December 2007


This is the second in an occasional series of reflective essays. I don’t know all that I will ever know on this subject, but I know what I have learned to this point, and I share it with you in the hopes that it may be an encouragement to you in some way.

Lesson 2: There are seasons in life. Again, not really earth-shattering is it? Solomon wrote that “to every thing there is a season” three thousand years ago. But it takes a lifetime to learn what he meant. Let me illustrate with a small example.

A year ago Pam’s Mom passed away. She had been getting weaker for a number of years and had broken her hip so many times there was finally nothing left for the surgeons to do but remove the leg. Pam’s Dad had been an absolute rock for many years, tending his wife through nursing homes and hospitals with loving care. But finally her days were at an end, and on December 27th she was buried in a touching ceremony surrounded by her family and friends.

Pam and I returned that evening still a little shell-shocked by all the details of the funeral arrangement, our thoughts filled with sorrow at Mom’s passing. We got home to find a message on our answering machine: Nicole, our daughter-in-law had gone into labour and little Benjamin was born that night. The next day we had the joy of cradling him in our arms, rejoicing with his parents in the wonder of new life.

Could anything more poignantly express Solomon’s wise counsel than this? Yes, there is heart-breaking sorrow in all of our lives, but there is also inexpressible joy. There are times of turmoil and stress, such as I have been through in my first six months in Malaysia, and there are times of relaxation and refreshment, such as my past two weeks in Cambodia.

Why are we so reluctant to go through the one in order to reach the other? They are both an integral part of life and equally necessary for our growth as human beings. Doesn’t a loving God know what is best for us and for the others that will be impacted by our lives? Yet we worry and fret and stamp our little feet with impatience at having to endure a moment’s delay in getting to where we want to be. What is the point in getting anywhere if we are not ready to do what God needs us to do when we get there? Doesn’t He know best how to prepare us, whatever that takes?

I am resolved in this new year, to take what comes to me through God’s loving hands: both sorrow and joy, sickness and comfort, stress and refreshment as He measures it to me. And to thank Him for it.

                       “He whose heart is kind beyond all measure

                        Gives unto each day what He deems best

                        Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure

                        Mingling toil with peace and rest.”

Advertisements

b4592.jpg 

Christmas in Malaysia is, well … different. There are lights, it is true. But they don’t seem the same when hung from palm trees. Although if you want to get right down to it, there were more likely palm trees in Bethlehem than pine trees. It is just what you associate with the season when you live in Canada.

But it is not the trees or the lights we miss, or even the gifts. We are going to miss our family and friends, and there is just no getting around that, is there? So to all of you who have watched and prayed over our wanderings for the Lord this last year, a Merry Christmas. Sorry that we can’t be there with you, but the Lord is with us both, and that is a great comfort.

Christmas is a day of joy and charity. May God make you rich in both on this special day, and throughout the coming year.

img_2430.jpg

Pam told me that Cambodia would be amazing. She was right. She told me that I would fall in love with the place, and she was right about that as well.  But for now we live in Malaysia, and KL is home, and it was actually nice to get back here to our little condo by the lake and be able to unpack.

Last night we went to a Christmas party hosted by our friends Bill and Kim. There is a new couple starting at the school in January, Gary and Kveta, and we spent some time getting to know them a bit. They have been on the International School circuit for a while and have taught in England, Germany and most recently Papua New Guinea. Garry is an avid chess player, so it looks as if I will finally have some one around here to play against. I also had a interesting conversation with an English professor about the evolution of our language and the part played by the Germans and Nordic peoples in its development.

Now we are eager to get caught up on our email and news from Canada. Give us a “hi” if you haven’t recently. Thanks to those who been in touch. Christmas is going to seem a little weird this year and your notes, cards and gifts are very much appreciated. We are going to post our pictures soon, as we promised.

img_4413_1.jpg

We’ve been back in Phnom Penh for a couple of days of ministry before heading back to Malaysia. This has been an incredible trip, one that I will never forget. We promise to upload some pictures as soon as we get back to KL and fill you in on some of the stories that we have to tell.

We are sitting in the airport – a lovely modern facility – sipping cappucinos and thinking that we are two of the most fortunate people on earth to be seeing what we are seeing and doing what we are doing at our stage of life. Thank you to all who prayed for our safety and our spiritual refreshment. The Lord has been good to us and we feel truly blessed.

img_4439_1.jpg

Kep, pronounced kep, keep, or kipe depending on who you are talking to, is on the Gulf of Thailand on Cambodia’s south coast. It was favourite of Cambodia’s colonial masters, the French, and the site of King Sihanouk’s beach cottage pictured above. That was before the Vietnam War. Now it is a mostly deserted town visited by tourists who are looking for a Asian beach without the glitz of a Western resort.

We stayed at a reasonable little hotel for $15 a night and rented a motorbike for $5 for the day. Without the tourists Kep has reverted to what it must have been throughout most of its history, a small fishing village supporting an indigenous population in small thatch cottages dotting the coast. A little further inland are the rice paddys stretching back into the Cardamon Hills where spice has been harvested for centuries. Closer to the coast are the salt flats where salt farmers eke out a living. It is a peaceful and pleasant place.

We travelled into Kampot, a provincial town with a fair sized wet market consisting mostly of fish and locally grown vegetables. There is the beginnings of a tourist strip along the river, and some quite nice little cafes and guest houses line the eastern shore where we stopped for lunch. Traffic was light along the coast road and the ox carts and bicycles that fill the road ensure that no one travels very fast, for which Pam was very grateful.

Our evening were spent at the Riel, owned by Marcel and ex-pat Dutchman and his Cambodian wife. The clientele were an odd bunch: young Australian tourists on a cheap holiday, world trekkers making their way from China to India, and do-gooders like ourselves involved in a number of projects to help turn this country around after 150 years of colonial abuse by both the French and the Americans. More on this later.

img_4369_1.jpg

We got to Phnom Penh on Wednesday, travelling by bus through the Cambodian countryside in a very pleasant five hours. Rice paddies and water buffalo were everywhere, much like in Bangladesh. What was missing were the people. Cambodia has been decimated by war going back to the Japanese invasion in 1942 and continuing more or less continuously until the Vietnamese drove out Pol Pot in 1979.

Phnom Pehn is on the Mekong River, the ninth largest river in the world and navigable by cargo ship right up to the city. Before Pol Pot took power in 1975 it had a population of two million, but under the Khmer Rouge it was emptied to 50,000 loyal cadres, most of whom were employed in the torture and extermination of everyone who could read. Slowly it is becoming a city again, although without an entire generation of doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, clerks and administrators, it has been a long slow road.

We took in the temples and monuments, including the infamous S21, and strolled along the quay. We bought a few things in the Russian and Central markets and relaxed in the numerous little cafes that line the streets. Tomorrow we are headed down to the south coast for a few days on the beach before coming back to Phnom Pehn to meet Pam’s colleagues in the city. We are working on getting some pictures up, but it is not so easy when the internet cafes have no photo programs. Believe me, we have lots to show you!

picture-003_1.jpg

What are the new seven wonders of the world? 100 million people in 200 countries voted on the new list and although Angkor Wat was a finalist, it did not make the top seven. But I’m thinking that this had a lot more to do with the voting populations of Italy, Brazil and Mexico than anything else. I have seen the Colliseum in Rome and the ruins of Chichen Itza and let me tell you neither of them can hold a candle to Angkor Wat.

First there is the size of these things. There isn’t just one temple, there are dozens that cover miles of territory, about the size of metropolitan Toronto. There there is the scale of each temple. You could drop the Collesium inside the moat of Angkor Wat with lots of room to spare.

As for Chichen Itza. It was impressive, but again it just one site. Imagine a walled city large enough to hold a population over over a million, dotted with temples and ruled from the center by the brooding face of Jayavarmen VII staring at you on all four sides of 54 massive pillars. Or a palace that covers five acres with a fronting wall a long as the Houses of Parliament in England decorated with bas relief sculptures of parading elephants. This leads to a promenade down to a ten acre man-made lake and you begin to get an idea of the scope of the ancient Angkor whose civilization extended from Vietnam to Burma.

The dozen temple sites that we were able to see were remarkable for their originality and scope. From the regal Angkor Wat, to the enigmatic Bayon to the eerie Ta Prohm, backdrop for Tomb Raider, where the jungle has reclaimed its own, each site had its own splendor and story in the history of this remarkable empire.

Next Page »