It must be very difficult when you do not own a mobile or have a calendar, or in fact you can’t read. Amongst the poor in Cambodia and around the world, many people do not have things which we take for granted as essential to our everyday lives. We are constantly looking at our mobiles to get the time, date, diaries to see where we are meant to be and when. We are ruled by time pressures, we are stressed about appointments, yet without these so-called essentials tools, people do get by.
Recently two of our children (siblings) did not appear one day and when we asked their Grandmother why she did not bring them, she answered, “I thought it was Saturday”. She has no calendar, mobile or diary to let her know what day it is, she relies on others to tell her. All she knows is that she must get food for all the children she looks after where she can and that each day is basically the same as the one before, no need for a diary or mobile or the stress…
We are just back from a Public Holiday called Pchum Ben. This is the time when many Cambodians pay their respects to deceased relatives. Monks chant continuously, without sleeping in prelude to the gates of hell opening, an event that is believed to occur once a year. During this period, the spirits of the ancestors are presumed to be especially active. In order to combat this, food-offerings are made, they believe that relatives will have the opportunity to end their period of purgatory, others are imagined to leave hell temporarily, and return to endure more suffering relatives; who are believed to be in Nirvana are also believed to benefit from the ceremonies. It is a very dark and oppressive time and there is a lot of fear around. We stayed in Phnom Penh, but most people go home to be with their families, so the city is generally very quiet. Interestingly, we were told that shops that sell beer, run out of it during this time.
In day care we have been preparing the children for our Graduation Ceremony on Sunday 27th September. We have two children leaving us to start school in October. For the ceremony, the children are learning the actions to three Khmer Christian songs – it makes Liz smile to hear them practice and laughing at the actions they are doing. We are also preparing the children who are leaving us, telling them about what will happen during the ceremony and preparing them for not being with us every day. We would ask you to pray for them as they go, for their safety, that their families will send them to school (especially the little girl as her education may be viewed as unnecessary by her family), that they will study hard and do well at their new school. Education plays a key role in getting them out of poverty and avoiding exploitation.
To help the children learn about doing well and feeling valued, we recently introduced a reward system. Each day if they have showed good behaviour, helped and played well with others, listened carefully, and worked at their Khmer and English, they get a star, at the end of the week the stars are counted up and they get to choose a prize. The more stars they get over the weeks, the better the prizes are. 5 Children recently had the highest number of stars possible for good behaviour for 5 weeks in a row. The girls went home with Minnie Mouse Hairbands and the Boys got rubber dinosaurs – they were so excited.
September has seen Liz’s father back in hospital. X-rays have shown that he needs two new hips and a knee, at his age an operation is not an option The doctors have been able to help with the pain by giving him strong painkillers and he has now be moved into rehab’, the future will mean a lot of change for him. As you can imagine, Liz is worried about him but COVID would make her going back to see him very difficult. We thank God that he is stable and pray that he will remain so. He has told Liz to keep calm, that he is in the Lord’s hands.
On a lighter note, Mark and I were invited to a birthday party of a little girl recently. We asked what would be on the menu and we were told “cow that walked up a mountain”. We just love the lovely use of language, perhaps Organic Farmers in the West should take note!!
Working among the poor, where they cannot see any hope, we see many small victories and downfalls. One of our children whose young mother has a problem with alcohol, went for an interview at a nearby garment factory, she got the job but was sacked two days later for drinking. We continue to believe that God will reach this young woman and heal her from alcoholism. She and her family are so poor, and it is so sad that what money they have is spent on numbing them to their surroundings and circumstances.
We were looking forward to a team coming out again from Ballyhenry Presbyterian, but COVID has stopped that from happening. We are sad they won’t be here this month as they were fantastic last time, working with our children, and spending time with us. We are praying for COVID to vanish soon and that we can see them and other teams coming out and blessing the people of Cambodia.
If you now thinking I would love to do Mission in Cambodia, how about emailing us at email@example.com.
You need to start planning for it about 18 months in advance. You could come here, short or long-term, on your own, or organise a team to come for two weeks. You concentrate on fundraising and we will give you lots of help and advice. We organise where you will stay and we do all the schedule planning for you at this end, thus taking a lot of the worry out of organising a trip.
To sign off this month here is a little more background on one of our children:
We continue to pray for you all back home as we hear restrictions are tightening up again.
Lots of love and blessings until next month.
Mark and Liz