Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Ocean!

The expat staff at lunch! you can see Jason and Angie, Matt and Marie, Michelle, Sarah, me, Karen and Amber... Caleb, Justus and Emma are hiding amongst the adults.

mmm BBQ squid!

beautiful beach!

Marie, me and Michelle

Just came back from the staff retreat – and guess where it was held! At the Oceanside! We packed 2 bus loads of people (most of them are fairly young, young adults mainly… this church is young), and all headed down 240 km to Sihanoukville, by the gulf of Thailand. Actually, I ended up being on the worship team for all 3 Sunday services (the buses were leaving right after the 1st service in the morning), so I got a ride in Pr Jesse’s SUV – 6 of us crammed into a car that should not contain more than 5, for 3 hrs… But it was great!

The hotel was nice, not the best, but it did have AC, comfy beds and accommodated us well. Only thing they didn’t provide was toilet paper… yeah. Wish they’d warned us about that one. But we all slept wonderfully and enjoyed our stay there.

Monday morning, the day started with breakfast at 7:30. We walked over to a nearby restaurant that offered typical Cambodian breakfast (like chicken and rice or noodle soup), and some special American breakfasts! Amber and I opted to try the sorombled (scrambled) eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Not quite like home, but it was a good attempt. BTW, I love the typing and spelling mistakes they make on menus and sdvertisement signs here. You gotta give them some credit, using so much English when their official language is so different. It must be such a challenge. But you end up with lovely combinations like “Beauty Salloon”, “first aid supply kids” and “sorombled eggs”. Never a dull moment!

After breakfast, we had some training sessions about staff policies and such. Then, we went out for lunch at a seafood specialized restaurant. And then headed out to the beach!

My only experience at the Ocean was going to the Maine with my family when I was a tweenager. The waves were really cool looking, but the water was ice cold! We still tease Mom cause she went in, trying to be brave, and then couldn’t get out; the water was so cold it literally paralyzed her! My step-dad had to eventually run in and carry her out.

So you can imagine my wonder when we arrived at the beach… The water felt like soup! Not quite, but it was definitely not cold. More like a shallow pool on a really hot day. But it’s the ligit, salty watered ocean! It was awesome! We found a star fish, a bunch of sand dollars (even a really big one, around 20-30 cm diameter, and hermit crabs and such fun stuff. I spent the whole afternoon in the water.

Cambodians don’t like the sun very much. They like being lighter, and most of them are very dark. Apparently the race is Asian (Chinese like) mixed with Indian (from India). A lot of the religion here is more hindu than buddhist. So the majority of them stayed in the shade, or waded fully clothed, with long sleeved sweaters on.

I eventually wandered out of the water to get a closer look at what Cambodians actually do at the beach. Most of them were resting in hammocks or lounge chairs, but several were buying trinkets from the little vendors that walk around, or snacking away on things they’d bought. A couple ladies had settled their portable “kitchen” by our shelter area and were cooking soup and typical Cambodian foods to sell. One of these curious items was skewered bbq-ing squid. They taste pretty good actually. Not rubbery like I’d thought. I even had a couple…

Finally evening came, and we unfortunately had to leave the beach. We went back to the same seafood restaurant where we’d eaten lunch, and were served “family-style” again. That’s when they bring you a pot of rice to share as a table, and everyone takes a large spoonful of it in their bowl or plate. Then, the servers bring the dishes to each table one at a time, and everyone at the table shares the dish by scooping however much they want onto their rice. It’s kinda like “all you can eat” except it’s limited to the 6 or however many dishes they bring to each table. A table in that restaurant sits 6 people, so I assume they count it as one dish per person.

Anyway, I don’t think I can eat anymore seafood, especially squid, for quite a while now. I had my fill on Monday.

That night we finished with a session on the 4 temperaments, and then some social time, and finally bed. Next morning, breakfast at 7:30 again. Then we had a session on the 5 love languages, led by Chuck and Cynde McCaul, Pr Jesse’s parents.

Chuck and Cynde moved their family from Oregon, USA, to Cambodia more than 10 years ago, when Jesse was 17, to take over a brand new church called New Life Fellowship. Pr Dooley, an apostle and church planter, was ready to move on to Thailand, where he felt the next church plant needed to be, and needed someone to take over. Chuck, then assistant pastor in Oregon, had come on a short trip here, figured out someone needed to come out here to do the work, but didn’t want to do it himself. Until finally God convinced him, and they packed and came. Jesse did not want to come at the time, at all.

Today, Jesse has become the senior pastor at NLF. He’s married Soar, a wonderful and hilarious Cambodian woman, and they have a daughter, Jessica. But it’s only been about 3 years that Pr Jesse has taken over for his dad.

Shortly after our missions trip to Cambodia, where I’d had the privilege of interviewing Pr Chuck personally for a Bible College project I was doing, He fell morally. For the church it was heartbreaking. It tore up his family. And it crushed me too, though so many miles away. But God had been watching over the whole thing. Pr Chuck had been preparing Jesse to take over, cause he knew he was playing with fire. And Ministers Fellowship International, the pastoral umbrella under which NLF, and our church back home, OCC, are covered, stepped up to the plate immediately. They couldn’t convince Pr Chuck to return to his family. But then his visa ran out, and he was forced back to the US. Through the love of a church there, the forgiveness of his wife and family, and counseling and care, and much prayer, he has now been completely restored to his wife. This month was his first time returning to Cambodia since. And it’s been healing all over.

The church welcomed him with open arms. They don’t ignore or hide what’s happened, but they’ve forgiven. They’ve recognized man’s weakness, but also God’s grace. And for me, I happened to be here right at this time. I really believe God had intended it that way, for healing for me too, and a ability to trust more again. To see that God is truly able to turn the greatest disaster into the most wonderful blessing.

As Chuck and Cynde taught the lesson this morning, tears kept creeping up on me. I remember there being a cold, a breach between them 3 yrs ago when I met them. And here they were so affectionate, laughing together, teaching together, joking around with each other. Complimenting each other. And saying how much they love each other. When God restores, it’s always to better than it was before. Faithfulness is so beautiful.

We had some more fun at the beach after lunch. This time all the expats took off to a cute little restaurant where I had an American style chicken fajita and salad. The store also had a lovely little fair trade souvenir shop of handmade things upstairs. The beach was still as great as the day before, but the time there was a bit shorter.

The bus ride home was long, but fun. It was great getting so know some of the Cambodians and other staff better this weekend. One of the girls I met, Sinight, is awesome. She was rooming with us and had brought her little daughter with her, Si danae. Sinight is gorgeous, and not married. She’s a teacher at New Life School. She’s never gone to college or teacher school. But she learned everything from assisting other teachers, and from the Lord’s own creativity. She loves what she does. She had me, and herself, in tears as she spoke of the ministry she has there with the kids. It’s the Christian school that’s run by the church, but it’s also open to non-christian students. Many of them meet the Lord there. They don’t get beaten by teachers. The teachers actually care about their well-being and education. And they love the kids. You can tell it so clearly when she talks about it.

As for her daughter, well, she’s a story of how God has set up things for this young woman’s ministry. Sinight was 21 years old. She had a friend who told her of a new neighbour that had moved in next door. This neighbour was also beautiful. But she was in trouble. She had moved there because she was running away from the wife of the man she was having an affair with. This girl was an orphan, and the man – already married to several other women, which is not uncommon here – didn’t treat her well or care for her at all. She was working in a factory. And she was pregnant. She knew she couldn’t take care of the baby when it came.

Sinight’s friend, for some reason, recommended her for the adoption. Sinight was not interested. For months she said no. Then the baby came. Several couples, unable to have children of their own, offered the mother to by the baby from her, to adopt her. But for some reason, the mom didn’t feel right about any of them. Sinight was still her first choice. I think she knew Sinight was a Christian. Somehow, she felt that it was her first time making a right choice in life, and she didn’t want to steer from it. But maybe it was just a God set-up, or Jehovah Sneaky, as they say…

Anyway, after a few days, Sinight’s mom, who had heard of the whole situation, of course (Cambodians live with their parents until they get married, and sometimes even afterward too), asked Sinight to at least go see the baby. She finally consented, and when they got there, a God moment took place. Sinight had one look at the baby girl, malnourished and tiny, and beautiful like her mother, and couldn’t turn away. She went home with the child that day, and has been raising her as her own since.

Although Sinight is pretty in looks, it’s really her heart that makes her so beautiful; her passion for God, her love for the children, her love for her daughter, and joy in serving, her conviction over the will of God for her life, and passion in living it out every day. It’s amazing to meet people who have such a simple relationship with God, such a love for Him. Faith is beautiful. The Bible says to have faith like a child. And when you see it in someone, you want part of it too!

ps : I tried posting pictures from the beach, but it's taking much too long. I guess the connection's not that good right now. I'll try again another time.


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