Psar Toul Tompong ( The Russian Market)
Today I slept in till 8am---got up and had my quiet time and then went to one of the popular markets called Psar Tuol Tompong otherwise known as the Russian market. It's a great place to get some bargains and many tourists frequent this market. The entire market is covered under zinc roofs with narrow alleyways and endless rows of little stores all crowded together selling anything under the sun and when its hot, you feel like you have entered a sauna of epic proportions. But I suppose for a female, its a great combination of losing weight while you shop so its not too bad really! If you don't like the heat, you will be enticed to buy quickly in order to get out to the 'fresh air'---not the best attitude to have if you want bargains. This is probably not a place for someone to come if they are a bit claustrophobic. When it rains, the alleyways in the market get flooded and the sound of the raindrops on the zinc roof makes the place so noisy that it can become quite deafening. Thankfully it was hot today so I had to contend with the sauna like conditions. Shopping in the morning is good as in Cambodia, the first sale is important to the store keepers as they believe it will bring them good luck for the rest of the day so its the best time to bargain as one can get the better deals then than in the middle or later part of the day:-) Yes, there is even a strategy to shopping in this place!
A few years ago there used to be a lot of beggars within the market and so it was difficult to shop as some of these folks were 'professional beggars' who would use their kids to 'extort' money from the tourists. I say 'extort' as really, the people here are so poor and so its hard to not feel guilty when you are buying things to take home and you are confronted with a beggar in your face asking you for money. Some of them are young kids who were part of a 'group' and if you offered to buy one a coke, a few minutes later, the young boy would bring more of his friends to meet you so you can buy them a drink and so the question becomes, what do you do when you see such poverty in your face? After all, Jesus says whatever you do for the least of these you do for Me---and at the same time it is easy to become cynical as you see parents also exploiting their kids by using them to beg. I don't think there is an easy answer to this problem for Jesus said 'the poor you will always have'---some times we are moved by compassion to want to help and many years ago one of my OMF missionary friends said just invite them to one of the food stalls and have them choose something to eat and then bless them in Jesus name so that they know that you are doing this in the name of Christ. I have found that to be helpful in this environment as we give them dignity by giving them a choice of what they would like to eat and we are letting them know Jesus loves them. It seems like a trivial act and its easy to question whether that is even helping them or if we are just doing it to make ourselves feel better. We are not empowering them but making them dependent on us. I think I'll leave that to the theologians to debate. I think some times we are led to respond by the Spirit and other times, we are not. In these kind of settings, I have to trust that the Lord knows our hearts and really the day we become cold hearted to the poor is the day we stop having a heart like Jesus.
In Cambodia, we are daily confronted with the brokenness of humanity at levels that we do not see in the West and it is easy to close our eyes to the suffering and pain we see here but Christ beckons us to engage and enter into this suffering. Henri Nouwen once said 'when we learn to move through suffering, rather than avoid it, then we greet it differently. We become willing to let it teach us. We even begin to see how God can use it for some larger end. Suffering becomes something other than a nuisance or curse to be evaded at all costs, but a way into deeper fulfillment. There is no human suffering that has not in some way been part of God's experience. That is the great and wonderful mystery of God becoming flesh to live among us. Christ becomes a part of' the suffering we encounter and invites us to learn to dance with others, sharing in God's own compassion as we both give it and receive it. Indeed, we need much discernment each day as we see the brokenness in our midst and we are reminded that there is only One Rescuer and One Savior and His name is Jesus!
My friend Anne and I enjoying our lunch at Sugar & Spice Cafe
At lunch time I met up with an old Canadian friend Anne who has now been in Cambodia for 8 months. God led her to come to Cambodia as a full time worker with Interserve and she is doing a placement with Place of Rescue using her nursing vocation for one and a half years. This is part of her preparation and training before she eventually oversees an orphanage that her church Young Nak Presbyterian is building in Kampong Speu. We ended up going to lunch at Daughters Cambodia's Cafe called Sugar and Spice which is located on the 2nd floor above the store that sells products made by the girls from Daughters --a project funded by Ratanak UK.
Hannah an American volunteer, helping with the jewellry making
I met up with some of the girls who I knew from Daughters last year---they were surprised to see me as I was to see them and they were asking about my team members from last year and wondering when they will be back to spend time with them. Ironically, they seem to remember the song 'No woman, no cry' that our team used to dance to with them at the end of each day during our ministry time at Daughters.It's great to see these girls doing so well and enjoying their new jobs as the cafe has only been opened one month. Richard is a chef from New Zealand who has been here training the girls on how to cook different dishes. He will be helping out here until November. Pray that the Lord will continue to establish the works of their hands as they serve in this cafe and store and with each passing day, He will continue to bless them with greater confidence that they can do all things through Him who strengthens them!
Richard---the New Zealander with the girls
'N' making my ice latte!
Some of the girls who are cooking in the kitchen