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, November 7, 2009

The 'Fishing Village'

Back in 2001, after we had helped out with the 2000 flood relief work, we were told of a very poor and neglected fishing village. We responded then to what was to become a recurring refrain over the years:"Can you help?"

We soon led 2 trips into the village with supplies and a medical-dental team. In those days we naively thought it quite quaint that an armed police escort had to follow us around. Later we found out that the area was frequented by bandits, and in fact one bandit group had narrowly missed us, though they had specifically intended to intercept us. God's hand of protection had been over us!

The 'Fishing Village' is a village with no real name. The nearest recognizable village was one called Boeung Ria. The village was a semi-nomadic village that lived on the edge of the Ton Le Sap tidal flood plains. Two or three times a year, as the water levels rose and fell, and as the water edge moved, the village will dismantle and move according to the availability of dry land. Their huts are made of wood and palm leaves, but secured with string rather than nails. There are about 60-70 families in that cluster, but the cluster breaks up as they relocate to dry ground.

After our initial visits, the local pastor, particularly Pastor Kea, had continued to follow up with the villagers. Families began to be converted and gradually the character and mood of the village community also began to change.

Pastor Kea

Setting off by boat
We revisited the village this last trip because there was a request for a school. The village had become tired of being illiterate and did not want the next generation to be illiterate. They wanted their children to go to school. Currently the nearest school was in ChakTaLeuk, a long distance away by boat, and which was pretty much inaccessible to the children. Could they have a school close to their village, perhaps a floating one?

Unarmed escort
This last trip, we were also escorted by a police officer, but he was unarmed and largely superfluous as the bandits had long been disbanded. A ceremonial presence.

The village we visited was recognizable, but only in form. The poverty was still there. And so were the portable huts which reminded us of the booths the Hebrews had occupied when they moved through the desert after fleeing Egypt. But the people were not so despondent, so lost. There was a refreshing sense of hope and purposefulness.

Pastor Kea's brother-in-law, a young man named Kimsour, functioned as a pastoral assistant and had been regularly ministering to the villagers. Every Sunday afternoon, he held a small worship sevice in the home of one of the parishioners. He told me there were 8 Christian families there now. And though many had not formally accepted Christ, they were very open and often attended their meetings.
Kimsour in front of the home where they have their regular Sunday afternoon worship
Chern Chern doing her toothbrushing drill


Pastor Teara distributing fishing nets

We stayed long enough to attended a last minute call to the villagers to meet for a song and prayer session. There under the tentage, we fellowshipped with them as they sang a few songs of praise. We prayed with them. My wife was particularly taken by the little girl who could not only sing praise songs but also pray aloud.

It was a wonderful time. And it made me reflect on how wonderful it was, that there in the middle of nowhere, in a village that had no name, we were able to pray and fellowship with families who shared our same God. Just reminded me of the wonder of being in God's family.

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