Yes, we’re still in Cambodia. As you might remember, we were scheduled to be in eastern Thailand right now, but due to some visa issues, we will stay in Cambodia for the remainder of our outreach. I’d be lying if I said I was sad about this. 🙂 I thanked God many times for allowing us to stay here. I truly am loving the people, this country and our time here. We will stay until May 26.
It’s hard to believe we have been in country for almost a full month. The time has flown by. We moved to the southern coast of Cambodia two weeks ago to work with a base that was only established in December. We are only the third team to volunteer here. I have posted a few photos on Facebook about the beautiful scenery here, which is nice, but my heart is behind the scenes.
Sihanoukville is a tourist town with beautiful main roads, filled with specialty shops, beach front restaurants, western accommodations and much more, but when you venture off the main roads where we stay, you’ll find a city full of slums, children who go hungry, have no shoes, don’t go to school and run around with no clothes on. Behind the polished storefronts are karoake bars full of women either forced into the sex slave industry by their family members or sold into the business because their families need money to live. The base here helps rescue these women and teaches them a life skill they can learn here and use to support their families. Right now, the women are learning how to sew as a career. They sew all day, Monday through Friday, on base, in a safe environment, and earn a salary for doing so. They also attend worship services with us and participate in any activities we have on base. They are lovely ladies. One has a one-year-old son named Solomon. He is a sweetheart, and everyone chips in on loving him up!
We help with several ministries throughout the week. On Mondays, we do Kids Club with neighborhood children in the slum areas. They are precious. We venture through the neighborhood yelling “Ohn! Ohn!,” which means children, and the the children come running to us. They are always barefoot and rarely have shirts on, but they don’t care. They run through rocks and gravel and dirt and ants to play games, sing songs, learn Bible stories and get a snack. They are so fun.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays we generally do neighborhood evangelism in the area villages. We walk house to house and visit families. I have not taken any photos in the villages. I wish I could describe them to you. It is sad to see such poverty in a town that is bustling with vacationers. Many people live in one-room wooden homes with entire families. We visited one woman who was pregnant with her eighth child. She carried in her arms her tiny naked baby son, who would not stop crying because he had a very large and painful boil on his bottom.
Today, some of us did a prayer walk through the local market and gave food to the beggars there. Many of the beggars are handicap. Many have no hands or legs. One man crawls through the market (which is not the cleanest place to crawl) every day begging for food. He scoots with his arms because both his legs have been amputated. It’s hard to say why the men are handicap or what happened to them because they do not speak English, but they are of the age that they could have been victims of Khmer Rouge, so I always have to wonder if these men are survivors of that awful time in this country. Either way, we pray for them and give them food when we can.
Cambodia is recovering, although slowly, from the Khmer Rouge. We see the progress, but we also see the devastation that remains here. Those who weren’t killed were the uneducated, generally farmers and rural village laborers. The new generation in Cambodia is now a product of the former generation – many younger Cambodians don’t get much of an education because they must work to support their families. It’s a vicious cycle. About 78 percent of the population can read, but not on a high level, and since most of the books and educational materials were destroyed during the war, Cambodians just don’t put much emphasis on reading. I can’t remember the exact statistic, but it was something like 60 to 70 percent of the entire Cambodian population is below the age of 40. That completely shocked me, but it also gave me hope. I see many young people wanting to learn and bring new life into this country. They will get there. I know it. I’m glad I can see it now, and I hope to come back in the future and witness the improvements and change I know Cambodia will experience in the future.
Besides ministering to area neighborhoods, we have small group sessions three times a week (Thursday at the beach, Friday in town, and Sunday at a local church). These are fun – kind of like a small church service with just a few people. We generally have one person give a message and another person accompany them, plus at least two translators.
Saturday we spent the morning at the local prison ministering to two separate groups of male prisoners. I loved this. The men are very eager to hear the Gospel, and I have wanted to do prison ministry for a very long time. I finally got my chance! We will go again in two weeks. They generally go to the prison twice a month and speak to about 100 prisoners. They speak to the men and women both, but we only saw the men last week.
We are loving our time here. The girls and I are taking Khmer lessons. Khmer is the language spoken in Cambodia. So far, we can say we want to go to the market, turn left and right, and how are you. haha. We are learning – slowly. 😉
Sihanoukville is truly beautiful. We don’t have a lot of free time, but we get to take walks to the beach to catch our breath once in a while, and the people here are so friendly. Last Friday, the base leader took us and another team to the surrounding islands. Wow! This Oklahoma girl who had never been in the ocean was in complete awe of God’s wonders.
I hope you all are doing well. Thanks so much for all your prayers. We also keep you in our prayers and think of you often.
Blessings to you, and we love you all!
Korina, Jaynee, Justine