Kristin and I just got back from a home stay in a fishing village on the coast in Kompong Saum province. We spent time in the home of the local pastor and his family, and we had lots of opportunities to visit with people in the area, sharing encouragement and testimonies and praying with people.
In some ways I’m tempted to tell you just the highlights, to say it was an amazing time, my language ability increased greatly, and so on. There were definitely some challenges though, moments when I felt overwhelmed and even wondered why in the world God called me here because of my weaknesses. But, He was gracious to stretch, teach and encourage me. I want to share a little bit of both sides and hopefully give you a realistic but fun picture of our time in this coastal district.
– The pastor runs a little pharmacy counter in the front of his home, as well as a DVD rental “shop” in the evenings. This gave us a great opportunity to visit with lots of different people, and to observe and listen to natural conversation. We learned that Thai soap operas and Japanese action series are favorites, that we have big noses, and various local gossip. Some people were eager to ask questions and chat with us. Others hadn’t seen foreigners much before, and their routine was to come by every evening and stare at us, which was a bit unnerving. They didn’t seem to realize we could understand what they were saying as they speculated over whether our hair color was natural and why we had shown up in their village.
– Each day we went out with the pastor’s wife to visit with different families from the small congregation. It was exciting to have the language ability to share words of encouragement, testimonies and some of the Bible stories we have been learning! We also shared during a couple of meetings with kids and during the Sunday worship service. Many of these families have very difficult home situations, unbelieving family members and a lack of resources and opportunities.
– We took the words of Luke 10 literally and “ate and drank what was set before us”. While almost everything we ate was delicious, a few more challenging things were durian smoothies, white fungus energy drinks, soy bean dessert, and unknown pieces of meat.
– The pastor was an amazing story teller and we got to learn about his childhood, surviving the Khmer Rouge years, how he came to know Christ, and some of the persecution they have suffered. The first few days it felt as though the words were bouncing off my brain and not really finding their way to an area of comprehension. This was due in part to a different accent than we are used to, a lack of coffee (um….perhaps I am slightly addicted?), weariness, and LOTS of people time for this introverted girl. Thankfully we were able to adjust and really appreciate what was shared with us.
– We went to visit a little village to share with a group of kids on Sunday afternoon. The church has just started reaching out in this area, and the kids had never seen tall, white foreigners before. They had never heard of America, as most of them don’t have TVs and haven’t had the chance to go to school. They were pretty afraid of us, and I think had a hard time even paying attention or understanding how Khmer was coming out of our mouths.
– I am pretty sure that I pray like a 5-year old in Khmer. The people here use a higher, royal language when talking about God, and although we have been learning and practicing to pray, I was discouraged at first hearing others’ eloquent prayers and feeling inadequate in praying in the different homes of people we visited and together with our host family during their evening devotions. I realized, however, that even though it is important to address God respectfully, perhaps it is okay to pray simply and to talk to God as my Father and Friend. It might be really intimidating for people who have never set foot in a church building or who are just learning about God to think about talking to Him. In this way I can identify with people and show that God knows our hearts and He hears our prayers no matter the language or how elaborately or simply we pray.
– The believers have found the hearts of people in this area to be hard and resistant to the gospel. They want to share and reach out, so pray for courage and wisdom as they do and that God would open the hearts of people and lead the believers to these persons of peace.