All posts by Caleb Robey

John Lee’s Summer

                This past year I had the wonderful opportunity to serve with the MTW team in Cambodia! It was my third time coming back to serve with this beautiful team. I came here for 2 weeks in the summer of 2014, then another 2 weeks in the summer of 2015, and because I didn’t get enough, I decided to spend a year here. Actually, I still didn’t get enough, so I am planning to come back to serve as a long-term missionary!

Bolong (college student) and Chandara (current student @Angjeay) teaching the younger students a Bible story.

                I had the unique opportunity to serve at almost all of MTW’s ministry sites in Cambodia: from living in Phnom Penh in 2 different church dormitories and staying a few nights at a third to living at our 2 village ministry sites (one of which is Angjeay, where Pastor Luke lives). Because I spent time at all the different sites, I could see how God is working through all our different church plants.

These youngest students in Angjeay learning English from Sokha. Pray for God to work in the hearts of these children and that they may know the love of Christ!

                Something that encouraged and inspired me is seeing the fruit after many faithful years of discipleship. Pastor Luke and Sokha Smith have been ministering to and discipling the children of Angjeay for over 7 years. Everyday, the Smiths model Christ-likeness to their students through the way they love their students and love their own family. On the weekdays they meet the needs of the students by teaching them English which will help them to find better jobs when they grow up, however during each class, they make sure there are opportunities for God to be glorified through praying, singing hymns, and reading God’s Word together. On the weekends, there are English Bible studies, guitar lessons, new believer classes, membership classes, and Sunday worship. They also teach the students to take responsibility for their own faith by having them take on roles to lead songs before classes, pray for their classes, and even teach younger students the Bible stories that they have already learned.

Sreylin (college student) teaching children a Bible story to children at the village church plant.

                   These were all things I got to experience during my stay in Angjeay village and got to see the fruits of when I lived in the dorms in Phnom Penh. Because the Smiths have been ministering to their community for some time, their oldest former students are finishing up college and I got to live with some of them. I can see that they love Jesus in the ways that they serve their churches in the city. For example, at Khmer Christian Church, there are 3 students who came out of Angjeay who faithfully attend church and serve a church plant in a village 2 hours away. Almost every Sunday they start their day at 6am cleaning up the church and setting up chairs before worship, sing for the praise team during service, and then right after service get in a van for a 2-3 hour ride, lead children’s worship and spend time with the students at the village church plant then finally get back home around 8-9pm. They use what they learned in Angjeay to disciple children in a different village from their home village and I have never heard them grumble or complain about this trip. They give up their free time to love, serve, and share the gospel with others. I praise God and am so joyful to see the gospel being lived out and passed from missionaries to the Khmer people and then from the Khmer to other Khmers. This is the vision of our team to equip, disciple, and train the Khmer so they can also pass these things on to their neighbors which is how we seek to live out the Great Commission that Christ calls us to. Cambodia is still around 95% Buddhist so for most people, things we see everyday and take for granted such as praying, singing praises, and reading the Bible are foreign for most people. Sometimes it is easy to be tempted to believe that what we need are new hospitals, schools, or some other programs or activities (these are all important) but what we really need is to obey God in discipling God’s people to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded us.”

Caitlin Washburn’s Summer!

                 My adventure in Cambodia began on June 8th, when I landed at the Phnom Penh airport. After a whirlwind weekend in the capital, I made the journey to Angk’jeay village, where I would stay for the next seven weeks with the Smiths. Angk’jeay is small, but picturesque, with the rolling mountains and sparkling green rice paddies providing a beautiful backdrop. My days in the village were spent teaching English at the Smith’s home in the afternoon and evening, as well as in the 6th grade class at the local public school. I also helped to lead an arts class two days a week, where the students learned dance and singing. This class was particularly fun, as I taught ballet to the students. Despite minimal exposure to dance, many of the kids surprised me with how fast they picked up the challenging technique.

A trip to the rice fields

            Some of my favorite parts of the summer internship were spending time with the students outside of class. We would walk to their homes, ride bicycles, trek through fields, and once we even attempted to climb a mountain. The students in the village were so eager both to learn and to get know the interns. We spent hours playing games of tag, Uno, charades, and Mafia – they especially loved this game of mystery and betrayal! These are some of my most fond memories, playing with the students, and slowly getting to know them personally. It felt so rewarding when they started to confide in me and trust me enough to include me in their conversations. Learning their names was challenging at first, because there are so many new sounds in the Khmer language, but I picked them up eventually.

Our trip to the mountain!
Girls’ night that we hosted for the students

            Living with the Smiths enriched my Cambodian experience, because both Luke and Sokha were terrific resources for me, and readily answered all of my questions about the culture, food, people, and language. Getting to know them and their children was a pleasure, and I was so grateful for their hospitality. It is quite clear that they have made an impact on the village of Angk’jeay. Spending the summer in the village also opened my eyes to the daily challenges of missionary life. I had never been on a mission trip like this before, and it was definitely a learning experience. Long-term missionary work is a full-time job, and it touches every area of your life. It is a difficult work, and while it doesn’t always pan out the way you expect, it is comforting to remember that God is always in control and can use sinful, broken people to accomplish His work. I learned a lot about myself through this trip. This experience highlighted both my strengths and weaknesses, and I think that it has helped me to know myself better. I also learned ways that I can continue to serve God in my own community. There are people that I can be humbly serving everywhere, and I think that this internship has equipped me with some of the knowledge and skills necessary to continue serving from a different part of the world than Cambodia. I will always remember my summer spent in Angk’jeay, and I am so thankful that God called me to be here.  

Reaksar and Srey Mao

 

 

Report from Rachel Sugg – Summer Intern

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.

Summer Update 2016

Hello friends and family,

As summer comes to an end, we wanted to send you an update.

Family 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.

Translation Update
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
https://mtw.org/missionaries/details/luke-and-sokha-smith

Thanks for partnering with us through your prayers and giving!
Luke, Sokha, Hannah and Asa

A Better Country

Hello everyone,

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:

A drunk guy really wanted to have a chat at the store. No, Khmer is not easier to understand when spoken in the midst of inebriation.

 

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.

In Christ,

Caleb

Get me to the church on time. I may need a few alarms.

Hey, this is Caleb again, the Summer intern. Here’s my latest blog post!

This view makes early mornings worth it here.

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).

Pise, who is studying English in Phnom Penh, teaches Sunday School.

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 and Kunthea

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.

In Christ,

Caleb

Village Sustainability Project

Here is some information written by a former teammate a while back about Eternal Life in Christ Church’s pastoral intern, Samuth, and his wife, Kunthea. They are part of what we call the Village Sustainability Project:
I’d like to share just one more story about a young man named Samuth. Here he is pictured with his wife Kunthea. Like most, he was raised in one of Cambodia’s 14,000 villages, and like 96% of Cambodians, he was raised a folk Buddhist, his worldview dominated by the pursuit of good fortune, a fear of spirits, and ancestor veneration. In fact, when Samuth and Kunthea got married, most of their families did not attend the wedding where their ancestors would not be worshipped, but I’m skipping ahead.
Now one characteristic of Cambodia that is still as true now as it was nine years ago when this story begins, is that if you can speak English, your life can be radically different. There is just a world of opportunities that becomes available for you. And so in the second semester of tenth grade, Samuth began to study English with a missionary who had moved relatively nearby. I say “nearby” because not many missionaries come to live in the village; but I say “relatively” because it was still an hour away by bicycle. And so in order to study English, Monday through Friday, he began to stay at the nearby Buddhist temple during the week.
The following year, in some way perhaps foreshadowing what was to come, he left the Buddhist wat and moved into the student center the missionary had organized. And it was now English on weekdays, Bible study on weekends. He grew in his understanding of the gospel and grace, and the next year, he was baptized into the faith.
So if I may now skip ahead several years, Samuth has now completed Bible school and is currently serving under the mentorship of MTW missionaries Luke and Sokha Smith at Angk’jeay church plant, where some 30-35 of our brothers and sisters gather for worship every Sunday; and where they have baptized twenty-eight students over the past three years.
Every Sunday, Samuth now preaches or presides over worship in rotation with Luke. On Monday afternoons, he visits and reviews the sermon with two elderly adult church members and again to kick-off an evening outreach class. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, he now teaches English to about fifty grade school students; they’ve come to learn English just as Samuth had nine years ago. And once the English lesson is complete, he teaches from Scripture.
Once monthly, he travels to Phnom Penh to attend Presbytery meetings as well as review sessions to prepare for his upcoming ordination exam. And he hopes one day to plant a church in another village, perhaps one of the 12,000 villages in Cambodia that is still without a local, worshipping community of faith. It has been a privilege to see him grow in his faith and in the exercise of his ministry gifts, all through personal tragedies and trials that have faced both Kunthea and him.
Well, one of the most vexing questions we and others around the world face, is: “How we can more wisely and thoughtfully steward those resources God has given us to give?” And in particular, in contexts of extreme poverty, how can we do this in a manner that does not breed dependence, but rather promotes the long-term health of the local church?
Last spring, we were awarded an Ambassadors grant for a Village
Sustainability Project, which provided Samuth seed money to purchase cows. The income he generates raising cattle would provide for his family, while honoring both his past experience, and his local context, where he is eminently more relatable raising cattle – as others in his village are apt to do – than solely ministering while receiving foreign funds.
Through this grant, Samuth has a way to pursue his call to pastoral ministry and provide for his family, in a way that a community of young students and subsistence rice farmers never could. Because of the support of donors, we have the ability to implement a creative, contextually-appropriate solution to that vexing and urgent question: this has been a way to share our resources, generously and sacrificially, in a manner that dignifies rather than patronizes; that fosters healthy interdependence, rather than perpetual dependence.
We are still in year one of this project and it will be another year before the first calves will be sold, but Samuth is thrilled about its prospects and sincerely grateful for this partnership.

English… anyone, anyone?

Hey, this is Caleb, the Smith’s MTW intern for this Summer.

English classes; where open-ended questions make eye contact with the teacher just about as avoidable as the bubonic plague. Some of you may be wondering, what exactly is the point of missionaries teaching English? There are an immense number of answers, but let me try to put it simply: Learning English in Cambodia is like getting a good business degree in the US. It allows students to pursue further study in college, get good jobs, and support their families. Furthermore, most jobs in Cambodia require seven days of work weekly. On the contrary, jobs received after English or college training often only require five or six, allowing educated workers to invest their free time in serving their local communities and their churches.

Recognizing these benefits, many students, both Christians and Buddhists (the state religion here), are drawn to come and learn English at the Smith’s house from week to week. By means of English education, many in Angk’jeay have become friends of the Smith’s, are prepared for better futures, and have been exposed to and put their faith in Jesus Christ.

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to teach English as a second language yet, let me paint you a picture: Imagine playing UNO. Now forget that, because it’s is nothing like playing UNO. Teaching English is an attempt to reconcile the differences in pronunciation and cultural connotation that languages have adopted throughout centuries for the sake of attaining common linguistic understanding. Many phrases that are completely casual in one culture may be nonexistent in another. And even more frustratingly, there are sounds that are common to some languages that are completely foreign to others. For example, a couple days ago, I spent a decent amount of time working with students to pronounce the word “year” since the “ee” sound is essentially never used in Khmer. Oppositely, Khmer often uses the “sr” sound with a rolled “r,” which never occurs in English. On the bright side, students have gotten some good laughs out of me trying to pronounce their names.

In spite of some difficulty, the classes have been so much fun to teach here. As the son of a math teacher, I’ve grew up getting to see many people experience this whole “learning” thing, and I’m a fan of it. One of my favorite things about teaching, specifically in the public school, is that I’ve been able to try out some of the Khmer phrases I’ve learned. My use of those phrases is similar to Ron Weasley casting spells in The Sorcerer’s Stone. They almost never have the effect I anticipate (blank stares tend to be popular), but when they actually communicate what’s intended, it’s magic.

To discuss an experience teaching in the public school, I would like to draw your attention to the picture on the left, which is simply a cropped version of the picture above. Circled in red is a ledge that leads up to the chalkboard. Though proposed to be helpful for student sight and reaching high places on the board, there is a simple downfall of this mechanism (or at least in my use of it). Tuesday morning, I was teaching the numbers from one through ten and had them written on the board. I was randomly pointing at different numbers and the students would respond with the name of the number. Much like The Count from Sesame Street, I think numbers are pretty hype, so I was getting into it. As I swung back from the right side of the board to point at the “1” on the left side, I misplaced my back foot, slipped off the platform and nearly bit the dust about five feet from the classroom door. After regaining my balance (and whatever was left of my dignity) I took a bow, as the students enjoyed a great deal of laughter at my expense. I’m thankful for that moment. Even while being the subject of their amusement, I got to experience the sweet way in which laughter can completely transcend language.

Our hope is that my time teaching at the public school will create an even better relationship between the Smith’s ministry and the public school here. Perhaps some students will consider joining in the classes at the house. I will talk more about the language classes that go on at the Smith’s home in future posts, but this is all I had time for today. Thank you so much for your thoughts, prayers, and support.

In Christ,

Caleb