Monday, October 24, 2011

A Day to Celebrate

Yesterday morning was a morning full of joy, celebration, and thankfulness to the Lord.  As we have mentioned the new building we have been renovating in Prek Pneu is all finished and we were able to open it up to the Khmer house church that Asian Hope helps support.  We offered to help host an opening day of the church now being able to use the new building.  We worked with the Pastor on having the normal service but then also having a time of fellowship and sharing of a meal with one another afterwards.  The church was thrilled to celebrate with us.

They decorated the building with balloons, set up all the chairs and desks so it felt like a true church building, and the woman from the church made a delicious Khmer curry with bread.  The service was wonderful.  Both the younger and older children performed a song and dance, the young adults (and core members of he church) prepared a skit (which was a funny memory I will never forget), the older women shared testimonies, and the pastor gave his usual sermon.  This special service gathered over 25 children and probably 30 adults, numbers this church normally doesn't see.

Afterwards we sat around and ate curry, Khmer fruit, and drank soda.  Chris literally had a full chicken foot in his bowl that he generously gave to one of the men he has become friends with, as I passed out some home baked chocolate chip cookies so they could try "a dessert from the foreign land."  Some loved it, some hated it. 

We love that we can call these people friends, we love that they now can have church in a building that allows for skits, songs, and growth in numbers, we love that God is generously giving to our ministry so we can see His name be glorified.

Yesterday was a wonderful day, and we will rejoice and be glad in it!
Pictured below: all the shoes outside the door, time of worship, Leanne talking to the church, woman doing the final preparations for lunch, Khmer fruit, children eating in the kitchen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

If only the Buffs could play like Burma

Leanne and I have been lamenting the Buffs 1-6 start over the last seven painful weeks. We are actually quite used to the Buffs losing ways and many a cheese burger were shared with friends at a restaurant just down the hill from Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado as we discussed their consistent futility.

Though the Buffs lost – a lot – we still went to every game. Regardless of how bad the Buffs were losing – typically by a lot – and we stayed until the final whistle. Perhaps it was our ridiculous pride in our Alma Mater but much of our desire to stay is the feeling of going to a stadium, cheering for a common cause and hoping that, just maybe, the Buffs would win.

It has been two football seasons since we have been to or even watched the Buffs, which is exactly why Leanne and I were thrilled to learn that a sporting event was happening at a stadium in Phnom Penh. The Under-21 Mekong River Soccer Tournament ended on Sunday and Leanne and I attended the final pitting Burma against Thailand.

The differences in a CU game and this soccer game were apparent from the start. We parked our moto in the lot, jumped the parking-lot rope, dodged badminton players on our way up the way to the eastern stands.

We walked in the stadium without a ticket and slipped by the police officer at the gate trying to take a bribe from the only two westerners in the crowed. Instead of frozen lemonades, pretzels or bratwursts, we looked over our selection of duck eggs, pickled vegetables, mango with chili peppers and deep fried bananas.

By the middle of the second half, Thailand and Burma were locked in a heated 1-1 draw. The crowd, which was no more than a couple of thousand Cambodians and a few hundred radical Burmese fans were entirely anti-Thailand, likely do to politics and history. Any time the Thai’s would make a mistake, miss an opportunity or let Burma slide behind them, the crowed bubbled with support for the clear underdogs.

The game entered into overtime, the lights in the stadium came up and the bats came out; flying around the stadium consuming mosquitoes and moths just feet above the player’s heads. With 10 minutes left in the game, the Burmese fans were locked in a melodious chanting when one of their short superstars slipped a perfect cross into the back corner of the Thai goal. Cambodians and Burmese alike celebrated like the game was the final of a world cup. When the final whistle sounded, the Burmese players danced around the stadium, doing their best Usain Bolt impersonations.

This was an incredible event to experience because of the hilarious cultural differences, the political undertones and beauty of the evening. As experiences in Asia become increasingly mundane, it is times like this that allow us to remember that what we get to do in Cambodia is a unique blessing.

Now, here is hoping that the Buffs learn to grit out a game and beat a better opponent like Burma did last weekend.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Culture Fatigue

Culture stress or culture fatigue is a common phrase for us to hear in working in missions overseas.  It can best defined as a season you experience, in waves, when the things of culture -- language, driving, food, smells, sights, ways of doing things, difference in religions, etc.  seem to burden you more than usual.  Now those stresses are always present and you always feel them in your day to day, but during "culture fatigue" they feel heavy or never ending.

It is safe to say we (or I) am in a season of culture fatigue.  Driving (which is always in traffic) makes you want to pull your hair out.  The dust coming off the streets and the huge trucks that is sticking to your sweaty face seems no longer tolerable.  The constant cancellation of appointments, pick-ups, drop-offs, or meetings make you wonder if you can ever get anything done.  The 9th meal in a row with white rice no longer tastes good (even though it did at one time).  The unending honking of horns, bells, and whistles makes your ears ring, and head throb for minutes after stepping into a quite building.  The construction next door at 6:00am (every morning) is not something I want to compete with anymore with my ipod.  Everything, and I mean everything, is made with the poorest quality, and something is always breaking or falling apart.  That no matter what time of year or time of day it is it is never cooler than 85 degrees. You get the point...

So what is the answer?  We talk (and write) often about thankfulness and the phrase I have read continues to resignate in my mind: "Can I take each seeming problem and turn it back to praise?"  So here it goes:

- I drive a moto and that is much faster than driving a car. Thank you for our reliable and awesome moto.
- Thank you for all the wonderful face wash that is brought to us with visitors or in care packages.
- Thank you for having us be a part of three amazing ministries that glorify God's name everyday.  And that we have accomplished more than we could of ever imagined in 16 months!
- Thank you for our amazing cook, Ohm, who without fail makes us a delicious Khmer meal every day and when we come home we just heat up dinner, and boom, we are eating! Thank you that I don't have to go to the market and try to buy meat off a hook!!!
- Thank you for the safety and protection we have been given while driving.  I guess the honking does help.
- Thank you for the ipod, and the dock we have in our home that helps us feel normal.  Thank you for all the generous people who give us itunes gift cards and send us music so we are not stuck with songs from 2009.
- Thank you for just being given super glue, so I could run around our house and glue everything back in place again.
-Thank you for all our generous donors that allow us to afford air-con when we sleep at night.

God does provide, and we are thankful for that.  I will say that this morning was the first time that I told a friend and Chris that I can't wait to be in America this summer not just to see people but also to have something for once be easy.  Then our friend responds with, "girl, you have culture fatigue, and so do I."

Here are some great photos of our fascinating city of Phnom Penh.
We have much to be thankful for here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The rest of Mom's visit and Malaysia

Like we mentioned here my mother, Ginger, came to visit for the last couple weeks of September.  Having family visit is one of the highlights we have in the year.  It is so fun for us to show the people we love most our life here in Phnom Penh.  We went to all the markets (this time I took mom to Khmer fabric market so we could get some clothes made for us and for a Christmas gift for my niece), to our favorite restaurants, and found new ones that now have been added to our favorite list (Pacharan on the river front - for those who live in Cambodia), and spent many days in our apartment talking, eating, watching movies, and enjoy the day to day life we have established here.  The whole visit was a big blessing!

Pictured above: tuk tuk ride to church, at home after working all day, our favorite Khmer noodle restaurant for breakfast with the Hein's and their daughter Allie, and pedicures at Daughters.

Half way through her trip was the Khmer holiday of Pchum Ben (read here about this holiday) and we were treated to a trip to Langkawi, Malaysia.  The island off the peninsular coast was nothing shy of beautiful.  We spent four days relaxing on the beach, renting motos and driving around the island (even Mom drove!!!), and visiting the jungle waterfalls. 

After our time on the island we started heading back home with a short one day layover in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.  We stayed in the area of town called Little India, and enjoyed an amazing lunch when we arrived.  We then shopped in Chinatown, walked abound the city until we finally reach the Pentronas Towers, which were stunning at night, and yes went to Chili's grill.  There are two in Asia, one is Singapore and one in KL, and we have happily eaten "Big Mouth Bacon Cheeseburgers" at each of them.  Thanks Mom for going to a massive American food chain while visiting Asia.

The trip was wonderful and we enjoyed the natural beauty, peace and quite, and good quality time with family.  As a bonus we only had one rainy day (pretty good for rainy season...)

Monday, October 3, 2011

New Facility

For those of you who follow our blog and our ministries here in Cambodia you are aware that I have been spending the last 6 weeks working on the construction and renovation of Asian Hope's new building in Prek Pneu.  I am VERY happy to say the construction is over, the renovation is complete, the walls and ceiling have been painted, and the floors have been cleaned (or better yet scrapped).  This was a HUGE endeavour that was completely overwhelming when we started, and now it is complete!
Here are some photos of all the work that has been done on the building...

We had one team of American military who are stationed in Japan come and help do the clean out of the building.  This was a very dirty job and they did an amazing job of getting it all ready to be painted....

Then we had multiple sets of volunteers come to paint the entire inside of the house, including the ceiling downstairs.  The interns at Asian Hope's guesthouse did the priming, a team from Belfast, Ireland painted all the walls blue, and the 9th and 12th grade classes at Logos painted the ceiling.  We also had countless hours of help from Asian Hope staff, volunteers from the community and those we met traveling, dear friends, and my mom come and finish off the painting and get the left over paint and dirt off the tile floors.

 Here are few before and after photos:  The upstairs main room:
The kitchen:

 The downstairs main room (before) and the office (after):

Thanks to everyone who helped, emailed encouragement through this process, and prayed for us and this building.  Last week we went shopping for all the furniture and school supplies.  I am so excited to start the next step and put my hammer, paint brush, and paint scrapper down :)