NAMBODIA – Post 7 – The People You Meet Along the Way

We entered Cambodia via boat down the Mekong River.   It’s always cool to get first impressions from a different angle than 3000 feet above (although that’s really cool too).   We shared the boat with a few other people, particularly an extended family group from Australia.  It was great to see our group adopt them into our games and a good bit of conversation was enjoyed.  I particularly enjoyed overhearing the exchange with Jay and one of the middle-aged gentlemen of their group. It was the classic, so what do you for a living? “I’m  a church pastor”, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m drinking beer” Unnecessarily long discussion here that reminds of the beautiful hymn, “They will know we are Christians because we don’t drink beer (although many Christians do because as readers of the Bible, they recall Jesus turning the water to wine, Paul recommending wine for Timothy’s upset stomach and numerous other mentions.  Again, alcohol is not sinful, it’s the abuse that is sinful, idolatrous really.  Just like with anything that we submit our will to that is not the Holy Spirit).  Anyway, it only bugs me because that’s too often the first conversation after telling someone you are a pastor or a Christian.  The dream would be, “I’m a church pastor”. “Really, wow, I don’t go to a church but I love how you take care of the community.  Seriously, what would possess you people to make such large investments of time , finances, and energy?”,  “Well, it starts with Jesus …” 

Anyway, I digress but I mention that because this family group has become part of the trip.  They are about 12 of them consisting of about 5 adults and 7 young adults.  All blonde, sunburned, tattooed, and three of them have dreadlocks, so they pretty much look like my family, minus the father walking on the boat with a cooler of beer.  Everyone meets many people as they travel and of course and in 99% of the time, you never cross paths again. 

I was caught a bit off guard when I was walking through the Genocide Museum and walked into them.  It’s a quiet place and everyone walking through is obviously overtaken with the sheer depictions of  evil and pain but we still managed to exchange hellos.  A short while later, I was in a different building and bumped into one of the older adults, Mark.  I imagine he’s in his late 40’s/early 50’s, muscular build, balding, and a couple of tats on the biceps.  We traded some of the information we had and then he said to me, “This is my fourth time here and every time I come, I get so choked up.”   It was a nice conversation between strangers. 


The other day, we had a few minutes to run through the Russian Market (still have not heard a rational explanation for the name.  Do Russians work it?  No.  Do the Russians own it? No.   Are these products a result of the Russian economy? No. Are these the left-over  exports?  They say so but I don’t think so …. )

Anyway, I have been looking for a couple of gifts that I can buy so that people can say thank you upon my return and thrown them in a closet afterwards and so far, I haven’t been that lucky.  I was looking really hard for Susan and the kids.  I saw some brand name clothes but that seemed a bit lame to go all the way to Cambodia and pick up a Hilfiger shirt.  As I was walking through, I heard some English, “Let’s see what they have over here”  and it was in real American English.  I turned and saw a mom, a grandmother, and a cute 7 year old girl.  Can you say – missionaries?

I turned and said hello and conveyed made my excitement to run into other Americans.  They were immediately conversational, very sweet,  which only added to the missionary theory.  I explained that I was looking for souvenirs for my young boys and her answer gave evidence to her knowledge of the market.  She told me where there were some cute puppets (turn by the Buddha statue on the end there …) and that’s when I was really sure because a non-missionary mom walking with her mom and daughter would have suggested the duty-free rum in the Singapore airport. 

I know I take a while to tell a story, I’m a bit tired here.  But I asked how long they were in Cambodia and she told me that she lived there.  “Oh wow, why?”  “Well, we are Christian missionaries.”   (I’m so prophetic).  “That’s great, I’m a pastor and I’m here with my seminary …”  (She’s probably thinking, “Yeah, I spotted you a mile away”).  Anyway, turns out they have been here for the last 7 years and the grandmother had been visiting.  This child was their oldest and the other three were born here.   We talked for a few minutes, wished each other well and I walked away encouraged for their work.  Every country needs mission work (including ours) and I was so grateful for this family.   

May the Spirit heal and move in Cambodia through many ways from the NGO’s that we are visiting tomorrow to the missionary families like these.


Our guide in Cambodia is a charming Muslim woman that has become an unofficial member of our group.  She’s been great to us.  Like normal groups, she has taken us to the Killing Fields and such but there was a handful of places that we went to that were not on her regular itinerary, Hagar Missions, International Justice Mission, a Christian church (a charismatic one at that – and yes, I’ll try to post on that experience). 

It’s been interesting in seeing her reaction.  She took us to see one of the mosques and arranged a time with the imam.  She even brought us to meet her family in her home that was under renovation.  We were the first group to come into her home.  They told us the story of how her father escaped execution of the Khmer Rouge, sadly his brother and oldest daughter were not as fortunate. 

There have been a couple scenes that a couple of us have talked about.  She has expressed moments of emotion when coming to the mission presentations.  The one I caught was her tearing up when reading an International Justice Mission 6 page brochure written to trafficked women.  It said there’s hope for you – we can help and provided a number. 

From where I sat, that  was probably the most useful gospel tract I’ve seen.   We did not get a sense of any social justice being done by other religious groups (I’m sure some do though) , but in all the Christian ministries we visited, they articulated that the Gospel  of Jesus compels them to care for the suffering.  I’ll write more later of on that last part on the posts related to Hagar and IJM.

All is well, hope you are to – thanks for your prayers – see you next week.


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