29 December 2008

Christmas with Seda's Family 2008

We had a pretty simple Christmas here in Cambodia this week... a gift or two for people, reading the Christmas account from Luke, and playing a game with banannas... ah, Cambodia... here a few pics...

Gospel Commission Fellowship Christmas 2008

Here are some pics of the Gospel Commission Fellowship Christmas program... complete with an after service meal...

Asia's Hope Christmas 2008

Here are some excellent pics from the Asia's Hope Christmas program in PrekEng... the kids did a great job! Savorn and all of the teachers did a fantastic job of organizing it also... including carving up a cow!

22 December 2008

A long time coming...

I have had such great intentions of writing synopses for each of these books, but alas, there is no time... so in case anyone cares, here are some books that I have read, and in some cases begun to digest mentally and spiritually, over the last (geesh) 6 months. (????)

1. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne... I will just have to say that I am reading this book for the second time, and the first time I was really confronted with a book and ideas that need to be broadcast into the lives of every Christian... I was impressed with the fact that there are things about this Christian life that I have missed out on, and things that need to change in the way I live the Christian life... I hate to say it this way, but "You must read this book". Here is a short video of Shane reading an excerpt...



2. Tramp for the Lord, by Corrie Ten Boom. I have heard of this woman for a long time, but I have never read anything by her. This book was sent to me by some friends at the church in Mansfield, and even though it took me a while to read, it was SO encouraging to read about the faith and works that God performed through this little Dutch woman who lived through the Nazi holocaust and concentration camps... Here's a 1974 interview of her with good old Pat Robertson...



3. Black Echo by Michael Connelly. I have read this book several times before, but I continue to count it among Connelly's best... it may be his first book of the 20 or so that he has written, but it is a compelling novel that has great characters and competnecy in regards to presenting an understanding of a police officer in Los Angeles... his Harry Bosch series begins here, and for novel readers, it is a good one to pick up...

4. I have slowly gotten into reading John Grisham... I know that I am about 20 years behind the rest of his fans, but I have read three or four of his books now, and really enjoyed them... So, I recently read The Client... well constructed, but even though it touched me as a bit unbelievable at times, I enjoyed the artistic side and how he put all of the pieces of the story together... here is the trailer from the eventual movie...

20 December 2008

A wedding update!

The Cambodian marriage law forbidding foreigners from marrying Cambodian women has changed, and Seda and I will be getting married SOON! Actually... February 7! Please keep us in your prayers as we try to get a lot done in a short amount of time! We are obviously excited, but more importantly, we want to honor the Lord on that day, as well as in all of the preparations. And by the way, you are all invited! May God bless you.

13 November 2008

Exciting news about Asia's Hope, and some prayer requests for me...

This is a two part email... the first part is a Facebook posting that was written about what Jesus has been doing in and through Asia's Hope in 2008... very encouraging and exciting to be a part of... toward the bottom, there are a few prayer requests for me... Thanks for reading! Graham

Part 1...
"Grassroots. Multi-denominational. Indigenous. Asia’s Hope is truly a unique organization that God is using to unleash hope to orphans in Southeast Asia.Thanks to the generous support of churches and individuals from all over the world, 2008 has been our most exciting year yet. Here a few facts you may not know about Asia’s Hope:

In 2008, God grew our organization from 4 orphan homes to 14. That’s 350% growth in just one year! At capacity, these homes will serve 500 orphaned children. This year alone, we rescued 233 new orphans from a life of poverty and abuse.

13 of our 14 orphan homes are sponsored by individual churches or organizations. That’s 93% of our projects in long-term relationships with a diverse group of Christian communities.

More than 91% of the money donated to Asia’s Hope goes directly to work in Southeast Asia. Less than 10% goes to administration and communications.We have more than 90 workers from Cambodia and Thailand, and only one American on staff.

Asia’s Hope is a truly indigenous organization that is responsible with its financial and human resources.All of our orphan homes are run by responsible, accountable and well-trained pastors. Our children are well-loved, well-educated, and enjoy all of the benefits of a stable, Christian home.

Asia’s Hope is investing in long-term, capital projects that will provide care for generations of orphans. Thanks to your generosity, in 2008, we completed 3 new orphan home buildings that we own, are occupied and are paid in full. We’re currently building three new orphan homes, which will be completed by February. We’ve also purchased three new pieces of property which will provide homes to even more children. We have spent more than $340,000 on these projects in 2008 alone."

...Part 2
1. As many of you know, Seda and I have been in limbo as regards getting married due to a temporary Cambodian law that says foreigners may not marry Khmer women. Due to the fact that there seems to be no end to this temporary status, we have decided to take a leap and apply for a tourist visa to the US. It is characteristically difficult for Khmer people to get visas to the US, but we are going to do everything that we can to make a case for it. It will take several months, so please keep us in your prayers. We would love to come around March or April, but it is hard to say with immigration issues.

2. For anyone who has known me for more than about 20 minutes, you know that I sometimes struggle with discouragement. I have had a bout of this in a few different ways lately, so please keep me in your prayers so God will help me to keep my mind on His plans and purposes and encouragement.

3. I continue to need your prayers in regard to support raising. I know that things in the US have been tough lately, and I am very grateful to those people who have sacrificially given to the work God has given me here, but please continue to pray for me that God will raise up monthly sponsors that will help to make my work here effective! If you know of someone who may be interested in helping me, please send them my email address.

4. Finally, Seda and I have begun working on a project of Values Education that was proposed to us by Dave Atkins at Asia's Hope. There are SO many things that we consider common knowledge that we take for granted as Americans, but that Cambodians in poverty often know nothing about. These topics range from how to make right and wrong choices, to personal hygiene, to how we should recognize and respect authorities. I am excited about this because it really incorporates all of the Christian school education philosophy that I learned when teaching at Mansfield Christian School. Not only are we teaching the values that are important for developing citizens of Cambodia, but it also will be under girded with an understanding of where these things are derived from in God's character... for me these are really cool things.

Okay, that is all for now... God bless you all, and I look forward to talking to you soon!

01 November 2008

Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting

A good little article about perspective on voting...

Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting
October 22, 2008
By John Piper

Voting is like marrying and crying and laughing and buying. We should do it, but only as if we were not doing it. That’s because “the present form of this world is passing away” and, in God’s eyes, “the time has grown very short.” Here’s the way Paul puts it:

"The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away." (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Let’s take these one at a time and compare them to voting.

1. “Let those who have wives live as though they had none.”
This doesn’t mean move out of the house, don’t have sex, and don’t call Honey. Earlier in this chapter Paul says, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights” (1 Corinthians 7:3). He also says to love her the way Christ loved the church, leading and providing and protecting (Ephesians 5:25-30). It means this: Marriage is momentary. It’s over at death, and there is no marriage in the resurrection. Wives and husbands are second priorities, not first. Christ is first. Marriage is for making much of him.

It means: If she is exquisitely desirable, beware of desiring her more than Christ. And if she is deeply disappointing, beware of being hurt too much. This is temporary—only a brief lifetime. Then comes the never-disappointing life which is life indeed.

So it is with voting. We should do it. But only as if we were not doing it. Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don’t. Political life is for making much of Christ whether the world falls apart or holds together.

2. “Let those who mourn [do so] as though they were not mourning.”
Christians mourn with real, deep, painful mourning, especially over losses—loss of those we love, loss of health, loss of a dream. These losses hurt. We cry when we are hurt. But we cry as though not crying. We mourn knowing we have not lost something so valuable we cannot rejoice in our mourning. Our losses do not incapacitate us. They do not blind us to the possibility of a fruitful future serving Christ. The Lord gives and takes away. But he remains blessed. And we remain hopeful in our mourning.

So it is with voting. There are losses. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope. We vote and we lose, or we vote and we win. In either case, we win or lose as if we were not winning or losing. Our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. The worst it can offer has been predicted in the book of Revelation. And no vote will hold it back. In the short run, Christians lose (Revelation 13:7). In the long run, we win (21:4).

3. “Let those who rejoice [do so] as though they were not rejoicing.”
Christians rejoice in health (James 5:13) and in sickness (James 1:2). There are a thousand good and perfect things that come down from God that call forth the feeling of happiness. Beautiful weather. Good friends who want to spend time with us. Delicious food and someone to share it with. A successful plan. A person helped by our efforts.

But none of these good and beautiful things can satisfy our soul. Even the best cannot replace what we were made for, namely, the full experience of the risen Christ (John 17:24). Even fellowship with him here is not the final and best gift. There is more of him to have after we die (Philippians 1:21-23)—and even more after the resurrection. The best experiences here are foretastes. The best sights of glory are through a mirror dimly. The joy that rises from these previews does not and should not rise to the level of the hope of glory. These pleasures will one day be as though they were not. So we rejoice remembering this joy is a foretaste, and will be replaced by a vastly better joy.

So it is with voting. There are joys. The very act of voting is a joyful statement that we are not under a tyrant. And there may be happy victories. But the best government we get is a foreshadowing. Peace and justice are approximated now. They will be perfect when Christ comes. So our joy is modest. Our triumphs are short-lived—and shot through with imperfection. So we vote as though not voting.

4. “Let those who buy [do so] as though they had no goods.”
Let Christians keep on buying while this age lasts. Christianity is not withdrawal from business. We are involved, but as though not involved. Business simply does not have the weight in our hearts that it has for many. All our getting and all our having in this world is getting and having things that are not ultimately important. Our car, our house, our books, our computers, our heirlooms—we possess them with a loose grip. If they are taken away, we say that in a sense we did not have them. We are not here to possess. We are here to lay up treasures in heaven.

This world matters. But it is not ultimate. It is the stage for living in such a way to show that this world is not our God, but that Christ is our God. It is the stage for using the world to show that Christ is more precious than the world.

So it is with voting. We do not withdraw. We are involved—but as if not involved. Politics does not have ultimate weight for us. It is one more stage for acting out the truth that Christ, and not politics, is supreme.

5. “Let those who deal with the world [do so] as though they had no dealings with it.”
Christians should deal with the world. This world is here to be used. Dealt with. There is no avoiding it. Not to deal with it is to deal with it that way. Not to weed your garden is to cultivate a weedy garden. Not to wear a coat in Minnesota is to freeze—to deal with the cold that way. Not to stop when the light is red is to spend your money on fines or hospital bills and deal with the world that way. We must deal with the world.

But as we deal with it, we don’t give it our fullest attention. We don’t ascribe to the world the greatest status. There are unseen things that are vastly more precious than the world. We use the world without offering it our whole soul. We may work with all our might when dealing with the world, but the full passions of our heart will be attached to something higher—Godward purposes. We use the world, but not as an end in itself. It is a means. We deal with the world in order to make much of Christ.

So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.

By all means vote. But remember: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).
Voting with you, as though not voting,
Pastor John

08 October 2008

Asia's Hope Retreat

Here are a slew of pics that I took when the Asia's Hope staff went to Sihanoukville with their families this past month... I haven't had much time to get them on the web, but you can see some of the fun that they were having... the pics of Sophang at the end burying himself in the sand and especially funny...

Some days, it just feels like this...

Somedays you are being refreshed by the water, and some days,
you are just sand slipping through the hour glass...

07 October 2008

Another bug?

Here's another friend from the hallway, and no, Seth... I did not eat either one of them...







02 October 2008

Patches

Well, my good friend and companion Patches passed on this past Saturday... I adopted her from a family that was moving to different parts of the US, and had her for about three years... she had lived with another family for the last 17 months while I have been in Cambodia... she was a great cat... here are some older pics...



24 September 2008

It ain't called the rainy season for nothin'... (yes I do teach English)

If you have never been here to Cambodia (which I know most of you haven't), they have basically two seasons... the Hot Season (creative title), and the Rainy Season (again, creative)... right now we are in the midst of the Rainy Season, and as my email title suggests, they don't call it that because they have nothing else to call it... main roads turn into rivers when the storms hit, and all of the smaller streets turn into smaller tributaries of the main waterways... yesterday, I had to drive through one of the worst storms in a few weeks in order to get to school, sometimes taking my moto through 8 to 10 inches of water... the spark plug finally said 'enough!' and I had to walk my bike to school (haven't said that in about 20 years...)... as I was driving, it occurred to me that Phnom Penh looked a bit like pictures of Venice, just without the boats.... SO, what else is going on you ask?

An English Language Church Service
A new project that has come along in the last month and half is that I am now helping to start an English language church service at an already-existing Khmer church in Phnom Penh. We have had three services already, and I have been leading the music, as well as creating the PowerPoint presentations. Our main goal is to provide an English language service for Khmer people who are interested in developing their skills in English, as well as reaching out to native English speakers who are looking for a place to worship. It has been a small, but good beginning... as you remember, please keep us in your prayers.

Working with Transform Cambodia
I have recently been asked to teach guitar to 4 young men that work with Transform Cambodia (the organization that Seda, my fiancee, works for). We will get together about once a week to work on basic guitar skills, give some uniformity to what they are teaching their students, and maybe even teach some basic music reading... Music is not taught in schools in Cambodia, so any education that they get is usually by rote or off of the radio... please pray for me as I serve them...

Teaching More English...
Last week I was asked to take on a 5th class at Pannasastra University (full time is 4 classes) because one teacher had left, and the students there needed help (I later learned from the students that I was actually the 8th teacher... I can't explain that one)... keep me in your prayers because I have been burning the candle at about 3 ends... in my other classes, I have built some particularly good relationships with many of the students, including several monks. It has been interesting to be open with them about my faith, and to ask questions about theirs. Some have even been interested in reading some Scripture tracks that I have given them. Please ask God that He would provide more of these opportunities.

Asia's Hope and Graham update
I need to give you a quick update on where things are with being hired to work with Asia's Hope (AH). AH has decided to wait a bit to hire me for a few reasons. There were issues dealing with 1) certain aspects of the ministry changing, 2) the fact that they only have hired Cambodians to work in Cambodia, and they need to do further research to define how they will use foreign workers here, and 3) they feel that Seda and I need time to prepare for our future together, and that may be hindered by having a full time job with AH. So, I am still doing things with AH, but it is strictly in a volunteer capacity right now. Again, prayers for direction would be greatly appreciated.

Other highlights...
The staff of Asia's Hope had a retreat at Sihanoukville a few weeks ago, which I was privileged to join. All of the teachers from the school, and all of the staff from all of the orphanages went. It was a nice and relaxing time. It was also my privilege to speak to them from the Scriptures.

Seda's father continues to have cancer treatments. He is an a phase where he has short radiation treatments 5 days a week. He has had a recurring lung infection because of this. As you remember, please keep him in your prayers. Also, because he has not been a Christian very long, please keep him in your prayers to continue to trust God and grow in his faith.

The temporary law in Cambodia that says that foreign men may not marry Khmer women has still not changed. Please keep Seda and I in your prayers. We both get a little discouraged about this from time to time, but we know that God is in control of all of the governments in the world, and we can trust Him to wait. Unfortunately, this law will incur heavy marriage taxes on foreign men who want to marry Khmer women, so please pray that God will provide what Seda and I need at that time.

Finally, I am still teaching a Bible study to college students a few times a week. We have been learning new songs, and their meanings. I have also started a study with them about baptism. Many of them have never been baptized, so the culmination of these lessons will be baptism by Pastor Narin Chey.

Thank you again for your prayers and gifts that enable me to do these things in Cambodia! May God bless you in every way. Graham

Fun pics with Seda

Have you ever seen those funny machines in malls that you can take your picture? Well, here it goes, Cambodia style... Seda and I went out for a date, and stopped by this booth on the way home... a bit corny, but we had fun with it...



03 September 2008

Progress on the new AH school

Here are a few pics of the surrounding grounds of the new AH school near Prek Eng. We could not go inside that day, but hopefully everything will be ready soon...

Church and Corn...

Here are some pictures from last Sunday at one of the orphanages... I could not get many pictures of the church service, but there are some fun pictures of the kids eating corn afterwards...

23 August 2008

Seda speaking in Australia...

Here are a couple of pictures of Seda speaking at a church in Australia about her work with Transform Cambodia... on the left is the pastor of the church, and on the right is one of the main Australian leaders...


16 August 2008

War with Thailand, National Elections and the Khmer Rouge Trial…

Cambodia, the center of world news? You may laugh, but there have been at least three things lately that have brought Cambodia to the center of world news.

First – Cambodia has been on the brink of war with Thailand for over a month since the United Nations declared the Preah Vihear temple site a world heritage site… the problem is that Thailand believes that the temple is in Thai territory and Cambodia asserts that it is not. The end result is that near the temple there are groups of Thai soldiers on one side and groups of Khmer soldiers on the other… neither side wants to fight each other, and it would be rather surprising if they actually did… nevertheless, neither side wants to back down either. The UN committee that recognized the site says that it lies within Cambodia, but Thailand says that the maps are wrong. As of yesterday, both countries agreed to back off from the 'border' to help alleviate the tension.

Second – Cambodia had their national elections last month… official campaigning is only two weeks! (Maybe the US could learn something from that)… unlike the US though, the final result of the election is determined before the campaigning begins… the three major opposition parties have lodged complaints against the ruling party (and when I say ruling, I mean with a fist of iron) that about 200,000 people were kept from voting in the election… apparently these people went to the polls only to find that their names had disappeared from the rolls of voters… since the Cambodia’s People Party (the ruling party) controls the national election committee, it is not hard to connect the dots here… the 200,000 that were kept from voting represented all of the different political parties, but it seemed obvious that tampering had been done… nonetheless, Hun Sen once again emerges as the leader (some would say dictator) of Cambodia, somehow with 70% of the vote… so for the next five years, his reign of keeping a woefully governed country locked into corrupt practices will continue…

Third – The trial of several of the highest ranking officers in the Khmer Rouge (the political leaders of the country from 1975-1979 that were responsible for the genocide of 1.7 million people), seems to have finally done something… the man that was in charge of Toul Sleng Prison where over 16,000 people were tortured and killed has finally reached the trial stage… it is hard to know what they have been doing for the last few years as he has been sitting in prison… I have not read the complete story, but Duch (his name), became a Christian and had founded a human rights organization before he was arrested… unfortunately, as is common in Cambodia, corruption has derailed much of this trial… the human rights watch group Open Society Justice Initiative made public several accusations that prompted the UN to stop funding of the trial…(essentially people who were appointed to the trial were being made to give kick backs to the government officials that gave them the position... I am sure it was more than $10)... so from an outsiders perspective, I guess that the Cambodians thought “the well of free money has just dried up, maybe if we actually do something, it may start of flowing again…” who knows? Welcome to Cambodian politics…

Here is the funny (?) thing… many Cambodians don’t even know that these things are happening…

11 August 2008

Riatry with an ice cream moustache...


Left of center

Now that traffic is getting more and more difficult to navigate because of the increase of people and vehicles in Phnom Penh, a new and terrifying aspect has come to light... if people don't like traffic on their side of the road, they proceed to go left of center into on coming traffic... I don't know about other Asian countries, but Cambodians do not do lines very well... actually, it is an anomaly when you see them in a line... clustering is more common... everyone must be first... I ave had a few experiences lately where motos and cars have (at high speeds) come left of center and driven straight towards me... keep me in your prayers...

07 August 2008

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Just finished reading this the other day... always a treat... actually I found a free podcast version of it that I could listen to at the same time that I read... that can bring out interesting things that you might not notice when merely reading... "What fools these mortals be!"

Seda is on the way to Australia!

Well, after numerous problems, Seda did finally get off of the ground in Phnom Penh on her way to Australia... to make a long story short, they would not allow her on her initial flight out of Phnom Penh, and after we visited the airline (not in the airport, but across the city in a hotel...???) and talking to a variety of people in Australia, she was able to get to Singapore, but that was only the beginning of the problems... I have only talked to her a little bit, but she was supposed to connect with a woman that she would stay with for the night, and then back to the airport... it was not to be. She had problems with immigration in Singapore, and they made her stay in the airport... the woman in Singapore got her a room at a hotel in the airport, and she should be getting close to getting there soon, but it sounded like a terrible encounter... especially for her first time flying... in addition to being the first person to ever graduate from university, there is now another Seda Leth first in that she is the FIRST person in her family to EVER leave Cambodia... amazing...

Some pics from Seda's center...




An old pic that I found...

thanks, John McC...

When it rains, it pours...

It is the rainy season in Cambodia right now, and so, even though it has not rained as much as in other years, when it does decide to rain, it doesn't mess around... here are some pics of some children playing with styrofoam outside of Seda's center...

04 August 2008

Why the Beatles are the greatest rock band ever: Reason #4 "Yesterday"

I have not made a Beatles posting in a long, long time... so here is my reason #4 that they are the greatest band ever... the song 'Yesterday'... Paul McCartney wrote this single handedly, and then had George Martin construct a string quartet to accompany it... the result? The Number #1 love song of all time... McCartney is still (40+ years later) singing it on every concert... the fans just love it...

Sometimes, there ae things that you just can not explain in Cambodia...

I saw this sign yesterday, and just about fell off my moto... what an odd sign to have flying in Cambodia... It occured to me that there must have been a foreign diplomat in the country... it is still strange...



Two of my buddies...

Riatry, Seda and I took a couple of pics after church...


29 July 2008

Taking your life in your hands

I have been driving a moto in Cambodia for almost a year now, and that is enough time to see and understand some of the 'rules of the road' here... and unfortunately, there are not many... and the ones that do exist are not obeyed very much...

I can only think of 3 speed limit signs that I have seen in a city of 2 million people, and they are never obeyed... most people probably do not even know what they are. So last night, I am driving my moto, and I have Seda, her nephew Ro, and her niece Chanthou on my bike (I am getting better at driving with multiple passengers), and out of nowhere come two motorbikes that were racing at at least 60 miles an hour (you have to understand that most traffic goes around 20-30 mph)... they were so close to hitting us dead on... If I had been driving just a little faster we would have had a colossal crash, and I would not be writing this post right now... yikes... the yahoo's just kept on flying through town... I don't know how they can do it without being killed... the reality is that many do fine, but many others do get hurt seriously by this kind of driving...

Anyway, all four of us, held our breath, I hit the brakes, and they sped (flew?) by... it is one of those incidents, where if you really thought about what happened at that moment, you would fall off the bike by yourself...

The Pelican Brief...

Okay, so I know this book was written in 1992 and I am just getting around to reading it, but I enjoyed reading John Grisham's third novel (what is he up to now, 30?)... anyway it was a good, and as always, intriguing read... two Supreme Court Justices are assassinated, and there is no trail for the FBI to follow... however, a law student at Tulane does some research and makes a lucky guess at who could be funding the assassinations... it is a lucky guess that costs the lives of numerous people and has a paper trail leading all the way to the White House...

On a funny note with this, when I was finishing the book, I thought, I'll just go down and see if they have a copy of the movie at the DVD shop... no luck, but the Cambodian seller looked at me and said, oh, the one with Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington? I looked at him with a bit of disbelief, and said, "uh, yeah, that one"... how some guy in Cambodia knows the names of actors from a lesser known movie that is probably 20 years old is beyond me...

21 July 2008

Church Service in Battambang...

I went up to Battambang this past weekend to spend some time with the children at the orphanage, as well as to play some music for them and share God's word during the church service...

Dr. John visiting Seda's Family

Dr. John and Seda have been friends for a long time, so it was nice for him to have some time to visit when he was in Cambodia...


Building project in Battambang...

The building progect in Battambang is going ahead well... apparently, this is only about 35 days work, and they expect to be done in a few months...

My new favorite pic of Seda...

Picnic with the kids...

John McCollum's team from Central Vineyard Church is here in Cambodia right now, and they had a picnic with all of the PrekEng orphanages...

Transform Cambodia dinner

Seda's organization had a dinner with some of their Australian friends and sponsors...




Seda and the red flowers...

Seda thought that these flowers were beautiful...



Seda and her sister Chantha...

As Seda and I were going out on our date night, we came across her sister selling food...





The orphanage directors, Savorn and me...

From left to right... Sophang, G, Narun, Savong, and Savorn...

Date Night...

Seda and I had a date night last week... here are a few pics...

Fun with Riatry...

We had a lot fun laughing with Riatry (Seda's nephew) one night about a week ago... what a card...

14 July 2008

29 things I am grateful for in Cambodia

Here is a potpourri of things that have made me grateful lately... I hope that you enjoy it...

- All of the Asia's Hope teams have had a great time here this summer!
- I actually have had a few conversations that were completely in Khmer...
- I am feeling more confident that I can speak this language and that people will understand me, but some of the grammar is killing me!
- The love that orphans show...
- My moto has been working great, and I have not had a significant spill since March
- Seda and I have had our ups and downs, but we keep working to make our relationship better...
- I have never eaten anything here that makes me wish that I was dead
- I have gotten to do a few little guitar duets (I just play the chords) with a student who can play melodies very nicely on this old beat up classical guitar here...
- Teaching the Bible at the orphanages for church services...
- Being able to help people with my computer skills...
- Being able to help the teacher's at the Christian school understand a Christian school Science text book... we are learning all kinds of new words!
- Somehow, Seda has moments where she thinks that I am handsome...
- Every once in a while when I need some American food, I can go to LUCKY BURGER!
- Even though payday is only once a month, it still comes!
- The National Election for Prime Minister is this month, so I get to see a little of the Cambodian political process at work... (Hun Sen has never lost in almost 20 years)... just one more thing to understand (or maybe misunderstand) about this culture...
- I am not in the United States to listen to all of the political mumbo jumbo about the presidential election...
- I am not in the United States to mourn the debacle that is the Cleveland Indians...
- I received a job description from Asia's Hope that excites me...
- I get email from people all the time encouraging me in what I am doing here
- Matt Redman's song "Nothing But the Blood"
- My Khmer teacher, Nara
- All of the Asia's Hope staff here in Cambodia
- talking with my brother and his girlfriend on the phone on his birthday
- a really kind and gracious letter from my father
- The Fernando Ortega album "The Shadow of Your Wings"
- My new apartment... the shower is only cold water, but I am getting used to it... it is actually more like cool pool water...
- Shane Claiborne's book "The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical"
- two new pictures of my nephews that my sister sent to me
- (and this may sound corny), Facebook! It has been really cool to connect with some people that I have not talked to in YEARS!

11 July 2008

Hamlet

I read Hamlet again for the umpteenth time this past month... I love that book/drama/play... there are so many places that I connect with him on an emotional level... not that I would act in the same way, but I sure can understand his motivations... my favorite fiction story, without a doubt... this time I listened to the different acts and scenes of the play via a recording I have of Kenneth Branagh and the Royal Renaissance Theater Company as I read along... fantastic...

06 July 2008

An email that made me laugh...

Here is part of an email from Dr. John... it made me laugh...
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Greetings, All!

I realize it's been about a week since my last communication, and therefore time for an update. Here's the scoop, here's my dilemma.

How does one write an exciting letter, making it easy and fascinating to read, that describes sitting in meetings followed by sitting at the computer typing up notes of the meetings? For that's what I've been doing. Actually, not just sitting in meetings.

It might be more apt to say trying to survive sitting in meetings. We've all been to meetings that we call, "deadly". Well, I am here to tell you a stateside deadly meeting doesn't hold a candle to a meeting in Southeast Asia . For these meetings are truly life-threatening. Picture this...

Set the environment -- ambient temperature is 100 to 110° on a good day, and of course there's little or no air movement. Sometimes your hosts will provide a fan. Being an oscillating fan it serves the purpose of giving a brief "taste" of a cool wiff, but moves on to for you a chance to truly appreciate it. Then it comes again making your hopes, only to have it fade away. Oh, by the way, is it passes through it blows your papers all over the place, so you have to be sure that everything is pinned down for the "coming of the breeze".

Even those of us who don't consider ourselves particularly sensitive to somatic input, can feel each one of the body's 13 gazillion sweat glands open up and start pouring forth their product. Those little trips turn into frank rivers and although Westerners start to squirm in their seats while they scratch the tickle, or try to sop up the river.

"Oh, yes sir, I am paying attention." Yeah, right. Between scratches, you must be ever vigilant for aerial attack. For at any moment, from any direction you may be attacked by a black fly. Oh, we're used to flies, you say. Yes that's true, these flies are differ in that their wingspan is just short of that of a B-52. Why, if one hits your forehead, you are out cold. (Maybe cold is good? At least the meetings over for you.)

And then there is the ever present wicker. Furniture, that is. It's a popular furnishing in this area. Ever sit on a wicker chair for any length of time? While I am endowed with moderately liberal padding, which I take with me to every meeting, I tell you it's not enough. No indeed, the wicker will prevail. The padding seems to have elaborated and you can just feel the creases and indentations, the imprint of "The Wicker" being created on a certain part of your anatomy.

After a while, it begins to get uncomfortable. So logically you shift your position. Well, it's not that easy. For those little grooves beginning to form in your posterior surfaces are behaving like tongue and groove carpentry -- they have locked onto, mated with their counterpart on the surface of the chair.

If you succeed in extricating yourself from the above situation, you shift and place your weight back down on the chair, right? Yeah, of course. Unfortunately, you find that in order to be comfortable, you must find another place where the tongue and groove's exactly match. For if you try to make new tongue and grooves over old tongue and groove's, I am here to tell you that is uncomfortable. So, you end up returning to your original position and just suffering the discomfort. Now, where were we? Oh yeah, at a meeting.

Now that you have a feel for the environment be reminded that half of the meeting, at least, is conducted by gentlemen, or ladies, speaking in an animated dynamic fashion in words that are totally incomprehensible to you. They will politely glance at you, making eye contact, seeming to assume that you understand what they're saying. Desiring not to offend, you return the eye contact, smiling like a moron apparently indicating that you understand everything. So they proceed to talk some more.

Oh, and you're supposed to be taking notes. So that is a meeting in Southeast Asia .

03 July 2008

Friends

Here are some pictures of me with some good friends here in Cambodia...




Don and Pat

Don and Pat are some dear Australian friends of ours. They are both volunteers here with Transform Cambodia... unfortunately, due to his health, they needed to make a quick return to Australia last week. We had breakfast with them before they left. Don and I only knew each other for a few months, but we had a great friendship that forged quickly.