Editor’s Note: Miriam Pacheco, from the Winona Lake (IN) Grace Brethren Church and a Grace Brethren International Missions board member, recently participated in a short-term ministry leadership training trip to Cambodia. FGBC World asked her to keep a “trip diary,” and here are some excerpts:
Tuesday, August 3, 2004
Cambodians have beautiful smiles! We had noodle soup with pork for breakfast — their traditional morning meal. I used chopsticks in one hand to eat the noodles and my spoon in the other for the soup, just like they do.
Wednesday, August 4
She stood by the front door of the restaurant so those eating could see her pretty cloth cage. It held several small birds. I was told that people pay money and then they can put their sins on a bird and set it free. It gets rid of their sins.
Gracious Father, may this woman and her people be set totally free from their cage of fear and sin. Touch her heart to have faith in You, not in her good works.
Thursday, August 5
I enjoy a brisk walk at dawn, though it is already hot and sticky. Along the street by the river people are exercising. Traffic starts to buzz. This is the land of motorbikes! Also bicycles, trucks, land cruisers, cars, horse-drawn carts and walkers (some carrying shoulder poles with a basket of produce hanging off each end).
Friday, August 6
What a delight to attend the 6:30 a.m. devotional time with the Cambodian Foundation Layers. These men and women are zealous to take the gospel to outlying villages, and they begin each working day studying the Word and praying together.
We sit around a large mat on the floor. It is a blessing to hear the testimony of a young man who converted from the Muslim religion. Prayer time is interesting–we all pray out loud all at once!
Saturday, August 7
In our Team Leader training we talk about “getting back to our calling” and discuss our spiritual calling and the spirit world. This is hard for those of us who have a practical, self-sufficient Western culture and mindset. We don’t give much credence to the spirit world.
But people who spend every waking moment trying to appease or manipulate the spirits so they will be pleased understand very well. They need to know about the all-powerful Spirit–God. For Buddhist Cambodians, the spirit world is uppermost in their thinking.
Sunday, August 8
This morning we go with the Foundation Layers to the churches they will visit. My group is going about 12 km to Phnom Sampeau, where the Total Mobilization Support Ministries team built a building last November.
The sweet lady who met us as had a basin for us to wash our feet. What special kindness not only to get our feet clean, but also to share in this biblical (and very Grace Brethren) custom.
Before church starts we have just enough time to visit one of the Killing Fields mountains. It’s sobering to climb so high, look down, and realize that people were thrown to their deaths from here. Pol Pot wanted his country to again be a peasant society, so he systematically killed all the educated and professional people. Considering all the people who were lost to this country about 30 years ago, it is amazing they have been able to recover. It was a dark, horrible time in their history.
Worship was delightful. Many children, and they had prepared a song for us. The congregation was mostly women and children because the men had gone to the Thai border to find work. The job situation in rural areas is difficult.
A nice evening with [GBIM missionaries] Kent and Becky Good. They rent a fairly new home and their landlord and family live at the back of the property. We enjoyed brownies and ice cream. I admire their willingness to come here after being in France for 24 years. They are working hard on the language and are getting acquainted with the people and culture. They connect well with their landlord and his family and have opportunities to share Christ with them through English classes for the children.
Monday, August 9
Team leader meetings are going well. What a special experience to be with Saran and his family in their home for supper! Their three children sang songs and we took pictures all around. We were able to talk with him about the work (he speaks English well). That was a treat since our church has been supporting him for several years.
One more stop before going back to the hotel — a visit with [GBIM missionaries] Steve and Deb Wise. They have good language facility and a great understanding of the people and culture. Now when we discuss our support for them in Missions Commission at church, I’ll know more about their situation.
Tuesday, August 10
Theresa and I walk several blocks to the Sunrise Coffee House for breakfast. This business was started by a Quaker missionary to help Cambodians earn a living. She has taught them to bake and cook for Westerners. Delicious apple strudel!
Game night with the English students. We didn’t keep score, but if we had, one young Cambodian would have won at Scrabble. Uno was a big hit, especially for the beginning English students.
Wednesday, August 11
A quiet day wrapping up sessions and getting mentally in gear for the return trip. We shop in the afternoon and I got some decent bargains to take home to family and friends who have been praying for me.
The big event today was Friendship Night at the Ministry Center. This culmination of the English classes was designed to bring the students, Foundation Layers, missionaries and GO Team people together. A canopy and round tables were set up in the open courtyard. Roasted cow! They did it on a spit right behind the Center and a restaurant catered the rest of the meal. Delicious.
Thursday, August 12
Our last day in Battambang, and we have choices. I chose the cooking class with Sue, Chris and Jill. Later in the afternoon our whole team rented a passenger boat for a ride up the river to see a beautiful Buddhist pagoda. They are everywhere in Cambodia and are elaborate and lavish–the people sacrifice to make them look like that. The monks wear orange wrap-around tunics, usually shave their heads, and are considered holy men.
Friday, August 13
We had a fairly comfortable 5-6 hour bus ride back to Phnom Penh and I enjoyed chatting with Becky Good all the way.
One last visit in this capital city–to the Russian Market. Some of us went to a traditional Cambodian Dance Program at a cultural center. The story is all in the hand movements–extremely controlled and graceful.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to come. Thirty-seven hours of travel home, on four different flights. To be home and sleep in my own bed will be wonderful.