Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Favorite books in 2013

Books are treasures in Cambodia!  Here are a few of the jems we've recently found:

The Hobbit

 While I read The Hobbit to Logan, he followed along in this fun, true to the original illustrated version.

 When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself

True help is more than just good intentions. One of the easiest mistakes to make in helping the poor is providing relief in situations where rehabilitation or development are the actual need.  We appreciate the clear distinction of these approaches and the thought provoking examples showing how appropriate help is often the difference between long term and short term solutions for a community.

A must read for anyone with a heart to serve others!

 The Usborn Big Book of 1001 Things to Spot

Caleb is becoming a searching pro with this fun book!
We've enjoyed hours of looking for and counting the many things to find in these pictures.

It even has a few scenes familiar to our part of the world.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

A book about appreciating the understated strengths of the quiet people in our life. There's an interesting description of the rise of the "extrovert ideal" in North America and shares ideas for empowering introverted children.  Being an introvert myself, I appreciated the suggestions for discovering ways to enjoy activies like public speaking.  In the end, I liked this book so much because it reminded me to enjoy being myself and to appreciate the unique qualities of my quiet friends.

Thank you to my brother for sharing this book with me. Love you David!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Scuba Diving Trip

 Me and dad going to the scuba place for my thirteenth birthday.
 I wanted to go scuba diving because it seemed interesting to me and I like being under water.

We took a bus to the beach, then a boat to an island and then a boat to the place we were diving at. When I was under the water I saw lots of fish and coral. 

Me in the scuba gear: flippers, goggles, tank vest, regulator and gauge.  All that stuff was very heavy. 

Me and dad at the scuba place. I was glad I went. It was fun to go diving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

American Thanksgiving and A Jewish Passover Song in Cambodia

I love how this strange, cross cultural life of ours adds a special richness to our holiday season.

But I didn't always feel this way. Truth be told, the first couple years we lived in Cambodia I didn't even want to celebrate the holidays - they just made me feel further away from the people I missed the most. But each year Cambodia feels a little more like home and the people in our lives more like family.  I'm also discovering new, unexpected joy during the holidays.

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a group devotion at a leadership development class.  The devotion involved the Jewish song Dayenu, which has been part of the Passover celebration for over 1000 years.  Dayenu means, "It would have been enough for us."  The message is that each of God’s gifts are so rich, just one would have been enough.  Experiencing this pattern of worship with my class of almost 40 people, literally from all over the world, was very meaningful to me.

Here are a few lines of the song:

“If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, 
and had not fed us the manna
it would have been enough for us!

If He had fed us the manna, 
and had not given us the Shabbat (the Sabbath day of rest)
it would have been enough for us!

After the song we were encouraged to think of verses we could write from our own lives. I wrote:

“If He had given Joe, 

and not Caleb and Logan,

it would have been enough!

If He had given my family, 

and not called us to see Him work in Cambodia,

 it would have been enough!

If He had called us to Cambodia, 

and not caused me to love Him even more, 

it would have been enough!

Help me never forget,
it was enough, 
a very long time ago.”

The words are simple but my thankfulness real.  Tears streamed down my face as I considered the worth of each gift from God. 

Working cross culturally has given me an appreciation for so many different ways to live and worship God.  Who would have thought a song for a Jewish holiday would add more meaning to my American Thanksgiving?  It has, and I am very grateful!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mud Bogging

We live in the city so I (Joe) like to help our guys see the beautiful parts of their country.   

This week I took them to the village, Chi Phat (pronounced Chee-Pot). 

It's about four hours from our home and in the words of another American, "The road (to Chi Phat) is intrepid." But we didn't encounter any major problems and by the time we arrived I was feeling pretty positive.  

We checked into the guest house.

We had lunch.

Then headed to a nearby waterfall. After turning onto the road leading to the falls we passed two cars that were leaving.  I avoided a few potential problem spots and it all went smoothly... until we reached a long, under water section. I sent one of the guys ahead to check it out. The road was basically two deep ruts with a large high spot in the middle. Since the other cars had made it through I thought, "It must not be THAT bad." We got about 100 feet, and only had 30 feet left to go, when the front tires unexpectedly slid sideways into the ruts and the rear tires instantly followed.

That's where the van stayed for the next 27 hours.

After some unproductive attempts at moving the van we walked to the falls.  Then we walked an hour back to the guest house.  In the village Michael put up a bounty for getting the car out.  

A couple guys brought their water buffalo, but the van didn't budge.

Some guys with come-alongs were hoping to claim the cash, but gave up.

Another group with come-alongs tried a different method and for the first time we saw some progress, if extremely slow progress. Then I was able to get the guys to try a different approach to their method. In the end, that was the solution we were looking for. 

It was cool to see how the problem was solved.

The $60 bounty was paid out to the successful guys and we handed out five or so bucks to the guys who tried.

My biggest regret is that my camera battery died before we got the car completely out. Oh well, just more proof that things don't always work out the way I plan. Word to the wise: If you're going mud bogging, or even four wheeling, don't take a stock Toyota Previa Van. That is, unless you want to get stuck. :)

Monday, October 1, 2012


Last week I (Joe) had the opportunity to visit some Cham villages about three hours by bike from where we live.  It was a privilege to go with my neighbor Tony, who has worked with the Cham for several years.

When we first entered the obviously Muslim villages it touched my heart to see a big smile come across his face and hear him say with great joy and affection, “These are my people.”

As we were invited into their homes Tony was able to teach them stories from the Bible and tell them about how Jesus came to save us from sin.  As we left we handed out DVDs of The Jesus Film in the Cham language.  This is the first movie to ever be released in their native language.

A one day trip became almost two days.  Hard rain on the way home at night, me missing a turn and breaking my bike chain made it that much more of an adventure.  I so appreciate Tony's patience and willingness to include me on this trip.  He is one of only a handful of missionaries to work with the Cham and learn their language - I have enormous respect for him.

The Cham are a facinating people group.  Descendants from the Champa Kingdom which was in Southern Vietnam, their culture is unique folk Muslim - a mix of Islam, Buddhism and animism.  They were disproportionately persecuted during the Khmer Rouge.  Today about 400,000 Cham live in Cambodia.  To learn more about the Cham see: http://www.khmerview.com/Cham-People.html .

Please pray for the Cham people.  Their history is marked by oppression and persecution.  Pray with us that they come to know Jesus Christ as their savior and experience the peace, love and freedom that only He can give. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Prayer changes things... especially me!

Four years ago Joe and I walked into a house of 13 teenage guys as the next in a rather long line of their parental figures. While we were eager to share family life, most of them only had a few years left in school and independence was calling. Friends were welcome. Teachers were needed. But parents? That was the last thing most of them wanted.

I soon realized one of the best ways for me to influence their lives was unobtrusively, through prayer. Over the years, what at first seemed a quiet way to nurture their hearts became a beautiful journey into God’s desires for the young men in our home.

When I began praying for the guys I didn’t know their deep, personal needs, I was still using school pictures as flash cards to memorize their names. Now it is still rare for the guys to share with me their prayer requests, but God has faithfully given me plenty of His.

In times of conflict, when none of us seem at all loveable, I sigh, “Make this kid see reason. ” But then God invites me to ask for more, “May he know how wide and long and high and deep Your love for him really is.” (Ephesians 3:18)

On days marked by teenage angst and frustration, when I want to pray, “Make him lighten up,” God offers me the gentleness to whisper with Him over their soul, “Be at rest once more, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalms 116:7)

At times raising teenagers can be painful. Setting my mind on God’s heart gives me perspective.

As I learn to pray for the young people in my life the book, Every Day I Pray for My Teenager is an inspiring resource.

It's loaded with topics and each topic has a page of verses and a page with a suggested prayer.

I’m learning that prayer is more than asking for what we want for the people we love; it’s discovering God’s heart for them. His heart is big. His dreams are grand. It’s amazing how just catching a glimpse of His heart expands my own.

I love what CS Lewis said about prayer, “It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”