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Wendy in Cambodia

Latest news from Wendy in Cambodia - 7th October 2017

Political musings and a pause from language school

 

After promising it for a while, in this update I'll reflect on the political situation in Cambodia. I'm also in the midst of a pause from my usual routine which has created space and opportunity for me to do some different things. 

I am currently having a pause from my regular language school, due to insufficient students for my level. Therefore until mid November I have opportunity for a few different things. I was so grateful to have a week out of city life, trekking in the north of Vietnam with a few team friends. It was very beautiful and caused my heart to be full of thanksgiving and praise. We had fun walking slippery paths through bamboo forests and rice paddies, with plenty of 'Buffalo chocolate' underfoot- our guide's euphemism!

Following my trip to Vietnam, I was back in Siem Reap, then borrowed a motorbike to visit old friends further north. It was lovely to meet a friend's new spouse and 2 new babies. Being back on the motorbike was also such a pleasure and Cambodia is looking its best just now as the vibrant green rice fields are about to be harvested. Lightening and storms make the biking that bit more exciting!!

Last week I started a course called Refocusing Leaders- run for mission partners from different organisations all working here in Cambodia. We spent time reflecting on our past, noticing God's fingerprints and directing of our lives, then inviting Him to speak with us as we prayed and reflected. I will have several weekends for this course over the next 8 months and I expect it to be a rich journey deeper into understanding my identity in Christ and God's purpose and vision for my life.

Now back home again in Phnom Penh I am meeting daily for language coaching 1:1 with Anny, enjoying our growing friendship and discussing a lot about faith as she is getting baptised at the end of the month- a time to celebrate! I am starting to learn more Biblical/Christian Khmer with her, with a view to getting equipped to use TEE tools (Theological Education by Extension). This is a community based way of teaching about Jesus and living Christian faith. 

At the end of the month I'll attend an Interserve regional workshop (called Equipped to Serve or E2S), which is a part of induction to joining Interserve. I hope this will also be encouraging to meet other partners from across Asia and share our experiences about walking in faith cross-culturally.

Politically, there have been some significant changes and tensions over the past 4 months. Local elections held early summer indicated strong opposition to the leading party who has been in power for over 3 decades. Unfortunately the leader is clinging on to control: arresting the opposition party leader, just yesterday taking out a court case to close down the party, also closing down free press. The feeling of oppression is tangible. Relations with the US are more tense. Cambodia's economy is growing fast, with heavy Chinese investment and ties with Vietnam. There feels an increased ominous threat to democracy as we look to national elections next July. Development and faith based organisations that criticize the government are threatened with closure.  A couple of months ago one agency issued a report stating the problems with child sexual exploitation and they had to do a lot of diplomacy to remain working here. The government may restrict international work and visas in a bid for greater control. We pray, watch and wait.



Photos:  Top - Amazing rice terracing in north Vietnam where I was trekking with some team mates. 

Left - Amidst the corn fields.  Right - Visiting my friend Van Douer in northern Cambodia- lovely to join for lunch with his family, meeting his wife and son! 

 

Next time... a bit more about Khmer foods and some different things I've tasted!

For those who support me in prayer:

Thanksgiving: for great team fellowship day together and praise nights held monthly; for a wonderful time of holiday and joy trekking in north Vietnam; for deepening friendships and renewing of friendships; for the Refocusing course and all God's blessings through that.
           
And prayer requests: for team members to access visas and comply with changes in the laws (I'm covered until April); please pray God would grow Cambodian leaders for the Cambodian church; for me to absorb new Biblical Khmer and grasp well the language I've been learning over the past 5 months and after this to discern where and how God wants me to serve Him.
 
Specific diary dates:

·                   E2S October 22-29

·                   Anny's baptism Oct 29

·                   Praise night November 1st



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27th August 2017

Labour laws, friends in the north and a few thoughts on ethical mission


Time seems to be passing more swiftly and I am getting busier, hence the news from 2 months! I am steadily advancing with learning the Khmer language- my latest exam went well. A couple of weeks ago I visited friends in the north of Cambodia which was wonderful!


I’ve a bit more to say as I’ve been reflecting on things, which I hope will trigger some of your thoughts and I look forward to hearing them!

 
Recently the labour laws have been changing. I am currently on a business visa, which has been easy to obtain. However, I will also need to get a work permit, or possibly a student permit. This change in paperwork- a good sign of improving governance- could have a really big impact on mission partners here who are not running a business or working under an organisation. For example, those who are church planting or doing voluntary work not affiliated with an NGO. It can sometimes be quite difficult to get clear guidance on the processes or requirements, so please pray about this and that each partner here with Interserve would be able to adhere to requirements and be able to continue serving here.  
 
I mentioned a recent break between language modules, when I had opportunity to travel back north to see friends in both Anlong Veng (AV) and Siem Reap. I lived in AV for 3.5 years and this was my first visit back in since I’ve returned to Cambodia in March this year. I was briefly able to visit the hospital and see most of my old colleagues which was a real pleasure.


I stayed with my dear friends Trouen and Kunthea are such an encouragement and inspiration to me. It was great to have a reunion of our fellowship group to sing, share the Bible and pray together once more, just as we used to. We also visited some family of another friend Samet, to bring encouragement to them in their small community a few kilometres from AV. I visited their church too, which is led by Fijian mission partners. This raised a lot of questions for me to reflect on loving, even ethical, mission practice and approach. The AV church I visited had several mature believers within its congregation, yet the church was led by foreigners. Staying with Trouen and Kunthea, I witnessed their pastoral capacity, to encourage and teach others- doing church in a much more informal, yet vital way- truly connecting with people in their community. Kunthea has a remarkable ministry by phone, both locally and to folk in different provinces, as she sings, reads the Bible and prays with people via phone. It was wonderful and beautiful to see. And yet it is Khmer nature to defer to foreigners to teach. As a foreigner myself, it seems to me we can serve and love better by providing encouragement and support to mentor or disciple, perhaps helping Khmer brothers and sisters to prepare to preach or teach; to grow in understanding of the Bible and leadership, then to take a supportive back seat, standing back to let Cambodians lead and learn. Certainly there is a tendency for mission agencies to come and set up new churches, which very sadly tends to pull people away from existing churches, or to undermine confidence of Cambodians to lead their own people. Surely where there is an existing church, it needs affirmation, not competition from new churches planted, or deferral to foreign leadership?

 

In Siem Reap (SR), I was able to catch up with other friends Randy and Krystal and also do a short sexual health teaching alongside another Interserve team mate who manages an NGO for girls coming out of KTV bars, helping them to learn skills and get work such as tailoring and beauticians. KTV are Khmer karaoke bars, which function as brothels, operating with little regulation or protection for the welfare of the girls. It was great to be able to use my teaching health skills a bit and the girls were full of questions. They ranged from 16-19 years old.
 
It seems that I may have some pause in my language studies within a few weeks. Please pray I discern which choices to make- how to explore places to work and serve and also consolidate my language skills so far.



(left)  With Kunthea - a dear friend in AV who has amazing prayer ministry.


(right) A former colleague and friend Van Naht, who I worked with at AV hospital. Despite having no English and I no Khmer when we first met, we hit if off!



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News from Wendy - July 2017

Traffic tales, people and praise – July 2017

 

This month I'd like to share some lighter musings on traffic, before adding a few updates about some folk I mentioned in my previous email. Apologies that I don't have many images this month-  some phone camera issues yet to be resolved- credit goes to the web for the traffic jam photo.

Understanding traffic rules is essential living here in Phnom Penh. Cycling here can be both a joy, a sweaty ordeal and frankly terrifying. As someone wise once said, it's a dangerous business going out your door. Without fail, every journey I have moments of palpitations as I think someone is going to collide with me, or with another person near me, or someone does collide with me and I think I am about to be sandwiched between motorbikes, a rusty truck and a gleaming SUV. Fortunately I have adjusted somewhat and no longer measure my journeys by how many times I wanted to say an expletive. I am mastering a balance of speed, nerve and finesse to weave through the traffic, plus a reliance on excellent brakes. There is however, a strange beauty in the patterns as each road user swings out wider to pass through and make progress, until there is no opposite thoroughfare at all: traffic jam.
Sometimes people stand at junctions and direct traffic which does help. I say people, since I am not actually sure who they are. They wear no uniform- perhaps they are local residents...

Now to specific people and personal matters, I am enjoying learning with A, who helps me practice Khmer each week. Two weeks ago I passed an exam at school to progress to the next level. This is encouraging; I am thankful to God for the school, the teachers and that my brain is absorbing!
Praise evenings in English are becoming monthly events at our flat- such an encouragement and pleasure to praise God's name and fame as we praise over this nation that we have come to bring love and blessing to. There is a growing intimacy together as we meet- 5 nations represented so far!
Let me share a little too about R and her family, which I mentioned in my June news. Yesterday, papers were submitted to the court and they now await the judges decision (probably in several months time), including what financial penalty will need to be paid. R and family are feeling confident the lawyer is fighting on their behalf. Also the threats and intimidation by their neighbours appears to have lessened. Today I could visibly see the relief on R's face as she told me her news and gave thanks to God.

 

Next time:  ... political reflections, since I ran out of space this month!

 

Thanksgiving: for continued learning and improving with Khmer- for the exam passed, for A and the school. Thanks for the praise evenings-so great to declare God's sovereignty and sing about it!  Thanks for steps forward for R and her family- may they have justice.

And requests: Continuing Khmer study and discerning more about the differences here and how to work with them; safety on the roads each day; next praise night August 2nd; to pray for God's guidance about the next step after language- where, what and with whom.






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News from Wendy:                                                April 26th 2017


Hello All,

 

Dad told me you will be having a meeting today so I wanted to share a bit more for you to bring to that. I wish I could have skyped in to your meeting, but I hope you enjoy meeting together. If you do ever plan a morning meeting, I would probably be able to join you for part of that. I've been here over 5 weeks now and am finding a routine. I am feeling very glad to be back and full of thanksgiving. You might like to hear about typical week day for me: ­ up around 6, usually quite hot already as I prefer not to sleep with a/c, but a fan instead. ­ breakfast­ usually standard western food­ time to pray and plan the day. ­ 2 hours reading, studying and memorising khmer words, letters and phrases from past lessons. ­ cycle 15 minutes to language school­ the traffic is heavy and chaotic so this can be quite a stressful part of the day­ at the moment I cycle to school in the dry but am starting to have a very wet return journey! ­ learn 1 hour alphabet, then have a break for lunch­ sometimes eating locally but usually I take food from home. ­ 2 hours of listening, speaking, reading and writing at school. The classes are about 8 people, and we have various learning methods. The teachers are all very young and encouraging. ­ cycle home, perhaps via the post box or supermarket or to complete errands. ­ prepare and eat dinner. ­ some playing guitar, reading, emailing or chatting with folk, or sometimes meeting up with other Interserve team members. The heat and humidity are draining, so small tasks to keep daily life running take more energy than they would usually. I've had some conversations with people learning about Cambodian Buddhism/animism and the cultural patterns here as well as the world vies, which is so different from the West. The psyche is complex­ I am also reading a book about this currently, called the Warrior Heritage and I will share my reflections in later email updates. Financially I have enough for my first 2 years here which is wonderful!

 

My prayers now are: Thanks­ I love being here; grateful for lovely growing friendship with my housemate and colleague Marijke (Dutch); for beginning to build relationships with Interserve team, especially really great visit to see the team in Siem Reap; also for some lovely days off at the beach­ which was my first real rest time . For ability to absorb Khmer and see that I am improving in my comprehension; also to arrange a 1­1 tutor time, perhaps 1­2 weekly, to practice speaking and also to start reading Khmer; for God to grow my love for Cambodian people and that i would start to make friendships; also to become part of a church here­ I have visited 2 places. Thank you so much for your interest, prayers and support.

 

You might like to watch a film called 'The Missing Picture' which is an animation/real footage film of the Khmer rouge history, made by a cambodian filmaker. I've not yet seen it but it is available free online. Perhaps this could be later this year?

 

God bless you all,

 

Wendy


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As a church you will remember Wendy Power's Newsletters sent from Cambodia where she was nursing some time ago under the auspices of VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas).  When, after four years she returned to England, she talked to us about her experiences and impressions of Cambodia, and it's people.  Clearly she felt that in some areas there was a need for improvements and she could see an opening where she could help.

 

After a break back in this country she would now like to return to Cambodia.  She feels very strongly that God is calling her, not only to use her nursing skills, but also to share her Christian faith and love of Jesus with the people of Cambodia whilst living among them.  She saw, during her first visit that, as she says "the Cambodian Church is mostly very young in faith with few mature leaders who can teach and pastor people", and she would hope to be able to serve in this connection.

 

Wendy plans to return to Cambodia in January 2017, this time to work as a Mission Partner through Interserve, a non denominational mission agency which has worked in Asia and the Arab world for over 160 years.

There is no doubt about Wendy's personal commitment, but in order to be accepted as a Mission Partner by Interserve, certain criteria have to be met, not the least being a financial requirement.  Wendy spoke to the morning congregation at Temple in  November, and asked that we be involved in aspects of her desire to serve the Cambodian people.

Several members of Temple Methodist Church have already indicated that they are willing to support Wendy in many different ways and we wish her well in her desire to carry out this important work. 

Through this page of the Temple Methodist Church web site we plan to keep you up to date with her progress.  In the hope that all will come to fruition and she is able to meet the criteria to achieve her desired vocation, we will post on this page her regular news so that you can feel a part of her work so far away.