Closing the Chapter

I am officially back in Australia.

On Wednesday Cate and I sat down at the coffee shop on the Thai-Cambodian border to have coffee and complete my debrief report for Global Interaction, which involves a lot of questions about how I have coped in Poipet, what I have learned, how I have grown, and what my thoughts are on what I will do next and how I will go about it. Of course a lot of these questions haven’t quite developed clear answers in my head yet, and there wasn’t an expectation that I be able to answer all the questions in full (or even in part!), but it has been helpful for me to look back and see what God has already been putting on my heart, and where he might be leading me in the future.

CPP Parade outside our Poipet office, 27th June 2013

CPP Parade outside our Poipet office, 27th June 2013

Another Cambodian People's Party parade, 6th July

National Rescue Party parade, 6th July

Grand Diamond Casino at Sunset

One piece of travel advice that Dad gave me before I left Australia three months ago – some of his last words he said to me before I got on the plane – was this: “Always remember to look back.” This advice had originally been given to me because I largely had to travel alone between Australia and Poipet, and between Poipet and other destinations, so there was no one to look out for me if I left something behind. This advice was given so that I could make sure I didn’t lose or misplace anything, but I’ve realised how important it is to look back on our memories too.

DSC_7005_Watermarked

DSC_7021_Watermarked

I have spent a large amount of my time in this country looking forward – looking towards the next task, the next activity, the next lesson. In doing so, I’ve realised my time has gone by very quickly, and I’m already leaving, thinking to myself, “Where did that three months go?” I am beginning to accept that God’s plan is different for me than the one I expected, and he has already prepared this journey ahead, whatever that journey may be. I just need to be willing to follow Him.

A casino security guard with his friend at the Grand Diamond Resort Casino one evening

A casino security guard with his friend outside the Grand Diamond Resort Casino

Poipet Border at Sunset

ABC School Staff

ABC School 1
ABC School 2

To those of you who have so faithfully and prayerfully supported me during this time, thank you for that blessing. I so appreciate your support and I ask that you will continue to pray for me as I close this chapter and open a new one in my life back in Australia. So far I don’t know what this next stage of my life will involve, but I trust that God knows exactly what he is doing, so with that confidence I will walk forward into the unknown.

Elephant at Angkor Thom

Donna Temples 1

A land mine amputee plays a Tro Sau on Pub Street in Siem Reap

A land mine survivor plays a Tro Sau on dimly lit Pub Street in Siem Reap

Siem Reap 2

Cate says goodbye to Sim's children, Vansing, Luca, Philip and Ana

Cate says goodbye to Sim’s children: Vansing, Luca, Philip and Ana

Heng, a past staff member of CCFC, was kind enough to show me around Siem Reap on my last night. We ate soup with Psut (mushroom) and Teah Kown  (duck foetus)

Heng, a friend and past staff member of CCFC Poipet, was kind enough to show me around Siem Reap on my last night in Cambodia. We ate soup with Psut (mushroom) and Teah Kown (duck foetus)

Siem Reap 3

May He bless you and keep you,
May He make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
May He lift up His countenance upon you, and may He give you peace.

(- Numbers 2:24-26)

Posted in Musings, Photography, Praise Points, Prayer Points, Reflection, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nhom Men-Sauv Jojet Chjoom Reap Leah Tei (I Don’t Really Like Goodbyes)

I’m coming into my final week here in Poipet now, and goodbyes are starting to set themselves into regular conversation wherever I go.

Cate and Makara visited MMF Pre-School to give out monthly prizes for the final time, and the children gave them these beautiful hearts with pictures and messages on them. They are now displayed in our dining room.

Cate and Makara visited MMF Pre-School to give out monthly prizes for the final time, and the children gave them these beautiful hearts with pictures and messages on them. They are now displayed in our dining room.

I’ve truly enjoyed living here in Poipet for this time, and part of me has struggled with being here for such a short stint. I’ve been reflecting on the things that happened in the lead-up to me coming here to Cambodia, though, and it’s clear to see that God has been using my circumstances to make sure everything falls exactly into place with his timing.

Games at MMF Happy Home

Games at MMF Happy Home

Art Activities at MMF Happy Home

Art Activities at MMF Happy Home

Games at MMF Happy Home

Games at MMF Happy Home

I leave on the weekend after CCFC’s work “officially” finishes here in Cambodia (officially, I fly out on the 8th September). On Saturday we had a celebration dinner to say goodbye to all the friends and colleagues that CCFC staff have shared their lives with over the past few years. I am fortunate enough to know quite a few of the people invited, and for me it was also a sad goodbye too, despite having only known most of these people for only a very short time.

DSC_6869_Watermarked DSC_6875_Watermarked DSC_6906_Watermarked DSC_6928_Watermarked DSC_6930_Watermarked DSC_6958_Watermarked

This week we will be busy with packing up the office and moving furniture in all different places – some desks and furniture will go to another NGO called SALT (who will be taking over a lot of CCFC’s sports ministries here), other furniture and household items will go to some other expat families, and still more furniture and other items will go to our CCFC staff, if they see a need.

Games at the Drug Detention Centre

Games at the Drug Detention Centre

DDC

I’m finding myself thinking that if I had come earlier my year would have been drastically different (better, even?) but it’s also clear that God had his own very clear plans in mind and part of my coming here was surrendering to those plans. There wasn’t much chance of me being able to come earlier, and external circumstances have prevented me from coming later or staying longer. This was all very much predetermined timing.

Art activities at the Drug Detention Centre

Art activities at the Drug Detention Centre

DSC_6744_Watermarked

Card Making at the Drug Detention Centre

Card Making at the Drug Detention Centre

A lot of the children, young people and staff that I’ve been working with have been asking me if I will come back, or “when” I will come back. As much as I’ve been praying about this for a few weeks and asking God for a direction, nothing has been crystal clear to me yet and, along with the push-and-pull of wishing I could prolong this beautiful experience of living here in Cambodia (which is to be expected at the end of a time when I’ve built relationships with the country and the people I’ve met), I’m not yet sure what path has been illuminated to me as the one that I need to be taking next, and I believe it will be a number of weeks or months before I can really tell the difference between what my head is saying and what my Spirit is saying. Part of what I’m learning is that it’s okay not to know yet.

Cate reads a thank-you card made by one of the men at  the DDC, addressed to CCFC.

Cate reads a thank-you card made by one of the men at the DDC, addressed to CCFC.

In the meantime, I’ve chosen to continue learning Khmer right up until the day before I leave Poipet. My father has always told me that every experience in life is an opportunity to learn, and although I would’ve continued to learn even if I didn’t continue tutoring, I truly have enjoyed learning a new language, deciphering a secret code that allows me to communicate with a whole world of new people (and even get much cheaper prices when haggling in the market).

Teaching the children at ABC School about Australian Animals

Teaching the children at ABC School about Australian Animals

DSC_6844_Watermarked_S

Two of my suhs chi'laht (clever students)

Two of my suhs chi’laht (clever students)

Playing hangman

Playing hangman together

Thank you for praying for me. This week please pray that I will have a clear mind to be able to hear God’s voice, and the presence of mind to work well until the end of my stay here! To those from my church family, I will see you soon. You are all very precious to me and I thank you again for your wonderful support.

Som Preah-un prohtien pboh (May God bless you)

‘Leesh

Posted in Photography, Praise Points, Prayer Points, Reflection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Photos!

I’ve been rather busy these past few weeks with processing photos from our CCFC activities! Here are some for all of you to enjoy.

Football Tournament with teams from Poipet, Battambang and Siem Reap

10th – 11th August 2013

DSC_5323_Watermarked

Team from Siem Reap doing some warmups

Team from Siem Reap doing some warmups

Pip gives a speech in fluent Khmer; she speaks like a local!

Pip gives a speech in fluent Khmer; she speaks like a local!

All the teams lined up

All the teams lined up

Loekrew (Teacher) Phaly interviewing his grandchildren Football Tournament 3

Football Tournament 9

Football Tournament 8

Football Tournament 11 Football Tournament 12 Football Tournament 13 Football Tournament 14 Football Tournament 15 Football Tournament 16Football Tournament 17 Football Tournament 18 Football Tournament 19 Football Tournament 20 Football Tournament 21

ABC School Awards and Certificates for Staff and Students

14th August 2013

Students at ABC
ABC Staff

Savuth with One of the Students
Taekwondo Awards

Makara's Award

Loukroew Makara (my Khmer teacher, right) was awarded a black belt. Bong Pip is on the left.

Thai Teacher with his Certificate

One of the Thai teachers receiving his Employee Of The Month award

Five Senses Education in Seven Hills, Sydney, very generously donated some amazing resources for ABC School to use to teach their classes! A huge thanks for their wonderful generosity!

Five Senses Education in Seven Hills, Sydney, very generously donated some amazing resources for ABC School to use to teach their classes! A huge thanks for their wonderful generosity!

Awards at ABC

Posted in Photography, Praise Points | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Evangelism Through Life Example Might Have to Involve Uttering Jesus’ Name at an Audible Level.

Three weeks to go now before I return to Australia. My mother keeps telling me how many days there are left, and I’m really not liking the reminder.

I have lately been challenged with the thought that, although I am teaching English here, which is something that is thoroughly helpful when taught by a native English speaker, I realised that I’m not actively sharing the gospel while I’m here, which really should be the end goal of what I’m doing …right?

Phaly's Grandson

Sure, some might argue that deeds are a great part of sharing the gospel, and I would be inclined to agree with you. Most of us have heard the quote, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.” Some say St Francis of Assi said it, although I haven’t found evidence to support that this has been quoted correctly. There are other quotes from the bible to support this too, including “The Sheep And The Goats” parable in Matthew 25, and one of my favourites, from Micah 6:6-8, and particularly the latter verse: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

I love that the bible talks so much about the Good News not just being about words on a page or a clever quote from a sermon two Sundays ago that most of us probably forgot about by now. It’s the life we live here and now, and people are reading this gospel every day when we go about our lives. People ask me why I came to Poipet, because it’s quite an unusual place for a foreigner to actually want to stop and live in (most barangs simply pass through and continue on to Siem Reap). I then tell them that when I visited the same school two years ago with a group, Preah-Yesu (Lord Jesus) told me I’d come back here, and I tell them that I was scared at first but I’m now glad I came. In short, this is the testimony I tell them. Some nod thoughtfully. Some are confused by the story and want me to explain again what I like about Poipet so much that I would want to stay here.

Football Tournament

Since returning from Phnom Penh two weeks ago, I’ve taken to wearing a few of the “fair trade” t-shirts that I bought whilst on my little break. All of them have a message to do with social justice or following Preah-un (God). Some messages are written in both English and Khmer, others in Khmer only. It’s been interesting to see just how many motodop drivers, restaurant staff, teachers, or even just people on the side of the road, stop what they’re doing and read aloud whatever is on the t-shirt that day and comment on it. It’s started conversations and it’s challenged me to be a lot more wary of the way I conduct myself too, as suddenly I can’t just hide behind the guise of spiritual anonymity anymore. If my shirt says “Preah-Yesu srolang nek” (Jesus loves you) and I’m getting upset at a street seller for not telling me the truth about something they are trying to sell me, then I have to re-think what that says about God’s love. It might not necessarily be a bad thing to get upset or assertive, but how do I do this in a way that reflects that I follow Jesus?

Sportsmanship

A friend of mine commented one time on the typical “Jesus” stickers on the back of Christians’ cars. I suppose some of you may have seen them before; the fish, the “honk if you love Jesus”, the Christian radio station bumper sticker. We were debating about whether they were a help or a hindrance to spreading the gospel. He argued that the stickers immediately caused a lot of people to see the driver of the car differently; suddenly they would be perceived to be driving the way they do “because” they are a Christian. Either they would get judged for speeding, or for driving too slowly, or for cutting someone off or waiting too long to let other drivers in first, or accidentally running a red light, or parking in a no-parking zone for a few seconds to collect the mail. It’s just too much pressure, he argued, and perhaps not a fair way to represent what Jesus means to us. I can see where he is coming from, but I am still trying to decide whether I agree. I don’t really have an answer to this yet, but I thought that it was yet another relevant way that some Christians wear their heart on their sleeves and in doing so, fall under a lot more scrutiny from the general public for the way they conduct themselves, whether good or bad. People watch Christians because they want to see whether they actually live what they talk about. I think it is something worth remembering.

Part of me wants to jump into a brand new car and shout, “The Lord needs it!”, just to see if I could get away with the argument that I am simply following the example of Jesus. (Matthew 21:2-3; Mark 11:2-3; Luke 19:30-31)

Ah, yes. Carjacking, for the Lord.

* * * * *

Just this week I rediscovered my love for visiting coffee shops and scribbling on napkins. When I was studying at Morling College, this is the method of listening I discovered worked for me if I wanted something to sink into my head; that if I was drawing something, I would have to sit still and stare at something long enough for my eyes to drink it in properly. It’s my meditation when life is all too busy. Today I remembered that I had been carrying a calligraphy pen around in my wallet for the past two months, only to bring it out rather rarely, usually to demonstrate calligraphy to my advanced English students at Salah ABC. Today though, I remembered the reality that waiters and waitresses will undoubtedly see whatever I leave at the table after I’ve paid my bill. While I was studying at Morling College two years ago, there were one or two occasions where I wasted a few packets of salt and pepper arranging piles of black and white granules into a portrait of whoever was sitting opposite to me at the table. I still don’t know whether the kitchen ladies actually appreciated the fact that a salt-and-pepper face was looking up at them when they would come over to clean the table after lunch, but I figure it would’ve at least added some interest to their day.

Today I resolved to myself that I’d start leaving quotes again. On napkins, on the back of paid bills, on receipts. Something that staff might pick up and pause to read before throwing out. Not necessarily from the bible, although this is what I usually have on-hand, but just something to point towards the fact that life is more than just what we see in front of us. I figure that it costs me nothing, and it isn’t difficult for restaurant staff to clean up, but I hope that at least one person might read a napkin and seek out more about what it means. This week, this will be my conscious method of evangelism, although shy. I might never see the results of it, and maybe it will make absolutely no difference. God sees though, and I believe that he has a plan for this country and its people.

Awards at ABC School

Due to a poor internet connection at the CCFC Office (and possibly a firewall issue that I haven’t been able to figure out on our office router), I can’t get photos to upload when I’m at home, as WordPress pages don’t load correctly. However, when I can, I have been trying to put up as many photos as possible when I am at the coffee shop on the border, which is the only other half-reasonable internet source in Poipet. Unfortunately as I have a lot to do this week (another week packed full of art classes at MMF Happy Home and English class in the later afternoon with ABC School), I may not end up being able to publish this update until next weekend, so sorry for this. Hopefully these late-night thoughts are somewhat stimulating though, and although I haven’t quite figured out my stance on everything I’ve written, I hope I’ve written enough to get people thinking.

Jonah 2

Please pray for me as I enter into another rather busy week of planning two lots of classes as well as supporting and encouraging the other members of our team in their respective tasks. Each of us is dealing with our own personal lives, both good and bad aspects, and unfortunately despite how busy things are here in Poipet, time waits for no one and life continues to go on, so this can become stressful at times. I would appreciate your prayers, and I thank you again for all your support. I hope that something I’ve said tonight has encouraged you.

Posted in Musings, Photography, Prayer Points, Reflection, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hello from Poipet

A few days ago a dear friend of mine lovingly put together a video of encouragements and messages of support from members of my church family, so that I would know I’m not forgotten by those I love back at home. In response, I put together this video. I thought I might share it on here in case any of you would like to see a little more of my home away from home.

Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Abundance and Apathy

A few days ago while shopping in Siem Reap, a few of us were scammed by a pregnant mother with her toddler. She approached us in the marketplace (I was visiting Siem Reap with the Northwest Team), with her toddler on her hip and a just-empty sippee cup in her other hand, begging for someone to buy her some formula to feed her child. Of course, we saw the child and felt compassion for her, and we reasoned that if we purchased the formula for her then at least we knew where the money was going. When we asked where we could buy formula, she turned around and marched us over to a nearby shop, where she pointed out cans of formula behind the counter, which were all priced exhorbiantly, given the prices of everything else in Cambodia. Sunset in Poipet Two of the Northwest Team members that I was travelling with fumbled through their wallets and asked about the prices of different formula cans, and I meanwhile tried to strike up a conversation with the mother in Khmer. I told her that she had a beautiful child, and I commented on how she had another baby on the way. I cooed at the toddler while we waited for the shopkeeper to retrieve the can of formula from the top shelf. The mother shifted uncomfortably and avoided my eyes as she stood there. I was confused by her behaviour. Usually locals responded with surprise and delight at a foreigner attempting to communicate in their own language, but this woman responded as if I had just accused her of something. We handed her the small tin of formula and, without opening it, she bowed her head and thanked us a few times. Ian, one of our team members, said, “God bless you,” before we parted ways and she began crossing the road. As we walked back to join the rest of our team, we turned and watched to see what she would do. She kept looking over her shoulder to see if we were still watching, and when she saw that we were, she ducked behind a car. It then dawned on me that this was all an organised trick. The mother would give back the unopened can of formula to the shopkeeper, the shopkeeper would give the mother a small commission, and she would then go out and approach the next foreigners with the same sad plea for help. When Ian and the team realised this, they seemed to simply shrug it off, saying, “Oh well, it was only a few dollars.” Morning at Angkor Wat Only, I didn’t shrug it off. I thought about it over and over. She was apprehensive towards me because she feared that I’d figured her out. I had clearly been living here in Cambodia for more than a week, as I’d spent enough time here amongst Khmer locals to be able to talk to her in complete Khmer sentences, unlike most of the tourists in Siem Reap – and this meant I’d more than likely be a lot less gullible than most foreigners visiting this city. I was kicking myself for not opening the can for her, or asking to try a different shop for a cheaper price, just to catch her out. I hated that she tricked us. It wasn’t just a few dollars to me. I felt humiliated and robbed. Upstairs The more I thought about it though, the more I was challenged with the question of why I was even upset. What right do I have, as a rich foreigner with so much more than I need, to get upset when someone who has a lot less acquires such a small amount of that money? Was it ever mine to begin with? Sure, she didn’t acquire it by honest means, but this was a mother with several children and another on the way. It upset me that she had to resort to dishonesty in order to make ends meet, but how sad that I still struggle with my sense of entitlement to wealth. Tea at the Spa A lot of our team were struggling with the ethical dilemma of being a wealthy foreigner in a country where the average earnings of Cambodian citizens is less than $2.50 a day*. We had just left the dusty city of Poipet and sat in cramped taxis for a few hours (a luxury which most Cambodians cannot afford), which made the contrast even more dramatic as we pulled up outside Sokhalay Angkor Resort, accommodation we were only able to afford because we’d taken advantage of a coupon discount offer. We were ushered into an enormous air-conditioned lobby with clean wooden floors, and treated to ice-cold facecloths soaked in what smelled like lemongrass, and mocktails of honey and tamarind. Lobby of Sokhalay Tamarind & Honey mocktails Then as we were waiting for our rooms to be ready for us, we were transported by golf buggy to the outdoor resort pool and bar. Coloured lanterns hung from well-manicured frangipanni trees, and we felt out of place as we put our bags down on the outdoor table and looked out across the crystal-clear pool, whilst pulling our t-shirts out of our armpits and rolling down the cuffs of our shorts, still caked in dried Poipet mud. Golf BuggyPoolside Crystal Clear Water We had been checked into an air-conditioned villa-style hotel room, which was cleaned at least once a day and which gave us complimentary bath robes and a wide-screen television with cable channels. How do I respond to that kind of blessing? I know I’m not particularly rich by Australian means, and this hotel came at a heavily discounted price, but I have always had the incredible privilege of a roof over my head and I never come home wondering how I will afford food that night (although I often struggle to decide what I want to eat). If I have enough money to be able to make those kinds of choices, I have a lot more money than the majority of the earth’s population. Hotel Room at Sokhalay Naomi I’m also currently sitting in the loungeroom at the Windus family’s house awaiting the official news on the results of the election that was held on Sunday. If you’ve been paying attention to the recent news, you may have heard that there has been a lot of tension in Cambodia in the days following their election, and the opposing party is particularly unhappy with the alleged unfairness of the election. I’ve heard that the polls were shut down late yesterday afternoon and now people are protesting as they haven’t been allowed the chance to vote yet. Others are claiming it is easy to remove the ink marks indicating that they had already voted, so they can go and vote again in another province. Both parties are also now claiming victory, and election results have varied dramatically depending on who is counting the votes. Protesters in a Truck in Phnom Penh I am thankful that I come from a country like Australia, where I have so much of a voice over how the country is run (and although I sometimes feel ignored by our government over issues such as the poor treatment of asylum seekers, I have the freedom to express disagreement with authority at home, which is an incredible privilege) while here in Cambodia there is a constant concern about causing offence or getting oneself into serious trouble by creating a stir. What do I do with this kind of responsibility? I have done little to deserve everything I have, and to argue that I have worked hard for my money in Australia is almost irrelevant when I look at the millions of people in the world who work so much harder and produce barely enough food and income to support their family or even themselves. How do I respond to this? If I can write a simple letter or make a phone call to dispute a government decision that I don’t agree with, what is stopping me from doing this more often? Why am I so apathetic? Street Scene in Phnom Penh Phaly As followers of Jesus, we are ambassadors for him, regardless of who we are or where we live. I’ve been living in a country where I have seen followers of Jesus like Phaly, the sports coach and referee (and now a grandfather) who spent a large amount of his earlier years in refugee camps, and who went on to follow his passion for sport by getting training as a sports coach. He now spends his days bringing up children as team players in volleyball, soccer, futsal – and disciples of Jesus. His sports teams have become his church. He tells children to turn up at 8am on Sunday so they can sing songs and learn about God, and after that they will practise football – and the kids turn up, and they sing their hearts out, and they understand what Phaly and his sons preach about, and they then have the choice to take it on for themselves. Phaly doesn’t have a huge concert hall for his church services, he doesn’t have a minibus to pick his football team up every Sunday, he doesn’t have a lot of the resources that we would take for granted in a more westernised culture. Some of the children live with Phaly and his family because their family situation at home may not be ideal, and a few have nowhere else to go. I see Phaly’s journey and think of obedient faith, and I see how God has blessed this man’s steps and provided exactly what he needs, and I wonder how I have been blessed with so much more and yet I do so much less? DSC_4520_Watermarked 01 In the wake of the past few days, I have been contemplating the incredible privileges I have again, and I have been reading about how we are stewards of our blessings. The bible says we are blessed so we can bring God’s love to others. And above this, if I cannot show my love through whatever I am doing with the privileges I have been given, then it is useless. How do I let my light shine where God has placed me today? In the past few weeks I have been blessed to travel with the Northwest Team, who were visiting Poipet as part of their Global Xposure Trip with Global Interaction. I got to spend a lot of time with them as we taught children at MMF Pre-School, as we ran English classes at ABC School and the team handed out fliers for their school holiday promotion, as we dined together under the bridge outside a casino on the border of Thailand and Cambodia, as we visited Phaly’s church and some of us kicked a ball around with the soccer teams afterwards. The Northwest Team also got to see some of the House Repair projects (I mentioned these a few posts back if you would like to get an idea of what they saw), and learn more about the work that Samaritan’s Purse does in Poipet and the rest of Cambodia. More recently we all travelled down to Siem Reap together as part of the team debrief, and I tagged along as a kind of half-team mate and half-interpreter (I felt grossly underqualified as interpreter!). Many of you who know the Northwest Team personally will hear wonderful first-hand accounts of what we did and saw together, but for those of you who may not get the chance to talk to them, here are some photos from some of the things we did together. NW_01 DSC_4550_01 MMF Preschool Children at MMF Preschool after they stacked onto me Our Shoes after walking to MMF Preschool Last Morning in Poipet - group photo with Pip & Cate

Typical Tourist Shot Donna DSC_4883_Watermarked Khmer Dancers

Right now I am visiting Scott and Janelle Windus and their two children, Rosie and Isaac, in Phnom Penh for a week’s break before I return to Poipet to begin teaching art classes at MMF Happy Home. I’ve been gracefully loaned the use of Isaac’s room, and Rosie has loaned me one of her teddy bears. There is an Australian flag hanging on my curtains to remind me of home (very thoughtful), and my bed has a number of maps and guides to Phnom Penh so I can get around if I need to. Yesterday was a fairly quiet day as we have been keeping a low profile since the election, and hopefully today I can get out for a few hours to do some shopping at the market to pick up some supplies for the art camps I will be teaching. Janelle has told me of the many shops that are worth visiting for the good work that they do in Cambodia to give people fair-paid employment and practical assistance, and hopefully she will be able to take me to a coffee shop this afternoon called Sugar and Spice, which focuses on helping female victims of trafficking. Please pray for Cambodia in the coming weeks, as it begins to work out what life will look like now that there has been a shift in the balance of leadership power. There is hope among the younger generation for change, and I believe that this is happening for Cambodia, but in the meantime I am not sure what it will be like to live here. I have chosen a particularly interesting week to come and stay in Cambodia’s capital city, and although I don’t feel unsafe in any way, I have been advised to be careful (and I am taking the appropriate precautions). Please pray for safety for the locals as well as the expats, both here in Phnom Penh and also in the provinces. Pray that God’s hand of protection will be over this country and that he will bless Cambodia with good leadership and a spirit of peace. Please pray also for Australia, as they go through their own political turbulence. I’ve been horrified to hear that Kevin Rudd has recently made the callous decision to send all asylum seekers arriving by boat to Papua New Guinea, and I’m angered that he has no intention of granting residency to people fleeing persecution, simply on the basis of how they had to arrive here (the percentage of people arriving by boat who are found to be genuine refugees is up around 90%, whereas those arriving by plane are only found to be genuine refugees 60% of the time). I am praying for a strong conviction in our government to show compassion and hospitality to those in the greatest need, and I am also praying for Australians right now who may also disagree with this policy but, like me, have felt too apathetic to do anything thus far. I encourage you; you have the incredible gift of a voice in your country, please use it on behalf of those who do not have such privileges. I have drafted a letter which I will be sending to our parliament this week, and hopefully when I come back to Australia I can make the effort to attend the rallies that have been running in protest of this decision. I pray that together our voices will be loud enough to change the attitudes in our leadership, and I also pray that in doing so we can spread the good news of Jesus, who loves the least fortunate and feels compassion for those who can’t help themselves. I haven’t got reliable access to internet this week, and I’ve had to limit the amount of photos I’ve uploaded because I’ve been using this cafe’s free wifi for too many hours to be polite, but hopefully I will have more updates soon about what is going on. I will also go back and add more photos to this post once I’m back in Poipet. I have kept in fairly regular phone contact with my family, who are naturally worried about me, and so far I’ve felt no need to panic. I believe also that God has all things under his control (the bible study we did yesterday morning with Rosie and Isaac was talking about the sovreignty of the Lord, which I believe was a timely reminder for me). God has placed me here for a reason and I believe that he has his loving hand over this situation, and I am thankful for this. In His peace, ‘Leesh

 * data taken from WorldBank.org

Posted in Local Information, Photography, Prayer Points, Reflection, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Pumpkin Cake, Becoming a Poster Girl, and How I Got to Attend a Wedding in a Coffee Shop

I sit here typing in the local coffee shop, praising God for free wifi and getting a few strange looks for the pink polka dot dress and makeup I’m wearing on this fine Saturday morning – there’s more to that story later in this post.

I started writing this post about a week ago but as I’ve discovered, the longer I’m here the more involved I get in everything, and the harder it is to find time to update everyone on all the great things that have been happening.

DSC_3795_watermarked

I’ve been spending a lot of time coming back to Proverbs 3 and the idea of trusting God in all circumstances, regardless of whether I understand what he’s doing, or whether or not I think I know what to do next. We are told to rely on God’s wisdom in all our ways, even if the decisions seem easy or straightforward.

Some close friends have been struggling with their own situations lately, and I’ve been privileged to be able to pray for them during these times and find encouragement for them, even if I’m personally feeling tired or unhappy. This in itself has been a healing balm that I’ve needed to help me to remember again how good God is in all circumstances.

DSC_3937

Last weekend I got to talk to my dear friend from Plunge, Ellen, on Skype, and I was really encouraged when she shared a quote from a biography about Mother Theresa which really settled in my heart. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

“She didn’t know where she was going or what she was going to do in the future. Nothing. But she was not frightened. She knew God was calling her and would lead her where He wanted. One thing very outstanding is Mother’s faith. She came blindly, trusting in God, not knowing where she was going to live or from where food would come.”

DSC_3821_Watermarked

DSC_3926_VSCO

Every Tuesday at ABC School, the place where I have been working as an English & Computer teacher (yes, computers – I teach two students how to use Photoshop, and I’ve even been able to  help the IT teachers to fix some computer issues! Who would have known!), the staff come together for about an hour for devotions. Every Tuesday morning, the principal, Savuth (if you’re pronouncing it correctly it should rhyme with “support”) gathers his staff together for a time of singing Khmer hymns, studying the bible and praying together. As it was the first time I’d come, and because I was a visiting foreigner, I was asked to share a message this week. It was wonderful to have had so many experiences and thoughts come together with a common theme this week, that I was able to share a message of good news with these people.

DSC_3931_VSCO

Philippians 4:4-7 is a passage that was in the church bulletin at Holroyd New Life Church a week or two ago, and I’ve been sharing it with quite a few people ever since as, again, it was so in-line with everything else God had been showing me during this time:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And God’s peace, which is beyond anyone’s ability to comprehend or understand, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God, which is beyond our ability to even understand! Wow, I want that kind of peace! The greatest part is, this peace belongs to all who ask. What a wonderful promise.

DSC_3875_Watermarked

The staff at ABC School have decided to start an advertising campaign for the school as school holidays are approaching and not only would more students be fantastic for Savuth’s school, but it will also keep young people occupied during their school holidays and “out of trouble”, as one teacher put it. I was put in charge of photographing the school as part of the advertising campaign, as well as being the foreign face of the school; having someone who natively speaks English teaching at a school is a huge seller when people search for schools here. It’s amazing how someone as average as me – no teaching experience, no qualifications in the fields that I’m teaching in – can be seen as so invaluable here! Next week I’ll be visiting some local schools to talk about ABC School’s holiday promotional special. I have no idea what I’ll even talk about yet but keep me in your prayers – this is so new to me!

DSC_3945_Watermarked

I’m really grateful this week that God has been speaking to me so much about trusting him to provide the next thing for me when I need it – whatever that need might be.

One way that God has provided for me has been through the support of people I’ve been living with. I’m so blessed to have housemates who know how to take care of each other.  I was having a difficult day last week, and when I came upstairs to my room to take a rest, I found some beautiful flowers that Cate had so thoughtfully left for me as a surprise in the middle of my room. I started crying, I was so touched.

DSC_3851_Watermarked

Friday was also Pip’s birthday, so we all came together and put a group effort into making the day special for her. Sim and I made the most unusual cake I’d ever seen; we carved out the inside of a pumpkin and filled it up with a mixture of eggs, coconut milk, sugar, a pinch of salt, and what I suspect was cornflour, and then we steamed it for an hour. It was really a brilliant dish, as was the very special satay prawn soup dish that Sim had made us for lunch that day.

DSC_3939

DSC_3964_01_Watermarked DSC_3985_VSCO DSC_3987_Watermarked DSC_3996_VSCO DSC_4016_Watermarked

And I’m sure you’re all wondering what I must be doing in a coffee shop wearing a fancy dress and a face-full of makeup in this heat and humidity?! Today, a precious friend and sister in Christ, Jess Nicholson, got married to her best friend Ben Carlisle, and although the wedding was in Australia, another amazing Plunge friend John-Jo was kind enough to stream the entire wedding to me via a Skype call! What an incredible gift! I sat in the cafe in the casino on the border, using their free wifi and crying my eyes out with happiness, and then I had to explain afterwards to the cafe staff what all the fuss was about.

Wedding3

The first song they chose to have in their program was one I’ve been singing in my heart ever since I got here – One Thing Remains, by Bethel Church (you can listen to it in a media player a few updates before this one!). It was so special to be able to celebrate such a beautiful wedding of two very beautiful followers of Jesus, and I can’t emphasise enough how incredible it was that my internet connection stayed fast and functional for the ENTIRE service! This kind of connection quality is so rare! Praise God for providing even in this! He is so good, and I’m so grateful that two of my friends are starting a new chapter of their lives together hand in hand with Jesus as their guide.

Last Sunday afternoon someone posted a status on Facebook quoting the words from the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”. I love the message of peace that comes with this song, that whatever comes our way, good or bad, we can find rest in our souls knowing we serve a good God. It was such perfect timing to my circumstances and I’ve been singing it all week. I ended up taking advantage of having a laptop with working speakers and recorded it. He really is a good God and in all my circumstances I am filled with joy to be able to say that he has been by my side and carried me through every time. I don’t know what my future holds or where I will be next year, but I can be at peace knowing that I am loved by the God of the universe.
(click below to listen)

Posted in Local Information, Musings, Photography, Praise Points, Prayer Points, Reflection, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments