Cambodia Team Blog 2013 – February 4 – 14
February 2013 is the 8th consecutive year that West Layton Assembly has sent a team to Cambodia. This year the team consisted of Pastor Scott Lindner, Jeremy Osborne, Eric Anderson, Stan Kimer, my wife (Terry), who is a nurse practitioner and myself. We joined Gil Hoelzer who was there before we came. Gil who is also from West Layton Assembly usually spends several months each year in Cambodia and has been going there for thirteen years now. This year was special for a variety of reasons, including our first building maintenance team, our first ministry into a red light area, and our first trip during the Chinese New Year celebration. We had 3 first timers – Jeremy, Eric and Stan. Stan is the person that helped me find a relationship with God 35 years ago. I had not seen Stan for about 15 years so this would be a special time for me. Our base in Cambodia is a ministry called Samaritan Love Mission (SLM). It is located in Sihanoukville, a city in the southwest part of Cambodia. To those who read this, it is my hope that it will make you feel like you were there with us.                                                                                                                                                                                             Written by Jim Zacharias
Wednesday – travel to Sihanoukville: After a time of achieving horizontal sleep for the first time in more than a day, we all met for breakfast at the restaurant that is located just to the side of the hotel. In the past we would plan to do a short time of sightseeing at the Royal Palace before we would leave for Sihanoukville which is about a 4+ hour drive from Phnom Penh. During breakfast we found out that the palace was closed because the King of Cambodia had passed away… in October. It was an interesting slice of the culture here to find that months afterward they were still publicly mourning the loss. So because the street was closed to traffic in front of the palace most of us decided to walk over. The hotel (guest house) where we stayed is a block away from the Mekong River and the palace is about a mile up the river from there. It is really a very scenic walk, with many shops and restaurants that we pass before getting to the unique architecture of the royal palace on the right. We walked on the left side of the street by the river, a park like setting that is paved with brick and had benches and exotic plants. It is probably one of the nicer areas in Phnom Penh. Shortly after we passed by the palace we negotiated a ride on a couple of tuktuks (a 4 passenger carriage powered by a motor cycle), as the plan was to meet with Pastor Jonah & Terry at the Russian market after our walk. Afterward we had lunch at the Noodlehouse Restaurant across the street from the guesthouse where we were staying. We were joined there by Racha, he is the translator friend that I wrote about in the 2012 blog, who had been with us every year until last year when his new job kept him from helping. He missed working with us so much that he planned his vacation this year around our trip. He would join us over the weekend. After lunch we were on our way to Sihanoukville.
Thursday – BUFFALO VILLAGE: We have been running a school in this village for the last 10 years. There are 9 classes, 7 full time teachers with about 230 students. Over the last 3 years, there has always been something special to celebrate regarding the school. This year’s celebration had to do with electricity coming to the village. For the celebration service, about seven or eight village dignitaries come to the school which is overflowing with students, parents and others from the community. Inside, every seat is taken and you would also see people on the outside at almost every window. For our part of this service, we are introduced and we have a prayer to start the event, some Christian songs, a short message from the Bible and a closing prayer. In between there are several short messages by a teacher, the school principal and one or two of the village dignitaries. The dignitaries are so thankful for the hope and future that the school brings to the community. And we are all grateful to God for creating the vision to make this all happen.
Afterward, the team handed out a boxed lunch and water to everyone there. After everyone is fed, we start the medical service. In this service everyone has a part, Pastor Jonah was one treatment team and Stan and I were the other. Terry was able to be free to handle more challenging medical issues that came up. Jeremy and Pastor Scott were the pharmacy guys who made sure that we always had bags of different medicine to give out. It was a challenge because nothing was bagged before we got there. Terry was especially impressed by Jeremy’s handling of the math involved in figuring out the number of antibiotic pills for those who needed them. We provided medical treatment to 83 people there. Gil and Eric played games with the kids. That may not sound like much but there are a lot of kids and especially with Eric you could tell that playing in the sun was perhaps an even bigger workout than what anyone else got.
On the way home we will often stop at the market and pick up some fresh fruit to munch on in the van on the way back. This time was different only because of the type of ‘fresh’ fruit. To those who have never been exposed to a fruit called durian, you might want to try it in an area that is well ventilated. For us though, it made for a van ride home that was indescribable or actually very describable. This ‘fruit’ emits a very grotesque stench after it is opened. Gil had tried it before and encouraged us to partake by telling us that “it tastes better than it smells.” That being said, the big challenge of course is then to taste it. Stan and Pastor Scott were closest to Gil who was holding the durian with bags over his hands. They seemed to have the most intense reaction and were really getting grossed out. It was hilarious to watch as they agonized over the smell and their proximity to it. One by one we each had a small taste of it. Pastor Scott may have an example for a future message on lukewarmness as he without hesitation spewed it out of his mouth right out of the window. There were many great quotes about this series of events. “I would rather lick your toes than put that in my mouth” and “what do you know about me that makes you think that I would like that”. We were thinking the next day that this fruit has potential for an upcoming BGMC challenge. We will see.
In the evening Jeremy challenged the students with some math problems with the English class at SLM. The students were pretty sharp but maybe not quite ready for college level problems. Afterword, we had dinner on the beach. Here we were able to see how people celebrate the Chinese New Year. All along the beach people were lighting off various fireworks. Most were from a four foot stick that kids were going from table to table trying to sell. Every now and then you would see a Chinese candle float by. A Chinese candle is actually a lighted candle inside some sort of balloon or globe shaped paper thingy. They will hover by at about 10 feet and eventually go so high up that you can’t see them anymore. Those looked  pretty cool but we also wondered where they would land and if they would cause a fire when they landed.                                                                                                     
Friday - Eric, Gil, Jeremy and Pastor Scott started the electrification of the school building at Buffalo Village. Electricity is coming to the area in March and there are many fixtures (lights, fans and outlets) to install. They got a lot of the work done even though there were challenges with some of the equipment. They were amazed by the fearlessness of some of the Cambodians that were working with them. The plan was to run much of the wiring at the top of the ceiling but the ladders were too short by several feet. To make up the needed height, ladders were propped up on tables. Our team held the ladders firmly in place while our Cambodian friends attached the wires to the ceiling.
The medical team, Pastor Jonah, Stan, Terry and myself went to  SLM 's Home church in Tomnok Rolok; 90% of the people are fishermen and this village is built over the water. We did a medical/evangelism service there last year. It was a location that concerned me. Last year this is what I wrote: ‘Some of the villages that we go to are so poor that they are scary in regards to their living situation. This for me was one of them, situated near the gulf and suspended 2-3 feet above mucky, murky, marshy, icky slime. While we were there I think that one of the children that were there fell through but not all the way. Our table that we did the medical service at was about 2 steps away from the edge. It seems just natural to look down while walking on the patchwork of wood boards that are the barrier between oneself and what lies beneath you.’ Sometime after that service last year, God inspired one family to invest in this village.  SLM  then was able to build a worship center in the same spot that we had our medical service last year. This building was a major upgrade from the edge that we were backed into last year. I really love this building, In the midst of the rickety walkways and drop-offs into muck. This building inspires hope by standing firm with its door open and a large banner in back that says ‘To God Be The Glory’. Now,  SLM  holds medical service and worship service for about 60 people every Sunday. This small worship room is a place of miracles, a few months ago, there was a major accident. Some fishermen there use explosives as a means to fish. The explosives ignited in the village and caused a fire, about 52 families lost their homes. The miracle in this was that as the fire got near to the worship center, the pastor prayed. God changed the direction of the wind and the center was spared. As you walk through you can see that the fire stopped about 15 feet from this building. Many of the families have rebuilt but some families could not and have moved.  SLM  has been helping the fire victims’ families with rice, cooking oil, noodles, biscuits, drinking water, used clothes, salt, sugar and milk etc. In our service this year, 57 people received medical attention.                                       
In the evening, Stan shared in great detail with the English class. It was so interesting that as I was working in the next room with the medicine I stopped to tune in as he spoke on a variety of subjects and wound up sharing about Jesus. 
Saturday - SLM's ministry behind the civil hospital: Earlier in 2012 Pastor Jonah began having medical and evangelism in this area. It is known to be a red light district in Siahanoukville. A few family members are open to the gospel and believe in Jesus but the people living around them are not really open to the Gospel (due to their business). We treated 37 people there and more came to join our worship. They went out of their way to welcome us by putting out flowers and spreading nice table clothes on the front tables where we were setting up. They also provided some juice, pineapple and coconuts with straws for us. There was a lot of wind that day that threatened their good efforts by blowing over the flowers making the table cloths flop around but their good efforts did not go unnoticed. Pastor Jonah said that they were formerly involved in human trafficking but I would have never known. When I think about it, Jesus once told a parable about two people who were forgiven their debts. One owed more than the other and was more grateful because it was a larger debt. Perhaps some of this gratefulness was on display here. We appreciate their love and efforts and look forward to seeing them again next year. We need to really pray for those who are still actively involved in the sin that this area is known for and that God will grow a dynamic church group in this area.
Sunday - Service at Oseytey Christian Assembly & Afternoon Baptism: We have sent a team to Cambodia for 8 years now and for most of those years we have spent Sunday mornings with Pastor San at Oseytey Church. When I think of Pastor San I think of the joy of the Lord, because he’s got it. Last year we decided to spend one day serving with him at one of the villages that he serves at. On Tuesday we will be going with him back to that village. It is always a special time serving with Pastor San and visiting Oseytey Church but this year was more special for a couple of reasons. Last year West Layton Assembly was made aware of a need within Oseytey Church to add several classrooms in the lower part of their building. We sent the money to do this and we were looking forward to seeing their progress. The rooms looked great, each room had large windows and it looked well done but in need of a few finishing touches. We plan to get them the funds to finish the job and look forward to seeing it finished next year. The service that followed provided probably the best highlight of the trip, which is saying a lot. During the worship service I recall one very deep, very intense song that I did not know. That told me that at this church they believe in living a life that is close to God. Pastor Scott delivered an excellent message that Pastor San interpreted. It was John 3:16, “a verse that begins with God and ends in life.” It is really an excellent message that details all the reasons to believe God. And although there was no alter call unless Pastor San interpreted one in, two people, Vandy a 20 year old man and Reak Smey  a 20 year old woman asked Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. Angels are said to rejoice in heaven about this sort of thing and we all rejoice with them. How can you beat that? Later we held a baptism service for 25 people at the beach, followed by a great time of worshiping the Lord, communion and dinner on the beach. Afterward we enjoyed watching the sunset.              
Monday – Crocodile Hole Village is a former Khmer Rouge Village. This is one of the bigger outreaches and so everyone joined in. This outreach is technically held at the village school, but is actually done outside the school under a couple of large shade trees. It is a good idea because there is a nice breeze that makes it a comfortable area to work in ... as long as you stay in the shade. We brought out of the school about 5 tables. An old shell from a napalm bomb serves as their school bell. About 120 attended whom we fed and it was a busy time. Because of the number of people we added a new medical ministry team, Gil was the doctor and Eric assisted him by writing down patient information. Pastor Scott and Jeremy once again did a great job bagging medicine for us to give out. I was very concerned with one patient that Stan and I helped. He had lost a couple of his middle toes in an industrial accident and it looked infected. Then he said that he couldn’t move his jaw. I asked Terry for an opinion, she said that “if it was lockjaw he was a dead man.”  After a few more questions though, we found that he had the jaw problem for over a year and the foot issue happened a few weeks ago.
Traveling on the roads in Cambodia has always been an experience but after 5 trips I feel like I am finally getting used to it. They will pass all the time always honking their horns with each pass. There really is no such thing as a no passing zone. When they are looking to pass, the passing lane does not need to be clear. If there is an oncoming motorcycle or a smaller vehicle coming up they will honk their horn and now there is an expectation that the smaller unit will go to the shoulder if need be to allow the larger unit by. It is something that the Cambodians are used to and for me after 5 years I don’t even get twitchy anymore. Obviously though, passing at every opportunity can have its drawbacks. We used two vehicles on this trip. On the way back we separated and the car I was in got lost and entered the main highway further up the road. The van that most of the team was in passed about a hundred bystanders by the side of the road, a smashed up burnt car, a huge truck off the road into the grass, and what looked like a body covered by a sheet. Military personnel that they met at a market described what happened. While passing another vehicle, a car with 5 family members hit head on into the huge truck, setting the car on fire. Four were killed within the vehicle and a fifth was thrown out of the vehicle and killed (the body that was covered by the sheet.)  It is sad to think how quickly and dramatically life can end for an entire family.
Tuesday - Pastor San's Home church in the corner of Tomnok Rolok. This is the place we did medical and worship last year. But it was at a location that was different. Last year the outreach was in a building just off of the main road. This time we noticed right away that there was work being done in the ditch area between the road and the building where we met last year. This year we were led to an area deeper into the village beyond some train tracks. As we set up I noticed some of the joyful faces of people we had met last year. It is great to go back to many of the villages and recognize people that you saw the year before. We provided bread and water to all who came. The temperature in Cambodia has not been much of an issue. Eric had been checking it on his phone for a couple of weeks before we left and was saying that the high was around 95 degrees every day. We normally set up outside in the shade and with a little breeze and we are really pretty busy and don’t notice the heat much. This time, we were set up inside a small church building with 2 doors and several windows open. Like I said “we get busy and don’t think of temperature.”  It was not until one patient had felt that they had a fever that we needed to pull out our temporal thermometer. I was a little surprised after turning it on and before using it on someone that I got a reading of 104. After taking that persons temperature, the thermometer read a very normal 98. Armed with that information though, people that we had free started fanning others. People from the church tried to get an electric fan going and that was no small task. To do this they put together several extension cords from another building through a window to a small table fan that had a cord that had been broken and taped. I always appreciate their efforts, the fan worked well in a small area but eventually stopped working. We were near the end and every one was ok. Before we could leave though, Terry had one request for a house call. Pastor San told us of an old man in his 80’s who may have broken his ankle. People in this village will normally go to the bathroom in an area of large rocks near the sea, it is very treacherous at night. Pastor San said that as the people get older often they fall and many have died. We were able to give money to Pastor San so he could have a bathroom built. Soon especially the older people can avoid a bad situation.
Later in the afternoon, most of the team was able to tour a Christian mission ship Logos. They were doing ministry in the Sihanoukville area and were working with Pastor Jonah and other churches and ministries. On their ship they have a bookstore and plenty area for meetings. I think earlier in the day they were holding a women’s conference. One thing that they said that really stuck out to me was that about a third of the 400 volunteers lay on the floor while they are at sea to help them avoid seasickness. While most of the team was doing this tour Eric and Gil worked on building issues at Samaritan Love Mission. It was amazing to see the big difference because in the past we have always focused on the locations that we were reaching out to. SLM was where we stayed and where we kept the medicine and we just viewed it as quirky that there were issues with fans, lights, outlets, bathroom doors that don’t stay closed and so on. We are so thankful for this special, new ministry to help address the building needs of ministries in Cambodia.
Wednesday - SMACH DENG VILLAGE: Once again, we have our final outreach at a church in this village. It is a village that is in the right direction as we go back toward Phnom Penh. One thing that I remember most about this stop is the humbleness of the pastor’s wife. I am pretty sure that she was there the whole time helping us with either kid control or translating for Gil. She had a need but almost didn’t get the help that she needed for a rash that she had. We were almost packed up when she mentioned it. In this service we did medical service for 70 people. As in most all of the villages we saw a lot of people with various aches, pains that we gave over the counter pain relievers to. Many are given vitamins and calcium to help strengthen them by providing to things that are lacking in their diet. A few people needed antibiotics and some were concerned about high blood pressure. Not a lot seemed to stick out, that’s a good thing. In past trips to this location we have seen children with bloated bellies, one little girl from untreated cancer and two boys that had a blood disorder. They were in the last months of their lives. We did not see anything like that this time so there’s a lot to be thankful for.
During our time there this year we were able to provide medical service for 416 people. Because of all the medicine we were able to bring, thousands more will be given medical help by Pastor Jonah after we leave. We took part in baptizing 25 and 2 people gave their lives to the Lord, it was a good trip.