Cambodian Day Out

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On Sunday we had a day out with our church to the waterfalls in
Kirirom up in the mountains. This was the first time that everything was organized entirely by the Cambodian leadership team and I can say they did such an amazing job from beginning to end.
We had to be there at 7am and were aiming to leave by 7.30 which we did, which those of you who live in Cambodia will say very rarely happens! It was a long journey as it took a while for the bus to get up the mountain, especially in the last part which was a dirt road.IMG_0279IMG_0282 IMG_0389When we got there we had so much fun hanging out by the lake in these little bamboo and wooden huts with hammocks for the lucky few. On the way there were people selling flower wreaths for 3,000 riel and I asked one Of my Khmer friends what they were for, was it to put on the temple or lay at a shrine. No, she told me they were to wear in your hair to make you look beautiful at the waterfall.IMG_0336IMG_0229IMG_0245IMG_0235First we had a time of worship and then baptized Lyhong and prayed for her. After this was lunch which everyone had been patiently been waiting for which was chicken and rice and a few sneaky bacon butties in the Saunders camp.IMG_0332After this we had free time. Now the day before I had asked my children do you wan to take a change of clothes to go swimming and they all said o we will not want to go swimming. Ha! Famous last words, within 30 mins of Phally declaring free time all the Saunders children were completely soak and having a lot of fun.IMG_0337IMG_0381 IMG_0382 IMG_0383
Usually when we go somewhere like this there are people hawking food and souvenirs and our kids get mobbed for photos. I am not sure if it was because we were with Khmer people but we were treated as if we were the same and this made it so relaxing and a really positive experience.
There is something about running water in a the middle of beautiful trees that makes you just want to get at least your feet wet!
We arrived back home about 9 very tired but happy.
My favourite parts of the day were seeing some people in our group who would never have a chance to do this having so much fun, hanging out with all my friends at Liberty, seeing my kids enjoy themselves, seeing Gods beautiful creation all around and getting out of the city for one day. One of my friends when I asked them if they were enjoying it said, “It is so nice to get out of the city to see trees and breathe nice air”
So well done to Sawat, Phally, Narith and Sdom for organising such a great day out.

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Killing Fields Living Fields

Yesterday marked the 40 year anniversary of when the Khmer Rouge stormed Phnom Penh and forced the population to evacuate to the country. During the next four years the Khmer Rouge tried to eradicate all religious groups especially Christians. This is an amazing book retelling the story of what God did through the Cambodian church. This is an updated version of the book.url

In 1970 there was greater freedom for Christians and this saw a growth in the local church. At the beginning of the Civil war there were about 3 congregations in Phnom Penh, which by 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over had grown to about 30, totaling about 10,000 members. KR_evacuation

During the Khmer Rouge it is thought that 90% of all Christians and Christian leaders were martyred or escaped the country. By 1979 it was estimated that there were only 200 Christians remaining in Cambodia. The church was left vulnerable with many of its leaders systematically killed by the Khmer Rouge regime or fled the country.phnom-penh-in-1979-just-after-the-overthrow-of-the-khmer-rouge-regimeToday from the small remnant there has grown an estimated 250,000 Christians and around 750 churches. This massive growth means there is a huge need to train leaders, teach and create resources. The difficulty for many Cambodian pastors is that they need a paid job outside of the church to be able to support their family.

There have been many outside agencies and organizations which have been involved in supporting the local church over the last 40 years, sometimes this has been good and other times has created an unhealthy reliance on outside help. The desire of many people I work with is to see Cambodians leading the church with a depth of maturity and wisdom.1 (3)In the last 6 years we have been involved in a small local church, not in any position of leadership just attending and supporting the local Christians. It has been so exciting to see how they have grown and matured from being very young Christians to future leaders. There is a passion to write their own worship songs, the desire to reach out to others and rural areas, to work out how Khmer culture and Christianity fit together, how to serve and look after the poor and vulnerable in our congregation in a way that empowers them and how to live life in a way that honours God but also shows respect for their families.

This is so exciting and we are humbled to be a part of it, and have so much respect for our fellow Cambodian Christians who have been through so much pain and heartache in the past and still live in a society scarred by events in history. I am thankful that we serve a God who delights in setting people free from their past and my prayer is this will be something which is evident in Liberty Family Church but also in the Cambodian church as a whole.

References and extra reading:

Photos from:

  1. Book Cover
  2. Phnom Penh
  3. Phnom Penh
  4. Bible

Easter 2015 Cambodian Style

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When I think of Easter I dream of blue skies, daffodils, hot cross buns, roast lamb dinner with friends and family, Easter day services at church, walk in the spring sunshine where you are not quite sure if you need to take a coat and of course Easter egg hunt in the garden. In Cambodia, it is important to do things that are significant in our home culture but  this version of Easter is quite difficult to replicate.

First of all the temperature at the moment is about 37 degrees and sometimes 75% humidity, so we have blue skies but no fresh Spring weather or daffodils.When you move you sweat, so definitely no desire to go for a walk.

Then no one here celebrates Easter so there is nothing in the shops unless you know where to go! Easter Eggs are nearly impossible to find however after trawling Phnom Penh I found some very yummy Easter eggs at The Shop on St 240. I managed to smuggle them in and hide them in the fridge for three days and none of my children found them! We did a chocolate coin hunt round the house and ended with the chocolate eggs which had quickly been removed from the fridge!

At school I did an activity where the students found 12 different items which told the Easter story from Good Friday to Easter Sunday based on the idea of Resurrection Eggs activity. We then repeated this on Sunday with our guests. I like it as it is a very visual way of thinking about different parts of Easter.

Hot cross buns have to be hand made and this year Colin and Lucia got to make them and did a great job. I did not make any gluten free ones yet so maybe I will have a go soon.

I bought some duck eggs and we blew them until all the egg white and yolk was outside then we dyed them with food colouring and vinegar. These were put on the table as decoration with sharpie pens so that our guests could decorate them.

On Easter Sunday while the lamb was roasting I went out for a high tea with some friends from church at Sugar and Spice.

As for family they are too far away so this year we decided to invite anyone from church who would appreciate a roast lamb dinner. There ended up being 23 of us from UK, US, France, Scotland/Korea and Cambodia. We managed to find a NZ leg of Lamb which was delicious from Smokey Dah Boar, mint jelly from Thai Huot. It was a lovely meal with lots of fun people who we love doing life with, so Easter Cambodian style was not much different, except with the very hot weather and minus immediate family.

Busy Week!

Jamie doing Ewan’s betime story!

Last weekend we moved house which was quite hectic. I had a day off work and Colin took time off too. It took rather a lot of trips back and forth with the “moving” van due to all my pot plants on the roof!!! Colin said the removal men just put the pots on their shoulder and walked down four flights of stairs!
Once in our house it was the lovely task of unpacking which a week later is still slowly happening. We will get there eventually! We keep stopping and saying how amazing this house is. It is quiet, enjoyable to live in and near so many people we know. We feel so amazingly blessed.

Upstairs lounge
Lots of boxes in the dining room!!!
Playing on the veranda

This weekend was very busy we had a Soiree “Shakespeare Under the Stars” at school to raise money for the library. It was packed and really good fun…..I was face painting so I enjoyed myself!
Then this morning was really exciting because today at church three people were baptised. They are all people we have got to know over our last two years hear so is was really lovely to see them making this step in their faith. It was also funny seeing our paddling pool put to a different use! Please pray for these three people as life is not always easy and they will face many difficulties but they know the God who loves them and has their lives in his hands.

Lunch afterwards…yum!