Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Telling our stories

As part of our service at 10.30am on Sunday morning, the 5 of us who were in Cambodia are going to tell some of the stories that are important to us having visited CHO. We will talk about the people we met and will reflect on the impact our trip made on us. We'd be delighted if you come to listen.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Touring CHO - the stories

Today we spent touring some of the CHO projects so that we get a bigger picture of the range of work CHO does. The pictures on the earlier blog go with this one; hopefully you can read them together.

First of all, we saw the cow bank. CHO gives a family a cow, which then has a calf. The family keep the first calf, then give the second one back to CHO. This second calf is then given to a new family and the process goes on. The family can then sell the grown-up calf for their own profit. Life is on the edge - one family had to sell their cow because they needed the money to go to hospital! On the other hand, the profits from these projects allow families to semd their children to school.

The woman is white is the leader of the community of Banteay Ti Muay; her daughter works in the cafe here; she was a Khmer Rouge soldier at 16; her 6-year old grandson died recently but the boys parents didn't have the money to come from Bangkok for the funeral. 

She is also a member of a local self-help group. The 25 members save 3000 riel per month (about $1) each and then they meet each month to decide how to use their money. CHO supports the group, but it is their group.

We also met various people who benefit from microloans from CHO. Loans of $200 or $350 are given to people like the sewing business in the picture below or the village store or the hair salon and these people can either set up or expand their business. CHO gives loans at 1.5% interest; the banks 3%; and the private loan companies charge 9%. The husband of the salon owner is a chicken farmer who learned to farm chickens by watching YouTube and Facebook.

The sewing business is connected to a firm in Thailand which supplies the cut-up cloth and pays 10 baht for each pair of shorts. The shorts are then sent back to Thailand and they are paid. They reckon they can make a profit of $600 per month.

There was a market garden that we visited. The family grow pumpkins, chillis, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, and eggplants. They also catch crickets at night with plastic sheets, a fluorescent light tube and a basin of water.

Lots of families and communities are being changed by these small projects. Some of them will change in the next few months as CHO embrace the UMOJA project and if you want to know more of that, look at the Tearfund website.

Finally we went to the prayer meeting this afternoon. One of Jim's students preached and we lost track of the number of times "pastor Jim" was mentioned. At the end of the meeting, they prayed for us and we prayed for them partnership in the gospel at its best.

This is the last blog. Thank you for following us here and on Facebook. We hope you have enjoyed our travels and have learned with us the things we have learned. Any questions, we'll gladly answer them when we come home.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Touring CHO - in pictures!

Here are some pictures from Thursday; the stories will follow later!

The stories in some pictures

Sorry, having trouble uploading some of Ann's pictures, but here is 1 of Safe Haven school and two of the preachers' group. Hope to post more tomorrow. There will be more on the Facebook group if you can access that.

A day of stories

Today is the last day of our work schedule, both at School on the Mat and in the preaching seminar. The end of the trip has come much more quickly than we realised - the time has flown in.

Today's School on the Mat was in Santepheap and Prochea Thom, meaning probably the longest drive in the van to get there, a drive of at least 45 minutes on the lumpiest, bumpiest road we have been on. We did the story of Daniel, acting it out with 26 children as the lions; in the morning they were reluctant, but keen in the afternoon. In the afternoon there were 27 children to start with and more drifted in with some parents and then granny appeared with a little child, standing on the fringe listening; we'd never seen that before. This was the most urban of the villages, but Reatray got lost and the CHO staff on the bike had to come to our rescue. We played musical bumps and the winner was mobbed by the rest and lifted into the air.

Jim's last day of the preaching seminar consisted of the morning at Safe Haven teaching the class from John 13, Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, Amos 8 and the corrupt leaders oppressing the poor, and Romans 5 focusing on the quality of hope that God gives. "Have you met Amos before?" was the opening question of the second discussion - it caused consternation; how can we meet someone who died 2500 years ago? The wonders of the English language... Amos provoked no discussion at all; they understood the bible passage and they also understood how it applies here, but they needed to have time to think about how to stand up to corrupt leaders in their culture. In the afternoon, Jim gave the group an outline for sermon preparation, a summary version written on a postcard of Edinburgh! In turn the 7 CHO staff (1 was absent, sick) took it in turns to say 'thank you', some saying that this preaching was all new to them, but they felt better equipped now, thanks to the time Jim has spent with them. "When are you coming back?" was their parting question.

Chomno appeared back from his travels this afternoon and we had a long conversation about CHO, Poipet and our visit. He is delighted that we have come and is excited about the new emphasis of their work. They have stopped doing sewing classes and motorbike maintenance, amongst other things. They are concentrating on the school and the value of education, and on building strong and safe communities where the CHO staff will work in villages and get to know people really well, thus introducing them to a better way of life and to the gospel.

This evening we went to visit the casinos in the border area - we stayed outside! They are in complete contrast to the rest of the town, full of lights and glitz. The casinos are owned by Thai and Chinese businesses, and while 85% of the staff are local, for some it is the first step to be the victims of trafficking. Poipet really gets little benefit from all this wealth on its doorstep.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Listen to the text

There was a slight reshuffle of the teams today as Martin joined Jim to sit in on the preaching seminar being run with the CHO leadership team. This meant that after devotions this morning, which Martin led, looking at the story of Philip and the Ethiopian from Acts 8 and the opportunities which God provides us to share the Gospel message, Fiona, Malcolm and Ann headed out to School on a Mat, where they ran activities looking at the story of the prodigal son. 

Meanwhile Jim was continuing his preaching series. This morning started with a look at the story of Jesus meeting the samaritan woman at the well (John 4), which prompted an interesting discussion amongst the group about the role of women in the church, with the CHO team asking about the fact Jesus' disciples were all men but he spent so much time with women and Jim explaining that this story and others show that Jesus believes that everyone is equal, male or female. During our time in Cambodia we haven't seen any examples of discriminatory behaviour towards women and this was backed up by a conversation with Rosa on the drive back to the Destiny Cafe where he confirmed women and men are treated pretty equally in Cambodia.

The afternoon session saw us looking at the crucifixion story from beginning to end to help them be able to preach on it in future. Again, the session was interactive with contributions from the team throughout. They seem to have found the sessions useful, with one pastor telling us that they were planning to keep Jim! So there might only be four of us returning this weekend!

We can't believe how quickly the time has gone, with only a couple of days left with CHO. Tomorrow normal service is resumed with Martin rejoining the School on a Mat team along with the Tearfund team and Jim running the final day of his preaching seminar.

The title of today's blog caused a great deal of confusion yesterday. Jim put the phrase "listen to the text" on the board as a strap-line, but it made no sense in Khmer. There was a great debate about it and Rosa's task is to translate it into Khmer in a way that does make sense and then tell Jim what it is! This is the starting point for all preachers and we need to find a way of giving them this kind of  a way that they understand. Translating language is fascinating: Psalm 23 here should start "the Lord is my cowherd" because there are no sheep here but plenty of cows. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Having a whale of a time - well, not all of us!

Today's blog is about School on the Mat again. We were on our own today and sadly Ann missed out the afternoon because she was not very well. We think it was too much heat and having taken the afternoon off she is recovering slowly. Please continue to pray for her and indeed for all of us as the heat takes no prisoners!

Fiona put together a programme based on the story of Jonah, with the puppet and some games. The children had to stick Jonah inside the drawing of the whale whilst blindfold and they all wanted a shot. Nearly all succeeded except the one who tried to pin the whale on Malcolm. He was a moving target at times, but the kids loved it.  We used emojis to show the children how Jonah would have felt at different stages in the story; we asked the children if they could make the faces, tired, surprised etc, but they couldn't grasp the idea we wanted. This afternoon we were in a village near Sok San and did the same programme without trying to do the faces; we simply showed the pictures!

Hot potato has proved to be a very popular game. It is a pass-the-parcel kind of game with a bean bag; there is nothing to unwrap. If you are left holding the bag when the music stops, then you are out. They laugh about being out, with no complaints, but still make sure that the right person  has to go.

Malcolm has discovered a second career as a children's entertainer; the balloons he was holding as traffic lights were a big hit, as we're those he gave out. One little girl was not happy with life, but the balloon stopped her crying and made her smile.

At lunchtime we met Jeff Henneforth. Jeff is from Los Angeles, who had just arrived in Poipet when we were here in 2010. He stays here now and is the pastor of a small church. It was good to see him again and chat about Poipet and his ministry here. He confirmed many of our impressions about the changes taking place here. 

Pray for us. Tomorrow will be much of the same routine and we will give you more news and pictures then.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Its Church, Jim - but not as you know it!

Today was church day. We did church twice, once in the villages and once with the CHO team at Safe Haven.

Ann and Malcolm went to Toul Prasat; Fiona, Martin and Jim went to Sok San. It was very different from church as we're used to it. Both churches are very small, about a dozen at one and 20 at the other. Both churches meet in the space underneath the house of the leader. The service is simple: they sing 3 hymns, pray, read the Bible and listen to the preacher - in Sok San that was Jim - take their offering, sing again, have a closing prayer and then go back to their village. The simplicity of the service means that the gospel shines through; there is no building and we're reminded that the church is the people. 

At Sok San the leader of the church (the man in the white t-shirt) is a farmer and we were treated to a guided tour of his farm. He farms chickens, ducks, fish and frogs - yes, they are huge! He is offering land to build an agriculture technical centre for the village so that others can learn how to farm better. 

In the afternoon we took part in the CHO team's worship. They sang some songs, one of which was "How great Thou art" - they sang in Khmer, we sang in English. How God must be pleased when His people demonstrate their unity in worship. Jim preached and the rhythm of the translator helps us to take in what is said more easily; he preached on Thomas and the strengthening of our faith through times when faith is tested. There is a photo of the CHO team with us and with the Tearfund Gap teams of 6 girls who are here for the next 6 months. The girls have a blog to follow - 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Reflections part 2

We're halfway through our trip. It is time to reflect a little on what we have seen  and done so far. We hope you find these reflections interesting. The picture is a selfie from the van on the way back from Siem Reap - we're probably not as terrified as we look.

The most powerful impression we have is of the people. The Cambodian people are friendly and hospitable and they generally appear to be content despite the fact that they don't have the things we have. The children we have met at School on the Mat are smart: they pick up the stories we tell them, even in a foreign language; they play the games really well and with so much enthusiasm. The children's smiles simply light up their faces. There is a sense of growing wealth here amongst some, but there are many people who are poor. School on the Mat gives children an education when their parents have no money to pay for education in the government school: they are smart, only lacking the opportunity to develop their abilities and fulfil their dreams.

We are also very impressed by CHO. Here are Cambodians helping Cambodians! We are not here as the missionaries who know it all to teach them how to do it. We are here to work alongside a group of people who have a plan to transform their own communities: their strap-line is "helping to create strong independent hope-filled communities". There is a new project called UMOJA which means 'together' and is concerned with health-care, agriculture and church-planting, all at the same time. They have become a more organised, "professional" organisation in the last five years and their focus is clearly on the villages, to bring a new quality of life to these places and people.

We have another week's work to do. Already we have gained so much from being here, being able to see this work for ourselves. By the end of next week, we hope to have given more of ourselves and learned more about CHO, the gospel, and ourselves. 

We are doing church tomorrow. Tell you about that tomorrow evening.

Reflections part 1

First of all, here are some more pictures from the last two days. Angkor Wat, it's wall carvings; Bayon temple and it's massive faces; Ta Prom and it's spong trees growing through and slowly destroying the temples - these images will stay long in the memory.

The road from Poipet to Siem Reap is 146km long. The first bend in the road is 46km along the way!  You have never seen a road so straight. The countryside is dry and brown, with no raj at all in the last 3 months! That's slightly different from your experience in the UK. The pig on the back of the bike is alive, being taken to the market to be sold; ham awaits! 

The other picture is of the dancing at the cultural event we saw last night. The dancing was mostly very Asian, but this dance was more animated and not too dissimilar to Scottish country dancing

Friday, 12 February 2016

Angkor Wat

These are our holiday days. CHO staff work Sunday to Thursday and so there is no programme on Friday and Saturday . We have taken the chance to come to Siem Reap, the centre of the Cambodia tourist trade, to visit the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. There are 13 temples in all, but we only visited 3: Angkor Wat itself, in the pictures; Bayon with it's massive faces, and Ta Prom where you can pretend to be Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, but more seriously see the temples being taken over by the roots of the spong tree.

Angkor Wat now has a code of Conduct in which visitors are asked to respect the place; it is a holy place for Buddhists. This covers the way that you behave and dress. It is a fascinating and fantastic place to visit and deserves the respect that people claim  for it. It was very busy today, so there was not so much time to pause and take in the atmosphere, but you can't avoid beige impressed by the history and quality of the place. We might post more pictures tomorrow.

It was very hot this morning, so we did all the temples in the morning, then went for lunch, relaxing in the hammocks before and after eating. We then retreated indoors to cool down, hit the Old Market for some shopping and had dinner in a restaurant which gave us a show of Cambodian dancing; at one point it was very like the Scottish Highland sword dance, except that  the other dancers kept moving the swords! 

We go back to Poipet tomorrow. Jim has 2 sermons to prepare for Sunday, but for the others there is some time off before we join in again on Sunday. Hope you are enjoying reading this and the Facebook page. Speak to you again soon.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Teaching preaching

Sunrise in Poipet - yes, we were up early enough to see the sun rise. This morning was a repeat of yesterday so today's blog tells the story of Jim's preaching seminar group. There are 8 members of the CHO staff who are beginning to work on a project called UMOJA. This is a community project that develops a number of areas of community life, including church planting. The staff need to understand how churches grow and how to preach the Bible in these villages.

We have looked at 6 Bible passages with a view to helping the CHO staff preach these for themselves. We've started with gospel stories, asking the same question of all of them: 'what is happening in this story?' and have had conversations about these passages. Jim has then given some background to the passage and an outline of a sermon for each. The plan is to leave them with outlines for a lot of sermons by the end of next week, but also to give them the tools by which they can study any passage and preach it.

Today we also talked about whether we sit or stand; how to use notes - if they have no notes people assume they have not prepared and so won't trust what they say, so how do we use notes in the right way?

One of the good things about the group is that they have begun to help each other find answers to their own questions. Yesterday, Bunhan asked 'where was Jesus' spirit between Good Friday and Easter Sunday?' By that stage on a hot afternoon, Jim's mind wasn't working too well and there wasn't much of an answer. Today Bunhan came back with his own answer, from exactly the Bible verses he needed to read! So pleasing to see. There is more of this come, 2 hours, morning and afternoon, Monday to Wednesday. Pray for us, God is at work in these good people.

School on the Mat

Today was day 1 of the schedule. 4 of us were partnered with the 6 girls on the gap team and Jim was training 8 preachers in preaching sermons. The Cambodians were complaining this morning that it was cold - 21 degrees. It's not cold anymore - up to about 30 this afternoon. Hot, hot, hot! 

School on the Mat is exactly what it says. The teacher does basic literacy and numeracy and safe health. We visited 2 villages, O'Beychan in the morning and Tul Pongro in the afternoon. These are on the outskirts of Poipet. By the time we arrived everything was set up and the children were all there.

We told the story of David and Goliath using the doll and home-made pictures. Then we mixed the pictures up and the children had to shout us back into the right order. They did it really quickly! We sang songs with actions - Our God is a great big God - and played games, including some with the parachute! Finally, we re-read the story  and handed out some biscuits and sweets and a prayer. 

Most of all, we were taken by the children: their enthusiasm and excitement, their ability to pick up the songs and the game, and their ability to put the David and Goliath story back into the right order. Some of them having absolutely nothing, but their faces lit up when we started and when they were singing our songs.

Tomorrow's blog will tell you about Jim's preaching seminars; he is also leading devotions tomorrow morning and we are going to Siem Reap in the evening to visit Angkor Wat on Friday. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Safe Arrival

We're here in Poipet; we arrived safely after about 24 hours travelling. Etihad looked after us well and we were met at Bangkok by the wonderful Rosa Jump (pictured) He navigated us through traffic, across the border and into our rooms. We've had dinner and Fiona, Martin, Ann and Malcolm are talking to the 6 girls of the gap team about sharing the children's outreach tomorrow. Strains of "Jesus' love is very wonderful" are sounding through the cafe. Jim will be leading 4 hours of sermon preparation and preaching for some CHO staff in the UMOJA project. Tomorrow we will tell you how we get on. Speak to you them.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Prayer Diary

Cambodia Trip Prayer Diary
February 8th – 20th 2016

There are 5 people going to Poipet, Cambodia, to visit our mission partners, the Cambodian Hope Organization. This prayer diary gives you a flavour of the trip and what we will be doing; please pray for us over the next two weeks. There are details below about how you can follow our progress. The five people on the trip are: Jim Dewar, Ann and Malcolm Brown and Fiona and Martin Elliot. Thank you for your prayers.

Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th – pray for smooth and safe travel; we fly to Abu Dhabi and Bangkok and then drive by minibus to Poipet, on the Cambodia/Thailand border, accompanied by a member of the CHO staff.
School on the Mat – we are telling Bible stories to children who gather for simple school in  the villages around Poipet; pray that we will get the level right; that the children will understand the stories and will think better of Jesus.
Safe Haven School – we are teaching English to children in the school; some of these children are abandoned by their parents; some are rescued from trafficking; there is a text book which we will use. Pray for that our teaching will be good and that we can build up a little bit of relationship with some of them over the ten days.
CHO devotions – every morning before they go to work, the CHO team meets for devotions, a Bible talk and prayer time. Jim will be leading these devotions every morning on the theme of faith: what faith is; how do we grow our faith; how is our faith tested; looking at faith through the examples of Abraham and Thomas.
Sunday Church – there is a Sunday church service in the CHO offices; again Jim will be preaching at the service with the use of a translator.
Sermons and preaching – some staff are involved in church planting and Jim will be working with them to help them learn how to preach sermons from the Bible. They work with a project called UMOJA – you can see details at
Alpha courses – Jim may also be helping a group of leaders learn how to present a course like Alpha or Christianity Explored.
A trip to Angkor Wat – we hope to do some sightseeing, but when is not clear!
Staying in Poipet – we are staying  and eating in the Destiny building, owned and run by CHO; pray for the safety of the team in the city – it is not a dangerous place, but we need to manage the risk well.
Friday 19th and Saturday 20th Feb – we do the same journey back to Bangkok and then back to the UK; we arrive in Edinburgh at 630am Saturday morning. Pray for safe and smooth journeys.

You can follow us in two ways:
We have a blog, Juniper Green in Cambodia 2016; there will be a link on the Church website

We have set up a Facebook group, Juniper Green in Cambodia 2016 and we hope to post photos and comments there.

Getting set

Hello. This is the first blog post on this new site. We are getting ready for our trip to Cambodia, visiting the Cambodian Hope Organization in Poipet. One of my guide books describes Poipet as the armpit of Cambodia and the other suggests that there is no reason to hang around here. We have every reason to hang around in Poipet because we are going to visit and work with our friends to see their work and play a very small part in that work. You can keep up to date with us by this blog and by our Facebook group which has the same name. Please pray for us.