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2007 Cambodia Daily Journal

From Taipei Airport - Thursday, June 7, 2007

          Hello everyone!  We are writing this blog post from a free wireless internet hotspot in the Taipei, Taiwan airport during our last layover before catching our final connection to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  The Lord has blessed us with safe travels even though the rides have been bumpy.  It will probably come as no surprise to many of you that we kinda like the roller coaster effect.  The thunderstorm over Taipei caused the pilots to make a missed approach on their first attempt - just added some extra excitement for us.  We have done lots of sleeping enroute so feel pretty rested at this point.  We pray all of you enjoy and are encouraged by our posts.  We long to bring glory to God.  Please help us by your praises and thanksgivings to Him in prayer.  We will post again at the next opportunity. 

Because of the hope we have, Dennis & Sharon

Day 1 - Thursday, June 7, 2007

            Sou-is dey” Y’all!  That is Cambodian “hello” with a Texas twist.  We are here!  By the sovereign hand of the Lord, we arrived in Phnom Penh weary but excited.  Our flight from Taipei was uneventful and with partly cloudy skies, we enjoyed watching, first the ocean (South China Sea?) pass below, and then the Vietnam and Cambodian countryside from six miles above.  You think you’ve had a lot of rain this spring where you live…the water is everywhere here.  And we are still in the early stages of their rainy season which doesn’t end until around the beginning or middle of fall.

            Immigrations and customs were a cinch…no worries at all.  The Cambodians are noted for their smiling faces and gracious demeanors so even the officials are delightful.  James and Tawn met us at the airport full of sweet, sweet smiles.  Brad and Siriporn, full of grins too, were with them, having all waited for nearly four hours after their arrival from Bangkok.  Everyone enjoyed a splendid reunion, then caught a taxi to our hotel.  We had intended to stay at the Golden Star across the street from last year’s hotel, the Golden Gate.  Since they were full, we are back where we stayed last year, the Golden Gate (#9, Rd 278).  If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by.  We’re in room 512.

            After settling in and unpacking our bags, we took a stroll around the neighborhood.  Rest assured, none of us got chilly.  We found the Khmer/Thai food restaurant we ate at often last year so we enjoyed our favorite (so far) Khmer dish - Pineapple Chicken.  We all ate too much so we needed another stroll to work some off.  We ended up at the International Book Store which is more like a university book store and a Barnes and Noble combined with an Office Depot done 7-Eleven style.  We bought an alarm clock!

            I guess the folks ’round here seem to have a less than positive impression of westerners (Americans?) because when Sharon greets them with her disarming smile and soft words, they never fail to warm up to all of us.  One even asked where we were from in a way that made it obvious he expected a different attitude from his experiences.  We credit it to the Spirit of Jesus living within us.  We remain hopeful that by the love we show each other and to them, they too will see that it is Jesus who makes us different.  Please pray for the success of the Lord working through each one of us.

            – You are never far from us when you live in our hearts and share in our service to the King! –

Day 2 - Friday, June 8, 2007

            Christian fellowship is such a delight.  First thing Friday morning we met with James and Tawn Lork, the two brothers who are currently operating the Cambodia Bible Institute (CBI).  God blessed us with an opportunity to sort through most of our activities in which we will participate for the school and for the congregation while we are here.

            One objective of the missionary is to understand the people - their past, their religion, and their culture.  In an effort to better understand the Khmer people (the ethnic group of nearly all Cambodians), James met us after lunch for a trip to the Killing Fields at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center.  What a horrific memory!  In one tiny field, 20,000 men, women and children were violently slaughtered by their own people.  We hope to say much more about this later on another page on the blog.  We long to bring the remnant of survivors the "Good News" story, so that Jesus might bless them with joy of heart.

            Later, we shopped in an open-air market called "Russian Market."  This place has just about anything.  We enjoyed bargaining with the vendors for items we purchased.  This market is where most Cambodians shop.  The prices are rock bottom as is some of the quality.  To see this facet of their lives, any visit to Phnom Penh must include a trip to the market.

Day 3 - Saturday, June 9, 2007

            In a stark contrast to Friday's trip to the Killing Fields and the poverty laden Russian Market, on Saturday morning, James took us to the "Royal Palace."  This is the where the king of Cambodia entertains foreign dignitaries (like us? LOL!).  He lives in the heavily guarded rear of this compound.  There are numerous buildings in the tourist section filled with all sorts of beautiful treasures and artifacts.  As we have ventured in and among the people, we are saddened by all the poverty.  Conversely, here we were struck by how much wealth is present yet not being used to help the poor.  It is our prayer that God opens the eyes of the government to responsibly care for the people.

            The guys spent the remainder of the day preparing for upcoming seminars they teach.  Toward evening, Dr. Rick and Gail Northen came by to encourage us.  What a delightful couple.  They have given this period of their lives to oversee the "Ship of Life," a medical mission ministry operating on the Mekong River.  Later, Dennis and Sharon took Brad and Siriporn out to celebrate her XXth birthday.  We did manage to find a restaurant with Thai food spicy enough for her liking.  We dearly love this couple and so look forward to many years on the mission field with them.

Day 4 - Lord's Day, June 10, 2007

            Praise God, the Lord's Day has arrived!  Oh, what a blessing to assemble with the saints.

 We worshipped with the Phnom Penh congregation in the morning and with the Partners In Progress congregation for evening assembly.  James taught the Bible class on "Humility vs. Pride" and Brad preached a wonderful sermon on "What Kind of Prayers Does God Answer?"  It was amazing to get the lessons in both English and Khmer.  We so look forward to learning the language so we can speak with the locals.  The evening lesson, presented by a local preacher, Bora, a CBI graduate, was on "The Teachings of Jesus."  Overall, it was a wonderful day fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters!

            We were blessed with the opportunity to enjoy lunch with some local missionaries.  Nathan and Cheryl Wheeler, have been in Cambodia for approximately three years and their teammates, Andrew and Natalie Hayes recently made the move form the states to join them.  The time we had together was inspiring as they told us about their ministry work and shared information that will assist us as we prepare to move here.

Day 5 - Monday, June 11, 2007

            The 1st day of class!  We arrived at the Cambodia Bible Institute to the beautiful smiling faces of the students.  We are so impressed with the young men who attend CBI.  They are so easy to love!  (Watch for photos of the students on our website in a few days.)  Our seminar instruction begins with a 3-day workshop on "How to Build and Mature the Church."  Dennis took the first day to share with the students a proper prospective on Spiritual Gifts: Then & Now.  They had lots of good, relevant questions.  Our lunch with them was a more traditional Khmer meal and very tasty.  We pray the day was beneficial to all to the glory of God.


Day 6 - Tuesday, June 12, 2007

            The blessing of Christian community and fellowship was our class for the day.  Brad showed us what it should look like from Acts 2 & 4 and what it must not look like from 1 Corinthians.  He did a marvelous job of blessing us all with sound teaching on building-up the church.  We were also blessed by being church together with the CBI students.  Just like in Acts 2:42, we were devoted to the apostles' teachings, we shared the unity of fellowship in the Spirit, we broke bread together, and we prayed with and for one another.

            Our first progressive meal was the plan for supper.  Andrew and Natalie Hayes, who just moved to Phnom Penh in April, invited the four of us over to eat.  We knew the Wheelers would be there, but we were delightfully surprised to see the Thomases, the Allisons and Steve Lowery, all from Central church in Huntsville, AL.  After supper and a good visit, the fourteen of us stuffed into two Camrys for the journey to the Wheelers, just like in the college days.  Nathan and Cheryl blessed us all with dessert and coffee.  We capped the evening by singing lots of hymns, all to the praise and glory of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ….and the whole assembly said "AMEN!"


Day 7 - Wednesday, June 13, 2007

            The final day of the first seminar was on topic of Christian love as it specifically applies to building and maturing the church.  We were reminded from the Scriptures love is more than just a feeling.  It is an activity, a lifestyle.  And when mature, it draws the lost to Christ.  Monday's class had eleven students which grew to fourteen by Wednesday.  Including all adults, we had a crowd of twenty.

            Because Dennis spent the day teaching, Brad got the call to stand before the Phnom Penh church for mid-week Bible study.  He gave us a great lesson on OT Scriptures: History of Mythology?  He did a masterful job of proving from the teachings of Jesus, Paul and Peter that they testified to the reliability of the OT record.  Afterwards, we took the opportunity to join some of our missionary friends for supper at The Pizza Co (yes, there is pizza in Phnom Penh.)  Once again we enjoyed a great time of fellowship and also some tasty pizza!!!

Day 8 - Thursday, June 14, 2007

            Niak sohk sahp-bahy dteh?  That is Cambodian for "how are you"?  And we pray that you all are doing well.  We are eager to learn the language and have been getting some tips; however, we have a long ways to go!  After three glorious days of teaching God's word at CBI and fellowshipping with the students we were off to learn more history and culture of the Khmer.  Today we began at the National Museum of Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts where we learned more about the Cambodian's past, their religion, and their culture.

            Later, we went to a place called Wat Phnom, a beautiful park setting, but sadly an area know and recognized for the worship of Buddha and other "spirits."  We were amazed as we saw so many of the locals and what appeared to be visitors making offerings and bowing down to idols made of stone.  How we long for them to have the joy of Jesus Christ and put their hope, faith and trust in GOD.

            We were all ready to enjoy supper after we returned, so we set out looking for a new place to eat.  After stopping and checking out the menus of several restaurants we finally decided it was time to join the Cambodians for some authentic Khmer food.  We found a local café "Tea Poa Heng" and ate some of the best food yet in Cambodia.  We were all smiling and finding joy as we sat among the people of Cambodia and talked about this being our future home.


Day 9 - Friday, June 15, 2007

            Today we were blessed with an opportunity to have Tawn Lork from CBI as our guide.  We visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and once again were filled with emotion as we saw and read about the brutal treatment of prisoners at this facility.  As we toured this sight, we could still see the bloodstained floors from these atrocities of their past.  This place had once been a school which was taken over by the Khmer Rouge regime.  The classrooms were converted into prison cells; the windows were enclosed by iron bars and covered with tangled barbed wire to prevent escapes.  Tortured into making false confessions for actions not committed, this was the last "hell" they endured before being trucked to the "Killing Fields" for "extermination."  The people here have been through so much pain and suffering in their past.

            Sharon and Siriporn decided to visit the Central Market while the guys prepared lessons.  Central Market is a tourist friendly market with many foreign visitors.  The exterior and interior are filled with aisles and aisles of trinkets and household items.  The girls had fun haggling prices as they purchase traditional souvenirs made in Cambodia.  The girls noticed it was getting dark rather early but then realized why…the rains they had been expecting since their arrival had finally come!  They soon saw venders scurrying around as rain starting pouring into their booths.  As the girls headed toward the doors they could see the rain had already started flooding the streets of Cambodia.  After waiting a long while and not seeing an end to the rain they decided to make their way to the Tuk-Tuk taxi waiting on them.  To their surprise, they could not find it.  By this time they were soaked and soon found themselves in thigh high water as the streets continued to flood.  Eventually they negotiated a ride back to the hotel where they found Dennis and Brad waiting for them.  To the surprise of all, they were laughing and finding joy in this new experience, knowing this would not be the last time they would be seeing monsoon rains in Cambodia.  As in James 1:2 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance".  It is a blessing to see how Christ is working in our lives as we experience growth opportunities like these.


Day 10 - Saturday, June 16, 2007

            While the guys spent the day preparing lessons, Sharon and Siriporn joined the ladies for a devotional and luncheon graciously hosted by Cheryl Wheeler and Natalie Hayes.  The ladies from Partners in Progress (a program teaching English to the Khmer University students using the Bible) joined in the fellowship.  Natalie gave the devotional and all enjoyed a wonderful meal and quality time getting to know each other.  Afterwards, the ladies went to a gathering at Partners in Progress where they spent time with the Khmer students playing games and getting acquainted.  Sharon and Siriporn had a great time practicing the few Khmer words they have learned.

            Next, Siriporn and Sharon made a 2nd trip to the Central Market.  This time they had an opportunity to walk around and see the variety of items and the vast number of vendors.  They had fun and were excited to make it home without having to wade through water.  The time the girls had together was uplifting and they are filled with joy to have these opportunities to grow closer.


Day 11 - Lord's Day, June 17, 2007

            We all assembled for worship with the Phnom Penh church encouraged by a fine sermon on building-up the church from Dr. Alfredo Panizales, a brother from the Philippines.

            That evening Dennis and Sharon assembled with the saints from the Partners in Progress congregation for singing instruction and a lesson on Colossians 2 from Bill McDonough.  Bill and his wife, Marie-Claire are about to leave Cambodia for awhile so we treasured these brief moments we had to share with them.

            We feel so blessed to be able to share with you how encouraging it is to assemble on the Lord's Day.  The time we spend with our brothers and sisters over here always uplifts us.  As those postcards always say, "Wish you were here!"

Day 12/13 - Monday/Tuesday, June 18/19, 2007

            A definite highlight of our trip was our work at Krasang Peam (KSP) village church.  We held a 2-day seminar on "Why Is Jesus Necessary?"  Sharon and Siriporn had a wonderful time teaching the children songs and games including "Jesus Loves Me" in sign-language.  It was a wonderful experience and we got to meet some great people.  Communication was difficult at times, but with smiles and joy in our hearts and eyes, it seemed as if the language barrier wasn't a major issue.  Their meager living arrangements (homes, food, clothing, etc) plus a lack of electricity or running water didn't appear to steal their joy.  We all have so much and often don't realize it, taking our many, many blessings for granted.  Come bedtime, Sorn Thy, a church leader was so kind to share his family's sleeping area with the four of us.  We unrolled a bamboo mat, strung-up our mosquito nets and enjoyed the rain's soft patter on the metal roof.  The next morning, we awoke to crowing roosters, oinking pigs, and mooing cows.  Although the experience was hot, muggy, and tiring, these Christian brothers and sisters encouraged us greatly.  They filled our hearts with joy as they shared their blessings with us.  It is our prayer the Lord blesses them for their faith and sweet servant spirits.  We can't wait to go back!



Day 14 - Wednesday, June 20, 2007

            Dennis and Brad have had plenty to keep them busy.  As they continue to prepare lessons for CBI and the village congregations it seems as if they are still in school.  During the day they once again joyfully worked on their upcoming seminars, sermons and Bible class lessons. 

            Siriporn and Sharon got busted collecting grocery item prices for our survey work and were ejected by the management.  No need for a prison ministry just yet!  Later, Sharon ventured out to gather information for some of our future trips within Cambodia.

            We all joined together to assemble with our brothers and sisters at the Phnom Penh church where Dennis gave a lesson on Jesus' miracles, teachings, sinlessness, and resurrection.  We always enjoy our time together with the church and are building lasting memories as we continue to build relationships.

Day 15 - Thursday, June 21, 2007

            Today's seminar would be held about 3 hours north in the tiny village of Orang (Ou Reung).  When we arrived, the women were outside in their community kitchen already working on lunch, children were playing everywhere and the adults were eagerly anticipating getting into the Scriptures.  The time the guys put into preparing was evident by the lessons given on "Christian Love: Beyond all Boundaries."  The seminar ended with a question and answer session where Brad, Dennis, and James used their biblical knowledge as the village church members asked questions.  Sharon joyfully held the beautiful babies and spent time with the children.   This village was more poverty stricken then the previous one, however, their love of Jesus shined brightly through their joyful smiles and generosity.  We experienced wonderful fellowship, enjoyed a great meal, and saw the rich blessings of God as we shared in the lives of these brothers and sisters.


Day 16 - Friday, June 22, 2007

            Lucky Burger sells pizza, ice cream, "foo-foo" coffee drinks…and we partook.  But we're getting ahead of ourselves.  Friday was a welcome day of rest and recovery.  The long hours of heat, travel and training had taken its toll on our once limber bodies.  We spent most of the day in the hotel either working on this blog, working on upcoming presentations or visiting with our teammates…then, we all went to Lucky Burger!

            It is uncanny the odd things that occur that cause us to think of you from time-to-time.  We continue to pray, that wherever you are, whoever you're near knows to whom you belong as you stand firm in your faith and are ready to share the "good news!"


Day 17 - Saturday, June 23, 2007

            We knew we would have a busy schedule this week so the guys worked on their lessons for the final week of teaching at CBI.  They also had sermons to prepare for assembly.  The girls decided to finish some shopping so they ventured out to the Russian Market.  It is such a treat to bargain with the vendors.  After about 3 hours, tired, thirsty, and ready for lunch, they headed back to the hotel.


Day 18 - Lord's Day, June 24, 2007

            We met with the Phnom Penh congregation for Bible study and worship assembly.  Then we joined the Wheelers and Hayeses for lunch at Chiang Mai Riverfront restaurant.  Siriporn finally found Thai food as spicy as she has wanted.  Later, we joined them for evening worship at Andrew & Natalie's where Andrew did a brief devo from Romans 5:1-5 on hope and we spent a lot of time singing to the Lord and one another.  Praise be to God our Father, and to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!!!

Day 19 - Monday, June 25, 2007

            Today began the final Seminar at CBI, Practical Christianity and Personal Evangelism: Making Disciples.  Dennis and Brad decided to divide teaching a bit more practically, so Dennis taught today with Brad finishing-up by teaching on Tuesday and Wednesday.  After the session, Earl Bridges picked us up for a visit to their lovely home and a delicious home-cooked Thai lunch Judy prepared for the occasion.  What a treat to visit with this delightful couple, so full of life and zeal for the Word.  We pray the Lord blesses their work with much fruit.  Later, some of us went to visit the lovely home of Troy and Tabitha Snowbarger.  They administer the nutritional feeding mission to village children employed by Partners in Progress.  They are a wonderfully sweet young couple working very hard to make a difference for the Lord, for His church and for Cambodian children.  We pray God blesses their work too!

Day 20 - Tuesday, June 26, 2007

            Today, Dennis opened chapel with a devotional on Jonah rebelling against his God-assigned mission.  Brad followed with a lesson on following Jesus and His mission of evangelism.  After class they all enjoyed some fellowship and a great home-cooked Khmer meal prepared by the students.  It has been a special blessing spending time and building relationships with these students and seeing their love for Jesus as they grow in knowledge.  Sharon had an opportunity to join some of the local missionaries (Natalie Hayes and Cheryl Wheeler) to visit and volunteer some time at an orphanage filled with handicapped and AIDS-diseased children.  The evening ended with a delightful meal with the Hayeses and Snowbargers and some additional fellowship. 

Day 21 - Wednesday, June 27, 2007

            Today would wrap up the final devotional and lessons at CBI.  Brad began with a devotional using Acts 20 and discussed the power of character and the evident qualities needed to be an evangelist.  This was a powerful lesson.  After the break, Brad started the final lesson with asking some thought provoking questions.  He presented the reasons why relationships are so powerful in personal evangelism.  These seminars have been very uplifting and inspiring, leaving the students encouraged as they take the remainder of the summer off to go to their villages and also to prepare for their next term at CBI.  The Welchs and Becketts are looking forward to how God will use these students to serve Him.

Day 22 - Thursday, June 28, 2007

            This morning, we hoped to take the "speed" boat up the Tonle Sap River across the Tonle Sap Lake to the city of Siem Reap, witnessing river life as we traveled, just like in Feb 2006.  Because it is the hot rainy season, tourism is down so the boat has stopped running.  At the last minute, we changed to a Camry that could get us there quicker for just over half the cost of the boat AND with cold AirCon the whole way.  Saaweeeet!

            Much to our delight, upon our arrival to Siem Reap, Chann Lork (brother to James and Tawn from CBI) met us at the guest house.  We had a nice visit and made arrangements to meet for supper.  When Chann and his wife Sopha showed up at the hotel we realized we knew Sopha.  Who would have ever guessed Chann had married the young lady with whom we had rejoiced when she was baptized last year at the Tumnob Thom coC.  We all enjoyed fellowship and a buffet at the Jasmine Restaurant dinner theatre while being entertained by traditional music and dance including the ancient Angkor Apsara.  This and the following tours of the temples gave us a glimpse into the ancestry still worshipped by the Khmer people.


Day 23/24 - Friday/Saturday, June 29/30, 2007

            We toured the ancient temples at Angkor and heard a wealth of history regarding culture and religion.  These incredible ruins are known for their elaborate architecture and vivid history.  We saw many of the monuments like Angkor Wat, the Bayon, The Terrace of the Elephants and Ta Prohm Temple where the movie "Tomb Raiders" was filmed.  So many resources were used to build these gigantic structures to worship idols!  One wonders the price of human suffering and spiritual corruption by these self-proclaimed god-kings of old.


Day 25 - Lord's Day, July 1, 2007

            A few blocks from our guest house, Christians assemble to worship each Lord's Day.  We joined them for a time of singing, prayer, fellowship, communion and a lesson on building faith.  It was a special delight to be a part of their assembly for the day and an extra treat to meet James, Tawn, Chann and Sokchea Lork's mother.  Chann and Sopha have begun a small house church of fifteen to twenty brethren in just on year.  Praise God for their hard work and for the help Bear Valley is providing them.  We pray God blesses their hard work with even more fruit in the coming months.

            After sharing a delicious traditional Khmer meal "family style" with Chann and Sopha, we were off for the long ride back to Phnom Penh.  It is always such a comfort to know there are brothers in distant places eager to lend a hand when asked.  This couple served us beyond our needs and expectations just like Chann's brothers in Phnom Penh.  Their strong faith overflows as Christian love.  Thanks Chann and Sopha!  We can't wait to see the new baby pictures in the fall.

Day 26/27 - Monday/Tuesday, July 2/3, 2007

            We took most of Monday to relax and recover from all the hiking and climbing required during a trip to Angkor.  In the afternoon, we hired a tuk-tuk to take us to a book store of which we had been told.  We found a surprising selection of Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, tracts and other Christian literature in mostly English, but also in Khmer.  It is good to see so much teaching material translated into the native language.

            Tuesday, the girls had another opportunity to go to the local orphanage and volunteer some time to work with the children.  This orphanage is always in need of volunteers and the children are excited when they get the much-needed attention.  Sharon and Siriporn were delighted they could serve in this manor.  Then, we all assembled at the Hayes's home for a singing, prayers and worship with the Wheelers and Nathan's parents (Dan & Grace) and brother (Bobby), currently teaching in a Bible School in Seoul, South Korea.  We had a memorable time worshipping together and sharing some delicious pizza.  It was hard to say goodbye - so we didn't.  Instead, we said, "see ya next summer!"  And Lord willing, we will!!!

Day 28 - Wednesday, July 4, 2007

            Troy and Tabitha Snowbarger, humble servants of the "nutritional feeding" program for Partners In Progress, invited us to join them on their visit to Thumnob Thom (TNT) and Prey Ta Chey villages.  The four of us joined Troy, Kyle (a med student from South Africa living and training in Dublin, Ireland and having just spent 3 weeks serving on the "Ship of Life"), Bora (a Khmer girl who speaks fluent English) and Cham Roeun (a recent graduate of CBI who is hoping to receive some support to start a village church, but has just begun assisting with the feeding and teaching).  It was a special blessing for us to return to TNT and see everyone again, especially Kimsom and his family.  We look forward to working with them in the future.

            Mid-week Bible study at the Phnom Penh church saw some new faces.  Many of James' family had joined us for church to send off James prior to his departure with us in the morning.  It worked-out that his flight to visit a supporting church in Georgia, coincided with our return to America - at least to Los Angeles.  We pray his trip to the States is fruitful and encouraging.  We said our farewells to everyone, promising to return in a year, Lord willing.

            After church, we met Troy, Tabitha and Kyle for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.  More sad so-longs and then off to pack for our trip.  See ya in DFW!!

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