Currently showing posts tagged cambodia

  • Tonle Sap Lake and Common Grounds

    So far this journey has been filled with once in a lifetime opportunities, incredible stories of brokenness and hope, and one of a kind culture and physical beauty. The Tonle Sap Lake was a combination of all of the above. This is the only place in the world where you will see nearly 1.5 million people living on water. Not a lake house on the water but literally living on the water. It's a similar size to one of the Great Lakes. You can't see land when you're in the middle.

    The Mekong River is the only river that flows two ways. Ice melts on the Himalayas and causes the river to flow backwards and the lake here to rise 40-50 ft. This is the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia and also the home to the largest freshwater fish in the world! (The largest ever recorded was over 600 lbs.) There is a strong Vietnamese population from refugees from the Vietnam war that join the 100s of thousands of Cambodians that live on the Tonle Sap Lake. There is a strong racial tension between Cambodian and Vietnamese people. The exact population is not known but some estimates are as high as 1.5 million.

    PCL has given two boats to a Vietnamese missionary who is doing incredible things with the people here on the lake. They use one as a lake traveling medical clinic. It's a two story, 30 yard boat that helps these special people who, for many, will never touch land in their entire life get some kind of medical care as they do not have access to clean drinking water and disease is very prevalent.

    After our morning adventure on the lake we went to Common Grounds. Common Grounds is PCLs very own coffee shop here in Siem Reap. A two-story Starbucks looking joint with a full menu all day long including local and American favorites. The model is built around the motto, "giving the poor a working chance." They employ all local Cambodians teaching them work ethic, English, employment of course and other valuable tools that drastically improve their ability to make a decent living in this impoverished country. Even better, Common Grounds is not only making a profit but rolling that profit over into other projects around the country that are giving people a working chance as well, such as the English speaking school next door that has about 300 students at a time and the Build a City project in Andong, outside Phnom Penh.

    The model that PCL employs in nearly everything they do is built on sustainability and a working chance for the poor. It is quite beautiful to see individuals begin to have hope and dream for a better future. 

  • History in the Making// A Day with the Cambodian Government

    Third World Disparity

    Day two on the ground in Cambodia was a stark contrast to day one on the ground here. Day one we were able to experience the Build a City project in Andong, a village of displaced people outside the capital Phnom Penh living inn extreme poverty with an end cycle of disease and hopelessness. Day Two we ate lunch in the sky rise hotel that was built in place where these people were displaced from with government officials. If you've never experienced the great disparity of wealth in third world countries then let me explain a little further because our entire second day was spent in ties and jackets with men who make nine figures in a country where most will only make less than $450-500 USD  per year (roughly $30-40 per month). 

    Meeting with His Excellency

    Our day began with an early meeting with the Governor, His Excellency PA SOCHEATEVONG, one of the most powerful men in the entire country. He praised the work of PCL and said that the model can be used for the hundreds of similar impvoerished villages across the nation. He was an extremely friendly and welcoming man. We ended this day hosted by he and his wife at his hotel dining hall which was followed by a 16th floor rooftop after party, which included traditional Campbodian dancing and a live band. To say this incredible honor was surreal would be an understatement.

    Meeting with the Prime Minister

    After our morning meeting with His Excellency, a few leaders from our group were selected to have a private meeting with the Prime Minister of Camobodia, their president for an American reference. This meeting was scheduled to go 10 minutes and went 40.. This was all on the eve of the Camobidan Liberation Day that marks the day they were emancipated by Vietnam from the Khmer Rouge. Apparently it is extremely rare for outside Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to have meetings with the Prime Minister.

    Tour of Parliament

    After lunch we were given a tour of Parliament, similar to the British system, by the former Govern of Phnom Penh. This was very cool. The Cambodian people are extremely proud of this building because during the Khmer Rouge reign from 1975-1979 all of their educated and skilled workers were murdered. The building of this facility marked overcoming this atrocity through building this beautiful facility with all Cambodian engineers, designers and builders. We were able to sit the seats of these government officials, everyone except the kings giant golden chair that sits at the back elevated part of the stage.

    History in the Making

    While this day felt strange, surreal and almost wrong in light of the work we have come to connect to, it marks uncharted territory in American and Cambodian relationship. Both Hilary Clinton and President Obama have been here within the last year. He was the first president to ever come to Cambodia. This speaks to the global awareness and importance of the need to promote democracy and capitalism in this country as China and other players position themselves for influence in and over this country. It is quite amazing to be anywhere associated with this movement in Southeast Asia.

    Proverb 22 in its entirety has much to say about the relationship between the rich and the poor and it quite a good read on a day like today.

    Proverbs 22.29

    29 Do you see someone skilled in their work?
        They will serve before kings;
        they will not serve before officials of low rank.

  • On the Ground of Cambodia

    Day One of traveling in Camboida was extraordinary. The first few days of our trip is centered here in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Phen. Like most third world countries, there is an extreme contrast between the rich and the poor and a severely absent middle class. Before we left the hotel we were able to meet Pau and Kasol.
    Two young adults who came in through the People for Care and Learning (PCL) orphanage and are now in year five of medical school. PCL has two orphanges here in Cambodia. When children come into the orphanage they are sponsored through university.

    The Wedding

    We left our hotel and our day started by getting to particpate in a Camobidan Christian wedding. This is a pretty rare sight in this 97% Buddhist country. Weddings are held in the street directly outside of the brides home. We hopped off the bus to the pungent smell of fish paste (soured fish), a delicacie in this culture, and the beautifully dressed wedding party. We were greeted with diet cokes, wedding wifi password and a coconut and egg sweet appetizer/dessert.We were only able to participate in the Western portion of the ceremony which felt pretty similar to our American weddings. This wedding was the first time that most Cambodians present had heard the Christian version of the creation story. They will have the Cambodian traditions later in the day.

    Interrogation Camps

    Next, we were privileged to experience the Khmer Rouge Interrogation Camps, what we might call concentration camps, that date back to 1975. An old high school that Pol Pot, a new leader in 75', took over with great excitement from the people. Three hours into his reign he began to murder all educated people; doctors, lawyers, teachers, those who wore glasses, those who could speak more than one language. They brutally interrogated people until they confessed they were educated so they could excuse their murder. Over 4 years, 4 million people were brutally murdered. Babies were thrown into trees. People dipped in their own feces. Executions and camps like this one were all over the country. Pol Pot desired to turn society back into an agrarian society. His army was made up of 13-21 year olds that were forced to kill family anf friends. The psycological damage to those people and their families still lives on today. Many of these people still live in the city. Pictured inside each room were huge boards of pictures of those that had died in these camps. There were only five survivors of the camps and only one still living. I posted a picture on instagram of her. She is now a pastor and works with PCL here.

    Andong, Build a City project

    After lunch, we travled out to the site of the Build a City project. In 2006, more than 1000 families were displaced from the capital of Phnom Phen to the middle of nowhere outside the capital, a place called Andong. The government succombed to international investors that wanted to build huge modern high rises on the river. These families lived in sewage, literally. I can't accurately describe what I saw here because words won't do it justice. PCL is right in the middle of the project. They have looked to serve the people by presenting a sustainable future for this community of displaced people. The Cambodian government has been so moved by PCL and the love shown to these people and the model to economic and community development that they have declared that they hope to copy this model all over the hudreds of similar communities in Cambodia. A person only makes $30-40 a month here. An entire family might hope to bring in a meager $100 a month. Keep in mind, grandparents, kids and grandkids all live in a 12 x 15 sqw ft home made of stick, tins and stones gathered and little concrete. Build a city is giving people a deeded home with electricity that would not be much to our standards in the states but is an extreme improvement from their current conditions. PCL has built roads, hospital clinic, town market and has plans for so much more such as playground, community center and many more homes. The work here is messy. It is difficult for families to beleive in the future, people and hope for a better life. The assistant director of PCL, Jake Stum, told me last night that the children from their orphanage have dreams for the future and this is the great difference between them and most all other children in this part of the world.

    I could write for hours on each day. I will continue to post and blog throughout this incredible journey but time is extremely limited and I have to rest with what little time I have. Thanks for staying connected to this project, for your prayers and financial support.

  • Cambodia Travel Day

    Hey friends,

    Today I embark on a journey to Cambodia to serve and learn more about the people, culture, needs, and work of the Build a City project. I've had the privilege to see many places around the world but this will be my first time to Asia. My heart is full, expectant and ready to overflow with the love that God has for me in service, reflection and calling.

    I miss my wife me children already. Please remember them in your prayers and if you are able to encourage or connect with them this week it would be greatly appreciated. This trip is on behalf of Fathom Church and the international missions that we endeavor to do across the world in 2014 and beyond. I'm extremely humbled and grateful to the many people who have made this trip possible through financial support and prayer. Thank you.

    I will do my very best to update this blog regularly throughout the week with pictures, stories and reflections of what God is doing in me and this country.