Krache: Day 3

*edit-apparently pictures aren’t working on here, so go to flickr.com/photos/livingfullyalive to see pictures.*

Cheum reop sua!

That’s the best I can do to spell out the common Khmai (Cambodian) greeting.

We’re at the end of our third day of work in Krache now, and what a day it has been.  Each day thus far has been filled to the brim with activity.  This particular morning started off with a special bit of excitement in the form of PANCAKES from our wonderful cook, Sotie.

This morning, several of us went to the children’s center for our second day of tutoring while the rest of the group remained at the “Bamboo House” pouring cement and painting.  While at the center, Caroline taught violin and I  taught piano.  Austin, Dr. and Dr. Mrs. Nielson got some kids hooked on phonics and a special English class was held for the older children who had the day off of school.

This English class, taught masterfully by AK and Alexander, deserves some further mention.  In an effort to help the children experience  American culture and in an even greater effort to remember names, (the children’s names contain consonants and vowels that I am fairly certain none of us will ever be able to hear, much less pronounce) Alexander and AK encouraged the children to each pick an ”American” name.   This experiment resulted in names such as Grapes, Desmond, Diego, and Chips…American nomenclature at its best!  From what I hear though, the rest of the class went off wonderfully,  Grapes turning out to be the star pupil.  The afternoon English class, taught by Rebekah and Jake, yielded names ranging from “Iguana” to “Batman”.

While AK and Alexander taught in the upstairs of the main building, I was under the stilt-supported house with a keyboard and several attentive students gathered around me.  During our tutoring sessions we generally have 3 different students, each with a one hour session.   I am proud to announce that three Cambodian children are now able to sightread the melody from Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C major and just about anything else I write out for them.

In the afternoon another group (HollyAnne, Jake, Rebekah, and Wilson) went to the children’s center to tutor while the rest of us continued work at the “Bamboo House”.  Around the time when Caroline and I finished applying the 5th (really, 5th) coat of paint to the cement walls, the cement mixer broke and the guys decided to call it for the afternoon.   We all piled into the van and headed over a bumpy road to the children’s center for a greatly anticipated volleyball match.  The Cambodian workers had challenged the men of our group to a volleyball match.  Let’s just say the intramural scene at Covenant did nothing of significance to prepare our guys for the skill they met in the Cambodians today.  Despite our team’s failure to deliver, the children sat by the sidelines and cheered for the “Scots”…and for a certain Jake in particular.  “Jake” means “banana” here, so the kids seem to appreciate any opportunity to shout the name “Jake” .

I don’t feel able in these few paragraphs to do justice to all the smiles, cuts and bruises, laughs, and conversations that came with today, but know that they were plentiful, and that all served a purpose.

This is the point where synopsis of the day stops and where I begin to record some of the musings I had while painting , so feel free to zone out, but it would be pretty great if you could just keep reading.

I’ve spent a good amount of time this trip worrying about being “that short term missions team”.  You know, the one I learned NOT to be in Community Development class this semester.  I’ve been so worried about hurting instead of helping that at least in spirit, I haven’t been helping at all.   I recently heard a speaker (Covenant Commencement 2011, holla!)  talk about the significance of  doing the seemingly small things of the kingdom, the significance of being pretty normal.   I believed the term he used was  “plodding visionary.”   It’s sort of ironic that this would start to mean something to me while I am in the middle of Cambodia.   God has clearly put me here in Cambodia for these two weeks for a reason.  I’m here, aren’t I?  Nothing but pride made me so concerned with being “that missions team”.  There is something beautiful about finding the space to trust God, strive towards humility, and to simply serve as asked.  My mom used to always tell me “do a little, do it well”.  This is just as true in Cambodia as it was when she asked me to pick up my floor.  God is a God of little things in big places.  God is a God of big things in little places.   We are called to live out the gospel , to do the next thing, to “do a little and do it well” wherever we are.  Let this be your prayer for our team this week.

I know this post is horribly long already, but if you’re like me, everything is better with pictures, so I’ll leave you with a few I took at the children’s center today.

-Hannah Copeland (+the others)

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Krache Day 1

Greetings, All!
Today was the team’s first day in the Krache Province. Yesterday was spent traveling and seeing “Bamboo House” and “The Center.”

Bamboo House was recently purchased and will probably be used for computer classes and possibly a kindergarten. Today the team worked hard mixing and pouring concrete and painting the outside wall and gates. The guys worked long hard hours on the cement. We were all impressed with their diligence. The girls primed the gate for painting and began painting the concrete wall surrounding the house. Anna Katherine braved her fear of heights to scale a ladder and wall to paint.

At the Center, a home for about 70 children, team members led one-on-one English tutoring, piano lessons, guitar lessons, violin lessons, and a nature study (watercolor) class. The children, ages 6 through high school, are so joyful and eager to learn. The smiles on their faces were priceless! I had the privilege of teaching 3 nature study classes. The youngest group of kids I taught (1st grade) had never painted before, yet they produced beautiful watercolors of the “Peacock Flower.” All of the students are full of stories about the children they taught and how special it is to be a “piece of the puzzle” in the lives of these children.

We ate lunch and dinner at Bamboo House, compliments of our wonderful cook, Sote. We had mango, ginger chicken, beef curry, cooked veggies, rice, and other foods. Sote is spoiling us! In addition, after dinner we tried dragon fruit, “rich man’s fruit,” and rhambutan. Dragon fruit is pink and green on the outside with leafy protrusions. The inside is white-ish with “poppy seeds.” Rich Man’s Fruit has a brown skin with a grape like interior and one large smooth seed. It reminded me of a muscadine. Rhambutan is a “hairy strawberry.” Once peeled, it also looks like a grape, but it has a white, almond shaped seed. All three were delicious.

We’re all doing well and having a wonderful time. Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to work hard in the heat and sun. Pray that our good health and spirits would continue, and that God would bless our hosts and the children to whom we’re ministering. Pray that we would faithfully focus on our work and on those around us rather than ourselves–even when we’re tired and simply want to kick back and relax.

Blessings and love in Jesus,

HollyAnne Dobbins

(and the other Macs)

Cambodia: Day 1

Yesterday at approximately 10:00 pm local time (10:00 am eastern standard) we arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia! This day has been a whirlwind of overcoming jetlag by getting to know missionaries and immersing ourselves in the history and culture of Cambodia.

Some of the more lighthearted events of the day include: people-watching at sunrise from our hotel room, a delicious traditional breakfast complete with noodles, rice, mangos, and these wonderful little sesame seed donuts, buying elephant/party pants at the central market (ask your daughter about these upon her return), eating a fried tarantula, eating several complementary fried crickets, eating duriem fruit (“smells like hell, tastes like heaven”), lunch at a lovely Vietmanese restaurant, dinner at a local pizza place with several MTW missionaries and their families, and a spontaneous pool party on the roof of the hotel. In retrospect, it seems like all we did was eat. However, for you to fully understand the experience that today brought, you have to hear the stories that we heard and stand in the places where we stood. You can’t do that, so I will try my best to give you a brief snapshot of the awful reality we came face to face with today.

Our group visited both the torture facility S-21 and the Killing Fields. Allow me to reiterate that my blog post cannot begin to do justice to what we saw or to the victims of the Khmer Rouge. Among rusting instruments of torture, heartwrenching testimonies, and countless photos of victims lining the walls of S-21, one image stood out from all the rest. He was a little boy, probably about 13 years old. He was one of the many children taken from their homes, brainwashed by the Khmer Rouge, and forced to commit unthinkable crimes against humanity. Unlike all the other stoic, somber faces slapped on the wall of victims, this little boy had what appeared to be a slight smile. It wasn’t an evil smirk, mind you, but a boyish grin, perhaps the result of a happy thought. Amidst so much pain, being himself an agent of so much pain, this little boy’s smile made me cry.

Blood stains on the floor, piles of skulls, shards of  burried clothing emerging from the earth, a tree trunk upon which babies were smashed to their deaths. Where was God? There are no good words for this sight, no right answer to this question. Tears are not enough.

When our team was preparing for this trip, a man came to speak to us about his ministry in Cambodia. He told us, “Cambodia feels like death.” As this sentence ran through my mind, another one followed. “Jesus said He came that we might have life, and have it to the full.” How do I rectify what I am feeling as I stand in a scene of despair and what I know to be true about my Savior?

A sappling bravely forging its way to the heavens, rooted in the middle of a mass grave where 20,000 people were slaughtered is a beautiful picture of life, a beautiful picture of redemption in the midst of what feels like death. Duch, the chief director of S-21, held responsible for the haneous torture and death of thoughts of innocents, defected from the Khmer Rouge upon becoming a Christian. This, my friends, is the beautiful reality of life, the beautiful reality of redemption, even in a place that still feels like death.

This day has left my heart full, and I still have much to proces. But for now I am going to go to sleep and prepare for tomorrow. I am thankful for the experiences of today, thankful for this trip, and so very thankful that Jesus is alive, and that He is making all things new.
-Anna Katharine Horne