As we celebrate Christmas this year, I am thinking about my 11 years in Cambodia; the triumphs, trials and challenges of working in a young mission church and in a multicultural environment in a Buddhist context. As I am writing, in my heart is a new song of praise and thanksgiving. I am especially thankful for you all as the cloud of witnesses that surrounds me each day from far and near. Through it I am inspired and rejuvenated to continue the work out here. I am also thankful for the amazing support I have received in taking care of Mutumwa, my grandson.
The year 2010 has been busy, fruitful and brief. I am amazed how at this point in my life, time seems to fly and there is not enough time for one to do all the things planned for each day! Nonetheless I am deeply grateful for the work that we have accomplished and for all those who came to help us- through UMVIM Teams and individually. We were blessed with visits by colleagues from GBGM-UMC New York as well as Conferences in Western Pennsylvania/ Virginia; California / Nevada; Louisiana / Texas; Rocky Mountain; Singapore and Malaysia. Their "hands on" support has enhanced our work immensely.
Our achievements this year include the recruitment of Sok Sophal, my local counterpart; H1NI vaccinations which we administered to 200 people; the establishment of the District Health Fund, Theology of Development Training with church leaders, HIV /AIDS / Malaria Workshop for church volunteers; as well as Medical Outreach and Pastors Training for patient advocacy. My crowning experience has been the training of church leaders. It has begun an important worldview shift in my Christian life. I am thankful for this opportunity to share, to learn and to grow together .
Pondering on, I realize how some of these experiences have had an often surprising effect on me and on my work. I think about the time our hopes were shattered when the cardiologist at Calmette told us that Phanya did not qualify for fee exemption.This meant he had to pay $4500 upfront in order to have open heart surgery. Neither Phanya's widowed mother nor the Pastor and I could think of where to find this money.We prayed together and asked God's help. Several weeks later I received a phone call.... the answer to prayer?? " A team of heart surgeons will come to work at Calmette from Korea. "Can you help find people in need. The team will cover all costs for treatments" - the voice spoke.
Phanya the little 12 year old had surgery in August. He is back at school playing football with other kids. "We have not because we ask not" - James 4:2b.
I also recall a brief encounter on one side of the world that led to amazing and rewarding team work on the other side. While I was at a meeting in Louisiana, I made acquaintance with a woman at a Book Sale Stand. At the end of the meeting, the woman asked what she could do to help in my work. I confessed I would love to have some administrative support-organizing my files, newsletters and updating documents...and the list continued.I did not expect much out of it. A year later, she and two friends were standing in my office ready to do just that! I was overjoyed. But the best was to come. The friendship and collaboration I experienced with these women brought benefits I could have never imagined. As I ponder this, I am reminded that while we are occupied with the details of our everyday life, God is similarly occupied, enabling us to succeed with these details. He does "exceedingly abundantly above all.....Ephesians 3:20".
In another instance I found myself extremely fatigued. It had crept upon me over a long period of time.While on a visit to Colorado, a friend had suggested I extend my visit, stay with her and get some uninterrupted rest. I agreed and she cared for me in all sorts of ways, healing and restoring wholeness. A year later she led the Rocky Mountain Medical team to Cambodia. Praying and healing the sick, the team launched us into an amazing collaboration with the provincial health department in Kratie.Through its witness, many have come to know Christ. Their gifts to Mercy Medical Centre - is helping us consolidate our partnership with this Christian Hospital.
GBGM-UMC has treasured up over the last century the wonders God has done in missions worldwide and GBGM went to Cambodia by faith. "But Mary kept all these these things and pondered them in her heart".It built her faith. Like Mary, this Christmas can be a time to ponder about the wondrous things in our lives. What is it that we hear and see God doing in our lives and have we kept it in our hearts?
To You all, Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year !