Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Telling our stories

As part of our service at 10.30am on Sunday morning, the 5 of us who were in Cambodia are going to tell some of the stories that are important to us having visited CHO. We will talk about the people we met and will reflect on the impact our trip made on us. We'd be delighted if you come to listen.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Touring CHO - the stories

Today we spent touring some of the CHO projects so that we get a bigger picture of the range of work CHO does. The pictures on the earlier blog go with this one; hopefully you can read them together.

First of all, we saw the cow bank. CHO gives a family a cow, which then has a calf. The family keep the first calf, then give the second one back to CHO. This second calf is then given to a new family and the process goes on. The family can then sell the grown-up calf for their own profit. Life is on the edge - one family had to sell their cow because they needed the money to go to hospital! On the other hand, the profits from these projects allow families to semd their children to school.

The woman is white is the leader of the community of Banteay Ti Muay; her daughter works in the cafe here; she was a Khmer Rouge soldier at 16; her 6-year old grandson died recently but the boys parents didn't have the money to come from Bangkok for the funeral. 

She is also a member of a local self-help group. The 25 members save 3000 riel per month (about $1) each and then they meet each month to decide how to use their money. CHO supports the group, but it is their group.

We also met various people who benefit from microloans from CHO. Loans of $200 or $350 are given to people like the sewing business in the picture below or the village store or the hair salon and these people can either set up or expand their business. CHO gives loans at 1.5% interest; the banks 3%; and the private loan companies charge 9%. The husband of the salon owner is a chicken farmer who learned to farm chickens by watching YouTube and Facebook.

The sewing business is connected to a firm in Thailand which supplies the cut-up cloth and pays 10 baht for each pair of shorts. The shorts are then sent back to Thailand and they are paid. They reckon they can make a profit of $600 per month.

There was a market garden that we visited. The family grow pumpkins, chillis, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, and eggplants. They also catch crickets at night with plastic sheets, a fluorescent light tube and a basin of water.

Lots of families and communities are being changed by these small projects. Some of them will change in the next few months as CHO embrace the UMOJA project and if you want to know more of that, look at the Tearfund website.

Finally we went to the prayer meeting this afternoon. One of Jim's students preached and we lost track of the number of times "pastor Jim" was mentioned. At the end of the meeting, they prayed for us and we prayed for them partnership in the gospel at its best.

This is the last blog. Thank you for following us here and on Facebook. We hope you have enjoyed our travels and have learned with us the things we have learned. Any questions, we'll gladly answer them when we come home.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Touring CHO - in pictures!

Here are some pictures from Thursday; the stories will follow later!

The stories in some pictures

Sorry, having trouble uploading some of Ann's pictures, but here is 1 of Safe Haven school and two of the preachers' group. Hope to post more tomorrow. There will be more on the Facebook group if you can access that.

A day of stories

Today is the last day of our work schedule, both at School on the Mat and in the preaching seminar. The end of the trip has come much more quickly than we realised - the time has flown in.

Today's School on the Mat was in Santepheap and Prochea Thom, meaning probably the longest drive in the van to get there, a drive of at least 45 minutes on the lumpiest, bumpiest road we have been on. We did the story of Daniel, acting it out with 26 children as the lions; in the morning they were reluctant, but keen in the afternoon. In the afternoon there were 27 children to start with and more drifted in with some parents and then granny appeared with a little child, standing on the fringe listening; we'd never seen that before. This was the most urban of the villages, but Reatray got lost and the CHO staff on the bike had to come to our rescue. We played musical bumps and the winner was mobbed by the rest and lifted into the air.

Jim's last day of the preaching seminar consisted of the morning at Safe Haven teaching the class from John 13, Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, Amos 8 and the corrupt leaders oppressing the poor, and Romans 5 focusing on the quality of hope that God gives. "Have you met Amos before?" was the opening question of the second discussion - it caused consternation; how can we meet someone who died 2500 years ago? The wonders of the English language... Amos provoked no discussion at all; they understood the bible passage and they also understood how it applies here, but they needed to have time to think about how to stand up to corrupt leaders in their culture. In the afternoon, Jim gave the group an outline for sermon preparation, a summary version written on a postcard of Edinburgh! In turn the 7 CHO staff (1 was absent, sick) took it in turns to say 'thank you', some saying that this preaching was all new to them, but they felt better equipped now, thanks to the time Jim has spent with them. "When are you coming back?" was their parting question.

Chomno appeared back from his travels this afternoon and we had a long conversation about CHO, Poipet and our visit. He is delighted that we have come and is excited about the new emphasis of their work. They have stopped doing sewing classes and motorbike maintenance, amongst other things. They are concentrating on the school and the value of education, and on building strong and safe communities where the CHO staff will work in villages and get to know people really well, thus introducing them to a better way of life and to the gospel.

This evening we went to visit the casinos in the border area - we stayed outside! They are in complete contrast to the rest of the town, full of lights and glitz. The casinos are owned by Thai and Chinese businesses, and while 85% of the staff are local, for some it is the first step to be the victims of trafficking. Poipet really gets little benefit from all this wealth on its doorstep.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Listen to the text

There was a slight reshuffle of the teams today as Martin joined Jim to sit in on the preaching seminar being run with the CHO leadership team. This meant that after devotions this morning, which Martin led, looking at the story of Philip and the Ethiopian from Acts 8 and the opportunities which God provides us to share the Gospel message, Fiona, Malcolm and Ann headed out to School on a Mat, where they ran activities looking at the story of the prodigal son. 

Meanwhile Jim was continuing his preaching series. This morning started with a look at the story of Jesus meeting the samaritan woman at the well (John 4), which prompted an interesting discussion amongst the group about the role of women in the church, with the CHO team asking about the fact Jesus' disciples were all men but he spent so much time with women and Jim explaining that this story and others show that Jesus believes that everyone is equal, male or female. During our time in Cambodia we haven't seen any examples of discriminatory behaviour towards women and this was backed up by a conversation with Rosa on the drive back to the Destiny Cafe where he confirmed women and men are treated pretty equally in Cambodia.

The afternoon session saw us looking at the crucifixion story from beginning to end to help them be able to preach on it in future. Again, the session was interactive with contributions from the team throughout. They seem to have found the sessions useful, with one pastor telling us that they were planning to keep Jim! So there might only be four of us returning this weekend!

We can't believe how quickly the time has gone, with only a couple of days left with CHO. Tomorrow normal service is resumed with Martin rejoining the School on a Mat team along with the Tearfund team and Jim running the final day of his preaching seminar.

The title of today's blog caused a great deal of confusion yesterday. Jim put the phrase "listen to the text" on the board as a strap-line, but it made no sense in Khmer. There was a great debate about it and Rosa's task is to translate it into Khmer in a way that does make sense and then tell Jim what it is! This is the starting point for all preachers and we need to find a way of giving them this kind of  a way that they understand. Translating language is fascinating: Psalm 23 here should start "the Lord is my cowherd" because there are no sheep here but plenty of cows. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Having a whale of a time - well, not all of us!

Today's blog is about School on the Mat again. We were on our own today and sadly Ann missed out the afternoon because she was not very well. We think it was too much heat and having taken the afternoon off she is recovering slowly. Please continue to pray for her and indeed for all of us as the heat takes no prisoners!

Fiona put together a programme based on the story of Jonah, with the puppet and some games. The children had to stick Jonah inside the drawing of the whale whilst blindfold and they all wanted a shot. Nearly all succeeded except the one who tried to pin the whale on Malcolm. He was a moving target at times, but the kids loved it.  We used emojis to show the children how Jonah would have felt at different stages in the story; we asked the children if they could make the faces, tired, surprised etc, but they couldn't grasp the idea we wanted. This afternoon we were in a village near Sok San and did the same programme without trying to do the faces; we simply showed the pictures!

Hot potato has proved to be a very popular game. It is a pass-the-parcel kind of game with a bean bag; there is nothing to unwrap. If you are left holding the bag when the music stops, then you are out. They laugh about being out, with no complaints, but still make sure that the right person  has to go.

Malcolm has discovered a second career as a children's entertainer; the balloons he was holding as traffic lights were a big hit, as we're those he gave out. One little girl was not happy with life, but the balloon stopped her crying and made her smile.

At lunchtime we met Jeff Henneforth. Jeff is from Los Angeles, who had just arrived in Poipet when we were here in 2010. He stays here now and is the pastor of a small church. It was good to see him again and chat about Poipet and his ministry here. He confirmed many of our impressions about the changes taking place here. 

Pray for us. Tomorrow will be much of the same routine and we will give you more news and pictures then.