What I will miss in Cambodia

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ … And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:1-5, NIV)

It has been a very special time living and working in a traditional Khmer village, where few speak English and I don’t speak Khmer – so a lot of hand actions, smiles, laughter and nodding of the head!

I will miss the early morning Buddhist prayers and chanting which begin at sunrise, often as early as 5am; the loud, distorted music for a wedding or funeral from early morning until late that night; watching the goat boy taking the herd of goats, to grass areas for the day – goats that have been provided by the Lutheran Church in Cambodia for poor families; watching our neighbour taking his cows out to his field for the day and leaving the calf, who bellows and bellows because it’s been left behind; walking around the village and being warmly greeted by adults and children; watching the women and girls cutting out squares of scrap material from nearby garment factories, to make dishcloths for the Chinese market. Three sewing machines were supplied by the Penola Olivet Lutheran Ladies Guild in 2016; seeing people spreading rice out on plastic sheets to dry; picking their organically grown vegetables of sweet potatoes, beans, corn, herbs to be sold at the local markets; hearing the children arrive 2 hours before their one hour English lesson, as they are so keen, and are content to play with educational puzzles, read picture books, ball games and sitting patiently and talking to each other; looking at their large, bright, brown eyes as they concentrate so hard as I say each English sound or word; trying to say the “th..” sound and words; being hugged ‘good-bye’ each day after the lesson; eating the delicious and varied vegetarian meals cooked at lunch and dinner times every day by Sokry, Pastor Vibol’s wife; spending time with Honey, 9 years old and Hanna, 4 years (Pastor Vibol and Sokry’s two beautiful daughters), playing cards, singing songs and trying to learn Khmer; visiting the poor in the village and nearby villages with Pastor Vibol, praying with the aged, disabled people who have experienced so much in their lives during the Vietnam War, Khmer Rouge and Civil War. They survived because they were farmers and peasants. Giving rice and sauces to these people and the poor families; sharing my Christian faith with Pastor Vibol as my interpreter.

I will miss texting and talking to my four ‘adopted’ Khmer sons who live in different provinces. However, I have wonderful memories of our ‘family’ trip to Siem Reap for 4 days; and another trip with two of my sons and family to Mondulkiri to see the beautiful mountains, waterfalls, and pepper, coffee and tea plantations; also to Kratia to see the river dolphins.

At the Tang Krang Community Centre where I lived, I will miss washing my clothes and bathing (with a hand held nozzle) in cold water from the well. The well was funded by the Penola Olivet Lutheran Ladies Guild in October. I will miss watching the ducks on the pond and the chickens scratching around the yard; wading in the lotus pond to collect the tasty seed pods for a snack; digging up sweet potatoes and picking green beans from Pastor Vibol’s flourishing garden; watching the stunning sunsets and sometimes the sunrise; experiencing the tropical thunderstorms, with the thunder so loud that I would put ear plugs in my ears, and an eye shield over my eyes as the lightning was so intense and bright, the wind so strong, and pray that our Lord would keep us all safe.

I will miss Cambodia – the people, especially the children, who are always cheerful, friendly, and respect older foreigners; the way of life; the atmosphere of the crowded cities; the vehicles, motorbikes and bicycles that are stacked so high with goods; the markets with eels or fish jumping out of their shallow trays onto the dusty lane; stalls of chicken and pork amongst the vegetables, fruit, clothes, sandals, household products, electrical items; having my hair coloured and trimmed for $5US in a village and much more.

I thank our Lord Jesus Christ for giving me the opportunity and the many blessings that I have received through living and working in Cambodia, during the past three years. I pray that I will return later this year.
Please pray for the people of Cambodia that they will find faith in our Lord, to be strengthen and comforted with his truth, and to receive HOPE.

If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email nevin.nitschke@lca.org.au. For more information, go to http://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/

Read more stories about volunteering at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/