Unity in Diversity

South Australian school students formed part of a unique team assisting Cambodian villagers with medical – and spiritual – first aid.

To share the love of Jesus Christ with the people of Kampong Chhnang province, Cambodia, a unique team of 90 people from different parts of Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong came together – for 13 days – in July this year. Among this group were ten Year Eleven students and three staff members from Unity College Murray Bridge, South Australia, as well as Western Australian District president Rev Greg Pfeiffer and wife Janet.

This team’s practical work and ministry built on the past medical, dental, optical and ministry teams which had been coordinated in Kampong Chhnang during the past four and a half years by the Lutheran Church of Singapore, through Lutheran World Mission Cambodia, under the leadership of Dr William Chang.

The capital of this province is Kampong Chhnang , situated about two hour’s drive from Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. In this province, LWM Cambodia is touching the lives of underprivileged people with the Word and acts of love and service.

The genesis of Unity College’s visit came when its chaplain Rev Greg Priebennow began discussions with the LCA about how his school could develop a partnership in mission as well as provide students the opportunity to join ongoing Christian service teams within the LCA’s overseas mission partnerships.

Following training carried out by Unity staff, the team arrived in Singapore for more training in the practical skills of how to take people’s blood pressure and temperatures, test urine samples and share God’s love in Jesus (through actions, storytelling and singing). Along with this, team members were challenged to consider their reasons and goals for such a visit and to reflect on God’s purposes for life. These few days spent in Singapore allowed new relationships to form as those comprising this unique and diverse team came together and spent time with team members from the Lutheran Church of Singapore.

Further orientation and training continued after the team arrived in Phnom Penh, with a visit to the Genocide Museum (offering a stark and graphic reminder of the country’s recent tragic history) as well as to the offices of Lutheran World Federation/Department for World Service (LWF) Cambodia (now known as Life With Dignity – LWD). The team heard about the significant work done by LWF Cambodia, in conjunction with Australian Lutheran World Service, through its community-based strategic approach which has helped to “facilitate the empowerment of vulnerable people to claim their universal rights”.

Over time, Dr Chang has been meeting with Dr Inn (LWD Cambodia’s new director) to develop ways for LWM to support and work collaboratively with LWD Cambodia. As a result of this growing relationship, LWM began working with LWD Cambodia to conduct medical and ministry clinics in villages where LWD has established programs. This partnership has been built upon excellent aid and development work previously undertaken, adding to it through the support of medical teams (including dental and optical) and the sharing of the Gospel in word and action.

The July team’s visit was the first example of this new way of working together in LWD villages, expanding upon the programs of the LWF (now LWD) which have helped people to see the “who” and “why” of this particular ministry. Along with the practical acts of God’s love through aid and development, the groundwork done by LWF/ALWS over many years in Cambodia has paved the way for people to “hear” about the God of love.

Medical clinics operated in various locations including the Lutheran Life Centre (the new Centre for LWM) in the village of Phum Kruos, as well as the Wat Thmei and Te Ney villages. On two days, myopic clinics were conducted with the medical clinics at Te Ney village. While the medical clinics operated, children, parents and villagers also heard the Gospel in a variety of stories, songs and activities prepared and presented by the children’s ministry teams.  Through this, “seeds” of the Gospel were planted in their lives!

Along with several doctors and a pharmacist from Singapore, team members carried out a wide range of tasks. More than 1000 people received medical assessment, treatment, medicines, or eye assessments. Two hundred people received new glasses, and more than 20 people were referred for eye operations and other surgery.

Before the start of each of these clinics, the local people heard the simple Gospel message which was shared by one of the team members and translated by the Cambodian pastors (who served as our translators for the visit).

In addition to these tasks, the team participated in the repair of the road into Phum Kruos, and spent time visiting in the homes of impoverished villagers.

On Sunday, July 11, the team was privileged to witness the first baptisms in Phum Kruos. Nine people – children, youth and adults – were baptised into God’s family in an inspiring worship service at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.  Dr William Chang and Pastor Greg officiated in this revelatory worship service.

God has opened the doors in Cambodia for people to see and hear his love in action. As the Lutheran Church of Australia joins with the Lutheran Church of Singapore and other partners in Lutheran World Mission Cambodia, we are finding ways of using our unique experiences and gifts to support the work of sharing the love of Jesus Christ with the Cambodian people.

This story was also published in the November 2010 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.

If your school would like to know more about how they can connect to the mission of God through a LCA International Mission service-learning and ministry partnership, you are invited to phone Erin on (08) 8267 7300 or email erin.kerber@lca.org.au. For more information, go to www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/service-learning/

Read more stories about school partnerships and school service-learning at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/local-partners/schools/