek Pneu

For those who are new to following our blog and our life here in Cambodia, Prek Pneu is the community Asian Hope has decided to implement its Human Trafficking Prevention (HTP) program in.  A lot of exciting things have transpired over the past month with this program I am working on.

Through a network of Christian NGO workers as well as other missionaries I was introduced to a young Khmer man names Sam Rach.  He works for a medical clinic in Phnom Penh as a chaplain, but also lives in Prek Pneu.  We met him a few weeks back to ask him questions about his village and the amount of child trafficking that happens.  Not only did we have a great meeting with him, but we also found out he is the pastor of the only Khmer church in the village.

Yesterday, me and Chris went to church in Prek Pneu so we could visit and worship with Sam Rach's church.  The church was held underneath his modest home, on a platform of wood planks and a single fan trying to break the heat.  Despite the conditions, it was an amazing experince to be a part of an aunthentic Khmer church growing in its relationships every year, with about 12 adults now attending.  I will have to say that my favorite part was watching the 15 or so 4-11 year olds perform their song and dance to us anticipating their epic performance.  And it was epic indeed, it almost brought tears to my eyes.

The other new development is similar but with a Vietnamese pastor.  Since Prek Pneu is split 50/50 with Khmer and Vietnamese we are hoping to work equally with each population.  Chris lead a service week at Logos about a month back and worked mainly with the Phan family who has 2 girls in his classroom.  Chris encouraged me to meet with the Phans to learn more about working with ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia, as they have done this for several years now.  Again, over a wonderful bowl of Pho for lunch, we meet the Phans as well as other members of their Vietnamese outreach team, including a man named Hue.  Hue for years has wanted to start a home church in Prek Pneu that reaches specifically the Vietnamese.  His only hindrance was not being able to afford the $150 a year in rent for the place he wanted to start his church.  During our lunch with Hue we talked about how Asian Hope would like to gift him the money needed for the rent so he can begin his church. 

Later that week, Sam Rach, Hue, my boss, and I went to Prek Pneu to look at facilities that might be possible for us to start our program in.  Sam Rach and Hue came because our vision is to build into the capacity of the local ministries here.  We want this facility to be used for our program, but also a space that both a Khmer and Vietnamese church can worship in, and use for their special events.  Needless to say both men were very excited to look at rental options with us. We left with a few things in mind, and we will see how things unfold.  Above is a picture of me and Sam Rach talking about a potential site that is located right in front of the village's fish market.  Smells bad, and according to Chris looks like it might fall over, but to me it might be the one!  We'll see what God provides.

Lastly, we have been looking into how we can get clean water and toilet sanitation to this village.  So last Friday me and Tom (my boss) took what I call a field trip to a Christian organization called RDI that does water projects all around Cambodia.  After a 2 hour long science lesson on water, bacteria, and methods to purify, we left with 5 bottles that I need to take samples with.  This is also exciting as the idea of helping these people curb some of the illness they contract due to drinking and cooking with dirty water makes me excited.

Please continue to pray for each of these things as well as the annual budgeting, facility search, and soon staffing that will happen in the coming months.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Consider this blog post your formal tour of our new place.  We will start from the top...Our bathroom is bright orange, we can't decide if this is a upgrade or downgrade from our previous bubblegum pink bathroom we moved out of.  However, unlike many, we do have hot water heaters for the shower, so we are very thankful, though we rarely use them because it is just too hot.  On to our bedroom, one great thing about Cambodia is that the beds are huge.  We have a "queen" bed, but really it is closer to a king size.  We wake up to the sound of roosters, Khmer music, or the numerous houses that are below us (more like a combo of all three), but it is quieter than our previous bedroom so we are very thankful. 

Moving on to the dining room and kitchen.  Like most other families our shoe rack and washing machine sit next to our dinner table just in case you need to run out the door, or have some pants you are waiting to put in the wash.  The kitchen is more of a nook, but works for us as we are starting to make more and more western dishes over the weekends.  During the weekday we enjoy Khmer delicacies from our cook Ohm.  We continue into our living room, complete with our ratan sofa (mentioned here).  We decided to paint a wall and hang photos we have taken of different cities or towns in Colorado.  It reminds us of home, and we love seeing them as we walk in the door.  Hanging these photos did come at a cost though, it took six (yes six) trips to the frame shop to get all eight frames right, and 4 trips to the "hardware store" to get the 10 necessary drill bits.  Walls in Cambodia are all concrete so it is not as simple as just hammering in a few nails, it involves drilling through cement, anchors, and then screws.  Needless to say the walls are not forgiving, but I think we did a good job. 

Next we will visit our back porch off our bedroom.  Every morning (so far) it brings in a wonderful breeze to cool things off, but with that it also brings in a not-so-wonderful stench from the trash/sewage water below.  Despite that, we love this part of our house, because we can sit and watch the many Cambodians below us lighting their fires to cook meals, while listening to their music, while the continue on in their day to day lives.  Truly a treat to have off the back of your home. 

Our final stop is the guest bedroom on the opposite side of the apartment.  This room also comes with a bright orange bathroom, but more importantly has a beautiful illustration of a boy and his sheep painted on the tile.  We have saved this delight just for all the many people we hope to have as visitors.  Now that you have seen the place we look forward to hosting you!  We are just around the corner...right?  Like we have said before, we love our home and are grateful for this place; a home we can come back to and feel comfortable and relax in.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Few Burgers Later

As Chris mentioned in the previous post, we had a very restful trip to Singapore, which helped us get ready for another stint of work back here in Cambodia. We went to Singapore for several reasons, and one was to enjoy western food again. This post is dedicated solely to our dining...

As silly as this may seem to some, it was very good for us to take this trip and enjoy some of these small things in life. We have spent a lot of time debriefing our trip since returning home almost a week ago. This is the first time we have in a developed country in 8 months, and it was an eye opening experience for us in how different Cambodia is from what we know. It was easy and quick to slip into life in Singapore, forming lines and waiting your turn, obeying traffic signs and laws, not sweating 24/7, and not eating rice. It was the first time since moving here that we fully understood how far Cambodia is from reaching "developed world" status. It provokes many thoughts of thankfulness for the jobs we have and the opportunities we have to make a difference. But at the same times also makes us see how we belonged or "fit in" while in Singapore, but in Cambodia we are foreigners and still can't go a day without some cultural goof-up, or lack of enough language to fully communicate (and we get the stares to remind us of this daily). Being an outsider can be exhausting, as we experience the drain in takes on you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So as we continue to digest not only all those burgers and lattes, we are left with the bigger challenge of digesting the thoughts of living life in the developing world when the developed world is so comfortable. The thought of missing home, yet knowing that God has brought us here and being overjoyed with the work we are doing. The thought of being thankful for what we have, while living out the command of finding our hope and joy in serving others and giving back what we have been given.

From Left to Right: Leanne enjoying a Singapore Sling at Raffles Singapore, Leanne with some Starbucks, Chris eating BBQ Pork and Rice at a Hawker Stand, Hawker Stand Soup and CHILI'S!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Singapore: Disneyland for Adults!

Last week, Leanne and I had the opportunity to visit Singapore for our March break. Not knowing what to expect, we found a city full of remarkable food, incredible sights and unrivaled development.

We flew to Singapore with nothing more than an Email that my brother had sent us and some copies of pages from our Lonely Planet book. We were told that we must eat chili crab, visit the ethnic neighborhoods, do some shopping on Orchard Road and enjoy the modern conveniences of the city. Needless to say, we loved it.

We started on Saturday morning with a trip to Orchard Road where I bought a Slurpee and enjoyed going into the frigid malls. Singapore is essentially a climate controlled city. The air-conditioning pours out onto the street, cooling the sidewalks as you walk past stores. We ate at a traditional hawker stand (more information and photos of our food experience to be provided by Leanne) and sat inside a Borders bookstore reading magazines. We ended the day with a nap in the Botanic Gardens and some Chili's, which is a company that I would like to personally thank for creating the Big Mouth Bacon Cheeseburger.

On Sunday, we walked through Little India and the Arab Quarter with a Starbucks break and a Khmer language study session in between. Each of these neighborhoods were very interesting but had their own unique Singaporean spin, meaning there was no trash anywhere. We also saw a movie for the first time in 8 months and ate some Chili Crab right on the Singapore River, per my brother's mandate.

Monday was a highlight for both Leanne and myself. We journeyed to the Marina Bay Sands, the new Vegas-like hotel in Singapore. The building is a marvel and the architecture is stunning. On the 60th story of the hotel is a "skypark," with an overlook onto downtown Singapore. There is also an incredible infinity pool that is only available for guests and, as we were told by the security guard, it is "impossible" for people not staying at the hotel to swim at the pool. We were taking pictures when a lovely German lady asked us to take her picture in the pool. When she found out that we were not guests, therefore unable to enter, she talked to the security guard and took us as her "guests." Long story short: we were able to swim in the pool and stayed in there for about 5 hours, watching the sun set over the city and viewing Singapore at night. It was one of those surreal moments, and I think it was an all-time travel highlight for both Leanne and myself.

On our last day, we took advantage of a breakfast at McDonalds, another Starbucks break and some hours under the sun at a nearby beach. It was a great end to a trip filled with relaxation and food.We ate dinner in the Arab Quarter and walked back late at night, a pleasant experience in a city with clean sidewalks, orderly traffick and crosswalks.

When we flew back, we were excited to return to Cambodia but had to negotiate the realization that Cambodia is nothing like Singapore. We do not live in a developed country, there is no easy transportation, Starbucks or Gap. Singapore is a spectacle, Disneyland for adults, and it allowed us the chance to feel like we were home for just a few days. Though it might sound like we vacation more than we work, Leanne and I both feel like these trips are essential to our happiness here in Cambodia. We love our home here but, because we are living in cross-culturally in a developing country, we do feel the stress and exhaustion that comes with that lifestyle.

Trips, like the one to Singapore, are a great way for us to be refreshed in order to continue our work in Cambodia. We are so thankful for the opportunity to travel, for the advice given to us by pastors and families that have worked abroad who explained to us the need for rejuvenation. Also, we are so thankful for the generous support, both financially and spiritually, that allow us to feel refreshed after just a few days of vacation. Singapore was remarkable and we loved the opportunity we had to experience that city.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our New Home!

Leanne and I have spent the last week moving into our new home. Just down the street from where we were staying before, our new apartment gives us a feeling of being settled and comfortable in Cambodia. We never imagined we would find a place that feels so western, especially not just down the street from the house we were staying in. We are on the third floor, (the second floor to Cambodians) of a typical Cambodian Pi-tay-la-vang. It has two bedrooms, a balcony on the front overlooking our street and a small balcony on the back that overlooks a lake of black water, tin huts and decrepit railroad tracks, just to help us remember that where we live now is not like where we grew up.

We do not want to post too many pictures before the apartment is finished. We are in the process of painting, printing photos to hang and organizing. Once we have all the necessary pieces in place, we will post a plethora of pictures for you to enjoy. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

I have attached a few photos of our move in process. Also, some images of lifting our couch to the 3rd floor over the balcony. Imagine myself, a small Khmer moto-driver, a thin rope and 90 + degree weather. We were sweating, yelling and cursing in two distinct languages but, after 20 minutes and minus one outdoor light, we got the couch into our apartment. Also, the couch is made of rattan, almost every couch here is made of this sinewy organic material. Not outrageously beautiful, but them's the breaks.

We are off to Singapore tomorrow for the next five days to enjoy some modern technology, architecture and, most importantly, fast food. Think of me this weekend as I will be indulging in a massive cheeseburger somewhere in that tiny but wonderful country.