Friday, May 13, 2016

Cambodia, Day 5

Eating has been nothing but a pleasure, which is both wonderful and troubling. The meals are absurdly cheap, but the quality is better than what I'd expect in stateside restaurants. Many of them have very American foods like burgers and chicken strips, but I haven't given in; I don't want to get home and wish I'd tried more Khmer dishes. I've had more bowls of kuy tiev, sometimes with egg noodles, beef lok lak, noodles with peanut and fish paste sauce, and today I had Khmer-style vegetable stir fry, and all of it has been really tasty.

The troubling part, of course, is that the folks we're meeting with are very food insecure, and can't possibly afford to have even one of the meals I'm having three times a day. We bring bread, and the kids carefully carry it home to share with their entire family. We don't compare all that favorably with the Apostles in their work commissioning churches; we're feasting before we go to strengthen and encourage churches, and somehow that's not sitting quite right with me. 

A reasonable reply might be that we're braving the heat, so we're afflicting ourselves deliberately and making an offering of our physical comfort. Another reasonable reply might be that the shock of transplanting ourselves from the United States to here is severe enough that if we add fasting on top, we soon reach the point where people get sick, and then we can't minister to anyone. Distorted sleep schedules and flirting with dehydration are quite enough by themselves, so we eat bountiful meals to offset those effects. Still, it's luxurious, and it just unsettles me that we go from luxury to want, and then back to luxury again.

Today, we traveled out to a third home church.

These youngsters didn't sing songs for us, but they did speak a surprising amount of English. Several of them are sponsored through Worldvision, and their church leaders had worked with them on some beginning sentences. If we asked, "What is your name?" they answered "My name is ___" very clearly, with virtually no accent. That might not sound staggeringly impressive, but the phoneme sets for English and Khmer are so different that a great deal of hard work and practice must have gone into just that one exchange.

They were also patient beyond their years in repeating their names for us. Khmer includes vowels that we're learning to hear decades too late -- if we didn't them as infants, we have virtually no chance to learn them now. So we try to repeat their names, often several times, but we're inevitably wildly off target. Sometimes they keep trying to guide us, and sometimes they just laugh and convey that whatever we're saying is close enough.

Today, just to change things up, Pastor Troy farmed out the message, so different people talked for just a minute or two about how Jesus is Creator, Provider, Protector, Savior and King. Then we played games -- soccer for the boys, duck-duck-lobster for the girls, and I got a game of catch going again with some of the boys who opted out of soccer. Today's desk toy was my pair of Balls of Whacks:
In case you're not familiar with it, each one is made up of a bunch of segments held together by reasonably strong magnets. We had to throw and catch very gently, because a drop or hard catch would make all the segments fly apart. The smallest boys laughed themselves silly every time it happened, and the bigger boys had a good time with the challenge of throwing and catching gently.

After games, we distributed food and did crafts. Today, the kids made picture frames.
Yes, those are water bottles on the table. Yesterday's Aha! moment brought about some changes. We left our own bottles in the truck, and we gave the kids bottles of water to drink with their bread.

That wraps up the visits to home churches. Tomorrow, we're off to a full church service at Hope Bible Institute. Some of the musically skilled among us will be leading worship, and Pastor Troy will deliver the message. Then, bright and early Monday morning, we pack up our wagon to hit the road for Siem Reap.

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