Missionaries George and Shary Frahm – Serving in Cambodia

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Out The Back Door Part Two

Back on January 6th, we wrote about a group of girls we met one day on our way to get dinner at Atwood Business Center. Prior to that we had met a young girl hanging outside a squatty looking home a bit further into the commune itself and she also greeted us in English but we only saw her a couple more times and then she was not seen again, so either she had been visiting family, or perhaps her family had moved away (the front of the house changed too). Even before then though, we had been trying to engage the community as we strolled along and we have to say here and now that more and more of the adults are greeting us in passing, so they realize that we are not just here for a bit as we go through their neighborhood.

So yesterday being Sunday, after church we headed out to a coffee shop as we both had some serious things to accomplish, and that environment would set us down and let us get that done. We both had our headsets on and in a few hours accomplished a lot. Then it was time to eat and head home on the bus. I don’t recall ever having seen such a crowded bus. There were very few seats in general but wide open standing room for everyone who piled on. Two very young people gave us their seats so we were securing fastened for the ride. Just after that in the next two stops more people than ever climbed aboard, so many that some had to enter through the rear doors. For a Sunday night we thought it was really crowded, but then again maybe people were getting an early start on the Chinese New Year.

An elderly lady (watch this adjective) was next to me. She so wanted to ask me a ton of questions but needed to find a willing soul to help her. She kept talking abut the number of people on the bus and shaking her head, but then again I heard Ratanakiri in her talking and figured out that not that many people even live in Banlung where she was from that were on the bus.

Anyway, a kind young man nearby helped her out and asked questions. First off, how old was I? I told him 67 and he translated and she let out this chuckle with “I’m 64.” She then asked how old George was and I replied 66. Her eyes lit up and she said “you are older than him, and he looks old and you don’t.” (And I called her an ‘elderly’ lady, LOL). I could have given that girl some roses for that compliment. She invited me to come and stay in her home up in Ratanakiri. I thanked her for her gracious hospitality.

So we got off near Atwood Business Center to go the ‘back’ way home, our usual route. It was getting dark by this time.

All of a sudden I have someone grab my arm and say “hello, I want to talk English with you. Please come visit my home.” This is how we met Mentang and his grandmother and mother, along with his brother, sister, aunt, and two cousins. Out came the chairs and some water and a very happy eager boy whose excitement was almost difficult to contain, but he was such a wonderful little guy of 12 who wanted to learn English so he could “travel to another country.” Needless to say he was very engaging, and much to our surprise, everything we talked to him about in English, he would quickly translate it to his grandmother and mom who were both sitting close by. There was a lot of nodding going on. While I have no clue as to the length of this conversation, fairly soon it was really dark out and then George said “you know we are going to eat dinner with them, right?” Hmmm I already ate dinner. Oh well.

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Yup, and so the conversation, part two, was on the floor of his grandmother’s home, where he had come with his mom and siblings, to spend the day. I will let each of you take note of the variety of foods that was brought out by the photo. Interestingly Mentang disappeared for a while in the midst of all of this, leaving us on the floor waiting. Finally, I whispered his name aloud and he said “I am making you an egg all by myself and I will be there soon.” Proudly he shortly arrived with a bowl with a scrambled egg for us accompanied with a huge smile of satisfaction.

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If I could march back a bit to the first part of this conversation when we are sitting in chairs in the front of the building, Mentang’s mom was full of questions too and interested in knowing what we were doing in Cambodia. We explained that we were Christians and had come to work in the villages with school development, farming and crops, and teach English, and tell people about Jesus. I happened to have on my ipad the photos of the previous day’s trip on a water well project in Kamphong Cham. She zeroed into those photos and came across the one I have enclosed here of the sign for the well with the cross and the word ‘Jesus’ on it. I think it was at that point she realized what the word Christian meant because it showed in her facial expression. “So, do you have to be a Christian to get one of these water wells” she asked? No was the answer that I gave her, explaining that these five or so families who received this well were not Christian. They needed clean safe drinking water and had no source for that choice in their village. There were no streams, lakes, or ponds in the area. “Oh,” she said with a huge smile. “You are a good person then that you can do that for these people.”

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We left our card with her and Mentang and told them that we would come again to see them and practice more English with them. Mentang’s brother also has had some English instruction and tried it out with us as well.

So, is this the ‘in’ to the community that we prayed about and wanted to find, I’m not sure as I write this today. I do know that I am glad that I checked myself at the ‘back door’ to extend to this really brave young guy the courtesy of our time he obviously wanted. For only being age 12, he sure shows a lot of confidence and urgency to reach his dream. Yes, he attends a school here in Phnom Penh. He learns English there and said he has already had 5 years of study. Most people after that long usually do not master language at that depth. Yet he sure had. His family was very supportive and obviously very proud of his achievement thus far. I wonder what he told his English teachers at school today?

The five younger members of the family walked us all the way home just to be sure that we stayed safe. 🙂

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Traveling in the Kingdom Days 5-6 Photos only

We both must have been photo crazy with as many as we had between two devices. Of course one has to sort them all out and so you get to see a smattering of some of the ‘others’ that go along with this post. Thank you and enjoy! WP_20151209_071WP_20151209_010

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Roasted honeycomb

 

 

 

 

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Bamboo filled with rice and cooked over wood fire to eat.

 

 

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Traveling in the Kingdom Days 5-6 > Traveling Between Cultures and Crops

This is the last post in the series of three entitled Traveling in the Kingdom. There is more to come for the rest of the month into January as I catch up, but this part hangs out with the other two previous posts as a matched trio. While each can stand alone on its own, to follow from the beginning till now may give you a better sense of where the travels have taken us thus far. This is an exciting time for me, visiting the Jarai village. They remind me of a group of people who are always on the move and very nomadic. Perhaps their moving around is less these days due to their basic need to provide for the basics. Land isn’t as easy to move to or from with new land reforms. However, this is about the limit to my adventuresome spirit though at this age/stage of my life. I’m not what one might term an adventurer as Mt. Everest isn’t on my bucket list. But to share Jesus and spread His gospel message is. I know that wherever I’m sent I’ll be equipped even in the least of circumstances. That being said, I don’t think I could ever live this remotely day in or day out. But it’s wonderful to share time with these new believers. 

In some respects travel in this province has improved, but it’s got a long way to go (well I think, can I say this for most of the country can’t I?) even in all of these road improvements and move into the 21st century, this country will always have a rugged wild side to it, like out of a wild west movie of a while ago. That’s good for those young adventurers coming to see Cambodia, since there is Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and then the ‘real’ part of this country where the country is itself.

I wasn’t able to figure out nor did I see if there is a school in this village. Then again, this village is further north than the one we’ve been to twice before. Not only has that village lost their pastor (tragic accident) but so has this one, leaving them without leadership as we would know it. Therefore for this Christmas some members and their pastoral leadership from four areas have traveled here to share and encourage these people as they try to continue through this chapter. Vannarith is committed to the Jarai people. Come this January the village is sending a young man to us to learn English and to do the beginnings of theological training. (And he has arrived as I post this ~ Dtout is one of the first khmer I have ever seen who is so driven to succeed for his family and his people. This guy spends hours sorting out one simple Bible chapter in English so he understands it from four languages. Whew!)

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Jarai Folk do not speak Khmer. Their language is a combination of Vietnamese and Indonesian. I have no idea how that came around. Maybe it’s another one of those tower puzzles out of Babel.

The Jarai village houses may have 75 single dwellings and even a few ‘family’ dwellings for multi generational family living. George noticed that there was a cashew orchard in the rear that was poorly kept. They do require a lot of care. Additionally, there was a ‘repair’ shop of sorts and a local mini mart nearby. As we walked the village grounds, we saw gardens in almost every house area which were already harvested. Amongst the houses pigs and piglets as well as chickens were moving about. In the evening hours I saw six cows led home. What solidified it even more though is that we saw three wells and two distribution centers so we don’t think the village is moving any time soon. We must and need to be with them there as they live here. But there is no weaving noticed from the women here as in the other village we’ve been to, and the Jarai are known for their intricate designs. I’m not sure where their incomes are derived from.

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Remember it was mentioned how the meals were made on this trip, the women worked together to cut up everything and watched over its preparation. While us girls were on board for doing that, the children were enlisted to provide decorations, set up chairs for church, and then tables and such for meals. Gorgeous paper cutting skills did the tick. Where were the men? Under the tree discussing the latest and greatest I guess. That happens a lot.

WP_20151209_113Oops I almost forgot one stop made on the way the first day to a place called Boeung Yak Loam Lake. Being a part of the culture of the Kreung Hill tribe, the Tampian Hiil people, and the ancestors to the Jarai, this lake is a crater post volcanic episode from millions of years ago it said. There are no structures around the lake, and the area provides cool water for swimming. Gorgeous afternoon under the straw roof during lunch and traditional rest period. I walked the lake as much as I was allowed.

IMG_3908WP_20151210_006 WP_20151210_008Let’s talk a bit about this area. We noted almost all monoculture in this province, which we don’t favor. Rows upon rows of rubber trees, mango plantations, cassava, pepper. Let one bug or one virus get into that situation and it could change the income level in a hurry. It is a wilder landscape and full of nature in the midst too.

Ratanakiri means ‘mountains of gems’ if you were asking. It is indeed just that.

We stayed two nights in Banlung, the capital of the province. The first night we had no power, therefore no AC, but plenty of cockroaches. That room cost us $20. We didn’t stay for a rerun.

Night two was wonderful. I’d have loved to take home the bed with us. It had a pool, a sauna, massages, electricity, clean rooms. This room was $15.

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It was an 18 km jaunt in and out both days to the village. We had to cut thru the jungle of a no road terrain once each way as the creek bridge couldn’t hold the van we were in. Nights were a bit scary to me as it was pitch black when it came unless you met someone on the way. I had heard of meandering robbers at night but none encountered us. Thank you.

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While the afternoon passed by, the first day I gathered in the little ones under 12 or so for some dialog and game playing. I was pleased that so many hung out with me and tried verbal communication. Yet soon they turned the wheel around and we started to play a universal local game called ‘crack the whip.’ This Oma can’t do that one many more times anymore.

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The first night consisted of a community meal for everyone. We all then departed our own way. That was the first night I had tried out the doTerra repellent. Smelled good and it worked. This was the night with no power when we returned to Banlung. Let’s move forward from this point to our big day.

Arrival into the village I saw the common area paper decorated and covered chairs set out just like church. A mini lunch of sorts came around. The main ingredient for their meals was served in big mounds. Rice. Sauces and such were the toppings.

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The afternoon into evening progressed nicely with a complete Christmas program and church service that lasted nearly three hours. Every group (6) had a part of the program. Nightfall was approaching and so as tables were set, lights went on so everyone could see. It was a grand meal of curry no less, which seemed to be a speciality of Vesak’s wife. Soon thereafter the tables were cleared times two (so everyone could eat the meal this happened twice). The village celebration then got started. Roar, roar, starts a generator. On goes the music, flowing gentle Khmer style. Fairly soon I am called upon to join in. I truly need to learn these steps, the Khmer way. But I follow the lead and do the circle again and again till three songs have passed and I am wasted. Hopefully I have the approval of the village for sure now. I learn later that we are the first foreigners ever to visit them and they don’t want the night to end nor for us to go. Tearfully we give them a ‘ chum rip leah’ departure. We heard later they partied till the light went out, I.e. the generator went out of fuel.

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When There Is No Water

Growing up in Michigan surrounded by the Great Lakes gave us plenty of fresh water to enjoy. Many may say that we have the best water in the world in our midwest region. Until I came to live in Indonesia and now Cambodia, I didn’t think a lot about the detail of water. I realized it was a precious item that we had been blessed with all of our lives and appreciated it dearly. I could, without reservation, brush my teeth, rinse our vegetables and fruits, and basically do just about anything with it.

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Things today have changed from those thoughts of safe and clear drinking water since that time. (not withstanding we’ve heard about the problem in Flint, MI where we both met in 1967).

In Cambodia it is not safe to drink water out of the faucet. Obviously it is not safe to drink water out of a pond, a lake, a stream, or a receptacle next to a home that collects rainwater in the rainy season. But what happens if you live in an area where there is a limited to almost nonexistent source for water.

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Back in our last deployment, there was a huge ongoing water well project plan in place because of a generous offshore donation. We heard about a fair few number of wells being built during that time, but it was done at a local level and we were not involved with it since we were working on a dorm project.

This deployment the water well project still continues, but it is on a smaller scale than previously. This year there will be four well projects completed. We were privileged to be invited to go along with the Health Administrator of this project as she went out to Kampong Cham to make a visit to the community receiving this well. Her name is Khanchana.

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Daniel is the driver. George rides in the front with him and us two girls are in the back. We have a wonderful visit as we travel out to the community, catching up on all of the latest news and are getting acquainted with this village before we arrive.

We get the usual gracious khmer warm welcome from the locals who live here. As I peruse the village grounds, I see that it is a very well kept village. No trash litters the landscape. The houses are all stilted and fairly elevated, giving lots of ‘walk under’ room for the taller people in the area. The village proper is still green in spite of being in the dry season. It is quiet here, without blaring radios or singing phones in the background. Very few children meander around the premises, but there is a significant number of persons over the age of 50 who all appear to be fairly healthy. As they awaited our arrival, they made lunch to share with us.

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To these people getting a water well is serious business. Those who need glasses to read pull them out of their pockets and put them in place at the start of our meeting. Kanhchana brings a prepared bilingual booklet entitled ‘water’ and this is the topic around the table as she goes thru each page with this community. As I watch and look around I see that these people are dedicated to this new well being given to them, which will provide them with much needed water for their daily use.

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How did these people get this well I asked Kanhchana. She elaborated that someone in the village passed a request thru the village elders and it came in to Pastor Vannarith who then turned it over to Kanhchana for consideration. I asked how she decides who would get a well, especially if there are only four slots available for this year and she ends up with more than four requests. That’s easy she said. Come visit the community and address their needs and current restrictions for water that they are dealing with.WP_20160123_027 copy

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Phin Naro

Come and meet Pastor Naro. Pastor Naro is one of our oldest friends in Cambodia. We me him during our initial 6 day visit when we attended Christ Lutheran Church of Phnom Penh. We really got to know him when we returned in 2012. Pastor Naro has been a friend ever since and because he is located here in Phnom Penh with access to reasonable internet, he has used Skype to “keep in touch.”

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Pastor Naro (and his wife Kanhchana in the photo) have three sons, and we are proud to call the entire family friends. They pray for and with us frequently and are willing to assist us whenever we need help. Besides being the Pastor for Christ Lutheran Church, Naro also mentors two young men who are about to complete their pastoral training through the Luther Institute of Southeast Asia (LISA) and be ordained in March 2016. Pastor Naro is also the Director of Lutheran Hour Ministries of Cambodia and a frequent author of many of their local devotional series. It is always our pleasure to help Naro with proofreading and English.

His wife Kanhchana is the Cambodian director for CWEF out of Hong Kong, a job she had on our last deployment as well. She is a lady full of wit and laughter at any given moment. She struggles with English at times, or so she says, but she never gives up trying.

As busy as he is, Naro always has time to help us too. When we were in the United States raising support, Naro was always on Skype reminding us that we were destined to come back, and asking us if we had any news about when we would return. We are proud to call Naro a friend and mentor.

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A Modern Day Paul

This is Pastor Dynes. If you ever want to find soIMG_4796mething in Phnom Penh, all you have to do is ask Pastor Dynes. Dynes knows everyone and everything in Phnom Penh. You can see from the picture that he is not a huge man, but he is strong and wiry. He is also very handy with repairing things.

Pastor Dynes reminds us of Paul. Paul was a tentmaker who when money was a little tight, was not afraid of working in his field of being a tentmaker. Pastor Dynes also supports himself and his family of a wife and two sons by driving a tuk tuk, a small trailer that holds four Americans or a dozen Khmer people and is pulled by a motorbike. Pastor Dynes has modified his tuk tuk to use a drip cooling system. He has a large reservoir that looks like at one point held cooking oil which he fills with water. Then, he has scrounged some clear tubing that provides a constant drip of water on to the cooling fins of his motor bike’s engine.

A bible is always somewhere near Pastor and his tuk tuk. If you hire Dynes for the day, he will give you his phone number and ask that you call him when you want to go somewhere else. But, when you call, he will not answer, but will show up at the appointed rendezvous point with a big smile on his face in just a couple of minutes. While you shopped, Dynes was under the shade of a large tree reading his bible and planning his next sermon.

Dynes speaks some English, but cannot really understand a real deep conversation. He works hard and we wish that we could talk more with him, but because he lives some distance from the office, and works hard at driving his tuk tuk, we need to limit our contact to situations that can help him make money to support himself and his family.

But, if you come to Cambodia and want a romantic tour of the capital maybe you can hire Pastor DyDynes and his tuk tuk to take you around town.

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Cambodia for Jesus Christ

We were discussing Khmer Christian music for devotions in the morning and on our third look we found this. Mind you this is not the norm here, but those so privileged to live in the city and be exposed to somethng as fine as this is amazing. Only a slight few outside the big cities even have electricity yet and we are still working on safe water and sanitary conditions. However, we were awed by the expressions of some of the students here who were obviously singing from deep inside, as well as the conductor who was very pleased how God was being told here. Amen.

Please click below to view the video. It was too big to put in this site.

https://www.facebook.com/EmpoweringLCC/Cambodia for Christ

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Traveling in the Kingdom Day 3-4 ~ A Trail Between the Bridges

Stroeng Treng is north and east of Phnom Penh. It touches borders with both Laos and Vietnam because of a spectacular juncture where the Mekong Falls are situated. Actually in this area we are told that there are over 4,000 islands out there terracing the landscape. Viewing leads me to believe that some of their presence to the viewer is relevant to the rainy versus non rainy season.

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In this area there is also the ability to see the Mekong Falls. While I’m not into waterfall dialogue a whole lot and I’ll leave this to George to elaborate on later if he wants, I will admit that it was a spectacular sight. For one, I can’t compare it to Niagara Falls. This area was a series of cascading drops and stair stepping water rock formations with an almost canyon event or two. The water in itself takes on a greenish hue and because of forever warmth, it has a certain odor with it, even though it looks clear.

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Until recently travel in this province meant using a ferry between areas as no bridges existed. Whew, we are happy to hear that there are two new bridges now that make daily commute for locals much safer. Poor maintenance on the local ferries had, of recent, caused a lot of worry using them, especially in the rainy season. The bridges are less than a year old and already the area is transitioning from the ferry areas to the bridge areas where people can sell their wares and foods.

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There is a Jarai village who live along the river and migrate back and forth. There are floating fishing communities in the distance and a wide prevalence of use of long tail boats. The province is lush green red soil. It’s miles and miles of driving from one area to another, or it seems so, dependent again on the roads.

Stroeng Treng will be the site of a Garuna School in the new year. As we visited it now and climb the hill at the road entrance, it is as yet just deforested land totally undeveloped. On the same road/area there will also be farm investments made, as well as a goal for a theological training center. Even at one stop at the base of the larger bridge we investigated some land that was on the river itself and under discussion as a retreat center.

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The other reason for our visit to this area was to celebrate Christmas with Pastor Vesak and his flock. We were humbly impressed with Pastor Vesak’s family who have so unselfishly incorporated their daily life into this church. Vesak’s wife during the week opens up her veranda and it has a restaurant position. She is a great local cook and her notoriety for such is well known. Her food is clean meaning we could enjoy it as well. While dishes were washed by hand in a large dish the water to do so was running clean. We did notice she had a fridge but the orange ice chest seemed to hold the foods that needed to be there.

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Church services that night meant the young folk had quick learning of a few songs prior to their performance. Gladly it can be said here that they made all their mishaps beforehand and glorified Him in their performance. The one downside was the flat tire that happened (and couldn’t be quickly repaired) that was to have brought another 120 to share time with. That being said, way to much food existed for the remaining folk, so lots of food went home with those present for the next day. The service held probably a tad less than 50 till the end and when darkness erupted around us, when meal fellowship began under a single lightbulb or two hanging above us.

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The next morning we continued to Ratanakiri and the Jarai village. What pleasant addition to all this is that Pastor Vesak, his family, and some others close by hopped into a pickup truck and rode shotgun all the way there. Again Pastor Vesak’s wife shined her culinary skills in managing the meals for everyone while we were there. Many women joined in to help in the prep process beforehand, cutting veggies and meat for over 120 people. This included the arrival of people from four other churches who came alongside to stand with the Jarai folk who are still so young in their faith. While some could not speak the Jarai language, the love of Jesus was everywhere.

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Out the Back Door

This was posted on my ELCC FB website back on January 6th. I had somehow neglected to also put it here, but because of a surprise last night I thought putting this out first was crucial for you all to realized how impacting our surprise last night was for us.

Most evenings we take a walk out the back of the commune, avoiding the gridlocked dust raised road that would normally take us out. More and more of the people who live here are extending greetings to us every time we venture that way. One time a passerby said (he was married to a khmer gal) said he’d never seen any foreigners in the area before and his wife had a business in the area. smile emoticon
IMG_4779Anyway, these ladies all hollered “hello” to us last night so we ventured toward them to talk, finding out that they were practicing ‘school’ with the gal in the orange on the right being the teacher. They all greeted us and told us their name. When I looked at the folder on the table I realized it was all in English and that she attended a school in the neighborhood called Milky Way School. Each girl had a reasonable level of English, but the 11 year old Koteia was very proficient at it already, indicating to us that this generation will march ahead much quicker than their counterparts in the villages where English is not so prevalent yet. She was beaming with her ability to talk with us so willingly. (and her english was very clear too.)

That is one reason the Garuna School project is so vital at this time with those children who aren’t in the big cities of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, and Sihanoukville. They don’t have the same playing field that these students are exposed to. To us that is important to raise up Christian leaders for this country thru these initiatives.

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Traveling in the Kingdom Day 2

This was originally written on December 7, 2015 and follows the first post of a while back by the same name. It is a continuance of the first post from December 6, 2015 actually.

Our arrival to the guest house was after 10pm last night. A short cut ended up being a long addition. Cambodian roads at night frighten me a bit. The only lights on the road are the ones off motorized vehicles. Motos are only visible head on. Animal laden carts meander down the road with whatever attached to them. Bicycles and people are a black moving object not visible till you are almost on them. It’s black out there.

A side jaunt west from our destination of Preah Vihear temple brought us outside Siem Reap to eat dinner with his Excellency. Pastor told me that I’d need my Khmer stomach henceforth and was it ready? Tonight’s meal was at an open roadside stop. We hung out with the rice and cooked sauces and bits of meat. No problem.

Our guest house is basic but very adequate. The loudest old fashioned TV had one BBC channel of 30 and spoke only in a whisper. There was an AC in working order, a gecko to sing to us on the wall, and a shower willing to give us a cold wash. This one had a top sheet on the bed, a first in a while.

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IMG_3711When you have certain representatives along for the day, I’m presuming that there is certain protocol to follow. A picture taking spot would be one of them, so this is what we did first. Beautiful lake found and photo shoot accomplished. From there cars caravanned a plethora of dirt roads to our final morning spot. Getting out of the car last, we followed the parade of those arrivals just ahead of us, into a two sided colIMG_3637umn of clapping smiling children into adult women and men in military dress extending their traditional hand clasped greeting. We were ushered to a lovely canopy area of red plastic chairs.

People scrambled to get a place to sit under the canopy. The children were ushered to the ground to sitIMG_3639on a plastic tarps. In the background we hear “How Great Thou Art” in Khmer followed by “Just As I Am.” Hey, a mini Billy Graham thing here.

The start begins with singing in front and is followed by a sequence of speeches by various persons, Vannarith included. Earlier in the day he also tells us that some of the men from this area will join with LISA training next month. That is great news.
IMG_3645IMG_3649One person in particular is pointed out to me. He is a lieutenant colonel in this military. He was the same in the Khmer Rouge army. Now he is a Christian. Thank you Jesus.

The last speaker is Sopheat, an energizing charismatic guy who is there to share the gospel message. No, I can’t understand much of his verbiage, but it’s clear to me that the earthly business details are done, and he is going to engage these people closer to God. As I walk around and watch, I can see the audience’s facial expressions change as he speaks.

IMG_3671Concluding this morning would not be complete without distribution of packets and crosses to the children and the Christmas story to each who was there. A gift to the area also included some well appreciated boxes of bibles and song books for Sunday worship.

‘Jesus loves you’ was spoken to each child as a cross and a packet were handed out with a paper version copy of the Christmas story.

God was praised today. God was also glorified. God was seen. God is good. We were humbled to be able to see it all and be a part of it.

PS: meal #2 Khmer style. We ate ‘in the bush’ with these lovely folk. Again, we stuck with rice noodles and sauce meat. It was delicious. No problem

 

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