School@Soksan completed, waiting for opening in September.
Floating Classroom @ Boeung Rial
We first entered Boeung Rial about 10 years ago, bringing supplies and a medical-dental team. We just knew it then (and for a long time after that) as the ‘fishing village’. This was a very poor, nomadic village who lived at the edge of the Tonle Sap flood plains and moved twice a year with the rise and fall of the Tonle Sap waters.
After our initial visit to Boeung Rial, the local Christians from Ps Kia’s (Sombrong) church continued to minister to the village and many came to receive Christ. From a village full of drunks, drug addicts and gamblers, the village gradually became more and more respectable. Using the steel frame tentage we gifted them many years ago, a couple of Christian teachers from the church went in 3 times a week to conduct simple classes for the children. Last year they requested a proper school, and by the grace of God we were able to build them a floating classroom so that the children could go to school. About 6 weeks ago, we were delighted to be able to commission the floating classroom.
What was particularly encouraging was the openness with which they could receive God’s word, pray and profess their faith. By His grace we are also now able to sponsor the teachers to go in 5 days a week, so that the kids can have their proper schooling. Through a generous donation, we are also now able to sponsor 2 motorbikes to enable the church workers to make the long and rough journey into Boeung Rial. Praise God!!
We continue to press on with our mission to build schools in the remotest parts Cambodia, believing that it is only through education that we can make a lasting impact on the lives of the people there and hopefully help them break out of the poverty trap. What has been particularly exciting to see is the powerful nexus between the schools and the gospel mission. In the villages where we have built the schools, Christian workers have been able to enter freely and work with the children. On this last trip we rejoiced to see children openly singing praise songs and participating in public prayer. It was truly wonderful!
A particularly exciting recent development has been the decision by Mt Carmel to adopt the mission work at a very remote village called Andaut. We will also be building a school there. We look forward to seeing His work unfold there. Do continue to commit this endeavour to Him in prayer. Your prayer support has always been very important to this work.
We first entered Cambodia in April 1999. This was the year after the Khmer Rouge finally surrendered, and after the coup when some semblance of peace had begun to settle in.
Eight of us - William Chooi, Teo Chee Khiang, Chua Boon Chye, Chua Sock Hoon, Alice Khoong, Lim Kim Thia (from Galilee BP Church), Chua Phek Hoon and myself)- led by William Chooi wandered into Phnom Penh, blur like sotongs, looking for some way to make a difference to the war ravaged land. Our first contacts there were Baptist missionaries Jim and Shirlie Moore. I have to confess that we understood little about Cambodia at that time, other than it was devastatingly poor. I remember feeling like my guts had been wrenched out as we walked through the Tuol Sleng holocaust museum, and then fighting through the masses of child beggars and destitute children.
During that brief visit, I think God broke my heart for these beautiful children. It was my first mission trip. I didn't know then, how He would keep leading me back there. Now, 10 years later, I have been in Cambodia 16 times, and at least once every year.
Increasingly our work there has taken us further and further away from the urban centres. The needs of the rural communities are greatest, the further they are from the main roads. We have been working in the Baray district since 2005, working hand in hand with the local pastors, to plant small schools in these remote villages. We take schooling and education for granted in Singapore, but very young children in these villages often have to trudge a few kilometers of unsafe trails just to get to school. Often they would just give up, and eventually drop out of school. By God's grace we managed to build a school every year and to date we have planted 5 schools and a total of 14 classrooms in these villages.
In the poorest of these villages (Chhom Trach, where we built the first school), we have been able to begin a meal supplementation plan. Once a week, we are now able to provide cooked rice and a duck's egg at US$0.25 per child per meal. We were delighted that we could do it for the school children. Yet at the same time, it was heart breaking to see so many of the other non-school going children watching, and literally weeping because they were unable to participate in what must have seemed a feast. (Sadly, we can only afford to support the school children!)
During this last trip we - Jhon Sim, Chan Kok Yong, Soh Cheow Tuan, Jimmy Thia (Zion Bishan), Yoon Ping and myself - were privileged to be able to help commission 3 classroom schools in 2 villages - Phum Leav and Phum Ley. To commemorate the occasion, we instituted a tree planting ceremony so that the villagers can remember how God had blessed them, and continue to view the school as a blessing that came from Him. On the front of the school, a plaque reads: "Let the children come to me, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to them." Matthew 19:14. And in front of the well: "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst" John 4:14.
Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement and constant support for this project. God has been very constant and faithful in leading and providing. His hand has kept us out of danger in all our trips.
Now He seems to be pointing us to a jungle region about 40 kms northeast of Baray. A greatly neglected cluster of about 700 families. Very poor and isolated, they have been crying out for help. Pastor Kea, has on his own initiative and resources, been going in regularly to minister to them, but he needs help. Though only 40 kms away, this distance takes 4 hours to traverse because of the very poor condition of the dirt tracks.
Do continue to pray for this project. We are continuing to evaluate the needs and possibilities for this region. A trip is being planned for January when the weather is not so formidable. Do also pray for people to come forward and to take up the challenge of planting churches in this very remote part of Cambodia.
Our God reigns!
We were fortunate this year to be able to work with the Alor Star Wesley Methodist Church who provided approximately 30% of the funding for the school. Alor Star WMC has also embarked on a project to build a church in O Ta Saeng. During our recent visit, we were overjoyed to see the near completion of the church building at O Ta Saeng. Praise God.
Even as we bring this project in O Ta Saeng to a close, we are now moved to build another school, this time in a very remote village of Phum (village) Leav. The name of the village apparent draws from is history of being associated with Laotians. Leav is in the proximity of a previous village we had worked with, Ta Peuv, although separated by very bad roads. Leav and its neighbour Char, altogether comprise approximately 500 families, and desperately need a school for their children who are too young to make the arduous and dangerous trek to the nearest Primary school.
Since 2005, we have already built 3 village schools. It is not an understatement to say that the presence of these schools have a major transforming effect on the villages, many of whose children just do not have the opportunity to go to school until they are old enough to travel the long distances. We have been able to accomplish so much only because of your generous support.
So this Christmas we want to thank God for His wonderful Grace and His faithful support through your generous giving.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very blessed Christmas,