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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Two Weeks of Ministry in Kratie

Here's a journal entry of a time that has definitely influenced my decision to return to Cambodia. This describes a time in June 2009:

The jump-start to my internship was definitely rougher than the previous three weeks of ministry. I was just recovering from a grueling week of restless parasites, mysterious antibiotics, and the unmistakable English accent of a shady Khmer doctor. Once a member of a cherished team of seven girls, I found myself discouraged and alone; my only company: an agonizing headache and the reverberating sound of an oscillating fan that accomplished nothing more than to feed the worsening headache. I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was ready for a change of circumstances. Then it came – the smallest car I had ever seen – and in that Tico rode two escorts, my missionary hostess and her pastor.

The Tico (at just $1,500 new, built not for traveling in comfort) took us six hours to Kratie, a lively riverside town with an expansive riverfront and some of the best sunsets in Cambodia. Yet beyond the river’s edge, it is a remote and wild land that sees few outsiders. For me, Kratie means more than the Mekong River and the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins, but it means names like Richard, Nary, Ratana, Piney, Rado, Song, Sokha, Rolitess, Pastor Vandy, and others.

My ministry in Kratie was focused on the English students at the School of Hope, established by World Hope International, and on the youth at the Wesleyan church, which shares a property with the school. By opening their home for English classes and reaching out to the young people, two young pastors (Titus and Vandy) planted Jesus Saves Wesleyan Church only five years ago. Because of its partnership with the school, the church’s youth are strong and active, despite a lack of support from parents, and difficult circumstances at home.

During the evenings I taught two English classes. The first I co-taught with my hostess, Rolitess Galam, a Filipino WHI missionary. It was a basic intermediate class with twelve girls and two boys. Initially I was discouraged by the poor attendance and a lack of participation, but eventually circumstances changed (including my own attitude,) and while I cannot admit to you that I learned all fourteen names, I did connect with every student and felt extremely appreciated by each.

I offered a second English class to high school seniors who are preparing for graduation exams and scholarship tests. Nekru Jewel’s English was previously not offered by the School of Hope, but when the need was seen for a more focused study, I was asked to open the class for the almost three weeks I would be in Kratie. Again, presence was dependant upon Mother Nature’s cooperation (it was the rainy season!) but there was a new student in attendance almost every evening, and the nightly turnout averaged ten to fifteen. Class was scheduled for one hour; but, like clockwork, one student would always ask, “Ten more minutes?” then after ten minutes passed, “Just five more minutes.” I was inspired by their excitement and commitment to learn English.

Many of these students I was able to connect with in my home, whether sharing meals, telling stories, or gathering together for prayer meetings. If it rained during lunch break, public schools were not able to reopen for the afternoon, as both teachers and students travel by foot, bicycle or moto-bike, and cannot easily walk or ride through muddy or flooded streets. So nearly every afternoon, Rolitess and I were blessed with company, usually young, but occasionally old. This time of fellowship truly was a blessing, as we ministered through hospitality and prayer. I grew especially close to two youth, who came eager to further their English vocabulary and improve their pronunciation, to teach me new Khmer phrases, and to compare and contrast the cultures of America and Cambodia. We also shared our testimonies, our hopes for the future (both near and far), and one small pillow on the hard wood floor. I gave Richard and Nary t-shirts, and they gave me their promise that if/when they visit the States, they will call me to be their personal escort.

Nary and Pagna

On Wednesday evenings, Rolitess regularly holds prayer meetings in her home; in addition to her and myself, there were five other students who came and participated with us each Wednesday. Song led us in Khmer worship, Rolitess and I gave short devotionals, and we held hands and prayed aloud collectively. We prayed together for personal needs, for the Church in Cambodia, for the salvation of friends and family members, and for God’s will to be done in each of our lives.

The students have remarkable testimonies of serving the Lord under trying circumstances, persecution, discouragement, and heavy financial burdens, and I was so encouraged to see their faithfulness to the Lord and His ministry in their village. I was moved with inspiration as I heard the stories of the students who continue attending church and prayer meetings, despite a lack of support at home, and even their parents beatings.

Song, Phiney, and Ratana

More to come later!
Love love love, Jewel

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