Missionaries George and Shary Frahm – Serving in Cambodia

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Meeting Daniel

Hi there! We want you to meet Daniel, our co-worker in Siem Reap. When we asked Daniel where he learned English, he replied that it was in Bible College in Singapore. He was a classmate of Pastor Vannarith’s and has been recruited to establish a Garuna Christian School campus in the Siem Reap area in 2016. He has a wonderful singing voice.

Daniel has also been our driver on a recent trip to Kampong Spueu. When suddenly there was laughter coming from the front seat, Pastor Vannarith gave us the following dialog about what Daniel had done.

Daniel

Vannarith: Daniel, why did you run through the red light?
Daniel: Because I thought the police might be hungry and I wanted to buy them breakfast.

Later in the day, as we were headed back to Phnom Penh, we were stopped by the police just outside the town of Kampong Spueu. Daniel left the car and walked over to the desk on the side of the road where three police sat. Pastor informed us that Daniel was slightly over the speed limit in town and had to pay a fine. He calmly walked over to the canopied table with three policemen.

With a smile on his face, Daniel stated, “Well, they did not accept my invitation for breakfast, but wanted lunch instead”. Love that sense of humor!

Oh, the fine was R10000 or about $2.50.

Daniel will be moving up to Siem Reap at the end of the month and will begin his church planting duties. Please pray for him to perfect his driving because we do not want to drive in this country.

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November 2015 Khmer Khronicle

KK November 2015

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Please Meet One of Our First Ordained Pastors

During our first tenure in Cambodia, we were privileged to be able to attend the ordination of the three Lutheran pastors, all local guys, into the realm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cambodia.

One of these men is Pastor Sarath, a young man, married to a khmer gal, and they have one son with a daughter due to arrive in mid December. As is the case with this new generation of pastors, most of them have some English background, making our direct communication with them much easier, and it speeds up our relationship building with them as well. Having known Sarat from before is also a plus for us now.

Pastor Sarath’s role these past four years has been focused in Ratanakiri, ministering to a minority group called the Jarai people. This is where the church has asked him to serve.

This ethnic group numbers at about 140,000 as I could find in my search, with most of them located in the Vietnam area and into Ratanakiri in Cambodia. Their bible looks more like the Vietnamese dialect than the khmer. However, when we talked with Sarat, he said that he is able to communicate with these people in the four villages where he is present.

To give you a sight glimpse into the terrain of Ratanakiri, George has previously mentioned it as ‘the ends of the earth.’ It is indeed a very diverse terrain, very rugged, and very isolated. We have been there three previous occasions, and each time it took hours to get just to the closest village to visit these lovely folk. Roads are almost nonexistent now we were told by Sarath. His travel will take him away from home for 2-3 days at a time and he will sleep in whatever village he is working with. Additionally, he said that he is not willing to travel at night due to the problems with robbers on the road in the dark.

Sarath’s responsibility is to teach Lutheran doctrine to the people in the four villages he travels to. In the villages they have formed a five member church council leadership with about 15 or so as a total church body at this time. He said that the faith of the Jarai people is stronger as time has passed till now. We remember Pastor Douk who was the local ‘barefoot’ pastor who was there before Sarath. He was called home to a higher job while we were there in 2013, so his sons who are still in the area offer some assistance for Sarath to continue God’s work there.

The Jarai people were initially quite transient (and had been split up during the Khmer Rouge) after the war, so that they could use the land effectively for their needs of survival. Sarath related that now because of higher land prices they are not moving so often and so are concentrating on what will be a source of income for their needs. He mentioned rubber trees, cashew nuts, palm sugar, and tapioca. The biggest issue in all of this is that their main prospect source are their neighbors, the Vietnamese, who have been undercutting their efforts to broaden their market, and yet do not often offer them a reasonable price for their products.

The church is also beginning work on sewing projects, but he was not aware of what that would look like. We will add here though that these people are beautiful weavers and we are privileged to have some of their bags from our previous visits. As we would walk around the community we could see women sitting on a mat on the ground with a strapped loom at the waist doing theirwork.

Pastor Sarath copyTo share the gospel message Sarath is using the New Testament for the most part at this time. He has related that the complete bible has been translated into their heart language, but at this point maybe only 1-2 exist per each village due to the cost and availability to the people. We talked a bit about how that could be improved before we departed our ways and after praying with and for him.

Sarath

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A Huge Celebration in Kampong Chhnang

Shary, Shary wake up! It quarter to 5 and you promised Pastor’s wife that you would be ready by quarter to 6. Yes, I know it’s still dark out, but we cannot be late to Kampong Chhnang. Yes, I know it is the first province west of Phnom Penh, but it is going to take two to three hours to get there, and we can’t be late, the Governor of the Province is going to be there as well as all the members of the community.

1Coming together as a village for the dedication of the school

1English Garuna Sign post

And that is the way our morning started. Needless to say, we did get up and make it on time for what would be a very eventful and wonderful day. Of course, it was also not without it’s challenges. The first challenge would be getting out of Phnom Penh with the traffic on Northbridge Street going toward Russian Boulevard. I gave a sigh of relief as we crossed Russian Boulevard and the traffic eased up a little bit and sat back to watch the new construction, rice fields, and fish farms go whizzing by. That is until we got to the new road construction. The road suddenly turned to gravel with mounds in the center of the lanes that could easily show the road workers displeasure with some drivers. Talk about road rage, it looked like they were burying passenger cars if you got mad at them. The road was bumpy and filled with chuck holes. Pastor, who was our unexpected chauffeur this morning (thought he had left earlier in the morning) weaved back and forth between paved and unpaved lanes. Of course in Cambodia, the idea of lanes is only a suggestion and there were a number of times that we found ourselves headed at another motorbike or car coming the opposite direction.

Finally, the road smoothed out, but Pastor continued to demonstrate his driving skills! We continued until Pastor asked me if I realized we were only about 15 miles from Kampong Chhnang City. “Do you mean miles or kilometers,” I asked? “Miles!,” he said. “Time to stop for breakfast.” And we pulled into an open restaurant just east of Kampong Chhnang City, next to the New Life Church.

Breakfast is interesting when you can’t read the menu, but Shary and I both had our favorite iced coffee with (sweetened and condensed) milk and bowls of pork noodle soup. Two pastors who had joined us had a fried chicken leg on a bed of steamed white rice. One of them went to get some deep fried bananas which he shared and at Pastor’s call, we were back in the car and on our way again.

By now, the roadway was quite reasonable and smooth as we passed through Kampong Chhnang City and headed toward Battambang. A couple of miles out of town there was a gate over a narrow dirt road that had a bright red banner. We picked our way down it looking at the coconut palms, the papaya, and banana trees. “over on the left is Pastor Hai’s farm,” said Pastor Vannarith as he turned right down another dirt road into the rice paddies, only to turn left on a dirt path that led to a building we quickly recognized as a brand new school. Next to the school was a bright pink tent that covered a table with cases and cases of bottled drinking water.

As we turned into the schoolyard, a pile of speakers started playing Khmer music very loudly. We were here for a celebration! As we drove into the yard further, I could see the provincial police and the snack sellers. There were a number of people there, but most were yet to come. Those that were there were bustling around, preparing a stage, and checking microphones and a lot of details. Work continued and the number of people started growing larger.

1Garuna SchoolFinally it was time for the ribbon cutting. The reason were were there was to open a Garuna Christian School for the local children. Classes of school children were ushered inside and into seats. Their parents were also ushered to seats. Outside the door, three very pretty young ladies in traditional Khmer royal attire stretched a ribbon across the stairway for a ribbon cutting ceremony. As the ceremony was about to commence, a troupe of children dancers in masks came up the road, dancing their way into the compound and over to the tent. One especially had the mask of an old man and he was especially adept at making you believe he was a very small old man.Finally it was time for the ribbon cutting. The reason were were there was to open a Garuna Christian School for the local children. Classes of school children were ushered inside and into seats. Their parents were also ushered to seats. Outside the door, three very pretty young ladies in traditional Khmer royal attire stretched a ribbon across the stairway for a ribbon cutting ceremony. As the ceremony was about to commence, a troupe of children dancers in masks came up the road, dancing their way into the compound and over to the tent. One especially had the mask of an old man and he was especially adept at making you believe he was a very small old man.

1Celebration community skit by the children

The ribbon was cut and the stage filled with guests and provincial politicians including the governor. There were a number of speeches and award ribbons for major contributors. I was fortunate enough to be ushered to a front seat where I could take pictures quite easily and meet the officials when the ceremony ended. Everyone in the audience was given a 10000 riel note with which to buy lunch, but most just had bread and water. Some of us ate back in town to have a larger lunch with the officials (at their request). They were very hospitable and made sure we were well taken care of in the food category.

After lunch, the officials excused themselves to return to their offices or to Phnom Penh, but we went back to the school and Pastor Hai’s farm and church. This was the real celebration! At Pastor Hai’s church, next to his house and in the middle of his farm, were a group of children who had been instructed by Pastor Hai. Supposedly 15 of them were going to be baptized, but when Pastor asked if they wanted to be baptized, 24 came to the baptismal font, a plastic dish filled with water and three blossoms of a flower called fragrencia. These were young men and women who wanted to know Jesus Christ as their savior. For many of them, they were probably the first Christians in their family to be baptized.

1Baptized young girl

1Praying afterward

After the baptism, we returned to the new school, where we prayed. There were thanks for the new school, thanks for the support of the local people and the government, but especially thanks for the young people who were baptized.

1baptism recipients and their teachers plus Pastor Vannarith

The return trip to Phnom Penh was just and long, and just as rough. But it didn’t matter! We had a chance to celebrate the baptism of 24 new Christians. We came home to where we live, tired but happy for eternal life, both for them and for ourselves. To our new brothers and sisters in Christ, we say, “Welcome to the family.”

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Meeting An Old Friend

Monday, we were working in the office and it was late in the afternoon. There were not many people around because we missed the notice that Monday was Cambodian Independence Day. They have a Fourth of July here, but what is more important is that Cambodia became a free country on November 9th of 1953. Previously, they were a French protectorate from 1863 until 1949 when the transition to a constitutional monarchy began and was completed in 1953. So just like in the United States, when the government declares a holiday, most people do not work and enjoy the holiday instead. The same is true in Cambodia.

Either way, because we had landed in Cambodia only a week earlier and had not made plans to do anything on the holiday, we decided to make use of our office and write some e-mails to family, partners, and friends like you. Suddenly, the light went on in the next office. OK, there was nothing unusual in that, it happens on most work days when staff comes in. Moments later a face we recognized appeared in the window of the door between the offices.Pastor Stephen

“Mummy, Daddy!” was the cry of Pastor Stephen, a man we have known since January, 2012. Pastor Stephen was the first Khmer Pastor we met, and has been a good friend. He is a short man, very typical of some men in Cambodia and walks with a bit of a limp. We have never asked him why he limps and he has never volunteered or complained about his walk. From our previous stay, he was responsible for drilling water wells throughout the country and frequently would appear in the office just like this because it provided him a place to stay. Here he was again.

“Oh, Mummy, Daddy, I thought I would never see you again.” He was just about in tears as we asked him if he was well. It was a wonderful reunion to see Stephen and it put a smile on our faces. We pray that we will have a chance to tell you more about him and his church in the future.

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Opening the Door (As our youngest grandson said)

Today we worshipped together with the church body here in the office. It was quite a humbling experience from my point of view. It’s been very obvious to us that God wanted us to return to Cambodia. But my heart (Shary) has struggled many times over doing what He wanted of us. The pictures of our six grandchildren on our office wall with their parents speak loudly of those emotions. Just today I was looking at the photos from the airport and realized that our youngest grandson was trying so hard to be brave as his photo was taken, but his face showed his anguish of our departure. Enough said.

Yet, as we sat in this building where we had been for nearly two previous years, I began to understand God’s gentle nudging to us, or at least a glimpse at this point.

Church DoorGod is indeed in this house. His presence has embraced these folks who have chosen to follow Him. A total of 20 were in this service plus three children. One could imagine that the chorus of angels was also harmonizing the Khmer songs being sung above the torrential rains banging on the tin roofs outside the window. It was a Lutheran church service in source, but there is joy and life in this band of people worshipping together, some of whom were lifting their hands upward in praise to Him as they sang.

Our God is saying “Please pray for these people, my children, my servants. Stand with them, encourage them, and give them courage to share me with those who do not know me yet.”

In this little band of folk, 16 were men, four are studying to be pastors at this time, others are learning how they are to be strong Godly leaders. Pastor Vanarith’s message was simple, taken out of Matthew 12:38-44 and how we as Christians are sinners just like the people of Nineveh and Christ’s journey to earth saved us, just like Jonah’s journey to Nineveh, did for Children's Messagethose people

 

 

Reading of the gospel message

 

Scripture reading Blessing

 

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Settling In a Bit

Today is now Thursday for us here in Phnom Penh. Jet lag still hangs out with us, but its doable. We have a good bed to rest on. We have slept quite well for the last two nights.

As you pray for us, would you please read Luke 14:25-27. It is not easy to leave family and literally follow Christ as he has commanded, and both we and our family need your prayer in this regard. Each time we have had to leave our shores we thought we were prepared, but this time had to be the most challenging of all. Our grandchildren are older and they have voices, emotions, and opinions that speak.

We will be staying in the guest room for at least the next week. This will give us a secure place to sleep and a quick walk down one set of stairs to our office which we will spend some time today setting up.

Of course, one always looks for the changes that have occurred in your absence. The office is now 50% larger than when it was first contracted by LCMS. ELCC has taken over the house in which we originally lived and made it part of the office. The basic room configuration has not changed, but all the rooms are interconnected with new doors. Our office is almost exactly in the center of this new building, next to a new associate, John, and across the hall from President (Pastor) Vannarith. We still have more exploration to do in this building, but many things remain and many things have changed.

Across from our room on the same floor is our church where we are told the services are held each Sunday, with about 20-30 persons in attendance. This huge room had been the dormitory for pastors previously, but this is quite suitable for a church in itself, and also allows for growth in numbers.

We have taken two trips outside of the office and into the neighborhood where we live of Teuk Thla (Clear Water). With dark closing in, strangers do not stay out past dark, and we are no exception. But we did have a chance to walk down Northbridge Street toward Russian Boulevard. About half of the shops have gone out of business but been replaced with new businesses. Our major reason for taking this walk was to get something to eat before going to bed and shaking off the jet lag, since sleep was not easy on this trip.

We had a dinner of Fried Pho (Vietnamese noodles) at one of the newer restaurants that had just opened 6 months before we left the last time. The Northern Vina Cafe is owned by a Vietnamese Christian Family and has doubled in size from our last visit. The food was good then, and it was just the first night,  although the menu has expanded and the price of the original items has increased by 50%, but still very reasonable for two missionaries on a budget. Shary had pork with her noodles, and George had chicken. Both were very good, but a little salty with the soy sauce to eat on a daily basis. Next time,George will have to try the Pho’ or Vietnamese noodle soup. Last night he was not quite ready to take on the spicy chile sauce which really sets it off. Their homemade version of Siracha was always terrific. Additionally, we have seen the owner and he eagerly welcomed our return to Cambodia with a cup of iced coffee.IMG_2941

The first morning, we took our computers down to the office and when the internet was not functioning decided to walk around the corner to the local market where we used to purchase many items. We only had about a half hour, so we went straight to the corner where a women we call our ‘Little Fruit Lady’ greeted us with a huge smile. It has been 2 years since we last saw her, but she recognized us immediately. She had also added steamed pork buns to the the items she sells, so we purchased a bunch of the 4 inch Golden Bananas and two steamed pork buns. So breakfast cost us all of $1.63 for two of us, and the buns were very good! Actually, God is so good that he has preserved these things for us and we will again have the opportunity to witness to her. Her daughter had been in a Christian preschool when we were here before, and so with the family activities, she too has heard about Jesus already. Amen !

Pastor Vanarith has been called Thailand for this week, so we will not be able to get our full assignments until he returns. He has asked us to rest and get reacquainted and we intend to do that this week.

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God’s surprise for me tucked inside his sleeve

On our flight from Chicago to Doha Qatar, I had the opportunity to meet a gentleman who had been visiting his daughter in the US for the previous three weeks and was now on his way home to Saudi Arabia. He initiated the conversation and was very engaging, sharing his fatherly love and pride regarding his daughter’s accomplishments studying in Flint, MI. We stood in the galley area at the rear of the plane, giving us both some much needed change in positions on this long flight.

 

For those of you reading this at this time and place, perhaps not knowing that we have not only lived in MI the first 65 years of our lives, but we also started an international student ministry program at Saginaw Valley State University that has been in existence for over 20 years now and is still ministering to the needs of those students coming to our shores and in that midst many have come to accept Christ and have taken home that new found life with them.

 

Flint MI is the home of Kettering University and the University of Michigan Flint campus. (George is a grad of Kettering btw). Per a news brief yesterday they have over 700 students creating a mini United Nations of itself on campus. Not only do students receive a first class educational experience there, but they are also able to live there quite reasonably. Many of these students struggle with the high cost of living in the US to go to school here and their families sacrifice greatly to the end. Additionally, the very couple who started an initially ministry in Saginaw over some 20 years ago with us now live in the Flint area and are active and engaged with international students there.

 

So back to my conversation with this congenial man on the plane in the galley. He spoke with such kindness about his visit to his daughter who was studying at U of M. In the midst of our discussion he asked me (Shary) if I was a Christian. I nodded a response to him to which came back a response “Oh that is so wonderful to hear. My daughter has an American friend who is a Christian and she is so nice. I am really happy that she is such a good friend to my daughter.”

 

God is so good. Even at how many thousands of feet in the air He shows to us His plan and examples of how our servitude to glorify Him can multiple how many times over.

 

Yes this gentleman also asked and knew we were on our way to Cambodia. We did speak briefly about our roles here on the ground. He affirmed to me his resounding approval to where we were going and what we were going to do. I think he understood the greatness of our Father or at least was having glimpses of Him cross his path. he got excited when he spoke about it. Please pray that as time goes on this man is shown completely the whole picture so he too can enjoy eternal life with us with Him.

 

 

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We Have Arrived Home in Phnom Penh

Well, after being cooped up for 31 ½ hours in an airplane, we finally have arrived in Phnom Penh. The flights were relatively smooth flying from west to east through Doha, Qatar on the Persian Gulf where we had an opportunity to stretch our legs on a very lengthy layover. We also made a pit stop in Saigon to drop off passengers there, having a short hiccup as the staff tried to get the correct head count to leave the country.

We were met by the staff of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cambodia and will temporarily be staying in the office guest room. The weather here is expected to be partly cloudy with a high of 91oF with a humidity of 58%. We had a heavy noisy thunderstorm last night and expect to see another tonight. The average rainfall for November in Phnom Penh is 5.5 inches as we end the wet season and proceed into the dry portion of the year. It doesn’t rain all day, but makes its appearance usually later in the day or during the night hours at a fairly fast downpour or two.

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Thank you for prayers, encouraging notes, and standing with us in God’s ministry in Cambodia.

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