Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25
Friday, December 14, 2007
I started getting involved with the work in Cambodia about 9 years ago firstly because I have always wanted to do something like that. I guess those early readings on Albert Schweitzer left some indelible imprints on the subconscious. Secondly, at the time in my life I got round to feeling that despite whatever life had thrown at me, I still considered myself very blessed, and certainly He has blessed me more richly than I deserved, given the mess I have generally made going my own way. So I reckoned I really should start putting action to feelings and ideas that were bouncing around in my head. So with a group of restless souls from Mt Carmel BP Church, we muddled our way into Cambodia just to explore possibilities of getting engaged. We called it the Overseas Outreach for Street Kids (OOSK). Truth be told, I never saw these as mission trips although the church insisted on flagging them as such. :)
Nevertheless, that proved to be some kind of turning point in my life, because despite the horrendous mess Cambodia was in at that time (it was just after the civil war and barely 2 decades after the Khmer Rouge), it was really not very difficult to fall in love with the country and its people. So trip followed trip, mission after mission. Each was a story of its own to tell. And before I knew it, I have been in and out of Cambodia 12 times over 9 years (just counted on my passport). In the early years, our work was largely in Phnom Penh some with Pak Soon, some with Sharon (HIS) in Takmau....and in various places. But gradually I began to feel that the needs were not in Phnom Penh where numerous NGOs and churches were already making their presence felt, but in the rural areas where most organized groups were reluctant to go because of either logistic difficulties or institutional strategic reasons. So together with Esther Ding of the Cambodia Methodist Services, we began to explore reaching into the deep rural regions in Baray where villages remained isolated and unsupported.
I have stopped doing medical/dental missions for the time being. Not that they are unimportant, but that I have come to see that they are not a very cost effective way of doing things and the solutions they provide are relatively short term. For better or for worse, I have opted to deal with the problems of making education accessible to the young children in the remote villages.
These villages have few schools to send their children to. And the parents not very motivated because of their poverty. Because the villages are scattered over a large area and serviced by few good roads and schools, young children have to travel long distances through long stretches of dirt tracks which are often treacherous especially when it gets dark. So parents generally don't bother. On the other hand while these villages are currently isolated, it is obvious they cannot remain isolated for long. Cambodia is awakening very rapidly, and the city will soon reach Baray....and then the villages will be next. Without education, the village children will be exposed and vulnerable.
These schools will at least give them some semblance of a chance when the outside world reaches them.
(For the curious.....I currently worship at the Saturday Evening Service of Mt Carmel. It's a small cosy contemporary styled service. I like it. Its casual, friendly...and free of many of the problems that plague larger congregations. :))