This summer I served as an intern in Angk’jeay Village, Cambodia alongside Luke and Sokha Smith for nine weeks. I taught intermediate and advanced English classes to kids of all ages and seventh grade English at the local public school. I also taught guitar lessons and a writing class, studied some Khmer, and spent time with Hannah and Asa, the Smiths’ children.
I was drawn to this internship because my mother was born in Cambodia and spent her childhood there before she was forced to leave during the time of the Khmer Rouge. Her family lived in a province not too far from Angk’jeay. It was surreal to picture her there and experience a bit of what her early life was like.
Naturally, I feel a connection to the people of Cambodia, and seeing their world only cemented that. Like all groups, they have a rich history that has powerful effects, and theirs is a difficult one. Poverty and corruption still beset them, and life is not easy
for many Cambodians.
What Luke and Sokha do in Angk’jeay then is so important and valuable. Being able to speak and read in English opens the door to higher education and better futures. More than that, they are role models, friends, and bearers of Good News to the Angk’jeay community. I was encouraged and challenged by their passion, commitment, and work ethic.
I also had the pleasure of spending time with the rest of the MTW Cambodia team. I was always reminded of God’s love for me when I was embraced by their families and allowed into their hearts and lives.
Nine weeks doesn’t sound like a lot, but there were days that left me tired and discouraged and anxious about the rest of my time. Experiencing the faithfulness of the Lord in sustaining me and giving me enough peace and encouragement for each day was a beautiful, gentle lesson that I hope I will hold on to forever.
Update 1 and 2 below are two updates written by the team while they were in the village.
Update 1: We just finished day 2 in Angk’jeay village with Pastor Luke and Sokka. The ministry out here consists of reaching out to the village kids through teaching them English (beginner, intermediate, advanced), playing games, teaching guitar lessons, and most importantly teaching them about Jesus through praise, sermon, prayer and the love of Christ through building relationships. The kids are precious and every moment is something very special. An update for the entire team, we are all healthy, in hopeful spirits, exhausted but tremendously blessed. Team unity is increasing but I guess that’s what happens when you pack a bunch of people in a car (26 at one point). Check out the picture.
For all the past STM teams, the students remember you and all your stories start to make a little more sense. Can’t wait to share more with y’all when we’re back.
To the church, thank you so much for the prayers and the continuous support. Lord knows we need them. Please keep them coming.
Ps: Cambodia is hot and humid and there are bugs. But not as bad I expected, so there’s that.
Update 2: Today’s Sabbath Rest was a little taste of heaven. It seemed fitting to wrap up our final day at Angk’jeay Village with a worship service together with our spiritual family. After a full week of teaching, basketball, music, crafts and tons laughter, we ended with encouragements, prayers, and a tearful farewell. God is truly Big in this Small Village. Never underestimate, that God can be worshipped in the most unexpected places. On another note, this also concludes our joint CCPC & CCSC team as they fly back to the states tomorrow. We celebrated with a final boat ride with the MTW team and old friends from KCC. It was a perfect bookend to a terrific day. We are exhausted but it was a blessed Sabbath Rest! Lastly, pray for us as we take on another week of urban ministry in Phnom Penh. We might have less man-power, but plenty room for the Spirit! Thank you for your prayers!
Bolong, Kunthea and Srey Pich are in their senior year of high school now. They have been studying with us since they were in 6th grade. They came to study when Daniel Pak and I first went to live in the village in Jan., 2011. This was before Sokha and I were married. All three of them are members of our church too.
The two pictures below are from Feb., 2011.
A recent visitor asked me for some of the students’ testimonies. I asked Bolong to write his testimony out in English. Below is his unedited testimony in his own words.
Story from Brennan McCafferty and Becca Nyman’s Wedding Website
(their wedding is on May 6th, 2017)
Our Story (from Becca’s perspective)
‘Teacher Becca, do you have a boyfriend yet?’
In 2015, I (Becca) spent 6 months in Cambodia, January to June. I left for Cambodia excited to make an impact on the people in Cambodia, and be a blessing to them- little did I know it would be the people and country that made an incredible impact on me. A time of intense growth, learning, and perspective, a greater understanding of God, others, and myself. Little did I know, Cambodia would also weave itself into the story of how I met the man I am blessed to marry. As I was gearing up to leave Cambodia in June, I found out there would be a couple more MTW interns working in the village I worked in (Angkjeay), and living with the same family I lived with (the Smiths). To be more specific, I learned that there was going to be a male intern, who would stay with the Smiths for one month, and serve in Angkjeay village as a pastoral intern, as part of his RPTS Seminary studies. At the time this didn’t mean too much to me. However, once September came around I started receiving messages from various people in Cambodia- the family I lived with, friends, students I taught- and each one kept mentioning this guy, Teacher Brennan. Cambodian children messaging me asking, “Teacher Becca, have you found a boyfriend yet? Because I think I found someone for you- Teacher Brennan”. Describing him as tall, loves sports, loves God, and loves Cambodia too. I found these messages sweet, amusing, and thoughtful. My friends in Cambodia were still looking out for me even after I had left. Little came of this until late November 2015, when Brennan and I connected on Facebook. This led to many Facebook messages, skype dates, phone calls, and finally a meeting in person. We started dating on January 29, 2016, and on August 13, 2016, I said yes to the man I get to spend the rest of my life with. Our relationship remained long distance until November 2016, when Brennan moved to Minneapolis, MN. God’s timing is perfect, and Brennan and I could never have anticipated our paths would cross, but we are both so thankful they did. We are excited to see where God leads us as we seek to glorify Him.
Teresa Smith’s Reflections from Her Trip (Luke’s mom)
On Jan 7, 2017 DeAnn Harris and I took off on our almost thirty hour flight to Cambodia. We went to visit missionaries, Luke and Sokha Smith, who reside in Ank’jeay village. Luke is my son and Sokha is my daughter-in-law. DeAnn is a good friend of Luke and Sokha’s and now a good friend of mine and a great traveling companion.
Once you arrive you feel like you have already been through many dangers toils and snares (jet-lag). Ha! Even though it was my second time to Cambodia. It was a time of venturing out of my comfort zone and putting my complete trust in God.
First of all it was a joy getting to know my long distance grandchildren. Hannah was two and one half last time I saw her and is now four and one half. We had lots of fun with tea parties, playdough, and puzzles. I also gave her bread making and cinnamon roll lessons. She has mastered kneading bread very well. The dough took some pretty good punches but turned out some tasty bread and cinnamon rolls. Good job Hannah!
This was my first time to meet seven month old Asa . He is a very busy boy and just beginning to crawl.He seems to enjoy life in the village with the constant attention. What more would a seven month old boy want?
Now a bit about life as a visitor in a missionary’s world.
One of my highlights of course was just experiencing life as a villager. Since I am a country girl I adapted well. Not to mention eighty degrees in January. Not bad.
One of the things the Smiths’ do is teach English classes in their yard to the children. It was great to meet them and interact with them. Some are very fluent in English.
I read Bible stories, played basketball, and oh yes! The girls and I had a hoola hooping contest. You are never too old to hoola hoop. After meeting these beautiful children I know why Cambodia is referred to as “The Land of Smiles.”
Another thing I done was to recite a couple of the books of the Bible that I have committed to memory. I recited the book of Jonah and the book of James. I taught them the value of the memorized word of God. On my last night in the village three of the students had memorized Psalm one and recited word for word.I never dreamed that when I started memorizing scripture in my forties that God would send me to the ends of the earth. World Traveler was not in my vocabulary, but God had a different plan for my life.
I spent eight days in the village and four days in the city of Phnom Penh and two days of travel time. What an adventure! I truly saw God’s love all over the world.
As summer comes to an end, we wanted to send you an update.
Our son Asa Eldad Smith was born on May, 29th! It was a difficult delivery that ended in a c-section. Thankfully, Sokha and Asa both made it through in good health. I have attached a new born picture of Asa and a more recent picture. Karen, a nurse practitioner, on our team wrote a blog post about his birth that you can read here: http://mccluremissionaries.org/2016/06/06/meet-our-newest-mtw-cambodia-team-member/
Hannah turned 4 on July, 28th. She adores her little brother at times and is very jealous of him at other times. We have just started a pre-kindergarten home schooling curriculum with her. Hannah loves playing with the students in the village when they come to study, and picking flowers in the flower garden by our house.
After five years, Sokha and I have finished translating the Westminster Shorter Catechism into Khmer. We have tried to translate it in a manner that is accurate and easy for Cambodians to understand the biblical truth that is being taught. We have printed off and distributed 300 copies so far. We are using it in our outreach classes and Saturday evening youth Bible study.
Prayer for New Missionaries
We have had three families leave our MTW field team this year for health reasons or a change in call. Could you pray for new missionaries to join our team, especially long-term missionaries? Our team urgently needs someone to handle finances and administration. In addition,church planting opportunities are plentiful. The latest statics show that 87% of the villages in Cambodia our still without a church plant Here is a link to a description of some of the opportunities on the MTW website:https://mtw.org/serve/index?query=&filter%5B2%5D%5B%5D=237
Link for support
Thanks for partnering with us through your prayers and giving!
Luke, Sokha, Hannah and Asa
Things have been a bit crazy here for the last couple of weeks (hence no blog posts), but here’s a little bit about what’s been going on:
I mentioned the discipleship/vocation program in my last post. Two
students in Angk’jeay, who will hopefully be going to Phnom Penh to study in a few months, are currently taking a gap year from school. Their names are Ouchea and Srey Sros. Right now, the goal for them is to be as well-prepared as possible for the challenges of transitioning from village life to college-in-the-city life. One common obstacle for villagers that prevents a healthy transition is a lack of the ability to use basic computer software.
Thus, for the past couple of weeks I have been helping them continue to learn the ropes of Microsoft Word (they’ve been studying with Sokha for many months now). Needless to say, columns are the bane of my existence, but I would like to personally thank Bill Gates for Ctrl+Z. If you don’t know why that is, try doing one of Ouchea and Srey Sros’s assignments – imitating a US Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization form in Microsoft Word. It was a party. Even in spite of some very hard assignments, Srey Sros and Ouchea learn very quickly and they have been an absolute pleasure to teach.
Luke took a bunch of the students and me to a local mountain on Sunday! Here’s some pictures:
Yesterday, Samuth, the pastoral intern, and I met for the last time to practice English pronunciation. We’ve been meeting three times a week to go over some basic phrases for teaching and family life in hopes of building confidence in his English skills. He has noticeably improved even in the short time that I’ve been here and I am sure that he will continue to do so. Samuth helps with the classes here at the Smith’s, but he hopes to start a similar ministry in another village sometime in the future.
I have three full days left in Cambodia. In all honesty, that is a wildly foreign thought. Am I really going to take off on a plane, spend 30 hours in travel, and just like that be on the exact opposite side of the world again? Will I actually be going back to life as it is in the US? In many ways, it’s been hard to adjust to life and habits here (and I’m still very far from being “well-adjusted” if such a thing is possible), but now it all has become so normal. I expect to wake up with a beautiful village sunrise, a couple English and guitar classes scheduled for the day, and the faces of my new Cambodian friends. I expect that I’m going to have to ask some fourth graders how to pronounce the Khmer word for “color” for the fifteenth time. I presume that my day will end in basketball, worship, and prayer. The pace of life here markedly contrasts much about American life; there is structured time for rest that virtually doesn’t exist in the US, especially in college. I will certainly miss Cambodia very much.
This is not to say that I don’t miss home. I’m excited to reunite with family and friends (… and certain kinds of food). But nonetheless, I am sad to be uprooted again – to be thrown into another season of changing and adjusting. However, this summer has served as a beautiful reminder of the transience of life. Christians are not called to be comfortable. This world is extremely broken by sin; we are called to live in that brokenness, to hold our own comfort and interests with open hands, and to place our hope in a future when the brokenness will be no more.
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for he has prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11:16
I am longing for a better country, for the time when there will be no more adjustment – when the comfort and peace of God replaces all anxiety and uncertainty. I would greatly covet your prayers during this transition, and I thank you for all of your prayers and support thus far. They are very precious to me.
Hey, this is Caleb again, the Summer intern. Here’s my latest blog post!
Can you imagine a world in which church starts at 6:30am? Certainly not! Who would speak of such things? Cambodians would. Why, you ask? Cambodia is hot; and after 10am, the list of things that you want to do in a buttoned-down shirt and khakis is composed of exactly nothing. Not everyone has such an early tea time, as it’s only the younger kids who roll up for Sunday School at half ’til seven (on their bikes). Nonetheless, the regular worship service is usually underway by 8:00am and no one is a bit upset about it. I’m not. I promise. Quit looking at me like I’m trying to convince myself. Waking. up. early. is. easy.
Now, let’s talk about Sundays. First up, Sunday School; the only justifiable time for the use of flannelgraphs. Unfortunately, flannel doesn’t hold up great in unyielding humidity and heat, so we have to settle for whiteboards here in Southeast Asia.
Sunday School begins with a decent bit of socializing/playing for the students, which includes some games and activities organized by secondary school students. I often play along, but indiscriminately break most of the rules, because, as is the case with most things in my life, I’m only pretending that I actually understand what’s happening. After game time, everyone grabs a seat and begins to sing songs with some sweet hand motions (I also participate in befuddlement).
The next part of Sunday School, the Bible lesson, is my favorite, but I have to give a bit of a backstory to explain why that is. Luke and Sokha have been in the village for about five years now, teaching English and Bible classes the entire time. Thus, some of their students have graduated from secondary school. But what do they do afterwards? Well, that is where the discipleship/vocation program comes in. The Smith’s have arranged this program in collaboration with MTW to assist students, who are demonstrably committed to the ministry here and capable of attending college, to pay for their post-secondary education expenses. Students from the ministry then have the chance to attend college in Phnom Penh with hopes of getting jobs that will allow them to support their families, churches, and communities.
Why is this important to Sunday School? As it turns out, almost every weekend one of those students makes the two-hour trip back to Angk’jeay to teach the Bible lesson for the children in Sunday School. It is incredibly impactful to see the care that these college students have for their home village and the students who still live here.
Following the Bible story, older students and adults make their way to the front of the Smith’s home for a time of group worship. The morning is filled with Khmer hymns, liturgical readings, and a sermon, which for the last number of weeks has been given by the church’s Cambodian pastoral intern, Samuth.
Samuth became a Christian as a young man in a similar ministry to the one being done here in Angk’jeay. He eventually attended Bible school, where he met his wife Kunthea, and decided to pursue pastoral ministry. The lives of Cambodian pastors are not easy to say the least. It is hardly a position that is respected in the social sphere as 95% of the nation is Buddhist, and congregations rarely have the means to give pastors anything near a reasonable wage. Bear in mind that an average Cambodian household income sits somewhere around $200 a month (substantially less in the villages). If you would like to read more about what MTW is doing to sustainably support pastors like Samuth, please click here.
All that being said, it’s hard to imagine that I only have a bit over three weeks remaining in the village; time feels like it has flown. I can only imagine that the rest of the time will go just as quickly. Please be praying that I use this time diligently and passionately. Once again, thank you so much for your prayers and support; I could not be here without them.