February 2008


Plagiarism is a huge problem in Asia, and largely winked at in a culture that is set on getting ahead at all costs. Basically my students all plagiarize all the time. When they are caught they want to know why I am persecuting them for doing something that everyone in the country does.

My view is that plagiarism is a natural consequence of an education system that stresses rote learning and adherance to a fixed set of answers above individuality. I have been testing a software product called TurnItIn that detects plagiarism and my role today was to present a report to my colleagues.

I and Bill MacNamara, a colleague, have been pushing for Taylor’s to purchase a site licence since we got here. I was a little nervous about selling this largely unknown package, and greatly relieved to discover from the presenter before me that the school had just committed to its purchase. That turned my sales pitch into more of a seminar about its use, something I am much more comfortable with.

Despite having less than 10 minutes to work with, the presentation went well, and I garnered some much needed positive feedback for my skills. Imagine me being at the forefront of introducing software? Will wonders never cease!

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It’s Monday I am off again, this time to Chiang Mai, Thailand.  During our last visit to Cambodia I learned of an organization that utilizes a strategy called Community Health Evangelism that seeks to address all the needs of individuals: physical, spiritual, emotional and social.  They train local villagers and then these villagers put this knowledge into practice in their own lives and share it with neighbouring families.

CHE’s are trained in disease prevention, simple treatment protocols and how to recognized more serious issues that require medical assistance.  They teach people about growing crops to meet the famlies’ nutrional needs, sanitation and water purification practices and spiritual principles that have a direct impact on physical health.

I will be attending a five day Training the Trainer Workshop to learn more about the concepts of this program: how to gather information to assess needs and resources of target communities and how to plan a successful CHE program.  This concept is in use in 54 countries and has been effectively integrated with radio programming in PNG so I am very excited about this opportunity to see if it can work with Trans World Radio as well.

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Not everyone gets to fight physical battles for the Lord. King David did, as did Samson and Gideon. Significantly, although they were great champions, they all lost spiritual battles, which is a telling comment on which is the harder fight to wage.

Carol Stagg waged a lifelong battle, not against physical enemies without, but against her own body. Diagnosed with lupus in her youth, at a time when sufferers rarely lived more than five years, Carol fought tenaciously for her right to live her whole life. She bore and raised three children, all girls, all fighters like their Mom. She spent sixteen years on the mission field in Bangladesh, which considering that lupus ‘flares’ are exacerbated by exposure to sunlight, was a heroic commitment to God. And she unfailingly extended her legendary hospitality to everyone the Lord sent her way.

We so clearly remember her kindness to our entire family when we were serving in Bangladesh; how she brought us all over for Canadian Thanksgiving for a fabulous meal, topped by her famous 17 layer torte, and delighted our children by producing from her store of goodies some A&W Root Beer. Then there was Christmas, with her house aglow with light and warmth, with presents for our children that were so appropriate to their characters. And all the time she fought the physical enemy within, the autoimmune response which deformed her hands and attacked her vital organs.

I have been thinking about Carol Stagg a lot while I have been over here. No only because she has been so sick lately, but because I have as well. Last November my allergies were in overdrive, making it hard just to get to school, let alone do a decent job teaching. Then I got a virus that was unlike anything I have ever experienced, it was so physically debilitating. Then my body reacted to all the medication I was taking and finally I threw my back out. I was a mess for a month, but I went to work every day.

It was my faith in the Lord and His ‘kind intention’ that got me through. That, and the reminder of Carol’s example. I thought of what she had endured for God; her courage, her steadfast refusal to give in to the deficiencies of her body, and it gave me strength. She had fought that good fight for fifty years; I could endure for a few weeks.

Carol Stagg passed away on Friday, finally succumbing to cancer after another heroic fight to live. She leaves behind a remarkable legacy of Christian grit that no one who has known her will ever forget. In the midst of our sorrow at her passing is the knowledge that our lives have been made so much richer by knowing her. And the comfort that where she is today, there is no more pain. 

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We don’t do a lot of sightseeing in KL these days, but we couldn’t turn down an opportunity to go and hear the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and see the lovely concert hall in the Petronas Towers. The school paid for transportation for seven of us to go, and the tickets were a very reasonable 20 ringgit (about 6 Canadian dollars) each. The Bach was beautiful, played on a period replica harpsichord, which had a very gentle tone, and accompanied by a twelve member chamber orchestra. The acoustics were excellent, warm and clear and the whole aesthetic experience was like a cool drink on a hot day.

Trans World Radio

It is into this environment, and many just like it around the world, that Trans World Radio broadcasts the message of hope.

The week prior to going to Cambodia, I had the opportunity to spend three days in Singapore attending the Trans World Radio regional meetings.   We had a full day of team development activities and several educational sessions related to strategic direction and policy changes.  Sprinkled throughout the days were reports from each department and from the Ministry Leaders from Indonesia, China, Phillipines, Vietnam, Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia and India. It was exciting to meet the team members, many for the first time and to rejoice with them as they reviewed their growth and pray with them as they talked about the challenges in the year ahead. 

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I was able to spend some time with Serene, my co-worker in the Women’s program with whom I am planning a fall conference that will provide training in Biblical Counselling for the field staff who provide listener follow-up through phone, letters and visits.

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While in Cambodia I was able to spend a couple of days at the TWR office with the Ministry Leader, looking at next steps for our research into a women’s health program.  It is always exciting to talk with Marie Mom who leads the Women’s team and Makara who has the responsibilty of translating scripts, writing new ones and producing the Women’s prayer calendar.  They are the sweetest young ladies with a real love for the women they serve and a readiness to take on whatever challenge is placed before them.

My Friend Theresa

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Theresa is your stereotypical, old retired nurse with a heart to serve.  In April she will celebrate her 65th birthday in a little village in rural Cambodia.  On her retirement, eight years ago she came to Cambodia, leaving behind two grown sons and three grandkids, where she has served in medical outreach missions.  However, recently she felt called to move alone to a village to set up a medical clinic and she lives now in a room provided for her in a church building.  It took a while for a single, white woman to be accepted there but she found a route into the homes.  When curious children began hanging around, she started treating them for lice.  The mother’s were soon delighted to know that endlessly picking the lice out of hair was not the only option.  They are now open to hear much more of her wisdom and 63 of them were in church last Sunday morning. 

I met Theresa as she was preparing for her move and was able to provide her with many contacts and resources that I had already developed.  I was able to spend an afternoon with her on Thursday and we look forward to working together to  understand the reality of the lives of the rural women and families in this country.

Dr Vathiny

For about a month,I have been trying unsuccessfully to contact the Executive Director of an organization the provides a large part of the primary women’s health care and education throughout the countryOn Monday morning I simply showed up in the hopes of setting up an appointment for later in the week.  In typical Cambodian style, I was immediately served coffee and several people apologized for the fact that it would take about ten minutes for her to free her schedule in order to meet with me.  Dr Vathiny and I spent several hours together as she shared her heart for the needs of the women of her country and her frustration over the fact that her mandate is limited to providing services related to reproductive health.  Although they have developed some great resources in these areas,  she does not have the resources to provide other basic health education.  Her staff also recognize that there is a huge need for psychological, emotional and spiritual counselling but even she herself has had no training in this area.  She pleaded for help from Trans World Radio to meet the needs of families and communities of her country.

Walking through Phnom Pehn we often saw older, white males escorting young Cambodian girls on the streets – obviously sex tourists – and were angered and embarrassed to be white.  My heart just about broke when Dr Vathiny apologized for the women of her country who allow white men from the West to take advantage of them. Having been victims for so much of their recent histroy, they are the ones who feel ashamed.

 Rainbow Bridge

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These are some of the kids I met at the Military Hospital on Friday.  The war is over and part of the hospital now has another purpose: an AIDs hospice for children. There are eight thousand children with HIV/AIDs in Phnom Penh, and this project is able to help 90 of them. It is funded entirely by donations from a church in Hong Kong and the 25 year old single fellow, Huy, who runs the program has no medical training or education. He does this because there is a need and his heart is burdened.  The kids get food, a safe place to stay, healthcare, education and people who love them and teach them the love God, even if the surroundings are pretty rough.  I have to admit that after being mauled all morning by 90 needy little tykes I was pretty sure that I had been exposed to every germ known to man and was plenty ready for a shower. I wondered who was meeting the needs of all the rest, and what kinds of conditions they lived in.

This is just the tip of a mountain of problems in this devastated country.

Cambodia is amazing but it sure can be overwhelming to be exposed to so many different experiences in a week!  Some aspects of life there are pretty awful.  Like getting  trapped in a rabbit warren of stalls in the “wet” portion of Central Market, walking in sandals through blood and guts, live fish flapping around your feet, people chopping up meat and fish and selling buckets of things that I can’t even imagine eating.  The smell is grotesque and lingering and I was glad to escape without doing something very embarrassing.

However, the people that we have met and worked with there are also some of the most hardworking and caring people we have ever met and that is why we love Cambodia.  We would like to take you through our week and introduce you to a few of the people and projects we are growing to love.

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On Sunday we attended Lighthouse  Church, and were priviledged to be in attendance at their first ever English service.  The church is one of four churches started by Pastor Nora, a single Phillipino missionary who has served faithfully in Cambodia for 13 years.  The Pastor of the this church is a fine young man with a vision to reach the educated and business class so now they have a second morning service in English along with an English language day school.

Foreign Language Training Center

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Sinath is a young Cambodian factory worker with a burden to offer hope to his fellow workers.  He has started a training center in the industrial area on the outskirts of Phnom Penh were he runs four English classes each evening after work, two for adults and two for children.  As a result of the realtionships he has built there, he now has added a Bible Study group on Sunday evenings.  Steve was able to teach the Bible study on Sunday and two English classes each evening allowing him not only to teach some English but also to demonstrate some teaching techniques to Sinath and his fellow teachers.

Cambodia Training Center

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Trully and Dewa are two Indonesian missionaries who came to Cambodia in early 2007 to set up a Bible training center.  They have secured a building which houses eleven full time students and provides space for classes and outreach programs.  Although they follow an established curriculum,  they have to find teachers for each module and organize the scheduling according to their availability.  The first class of eleven young people will graduate this May and return to their villages and work places to reach others.  Steve spent Monday teaching a module on Missions. The students were eager to learn and rewarding to teach. But our week was about to get a whole lot harder.

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