November began with another holiday, បុណ្យអុំទូក (Bon Om Touk) or the Water Festival. The festival celebrates the end of the rainy season and the reversal of the Tonle Sap River. Boat races are held in Phnom Penh along the river. Many people living in the provinces come to Phnom Penh to join in on the celebrations.
I decided to avoid the crowd and instead went on a short vacation to Sihanoukville with Nate, my housemate and fellow Serve Asia worker. I’m thankful for the opportunity to rest and enjoy God’s creation.
I’m also thankful for church. I’ve been regularly attending a small Khmer church on Sunday mornings. The church is quite small—each week we usually have just under 10 people at the adult service. The worship style is a bit different than at larger churches that I’ve attended in the past. We worship together sitting around a table instead of in rows of chairs. During the service, we share prayer requests and how we see God at work and pray together for each other. Afterwards, we usually will cook lunch together. I’m really enjoying getting to know my Khmer brothers and sisters at church. It’s such a blessing that we are all one body!
After Khmer church on Sundays, I go to an English church in the evening. I love my Khmer church, but I feel a need to refresh my soul by singing praise to God and hearing God’s word in my native language. I’ve also had the chance to serve at my English church, helping lead musical worship and teaching the kids at Sunday school.
Software development with SIL has been progressing well. We recently had a new iOS developer join the team remotely. Praise God for that! This past month, I’ve continued behind-the-scenes work to improve the maintainability and stability of the iOS app. I recently started working on a feature that allows the iOS app to read a new keyboard distribution format. Please pray for strength and wisdom to faithfully finish off my remaining three weeks.
Coming to Cambodia has given me better perspective on missions and what being a long-term missionary would potentially be like. As I reflect on my time here, I feel an increasing conviction to pray for more workers. I especially think of UWCCF, my university fellowship in Canada. I pray that God would call some to go and that He would use me to encourage others to have a heart for missions. Since a lot of UW students are in computer-related fields, I hope to connect them with my team at SIL or other missions organizations that require software skills.
Thank you for all your support and prayer! Please pray for health and safety in my remaining time here and that God will continue to do His work here.
Pchum Ben, Retreat and Power Outages
Time really flies! It’s hard to believe that I’m over halfway through my time in Cambodia.
Earlier in September, Cambodia celebrated Pchum Ben, a Buddhist festival honouring dead ancestors. It is the most important Cambodian holiday along with Khmer New Year. One of the Khmer OMF staff gave a talk explaining the holiday. Experiencing Pchum Ben and learning about the festival was very culturally insightful but also a big reminder about the spiritual state of the country. Many Cambodians live in fear of evil spirits, not knowing the freedom found in Christ. Many strive to do good works to earn merit, unaware of the absolute holiness of God and that Christ is the only propitiation for our sins.
I took advantage of my days off during Pchum Ben to take a trip up to Siem Reap. Visiting an OMF evangelism effort at a nearby village was definitely the highlight of the trip. I was very encouraged by the work being done there and the seeds that are being planted. OMF has been ministering at the village for a few years but there are still no confessing Christians. However, the village is very interested in having OMF visit every week to preach the gospel and teach Bible stories. Praise God that Christ is being preached in this previously unreached village!
Although claiming to be Buddhist, they’ll even memorize verses of Scripture! I’m praying that God would bring growth to the village in His time.
While in Siem Reap I also toured the Angkor temples. Although beautiful structures, these temples were dedicated to idolatry and provoking God to anger (Jeremiah 8:19). I had to remind myself that Angkor Wat is not only the world’s largest religious monument, but also the largest monument celebrating abominations to the LORD (Deuteronomy 27:15). However, I was able to learn more about the history of Hinduism and Buddhism and how religion in Cambodia developed into its modern form.
In September we also had the first ever OMF Cambodia men’s retreat, held over two nights in Mondulkiri province. We fasted for a day and had time on our own to seek the Lord through prayer and Scripture reading. Periodically we met together to share what God placed on our hearts. I was especially encouraged by the fellowship we had, praying and sharing openly united by our love for Christ. It was also a great chance for me to meet more of the OMF Cambodia team and hear about the work done in the country.
Earlier in October, we had a few days of power outages in the west end of Phnom Penh. Generally Phnom Penh’s power grid is quite stable nowadays but I heard rumours that lightning destroyed some electrical equipment. Since my work is software-based, I had to run around for a bit trying to find power but eventually settled in a cafe with a generator.
Despite that minor setback, I’m now wrapping my first project. I’ve been working on cleaning up technical debt in the iOS Keyman app by converting code from Objective-C code to the newer Swift language. Although the project is mainly behind-the-scenes work, I pray that this work would bless those using our software and that I would work with joy knowing that I’m serving the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). I’ve filmed my commute home from the software lab at NPIC to give you an idea of daily life:
Language learning has also been progressing. I notice myself improving in basic conversation. Picking up the alphabet made it much easier for me to build up new vocabulary, which I find is always the most tedious part of language learning. My current learning routine to accumulate a list of new words while conversing in my weekly language lessons. Then throughout the week I practice and memorize those words using a flashcard app. Although I can still only read basic sentences really slowly, it’s quite satisfying to be able to read signs in the streets and menus at restaurants.
Please continue to keep me in your prayers. The students return to NPIC in a few weeks so please pray that I’ll have the opportunity to share the love of Christ with the staff and students there, in addition to my software development work. Please pray that I’ll continue to rely on God’s strength and His protection. Please also pray that God would continue His work in Cambodia and that more Cambodians would know our Saviour.
If you want to hear more about what’s going on in Cambodia, please contact me. I’d love to share more with you!
Two Weeks in Phnom Penh
Thank you all for your support and prayer! Things have been hectic but I’m finally beginning to settle down here in Phnom Penh. The OMF team have been super welcoming and helpful in showing me around. For my four months in Phnom Penh, I’ll be living with Alfonz and Verlyn, a Filipino couple, and Nathaniel, an Australian Serve Asia worker. On top of providing a wonderful place for us to stay, Alfonz and Verlyn cook dinner for us as well. Being able to come home and share a meal with them really helps me feel at home here in Phnom Penh. Thank God for their hospitality!
One of my highlights from the past two weeks is learning the Khmer language. I believe that speaking the local language is a huge part of feeling at home and getting integrated in the local culture. So far, I’ve had several lessons at the OMF Team Centre and am trying to slowly expand my vocabulary. I recently got started on learning the Khmer alphabet, which has 33 consonants and over 30 vowels. One challenge I have in learning Khmer is that I can’t properly romanize the words. English doesn’t distinguish between many of the vowel sounds that are distinct in Khmer. So hopefully after learning to read Khmer, it’ll be easier for me to pick up new words. Please pray that I’ll be able to pick up the language for better communication with locals.
Motorcycles are the main method of transportation in Phnom Penh. It’s not uncommon to see a small moto pulling heavy loads such as iron beams or a truck of cows. I’m thankful to have been able to borrow a moto from an OMF missionary who has been out of town. After a quick 5 minute lesson and a short around the neighbourhood, I was on my way. Traffic is definitely more hectic and fluid than in Canada. I was told that there is no such thing as right of way on the road, only a constant negotiation of space. Since motos are so commonly used here, learning to ride a moto like the Khmer helps me to feel more integrated in the local culture.
This past Tuesday, I started my main ministry at NPIC (National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia). I’m working with a team of SIL software developers on Keyman, which allows you to type in languages with otherwise poor or non-existent keyboard support. Keyman is used in translation efforts globally. In the past few days, I’ve been meeting the team, setting up my development environment and familiarizing myself with Keyman. My first project is to migrate the iOS codebase from Objective C to Swift. Although I don’t interact much with locals at the software lab, please pray that I’ll work hard doing my part in God’s mission to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Also please pray that I’ll somehow be able to share the love of Christ with local students.
Buddhism is the faith of an estimated 95% of the population and is deeply embedded in Khmer culture. I attended a Khmer church last week where the pastor preached from 1 Kings 15. He contrasted Abijam, who continued in the idolatry of his father, with Asa, who removed the idols of the previous generations and turned to the LORD. For the first time, the saddening reality of idol worship hit me. It never struck me in a Western context where I was never tempted to worship false gods. But here, Khmer Christians are constantly at odds with their culture because of their faith in Christ.
However, it’s encouraging to see the work that God is doing in His church in Cambodia. Our God is the God of the nations. He is the God of Cambodia, even if many do not know Him yet. We serve a God who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. What if God raised up a generation that turned away from idols and turned to Him? Right now to be Khmer is to be Buddhist, but imagine if in the next generation, being Khmer is to worship the living God! Please pray for Cambodia.
I thank God for his provision so far and I trust that He will continue to equip me for the work that He has prepared for me. Please pray that my joy and hope would always be rooted in Christ and that I’ll have a open mind and an eager heart to go where God leads. Also please pray that I’ll be able to build meaningful relationships here so that I can learn more about Khmer culture and God’s work in Cambodia and share the love of Christ with those around me. Thank you for your continual support and prayer!
If you want to hear more, please contact me. I’m more than happy to share more. May God be glorified here in Cambodia!