Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Market


Foods in Cambodia

Garlic Butter Spiders




Friday, December 10, 2010

The Final Day

To say this was a productive trip would be an understatement. In terms of our medical clinics we have seen well over 2000 people. In terms of the prayer teams hundreds of decisions for Christ have been made.

But this trip also established relationships between us - the participants - and the people of Cambodia in general as well as new friendships with our fellow team members, and the staff of Transform Asia.

I have not provided a lot of discussion about our crew of interpreters and the TA drama team, but they have brought an incredible level of service to this trip. Without their help we Americans would not have been able to accomplish much at all.

This is the first medical missions team that has been accompanied by the TA drama team. These kids, all of whom are from the TA church in Battambang are an incredible bunch. They love the Lord. They are mature in their faith. They come from a diverse background of Cambodian culture. Some of them are from families that are poorer than poor, and one of them is the son of the Mayor of Battambang. They were trained last year in the production of the “7 Miracles of Christ” by a drama ministry team from Castro Valley - Neighborhood Church. They work hard and do a wonderful job. Their sound system is archaic and was probably discarded by some church in the states a long time ago, but it works - well sort of - and gets the job done. They have a simple set and bright colorful costumes. But most important, these young people have hearts that are large. They have adopted us as their family and have poured love into us at an unimaginable level. Cyndy has gotten to know some of them even though most of these kids do not speak a word of English.

Nita on the Left and Ruann on the right. Nita is a Cambodian Soap Opera star as well as part of the drama team.
Drama girls, Dr. George and Dr. Nelson give me the Royal Treatment!
I also have to give kudos to our crew of interpreters. These young men, all college age, come from a number of academic backgrounds. Several dental students, a law student, an IT student and several business majors. They are the future of this country and their time with us as enhanced their passion to help build their nation. But most importantly, almost all of them love them the Lord. They have come with a knowledge and understanding of the promise of God that few of their age possess in any culture. They too have loved on us and made our trip special as a result.

My Interpreter Sotir

Spider anyone?
Seha one of our interpreters does dishes at the feeding center

Together the drama kids and the interpreters have been an integral part of the operation of this trip. They have pitched in at every medical clinic. Not just interpreting for us but assisting in caring for the sick, holding fussy babies, calming peoples fears and allowing to serve the large numbers of folks in each clinic.

As we head home Today I do not look forward to the long flights but I again return with a new sense of the awesome nature of our God and a renewed passion to bring the message of Christ to these folks. Unlike many nations, Cambodia has been one of those countries impacted the least in the latter 20th century by Christianity. War, adverse politics and a number of factors have contributed to this. But now the country is open to hearing the message of Christ. While we come to provide health care, at the end of the day, each of us knows that health care is temporary and the salvation message of Christ is eternal. There are certainly challenges in both providing health care and the message of Christ. I look forward to contributing to meeting those challenges and overcoming obstacles in the future when we return.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 9 2010

December 9 2010

Our visit to the feeding center is a joy and a sadness at the same time. It is joyful because there is a spirit of little children who despite having nothing in life, no place to live, no parents, no regular supply of food, nothing but the clothes on their back, and yet can still be happy and enthusiastic in their interaction with us. Transform Asia pours love and the message of Jesus into these kids as much as they can. That is all they can do for these kids who range in age from three to 9 or 10. Their best efforts for these kids are limited in direct proportion to the amount of money that can be raised to keep these kids fed. I encourage anyone reading this blog to go to and investigate what it takes to sponsor a child.

The experience is also sad. It is sad when you realize that these children are orphans because they have been abandoned by parents who see no other alternative to the struggles in their life. Many of their mothers were raped by young men. Many of them never knew their father. Their fathers, believing that things would be better somewhere else, or in an attempt to begin a new life have left for the big city or to Thailand in hopes of finding work. Mothers, some of whom are barely more than children themselves leave them behind for some of the same reasons. Some of the mothers have been kidnapped and forced into slavery and prostitution.

It is not uncommon to see a young mother who is still a teenager herself with two and sometimes three children in tow. Can any of us imagine even in the best of circumstances what it would be like for our 15 year old daughter or sister to have two children? Add to that the lack of a future due to abject poverty, no education, no prospects for improvement and no community services in place to assist her and it becomes easy to see why so many of their kids get left behind.

Last year when I was hear there were several hundred kids in the program. The kids got their meals sitting on a dirt floor of the farm equipment shed. In between tractors and farm machines, the kids ate and never even knew how bad it was. The kitchen at that time was a set up that quite frankly was far worse than the kitchen we set up for In Roads during our In Tents trips to Mexico. In the last year since then, TA has built a large building in which to cook, feed the kids, give the kids a safe place to be and sleep as well as build better bathrooms and bathing facilities.

Today we arrive just before its time to eat and we serve the 300 kids gathered a meal of rice - of course - and soup made from a small amount of meat and veggies. They are ravenous. They are also patient and well mannered. Each circle of 10 kids wait until their food arrives, one child in each group leads them in a prayer of thanks for their food and then they dig in. After the meal we spend some time with the kids playing, taking pictures and just watching them be kids. Every type you could imagine is there, from the shy hide behind the chair kids to the outgoing I want to be in every picture kids. Sam does his version of chick a boom and two of our interpreters teach the kids a song and dance routine that they love to learn. We are invited to stay for - can you believe it - Karaoke, but we pass as we need to move on to our next destination for the day.

Each of the team members I am sure takes a personal moment as we leave to lift these kids and the staff of TA who spend all of their time in this center which is out in the middle of no where amongst the endless rice paddies in prayer and we thank our God that he has given them a heart to serve in this way. Sorry about the run on sentences but is late and I am just too tired to get all grammatical right now.

Tomorrow we will be driving 6 hours back to the capital. We will then part ways with the drama team, the interpreters and our medical missions team. There has been 36 of on this trip counting each of these groups and a better group of adults and young people have never served together.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December 8 2010

December 8 2010

This is our last day of Clinic. We start out the day in the border town of Poipet. This town is the Sodom of Southeast Asia. It is a border town of casinos, brothels and tourists. It is a busy border crossing where large trucks filled with all sorts of goods are being shipped into Cambodia from Thailand. Cambodia and Thailand do not have the best of relations and there is a great deal of enmity between these two nations for many reasons dating back for centuries.

We start the day with an excellent devotional from Dr. George. He speaks about devotion to God as not being just intention to be Godly or going about the doingness of Christianity. Based on Titus 2:11 George shares the beingness of devotion and the three elements of fear of God, Love for God and desire for God. It is a moving start of the day..

After breakfast we head off to our Poipet clinic location. This is in a small village outside of the main city of poipet that is located right on the border. It is a village that was settled for military purposes as a means of denying the Thai army easy access into Cambodia. As such it is run by an army General who is a friend of Transform Asia. We meet the general and his staff. We are instantly aware that the general has lost both of his legs to a landmine. Landmines are still prevalent in this area. Millions of landmines were buried in the 70s and 80s and remain in many fields today. While some fields have been cleared, all have not been cleared. Even today farmers and children are maimed and killed on a daily basis. It is bad enough when an innocent farmer is maimed in this way, but when a child is maimed as a result of wandering into the wrong field, it is a human tragedy. Where once Princess Diana led the cause toward cleaning up the mine fields, this issue has become a non headline over the last few years.

The general tells us that there are 3200 folks in the village at this time. Many of them work in the fields and some cross in to Thailand each day to work there. He is very happy that we are here and asks us a lot of questions about Jesus. He asks us why we do what we do and expect nothing in return. Pastor Setan explains to him that Christ only asks us to love him and his people and that we demonstrate that love by serving the people of his village. He comment ts on how strange it is that we expect nothing for our efforts and our love. Leading some folks to Christ in this culture is a slow step by step process and the general is no exception. Pastor Setan believes that he will eventually make a commitment to Christ.

Clinic today is a real challenge for me. One of my early cases is an 11 month old child who weighs no more than 8 pounds! She is feverish, mal nourished, plagued by parasites and non responsive to stimuli. As I assess this infant my soul weeps. All I can do is check neurological status and advise the mom on how important it is that she use the pediatric electrolytes and vitamins that we give her for her baby. She is obviously distraught over her child’s future and is looking for some sign of hope. I tell her that the only hope I can give is the Hope of Christ. I carry the infant over to Pastor Ron in the prayer station. She is like a rag doll in my arms. Pastor Ron immediately sees the tremendous need for this child and mother and begins a pleading prayer to God that this child be spared. I have many of other patients so I am not able to spend more time with this infant who by no fault of her own will likely not see me next year when I return to this village. I am plagued for the rest of the day over this child and pray all day that she be spared and her health restored.
Today I also notice a large number of teenage children who look like African Americans. I ask pastor Setan about it and he tells me that in the 90s the UN stationed troops from African nations in this area to keep the peace between Thailand and Cambodia. Apparently, these troops had a habit of seducing young Cambodian women as well as raping them. He goes on to tell me that many of the African troops carried HIV. They believed that if they were intimate with a virgin that there HIV would be cured!

By the end of clinic today we have seen about 375 patients. It is strange to say that this clinic and this past two weeks clinics were a success. I would much rather that circumstances were different and that our success would not be measured in terms of the poor and disadvantaged who we have treated, prayed for and become friends with. But, as a measure of what God can do for these people we have seen physical conditions improved and healed, we have seen people come to know Christ, we have seen Christian communities strengthened and we have seen ourselves come close to God and learn more of his love for us.

Tomorrow we will be visiting the Transform Asia farm and children’s feeding center in the rice paddies. After that it is the long drive back to the capital and then home.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7, 2010

December 7 2010

Yesterday we had no internet connection so there was no posting to the blog.

We traveled yesterday to the Phnom Suung Baptist Church. This is a part of the Transform Asia network of churches. It is a very poor church and the health care needs here are great. Despite the obstacles these poor Christians face, they have a small and well organized church. They are very proud of their organization board that has all the names, positions and pictures of the key church staff and lay workers posted on the rear wall of the church. The senior pastor is away in Thailand, but we are hosted by the associated pastor who is also the church planter, and the English teacher. He explains to me that his parishioners know of the birth of Christ and that he is the son of God. But they do not understand the life of Christ or the resurrection. It is important to him that we are here as he will be using our visit as a means of teaching about the life of Christ. He goes on to explain to me that he has started several small house churches in the region and that they are each going to be celebrating Christmas. He also tells me that since he is the only pastor and will preach a Christmas message at each church, it has been decided that the Christmas service will be on a different day in each church starting on December 19 and ending on December 25.
Monday’s clinic is a small one in comparison to out largest clinics where we saw over 400. We see about 250 folks. It is oppressively hot at the clinic today. Dr. George and I quickly become soaking wet as we treat each patient who comes through the clinic. Cases today are again pretty typical, lots of infections, hypertension, knee pain, back pain, headache, neck pain, blindness, deafness, and an assortment of other conditions. Due to the heat, we run a little slower but the smaller numbers allow us to complete the day around 3:00 pm.

Tuesday morning we travel about 100 KM to the village of Pastor Timothy. He is one of the network of Transform Asia Pastors. But before we depart, we have a time of team devotions, a daily time of prayer and sharing with the team. This day, Evelyn one of the team members from Kansas City tells us her personal testimony and how it has stimulated her compassion for the girls of the Trade Center. Transform Asia runs a trade school for women in Battambang where girls who have been rehabilitated from the sex trade and slavery are physically, emotionally and spiritually rehabilitated. They also learn a trade. There are three programs, seamstress, cosmetology and computer operation. For the past 3 nights while we stayed in Battambang each night, the staff here has made us dinner and the girls have been our hostesses. Each of them has a remarkable story ranging from being orphaned and sold into slavery to having been kidnapped and forced into prostitution. Evelyn gives us a devotional on Philippians 4:11 and the need to be content in all circumstances. She shares with us how difficult that is when she sees what the girls have been through and how much of their innocence has been taken from them. But, she also explains how meeting these girls and seeing how they have overcome their circumstances has afforded her the ability to see that even after the worst of indignities a women can live through, with Christ they can be not only redeemed but also learn to be content. If they can do it she can do it!

We arrive at Pastor Timothy’s church at about 10 AM. We soon learn that this little Cambodian village church sits on the site of the very first Christian church in Cambodia. First built in 1920 by the Ellison family - well known CMA church missionaries, the church went through a period of ministry until the late 50s. As a result of political challenges and regional war, the church was abandoned by the CMA. About 30 years ago Pastor Timothy’s parents came to the area as a part of an expanding Baptist presence in Cambodia and rebuilt the church. Today it flourishes as a significant component of the local village culture.

Our clinic today is busy. We see about 350 cases. There are some clinical challenges. Several major neurological disorders, a number of recent stroke victims, some very large tumors and a number of traumatic eye injuries with subsequent blindness. We do the best we can and God does the rest as each patient is prayed for. The prayer team reports restorations of hearing, healing of pain, and a number of salvations.

Our time here in Cambodia is quickly coming to a close. It hardly seems on the one hand that we have already been here 13 days but we have. We will do two more clinics before we head back to phonm penh.

As I was last year I am awestruck by our awesome God who uses Cyndy, me and the rest of the team to show the love of Christ to people who have never heard the message of Christ. Christianity is an extreme minority in this part of the world. Islam is growing fast and Buddhism is the predominant religion. But none of those religious systems offer hope. I will never forget the second clinic we were doing when an elderly man told me that he would never forget that day because it was the day his hope was restored. He was so happy to learn that Christ expected nothing from him other than for him to accept Christ, acknowledge Christ as his Lord, and let himself be loved by Christ. We American Christians take our faith so for granted sometimes. We have no idea what it is like to be so close to survival on a day to day basis. We have no idea what it like to grow up in a belief system that contains thousands of gods each of which demand something different from us (Buddhism). Or do we? There may not be thousands of idolized statue type gods each with a name and a history vying for our attention, but there are certainly thousands of idols such as things we take for granted - each of which in their own way diverts our attention from the one true God. Things such as how we entertain ourselves, house ourselves, dress ourselves, the toys we acquire, the causes we adapt as our own, and the list could go on and on. It is these sobering moments, half way around the world in a culture so so different form ours that I appreciate our Lord even more and learn that there is so much more that He expects of me. I can only pray that I keep my spirit and my soul open to his leading me, and that when I hear Him calling I am actually listening!

Sorry about only one picture, the bandwidth got sucked up by somebody else after I got the first one inserted.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday December 4 2010

December 4, 2010

Breakfast today is a unique rice concoction made with sticky rice and dried fruit along with coconut, stuffed into bamboo sticks, sealed on the end and roasted over an open fire. You peel back the bamboo until you get to the rice, and then you pull the rice out of the its bamboo canister. It is warm and very tasty. Sort of like thick oatmeal that is sweet and moist with a great dose of coconut. Yummy.

After breakfast we depart on a 60 km ride along the river to a small village named Bak Proha. This village sits right on the Battambong river. This region is one of the poorest in the country and is a former Khmer Rouge stronghold The Khmer Rouge were the communist army forces who followed Pol Pot in his attempt to turn the country into an agrarian communist paradise. Because of this history and the killing fields, these villages have been largely ignored until recently.

This river region is actually a bustling center of river commerce. The river is busy with flat boats, sampans and all types of other water craft. They carry supplies, bring crops to market and move commodities such as food and fuel. On one side of the single lane dirt lane we travel for 45 kilometers are rice farmers and cattle herders going about the day to day life of poor dirt farmers and cattle farmers. On the other side of the road is the river. At one point we come across a single lane wooden bridge that will not support the vans with all of the passengers so we unload, walk across this rickety bridge and then hold our breath while the vans come across one at a time. We all make it and are back in the vans for the final few clicks to the village.

We set up in a school again today. Where in the past the schools were concrete block buildings with tile floors and in one instance electricity, this school is pole construction, corrugated walls, dirt floors and a corrugated roof. There is no electricity. There is no running water. There is no toilet facility. There are no fans.

We set up and quickly realize that these folks are even more poor than our prior villages.

Dr. George is ill today and so he stays at the hotel to recover from his case of Delhi Belly. I know how that feels as last year I was down for two days with the runs. His not being with us makes me the only treating doctor. I see 329 patients today. Early in the day I organize our clinic so that we rotate through our three exam tables, I Teach Cyndy how to do leg checks and I use the drama team kids to perform a number of little tasks to keep things rolling. We get started at 11:00AM. The last patient is treated at 5:00 PM. With the one hour lunch break, that makes it about 65 patients an hour! But it is a team effort as they are each registered, vitals taken and meds prepared before I see them. This team of 11 folks along with our 9 interpreters as well as the 8 kids of the drama team have come together to create an efficient and effective medical team. We see the typical case mix today with several patients with special circumstances. One 80 year old man has been sick with acute TB for several weeks and is down to less than 100 pounds. He is emaciated and feverish. I do not expect that he will be around much longer. The prayer team comes together to pray for him and his survival.

Cyndy and I are befriended today by a little girl who wants to help us do everything. She is about 7 years old and wants to do everything. She steps in and starts changing exam table paper, wants to escort patients to the tables and endears herself to us very quickly. Apparently she is an orphan as the interpreters can not locate a parent. Seeing all of these orphaned kids is tough because you know that they have little chance of even what passes for a normal life in Cambodia. As much as Transform Asia would love to pick each of them up and take them to the TA orphanage, TA is limited by support funds and a facility that can only hold so many kids. I hope each of you who reads this blog goes to the web site and reviews what it takes to sponsor a child. Your support is definitely needed!

Tomorrow being Sunday we will be taking a day of rest. It will be a welcome day for all of us.

I am still not able to post pictures to the blog due to the poor speed and low bandwidth of the internet connection. I am thankful that I can even post this so I will try and post pictures later.

Bye for now!