Monday, December 28, 2009


The last couple months have been filled with amazing experiences and memories that I will hold tightly to for years to come. Just thinking about all the memories that I have created makes me realize the importance of being able to have good memories to cling to. Living in Cambodia I realize how many people’s lives are filled with haunting memories. Although the vast majority of the population here is young, there are still those who survived the Pol Pot Regime and remember how horrific it was. They remember getting only a cup full of rice porridge each day for sustenance. They remember working in the rice paddies, harvesting heaps of rice, but watching it all be shipped to China while their stomachs rumbled with hunger pangs. Then, there are those whose horrors are more recent…or are still ongoing. There are those who are forced, either by a parent or a pimp, to beg at the riverfront. There are those who are locked in a room and forced to “service” more than 10 “clients” per day. There are those who are kidnapped from their families, brutally raped, and then rejected in a place they know nothing of.

Those are all miserable memories. And truthfully, I know nothing of what it means to have memories such as these. I so badly wish that I could take away these memories from the beautiful Khmer people that I have fallen so desperately in love with. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. The only things I can do are continually pray for God’s healing and restoration in this nation and her people and create beautiful memories with those I have the honor of knowing personally.

Today I tried to help create some beautiful memories. I went with the girls and some of our staff to a water park. Now, this was not exactly what we would have labeled an impressive water park in the United States, but I think it might have been just about as much fun as I have ever had at a water park. I went racing down water slides with twelve-year-old girls. I caught six-year-olds at the bottom of slides. I pushed a four-year-old around on a raft, listening to her giggle uncontrollably. I went swimming wearing all of my clothes because that is the way the Khmer people do it. I sat in an inflatable tube with a thirty-year-old Khmer woman and screamed with her as we flew down a water slide.

(So, I "borrowed" this picture from another blog I found online, and the park must have been nicer when they went because the slide on the right was out of commission today...and the walkways look quite a bit cleaner. And, this was not the entire park in case you are wondering. There are a few more pools with other slides and sprinklers and things.)

It was a pretty fantastic day, and my prayer is that the girls will remember this day. I pray that it will be a day that they will remember fondly and that it would replace some of the nightmarish memories that have been lodged in their memory banks.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Happy Khmer Christmas!

For a Buddhist country, I was remarkably surprised by the number of Christmas decorations around Phnom Penh. There was even a giant-sized artificial tree (I am talking a couple stories high) outside of one of the shopping centers. And, most everything says, "Merry Happy Christmas," which just makes me smile.
Just in time for Christmas, I received some packages from home! I got 2 boxes and a card all on Christmas Eve. And, it only took me about 45 minutes of running around the city and going to 2 different post offices to actually get my packages! But, it was so exciting to get mail. I felt so loved and blessed to have such wonderful family and friends, and I know there is still some coming (as long as the Cambodian post has not lost it).
Here is all the loot that I received in my package from my home church, a package from my parents, and card from my sister and her family. I was totally overwhelmed by the abundance of goodies!!!
And, best of all, I got Grandpa's peanut brittle!!!!! I thought I would have to go without peanut brittle this Christmas, but no, my amazing Grandpa mailed a container right on over to the other side of the world! Thanks, Grandpa! You're the best!
Now, Christmas day wasn't quite as much fun as I had hoped. I was really looking forward to spending the day with the girls...opening gifts, playing games, eating ice cream sundaes. Instead, I spent the entire day in bed. I spent all morning nauseous then had a splitting headache all afternoon. Quite the bummer, but ain't no devil gonna get me down!!! I just took advantage of the time to rest and felt great today (the 26th)! I spent all day with the girls playing games and receiving handmade cards from them all. They are amazing!!!
This was my gift from our Khmer staff. It is a beautiful, very Khmer bag, and I LOVE it!
So, regardless of the fact that I spent Christmas day in bed, I have had a great and memorable Khmer Christmas! I hope all of you have been blessed this Christmas season as well. My prayer is that you would reflect upon what the season is really about--the greatest Gift we could ever have received in Jesus Christ!

Christmas baking?

Sure, I'll try that.
Well, I decided I would attempt to make some Christmas cookies here in Cambodia. Now, I wasn't about to try anything to fancy, so I opted to just make some plain sugar cookies rolled in some colored sugar.
This is what I had to work with...

I managed to find all of the ingredients I needed (though all of them are not in this picture), but I improvised a bit on the kitchenware (note the saucepan, which was used as a mixing bowl).
This is the oven I had to work with. Pretty fancy, huh?
These were my measuring utensils. That is a yogurt container that I saved from my breakfast and washed, and a regular teaspoon (it's close to the right measurement, right?).
I used the yogurt container to estimate my flour.
Some baking soda.
Some baking powder.
Some sugar and butter.
Cream that together using some good old manual power.
Add an egg and some vanilla. And again, use some good old manual power to mix it together.
Add the flour mixture gradually while still using your manual mixer.
Ta-da! Sugar cookie dough! (It was a bit crumbly, so I think some of my measurements were probably a bit off.)
Colored sugar the good ol' fashioned way...sugar in a bowl with some food coloring. So, I was hoping to do red and green, but the only food coloring I could find was pink is festive, right?
Sugar cookie dough balls on the cookie sheet.
Here is the final result.
The first batch that went into the oven got charred on the bottom. No good. So, I put foil over the cookie sheet for the next batch and turned the oven down a bit. Still charred on the bottom. Third batch I formed the cookies a bit differently, still used the foil, and turned the oven way down. Some of those were not too bad, but several of them were still charred on the bottom. Overall, it was not a very successful first baking experience, and I wasn't about to make anyone eat these sugary, charred biscuits. But, I am not deterred! I will bake again, and I will conquer!!! Stay tuned until next time!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


These are some of the most beautiful cakes I have ever seen. And, they are some of the most delicious cakes I have ever eaten!
A wonderful woman named Ruth Larwill, along with her husband Murray, have started Bloom Cafe and Training Center in Phnom Phen. At Bloom, they train girls who have been rescued from a life of trafficking and sexual exploitation to make beautiful cakes such as these and make all kinds of delicious coffees. They also train them in hospitality. It is an amazing organization, and last Friday, they graduated their first class!!! Now, the girls who were trained will become employees of Bloom, and the cafe is set to open in February 2010.
The cakes in the above picture were actually leftovers from the big graduation, and Ruth graciously gave them to the girls at SHE. Needless to say, the girls and staff LOVED them! I encourage you to check out Bloom's website and see all that they are doing!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why wouldn't you?

I recently met an amazing man of God here, and though I don't know him well, he simply exudes the love of Jesus. So, I just wanted to relay a story that was shared with me about him. Through the week he works in the city, but each weekend he ventures out to his hometown in the provinces. Why? Well, he hosts a home church in his village because he so desperately wants people to know Jesus. Some friends of mine were talking to him about this, and they said something about how great they thought his sacrifice was and how amazing they thought it was that he would open his home every week to people. With the utmost sincerity and his heart in his eyes, he responded with, "Why wouldn't you? They don't know Jesus. They need to know Him."
That's it, folks. Why wouldn't you?
So, what stops us? What stops us from opening our homes and hearts to those who don't know Him? They need to know Him...

"The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people's conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance." ~ 2 Peter 3:9

Thursday, December 17, 2009

History Lesson

I thought I would just give all of you a little bit of a history lesson and some background information on the nation that is my home for the next several months! Cambodia is in Southeast Asia and has been wracked with poverty, war, and genocide over the last several decades. The nation is really just beginning to establish herself and bounce back from some of the destruction she has faced.
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge overtook the capital city of Phnom Penh and forced her inhabitants to flee the city. The Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, sought to destroy all educated people and all attempts at a democratic government. Their goal was to create a "pure" Cambodia. Thus, people were taken to camps where they were forced to labor and live communally. Money became worthless, religion in any form was banned, and basic human rights and freedoms were suspended. This, of course, only applied to those who survived as hundreds of thousands of educated, middle-class people were tortured and murdered. Many others died over the course of the next few years due to starvation, exhaustion, and disease. Estimates vary as to how many people died in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, but a reasonable range is between 1.5 to 2 million people.
That is the short version of the story, but I encourage you to do a little research for yourself if you aren't familiar with this historical era.
This week I went to the Tuol Sleng genocide museum. Tuol Sleng was the former security office 21, created on orders of Pol Pot. It was designed for detention, interrogation, inhuman torture, and killing after confession from the detainees were received and documented. In 1979 after the Khmer Rouge was overtaken by the Vietnamese, all the evidence in S-21 (Tuol Sleng) was collected, including photographs, films, prisoner confession archives, torture tools, shackles, and 14 victims' corpses, which had not yet been disposed. Now, all of this is on display at Tuol Sleng.
These are the graves of the 14 victims that were found in 1979.
This is taken from inside one of the cells. There were rows of these cells on three different levels of a building. The first floor was cinder block like this one, but as you went up to the other floors the cell walls were wooden and became considerably smaller. This one was probably about 6 feet by 4 feet.
This is a torture room with a bed and some of the tools of torture.
There were rooms and rooms of photos of all the prisoners who were marched through Tuol Sleng, tortured and murdered. Faces get to me. I looked at all these pictures, and my heart ached. These were sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, neighbors and friends, who had done nothing to deserve this treatment except pursue rights that we take for granted daily.
And, this was their fate. This is a photo of only a tiny portion of those who were executed during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.
Someone wrote this on the wall outside one of the rooms, and though I don't condone defacing property like this, I do agree with the statement.
Walking through this museum and looking at all the photos, the shackles, the blood-stained tiles, I was tempted to ask, "God, where were You?" But, I know where He was. He was right there. He was in those torture chambers. He was in the dark cells. He was holding the prisoners. And, I believe He was asking where His people were. God, I don't ever want You to wonder again where Your people are and why they aren't doing something to fight the injustices of the world...
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me." ~ Isaiah 6:8

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sometimes ice cream is in order

Sometimes when you have a crazy day...or a crazy week, you just need to treat yourself. And really, what better treat is there than having ice cream for dinner?
This was amazing! Thank You, God, that there are ice cream sundaes in Cambodia.

High Tea

Last week I had the opportunity to go to High Tea. There is a vocational training program here that does both beauty training and teaches the girls how to have a tea party! So, a group of ladies got together for tea. It was really fun!
Some of the goodies! Those are cucumber sandwiches on the left (it wouldn't be high tea without them, right?) as well as some slices of baguette with roasted veggies and cheese. There are a variety of spring rolls on the right.
Some of the amazing treats! The Christmas cupcakes were delicious. There are also rumbles, passion fruit tarts, ginger tarts, and a few other tarts of various kinds.
This is Lida and I. Lida with her husband and daughter were here doing some work with the SHE home. Unfortunately, they had to leave a few weeks early due to some health concerns.
This is lovely Lida and her lovely daughter Karien.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Workin' It!

This is aerobics done Cambodian style. I love it! The guy in the pink pants with the white shirt is the instructor. He has a headset on and shouts instructions in Khmer while they work out to the music. On any given morning or evening you can find multiple groups going at any park. This particular one is at Olympic Stadium, and the group is really just starting to form. Sometimes there will be 50-100 people all in a group doing it. I am definitely planning to join sometime!

Olympic Stadium

I have made a couple trips to Olympic Stadium on Saturday afternoons just to hang out and enjoy some relaxing time. There are all kinds of vendors around the "concourse" there, and you can get quite tasty ice cream for about $0.25...probably cheaper if you are Khmer.
This is the diving platform and pool.
This is the regular Olympic swimming pool. You can swim for about $1.00, I think, but I haven't gone.
This is the stadium, which is just opposite the swimming pool. There was a soccer game going on last week, but often people will be running or walking around the track or around the seating areas.
I'm not sure who was playing, but there wasn't much of a crowd.

Lessons Learned

So, I went on a little trip outside of the city on Monday. I got to see some of the countryside as I headed out to some villages in one of the provinces. My company was entirely Khmer, so my conversations were limited for the day, but it was beautiful. I learned some good lessons along the way, so I thought I would share them with you.

Lesson 1. Never leave the city without a scarf. It gets dusty, and you won’t be able to breathe…and the Khmer people will just laugh at you through their masks and scarves.
Lesson 2. Tire irons can snap in half. Always make sure to break down close to a bike shop or something so you can borrow one if need be. (Flat tires are a given when there are potholes that would make even Muncie streets look good!)Lesson 3. It’s best not to think about what your food looked like before it was cooked. When you don’t think about the fish staring at you from the frying pan or the chicken feet floating in the soup, it all tastes really good!Lesson 4. Don’t finish the heaping pile of rice on your plate unless you really do want more. Saying “no” is not an option because they will put another heaping pile on anyway.
Lesson 5. Just smile and act like you know what's going on, even when you don't.
I apologize for the poor quality of these photos. They were all taken from the inside of a moving van, so all things considered, I don't think they turned out too bad!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

the riverfront

I was out last night with some friends. We went to the Night Market, and then we went walking along the riverfront. It was a busy night along the riverfront. There were people eating at cafes and restaurants all along the way. There were a lot of Westerners out and about as well as locals.
There were also a lot of children. A lot of naked children sleeping on the sidewalks covered with just scarves. There were children selling books. There were women carrying around their infants and begging. There were men sitting on the sidewalk holding up plastic bowls, hoping for just a little bit of cash. There were amputees pulling themselves around on carts. There were women inside "massage" parlors waiting for customers.
This is the less than beautiful side of this country. The empty rows of chairs along the entrance of karaoke bars that earlier in the night held young women dressed in silks with caked on make-up rarely mean that the girls have gone home for the night.
This is where I live now. This is what I see. This is what breaks my heart. This is why I am here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Inherit the Kingdom

Songs have a way of speaking to me in ways that nothing else can. I heard this song a couple years ago, and I immediately fell in love. I love Sara Groves' music because she has a way of writing exactly what I feel in my heart. This song is no exception.

When the Saints by Sara Groves
Lord, I have a heavy burden of all I've seen and know
It's more than I can handle
But Your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
And I can't let it go

And when I'm weary and overwrought
With so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars

And when the saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

Lord, it's all that I can't carry and cannot leave behind
It all can overwhelm me
But when I think of all who've gone before and lived a faithful life
Their courage compels me

And when I'm weary and overwrought
With so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
I see the shepherd Moses in the pharaoh's court
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

And when the saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
And when the saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad
I see the slave awaken to the value of her soul
I see the young missionary and the angry spear
I see his family returning with no trace of fear
I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights
I see the sister standing by the dying man's side
I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
I see the man with a passion come kicking down that door

I see the Man of sorrow and His long troubled road
I see the world on His shoulders and my easy load

And when the saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Matthew 25:34

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's her story...

I just wanted to take a little bit to explain her story, and why it is hers to tell. You will not see any pictures of the 21 beautiful girls I am working with, nor will I share their names or pictures of the home where they are residing. Why? Well, as much as I know you may want to see photos of them, it is for their own protection and dignity. You see, these girls have been through a lot, much more horror than many of us will ever experience in our whole lives. Their story is one of the few things that they have left that is truly theirs. Who am I to take that away from them? And, really, it doesn’t matter one bit where these girls have been, but instead where they are going. I assure you that these girls are going places. They are brilliant and talented. They have opportunities available to them that their parents and grandparents did not. But, in order for these opportunities to remain available and for these girls to fulfill their dreams, they need to be protected. They need to remain in a safe place where they are loved, respected, and continually being healed by Jesus Christ.

As humans we want our good deeds to be noticed. We want to see tangible evidence of the difference we are making. Thus, I completely understand that people would want to see photos of these beautiful girls, know where they have come from, and see where they are going. However, I don’t really think any of that matters in the kingdom of God because our good deeds are not supposed to be done in an effort to give us a warm, fuzzy feeling but rather that people are brought into God’s kingdom. I assure you that God is working in this place, in this nation. There is still much work to be done, but He is here. I hear Him in the sound of little girls singing “Jesus loves me.” I see Him in the beautiful smiling faces of women who survived Pol Pot’s genocide and now want to give the next generation what they never had. I smell Him in the exhaust while riding in a tuk tuk driven by a man who is rising above the standard to be a Godly husband and father. I feel Him in the hugs and kisses of young women who will one day own their own beauty parlor. I can taste Him in the fried banana chips that someone brought from his village just to share. Believe me, God is here, and He is working, but because I know it is difficult to understand what you just can’t see (I think that’s called faith), I will post pictures of what I can and give you periodic glimpses into the world as I see it.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Matthew 6:3-4