Missionaries George and Shary Frahm – Serving in Cambodia

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Khmer Khronicle May 2016

KK May 2016

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It’s Simple As Soap

Late last summer and early fall, I had the privilege to get out with our eldest daughter as she engaged in the local bazaar community to feel out the market for a clean option of selling soaps, lotions, and such for all members of a family. As I was rounding up my time in the US at that point, she offered up a few samples of her efforts to bring to Cambodia and to use in whatever way I’d like to do that.

We arrived the first of November here and were soon into the Christmas season, traveling for a good chunk of six weeks prior, first to peruse the current church projects and stations to get a lay of the land, then we moved on to the season of Christmas celebrations in many of the small church communities where we, in each location, shared a meal with the community and then encouraged the church families during their programs. I must admit that, in each location all across this country, not any one was like another. Each had its own flavor of presentation, but each spoke clearly of the meaning of Christmas.

So getting back and settled in after the actual Christmas date meant that our gifts to our family/friends here were delayed for a while longer as we recouped from travel exhaustion.

But then the word was out that I was sharing forward ‘soap’ as a gift and each recipient eagerly accepted our gift, asking questions, feeling the texture, and of course smelling the fragrance. But then the real test came and they tried the soap.

Fast forward to sometime in March, probably early in the month, when comes this text to my phone ~ “Teacher, can you show me how to make the soap you gave me please?” (I’m always called teacher by this wonderful lady since the first day we met).

OH BOY! Was my fast reaction to the text. I thought to myself, how much had I listened to those previous months in the US as soap was made and was this even possible to do here came across my brain. Well, to no one’s surprise I might imagine, the challenge was taken forward and we began the process of breaking down our unknowing about this ancient process, but also incorporating someone else who knew far more than all of us together on this side of the pond.

Thank you God for the internet at this point. This is one time it is more than a blessing. Even in the midst of a crazy 12 hour difference and navigating lives totally of their own on both sides, and a very unstable internet full of delays and more slowness than pouring honey out of a jar, the process of learning this has slowly come around with all of us working as a team sharing our knowledge, our reading, and our memories of this ancient trade, while in Chicago sits one dedicated daughter who has engineered classes (with hubby as copilot) with notes and websites and down to earth advice, passion, and a vision to share forward what she herself has found to be a ministry platform in itself. Welcome to the 21st century of learning!

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This whole process is now beginning to show adequate signs of becoming a country wide ministry platform to share in the villages, not only the soap making process, but

also health and hygiene advocacies being reinforced along side. We are still working out the differences between here and there in soap making, realizing that each has its areas that are expensive here and maybe not there, and that here villagers know how to do things we could never have imagined. Their resources are so different from ours. As an example is the use of lye. I would go to the store to get it for making soap. In the village they will dry the banana peel, then cook it over a fire, and then process it (somehow) into their own type of lye. They will have colors and flowers that are home to Asia in itself. They have little to no money to spend on the investment of this, but their knowledge and their time may be their greatest asset by far.

So oft times we think of ministry ‘in a box’ sort of thing ~ in each of our own boxes most likely. There we are comfortable and content to think that God has all the details worked out for each of us in that way. But then the box opens in such a pleasant way that we don’t even realize how we are being used way back in the beginning (like when I was helping at the fall bazaars) to get to a point where God is taking us. He doesn’t ever plan for us to be content where our feet are planted today, or yesterday for that matter. He is looking ahead way to a tomorrow, or many tomorrows down the road, when all those yesterdays are glorified in ways we had not imagined.

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Immanuel Lutheran Church is in the midst of a platform entitled “Stronger Together.” I’m thinking as I close this out that the soap making idea wasn’t in their list when they were strategizing their efforts to go into the community. While we as individuals may think of community being that around the church property itself, I can see that sometimes the property ‘around the church’ is perhaps stretched a bit in ways not even remotely considered. This is one of them. Thank you Father for such being such a wonderful pilot of the community in which we all live, yours and yours alone. Thank you for showing us what we can do with the resources and talents you have given each one of us in building a community, half a world apart ~ together.

Yup, God is so good ~ as always ~ again.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

IMG_6251Photo 1: Facetime class teaching

 

Photo 2: First time soap making

Photo 3: Finished first product

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First Fruits

Pentecost

This year, 2016, Easter was celebrated on Sunday, March 27th. Since none of us were there for the resurrection of Christ, and we will not see those that were there until the second coming of Christ, it is impossible to know exactly when the Resurrection of Christ occurred. But today, Resurrection Sunday or Easter is defined as the first Sunday after the first full moon, after the spring equinox. Since the spring equinox, the time when the sun apparently crosses the equator, is always March 21st, the earliest that Easter could every be is March 22nd. This year, the first spring moon occurred on March 23rd which then put Easter on March 27th.

But, as we studied the bible, we realized that Christ’s institution of the eucharist occurred at the end of the Passover meal. As this is written, we are approaching Ascension Day and Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and the early members of the Christian church in the form of tongues of fire per Acts 2. But, this year Resurrection Sunday came very early, and Passover was not celebrated until April 22nd -30th. Our curiosity was getting the best of us.

As we studied further, we found that Pentecost and the Jewish holiday of Shavuot should theoretically fall at the same time. Pentecost is supposedly 49 days after Easter. Shavuot, the Festival of First Fruits, is 50 days after the Passover. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the law, Resurrection Sunday is the fulfillment of the law, and Pentecost is the spreading of the salvation from Christ’s resurrection to the rest of us, the Gentiles. The penalty for violating the laws of God is eternal separation from God, but because of the shedding of Christ’s blood and the work of the Holy Spirit, we never have to face an eternal death that should be ours. Thanks be to God.

All I(Shary) asked was what Shavuot was as I have been reading a series of books on biblical history and this came up and I had no idea what it was, in spite of the fact that I grew up with a Jewish family next door and they would invite me to their celebrations. This one I missed somewhere.

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When There Is No Water

If you have been following our blogs of recent events here in Cambodia, you may realize that the temperature has exceeded 100oF almost every day here in the city. The rest of the country has been about the same, and at times, even experiencing higher numbers than we have here.

But, what do you do when there is no source of clean and safe drinking water, or any water at all for that matter?

While we were deployed here in 2013, we took a trip down to the province of Kampot to meet with several pastors. We sat outside a beautiful white church in the shade of the palm trees to get away from the heat. It was near the end of the dry season and after we had sat for several hours of discussion, we were preparing to leave when the pastors asked if Shary would take time to visit with the wife of Pastor Nop Sean. The poor lady was in abdominal pain with a swelling that had been with her for some time. Shary asked what had been done for her and they had sold the family cow in order to raise money for her to be treated at the local clinic, but the clinic had been unable to help.

Shary suggested that she be taken to Phnom Penh for further diagnosis and treatment, but there was no money available in the community to help. Thanks to the generosity of some donors from Colorado, money was made available for a donation and it was possible for Pastor Nop’s wife to be brought to a hospital in Phnom Penh. Because hospitals here require prepayment as treatment is done, Shary paid several visits to see her laying in a bed with her family sleeping beneath the bed to care for her,making payments as treatments were done.

Unfortunately. it seemed that the cause of her illness was the consumption of unsafe drinking water which had destroyed her body inside. As we asked more questions, we were told that 78% of the people in Kampot Province were at end of the dry season without safe drinking water. In order to survive, these people drank whatever water they could find, many times only to end up in the hospital.

It appears that women and children are most affected by the drought. When there is no water, the children will frequently get diarrhea and succumb to complications quite quickly from it.

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This year, it is even worse. Last week, the Phnom Penh Post, reported that this has been one of the driest dry seasons in Kompot ever recorded.(and elsewhere too) Actual temperatures in many areas are as high as 115o F on a regular basis. The government is hauling in water to sustain the people. But it isn’t just in Kompot, but also is happening in Siem Reap. The Post reported that the barays (reservoirs) were at the lowest point ever recorded. These barays have been around for 600 years and make Siem Reap part of the bread basket of Cambodia. The banks of the Tonle Sap are also very dry and the water level remarkably low. And the forecast for the monsoon rains which refill all these reservoirs and wells is that they will probably not occur until June, at least rain on a regular basis, that is so needed.

Certainly drinking water is the water of life. But, this need also opens the door to talk about the water of Life and baptism. Concordia Welfare and Educational Foundation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cambodia work together to provide wells and water filters for those needing the water of life. But, these physical sources of water also provide the opportunity to talk with the recipients about the water of Eternal Life in Jesus Christ. We are thankful for their passion to share both of these needs in their work, and welcome anyone else who would like to do so, to partner along in this life saving agenda.

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The Peace Above the Stress Factor

The months of March and April have been topsy turvy for me. Things that had not been on my ‘to do’ list were now occupying a number there, which seemed to be in a somewhat constant state of flux. I had presumed my life was going to be smooth sailing as preparation for the Immanuel short term team entered its final preparations. Not so much.

First off, we have had some staff who have been quite ill, which when your staff is small in numbers, can make a huge impact. Additionally, when your language skills are not up to the level of the locals, it means that we have to rely on them at some point to be sure we are doing the best we can with/for them.

That being said, when the office translator took seriously ill and up till now has been in the hospital four times, it truly impacts everyone, including this wonderful man whose heart is to share the gospel to the youth (and he has a youth ministry offsite). If he is in the hospital he cannot work, and if he is not able to work, he cannot pay for his medical care. He can’t buy food to eat, pay for his rent, medication, his whole life is upside down. The church, as fragile as it is till now, can only help so much.

He was also our second option for our Immanuel team as our team translator for the time that they are here with us in Siem Reap. Our first option is also dealing with some unknown illness, not yet figured out with the local medical people. Sigh! Neither one will be with us.

In steps our next option, a very gracious young guy whose roll here is IT on staff. His english skills are ramping up at breakneck speed as we continually cross cultures and language to figure out how to do all of the prep work. I can’t begin to count how many trips to the printer he has made in the past three weeks to get samples, price quote, and copies (coloring pages and bookmarks as an example.) Sometimes I wondered if I had spoken correctly of what needed to be made up. Gratefully God’s example of patience and forgiveness has gone around a few times. He is learning to ask more than enough questions and when I hear “I got it” then I am able to breathe out that he indeed understands. Mind you, he still has his other responsibilities to do as well, so he’s gone way beyond the call of duty at this point in my book.

In the midst of all of those needs, comes along a request to gather in a Christian day school curriculum and do a Sunday School seminar. AND I am in the midst of a gargantuan Sunday School translation project graciously shared from a wonderful church who had exhausted their use of the materials sent our way to initiate an ‘official’ program.

And I am a nurse by profession. I don’t think that in any of those classes did I learn about these topics?

Have I lost any of you readers yet?

Well, here’s the catch. NOTHING has gone as planned. And as you all know my crazy detail oriented mind for a ‘perfect’ result didn’t ever happen. Only this time I realized I was so far out of my comfort zone that there was no way I could do it on my own nor did I have to stress out over it. It just wasn’t going to wStress reliefork out. God is smiling and said “Well, are you going to let ME help you this time.?”

Oh, did I mention that it’s Khmer New Year next week the 13-15 timeline. The country literally shuts down those days ~ and cruises along a few days before and after too. That means that no one will be available to complete the list I talked about above.

Today, as I write this the following has happened:

1-three pastors have come forward and are sharing in the translation that would be beneficial for the team to have in Snor Village at the end of the month. Each has / is taking some of what remained undone and are even working over the New Year holiday on their own time. Wow!

2-A dear friend in the US, a retired Lutheran elementary school teacher, has graciously stepped up to help me roll out the beginnings of a platform for the Garuna Christian Schools. Amen!

3-The Sunday School seminar is completed, thanks to the encouragement and prayers from our eldest daughter, who sat in the back row of the classroom waving at me (on my phone no less) as I stood in front, sharing the mission, structure, and ministry of Sunday school across all age levels over a two day time span. When the translation wasn’t completed due to illness as noted above, plan R came into action ~ make English copies and translate it ‘on the spot.’ Good way for the locals to get an English lesson in along the way free of charge. Even George was able to step forward and give a ‘story telling’ of one of the Bible events just as if he was talking to a group of children (older ones). Surprise, surprise, I don’t think the staff had a clue that was one of his favorite things to do in ministry.)

4- Additionally, I’m now understanding that starting in June, these 18 books will begin their translation process with the ultimate goal of 100 copies to be distributed for teaching to the village congregations. Wow, wow~

5-Early English and other Sunday School materials gathered in for a DVD for distribution to strategic persons to use in the start of the new school year coming forth is done.

And to give credit where credit is due, whose been doing the laundry, cleaning the two rooms we occupy, and running for groceries and meals while I worked. George. He’s the one who has stomped on the heat index as he has marched outside to do all of those things while I was in another cloud frame. And he also continued In his own projects too. Thank you!

You know what, God is good. He has had His mighty hand in all of this, and whatever goes, is going to be just fine. It’s kinda nice to let him drive the car once in a while actually, knowing that at the end of the journey you know you’re going to get there. Gotta do that more often I guess.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” -Deuteronomy 31:8

 

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When There is No Free Medical Care

Medical care around the world takes on a different image in itself, depending on where you are living. For the here and now though, I’m not here to debate on which system in which part of the world is the best. Yet, having been involved with and growing up in the American style of medical care makes this the most familiar one for me. Secondarily, probably the medical system of our neighbor to the north in the US is the other one that I can also identify with.

I’m learning more and more about the medical system here in Cambodia the longer I stay/live here. One thing is for sure though, there is no free medical care for the middle class individual in this country. This statement was affirmed in these last weeks as various people in the office staff have become quite ill. Their approach for resolution to their issues varied greatly. (Somehow that rings wide for the middle class in the US doesn’t it?)

The first one was a pastor who was doing Lutheran Hour Ministry broadcasting for a month, having come down from his preaching stations in Ratanakiri. He was here to discuss his future involvement and plans within the church as others were being raised up to take his place. About mid month he became very ill. He struggled with it for a few days, and then went to get some ‘coining’ to resolve his illness. I’ve seen coining done and it doesn’t look too appealing to me, but it worked for him. He got better. I think the pain shifted points in his case.

The second one to fall ill was a church planter who was traveling and driving for President Vannarith. He had not been well way back in February when he was with us in Siem Reap for a week. After two weeks of drinking water and sleeping and resting almost all of the day, he went to his father and said to him that he needed to go to the doctor but had no money. His father gave him the funds he needed. We now know the possible reason for his illness. He needs our prayers.

The last person is our office translator and logistics coordinator. He has been hospitalized four times in the last month with severe stomach pain. He has been diagnosed with gallstones. If you can imagine that even having an ingrown toenail in this country is problematic, then the diagnosis of gallstones here is not a good sign. He is afraid of surgery. We can understand that. Additionally, he is not able to work at the moment, so when you don’t work, you don’t eat, you can’t pay your rent, buy your medicine, or pay for your surgery. He is in that middle class where there is no free medical care. Gratefully the church is trying to help him, but even they cannot fix the whole thing. He is an orphan with no family I will also add here. We are his family here in the office as it is.

So if you have money, as the rich do here, you can afford medical care as you need it. Most likely though, these people will travel to Thailand or Malaysia for medical care at least. If you are upper middle class you may go to Vietnam, where medical care is better (we’re told).

If you are poor, you have to fill out the form in the local medical clinic where you live and get permission/authorization to get free medical care. You have to show that you have made an attempt to take care of yourself, which means that you may end up selling your cow, the rice to feed your family, or ask your friends to help first before they will give you free medical care. We are told that these clinics by and large are not as yet all medically competent as they could be.

If you are an expat and need medical care, they see the $$ in your eyes, and you will pay dearly to have their help, at whatever level they are able to do so. They will try their best.

So, for whatever your medical system is wherever you sit in this world, I am thinking that it is a lot better than the current standard here, but for a start, at least it is a beginning here, for a system that had nothing and has had to come from the ground up, with not a lot of long term help to do it from the outside.

Incidentally, the dental care is top notch here. The dental community has hit the mark. Western style dentistry is 21st century, much cheaper, and filled with individuals who have been trained abroad and returned to take care of their countrymen. We have used them as need be and have been totally satisfied with their care to us.

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