Friday, September 28, 2012


Last weekend was my host dad's little brother's (Seyla) engagement ceremony. I had hung out with Seyla and his fiance Sokha quite a bit, so it was really sweet to see this step of the process and the ceremony was also a very interesting cultural experience. I spent a good part of Saturday helping the family prepare almost 30 fancy bowl/ platter things of fruit and gifts as presents for Sokha's family so that Seyla could literally “buy a wife.” It reminded me of the Old Testament, when it would take several chapters to describe the luxurious gifts given to someone. I was curious, so I kept careful track of what we prepared: 

86 mochi (pounded rice) and coconut cakes—4 bowls
12 Noon saum jek (steamed banana rice cakes)—2 bowls
12 Boom saum sait jiroop (steamed pork rice cakes), each one is meant to be a meal—2 bowls
24 Chinese festival moon cakes (sweet potato and egg yolk in a pastry)—4 boxes= 4 bowls
18 persimmons—2 bowls
18 pomegranates—2 bowls
18 Oranges—2 bowls
64 bananas (4 half-stalks)—2 bowls
24 apples—2 bowls
2 land-of-Canaan-sized bunches of huge grapes—2 bowls
86 longans (lychee-type fruit)—2 bowls
A bowl of various things to smoke or chew, like tobacco, leaves, palm fruit, and a bag of mysterious white powder. (These were used in the ceremony) 
And the last addition was a bowl/ plate full of cash--More that $7000

They also prepared some fruit and incense to offer to the Buddhist alter box in their house to bless the engagement. The offerings were so beautiful and intricate and cost the family a small fortune. I kept thinking how wasteful it was to offer food to a Buddhist alter. I looked at Banan, who just stood back and stared at the transaction sadly. But is also was a good reminder to me, as they picked out only the choicest of fruit and polished them up for the alter, that we can learn something from the reverence and respect of these Buddhist traditions. Often protestant Christians from the west can settle into the comfort of knowing we are saved and having a casual, intimate relationship with God. But God is not only our papa. He is our King and Almighty Messiah. He is indeed gracious, but still expects no less than our firstfruits and our full devotion to him. It made me think back and wonder of I had been picking out all my very best fruit to give over to him, on the alter that seems wasteful to the rest of the world. Was I intentionally going above and beyond in my offerings for the one I love? 

 We woke up at 5:30am to leave for the parents' house, where the whole family piled into 2 cars and a truck along with all the gifts. Yosue rode in the back to protect the gifts. 

We drove to Sokah’s family house. Her parents came there for the day from the far province they live in. Once at the house, we unloaded the gifts, and laid them out in the middle of the room. Everyone gathered in a circle around them and sat down, with the 2 sets of parents in the front, facing everyone else, and lots of beautiful old ladies chatting on the sides. 

The officiator did some kind of reading, a speech, a time for the parents to say a few words (not so unlike the ritualism of a traditional western wedding ceremony). There was also some praying and chanting, which made it quite unlike a western-style ceremony. 

There was a ceremonial tea serving and clinking for the four parents, followed by the chewing of tobacco in rolled up leaves taken from the "drug bowl." 

Then Seyla and Sokah came out, dressed very nicely, bowing to everyone, and taking their place in the center. Everyone held their hands together in prayer, so I did too, but I prayed to Jesus to bless their marriage and to somehow show himself to this wonderful family. 

The families exchanged the money pot, and then the couple joyfully exchanged rings. 

Then the bowls of fruit and gifts left the room and were replaced by a multitude of food dishes, so everyone feasted together merrily. Banan's sister and sister-in-law are on the left. 

Just another Sunday in Cambodia. I'm continually fascinated by this culture, and I'm thankful that my host-family is willing to share exciting events like this with me. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Living on a Prayer

Oh! We’re Half-way there?

3 months (and one week) into my internship. 3 months to go. How strange is that?
For my HNGR mid-internship assessment I had to answer a bunch of questions like “What have you done? What have you learned? How have you grown? What are you goals for the rest of your time? Etc. ”

It was hard to know where to start. Here's a bit of what I've been able to do, by God's grace:

I was able to teach these guys ESL and photography in Phnom Penh...

...and found them facebook stalking me when they were supposed to be out taking photos for a class assignment...

I taught these guys in Kandal...

This is what happened when I told them to do English skits about a day in the life of World Relief and take photos of the skits...

I've become part of a family. They're pretty awesome. 
And part of a church. Yeah...I'm singing in the choir. My host-dad is pastor at the church, and a few WR staff members go there, but I'm the only foreigner, so I stick out sometimes. 
I go on trips on the field to other provinces to gather stories about the people and programs...

Like Hope for Cambodia's Children in Phnom Penh...

Teenager Education in Kandal Province...

Adult Education and cell groups in Kampong Cham...

...and Moringa Agriculture Education in Pursat. 

I've met a lot of beautiful people, and heard their amazing stories. 

 Transportation has always been a bit of an adventure...

...And so has the food. 

What have I learned? Well, lots of little things, like:
1. how to pull of the wings and barbs of a roasted cricket so it doesn’t get caught in your throat when you eat it
2. how to sit on the back of a moto without falling off and how to weave gracefully (ha!) through Phnom Penh traffic

3. How to lock and unlock rusty padlocks through a hole in a gate

4. The importance of ducking every time I enter the house so I don’t bang my head on the ceiling or door.
5. How to cook some Khmer food at home

6. How to communicate with lots of hand gestures and one-word sentences

7. How to be a big sister.

I’ve grown to love a new culture and city and people. I've seen the beauty of this country

And the majesty in this capital city.

I've seen desolate conditions

But also how people are working to bring hope

I've made wonderful friends at work and home and in my Bible study group. 
I’ve learned how much I can do and how little I can do. 
Before coming, I was bracing myself for spiritual warfare, but despite the challenges and questions along the way, I have felt overwhelmed by God's powerful, unconditional love.
Even amid sad, painful, hopeless settings, I'm learning about his amazing love and grace. 
I am learning what true hope is, and am still working through what justice really is.
I am learning the importance of truth, and what that means in this journalistic context. 
I am growing into a more thankful person, I think, and trying to have a mindset that continually looks to God, whether to praise or to question.
 I have fallen many times, but each time I stand back up, I learn something new about the path I am walking on, and the lamp unto my feet.  

As far as goals go, Work: I would love to be able to finish all of these projects for work and for school and be able to produce some quality writing and documentation through them. Language: My church always has a time at the beginning for people to share little testimonies. People always urge me to share something, but even if I had something to say, and was brave enough to stand up there, my Khmer language would fail me. But I want to get to a point in my lessons when I can no longer use that as an excuse. I also would love to be able to do interviews in Khmer, but that might be a stretch.

Life: I hope that I am able to stay fully engaged in this place, especially once my time starts coming to an end, rather than just checking out and looking towards the next new thing. I want to keep working on making roots here, even though every time I put a root down, it gives me both joy and pain at knowing that I have to leave again. I want to love strongly, to continue to feel things deeply rather than becoming apathetic and comfortably numb. I hope to be more open to God in these coming months, listening to His call with obedience and passion. 

And I do want to be living on a prayer--conversing with God with every single breath I take, giving glory to Him through every activity and decision. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Next Not-so-great American-Cambodian Novel

If I were to write a book about why I am so exhausted today, it would go something like this:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Hot
by Marisa Foxwell

Chapter 1---King Eglon, the Rat 
“I never knew I was afraid of rodents until he was staring me straight in the face, his obese body enveloping my waste basket a few feet away from my bed, just as I was trying to slip into a peaceful sleep. Eglon has been paying night-time visits fairly frequently, but I didn't know how big he was until last night. My eyes locked on his with malice, and his expression said ‘I DARE you to try to kick me out of here. We both know who runs this place.’ And it was true. I just tucked my mosquito net around me and tried to forget he was there. What a bully….”

Chapter 2---Why I Need a Crossbow 
“Later that night, Banan, my host-dad, heard noises outside. I woke up and looked out in time to see him bolt out the door in his undershirt and boxers, crossbow over his shoulder. I heard a loud noise, and then a celebratory “Yeeeaaaaa!” Well, that’s one less rat to worry about. I hope it was Eglon….”

Chapter 3---Sunrise Fitness 
“Saturday Morning at sunrise is the perfect time to go for a family trip to the riverside to exercise. Yes there we were at 5 am: Mala, Yosue, Moria, and I, all on one moto, with a soccer ball, a jump-rope, and a bag of raw rice. When we got there, we ran around, kicked the ball back and forth, fed the pigeons, and, through some miscommunication, we ended up playing in a badminton tournament with a complete stranger, (I thought he was a friend of Mala, and Mala thought he was a friend of mine. Now we’re all best friends)…”

Chapter 4---The Bike Ride from Hades 
“Power out. No fans or lights all day. It was 35 degrees centigrade, (95 F), and I had to be at a baby shower at 3. So I hopped on my tiny bicycle, put my giant moto helmet on, and peddled as fast as I could, which was not very fast. Getting to Norodom Street was easy, but after that my terrible sense of direction betrayed me. My bike tire started sagging with flatness, and there wasn’t a single dry spot on my shirt as I weaved through the streets to eventually find the apartment I was looking for….”

Chapter 5---It’s Not a Party Unless You Can Hear it Throughout the Neighborhood

“Finally back at home sweet home, where the house across from ours was having a huge party. The goal of Cambodian parties seems to be making as much noise as possible, cranking a loudspeaker to the highest level and blasting traditional tunes across the neighborhood. The party eventually died down late at night. Psych! They cranked it all the way back up at 5am. What kind of hung-over partyers want shrill, full-volume music at this ungodly hour? I don’t know, but I hope this party doesn’t last more than 2 days….”

So that is my somewhat whiny, but mostly just ironically amused account of a tiring weekend. Also, I got to talk to Alanna and Jordan, and get in some good quality Jesus-time, so my heart is full of joy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September 5

Just another wonderful day with World Relief

The staff members walk throughout the villages announcing there will be a show and lesson for the children. And all the children come running out and following him...and making their own announcements. 

Chang Nia, 12 years old, When asked how he came to know Jesus, he just smiled and said “Loak Kru,” which is the word for teacher. He pointed at the World Relief staff member. “My favorite Bible story and lesson,” said Chang Nia, “is definitely the one about Jesus dying and then coming back for me.” Chang Nia holds this hope close to his heart, as he struggles to grow up in a place where hope is scarce. 

The crowds of children get so big that they don't fit in the area, and some re-shuffling is required. 

Learning about prayer

Brought to you live from WR network...a show warning kids not to bathe in the stinky rivers and waters around their village, but to use l=clean water. 

Time for a lunch break in a beautiful place, complete with hammocks. 

Mala leading a game with Sitha (in plaid). Sitha's favorite lesson at these programs is on prayer. He says thatt he likes the parts in the Bible with people praying and he wants to be able to play for the people around him. I hope his words can inspire you as they have me to keep on praying, especially for the children of Cambodia.  

Even though the show is for children, it usually becomes a village event, with teenagers, babies, parents, and grandparents looking on in amusement. 

I just love these little faces. 

Somloan’s village has a church that some missionaries built there, but unfortunately only one family attends the church. Somloan heard about Jesus through a friend, who also told her about HFCC. She is so happy that her friend told her about Jesus that now she wants to tell other people about him too. When asked what her favorite Bible story is, she replied with a grin, “all of them.” Somloan (center) is 7 years old. 

My favourite WR driver, Sivan. I call him "Boo," which means uncle. He's quite the character.