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Musings from the World of Jewel Scarves for Cambodia Journals for the Journey

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Eastern Culture

I'm continually trying to learn more about Cambodia and the worldview of the Khmer (Cambodians). Here are some funny - but true - descriptions of the differences between the Western and Eastern cultures. I apologize for not giving due credit for these pictures; I saved them many months ago.


Handling Problems:

View of self:

Lining up:

Way of living:

In two visits, I have already seen at least a small glimpse of each of these characteristics in Cambodian culture. After only a few minutes on Cambodian soil, I experienced "lining up" in a crowd of mostly oriental men at the visa station. There was a long counter, with two crowds of people - one at each end. I remained waiting at the back of the cluster, until I finally realized that the only way to reach the front was to attach myself to the person in front of me, and although we were not in a succinct line, everyone in the group always knew who was next. I finally reached the counter, handed them $20 and my passport, then moved to the back of the next crowd. Then when my name was called, the sea of people parted and I continued forward.

I still have much to learn...

Love love love, Jewel

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Anticipated Future Ministry [pt. 2]

Pastor Poleak, his wife, and twin boys: Peter & Paul

In addition to youth ministry [read HERE,] I want to work alongside the pastors and their families to establish some sustainable income generation projects. The Wesleyan Church in America recently withdrew all their financial support of the Wesleyan Church in Cambodia, leaving most of the pastors without an income. I do not know the reasoning for the Church to withdraw support, except an assumption that the Church in Cambodia is ready to stand on its own without outside support. Despite the very difficult situation of having no income, the 35 pastors are still very faithful to God and are encouraged nonetheless.

Pastor Arun and Pastora Chariya, with sons Ruben and Rodan

Even without their great responsibilities of time and energy to the church, economic opportunities are limited, especially in the country-side provinces. I want to use my training and education in International and Community Development to assist the pastors and their families in creating sustainable projects to generate an income to support their families without withdrawing from their support of the church. In the lush, country-side provinces, I hope to train the pastors to garden; fruits and vegetables can either be sold to purchase other necessities, or consumed by the family. Chickens can also be raised for their meat, and their eggs sold for profit. Other options are training the women to sew, or opening small stores for odds and ends.

Rev. Kung Kimsan and family

Many years from now, I would like to see a cafe established and operated by the pastors' wives and/or daughters. The cafe could target Westerners and offer cheesecake, blueberry muffins, chicken salad sandwiches, grilled cheese and etc. A corner of the cafe could highlight handmade goods - i.e. jewelry, journals, greeting cards, etc. - crafted by the pastors, their families, or church members. I know that is a big dream, but we'll see what God does!

Pastor Kimsua and family

Love love love, Jewel

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anticipated Future Ministry [pt. 1]

Do you know that feeling you get when you're waiting in line for your favorite roller coaster? It's nervous excitement. The wait feels like an eternity and I'm so anxious to take the plunge, but the closer I get, the more nervous I become. However, only an act of God will get me out of line.

God has given me a great passion and many big dreams for reaching and for sharing His love with the people of Cambodia. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed when I have such big visions, because I do not always feel strong, but I am drawing my strength from God and from others there. Anyways, I cannot fully explain how excited I am for this ministry... but please stick with me as I try to organize my thoughts and feelings into words.

Dream #1) -- Cambodian Youth for Christ

I have a passion to reach young people, through working with the local Wesleyan churches to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who exemplify godliness in their lifestyles, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ, and commitment to social involvement. I want to create a safe place where youth and students can come after school, spend their freetime, and be introduced to Christ. I feel my heart drawn towards the youth who are shackled by the chains of Buddhism. I want to open the Bible with them, to sing praises with them, and to learn and grow with them. I want to speak truth into their lives, to show them God's love, and to introduce a new way of living, a way from very differnt from their families and their traditional culture. Youth are at an age where they can be so easily influence, and also rather strong influencers. Ideally, the center will offer English classes, and eventually computer access and music lessons.

Here are pictures from a recent university students fellowship at the home of missionaries Greg and Resie Fernandez:

Love love love, Jewel

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I might forget the beggar...

During a 13-hour layover in Seoul, South Korea, I wrote this in my journal "I can't say that I went to Cambodia without fears or hesitations, but because I was obedient to follow God's call, He was faith and did incredible things while I was there. I sought God and I found Him. I saw God in Pastor Vandy, who, despite his own financial problems, shared his income with an ill church member. I met God in a Buddhist temple atop a mountain, as I gazed over His beautiful creation. I felt God as I joined seven students in Khmer worship, their hearts fully surrendered. I heard God speaking as Tess and I joined together in prayer and fasting." [June 13, 2009]

I could tell you many stories about the people I have met, about the places I have gone, about the things I have seen, about how I have lived there; but what is greater is what I have learned, how God has changed me, and worked in and through me. I might forget the beggar in Kampong Chhnang, but I won't forget what she [unintentionally] taught me - how she challenged me. I can't admit to you that I responded to her differently than others would, or that I "loved the least of these..." but I can tell you that I learned something great as I reflected on our moment in passing together.
What if I had stood, offered her my seat at the table, and bought her meal? Others might have thought I was crazy or went a little too far, but what would it have shown her about love for neighbor?

I am so anxious to return again in December, to enter into another phase of life there, and anxious to learn and experience new things, and see how God will work in and through me. Thank you for supporting me as I follow His call to Cambodia.

Love love love, Jewel

Saturday, October 23, 2010

1 Corinthians 13 for Missionaries

If I speak with the tongue of a national, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong, or a clanging cymbal.

If I wear the national dress, and understand the culture, and all forms of etiquette, and if I copy all mannerisms so that I could pass for a national but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor, and if I spend my energy without reserve, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love endures long hours of language study, and is kind to those who mock her accent; love does not envy those who stayed home; love does not proudly exalt her home culture.

Love does not keep a record of how many times the praying monks wake her up, how many times the market vendors and motorcycle drivers overcharge her, how many times the weather frustrates her, or how many near-accident experiences she will have on the motodop or tuktuk.

Love does not boast about the way we do it back home, does not seek her own ways, it is not easily provoked into criticizing her new culture; does not think evil of this new culture.

Love bears all criticism about her home culture, believes all good things about this new culture, confidently anticipates being at home in this place, and endures all inconveniences.

Love never fails, but where there is cultural anthropology, it will fail; where there is contextualization, it may lead to syncretism; and where there is differences in culture and language, communication will break down; for we know the culture only in part, and we minister to only in part.

But when Christ is reproduced in this culture, then our inadequacies will be insignificant.

When I was in the States, I spoke as an American, I understood as an American, I thought as an American, but when I left the States, I put American things behind.

Now we adapt to this culture awkwardly, but Christ Jesus will live in it intimately; now we speak with a strange accent, but He will speak to the heart.

And now these three remain: Cultural adaptation, language study and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

Love love love, Jewel

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

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Yin and Yang of Cambodia Con't...

For many older Cambodians, life is centered on family, faith, and food – a timeless existence that still remains after centuries of change. Family is more than the nuclear family that we now recognize in America; it is the extended family of third cousins and obscure aunts – as long as there is a bloodline, there is a bond. Families stick together, solve problems collectively, listen to the wisdom of the elders, and pool resources. The extended family comes together during times of delight and times of difficulty, celebrating festivals and accomplishments, mourning deaths and disappointments. Whether the Cambodian house is great or small, there will be a lot of people living within the four walls (and maybe even under the floor).

Faith is another rock in the lives of the many older Cambodians, and Buddhism has helped them to rebuild their lives after the devastating effects of the Khmer Rouge. Most Cambodian houses contain a small golden shrine to pray for luck; and on Buddha Day, the wats are flooded with the faithful. Buddhist monks perform a number of essential functions in Cambodian life; they participate in all formal village festivals, ceremonies, marriages, and funerals. Wats are not only the moral-religious center of village communities, but serve important educational, cultural, and social functions as well. In earlier years, the temples were the main establishments of learning, with schools and libraries where the Khmer culture and language was preserved and transmitted from generation to generation.

Food is more important to Cambodia than to most, as they have tasted what it is like to be without. Famine stalked the country in the late 1970s; and even today, malnutrition and food shortages are common during frequent times of drought. For country folk (still the majority of the Cambodian population), their life is their fields. Farmers are attached to their land, their very survival is dependant upon it, and the harvest cycle dictates the rhythm of rural life.

For the young generation, brought up in a post-conflict, post-communist period of relative freedom, it is a different story – arguably thanks to their steady consumption of MTV and dramatized American soap operas. Cambodia is experiencing its own ‘60s swing, as the younger generation stands up for a lifestyle very different from the one their parents have accepted as orthodox. This creates plenty of feisty friction in cities like Phnom Penh, where rebellious teens dress as they please, date who they want, and hit the town until late hours of the night. But few actually live on their own; they still come home to ma and pa at the end of the day (and the arguments start again.)

Photos credited to my friends Phalkun and Janell, Titus, and Rolitess.

Love love love, Jewel

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Yin and Yang of Cambodia

The Kingdom of Cambodia: a country with a history both inspiring and depressing, a fascinating nation where the future is still waiting to be shaped. Cambodia is charming, yet strangely disagreeable. You can ascend to the domain of the gods at the landmark temple, Angkor Wat, an impressive fusion of spirituality, symbolism, and symmetry; or you can descend into the hell of Tuol Sleng and witness the history of genocide and the Khmer Rouge. The beaches are beautiful, but lack the tide of tourism; the wilds are remote, and even less explored; the cuisine is delightful, but yet to be discovered.

Traveling through Cambodia reveals a vibrant palette of color. Rural rice fields shimmer like emeralds; Buddhist monks’ saffron robes glow in the sunlight. Cambodia’s ancient temples are erected from sandstone, and are cloaked in soft green moss or are dripped with light shadows. Khmer food is as stunning in color as it is in flavor, mixing green cucumbers, red chili peppers, yellow mangos, and white rice to create recipes that gratify even this particular American girl. But the people of Cambodia, their warmth and beautiful smiles, bring the most color of all.

Despite the beautiful scene, life is no picnic for the average Cambodian. It remains one of the poorest countries in Asia and it is a tough reality for much of the population, as they battle it out against the whims of nature, and sometimes of their politicians, who are known to illegally evict citizens from coveted land. Income remains desperately low for many Khmers, with annual wages in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands, and public servants such as teachers are unable to eke out a living on their meager salaries.

Yet there is hope for the
Kingdom of Cambodia. There are two faces in Cambodia, and while one is dark and gloomy, the other is shiny and promising. For nearly every illegally established brothel, there will be a new NGO school offering better education, or a new clean-water initiative to improve the lives of the average villagers. Such is the yin and yang of Cambodia, a country that both inspires and dismays.

Photos credited to my friends Bunnath, Aaron, and Ptr. Poleak.

Love love love, Jewel