This blog post was written by Mason. He came on an eight person short-term team with Eternal Life Ministry http://www.yselm.org.
It seems like only yesterday that we were on our flight to Cambodia. Our team leader, John Lee, put together a manual that contained numerous articles regarding the current state of Cambodia, MTW’s core values, short-term mission values, and devotionals. The team read the manual to prepare our hearts and begin the trip grounded in the Lord. When we landed, we were greeted warmly by Pastor Luke, Chris Tak (an MTW intern), college students, and the hot weather. After a three-hour van ride, we arrived at Angk’jeay village, where we’d serve for the next week.
Over the course of the trip, our team primarily facilitated English lessons, taught Bible studies, ministered to children through Bible lessons and activities, and led praise. Our team also held special workshops, such as a computer class, personal finance class, guitar class, and photography class. We also partook in the village’s Sunday worship, which was a huge blessing because we got to worship God with people from all walks of life. For the worship, Pastor Walton preached the Word with the help of Bolong, a college student who interpreted the sermon for the Cambodian members. We also joined a Bible study with adults, which blessed the team tremendously. After a fruitful time in the village, we traveled to Phnom Penh, received an overview of Family Clinic, worshiped with the MTW team, and fellowshipped with college students from local churches. Throughout all the work, we developed rich bonds with the Smith family, MTW team, and the people of Cambodia.
Coming to a foreign country and serving constantly definitely came with struggles. We didn’t realize how big of a toll the heat and packed schedule was on us. Thankfully, Pastor Luke reminded us how critical getting good rest was to serve and to not burn out. Also, given the extensive preparation prior to the trip, we wanted everything to be perfect and stressed over every single detail. In these times, we’d remember the power of prayer and lift our anxieties to the Lord. The devotionals prepared beforehand were essential to once again see the big picture and know we are not doing any personal mission, but God’s mission. Although it was tough during the trip, the struggles definitely helped us to understand what the Smith family endures constantly and how we can better pray for them in the future.
The missions trip was certainly a blessing for the entire team. This trip was especially impactful for not only our team but also for our entire congregation because Angk’jeay will be the village John Lee will be serving long term. We all remember the initial village tour and seeing John’s future living quarters and how real it all became. As we were serving in the village, we realized that John is as much a member of the village as he is a member of our church. We’re excited to see our brother serve the amazing village of Angk’jeay and glorify the Lord!
We want to thank the Smith family for their loving hospitality. We will never forget Sohka’s delicious home-cooked meals that gave us energy throughout the tiring days! Because of the family’s warmth and love, we felt welcome in the village since day one. We also want to thank the MTW team in Phnom Penh for showing us the great work God is doing in the city. The entire team was a huge encouragement to us and we were truly able to experience God’s glory and faithfulness.
If you are like me three months ago, you’ve recently become interested in being an intern with Luke and Sokha Smith in the village of Angk’jeay. Perhaps you’ve already sent in your application and now you’re reading through this blog in an effort to understand what Angk’jeay is like. Well, I wrote this letter in an effort to encourage you, while hoping and praying that you would be the next intern.
Let’s start by looking at an ancient city in Greece.
If we look at a timeline of human history and focus in on the city of Corinth during Paul’s time, we’ll see that the new believers there were constantly surrounded by evil. The city was characterized by drunken debaucheries and the temple prostitutes of Aphrodite. These constancies in the environment of the Corinthian believers, mixed with immature faith and wrong beliefs, caused some within the church to be known for their sin rather than for godliness. In response, Paul, like a father, admonished the Corinthians and yearned for their spiritual well-being. In place of constant moral darkness Paul wanted the Corinthians to have a living example of Christ-likeness, so he sent them Timothy.
“Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.”
1 Corinthians 4:16-17
Paul knew that Timothy would be a true representation of his life and teachings; both of which in turn, accurately represented Christ. This is what Paul longed for above all else, that the Corinthians would know Christ. To that end, Paul was willing endure the painful sacrifice of sending Timothy to them. We know that this was a heartbreaking loss for Paul since Timothy was not just anybody, he was Paul’s beloved child. Clearly, Paul loved Timothy, but what we really see here is a deep love for the Corinthians.
To the next intern, let this be a moment of reflection for you. What motivates your desire to minister to Cambodians? Is it this type of love?
Before I turned in my application for the summer internship in Angk’jeay, I found it hard to have love for those I’d be ministering to. Mainly because I’d never met them before! However, as I learned more about the Cambodian church in general, my heart was filled with a deep and growing affection for them.
Similar to the church in Corinth, the Cambodian church is also spiritually young. In order to understand why, we must begin by looking at its wider historical context. From 1975-1979, only 43 years ago, the Pol Pot regime caused the deaths of approximately 2 million Cambodians. Since most of these victims were adults, the Khmer Rouge suddenly made Cambodia demographically young. Yet the genocide was also a major cause of the Cambodian church’s spiritual youth. You see, there were actually missionaries in Cambodia before the Khmer Rouge. National believers were being raised up and the church was beginning to form. But when Pol Pot violently targeted religious groups in Cambodia, the Christian missionaries were among them. It was not until the early 1990’s that the Cambodian church began to recuperate as a result of God’s work through more missionaries. That process is ongoing and the Cambodian church is both small and young.
The reality of the Cambodian church sharply contrasted the church I’m familiar with. In my community I have an abundance of older brothers and sisters who consistently show me Christ in their own lives. Further, so many of these older believers around me are faithful f ollowers of Christ. As a spiritually young person, this matters. I have not experienced enough of life to go through many trials. Yet I know plenty of people in my church whose faiths have endured suffering. They’ve experienced miscarriages, unemployment, deaths in their families, and a faith that’s been through it all. When I look at how their faiths have endured trials I am encouraged! I see that despite their suffering, Christ is still their treasure and their loyalty remains with Him. In this way, they’ve been to me as Paul was to Timothy, an exemplary spiritual father to a son. Now, this is just within my local church.
In my area there’s seven churches within a five mile radius of where I live. In Cambodia, only 1.59% of the total population are believers. When I first heard about this internship, those two realities hit me. Though I had not yet met the people I’d be ministering to, I began to long for my Cambodian brothers and sisters to have the encouragement and support that comes from a mature church.
We’ve seen that Paul’s love for Timothy translated into a love for the Corinthians. The brothers and sisters in my community have stirred within me a love for those in Cambodian communities. Look at the people in your life. Identify the spiritual fathers and mothers who’ve poured their lives out for your spiritual well-being. Let their love be the soil in which your love thrives.
Looking back to 1 Corinthians 4:16-17, we should recognize that Paul used two words to describe Timothy: beloved and faithful. Now, it would not have been an act of love for Paul to send the Corinthians some disinterested and unreliable guy named Timothy. Faithfulness is a necessary attribute of those who love others.
Here’s a definition. Faithfulness describes someone who is reliable and trustworthy. Scripture tells us that only God is perfectly faithful (Psalm 89:5-8). Furthermore, if we turn to Proverbs we’ll read that humans are unfaithful by nature (Proverbs 20:6). Yet somehow Timothy, and many other believers that are mentioned in the epistles, were said to be faithful (2 Tim. 2:2, Col. 1:2, 1 Pet. 5:12). How did Timothy and the other early believers become faithful?
How do you and I become faithful?
The last day that I was in the village of Angk’jeay was an incredible mix of sorrow and joy. Almost three months had gone by. There were times during those months when I was uncertain that I would persevere to the end. I’m not saying that I was uncertain whether or not I would complete the internship and still be alive, there were people who made sure that would happen. But from the moment I first sent in the application to the moment I stepped off the return flight, my mind faced these heavy questions: “Will you persevere to the end, in love? Will you make it to the end, as a witness of Christ? Christopher, will you be faithful t o your ministry?”
I woke up at 6:00am on that last day in the village.
I packed my suitcases and brought them outside next to the van. By 7:00am students were already gathered outside. Once the suitcases were loaded into the van we all grabbed some chairs and sat in a large circle. One by one students stood up and spoke parting words to me. I did not expect to hear what they said. The students thanked me for my patience. They thanked me for my care. The students did not know it, but their words immediately spurred me to pray to God in astonishment at what they were saying: “Father! You know how impatient I’ve been. You know how often I’ve been frustrated. You know my heart and how unaffectionate I’ve been at times. But they’re thanking me. Father, they’re thanking me for your grace. They’re thanking me for your faithfulness to me.” I couldn’t believe it. Despite all of my sins and failures that only God and I knew about, God caused me to be a faithful servant and witness of Christ.
To the next intern, how are you going to be faithful to your ministry? Realize that you can be faithful by believing that God is faithful to keep His word. Every time I became impatient, frustrated or unloving, I turned to God in prayer with a confidence that,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9
On the Sundays that I became exhausted at the mere thought of the work that was in the coming week I turned to God’s unchanging word and read,
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. . .”
2 Corinthians 9:8
In every moment that I lacked the love, humility, and joy to care for students I recalled these words to mind,
“‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’’’
After seeing my sinful heart, mind, and attitude come to life far too many times, I fought discouragement with the reality that God sanctifies His children,
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
1 Thessalonians 5:24
Dear brother or sister in Christ, do not let the length of the internship or the perceived difficulties of it cause you to turn away from this precious opportunity. Cultivate a love for the Cambodian church. Then hold onto the promises of God when that love stumbles. Become a faithful servant by believing that God is faithful to keep the promises He’s given to you in Christ Jesus.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
2 Peter 1:3-4
With Love and Prayers,
P.S. Luke and Sokha are loving and caring people. They’ve treated me as a brother in Christ, not simply as their intern. It’s been my joy to be with them, I hope that same joy will be yours too.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.