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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JANUARY 2019

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


GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JANUARY 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 morninghaving 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 NOVEMBER 2018

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Cor 4:7
GRIFFITH GLEANINGS NOVEMBER 2018
Vegetable gardens surround our home in the rural fringe of Siem Reap. While the men are away growing rice, fishing, or looking after cows, often it is the women whose job it is to plant the vegetables, manage and harvest the crops. Deb is finding preparing the vegetables for market is a space to share stories, to share hearts, to share laughs, to share sorrows with women across all generations. Mrs M* is one lady that Deb met in this space who suffered the cultural shame of not getting pregnant for more than three years. Sometimes a Khmer husband might find another wife, but Mrs M’s husband has stayed and been faithful to her. When Mrs M’s husband attended a party or festival, Mrs M never accompanied him. Attending public festivals are a significant part of life in Khmer culture.  Deb often sits on a bamboo mat with the women across the various ages preparing vegetables for the local market. Deb has been regularly present, observing, listening, and chatting with Mrs M amongst the vegetables & women gathered. For a long time, Mrs M did not talk or interact but gradually Mrs M got accustomed to Deb’s accent and limited Khmer language. Deb choose to sit quietly beside Mrs M and prepare vegetables on a regular basis. Most times the Khmer women laugh at Deb’s slow efforts in preparing vegetables. Deb tells them they will always be the experts. One day Mrs M shared that she had no hope in her heart, she had locked herself away in a safe place no one could find, as she hurt so bad that all roads to her heart hurt and would not heal. Deb talked with the women about the story of the woman who lost a coin which led all the women talking together about what was of most worth to them. There has been a gradual transformation in Mrs M. Initially Mrs M mostly looked down, occasionally taking a glimpse in Deb’s direction, but those looks have steadily transformed to smiles. Then more boldly Mrs M initiated the greeting which being younger to Deb is more culturally appropriate.  A transformation is taking place within Mrs M now days she is smiling inside and out. Mrs M is now pregnant and due to give birth mid next year. Please pray wellbeing for Mrs M her husband, and her baby and the Kingdom seeds growing in and through her as she shines and talks of her hope in each new day.

The Global Interaction team we are a part of has been growing. Presently we have a cluster of most of the team family homes located nearby to each other. Close to the new families lives Catherine in her new home. Two of the families need to move to new homes in the coming months, but desire to stay in the same area where a sense of supportive community has formed making life easier during the early adjustments period.
Rob and Deb live 10 minutes away to the South East from the cluster but close to the schools all the team children attend. A bigger team means there are many celebrations like birthdays to share which helps with the regularity of our get togethers. Apart from regular team meetings the men and women separately meet and pray. At the end of November, we will come together for a team retreat.

Deb recently welcomed a lady from the Day for Girls Adelaide chapter as they issued postnatal packs within the village health centre where Deb volunteers. Gifts that are treasured by the many village women.
Rob has a growing friendship with a local Khmer man within the village where we live to learn more about the Khmer culture and conversational language. As each village in Cambodia has a unique and different structure as well as special ways of celebrating festivals. We value sitting with neighbours and seeing progress in the ways we connect having been living here in the village for a year now.

Empowering women and girls worldwide through sustainable menstrual care and health education.
Rob meets with this former Buddhist monk and neighbour to explore Khmer culture.
Thankfulness:
Guidance in home selection for a number of team families. 
For shared experiences and growth as a team in more than just numbers.
For Mrs M’s long awaited gift of a first pregnancy.
Prayer Requests:
For positive sharing of each others stories at the team retreat 28th – 30th November.
For wisdom and patience in seeking renewal of visas.
Being fruitful as we sit with our Khmer friends as they do life and share themselves.

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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS SEPTEMBER 2018

But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds… Jeremiah 30:17
GRIFFITH GLEANINGS SEPTEMBER 2018

When Rob was a young boy, he didn’t take a lot of sick days off school, but on one occasion he felt like skipping a day of school and pretended to his mother that he didn’t feel well. To his delight he was given the day off school, but to his horror his mother then arranged a visit to the family doctor. He was certain he was going to get found out for his scheme! It was a long wait at the doctors surgery for this moment of truth, but with much relief to Rob he was diagnosed with ‘bronchitis’. Forty-something years later Rob still isn’t in a habit of taking sick days, nor does he long for the attention of medical care.

The last several months for Rob have involved some ups and downs following medical treatment for a inguinal hernia. Surgery in Cambodia can be a risky activity as the medical standards can be unreliable. So to neighbouring Thailand we went to get our health assessed and a surgeon gave the advice for Rob to receive a laparoscopic surgical procedure to treat the hernia. A few weeks after returning to Cambodia, the expected recovery was very slow and physical symptoms were no better than before the operation. Rob sought explanation of the limited recovery from a local Cambodian surgeon. Unexpectedly the doctor diagnosed a relapsed hernia that he offered to operate on right there in his clinic. Some ten weeks past between the original operation and a reluctant return to the Bangkok hospital to see the original surgeon and get his diagnosis. Unlike the Cambodian doctors assessment, with the help of ultrasound the Thai doctor made the pronouncement that there was no need for repeat surgery, but recommended the offending fluid being reduced under local anesthetic with a needle guided by ultrasound. Dressed in a theatre gown and wheeled into theatre Rob had some apprehension about the procedure, but the new doctor quickly decided that aspiration wasn’t going to be required. Having gone to Thailand expecting a homecoming with some physical incapacity, this news came as such a relief. The prognosis: gradual healing without medical intervention. Or as we believe, healing in God’s timing. Unlike the childhood experience of relief from having a reason to see a doctor, this time the relief was multi-faceted. Thank you for those of you who contribute to making our healthcare possible. The privilege we have to receive such a high standard of medical care, is something that we don’t take for granted; most of our Khmer friends have no such access and treatment beyond a saline drip and a handful of tablets is out of financial reach. 

Yet in the midst of the health care setting in Cambodia Deb has the delight to be with people as a nurse and with families as a midwife. We rejoice that during this past month the exhausting process of getting Deb’s registration as a midwife in Cambodia was finalised. The Chreav Health Centre where Deb volunteers offers an open door to being involved intimately in the culture and the lives of local families from surrounding villages. A health clinic in Cambodia has many differences to an equivalent health centre you might find in a place like Australia. A village health centre in Cambodia for example is a place you would likely take a child to have their ears pierced. But the differences in health here go much deeper on a cultural level. Lately Deb has been learning about traditional Khmer natural medicines which may be administered by traditional healers in the villages. Of these natural remedies their importance highlights the priority of women’s reproductive system, fertility, children and families in Khmer culture. The Khmer are less inclined to separate their physical life and spiritual life as many Westerners are inclined to do. How many of you would consider house work as a spiritual practice? A Khmer family would often start the day sweeping the home inside and out; but more than seeking a freshly clean house this activity has a spiritual element of sweeping the soul clean afresh for the new day.

Life and health here in Cambodia is always interesting and sometimes involves some unpredictable outcomes. Thank you for journeying with us and for the many who support us in so many different ways.

A clean sweep first thing every morning
Khmer brooms made from a hardy grass
In Khmer the phrase “chlong tonle”, literally, “crossing the river”, means “to give birth”, like the hazardous passage across a river in times past.
Thankfulness
Abundant joy of Rob’s healing not requiring any interventions.
For opportunities to share and grow in team relationships.

For pending visitors that bring such encouragement to our souls. 

Prayer Requests:
For wholesome goodbyes as the Hutchinson family depart Australia later this month. 
For our Khmer friends whose rice harvests have been reduced by unreliable rain.
That God will be at work in the hearts and lives of the Khmer people. 


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS OCTOBER 2018

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12b
GRIFFITH GLEANINGS OCTOBER 2018

October has always been a significant month in our family. Unlike our Khmer friends, we come from a culture that celebrates birthdays. Both of Rob’s parents and our two daughters have birthdays this month. Rob’s Dad turns 88 and our youngest child Miriam turns 21. Being separated from family for significant dates like a 21st birthday celebration brings to mind some of the costs that are traded to be here in Cambodia. The cost to our children and all of us. Family is hugely important in Cambodia. Rarely will we meet a person for the first time that we are not asked about our children, where they live and whether they have visited us here. We will have a few sad thoughts this month at times, but Mim did share that one consolation was that we will not be embarrassing her with one of our speeches!

Have you ever had a conversation with someone with bright red saliva oozing from their mouth? Deb values any opportunity to share with the Khmer grandmother figures; in Khmer called ‘Yeay’. Most of them endorse the monthly spiritual practice of shaving their head. They have much wisdom, insight and stories. Deb feels honoured to sit with them and practice being present among the cultural differences around her during these interactions. One aspect that is common among many Khmer elderly women is they gnaw betel nut or tuck it under their upper lip making communication for a language learner very tricky. Now betel nut is actually not a beetle or a nut. The folded leaf comes from the betel plant ‘mlu’ in Khmer, a vine that looks a little like ivy. But the hard part, the “nut,” comes from a different plant altogether, the areca tree, a spindly palm that looks like it has bunches of green and orange grapes hanging in place of coconuts. These fruits can be eaten fresh or dried in the sun to reach the consistency of a nut. But it is only when combined with betel leaves smeared with limestone paste that it produces those signature streams of scarlet saliva which is spat out into the ground next to them and sometimes on their hands, shirt and sprayed during talking. Deb admits to an odd wave of nauseousness but feels grateful being with the elders.

Some older Khmer women continue to chew while most Khmer have given up the practice. Most of the Yeay’s have very few teeth left and may have blackened nubs that are a sign of serious chewers. Whilst a few Yeay’s told me that mlu would make my teeth stronger and improve my breath, one Yeay sharing that her ten bundles of betel per day helped her to relax and forget her worries. I know that areca has a mild narcotic effect, the Yeay’s confirm they may feel a lightheaded dreaminess. This effect, one Grandma explained, was why it is always good to offer a neighbour some betel if they happen to be angry with you.However the Yeay’s  strongest reasons for chewing betel have to do with attachments to a culture that is not our own. At a Khmer wedding, the groom will offer betel to the parents as a sign of love and loyalty. Most of the Yeay’s show me their inherited seemingly hundred-year-old betel cutters a way to pass on the practice to other generations.

Is it compost or is it rubbish? Many of the vegetable farmers in the village where we live are well experienced in recycling manure and some waste products to use as fertiliser, but at the Chreav school one of the challenges for Rob has been getting the message across that there is a difference between products that need to be separated from plant material to create mulch. It is a common practice at the school and around most country homes to sweep away every item that lands on the surface of the soil. All of this ‘rubbish’ (tree leaves, plastic food wrapping, polystyrene foam, drinking straws, etc) may find its way into the nearest waterway, or be swept into a pile and burnt. Mostly the school garden compost bins require painstaking separation and removal of plastics from the layers of ‘sweepings’ after they have been added. They say that ‘one mans trash is another mans treasure’. Possibly some deep cultural insights will be gained before the multiple instruction of children and signs on bins has the desired effects.

Even compost gives a cultural lesson in Cambodia
Wisdom sharing from Khmer grandmothers
Thankfulness:
Arrival of new team members from Adelaide, the Hutchinson family.
For opportunities to build deeper relationships around Khmer festivals.
The location and facility of the new home for team member Catherine Rogers.


Prayer Requests:
For team transitioning around school holidays and living arrangements.
For creative ways to celebrate significant birthdays from afar.
Growing continually in Khmer culture understanding in relationships.


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS AUGUST 2018

Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honour. Proverbs 15:33

 

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS AUGUST 2018

Words like suffering, honour, relationships, humility, loyalty and hospitality are often words spoken or lessons being learned in Cambodia. Humility is a lesson we keep relearning. To be humble involves behaviour that confirms we don’t think we are better than others. Actually humble and human both come from the word “humus” meaning ground or earth. Some of our lessons in humility involve getting dusty and coming ‘down to earth’ as the saying goes. 

Deb is a fan of hammocks, but she has found out that they can be less tame than they look. Deb managed an accidental back-flip out of a hammock whilst visiting her Khmer friend recently. She also ended up spilling her hot tea over herself in the process. Deb found herself coming to with her friend and children trying to pull her off the ground. For Deb’s Khmer friends visiting each other and being together is a gift; the extra gift of this visit became a village joke that pops up in their stories. Deb was fine and she has heard many stories from her Khmer friends of others falling from hammocks, but mostly they were babies or children. Humour helps us be humble. It takes us beyond and lets us see the peculiarities and pretence in being human and sense our vulnerability.

The next day Deb stubbed her toe on a solid cement bag at the local market. Deb was conscious of many curious eyes watching and smiled despite the pain. Deb considered she had movement of the toe so expected it would heal well. Two days later doing exercises with the toe it clicked back into joint. The toe being dislocated was the reason why it hurt so much. Please note Deb as a nurse and midwife does take care of others better than herself. Deb would also frame this story by adding that life is full-on living in a cross-cultural setting like Cambodia and sometimes small things like a dislocated toe can be easily overlooked. But these incidents are a reminder of our humanity and the need for others.

The mishaps have not all been managed by Deb, Rob has experienced his version as well. In June we went to Bangkok for our annual medical check-up. The Thailand location was chosen for us for the reputation of the high standard of medical care as the trip also potentially involved surgery to remove a hernia Rob had acquired helping someone move a furniture item down from a Siem Reap fourth story unit. The laparoscopic procedure was completed, but recovery was slower than expected and some weeks later a local doctor diagnosed a relapse of the hernia. This month we return to Bangkok to re-visit the surgeon, and hopefully we have a better outcome if surgery is carried out. In a Buddhist religious culture people who experience mishaps are sometimes considered to have done something bad, so it has been an interesting time of reflection about suffering and learning patience with some different cultural perspectives.

Sharing a Khmer breakfast in the local market speaks volumes even without talking. Khmer love to see us mingling with them where they do life. They especially love us enjoying their food. So we find ourselves as regulars meeting spontaneously with our Khmer friends from the village, school or health clinic or casually sharing rice with someone new who is brought our way.

Preparation of breakfast at the local village market. 
A neighbours peaceful looking hammocks.
Thankfulness
The Crilley families safe arrival and beginning life and transitioning in their new home and country.
For ongoing cultural awareness projects supporting our life-long learning.
Our volunteer work places at school and the health clinic, encourage and challenge us.

Prayer Requests:
For Rob’s medical outcomes, for good healing, rest and recovery. 
Wisdom for the Hutchinson family leaving Australia to live in Cambodia next month.
For the Khmer people who are troubled by many fears. 


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JANUARY 2019

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

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS DECEMBER 2018

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

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS NOVEMBER 2018

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from...
article post

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS SEPTEMBER 2018

But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds… Jeremiah 30:17 GRIFFITH...
article post

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS OCTOBER 2018

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John...
article post

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS AUGUST 2018

Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honour. Proverbs...
article post