28 December 2007

What in the world is a skin cabinet?

I honestly do not know what this is... the 'Olympic' part has to do with the fact that this is near the Olympic Market in Phnom Penh, but I have never been able to figure out the rest of it...
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18 December 2007

Christmas Letter 2007

Hello, and Merry Christmas!

I hope that you are having a great end to the year 2007. As many of you know, this year has been one of a lot of change in my life (hence the longer Christmas letter). If you are on my email list, you already know many of the things that have gone on in my life, but part of the joy for me is sharing it with you…

To begin with, I actually need to share something that happened in 2006. Before the end of the school year (June 2006), I was preparing to go back to Cambodia for the third summer. For a variety of reasons, I began to pray about leaving Mansfield Christian School after the 2006-2007 school year, in order to pursue some type of ministry in Cambodia for a longer period of time. I was not sure what that would look like, but I felt that it might be a route that God would want me to take.

After five weeks in Cambodia during 2006, I was sure that I wanted to attempt living there for a longer period of time. After praying about it and talking with others, I made the decision to leave MCS. It was not an easy decision because of the relationships with students and colleagues, but I felt confident that it was something that God was leading me to do. In January of this year, I presented a chapel to the school on my trip to Cambodia from the previous summer, and also told the student body that I would not be returning.

At the same time that I was trying to finish strong at MCS, I was working to complete my Master’s Degree in Music Education at The University of Akron. I had both written and oral comprehensive exams to take, as well as course work to complete. I prepared well for the writtens, but the orals where literally one of the hardest things I have ever been through. The best word for it is grueling. After it was over, I honestly did not know if I passed or not. By God’s grace, I did pass, and was able to walk at the commencement ceremony at Akron in May.

Simultaneously, I was helping the senior class at MCS to finish their last year by helping them to organize their senior trip. We ended up going to a small cabin in Tennessee. It was a nice week in the Smokey Mountains. The senior class gave a very generous gift to me towards my financial support raising for Cambodia, as well as recognizing me with an award for willingness to serve in foreign ministry. I was very grateful for their thoughts and gift.

I conducted my 48th and final concert at the school in late May. That was hard as well. God blessed me greatly while I was at Mansfield Christian. He really knew exactly where I needed to be for those 12 years, and he knew the people that I needed to have in my life at that time as well. There were so many students and faculty that had been an avenue of God’s work in my life. There were many special thoughts and people in my mind as I left the school. I will always be grateful for all the God did in me and through me during those years.

After the MCS commencement, I only had one week to finish putting my life into a storage unit and then head off to Cambodia. It seems like a long time ago now, but it was a very nice summer of renewing friendships, spending time with orphans, college students and teachers and serving in any way that God provided. Three students from Mansfield Christian came on the trip with us and they were a real blessing both in Cambodia as well as Thailand.

I began teaching English at Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh in early September. That has been a good experience as well. I am teaching in my second term now, and just yesterday I had a very gratifying thing happen to me. About ten of the students from my first term came to me and said, “our new teacher is not as good as you, can we be in your class?”… that certainly is good for the confidence level, as well as a confirmation that I am doing what God has for me right now.

I have also been learning the Khmer language. I am by no means fluent ( I have been told that takes a few years of study), but I am learning a lot, and there are many times when I snag a few words from passing conversations that I can use to guess what is being talked about. I can say a lot of things, but sometimes being able to comprehend another language that it spoken at about 1000 miles an hour is another story altogether. I would appreciate your prayers for me as I learn Khmer, and as I seek to know how God wants to use my knowledge of this.

Also, as many of you know I have been dating for the first time in a really long time. I met Seda (Say-da) when I first came to Cambodia in 2004. We have kept in contact for the last few years through email and phone calls, but this year we decided that we wanted to start dating. Dating in Cambodia is a bit different than in the States, and we have both had to make changes. We did take a hiatus for about a week about a month ago, but things are again going well. We would both appreciate your prayers as we consider the future.

Some of my friends always laugh at this part of my Christmas letter, but here is a laundry list of various other things that have happened in 2007…

… teaching a Bible study to the Cambodian college students on the book of John … driving a motorcycle to work every day… a continuing and expanding love for the music of Miles Davis… a LOT of pictures and posts on my blog ... Reading books… taking dozens of carloads of stuff to my storage unit… many rides with motorcycle taxis… getting a hairline fracture in my arm which made me wear a sling for a month plus… my brother coming home safely from his second tour in Iraq… listening to a sermon everyday from John Piper that I download from iTunes (the iPod and laptop have been huge blessings here)… my father having a pacemaker put in… my sister giving birth to her second son… email, email and more email… helping to lead a team of people from Ohio during their time in Cambodia… eating more rice and various strange foods than I ever have in my life… finishing paying off my college debts… reading Agatha Christie mysteries… cheering for the Buckeyes and Indians from half a world away…

Okay, I think that this is getting too long, so I will end it by saying that it is tremendous to think that Jesus came to earth as an ambassador for God, and that He came here to die… to die for all of us sinners so that we could have peace with and forgiveness from God… I hope that will be the center of your Christmas no matter where you may be… And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins…May God bless you in every way…

By His Power and Grace

Graham

17 December 2007

Corruption in Cambodia

Something that most people do not know about Cambodia, is that it is considered one of the ten most corrupt countries in the world. In recent years, corruption has taken two distinct forms in Cambodia. Both are devastating to the poor who live in Cambodia.

The first form is the wholesale theft of land in the provinces by government and military officials. Land is at a mint right now. And in Cambodia, it is one of the quickest routes to wealth. If you can afford to purchase land, you can save it for a few years and then sell it for many times your original investment. Banks pay a 1 or 2 % return on your money, but land ownership can give you a 100% (or more) return in a very short amount of time. Because of this, many of the rich in Cambodia have begun to use their positions in the government and military to begin to take large sections of land, while paying little to nothing in relation to its actual value. The poor farmer who originally owned the land is left with no property and little to nothing as far as a fair ‘payment’. Many times the provincial people who have lived on the land have no choice in the decision. They are simply told that they will be given some money (which may or may not happen), and that they must leave.

The second form of corruption is the theft of millions of dollars that have come into the country for aid to the poor and needy. Since the United Nations departed from Cambodia in the early 1990’s (after an attempt to reform a people and a government that were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge), those who have taken over the government have found ways to dip into the millions of dollars that have literally flooded into the country. One of the more obvious evidences of this in Phnom Penh is the ubiquitous SUV. This past week I was passed on the road by a Cadillac Escalade that was bigger than any I have ever seen in the States. In the last two weeks I have seen several brand new silver Mercedes Benz’s (one of them even had California plates… I can’t really explain that). I do not want to dismiss some of the successful businessmen who work very hard, but in a country where it is estimated that 95-100% of the government, military and police officials are on the take, it is hard to believe that rich businessmen would be exempt. I also saw in a magazine that there are properties for sale in Phnom Penh that cost a quarter of a million dollars. It is a long story, but when people came back into Phnom Penh in the mid-1990’s, people just took any property that they could find. So many people had been killed by the Khmer Rouge that many of the original owners were dead. Consequently, people just stole the property of dead people and have kept them until the selling price has gotten high enough.

If you do a search on Google, or Yahoo News for Cambodia Corruption, you will find hundreds of articles that attempt to document the un-documentable. The United Nations envoy to Cambodia has been insulted and condemned by Cambodia’s leadership because he recently made a statement that if the government does not take some real action to curtail this problem, there will be civil unrest.

I don’t see much sign of that myself, but, for the first time this week I did actually feel the oppression of corruption myself. I won’t go into why I actually began to feel the desperation that some Cambodian’s feel, but I will say that it reminded me of where David speaks in the Psalms about why God allows evil people to succeed, while those who follow Christ are seemingly allowed to flounder. Listen to what he says in Psalm 55:9-11, “For I have seen violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go around her walls; and iniquity and mischief are in her midst. Destruction is in her midst; oppression and deceit do not depart from her streets.”

And in Psalm 73:2, 3 and 17, “My steps had nearly slipped, for I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… until I went into the house of God; then I understood their end.”

The only thing that will ultimately change Cambodia, and the corruption that pervades it, is a new heart. Please pray that God will change the hearts of all of the people through the gospel of Christ. Ask God that He will use His children here to be a strong witness to the truth of God. The allure of money and power has always been more enticing than Christ, so it will have to be the surgical hand of God that removes the heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh that has love for God and others.

On a personal note, my Christmas letter will be coming out soon…so, until then may God bless you in every way… especially to be a bearer and a sharer of the new heart that Christ gives.

13 December 2007

Study: Evolutionary Change Lets Pregnant Women Stand Upright

As a Christian who believes in a creation that was ordained, created and is currently sustained by God, I am going to view this article with skepticism and unbelief, so, please keep that in mind as I ask one simple question...

Q. Isn't it possible, that God created women with this difference?

A. Of course it is possible. But no one wants to admit that God could have designed women this way.... This article treats evolution as if it is the law of evolution, not the the theory of evolution... here is the article...

UN envoy, US ambassador lead rare human rights march in Cambodia

Here is a short, but interesting article on human rights abuses in Cambodia... last Monday was International Human Rights Day, which aside from giving us the day off of school, does little... read the article here...

11 December 2007

First day of services at Gospel Commission Fellowship















Boat trip with the college students

We took the college students on a dinner/boat ride the other night... bought some chicken, bread, rice (of course) and some other things, and then rented a boat for a couple of hours... they had a good time, and as you can see, a little too much fun with the karaoke...





















What a friend

This character is always running around where Seda lives and crowing as loud as possible at all hours of the day and night... someone finally tied him up...

New Style?

Someone will have to tell me if this is a new style in the States... I did not see it there before I left... I have seen so many shirts like this in Cambodia... letters that are jumbled up to look like words, but spell nothing... wierd...

Water Festival: The Aftermath

This is a LOT of garbage... too bad, that many of the people really don't care at all...







06 December 2007

Gospel Commission Fellowship/Asia's Hope Student Center

Here are a few pictures of the new facility for Gospel Commission Fellowship as well as the student center for Asia's Hope... I believe the first services are there this weekend... Savong and Narin and several workers have been hard at work...




A drum set

A drum set seems to change the atmosphere of a room instantly, no matter what continent you are on... I set this one up the other day for the church... (Sopheap was laughing at me - he said, "You are still a music teacher!")... it needs to have a few adjustmemts to it so that it does not ring so much in the very open room, but it is a good addition...

One of the most patient men on earth

Here is a picture of my Khmer language teacher, Nara... he has been a tremendous help in learning the language... we have developed a good relationship, and I know that I have A LOT more to learn from him...

The new Honda

I may have changed continents, but not transportation companies... always stick with Honda...