Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Little Sam

Yesterday little Sam came home from the hospital. He had been admitted for 10 days and had undergone major abdominal surgery. At two and one half years of age, he has done remarkably well. For almost one week post surgery he had to lay flat on his back and for a little boy that was tough!
We helped the family with the expenses. The total cost was just over $400 US dollars or about one years salary for the average Cambodian income. Ever since this little boy was literally left on a doorstep some 2 yrs ago, we have all fallen in love with Sam. He is named after Sam Carpenter who provided funds for the orphanage he lives in. Welcome home little Sam. I know that “Big Sam”, your namesake, welcomes you too.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wedding Bells

It is Monday morning and we have already attended a wedding! Now that may seem odd to go to a wedding at 9:00 a.m., but most weddings do start early here because they last all day. This wedding, however, is a Christian wedding as opposed to the traditional Khmer wedding. Chan and Sophea are both Christians. Since her parents are not, they will have a Khmer wedding tomorrow at her house. Today the wedding took place at the Sunset Bible School which provided a great setting. As you can see, there were three bridesmaids and groomsman. They lit a Unity candle and also braided three ribbons which represented God, man and woman. They don’t kiss so instead they touch their foreheads to each others cheek. The Christians here are trying to introduce the Christian ceremony that can include some of the Khmer style because a traditional Khmer wedding includes a monk chanting, seven dress changes for every girl involved and lots of food. This tradition is very expensive and does not allow many to marry. They can not have a simple church ceremony or even go to the Justice of the Peace. That would not be Khmer. They are forced to have a ceremony that they can not afford. We do the same in the states to some degree as far as trying to have an extraordinary event for others to enjoy, but can bring stress and expense to the families. Traditions are hard to overcome, but in God’s eyes we are united under the simplest of ceremonies.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Choral Performance

I told you about our chorus a few weeks ago. We have decided to have a performance on December the 6th and invite all of the young people’s family and friends. We will not perform because we sound so good, but rather because many will come and open doors for us to meet them and invite them to join us. We are all so excited about this and the possibilities for growth. We haven’t even named our new gathering yet.
Dale and Evelyn Lundy are planning to move to Cambodia to work with this new church early next year. That will be great as they are dedicated workers in the Lord’s kingdom. We are all praying for their arrival.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Baby Sam

Baby Sam is recovering very well from his intestinal resection last week. We thank God for his rapid recovery. If all goes well, he will be able to begin eating food tomorrow and go home on Saturday.
Gail and I are spending time each night with a new devotional book. The gist of the book is about finding your place in life. See if you recognize these quotes. “Unless you assume there is a God, life is meaningless.” Bertrand Russell, atheist. I had to think about this one for a while but it is pretty profound. Life is definitely not meaningless!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another Brother

We rejoiced with another brother in Christ this week. Ling Ti has been studying with Claude Lewis over the internet for about six months. When the Lewises arrived here last month, Claude began a one on one study with Ling Ti. From the beginning he wanted to be baptized into Christ but Claude thought he needed to study further on the Christian life and all that it entails.
Ling Ti is a little different than our normal student. He is my age and his wife and twenty year old son are faithful to attend. We have several non-English speaking people at church so we have started to interpret the lessons each week. The future growth potential is great.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hospital Experiences

Each week brings a new experience, but sometimes there are ones we wish we did not have to go through. Earlier in the week, Rick had to assist someone to the local clinic that most foreigners go to when ill. The American doctor was on vacation, but was great to come on in and help. Although pain was involved and Rick was up until almost 1:00 a.m., the problem was taken care of and all is well. This past weekend the problem was more serious and so much more frustrating as we got to see what the average Khmer has to go through to get medical help. Lil Sam was adopted by Kimson and Sokha who direct the orphanage that Sam and Mary Carpenter fund and sponsor. Lil Sam was considered the first to come to the orphanage which now has twenty children. He had been experiencing abdominal pain and a couple weeks ago had already been to one hospital to receive fluids since he could not hold any food. Friday night Kimson called frantically that Lil Sam was in pain and becoming dehydrated. Rick and Marie took him to the clinic I mentioned above, but the doctor said he needed a hospital and told them to start fluids immediately. Upon arriving at the hospital, they would not take Lil Sam. Communication is minimal and Kimson had no idea why they would not admit Sam. Rick then drove them to the National Pediatric Hospital. It was 12:30 a.m. and they started him on fluids with hopes to see a doctor. Then the chaos began. Marie-Claire went back up to check on progress, but it was so difficult to get information. Rick and I took food and water to them at 5:00 and they still did not have a diagnosis from doctors. We feel the Lord was truly watching over Sam because the medical staff was not very organized. At 8:00 p.m., the head surgeon thought it best to operate because he felt like there was some type of blockage. Thankfully the doctor was right. His small intestine was twisted and they removed 10 cm. Rick and I left at midnight after the surgery, but Marie-Claire stayed to help Kimson. There was relief after frustration, but I came home and cried thinking about the poor health care and most people just suffer and/or die. I think I needed this jolt of reality. This is the capital where the best medical services are suppose to be. We will be in the provinces where there is little of nothing.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Captain Nihm

This week we received a pleasant surprise. As most of you know we had hired a captain for the “Ship of Life” medical boat several months ago. He has been living aboard the ship with Channy, our engineer, and Sparkey, our electrician.
Channy is a Christian and has been teaching both of them the word of God over the last few months. Sparkey was baptized into Christ several months ago and yesterday the Captain and his wife were both immersed into Christ. We were all so happy! So as of now, the entire staff that has been hired are all Christians. There are five of us now, counting Gail and me, and we hope and pray that the others that will join us will also share the same hope.
After the baptism, the captain and his wife and their eleven year-old daughter all rode off rejoicing on a moto-dop. Sounds a little like the Ethiopian in his chariot.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Men's Games

As we walk in the morning, we see men playing a game that is unfamiliar to us. They play a game where 5 to 7 men stand in a circle and kick back and forth a heavy badminton like object. They call it a sey.
The object is to keep the sey from hitting the ground by kicking it to each other. It is somewhat similar to what some of our kids do with a “hackey-sac”. The guys seem to get a lot of enjoyment from this game as well as exercise and camaraderie.
I’m not sure I could ever get the hang of it. Americans do not use there feet for anything but walking and occasionally kicking the dog!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Morning Walks

Miracles never cease! Rick and I have determined to get up and walk every morning. As of today (Monday Oct. 16) we have walked everyday for three weeks. We have even added a little jogging in and actually break a sweat. We have this trek around the Independence Monument that allows us to join in with many other early morning risers. Did I mention we get up at 5:45 a.m.? It is quite similar to a fair-like atmosphere. There are people who walk, jog, play badminton, walk dogs, do this Thi Chi routine, and sit on benches to watch everyone else. There are vendors selling fruit, peanuts, and a chance to weigh you on a scale. I know enough Khmer now to tell them I’m too fat to stand on their scale! It does feel good to have achieved this monumental goal, but I am still waiting for it to be easier to crawl out of bed.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I am writing this on Friday the 13th. I really don’t have any superstitions about this day, but it is fun to joke about. Rick has commented about the fact that the last thirty entries of blogs were written by him, so this is my contribution. The delay of the boat has given me mixed emotions. Anybody who has been around me realizes that I am not the most patient person. But in this situation, I feel at peace about the delay and realize that the Lord is using this time to help us. The Bible study we do with the WEI students only increases our faith and knowledge. The blessing of meeting wonderful co-teachers has also enriched us beyond words. We understand that we have only scratched the surface of knowledge about this people and culture. And I guess the greatest part is realizing that Rick and I have grown closer to each other and to the Lord. When the clutter of life clears, it is at those moments you really see what we are suppose to be all about. Being here has cleared a lot of clutter for us. Gail

Friday, October 13, 2006

Water Pot

Everyone here has a water pot that holds between 50 and 100 gallons of water. It usually sits outside of the front door and serves as the family’s water supply. If running water is available, they use it for washing and other things.
This last week I bought a 5 gallon pot on the side of the road. When I got home Gail said, “What are you going to do with that thing?” She has said that too me many times over the years but this time I wasn’t sure. After a few minutes I told her I just liked it and we could use it as a “porta potty” if nothing else. She didn’t think so! Whatever we do with it, it will not fit in the overhead bin for sure.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Dental Visit

We are blessed with a great secretary here at the Partners In Progress house. Her name is Vanny and we all love her. She keeps us all organized! Her little sister is 12 years old and has severe malocclusion of her teeth. I took them for an orthodontic consultation at the dental school last week and this week we went back for a follow up appointment. There is only one orthodontist in the whole country and she is foreigner. A UK group of orthodontist has been working at the Dental School with 3 Khmer doctors for several years to train them in the art of straightening teeth. there techniques and results seem very good.
Vanny’s little sister was accepted into the program and has already had some extractions to allow room for movement. The treatment will take 3 or 4 years and was very reasonable. The total cost was $200! I told Vanny what it would cost in the States and she could not believe anyone could or would spend that much for elective care! Her little sister will be happy and more beautiful when it is all over.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mekong River Project Progress Repot

Progress has been very slow as of late concerning the boat project. We have known for some time now that the papers were in the hands of the highest officials. It seems that at this point we just sit and wait for things to “happen”.
We received a call today that the final papers were in the hands of the Prime Minister. This is good news. Everyone else has signed off on the project. Like many small countries, the leader often wants to have his hands on everything. It is our hope and prayer that he will see the good that can be done and move quickly.
We appreciate all of your prayers on our behalf and that of the medical project. Surely God does hear and answer our petitions.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Romeo and Juliet

This week one of the young men here told me a heartbreaking story. He told me of his love for a young lady he had gone to school and fell in love with. She, like he, had graduated with a degree in accounting last year. She, unlike He, was able to find a place of employment.
He told me that his girlfriend’s parents had found her someone else to marry. Although they both are very much in love, her parents have the final say and have chosen a policeman, from a family they know, to be her husband. He is devastated. There is, however, nothing he can do.
Another student, recognizing a former teacher across the classroom this week, told him some good news. “My Father has bought me a wife!” The teacher asked how much. He said her parents wanted $2000 but he talked them down to $1000! Such is the nature of this strange culture that is so hard to wrap our arms around.
Many of the “arranged” marriages end in failure. This is so sad. I hope my friend does not despair to the level of Romeo. I will try to encourage him.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Crippled Man

This week Gail and I went to two more villages for dental clinics. My first patient on Tuesday was the man pictured above. He was a typical older patient living in a remote rural setting. He wanted me to remove three very loose teeth in his mandible. I numbed him up and after a few minutes removed the teeth and had him bite on cotton. He sat there for several hours biting on the cotton and then came and asked a question of us. He said’ “When will you remove my teeth?” He did not know we had removed them and wanted to get started!
We noticed that He was crippled and walked with a crutch and great difficulty. My translator Pisey asked him how far he lived from the clinic. He said 5 Kilometers! That would take him at least 3 or 4 hours to walk in his condition! He was grateful and did not seem to mind the walk. His example makes me want to be more appreciative for small things I take for granted everyday.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Cambodian Attire

The Khmer people make use of a piece of cloth called a Kraumoh. One of our students gave Gail and me one to use. Men often wear it while they bath outdoors and as leisure attire. Women wear it on their heads as a scarf-hat type piece of clothing and to wrap their babies in or even as a hammock. I haven’t bathed outdoors in mine yet but as they say, never say never!

Thursday, October 05, 2006


We love to have people comment after reading one of our blogs. I wished more of you would let us know how we can improve our postings. Keep in mind, however, that we cannot reply to your comment. Your comment comes up in our e-mail as anonymous. We can only see your address if you add it to the comment. We are happy to reply to your questions but cannot if we don’t know your address. You can e-mail us directly at rgnorthen@yahoo.com if you want to. Thanks again, Rick

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Cambodian Tabernacle Choir

Claude Lewis and his wife Madge have recently joined us here as Interim Directors of the WEI English Bible Studies Program. Claude is multi-talented and has taught choral music in the past. The Cambodian students have no previous training in reading or singing music, but they somehow love to sing.
Claude is teaching all of us how to read music and sing better. Last Sunday night he lined all of us up in a typical arrangement, and we sang a few songs. The quality of the sound may have been less than ideal, but God must have been pleased as we sang praises to His name. We may have a concert for family and friends in the not to distant future! Thanks Claude!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

God's Calling

Several times in the last year when I have been asked to speak, I have spoken on God’s calling. I have recounted my own personal experience with God’s will for my life as I have perceived it at different times. I think He “calls” all Christians who are quiet enough and still enough to hear Him.

I recently finished reading a book on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. My good friend Jim Gardner often quotes Bonhoeffer in his sermons and tells of his courageous life. The book’s name is “Dietrich Bonhoeffer Called By God” and tells of his Christian response to Nazi Germany’s effort to destroy religious institutions before and during WWII. Bonhoeffer was executed shortly before the end of the war but has had a profound influence on Christians all over the world by his firm belief that we must be involved in helping others wherever they are. He evolved from a pacifistic approach to that of a more radical involvement. It cost him his life.

I wonder. Am I ready and willing to give my life for a cause greater than myself? Isn’t that the real question we all must answer?