30 July 2006

Estimated Time of Depature... soon

Well, I leave tomorrow. All the preparations to get here, 5 weeks of spending time with the Cambodian people and it all boils down to less than 24 hours. It has gone too fast.

There have been times of rejoicing (a friend leading his father to Christ, the opening of a new orphanage, teaching English at the Korean church, teaching Bible Studies in the Student Center, teaching new songs there as well, working with the teachers at the Christian School, our medical teams giving simple but profound help to those in need, meeting with old friends and meeting new ones).

There have been times of difficulty (fighting illness, fighting the heat, the Cambodian approach to punctuality, personality conflicts, personal selfishness, misunderstandings).

And yet it adds up to a tapestry that only the Lord could have sewn. Yes, there are dark threads in the tapestry, but they are just as important as the lighter ones.

There is also a future and a hope. There are children who are eating everyday and sleeping in safety and love because of the ministry of God through His people here. There are teachers who have more resources to take to the classroom, there are college students who are growing in their relationship with Jesus all because God decided to use some people from America who brought their own 5 loaves and 2 fish. Amazing. To be used by God and to know that it makes a difference in the hearts of people is truly gratifying.

If you haven't gotten a chance yet, I would encourage you to check out my blog (www.grahamgeisler.blogspot.com) to see a number of pictures that I have taken over the last few weeks... there will be more after I get home (after all I took over 1000 pictures). Also, Asia's Hope has a new and up-to-date website that is worth seeing as well. (www.asiashope.org).

I thank all of you for praying for me and for making financial sacrifices to make this trip possible. Please pray for Kim and I as we travel back to the States. It has been my pleasure and joy to represent you and to represent Christ with these people. May God bless you. Graham

22 July 2006

One week left / Who defines what is meager?

So when it is all said and done, did I really do anything? I hugged some kids and told some orphans that they were beautiful. I helped some teachers get some ideas about how to use their classrooms more creatively. I taught a few Bible studies, and taught some new worship songs. I took orphans to the zoo. I took some college kids swimming. I planned out how to paint a line on the floor at the school so the kids could do their morning calisthenics in a more organized fashion. I taught some devotions for Christian teachers, and tried to encourage them in their difficult job.

Does that really add up to much? I don't know. Sometimes it all seems so meager. In no sense did I change the world. I guess in some ways I did change the worlds of some people (for the better?). Sometimes I wish that I had medical training and that I could help to cure diseases... I have always thought that was such a tangible way of doing something for someone that they could never do on their own... so what, so I sat for several hours and recorded Scripture verses on to a tape so that kids could know how to pronounce them correctly in English... does any of it really matter?

Man, I sure hope so. I guess that in and of myself it really doesn't count for much. But when (as the boy with the five loaves and the two fish) I present these meager things to the Lord to use and to multiply as He sees fit, it can be worth something... and be satisfying.

I keep coming back to these places not only because I want to help, but because I think that there is something here for me as well. Christian Hedonism at it's finest... finding our greatest pleasure in God Himself and the work that pleases Him as it intersects with our greatest desires. There is something for me here in Cambodia... ultimately I hope that it is Jesus Himself. I have often felt the deepest pleasures of my soul here, partly because it is such a departure from the norm, but more because I feel as if God, and my heart, and satisfying service all seem to intersect here. There is no paycheck that can equal that. I hope that as I get back to the States, I will continue to bring those seemingly meager acts to Him so that He can multiply it for His kingdom in Ohio, Cambodia and Thailand.

16 July 2006

New Website

I hope that you will check out the new and improved Asia's Hope website... www.asiashope.org

What a difference a week makes...

Today is Sunday (so they tell me) and this past week was like a whirlwind. Last Sunday I was at a new church in Chiang Mai Thailand... got sick after church with who knows what... laid in bed the whole day and then our entire team had a wrap up meeting in the evening for the Asia's Hope trip.

Monday morning the remainder of the team (less three of us) flew off to their respective destinations (South Korea, Hong Kong, and the US). Monday evening the three of us went back to the Asia's Hope orphanage to say our goodbyes (feeling much better thank you). It is always hard to say goodbye, but I know that God ultimately cares for these little ones, and it was easy to see His touch upon their lives.

Tuesday, Dave, Kim and I flew back to Phnom Penh (JUST made the second flight out of Bangkok)... Wednesday was about getting my bearings, trying to fully recover from whatever sickness was fighting a war in my gut and refocus for the rest of the time.

Thursday I got back to Asia's Hope Christian School and did another stint as school photographer (this time for a school) as we are working through making sure every student at the school has a profile written about them as well as a sponsor for their education. I also got over to Toul Tom Pong Market to get a little shopping done.

Friday I was back at Asia's Hope Christian School to make recordings of different Scripture verses that the teachers want the students to be able to correctly pronounce in English...

Saturday was a great day, albeit long and tiring. Part of the ministry which we are doing here is a bit intangible... it deals a lot with relationship building, discipling and English teaching in informal settings... this helps to encourage the students in their relationship with Christ as well. Kim and I took the college students to a couple of places that they either had never been to, or could never afford on their own... we rented a van an drove to Kompot province which is near Vietnam and actually touches the ocean. I have flown over the Pacific, but have never seen it up close so that was neat for me as well. There is a beach there, but we didn't swim there. We then went to a river that has rapids and swimming... ate lunch there, enjoyed each other's friendship, I took a ton of pictures of course, and just generally had a good time. Third we went over to a near by zoo. Some of the animals looked downright ravenous for food which was a bit disturbing, but in an area of the world where some people don't eat for days, I am not sure why the animals would be any different... we did see some really crazy looking birds and mammals though that Kim and I had never seen before.

The trip home was long and bumpy, but perhaps the most disturbing part was seeing two men laid out on the road who had hit head on motos... I think that it had just happened before we got there and they were (hopefully) out cold.

Today I am about to leave and go to the church that is sponsored by World Vision. I have no idea what to expect, but I am looking forward to it. May God bless you with a great weekend of knowing and trusting Him more. Graham

09 July 2006

"Picture Pages, Picture Pages..."







Tutu, we're not in Kampuchea anymore

I have to rewrite this post, because the computer just deleted it, and it was fairly lenghty... not sure if I'll remember it all, but I'll do my best...

We got to Thailand last Thursday and it has been a completely un-Cambdodia-like experience. Thailand is so much differerent. It is more modern in a variety of ways... It is hard to say, but it may be everything that Cambodia could have been if not for the 1970's... on my way here I was not sure how to feel about it. I have gotten to know and love Cambodia, and I didn't want to screw up a new language, feel like a fifth wheel, not know where I was, etc...

That changed fairly soon into our arrival. Tutu Bee is the ministry co-ordinator for Asia's Hope in Chiang Mai. She has to be one of the most humble, caring people I have ever met. It has been a real pleasure to meet her and her family. The children like wise have been a real blessing. When we first got to the orphanage I thought that I was going to spend the week as a human jungle gym... which I did not volunteer for.

After some time though, I was able to find my niche with the quieter kids... looking at pictures on my camera, having others on my lap, giving out numerous hugs... I also got to serve my first stint as "school photographer" as I took pictures of all the children for their Canadian sponsors. Each of the kids got a Starburst and the girls also got a hairtie (thanks mom).

Yesterday we took the children to the the Chaing Mai zoo. It was easily one of our hottest days here, but the children really enjoyed it. I don't think that most of them had ever even conceived that such a place existed. I spent most of the time with a beautiful little girl named Naramon (Nar-a-mooen). Today when we came over, she was really excited to see me (which is always gratifying).

Today was the first official church service at the orphanage. It is virtually impossible to get 70 kids up and ready for an extended car ride to church, so they are having it at the orphanage. It was really a blessing. Monday the team leaves for Bangkok and then home. Dave, Kim and I leave here Tuesday for Bangkok and then back to Phnom Penh. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts... may God bless you. Graham

05 July 2006

Two unrelated (yet related) thoughts...

"And perseverance produces character, and character, hope."

I am not sure that I have ever understood that verse clearly. But today, I felt like I was able to see a little more deeply into than I have before. The "perseverance produces character" part was fairly easier to comprehend... we are trained by our difficulties to continue to trust, continue to walk with the Lord even when it is not pleasant. Perseverance only deals with walking through hard times... I have never had to persevere through something that I enjoyed. But the second half of the verse is what has always baffled me. Character produces hope. I have never been able to understand what that meant... but I think that I am beginning to see. You can only see the hope in life when you have a character that is willing to look into the face of difficulty and say... "Yes, the Lord is still in control of my life." "I have not been abandoned, and I will be cared for." That is the only way that hope can flourish, when you have the character that has grown from persevering through difficulties (great or small).

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Today we wrapped up ministry in Cambodia. It is always tough to leave, but since I am coming back next week, it is a little bit easier to stomach. I would not be ready to leave my college friends, the children at the orphanages or the country just yet. It is a real blessing that I can be here. This week has been so neat, as we have opened up the new orphanage in Phnom Penh. It is doubly exciting because for years we have wanted our orphans to attend a Christian School. This new orphanage is close enough to the school that we can easily transport them back and forth. Today we did a special presentation at New Life Christian School of money that the students of Mansfield Christian School raised this past year. Even though it was only about $1000, that money will help the orphans to get started at the school. We want to use this money to get enough uniforms for them, to buy some new desks for the new children, to give the teachers a small bonus this month, as well as purchasing snacks/refreshments for the children when they are on their break during school. There will be a little left over for the principal of the school to do some things that she sees as immediate needs.

Thank you again for your prayers and gifts towards the ministry of Asia's Hope. We are leaving for Thailand in the morning (your Wednesday night)... it will be a new experience for me, so we will see what God has planned for us. May God bless you all. Graham

02 July 2006

Kaleidoscopic Kampuchea

I think that I am using the worst keyboard and computer to be connected to the internet in Cambodia, so I am going to keep this fairly short.... things in Cambodia are going great... like the title of this email, however, they are extremely varied. In the last few days we have helped to open a new orphanage in Cambodia... It is so great (yet sad) to have so many of these new children. I met several new children, including a girl named Haing (the best spelling I can come up with), who is five years old. She is such a cute kid, and full of spunk, but dad was killed by a gun at some point, and mom fell off of a house and died, leaving her with family that didn't really want her... another beautiful child, discarded by this society yet chosen by God to live at the orphanage... there will be more children coming soon... one problem that has become apparent very quickly at this new orphanage, is that there is very, very little room for the children to play. Please pray that these growing, young children will have some place to run and play.

We had a graduation party for the college students that have graduated, or will be graduating in the next six months or so... we had a fantastic time encouraging them, praying for them, taking pictures, eating cake... it was so fun to see old friends as well that live in other places aside from the Asia's Hope Student Center... we got to find out what they are doing and were God is leading them.

Today some of us have gone to see the ancient ruins of the Khmer culture called Angkor Wat... it is an amazing tribute to their culture, and yet sad because it is bound in such mysticism, fear, and ignorance of the true God.
We have also been having a good time at the Christian School... evaluating the new facility, thinking about how we can help them improve it. I hope to write more 'meditative' thoughts in the near future, but until then, May God Bless you. Graham