Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #11: Day 2

Discovery-Trip
This is my eleventh journal entry as part of the OCC Volunteer Discovery Trip. The material relates to the ninth day of actual journalling but publication here will not align to that actual day/date – Wednesday 3 February.

The other articles available for this series are:

  1. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #1: Introduction
  2. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #2: God First
  3. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #3: 7 Days Before You Depart
  4. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #4: 6 Days Before You Go 
  5. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #5: 5 Days and Counting 
  6. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #6: 4 Days – Not Long Now
  7. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #7: 3 Days Left
  8. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #8: Less Than 48 Hours!
  9. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #9: What Will Happen When You Return?
  10. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #10: Today Is the Day
  11. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #11: Day 2 [this article]

Journal Guide

READ PSALM 139:23-24

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

To ask God to search your heart is a serious matter. It is not that He does not already know what your heart is like, He knows everything, but by asking Him you are showing that you are willing to be vulnerable and transparent. It is at this point where God can do His greatest work in us and before long, you will see that this is a life-changing prayer. Pray it often!

Have you ever prayed a life-changing prayer? How did God answer? Read the verses again. Write out several issues God is impressing upon you. Do you have the courage to pray a life-changing prayer for these issues?

Journal Write-Up

Reading Psalm 139 was interesting since I had engaged in a conversation where I sought feedback. Just that one conversation was a special bonding moment and highlight from the day. In that moment I was making myself vulnerable and transparent to the other person.

In many ways, I already ascribe greatness for God – a number of years ago, when work was super intense. I have believed that in order for me to last through the last period of intense work, God has truly been working and showing his greatness. It is by His strength that I can face, endure and excel in life on a daily basis.

Reflection of Events

Our first shoebox drop was at a church – Methodist Church of Krang Svay. When we arrived, as became the norm, the kids were in the middle of their church service/program. We got to witness the kids church worship and sing in Khmer. We introduced ourselves, explained why we were visiting and then distributed the shoeboxes. As part of our introduction, we sang a song which I got to lead – If You’re Happy and You Know It! We chose that song because it would help us interact with the kids just a bit more. We did not have much time to prepare, so we sang and did the actions on the fly:

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it,

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

 

If you’re happy and you know it, stamp your feet!

If you’re happy and you know it, stamp your feet!

If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it,

If you’re happy and you know it, stamp your feet!

 

If you’re happy and you know it, nod your head!

If you’re happy and you know it, nod your head!

If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it,

If you’re happy and you know it, nod your head!

 

If you’re happy and you know it, turn around!

If you’re happy and you know it, turn around!

If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it,

If you’re happy and you know it, turn around!

 

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands, stamp your feet, nod your head, turn around!

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands, stamp your feet, nod your head, turn around!

If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it,

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands, stamp your feet, nod your head, turn around! (Sit down!)

We sang it once to demonstrate the actions, during which time the whole team figured out the order. It was actually funny in the final verse – because we mixed up the order and actions slightly… The kids even started to catch on to the actions during our first demonstration, so they got really into the song when we repeated it as one big team. Unfortunately, no photos or videos were captured for this segment of the program.

Our SP lead, with the help of the SP local staff member, instructed the kids that they were to wait for everyone to receive a shoebox. He then went through a count-down with the kids to build up the excitement and finally the moment had arrived – the kids were opening their shoeboxes. Lids were opened and the kids peered into the boxes. A lot of the little ones had expressions of confusion – perhaps they did not quite understand the contents of each shoebox… The older kids though took to the activity with much joy and glee – not only did they look at their own shoe-box, but they also started to compare and in some cases trade items. The younger kids generally had older siblings present and they started to group off according to family; the older siblings helping to ensure the younger ones were looked after. We the SP team were also trying to find space to join the kids and engage them directly. In some cases, we would have kids sitting there with their box closed – a common habit since they would quickly look and then shut the lid to protect the contents. We would ask them, more through hand gestures, what was in the box, and also assist them with some of the more complex items. After about 10 minutes, the kids started to disperse and head home. Many of them travelled as a group – either on bikes or tuk-tuk/lorries where they all jumped onto the back.

After the shoebox distribution we also heard from the Pastor and prayed a blessing over the church. The church staff are all very young in comparison to what I am used to back in Melbourne – all the kids church leaders are in their 20s. The church is well connected into the community, with some kids attending for the day because they heard from friends/classmates that the shoeboxes were being distributed. In situations like that, we had to be compassionate and provide all kids who attended a shoebox. As part of this shoebox distribution, we also handed out booklets where the content is aligned to the 12-week program The Greatest Journey, where the kids are taught about Jesus. We prayed for God to work in the kids that we had provided shoebox gifts to and the church leaders who would lead the teaching of the program.

We then traveled to 2nd Jars of Clay for lunch which was enroute to the next drop off. The second shoebox drop was at a school where the kids attend for supplementary classes. The interesting thing about this school was that our approach to it saw us drive through a pagoda – the Kob Srov Pagoda to be precise. Further, the building which is utilised for the school appears like a normal house from the outside and the driveway along the side of the house was the space utilised for the “assembly” space where all the kids were gathered and we joined them. As a group, they were more engaging and slightly older. When we arrived, as part of this school’s program, they had a worship time and they sang in Khmer This is the Day! On the fly, our SP leader changed the song on us, which we adapted to quickly, including our guitarist. I was picked by our leader as part of the age-guessing game – where this boy started off my guessing my age to be 18 years old! He eventually got to my actual age… I then had to guess his age, and I started off with a guess of 5 years, before increasing my guess to 10, 11 and finally 12 years. These kids are small for their age – partly because of the lack of abundant food.

We were also now slightly more experienced now in the distribution handling so we spent more time and energy engaging with the kids. I also alternated with one of the guys in filming so that I could have the opportunity to hand out shoeboxes and interact with the kids. Even though the language barrier exists, I found the easiest way was to focus on the shoebox of gifts. I could then pick up an item and help the kid to understand the English name whilst he/she would provide the Khmer. Without a doubt, the two most common and easily understood English words are “Hello” and “Bye”. Initially I was mindful of the Samaritan’s Purse policy that we were not to touch the children, particularly their head, but I quickly adopted a more practical engagement – if I was to help the kids appreciate their beanie hats, I would still put it on their heads. Whilst shaking hands was a basic Western greeting, I and the team practiced the Khmer custom of greeting – two hands together in a praying kind of fashion, pointing upwards and to the face. I also interacted with the kids by giving them a high-five, and then getting them to return it.  We also heard from the main teacher and prayed a blessing over the school and staff.

Our final commitment for the day was to visit the Phnom Penh campus of New Life Fellowship which is both church and educational facility. Heather, an American lady provided us with the history & ministry; her Japanese husband being the school principal and a church pastor. When the ministry began, the initial focus was school/education and specifically only English and Computer. The community need that New Life Fellowship was called to address was that main students were entering the workforce either in office environments or even in tourist hospitality businesses where the need for English language was high. The computer classes were also necessary for young people aiming to work in offices where the use of computers has become essential.

When establishing the ministry, they received limited financial support which would cover the first three months of salaries for the staff. While endeavouring to make the program and ministry financial viable, there had to be a balance with affordability for the students attending classes. During the first three months, classes were offered for free as a means to attract students. Whilst student numbers increased during this period, there was a concern for how things would eventuate once fees were introduced. Fortunately, even with the introduction of fees, the student population remained high and even better – the school ministry was self-sustainable! The proceeds from the business have ever since been sown back into growing it more – building classrooms and the main church hall. Having moved premises, the current location is a big property that includes the church, classrooms, accommodation and a sports field. The initial building plans have since been exceeded by demand whereby every usable space has been converted into classrooms – even one area which was intended to be a courtyard has been converted into teaching classroom space.

The English teaching and curriculum follows a 10-grade system, from the lowest most basic English skills to the more advanced conversational and grammar teaching. In comparison, the computer classes are focused on topics such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel (and basic maths), Microsoft PowerPoint (and presentation skills) and Internet/email skills. The computer classrooms are equipped with laptops; not all students would have their own computer, although the prevalence of laptops is steadily increasing, particularly with mature-aged students. The integration of the church and faith into the school is seen in the weekly Alpha classes that are offered. Use of bilingual Khmer-English bibles is a great practical application for the students to practice their English.

Our team of 18 split into pairs to teach each of the 9 English 1-hour classes. The class that I helped to teach was an intermediate level of English and was majority female. When you look at the photo below, it will help provide a greater appreciation of the students who are learning English – some of the older students are already in college or university whilst the younger ones would be middle school (they have a US-oriented education system).

IMG_3730

Dinner was at the Foreign Correspondence Club, where the Samaritan’s Purse tshirt brand was recognized by a Welshman who was very supportive and happy to meet us. With my assistance, we were able to take a photo of the Welshman and his wife along with the SP leaders from our group. Even before the end of our meal and time at the FCC, I had emailed the guy his photo and he had also replied back, grateful for the quick turnaround.

All in all, it was a wonderful day and the new experience of distribution shoe-boxes was really special. The chaos and energy of the distribution was well worth it when you see how the kids react. In the above video, it may not be so obvious but the joy of the kids is so pure – particularly when you hear them sing heavenly sweet praises to God. It is a privilege to be able to serve God’s Kingdom in a country like Cambodia. His church and Kingdom are growing and well over there.

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