by Katherine Parker
Last Sunday I joined worship at Solong Kandal Church, and then we continued with the Mobilizing the Church study. I brought a local translator, Nara, with me. He was a good group leader and we had a very dynamic workshop, but a bad translator since he kept forgetting to keep me in the loop. So, I just had to struggle along with my own understanding for most of the day (luckily I basically knew what we were doing). The congregation at this church is really warm and welcoming, and I always feel like a member of the family when I visit. Here is a quick update about the status of their project development.
Last time I visited Solong Kandal (church of Pastor Sophean) we talked about the past outreach activities of the church and a bit about their future plans. Currently, they worship in the house of one of the members. It is a very simple house, the type that is often translated to be a cottage (meaning it has walls made from woven palm leaves, rather than bamboo slats or wood, but it did have a mettle roof which is nicer than thatch, but not as nice and hotter than tile). They are currently looking for a donor(s) that will support them to build a brick church (about $30,000). One of the church members has agreed already to donate the land.
The church members are very active and have done a lot of work to raise funds themselves for various things and are engaged in a lot of visitation ministry (to the poor, alcoholics, etc.). This time, we were talking about "outsiders", and how we can be more welcoming to folks different from us. It really struck me about how marginalized Christians are in Cambodia when I asked about visiting people with AIDS. They said that there are folks with AIDS in their community and that, yes, they have gone to visit them. I asked if they experienced that people sometimes look down on people with AIDS. They answered yes, but also that sometimes the people with AIDS looked down on the Christians. Wow!
They have also been collecting rice through their Sunday offering and also a first-fruits offering (this village grows 2 crops of rice a year since they are close to the river and it is easy for irrigation). Recently they sold most of their rice and bought a small paddy field (50m^2) for $580 that will be used to grow rice to raise additional money for the church. They hope eventually to have about 5 hectors of land to use for supporting the church, but they are starting small according to their ability to buy rather than waiting without action until a donor materializes. CHAD has really been promoting the concept of "seed projects", and it is amazing to see a church that is really putting it into practice.
They are asking CHAD to partner with them to purchase some farm equipment (such as a hand tractor or threshing machine) that they can rent out, also as a small business venture to raise funds for the church. Since this is a much more costly investment that CHAD usually engages in (about $3000), we are moving very slowly and making sure that everything is in place first. We are continuing with group formation through Mobilizing the Church and developing a clear plan so that we do not create a situation of dependency. I have high hopes for success because the pastor is a former business woman and they keep clear records already.