Friday, February 19, 2010

New Sanctuary Renovation Photos: Update

The Sanctuary renovations are taking shape and you can start to really see the different rooms - classrooms and main sanctuary - being finished in these pictures! If you scroll down to January 11th, you can see how far the building has come along from the last update pictures.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Khmer Mind

Do not think you can see into a Khmer's mind. You can't. A few examples:
1. Many streets of Phnom Penh are narrow, just enough room for 2 cars to meet if there are cars parked at the curb. From 4 P.M. to 10 or so the no. of cars, motos, tuk tuks, wagons and street vendors is unbelievable. SO-- you would think that drivers would try to facilitate the flow of traffic. NOT SO. A guy in a car will come along and stop in the street right beside a parked car ( we call it double parking ) even though there is a parking space 1 car length ahead. He then proceeds to leave his car there for as long as it takes him to do his business at a store immediately beside him. This stops all traffic going one way and things back up and back up and back up. The funny thing is no one thinks this is stupid.
2. We went to a project the other day for a 9A.M. appointment. Upon entering the building a very nice young Khmer receptionist asked us who we wanted to see. We said " Helen ". Helen is the director of the project. We were asked to sit down. We waited and waited and waited- finally, 40 minutes later, the receptionist got up came over and said to us " Helen is not in today ". Go figure why we couldn't have been told this at the start.
3. One night about 5:30 or so fire sirens started howling, people living on our street began to come out on the road and look down the street. A firetruck went barrelling by followed by at least 30 motos. It seems some people left their home and then a small fire began in their house. Of course, the gate to the house grounds was securely locked. The firemen tried to force the gate but couldn't. They shot water over the fence and through the window and managed to put out whatever was burning. Sotheary, our landlady, told us that it was a good thing the firemen couldn't get into the house. It seems that people wait around and when the fire is put out they go in and loot the place. Oh, you know how in N. America firemen have " turnout gear " they put on when they go to a fire. Well, here the turnout gear is a rubber jacket, a hard hat, a pair of shorts and flip flops.
4.One often thinks of the Khmer people as quiet, always smiling and never angry. Not necessarily so.There is a small market behind the CAMA hospital in Poipet where Dr. Kent Copeland worked before he went on furlough. It seems that one day a lady lay down in another sellers hammock. The seller did not take kindly to this and called in some " friends " with knives and swords to teach the offending lady a lesson. The lady's husband grabbed a meat cleaver to defend his wife. One of the assailants was quite large so the husband went after him first. The husband sliced the big guy's thorax and neck and sliced of a big chunk of his elbow. This guy was going to die. Kent, a visiting doctor and Kent's wife ( a trauma nurse ) got there in time, took the patient to the hospital, did surgery on him, gave several units of blood to him and saved him. Needless to say all the market people now refer to the Doctors as " good people who care for us ".
5. Last Sunday we were at a church service and a baby was being dedicated. Just about the time the pastor was going to charge the parents to bring this child up properly, people began to swivel in their seats and look towards the back of the church. We looked back, couldn't see anything, but did smell some smoke. At this time two ushers walked quickly to the front of the church, picked up a big red fire extinguisher, carried it to back, went down an isle shoving people aside, aimed this big extinguisher at the ceiling tile and sent out a hugh billowing blast of white stuff. YIKES- this billowing cloud began to spread through the church and deposit a white covering on people, the floor and chairs. At the same time many people were having some distress breathing. Needless to say the congregation beat a hasty retreat out onto the street, some of the darker skinned people had become white caucasians. Now I'm not a fire specialist but I do know that the contents of these extinguishers are to be aimed at the BASE of a fire, not willy nilly, anywhere. Oh well, 15 minute later we were told to go back in the church and the service resumed. We never did hear what caused the smoke. The baby did finally get dedicated.

A final little story about myself. The Khmer tuk tuk drivers think that I'm a comedian. Twice now I've made arrangements to have a tuk tuk go to the airport. Both times I've been able to communicate about the pickup time and the pickup place ( maung moiy { one o'clock }, knyom pataay { my house}), but not knowing the word for " airport " I spread my arms and pretend to fly around the road. Both drivers have almost fallen on the ground laughing.?????? They know exactly what I mean.

More in a couple of weeks. Stew

Monday, February 15, 2010

Georgia's Perspective

My name is Georgia Johnstone - Ratanak rep from Vernon, BC. I'm here for two weeks to put a face to names and places of projects we fund so when I speak to groups I have a first-hand account of them. It has been a very positive and enlightening (and hot) experience. I visited TASK - a facility which gives a great deal of help to mentally and physically challenged kids and their caregivers. These are children who would possibly have been abandoned due to disabilities as there is such a stigma attached - they receive physio, newborn care, nutrition counselling, a school and follow-up visits in their village.

Next it was on to CC2 - the prison for women and youth. We went out with Prison Fellowship who is doing the most amazing job of working with all of them. It is minimum security but still behind tall walls/razor wire. There were two English classes going on - one Bible study - a mechanics class - one inmate painting dirty black cement walls a light colour with a garden underneath - all thanks to Prison Fellowship Cambodia. I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the faith and dedication of the Kmer people. They love the Lord, serve him gladly and have a faith that would move mountains. Their eyes light up and their smiles are wide when they explain, with a passion, the ministry they are involved in.

We visited Svay Pak - the notorious brothel area and to see three buildings that were either existing brothels or future brothels now being used as Kids Club, church, medical clinics and schools is so uplifting. Pastor Chantha is an amazing man who is dedicating his life to this area and keeping the little girls safe - Praise God for men and women like him.

I have been out to Place of Rescue - an orphanage an hour away where my husband and I support a boy. Was so wonderful to see the kids again and I will go again today to take him a treasured toy and to say goodbye for this visit. This is my third time to Cambodia and hopefully more to come.

We have just returned from a visit to Chab Dai - an organization that has a couple of purposes but a huge part is prevention of sexual exploitation of children from the villages in all provinces of this country. They train locals in the village about what to watch for - the tricks of the trade the traffickers use when trying to get new children - who to call and how to teach the parents to be aware and careful who they talk to. Very impressive, as again, it is the Kmer people being empowered to care for their own. I was very moved by the Kmer lady, Sokah as she explained their education program. Chab Dai offers intervention, rescue, after care, legal help, human rights advocacy etc. with a hotline that local leaders can access. Foreigners do not go on these trips to the village - locals need to own it and it works!!

I leave on Thurs. will a head full of new information and a very grateful heart to Stew and Sue for all the work and time they have put in to educating me - I so look forward to telling folks at home about all I've seen and heard. Please pray for them, for this country and all the people, foreign and domestic, who are pouring their hearts into literally saving the beautiful children of Cambodia.

God Bless - in His name

Friday, February 12, 2010


Well, a while back Stew and I went up to Poipet with the Lobacks to see the medical work there as they are interested in coming back next year to work there. Every other year we have gone the road from Battambang to Poipet has been horrible with craters large enough to swallow a car - no exaggeration. What a pleasant surprise we had - the road was like glass and our bus just sailed on through - which is good since it's an 8 hour ride. Another huge surprise is that the main road into Poipet had also been paved. Now you have to know that this city of 80,000 - 100,000 has been known as the "armpit of Cambodia" as well as the "wild west of Cambodia" so it gives you an indication of its reputation. Of course, nothing has really changed just because they paved the main street, but it is cleaner and less dusty. This is a very interesting city in that it is on the NW border with Thailand and the Thais would love to move in, further and further. In fact, they have. There is a large strip of Cambodian land called "no man's land" onto which the Thais have moved in to build large Casino Hotels and a large fancy brothel with marble floors, fountains (in a city where water is not abundant) and green, green grass. Rich Thais come across the border to gamble and.... It is revolting, but sure does bring money into the coffers and so the Khmers turn a blind eye, because it pays them, too. They will not take Khmer riels or US$'s only Thai bahts are legal currency. I hate it!

But, there is much hope for this city. CMA missionaries, Kent & Chris Copeland and Soeuth & Syna Lao are there. Kent is a doctor, Chris a nurse and they run a small medical work that produces huge results. Villagers come from near and far to have assessments done and eventually surgery when warranted. They never turn anyone away for lack of funds. The people go back to their villages without the huge goiter hanging on their chest, or with the cancer removed from their face or the blown off leg beautifully repaired with a healed stump, and their family and neighbours are amazed wanting to know more about these "good CAMA people". Enter Soeuth & Syna. They are the evangelists and disciplers who come alongside all to love them, care for them, help them in any way they can. Soeuth & Syna are loved and respected by all, and, of course, being Khmer themselves and living through the Khmer Rouge, they FIT.

We are off to another project shortly with Georgia Johnstone, our Ratanak rep in Vernon, and 2 fellows from a Korean church in Chicago. Stay tuned for more.