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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MAY 2019

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:23

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MAY 2019

Are you a risk taker? Most cross-cultural workers are by nature. Why else would they leave behind the security and comforts of family, excellent health care, toilet paper always available in bathrooms, and predictable utilities and services and paved roads with footpaths… Not too many cross-cultural workers however are quite in the same league of risk taking as some of the drivers and motorbike riders in Cambodia. Most Khmer have never completed a driving test or studied road rules. This doesn’t prevent them from getting on a motorbike up to 125cc capacity (totally legally) or even behind the steering wheel of a car (somewhat illegally without a licence).

Living for over two years in Cambodia we have come accustomed to dealing daily with risky driving manoeuvres. Driving on the right side of the road (as opposed to the wrong side which is on the left in Cambodia) is an easy adjustment, but not so easy is facing oncoming traffic, finding a path through multiple spontaneous ‘lanes’ of traffic at intersections, and our favourite, making space for vehicles pulling out into traffic at full speed without looking to see if anything might be coming! These are everyday occurrences on the increasingly crowded roads, also shared with pedestrians, cows and dogs. We have mostly become accustomed to the traffic with a sense of humour and managing to smile back at most of the crazy near-miss situations we have encountered, but there is a serious side to Cambodia’s roads. The Cambodian accident and death rates significantly exceed Australia, despite a smaller population. The government is seeking ways to address this situation through introduction of laws and education. We came across the below road education sign that a computer spell check hadn’t picked up and had us scratching our heads a little when the phrase ‘don’t take a risk’ was accidently written on a sign to read “don’t take a rusk” in English. Some of the English translations in Cambodia help to keep us in good humour if nothing else.
Of course, there are some activities that are worth taking a risk over. While preparing this newsletter we came across this article on the Global Interaction web site. It is a much better written article than ours on the ‘risky-business’ of mission.http://www.globalinteraction.org.au/resources/publications/resonate/resonate-blog/risky-business
This past month we successfully escaped a little of the extreme hot season weather with a break close to water. Rob’s language nurturer found it hard to believe that we could consider more than three days of holiday at the one time. It also felt a good break from all of the local festivals and weddings of this season. Our local Khmer friends tell us they are exhausted by the frequency of the local festivals at present as well. Before we left though there was Khmer New Year in Khmer script ចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី pronounced Jhoul Chnam Thmey, literally means enter new year, it is the biggest festival of the year. Celebrated in the hottest season of Cambodia between rice seasons and a quieter period when the Khmer can gather with families in their homeland. We celebrated this festival in different ways with our Khmer friends and their families. Part of this at our village level was the washing of the elders. Somehow we qualify and we were invited into sharing as elders for these family ceremonies. This tradition is called Sraung Preah ស្រង់ព្រះ and entails all the elders lightly dressed sitting on chairs with the younger generations together pouring perfumed water, others shampooing our hair, some soaping us up, some scrubbing our toenails, rinsing us off and later putting fragrant powder on us. The elders respond saying blessings and sharing wisdom verbally over the youth. We are privilege that with your support we can share in these traditions with our Khmer friends and share God’s love in ways the Khmer can understand. Our Khmer friends are grateful for your supporting us to live among them.

Interpreting what is a rusk and what is a risk?
Washing of the ‘elders’
Thankfulness:
We have had some refreshing leave.
For the change of seasons and some needed rain.
For new opportunities of team families moving to nearby neighbourhoods to us.

Requests:
For team families as they explore options for platforms to meet visa requirements.
For safety for all team members on the road.
For each of our children as they navigate life whilst we as parents are a long distance away.


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS APRIL 2019

 

As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5b

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS APRIL 2019

How much effort did you put into your hair and appearance for your wedding day? Did you have any of your relatives offer to give you a bit more of a trim on the big day? Having relatives and friends cut the bride and grooms hair is actually a part of the wedding ceremony for most Khmer couples. Well it is not actually involving real hair being cut, but the family and friends line up holding scissors and a comb for a photo behind the groom and bride. You might be wondering what on earth such a ceremony might mean…but hold that thought. We have been learning lots about weddings over the past month, and probably will continue to be learning more for as many years as we experience wedding season in Cambodia.

We have just passed through the peak of the wedding season in Cambodia. Weddings are big events here. A Khmer person may go through their entire life without recognising or maybe even knowing their individual birthday, but they can be assured that their wedding day will be well acknowledged. A striking difference we have noticed between Khmer and our home culture is that a wedding has a lot more to say about the couple’s relationships with family and community. 

A traditional Khmer wedding usually take place under a colourful marquee at the bride’s family home. At the village where we live it might even be located on the recently harvested vegetable garden. Arriving at the invited time for a wedding in Cambodia is a rookie mistake. Consider the time on the invitation as more of a suggestion. Khmer weddings can last two days, or longer depending on the families involved. During the ceremonies, the bride and groom, and other related parties, will have to change many times into numerous outfits.

Back to the subject of symbolic hair cutting. One thing that is important in Khmer culture is that a family maintains honour. A child with a bad hairstyle could cause shame to a family; just as immoral behaviour could bring shame. The symbolism of cutting off ‘out-of-place’ hair is a bit like guiding the newly married couple to live in a way that brings honour to the family. It is also used as an occasion to speak blessings over the couple.

This Khmer wedding season gave us a colourful background to receive family celebration news of our son Jeremy’s engagement to Alana. A wedding is expected in the later part of this year. We are pretty excited about this occasion and having gotten to know Alana before we left for Cambodia, we couldn’t be happier for them both.

Above: Khmer wedding invitations remember to check the date before; as receiving it means you are going. Above right: Khmer hair cutting ceremony. Below right: The brides parents receive some of the 36 kinds of fruit offerings from the groom and his family.
The bride’s parents are shown the fruit offerings from the groom and his family
Thankfulness:
We both now have our 2019 work permits processed.
For invitations to share life celebrations with our Khmer friends.
The joy of plans to welcome a daughter-in-law to our family late in the year
.Requests:
For team families as they explore options for platforms to meet visa requirements.
For safety for all team members on the road.
For patience and discipline to steadily grow in the spoken and written Khmer language.

 


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MARCH 2019

 

I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Genesis 13:16

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MARCH 2019

The bulk of the roads in Cambodia are dirt roads. Dust on, dust off is a perpetual cycle in Cambodia during the dry season in everyone’s daily lives, our eyes, bodies, clothes, motorcycles and homes etc. Now if a covering of dust was a preserver then we would be well preserved this year. Since around October last year we can’t remember any significant rain. Even trees have a layer of dust over their leaves at the moment. For our peace of mind, we need to embrace and accept the dust levels on our bodies in our eyes and nose, but we do find ourselves choosing the ‘less dusty’ roads to travel on at present (and it is common to shower our bodies three times in one day).

At the edge of a road intersection, dust is something that also covers much of the Chreav school vegetable garden where Rob volunteers. With the help of a project last year the garden now has a less back-breaking drip water system that has made life and garden maintenance easier (it started with watering cans). The water system has also required significant modifications to make it more “child-proof”, and the compost still ends up receiving a lot of plastic waste added with tree leaves and food scraps, but the garden is steadily seeing changes in what a year ago was a dry, hard and barren part of the school yard. The plants and garden shed at present are coated with dust, but a transformation is taking place. Children spontaneously help out to work in the garden and many come seeking a cob of corn, a long bean and even bananas to eat most recently. Most of the soil has grown softer and is becoming more fruitful over time. Interest in the garden has come not just from within the community, but has created interest far away. Rain will come and wash the dust at least temporarily from our memories. May we keep our focus off the dust or whatever present challenges we may have and sow and seek some of the life-giving longer-term things where we are planted; like the ‘dust’ promise of fruitfulness that Abram received in the verse above.  

Deb sits with two sisters (not at the same time) that are grandmothers – ‘Yeay’s’ on a regular basis to learn from them the ways and being of Khmer culture; this will be an ongoing occurrence as wisdom is shared and learned over a lifetime. One Grandmother is really funny and the other one is the village matriarch and is more sedate and serene. Deb finds real peace sitting with them and growing. One of the Yeay’s shared with Deb that she has observed us planting and growing grass around the home since we arrived. She said she noticed Deb had progressed from just wanting green around the home to then swapping to a better grass that the people in the village gave us. Slowly over time the good grass has provided a dense covering and is more tolerant to the Cambodian seasons, the grass grows and spreads in coverage. Then Yeay has noticed that the weeds with her failing eye sight and one cataract covered eye we try to thin the weeds out along the way. She shared she hoped that our learning is just like the grass it gets better and thicker over time and more Khmer people want to come and enjoy so will sit around and chat. She shared a real treasured insight and gem with us.

A recent funeral went for close to a week across the road from us giving a great opportunity for the village and surrounding family of the deceased to gather together. We found ourselves sitting with some grandfathers – ‘Dtar’s’ and the local village Monk one of the days. We talked and listened about our different cultures and faith. The Monk shared how he had heard the story of Noah from the Bible and how God got angry and killed all the animals and people, and this is why he doesn’t like God. For devout followers of Buddha, killing any living thing is a sin and not killing even an ant or mosquito is one of the five basic laws of Buddha. As this was a public setting following Khmer culture, we gave the Monk’s insight space to sit, giving respect for the occasion of the funeral and the position of the monk (a relative of the deceased). However, we have invitations flowing on from this funeral to visit more people and we invited the Monk to come and sit with us at our home like he has before. We pray that as relationships grow and deepen that true peace, wholeness and wellbeing will be something that is shared with our Khmer neighbours.

Above: Paul Gravitas (previously lived in Thailand with Global Interaction and has a doctorate in studies of cultural Buddhism) visited, listened and shared many insights to assist us. Pictured here with Deb’s language nurturer. Right: At the funeral sharing with near neighbours and local Monk.
Sharing with village Monk and grandfather elders Dtar Jah’s
My neighbours whose Grandmother - Yeay died.
Thankfulness:
For good health from recent medical follow ups.
For deepening relationships to share our source of peace, wholeness and wellbeing.
For many opportunities to grow in cultural and language understanding
.Requests:
For good health for young children in our team who have been sick a lot.
For safety on road at all times across all team members.
For patience and discipline in reviewing and growing in the Khmer language.

 


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS FEBRUARY 2019

Better is a day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. Psalm 84:10


GRIFFITH GLEANINGS FEBRUARY 2019

Sometimes when we have visitors to Cambodia we get asked to describe a typical day in our life here as cross-cultural workers. There really are few days that are the same. We might start a day with a plan, but it can quickly change at a moments notice. Today Deb is having a fairly standard start to a Monday morning having a language lesson with a Khmer lady a similar age to her that lives in a nearby village. Earlier she got out for an early morning bicycle ride for exercise and a devotional time. Many mornings Rob would have also had some bicycle riding exercise, but soon after the 5.30am alarm he was running to the toilet with some unexpected gastric that has modified his activity somewhat. Often a Monday morning for Rob might involve up to five hours of language and culture lessons with two different Khmer men that nurture his learning (one class starting at 7.30am and another at 2pm). Yesterday Rob had found out that both men were otherwise occupied today; one leading a visiting team with some team Cambodia members to a cultural experience in his home village and the other taking tourists to visit temples. The unpredictability of lessons in the tourist season has made it appropriate to keep two teachers employed for the time being. Deb in her lesson might be unpacking the cultural insights from the wedding that we attended in her nurturers home last week. An event that maybe spoke as much about her nurturers Buddhist faith and the culture of making ‘merit’, as it was a cultural example of a Khmer wedding. This was a ceremony that was not for a member of her family, but two people that maybe couldn’t access the capital to get married without her charity.
Should Rob have sufficient energy return, he ironically plans today to drop off a water sample to a laboratory that tests the safety of water for drinking. One of the team member families (who happens to have had more than their fair share of upset stomachs) has recently moved into a home that has bore water that comes out of their tank an unhealthy colour and smell. Sometimes the ground water in this area is of mineral water quality, but it can also other times carry undesirable organisms, or heavy metals like arsenic. It is good to be informed about what you are washing and bathing in for peace of mind at least.
A day would hardly be complete without Deb taking a visit to the local market, which for most Khmer women is a daily activity that is made necessary by most homes and businesses not possessing a refrigerator. Visits to and by neighbours is a normal activity most days. We are often given a sample of freshly harvested vegetables from gardens. Our landlord’s family who live in a small wooden home just outside our back door all have been very unwell  for over a week. We both have been helping them during this season.
Additionally a typical day requires revision of our Khmer language learning in order to speak clearly, write Khmer better and read Khmer with growing understanding. Tonight we have been invited to attend a Chinese New Year celebration with Khmer friends, who like many Khmer have either some Chinese background or influence. Also today involves a couple of Skype video conversations including  one with one of our children that is always a highlight. If another day this week was reported we might have described a team meeting, trip to Phnom Penh for our annual drivers licence renewal, or volunteering at our local school or health clinic. There is not too many dull moments in this cross-cultural life.

Above: Sharing with a Global Exposure group from Melbourne. Each member brought special encouragement to Rob and Deb, as well as others within our team and Khmer friends. Right: A Khmer marriage ceremony
Thankfulness:
For many invitations to festivals, weddings etc in our community at this time of year.
For visiting teams that have brought encouragement and even some gifts of items unavailable locally.
How the Global Interaction team grows into a supportive community for each other.
Prayer Requests:
For positive progress of visa and work permit requirements for all team members.
Discernment of work platforms for new team members.
For good outcomes from health checks.

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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS DECEMBER 2018

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke 2:19 

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS DECEMBER 2018

Have you ever made a Christmas nativity space complete with banana trees, palm leaves, bamboo stable and even hand-made characters from local clay? Actually we can’t say we did it either; at least not by ourselves. We had a lot of help from some Khmer friends (more about that below). We wish you a wonderful Christmas blessed with happiness, peace, hope, and refreshment to your body, soul and mind. We are so grateful for the privilege that so many of you give us, to be living here with the Khmer people in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Living cross-culturally gives a fresh perspective on things that we might have grown up celebrating, symbols that we may rarely have thought about the significance of, and our own response to them.

Imagine for a moment that your neighborhood is made up of people who have never sung a Christmas carol and their understanding of Christmas may have been formed from watching a YouTube ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoon! Yes thanks to smartphones the cat and the mouse are much better known here amongst the children than many of the stories that may be stuck in our childhood memories. After two years living in Cambodia and so many of our friends and neighbours sharing their culture, their lives and their stories with us, we thought this Christmas was an opportunity to share some aspects of our culture and the Christmas story that is significant to us. Yesterday at our home we welcomed neighbours together with team members to share some of our own culture and held a “Christmas party” of sorts that was a blend of how people in Cambodia gather for a party and a few of our own traditions. There was no ham or turkey served, nor was there a decorated pine tree for that matter, but we did give small gifts to everyone and we shared the story of God’s gift to the world. In a country where there has long been very few picture books available even in schools, take a look at the photo below and how the grandmothers keenly gazed at every picture in the children’s book used for the purpose. One of the highlights for us was one young language teacher (or nurturer as we like to call them) after hearing the Christmas story in a language lesson, spent weeks drawing a welcome banner and hand crafting the clay models that made up the nine piece nativity scene fashioned in the likeness of Khmer people and stable. Another highlight for us was seeing some of our team children playing together with the Khmer children from the village as playing together broke the language barrier. Of significance though was the matriarch figure an older wiser lady of the village who said to Deb that although we did not have monks attend she had a full heart of joy seeing our team engage with her people in her village.

The Khmer nativity scene
Sharing together the Jesus is born story and book
Thankfulness:
For deepening relationships with Khmer friends and sharing of what is important to each of us.
The recent opportunity to welcome others to learn and share Christmas in our home.
For sharing in team milestones including end of year school events with the children.

Prayer Requests:
For safety on the roads for all team members.
For rest and refreshment for team families taking leave.
For our family back in Australia (and a couple of other countries at present) as they wait another year to see us in person again.

 

 


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MAY 2019

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:23 GRIFFITH...
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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS APRIL 2019

  As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you....
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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MARCH 2019

  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could...
article post

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS FEBRUARY 2019

Better is a day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. Psalm 84:10 GRIFFITH GLEANINGS...
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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS DECEMBER 2018

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the...
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