in cambodia 2006 – ii

Breakfast on the last day of January 2006 is a heaping plate of fried rice, with a side of peeled and sliced cucumber, and a sliced half of a tomato, mostly red.  It tastes good, but i’m getting tired of the same thing morning, noon, and nite.  A few coconut-flavored pnuts help out this meal a lot 🙂

After writing for this blog a while, i set out my excellent adventure.  A 15 minute walk takes me to the main hiway where i await a bike pulling a big flat bed that around 20-30 people sit on, or failing that, a motorbike-taxi.  A motorbike pulls over.  I show a 500riel note (around 15jpy) and he says “no”, and speeds off in the same direction i wished to go.  The next man is not super-thrilled, but he takes me.  Seems like since they are going to that place anyway, they would rather have 500 than nothing.  I’m told later that 500 is exactly right for that distance, 1,000 if you have them bring you all the way home.  I feel just a touch of pride that my savvy has made up for a bit of the extravagance of Saturday’s ride – haha.

In looking for an internet cafe, i wander thru the filth of the food market – whew!  Hope the pics i took convey some of the rotten smell.  Thankfully this market is on quite a small scale!  The first two internet cafes i go to no longer have internet facilities, but the 3rd one does.  The market holds little gastronomic appeal, but reason dictates that i eat.  I get some bread and apples, and hey, these apples are really good!  My genkiness comes back, and i feel like i have more energy thatn in a long time.  Good thing, as after exchanging 10usd for a huge wad of bills (40,000riels in 500 and 1,000 notes; when i make my best imploring face, she exchanges two stacks for one 10,000 note each), i play with the motorbike drivers a bit, asking who wants to take me for 400riels, and then seeing they’d rather be on their siesta break, hoof it down the road.  The school with all the Japanese bicycles in front of it looks too similar to something i’ve seen before, so stop and take a pic.  Good thing it is cloudy today, so i can walk without melting.  32degrees is bearable.  I make it all the way back to within 100m of home, causing much laughter and joy among the womenfolk and kids by smiling at them and saying “hello”, when the most dreaded thing of walking occurs.  No, not a purse-snatcher, two-legged enemies can be yelled at etc., but four-legged ones just don’t mind at all.  If they want a piece of you, there is nothing much stopping them.  I climb up a tree and wait just a few seconds when the master comes out and calls the black beast to chill out.

My 40-minute afternoon walk produced a good hunger, so i eat heartily of the bamboo shoots i bot at the market today.  Strange that the pastor’s kids don’t want to try them, even tho they never have.  Perhaps if my daily taste bud excitors numbered in the single digits, i too would look with disfavor on new substances.  Great!  I don’t have to share with any of you. yummmmmy.

The guardman takes me to the bus terminal for Siem Reap early this morning.  The place and chaos look very familiar from 9 years ago, and probably the same layer of dirt from then is here, just covered up now.  Who knows, maybe in 1,000 years archaeologists will dig down to 1996 again.  I’m crammed in seat 47 of a 48 seater, and my legs are scrunched up.  Yeah, i know,  i could get interested in purchasing a ticket in advance, and then sit in comfort somewhere else, but no, who wants to make a special trip, wasting time and money, just to get a touch more comfort?  The Lord enables me to give a testimony on the bus, showing the  GC anime, and showing that i’m a Christian.  I usually pray every time before travelling that the Lord will lead me to someone that is searching for truth, and nearly always i’ve been blessed with a “here he/she is” type of answer.

After 6 hours, we arrive in Siem Reap.  A French roll, cucumber, tomato, and little bag pf pnuts sets me back 45cents usd.  While eating in front of a closed store, a lady comes by holding a infant in rags, and with a milk bottle.  It is just too classic.  I break off a piece of bread and offer it to her.  She of course refuses, as she isn’t hurting, she just wants more cash.  Her little kid tho reaches out her hand towards my offered bread.  Now she can’t refuse, or her kid will start to cry.  I like to help people, but don’t wish to make them dependent on begging, as nothing productive is actually performed.  The internet cafe has a computer where i can type in Japanese, and i make poor use of that.  Gomen nasai Nihonjin no tomodachi.  Sorry about that.  Sometimes i get caught up with a new email, that i forget the main reason i went into the cafe in the first place – ha!

I see on the SALT website, that they are 4km straight west of Build Bright University.  A 3wheeler kind of guy says “$2”.  I find a motorbike driver who will do it for $1.  There are lots of guest houses, hotels, internet cafes, restaurants etc. in this town, for it is the main tourist town in Cambodia.  Angkor Wat is nearby, and people come from all over to see this masterpiece of Satan’s followers’ artwork.  Many statues feature snakes and dragons, and i’m reminded of the eery feeling i had wandering thru an old temple near there 9 years ago.  The 3 times in my life when i felt a heavy, black cloud of evil was once when getting ready to land in Osaka, once when driving in western America, and coming up over a ridge and seeing LasVegas spread out below, and once here in Cambodia in a root-overgrown broken-down temple where someone was lighting candles and praying.  Spooky stuff.

Wat Prae Yesu is run by an Australian missionary family who has carved out a place in this flat scrubrush of 20hectares from basically nothing 14 years ago.  Now there are many houses holding orphans, a school, church, etc. etc.  I’m told later that this desolate place is worth tons of money because it is near the airport, and recently someone put in a golf course nearby.  It would be nice for now if they could get something to grow…

I stay with a young man in a dormitory-like building.  He is very kind, setting up my mosquito net etc.  I wasn’t expecting anything more here than a rice-mat on a concrete floor, so to get this, a foam mattress, and mosquito coils was quite a surprise.  Electricity is only a 6-9 type thing usually, whenever they wish to turn the generator on.  The main office building keeps in use by using an array of car batteries hooked up to an inverter.  I charge up my computer and camera that way one time.

I’m shocked the next day at lunch when the Mrs. says that a Korean-American man came to visit in the morning, and his name was M.  I wrote M-san last year about his contacts in SE Asia, and especially with Soo, but never got any reply.  God had it worked out for me to come up to Siem Reap just at the same time as he was here so we could meet!  We talk at his hotel in the afternoon, where i understand he had just come in the nite before, and already checked out, getting ready to head to Seoul.  We have a wonderful talk, and he seems genuinely interested in helping get the Great Controversy book into many languages too.  He even gives me a donation, even tho i never ask for donations.  Thank you Jesus for letting me meet this man, and please guide him, and may he work intelligently for you.

A young woman who has been a volunteer here for 10 months or so goes with us, and i find out that she has some misgivings about Ellen White.  “Believe his prophets, and so shall you prosper”.  M-san talks more about how he has a burden for the people living in the Floating Village on Lake Tonle Sap, and has hired a Bible worker to work full-time among them.  He also has plans to bring a crew of Koreans next time, and build a church near there.  Whoa on there mate!  Those are great things bubbling up, and we need to press forward with them, but first let’s get the SDA church involved, or at least informed here.  It’s always best to keep church officials informed unless they have proven themselves to be hindrances to the cause of God.

I’m on a high going back to the campus, and even the 3-to-a-bike ride isn’t all that uncomfortable, and i don’t even mind the clouds of red dust clogging up my mucous membrances.  Glad for the hair filters Lord!  I eat with the M family, but the father is away in Thailand attending some church-sponsored meeting on how to reach Buddhists.  I read a book put out by the SDA group there about reaching Buddhists, and experience righteous anger.  Why should we be told to “learn from the Buddhists”?!  Why is Buddha and Jesus put on the same level in some instances when quoting?  Why put pics of Buddhist statues on the cover?  I say everywhere you see the name Buddhist, think “Baal worshiper”, and where you see “Buddhism, think “Baal worship”.  That might help change our attitudes, and realize that we MUST SHOW THEM JESUS CHRIST!!!  That’s where your contextualization should start!

I teach 7th grade Science to around 15 boys and 1girl.  They seem scared stiff at first.  I find out later that they aren’t used to normal-speed English, but i do that on purpose.  They liven up after around 15 minutes, and we have a good class talking about filters.  In the afternoon i’m scheduled to teach Science.  I walk around looking for my classroom, when i’m told it’s the 7th graders again.  huh?  We cover the same thing as in the morning, then review some old stuff, then get way off subject talking about what i did in Japan, even teaching a few Japanese phrases. Ohayo gozaimasu.  Arigatou Gozaimasu.

There is a Vespers program at the church on Friday evening.  People sit on the floor, sing, and listen.  Khmer music i’ve heard is all acapella, with an interesting, very Asian, nasal twist to it.  The little orphan kids crawl all over me, and i love it 🙂

I give the main sermon on Sabbath.  I talk about what the 3 Angels’ Messages are in simple terms.  My translator is good, but not top-class.  I ask people where Jesus is, and after getting it clear that i’m talking physically, and they replying “in heaven” i ask “where in heaven?”  The answers show me that i was translated as “where is heaven?”  This happens again when recapping at the end of the sermon.  I’m told later that phrases such as “Most Holy Place” are beyond these people.  I think we should be working on grounding these people in the faith of Jesus, making sure they know our distinctive truths.  There are good English-Khmer translators somewhere, and when doing the Spirit of Prophecy books, we should be using top-class translators rather than rewriting Ellen White’s books into simpler English, then having the books translated.

Lunch is spaghetti, a very welcome change from rice with soy sauce and vegetables.  I love rice, and ate it all the time in Japan, but here in Cambodia they only seem to be able to think of one way of using rice.  Oh well, the body’s needs are mostly met.  We go over to one of the orphan homes, and around 40-50 kids gather for a sing-song around the projector, all sitting on the filthy tile floor that could look beautiful with a little care.  The kids love the GC anime, and the projector does make a big difference, making the angels look almost life-size!  They ask to see it again, so we show it twice.

After supper i talk with T-san quite a while.  He sure has had lots of experiences here in Cambodia, and some amazing ones with evil spirits.  Sure am glad the Lord has protected him, and pray that he and all the people here will be kept from the power of Satan’s angels in this dark land.  He gives me lots of contacts, names of people who may be interested in helping out with this original Great Controversy book.

In talking about contextualization on Sabbath, about how to present the gospel of Jesus Christ in a manner to buddhists that is appealing to them, i agreed that the church in Wat Prea Yesu is a good step in that direction, looking similar to a pagoda, which is their customary place of worship, yet it doesn’t have the buddhist carvings or idols obviously.  There was a big conference just this week in Thailand about contextualization, with even the GC vice-president attending.  I agree with the idea to a point, but my point ends much, much quicker than most people’s.  I understand there was one woman at the conference from Burma who dresses like a buddhist monkess, shaves her head like one, prays in a position like one, most everything that a buddhist would do, except she does it to Jesus.  She is said to have had success in leading buddhists there to Christ.  A book regarding how to evangelize the buddhists which is put out by Seventh-day Adventists even has a picture of a buddhist idol right on the cover!  See “buddhist”? think “baal worshiper”.  See “buddhism”? think “baal worship”.  See if you could still believe some of the things written, like “we should learn from the Buddhists”, or “The Buddha said —– and Jesus also said —–“.  Bringing down the Creator to the level of a man,,,,,we must repent as a church, and start preaching and teaching Jesus Christ.

Heading back to Phnom Penh, we hadn’t gotten more than 500m down the main hiway before i received a strong impression.  That was — We should not be making our churches to assimilate so much to the local culture.  We must be distinctive, a peculiar people.  We must be a witness for Jesus Christ.  If people walk or drive past our church, and it looks like any other place of idol worship they are used to seeing all over the place, what kind of witness have we given for Jesus?  This thot hit me hard, and right after this flashed thru my cranium, i remembered the slides shown with the songs for the children yesterday.  They showed a white church with windows and a steeple with a cross on it.  I really doubt anyone had any trouble identifying what that building is used for —- it is used to worship Jesus Christ.  There is no ambiguity about what is happening inside that building.  So i have to contact that pastor and tell him i made a mistake in what i said about the church on Sabbath, and tell him that i think we should have a building that is easily identifiable as a place to worship the true God.  I hate to do this kind of work – admitting i made a mistake, and then telling someone that what they have done stands correcting.  Especially this man, as he has really given the best part of his life to carve out a place for God in a very difficult country.

The minivan back to Phnom Penh is 1,000riel less than the bus, and makes the 314km 1 1/2 hours quicker too, even after stopping 15m for lunch.  The only problem with this mode of transport, is that we only stopped this one time, giving my imagination a stimulus to wish for a larger bladder, or slower-acting kidneys!  I call a different pastor than the one i stayed with last week, the pastor of the little home-church i went to, and he kindly invites me to stay with his family.  I’m hoping to see the computer he bot with the funds i gave him last week, and maybe can help him set it up.

Huh?  When i step into the pastor’s house, i see a nice notebook sitting on his table.  Wide-eyed (i’m easily impressed with technical gadgets), i notice it’s a Hitachi, PIII, 700Mhz, 128Mb, 12Gb, 14”, Japanese keyboard (of no use here unfortunately – ha!), 310usd wonder.  The only tinge of sadness, is that it has only a CD-ROM drive, not a RW or DVD combo drive.  He wants to use it mostly for PowerPoint presentations, and is already talking about using it at a presentation he has to give next weekend to 160 people.  He is a leader in the church here, a young man of 34, and one of only 11 SDA pastors in the whole country.

Ten church planters in his section of Phnom Penh come early Monday morning (7:30), and we have worship, talk about the problem of baptizing people openly (50 souls are deemed ready now), and then start into continuing their study of Daniel.  We talk about a couple of things before that, and especially see that there are lots of questions regarding the state of the dead.  I have freedom in talking, and enjoy it very much.  I review the most important verse for Seventh-day Adventists, and see that they need more instruction regarding the 2,300 day prophecy.  They believe it, but aren’t knowledgeable enough about it to defend their belief from the Bible.  I’m very glad God used me in Japan to go letter by letter thru 2 of William Miller’s books, so that i can help teach others now about the way God’s end-time church came into being.  Including several breaks, we continue until around 11:30.  Most of those here seem hungry for truth.  They are all church planters, and they must be firmly grounded.

The afternoon is spent trying to avoid mosquitos, mostly unsuccessfully.  Sure helps a lot when the electricity is on.  It’s off today from around 8:30-4:30.  I go to one of the church planter’s homes just around 1km away.  He treats me too royally.  Thank you Brother, but i’m just human too, warts (burned off when i was a teenager) and all.  8 kids come to his place to learn English, and i enjoy tremendously teaching them “What’s your name?” – “I’m ___.  What’s your name?”, “Whose is this?” etc.  The kids really get into it, and the “groove” is felt, when things just flow right.  Thank you Lord for giving me this beautiful experience.  Even tho i can’t go back to my beloved Nippon, you have arranged for me to have a similar experience in this far-away in space and time land.

Sleeping time is 9pm, and i crawl under the mosquito net someone has so graciously put up.  They actually work quite well.  I was afraid it would be like caging me for the mosquitos to have a feast, but don’t feel their bloody probing probiscises except for 1 or 2 unlucky ones.  Hope you choked on this thin, southern white boy’s japanese juice flowing thru my veins!!  (Snoopy translation: Curse ye Red Baron!)

Morning comes early here too – think of rustling noises starting around 5, with serious getting up commencing at 6.  I really don’t ask for much, expect, or even like special treatment, but i do enjoy quiet, and a thin rice mat on a hard tile floor just enables me to count every bone in my body.  They willingly give me a large piece of cloth that looks like maybe it could be a curtain, and i fold it up and put on the mat.  Feels good.  It takes me back a bit to Biblical times to physically “pick up my bed, and walk” every morning 🙂

I talk to the church planters again this morning.  We discuss several things, including Daniel chapter 9.  I’m amazed that they have never even heard of the word “offshoot”, and pray that those who would overturn their faith never come here and bother them.  Their faith is so simple and strong, i praise God that he has led me here, to help me to see how Jesus is working in peoples’ hearts now in 2006.

In the afternoon the pastor and i get on bicycles and make the 30-minute ride in a semi-blazing sun over to the Mission Headquarters.  The translator is there, and we talk around 1 hour about what more needs to be done with the GC book.  While there, one of the printers gives him a ring telling him the quote for the book.  What great timing!  It is not as good as the other one, so now i can decide on the first printer.  We decide to try and send the funds thru ASAP, as it seems most of the donations coming into Cambodia SDA headquarters come thru this very helpful organization.  Hope ASAP is cooperative.

This pastor is very humble, and just a joy to talk with.  He tells me about the needs of the Pathfinders in Cambodia.  He is the youth leader here, and says that they cannot wear their uniforms or do public demonstrations etc. until they register with the government.  The catch?  Registration (mostly someone’s pocket money!?) is 900usd.  He says he was almost arrested at a campout they arranged last year, so he wishes to get official in future outings.  Anybody interested in helping out?

I teach English at the pastor’s home this evening – 19 kids.  It is too many to handle well.  The regular teacher is a man with only one arm, and a cripple to boot.  But his smile is infectious (in a good way!)  The electricity goes off again for several hours in the evening, and we have a romantic candelight dinner, and i open the treat i bot today – olives.  Unfortunately, they are highly salted Greek style ones from Morocco, and they don’t suit anyone’s tastebuds.  Even salt-craver Danny has to put in a mouthful of rice before putting in one of these bad boys – ha!  The electricity comes on just after going to bed, so i turn the fan on and sleep excellently from 10 to 5.  No, it’s not quite long enough, but not deadly either – big, slightly sleepy, grin 🙂

NOTE: This post was written February 9, 2006

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