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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

almost there...

Well...we are really almost there. About S$8000 of almost there actually.

But I am going on in faith, and have remitted US$10K to Ps Samreth to begin the construction. We have to complete the school before the rains start. Well, at least the shell needs to be completed.

But God has been wonderful in providing through the surprising turnout of donors so far. I never expected to have gotten so far in this depressing economic climate. But here we are... with the summit in sight.

Praise God. And to those who have chipped in.... thank you so much!!

I will be going there in end April with a whole bunch of collected pens/pencils etc for the kids. They are just going tobe so thrilled.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Difficult to forgive

Anyone who has visited the Tuol Sleng museum cannot help but be moved by the horror and the suffering that went on in that place. The deadened eyes from the old yellowed photos stare at you almost pleadingly...

It is difficult to forgive. It must be so difficult for those who have lost loved ones to the evilness of that brutal regime.

But the Gospel of Matthew reported that once Peter had asked Jesus about forgiveness:
'Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.' Matthew 18:21-22

Seventy seven times? But then, I argue to myself...that's different, that's about forgiving your brother. There is something quite different when it comes to forgiving your enemy..someone who has raped your mother, wife or daughter...slaughtered your family. Surely it must be different?


At times like this, I hardly want to remember that Jesus came for such people. Sinners. Not the righteous. He came for those outside of the family. Those who would betray him. Those liars, cheats, robbers, rapists and murderers. To bring them into his family. Sinners like me.

But He did. Even when He was dying on the cross, He still had the Grace to forgive. This is our God. And this is what He expects of us.

The Apostle Paul was an obsessive persecutor of the early church, responsible for the imprisonment and deaths of many of the early Christians. Paul himself confessed to how he "
persecuted without mercy, the church of God and tried my best to destroy it". And on the road, Jesus challenged him: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

There was no reason for the early Christians to forgive Paul, even after he repented. They were certainly still suspicious and wary of his conversion. Yet they clearly found the Grace to forgive him. And he subsequently became the greatest of the Apostles.

Can we find the grace to forgive? We must.

Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, and who must have witnessed countless atrocities not unlike those at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, said, "
Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you."

The Khmer Rouge has been destroyed, but the Cambodians remain imprisoned.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The dilemma of Duch

Today, the man who was in charge of the infamous Khmer Rouge S21 torture facility, Kaing Keach Eav, better known as 'The Duch' went on trial. The Khmer Rouge security apparatus killed as much as 500,000 Cambodians, while about 2 million perished during the 5 years the Khmer Rouge held power. Duch, the only Khmer Rouge leader ever to have confessed, is the first of 5 leaders to be tried for those atrocities.

It is without doubt a milestone event for Cambodians, many of whom remain bewildered by what had happened, and seek some form of closure to that very painful and horrific period of their lives.
But Duch has not made things easy for the Cambodians nor the watching world. He has not denied his role in the atrocities. He has not only confessed to them but has asked for forgiveness from the relatives of his victims. The only Khmer Rouge leader to have done so. Apparently in 1995 (some 14 years ago), he had become a born-again Christian.

It would have been so much easier if he had remained evil, unrepentant and fought all the way to his conviction. So much easier to hate, and to exact retribution under those circumstances. But what do you do when your most hated enemy confesses his crimes and asks for forgiveness?

We have no means of determining the genuineness of his conversion. Only God knows what is in his heart. But his apparent outward peace, the dignified way by which he handles himself as he confronts his own crimes, and his public acceptance of any punishment due points to some truth in that conversion.

Exacting retribution is easy. Dispensing forgiveness not. Whether Duch truly repents is probably unimportant to most Cambodians. He deserves a guilty verdict for all that he has done, and was responsible for. And he should not be spared the full weight of the law. But this trial will not bring easy closure for the Cambodians. Healing will not follow swiftly. Even more so now than before, Cambodia needs God.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cambodia's economy 2009

This is excerpted from Stephen Kurczy's report in Asia Times Online

"Until now, integration with global markets had buoyed the Cambodian economy. With the implementation of more market-oriented reforms, including measures to lure foreign investment, average per capita annual income more than doubled to $593 in 2007 from $285 in 1997. Now many fear a reversal of fortunes that could drive more Cambodians, already estimated at 35% of the population, back under the poverty line. Cambodia's poor were already hard hit by last year's spike in inflation, which soared to 25% last May before moderating to an overall annual rate of 13.5%."

For the full article entitled "Cambodia shares the pain", click here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Those hidden places ...

This is one of the dug wells from which many Khmer homes draw the water from. Dug well water is not considered safe because it is frequently contaminated. But sadly, often this is all the villagers have. Most wells will need a concrete apron around it so that the drawer has a dry and relatively clean spot to stand when washing or drawing water. Many homes have a well, but cannot afford to construct the apron around the well.

Here, the NTU students from Project L.O.V.E. are constructing a well apron for a household well.

We all learned a fair bit from the Khmers about brick laying and preparing concrete. The foundation of the apron is a layer of rocks which are first laid in place and then laboriously pounded into the ground to level them. After that the apron is finished with cement. At first we all thought the method was to first mix the cement and then pour the cement mix over the rock base. But we learned that if we did that, the thick consistency of the cement mix will not flow into the gaps between the rocks. What the Khmers did was too scatter the dry cement mix over the rock base, and then to pour water over the dry mix. The water was then free to carry the cement into all the nooks and crannies between the rocks.

As I was thinking about it, I was reminded of how sometimes our worldly cares and concerns, our sins all conspire to prevent the Holy Spirit from accessing all the hidden areas of our lives. Our Christianity congeals as a hardened shell around us. Looks good but hollow inside.

What we need is a good dose of God's Holy Spirit...fresh, clear and unadulterated.
Flow Spirit flow.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Collection call for writing materials

We are putting out a call for writing materials for the school children!!

Many of the Khmer children in the schools we have built do not have access to proper writing materials. The default is merely writing on the blackboard with small pieces of chalk. If you have ball point pens, pencils, coloured pencils etc that are not doing very much on your desk or drawers, please consider donating them for these children to use. But please make sure they are usable.

I will be going to Cambodia on 23 April and can bring a collection with me for the schools. Please contact me if you can put together a carton for me to bring over.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Living waters

We are all familiar with over romantic portrayals of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. The gospel of John tells us that Jesus was traveling from Judea through Samaria towards Galilee when he stopped at a well at a small town call Sychar. This was also the site of the famous 'Jacob's well'.

Knowing about the dug wells in Cambodia, one might think that that this particular well was filled with filthy contaminated water, unsafe for drinking. But not so. This well apparently tapped into an aquifer fed by an underground spring, and during Jesus' time produced good clear drinking water.

It was at this well when Jesus commented (John 4:13-15) to the Samaritan woman:

"Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

Later he remarked to the disciples when they worried about him being hungry, that "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."

Clearly Jesus was refering to a spiritual truth that was beyond the physical needs of drinking and eating. This is also a powerful reminder to us that whatever we do in Cambodia, it must go beyond just meeting the physical needs of the people. They need the water that will allow them not to thrist again, and the bread that will prevent them from being hungry again (John 6:35).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Living waters in Cambodia - the tube well

The tube well is a cost effective means of accessing safe water. Essentially the technology allows for a pipe to be bored 30-40 metres down to the water table and a hand pump is used to pump water to the surface. A cement apron is placed around the well. Typically, tube wells can supply water for 5 families (40 people).

Current costs for us to put a tube well in the school compound is approximately US$1200. Putting up a 3 roomed toilet costs US$1100. The waste is flushed into a septic tank at the rear of the toilets.

Living waters in Cambodia - clean water and good sanitation

In 1998, the National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning reported that in Kampong Thom province access to safe drinking water was only 2.1%. This was taken to be from either piped sources or from tube wells. About 82% of water was from dug wells, and another 14% from surface sources such as springs, rivers, ponds and rain. This was compared to the access to safe water at the national level of 23.7%.

I am sure the situation has improved since then, but probably not by much.

Tube wells are considered relatively safe because the water is 'filtered' through soil and is relatively free from contamination as compared to dug wells. Water sources close to the surface are notoriously contaminated. Sanitation in rural Cambodia is atrocious. The
World Bank-sponsored Water and Sanitation Programme reported recently that only 16%
of rural Cambodians have access to toilets.

However, it is fallacious to think that just because water is visually clean, that it is safe to drink. Even filtered water may be contaminated by chemical pollutants from the indiscriminate use and disposal of pesticides, fertilizers and discarded batteries etc.

As we go to the villages, together with the placement of a school, we also construct a tube well plus toilets for the school. These are not too expensive to construct and dramatically improves the health of the children when they have access to good sanitation and safe drinking water.