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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.

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.”

Thank you Larry and Kim, we are back on line again with our Rogers email!

We have had two very busy and amazing days.  The TWR Cambodia staff are so sweet and gracious and totally committed to the work they are doing.  Marie, who is the Women of Hope Co-ordinator here has done a wonderful job in planning to maximize our time here.  We met briefly with the entire team Tuesday morning after a hair raising trip through Phnom Penh’s morning rush hour.  The streets are packed with cars and trucks to begin with and then there are masses of motorcycle type vehicles ranging from single passengers to complete families of five, groups of students or workers.  When used as a delivery vehicle, it is just unbelievable the size of loads they carry.  Add a trailer and it becomes a conveyance for mass rapid transit, a moveable restaurant complete with cooking apparatus or a stall selling any type of goods you can think of, including gasoline in Pepsi bottles.  These motorbikes weave in and out at unbelieveable speeds, with very little margin of error and with little consideration of the direction of traffic flow.

We spent some time watching a team filming in the downstairs studio at the office and then headed out to meet with a local doctor who is the Clinical Director of a women’s health organization.  This morning we drove out to a small community near the city and met with a lovely group of believers who are regular listeners to the program.  I was so good to talk with them- through an interpreter of course- and to get a sense of what their needs are.  It was very clear that they have almost no basic knowledge or understanding of the things that affect their health and well being.

Phnom Penh reminds me so much of our experiences in Bangladesh and I immediately felt very comfortable and at home.