Good morning from the beautiful Somadevi Hotel in wonderful downtown Siem Reap, Cambodia, near the Thailand border. I am writing this BLOG early Sunday morning here after a great weekend visiting one of the wonders of the world, Angkor Wat. Internet has been intermittent and at times, just off, which I guess that would explain the intermittence. So, I am unable to post any BLOGs from here. But I wanted to tell you about the weekend and how test day went. I’ll write as if it is the day.
Fridays are test day. I met Curtis and Jeff at 7:00 AM this morning outside the Long Thaily Guest House. We began to walk toward the HBC. As we walked we talked about what was going to happen during that day. Lots going on. Curtis and Bre were still setting up the boys home, which will be near the Water Of Life boys home. The boys will get to live in the house, get three meals a day and be able to attend college at no expense to themselves or their families. Teachers in Cambodian schools used to require that students pay them directly, even in grade-school, Jr. High and High Schools. This was outlawed by the Cambodian government, but no one enforces this. Teachers do not actually teach anything in class. Students must pay teachers extra for tutoring, where the real learning happens. Students basically have to bribe teachers. The great thing about what Curtis and Bre are doing here through Harmony is providing a good education for these boys and sharing the love of Jesus with them. It is an involved story, but Curtis and Bre had requested from the government that certain boys be part of this home. They expected it to take a while. Things usually do. However, they were released a lot sooner than they thought, sending them scrambling. Even though this was not the expected time, it was in God’s timing. Curtis and Bre are doing a fantastic job, even though things seem out of control. God is in control. He loves these these boys and is using Curtis and Bre to be His hands and feet in their lives.
It is testing day. We arrive at the HBC and begin setting up for the test. Pastor Khorn Mao leads the class in a few worship songs. I am beginning to get some of the tunes and am able to hum along with them, praising Jesus. There is one particular song with a universal word in it that they sing a lot. It is Hallelujah. How awesome! We sing that one together often. Adam hands out the tests and writes other questions on the white board. The pastors begin writing down each word and then begin their test. They each finish at different times. One, Han, completes the test in about an hour. Han is an interesting character. He is a young man who looks stylish with his sunglasses on at all times through the class. I learned that the reason for this is that he had pink-eye. He was able to get medicine for it at HBC and is well on his way to healing. Another, Ty (tee), finishes a few minutes after that. Ty is Curtis’ right hand man at the HBC. He is a Khmer man, with a wife and one young son named Joshua. This little boy is always around the HBC and is mischievous as any other 4 year-old. Technologically sound, there is never a time when Joshua is without his dad’s Android phone, constantly downloading and playing games. One by one each student leaves the room.
When I think about the different pastors that make up our class it reminds me of the incredible grace of God. Among the 9 pastors there are two single men, Pilot and Khorn Mao. The rest are married and have children. Three of them are former Khmer Rouge soldiers who fought for Pol Pot during the Cambodian Revolution. One man is a former pimp. Most of these men came to faith from their mothers, who were had become Christians earlier in life. The Soldiers came to faith when a foreign missionary spoke to them about the love of Jesus. What a testament to the grace of God. Pray for these men that they can overcome the demons of the past and that they are able to fight the good fight of faith in such a dark place. Pray that they put on the armor of light.
After the test, Curtis and Jeff came to me and asked if I wanted to go to Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat (Angkor Temple) is. It is one of the wonders of the world. Of course I wanted to go. It would be a 5 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and a couple of days stay in a hotel, so I had to run quickly back to the Long Thaily Guest House and pack. Our bus would leave at 2:00 PM and soon, we were on our way. The bus company is called, “The Mekong Express”. On our journey we followed the Mekong River. It was incredible to see. Recent rains had caused the Mekong to swell and even at some points overflow it’s banks. People in boats were fishing in the river and there were even water buffalo along the river banks. We traveled through some villages along the way and were able to see Cambodian Village life.
It was surreal at some points. It almost seemed like a ride at Disneyland. Potholes were huge and the bus had to make sharp turns to avoid them. At some points we just went over them. We’d fly up, then forward, then back. The village people, (no, they didn’t sing YMCA, but hey, that would’ve been cool) lined the street as the bus went by, some of the kids waved. Cows were everywhere. But they are incredibly thin and gaunt looking. You can see their hind bones. It is ghastly to look at sometimes. But, I am told, that is what healthy cows here look like. I’ll try to get a picture and show you.
After our five-hour ride, which, because of the view outside and World War Z playing on the big screen at the front of the bus, the time went by quickly. Before we knew it, we were once again negotiating for a Tuk-Tuk in Siem Reap. We went to one hotel, then another, finally reaching our destination, the Somadevi hotel. Angkor Wat was incredible. I’ll share more about that in my next BLOG. Pray for us. It is very dark here in Siem Reap. We are pretty sure we encountered some sort of demon in one of the temples. It was a darkness that I had not felt in a while. The spiritual warfare is thick here. Pray for this city. May the LORD do a great work among the Khmer people.