Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Lady at the Ta-ble

Gail and I recently dined at a popular Phnom Penh restaurant named Friends. They have good food but there is something very unusual about the employees. They are all street kids. They have been taken off the streets by a humanitarian group and sent to school and taught a skill that will keep them from returning.
Cambodia has hundreds of these street kids many of whom abuse drugs and are exploited by all kinds of predators. Most of them sniff glue and you can see them with there small plastic bag which they inhale from every few seconds.
I am thankful for this group who seem to be really making a difference in the lives of these children. That is after all what God put us here for. To somehow make a difference in the lives of others whether they are on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho or on the streets of Phnom Penh!

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Woman At A Well

This past week I saw this lady pumping water at a village well and thought of the story in John Chapter 4. I asked her first if I could take her picture because some are afraid. As you can see she smiled big and said it was OK.
I couldn’t speak to her like Jesus did to "The Woman at the Well", because we did not share a common language. If I could have, I would have loved to tell her about Living Water and how it could change her life forever. She may have been aware of Jesus and his water as we had just finished feeding her children supplemental nutrition at a place where the Church meets near by.
Notice how she dressed. It was about 95 degrees and unbearable humidity! I would have had a heat stroke in 15 minutes dressed as she was! Perhaps the woman Jesus talked to was dressed much the same.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bird Dilemma

A few weeks ago we had an awkward situation arise. We have several parrots outside in a large cage and one became obviously sick. So as to not infect the other birds and because some students we afraid of Bird Flu, we took him to the Vet.
The veterinarian was not sure what ailment the bird had but felt he had only a slim chance to recover. The decision was made by the American owner to have the bird “put to sleep” and that is where it got interesting. The Vet would not advise the owner to do this. A young man who drove the owner to the Vet was showing significant stress over the incident and advised slow decision making. It finally came to the owner what the problem was. Both of the men present were Buddhist. They believe in reincarnation and felt that the bird might be someone important! I do not understand why they easily take the lives of chickens and other animals to eat but balk at other times. Perhaps I will never fully understand.When the owner took full responsibility for the decision, the bird was slowly put to sleep with an injection. The vet “crossed” the bird before the final act and wished it a good new life! This belief is deeply engrained in the people and of course, is totally contrary to Christian principles of salvation. This is a hard one to teach for these people.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

King Sihanouk Hospital

Gail and I visited the King Sihanouk Hospital in Phnom Penh recently. Dr. Gary Jacques is the Executive Director of the hospital. He spent several hours talking with us about health care in Cambodia. The hospital is under the oversight of Hope Worldwide which is an Independent Church of Christ outreach.
When we left we were very impressed with the magnitude of the operation. They employ over 400 employees and have around 60 MD’s on staff. The hospital serves as a sort of residency for many Cambodian doctors and treats hundreds of patients per day free of charge. It made our boat project seem small in comparison!
Dr Jacques had several good suggestions for treating the people in rural areas of the country. He also will be a great source for future staffing needs for our project. He and his wife and 2 children, ages 11 and 13, have lived here for four years and plan to continue for many months to come. To say the least, we were both impressed to find others so committed to helping the poor and sick of Cambodia.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Same Old Same Old

Things are different here but at the same time they are the same. Just when you think things couldn’t be any stranger, up pops something that looks right at home to you. Like the other day for instance. We were driving down the road and what did we see? A Gary Thorson truck making a furniture delivery! (see picture above) We didn’t even know that Gary had stores in Southeast Asia! Immediately behind him we saw a soft drink distributor making his run. Maybe a little different but the same in reality. We see our new world better each day.

My favorite team, the Texas Rangers, got off to a terrible start this year but have since turned things around. They started out with a 1-5 record but have since rebounded to 10-9 record and are tied for first place. Maybe, just maybe, this is our year!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

We had a wonderful Lord’s Day service here today. Brother Doug Reeves from Lubbock, Texas is here teaching in the Cambodian Bible Institute for one month. He brought our lesson to us this morning on taming the tongue. Gossip and slander were his topics of discussion. People have that problem here just like everywhere else. Doug told us his mother had lied to him when she told him, “sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you”. He was right. Words often hurt more than even sticks and stones!
We have a new couple here from St Louis. They are Dale and Evelyn Lundy and will teach in the WEI school for the next month or so. The Lundys are considering making Cambodia there long term mission location. We hope they make that commitment because they are great people.
I met a young man last night at our evening service. His name is Phrack and he came for the first time with his friend Bunna. I introduced myself to him after our devotional and he was very open. He said to me at one point, "May I asked you a question please? I hope you will not be upset with me! What are the evidences of this Jesus?" He had never heard of this Jesus or his Father God. I told him a little about the Bible and he said, "Why did He have to die"?" I told him about Jesus being the sacrifice to be the last one for all time and he was pleased. We will study with him soon and will teach him further the Good News. This happens every day here in Cambodia.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Missionaries In Training

While in Vietnam last week we enjoyed visiting with the two foreign missionaries there. The American is named Tom Tune. He has worked in many places but most recently in the South Pacific. Tom has been in Vietnam for the last year overseeing the boat project and has been active in planting a church and helping children get an education. Stephan is a Laotian brother who has been active in the Lord’s work for many years. He received an education in France before coming to the US and going to Sunset School of Biblical Studies. He speaks Laotian, French, English, Vietnamese, and some Thai!
Stephan is studying with two young men 2 days a week. His hope, and their wish, is for them to be Gospel preachers in the future. Wouldn’t that be great? Their names are Kien and Think. Pray for these men and boys that the work in Vietnam will grow and prosper and when the time comes for open religious freedom, they will be ready.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Culture Shock?

In preparing to come to Cambodia, Rick and I read several books about the mission field. In one book, it mentioned that the wife not being able to handle the culture shock caused the highest percentage of failure for couples going into the mission field. So I thought I would share some of the difficulties I have experienced so far. Of course the greatest is the separation from family. I have also been missing our church family that was a part of our lives for so long. So with that in mind, here are some other things that go through my head.
In a country where I am actually tall, why do I have to step on something to hang my clothes in the closet? Culture shock? Maybe. When I try to speak Khmer, they look at me funny like I’m speaking a foreign language. The temperature has been somewhere from 95 to meltdown and the people wear long sleeves and jackets. Since it is so hot, you look forward to a cold shower and all you get is warm water. In class, when asking a student if they understand, they say “Yes”. So I say “Yes, you understand”, they say “No”, I say “No, you don’t understand or Yes, you understand”. They say “No”. So “No, you don’t understand”, “Yes”, I am totally confused and we start over again.
Maybe this is culture shock and maybe just my crazy thoughts. As long as I can laugh about situations, I think I’ll be ok, and need to just realize that what we do at home is not what will necessarily fly here. Gail

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mekong Delta

I have only foggy memories of the Vietnam War and most of them are of nightly newscast and the commentator often mentioning the “Mekong Delta”. In what little reading I have done while here, we must have really gotten bogged down in the Mekong Delta region.
An ex brother-in-law of mine never quite got over his Vietnam tour of duty. He rarely spoke of it and I understand that it was quite painful for him to recall the experience. When I told Jarrell Gibbs, a fellow elder of mine at the time, about our future plans to live on the Mekong River, his reaction was interesting. He became very serious and told me about his time there and how he had “lobbed” many mortars across the borders.
While we were on this tour of the Delta, we traveled by small boats paddled by Vietnamese through narrow winding channels of water that seemed to be a maze to nowhere. The canopy overhead totally blocked out the sun and it was eerie! I could only imagine walking thru these small streams with an M16 over your head and looking for the enemy! I’m thankful to those who served in such an inhospitable place during such an intolerable war for the sake of me and my country. Thank you Jarrell and Mike and all you others who served so courageously for your home land and my future.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Illegal Worship

This past Lord’s Day, Gail and I worshipped in Vietnam for the first time. It was Easter Sunday and we met with 56 others in a small hotel room. From the beginning it felt strange somehow for some reason.
Perhaps it felt strange because it was illegal to do so. I have never worshipped where it was against the law to do so. I understand that you can assemble in Vietnam but with certain stipulations. First, your group must be registered with the state. There are many reasons why the Church of Christ is not registered in Vietnam but that will have to be another topic on another day. If you are not registered, you can meet but no more than eight people can be present. There must not be any evangelism going on also.
I sat next to the door and several people came late and knocked at the door. I felt fear the first few times I opened the door. Would there be Communist police there to arrest us? The police did not come and I was glad to open the door for people who were simple coming to worship God. Maybe this was just a tiny hint of how the first century church felt on the Lord’s Day. Rick

Monday, April 17, 2006

Happy Birthday in Vietnam

Gail and I spent last weekend in Vietnam to visit the boat and enjoy a little R&R. Everyone was on vacation for the Khmer New Year so we took off for a few days. Gail’s big day was on the 13th and mine the 15th. We sang happy birthday to her in an Italian restaurant. We were treated by those “Amazing Ladies” I told you about earlier. On my big day, we went on a Mekong Delta trip and I was serenaded by our tour group made up of Chinese, Vietnamese, Italians, New Zealanders, and who knows how many other nationalities! They sang loud and the unusual blend of voices carried far and wide over the Mekong River and delta!
When we arrived back in Phnom Penh, Bill and Marie Claire had two birthday cakes and a nice party for us also. Sunday night, Cheryl and Nathan Wheeler called us and sang to us in the Cambodian language they have learned so well. So, we have really celebrated this year and felt much loved. Thanks to all of you who have sent cards and e-mails. Several of you insist on my age being 50 despite my trying to explain to you the Khmer way. I think you are all having a little culture shock. Don’t you?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday

Today, we attended church services in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In a hotel room with 45 young Vietnamese children and several adults, we worshipped together. It did not feel like Easter Sunday because everyone was dressed in everyday clothes and there had not been any stores that had advertised Easter specials or even Easter candy. There were no Easter lilies adorning the front of the room and there were no plans for a picnic or Easter egg hunt. I became emotional thinking about past years when our kids were young and we had all the fun of coloring eggs and preparing baskets and then when I looked at these kids and realized that they could barely understand who Jesus was let alone know what an Easter basket was. Their attention to the lesson was admirable as Tom shared the death of Jesus and his resurrection that was our salvation. I felt a sense of guilt as I questioned myself if in the past did I place emphasis on what Easter was really about. I would not change a thing about coloring eggs with our kids, or hunting eggs with friends and family after a picnic lunch together. Those are treasured memories. It just hit me during the service about another blessing we have as Americans. But more important, how we should not forget what we need to share with our children as Christians. Gail

Friday, April 14, 2006

World English Institute

Gail and I have been teaching in the WEI program the last few days. One of the teachers who has been here for the last six months left recently to go home. New teachers are coming in a few weeks and so we are teaching the students in the interim. I have been having wonderful studies!
My first student in the mornings is a 20 year old Cambodian named Kavich Neang. He is a bright young man who has been studying in the WEI program for about 6 months now. The other morning we studied the story of the conversion of the Eunuch from Ethiopia. The last sentence he read mentioned the Good News. When I asked him what was the Good News he said “the deaf of Yaseu”. Well his answer was correct but I wanted him to understand a little deeper. I asked him if he were to receive a very valuable gift would that be good news? He said, “Yes”. I then asked how he would feel if he were to receive free of charge a new “moped”? I knew that would be an unbelievable gift to him. He said that that would be, “Wonderful Indeed”! I then told him how much greater the Good News was than a new moto. It was a light bulb coming on experience for him. He just lit up and grinned from ear to ear. I knew then that he understood what I was trying to tell him.
This is new for me. I am usually “pullin teeth” instead of teaching Gods word. I have really been missing out I think. Maybe you have been to!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Birthday

Today is my birthday. I really don’t feel any older and rolled out of bed at 5:00 am to catch the Mekong Express bus to Ho Chi Minh City without too much of a problem. This was our second trip to Vietnam by bus and we knew what to expect. Or so we thought. It is the Khmer New Year and half of the population of Phnom Penh was leaving the city at the same time we were. Well, ok, a slight exaggeration. What we did not think about was how the Khmer people always start their holidays early. We were already aware of how many of the students attending English class were not coming because they were heading out to the provinces to be with their families. We didn’t connect that minor fact and how it would affect our travel plans of leaving the city Thursday and crossing the border. No real problem other than just not making good time. Well, besides the bus overheating and having to turn air-con off and open the windows. But all in all, a safe trip and arrival in HCMC. Doris, Emily and Betty were kind and took Rick and me out for dinner. We had already decided on an Italian restaurant called Santa Lucia. The food was delicious and the atmosphere so pleasant, it seemed like we had left Asia and was somewhere in Italy. They surprised me with a piece of Tiramisu cake with a candle. Afterwards we walked along the boulevard with the bright lights and cool breeze. What a wonderful birthday. Gail

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Communist Economics

It has been amazing watching this ship building company in Vietnam build this ship for Partners In Progress. We are constantly surprised by their systems and techniques. For instance, although the cabinet makers have detailed plans for each room, they never seem to follow the design we have given them! It seems that after the installation is done, they have to be removed and adapted in some way to meet their intended use. It seems so wasteful and time consuming! I can’t figure it out.
Bill told me recently, about a German engineer he met in Germany in the 1970’s. This man, who worked for a large airplane manufacturing operation, explained the Communist theory to him. He explained that the company did not know how much each plane cost to make! They did not care! The Communist didn’t care if an individual ministry or industry lost money or not. It only mattered if the countries entire budget came out in the black or red! Maybe that explains the cabinets.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Great Kids

Have I told you about how we feel about our children? Well, we have the greatest children in the whole world contrary to what some of you may think! Ha-ha Here we are, half way around the world, and our kids support what we are doing 100%. They do not whine and complain like some kids do. They are so encouraging to us when we talk and tell us how much we mean to them, and how they believe in what we are doing. Brittany and Greg, you two are the greatest and we thank God each day for you and ask Him to bless your futures as He has your past. We love you very much!

Dogs and Wine

Some of you will remember that I wrote earlier about the serving of dog in most Southeast Asian countries. I still have not tasted it yet, but I am leaving my options open. Gail says she will have to pass!
We learned by our regular cab driver in Vietnam recently some additional facts on the subject. He told us that there are several requirements for eating dog. First of all, the dog has to have yellow fur. You pet owners with dark haired dogs can relax a little now. Secondly, you always have to drink wine when you eat dog. He said no other drink is appropriate! It would probably be best if you had several glasses before the main course! We continue to be amazed at our cultural differences. We have sooo much to learn!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Boat Update

When Bill McDonough returned this week from Vietnam, he had great news. The progress on the boat, which has been dragging along slowly for the last 6 months, has suddenly gotten into high gear! We were told that the completion date could be in 2 weeks. I have learned not to get too excited with new deadlines but we are suddenly thinking about end line things like hiring and stocking the boat.
I received news yesterday that we will get a donation of around $5,000 worth of dental supplies. That is always good news! I hope to receive one more significant donation of equipment in the near future. God is good! All the time!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Khmer New Year

The Khmer celebrate their new year’s day on Friday April the 14th. Everyone takes off from the 13th thru the 17th and some take off more, up to two weeks! These people know how to have national holidays since there are 25 recognized days each year! The kicker is that they are not paid holidays. So you can take off, but without pay. Since everything will be shut down, we will travel to Vietnam this weekend to check on the boat project and chaperone those amazing ladies I wrote about earlier. Gail and I attended a Khmer New Years celebration party put on by the Cambodian Dental Association last night. As always, it was an interesting event with Karaoke, but I restrained Gail to not perform!

An interesting thing about their new year is the way it affects each persons birthday. Everyone has a birthday but you do not actually change your age until the next New Year comes around. That brings up a strange thing for Gail and I since her birthday is April the 13th and mine is April the 15th! She will be turning 49 this Thursday but will not change her age until the next day on the 14th, the first day of their new year. My birthday, being on the 15th, means that I will not change my age to the “BIG 50” for another 364 days! So Gail and I will be 49 together for the entire next 12 months! Neat huh? So Paula, you don’t have to worry about missing my big party this year after all. We will, however, be able to celebrate your big one when we see you in the fall! You know what they say, “When in Rome, Do as the Romans do”!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Airplane, taxi, metro, sky train, tuk tuk, water boat taxi, and lots of walking. That has been our mode of transportation since arriving in Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Bangkok is a very big and fast paced city. You can quickly see the economic difference between the two countries. Large skyscrapers landscape the skyline mixed with the pointed towers of Buddhist temples. The traffic and crowds are tiring. I think I will have enough of it after 3 days. Today we toured the Grand Palace and Chinatown. We rode a water taxi from one area of town to another and that was quite interesting. I know on the news there has been reports on the protesting of Thaksin, but we have not seen anything while here. We found a small backpackers hotel off the beaten path, but after roaming the city, I am glad we are here. It is only $22 a night, but clean and close to metro and sky train. We wandered into a new shopping center in the more upscale area that had a Starbucks. Later we noticed them all over the area! Also, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, Auntie …. those pretzel shops, Swenson’s Ice cream and A&W hamburger. I was really tired of rice and noodles, so we snacked on a chicken sandwich from A& W. It was great! Oh, and if you know me, you know we had to stop for coffee at Starbucks! Right kids?! This particular shopping district had just about every high priced store you can imagine. We decided to hop on the sky train and find our way to night bazaar that had prices more in our liking! Tonight we are going to a traditional Thai dinner and show. It is a great getaway and nice to see a modern big city like Bangkok, but I think I'm ready to go back to a quieter Phnom Penh. Ok maybe not quieter, but at least I'm familiar with the chaos!......Gail

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Snack Foods

With baseball season right around the corner, it brings to mind youthful memories of opening day, Cracker-Jacks, and “Take Me Out to The Ballgame”! It also reminds me of my favorite snack food, sunflower seeds.
I brought one bag full with me in February and they have run out now despite my rationing of them. I have found a substitute for them, although very strange, in lotus flower seeds. You see people all over the place selling the green pods for snacking on. Yesterday I bought my first ones to try out. As you can see on my face and Gail’s, they are a little different! I may have to look for another substitution. I don’t think they will overtake the snack market in the US anytime soon!