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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MARCH 2020

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MARCH 2020

He says, Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

The world seems like a different place. When we returned to Australian soil in late November the world stock markets were continuing to climb to record levels. Despite parts of Australia having suffered from severe drought and bush fires resulting in devastation of thousands of homes, unemployment rates in Australia was lower than forecast. While we had been in Cambodia last year Australia elected a government that promised to return a budget surplus of 7.1 billion dollars and eliminate all debt in a decade. These things now seem a distant memory and the world news is dominated with just one subject.

Our own situation has changed quite a bit as well. We are still thankful for many friends who have loaned us accommodation and modes of transport for our travels and training, but our ‘wings have been clipped’ of late. This week we entered self-isolation back in South Australia after our travels had taken us to Maroubra, Kurrajong and Orange NSW. We had been preparing to visit Narromine last weekend, where Rob had been asked to present a message on ‘Fairness to the poor’ at Narromine Baptist church, but then the whole idea of meetings in places like church buildings became inconceivable.

We discovered on our last night in New South Wales that we were staying in the suburban area that could boast Australia’s most concentrated occurrence of COVID-19 infections. Before boarding our Adelaide flight, we passed through airport check-in and screening area where there was no need to worry about personal distancing. There was nobody else to line up with us. We certainly have little to complain about being ‘isolated’ in a place like Australia. In our thoughts about COVID-19 impacts, we can’t help but think of our friends in Cambodia, many of whom can’t afford to buy soap, let alone hand sanitiser to maintain good hygiene. If you require a ventilator in Cambodia you probably need to travel to somewhere like Singapore or Thailand. People in places like Cambodia are likely to be severely impacted by COVID-19.

Our plan has been to prepare for return to Cambodia for our next three years before the middle of the year. Right now, we know that we have to hold all our plans loosely. We had planned to visit friends and church groups between now and the end of May. To help us stay connected with people we have now downloaded numerous social media platforms that until recently we had not heard of! This week we have video style meetings planned using at least 4 different platforms. This week we are prepared for a Loom, Google Hangout, Messenger, WhatsApp or Zoom chat together; although we hadn’t even heard about the first couple until recently.

Thank you to those who have supported us to share God’s love in Cambodia. Thank you for those of you who have encouraged us and shared stories with us in recent weeks about how Jesus changes everything. We know that these are uncertain and difficult times for many.

We still require further financial support before we can return to Cambodia. If you are in a position to become a financial supporter or even increase the support level that you might already give, please be in touch. We are required to reach our budget target through donations and pledges. If you would like to contribute either a pledge of a regular (monthly/quarterly/yearly) amount or a once off donation please be in touch, or click on the ‘Support Rob & Deb Griffith‘ link below.

Here is the print friendly PDF copy  click here to download

Support Rob & Deb Griffith
Visiting people and events is changing to stay connected.
Rob’s Dad near 90 years old.
Thankfulness:
For safe travels around South Australia, New South Wales then two weeks of mandatory self-isolation.
Being well supported by the community while in isolation.
Sharing with many people so keen to engage in story telling in old and new ways.
For God’s promises reinforcing he never changes but he changes everything.
Requests
For the Cambodia impact of COVID-19 that will disproportionately affect the poor.
For flexibility and creativity with staying connected with others in new ways.
For our Cambodia team as we have currently three family units in Cambodia and three in Australia each seeking to share God’s living hope among the Khmer people.

 


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS FEBRUARY 2020

 

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS FEBRUARY 2020 

 

Caste all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Isaiah 43:19

 

You are here! When you are standing looking at a map on a signboard ‘you are here’ is often the label that helps you orientate yourself. On a recent visit to Granite Island in South Australia we were drawn to look at various sculpture installations scattered around the island. Some art works seemed almost to blend into the environment, others seemed bizarrely out of place. The last one to gain our attention was a mixture of both. One piece of art was the sign like one you might expect to announce the name of a park, simply bore the words “You are here”. Something about this sign seemed to be profound and humorous at the same time. How often are we really present in the moment? So often our concerns or maybe even our electronic devices transport us to another place.

Over the past couple of months, we have had a few moments where we wondered where we were or have missed being present in the moment due to many conflicting thoughts and adjustments to being back in Australia. Sometimes we have felt overwhelmed by the number of choices that are available in a supermarket, or found the adjustment to new methods of payment somewhat baffling.

Other times we have seen things with a new clarity that we could only have received by being absent from Australian culture for a while. Returning to Australia after 3 years in Cambodia has helped us to see some things in new light.

When we first arrived back one of our first questions was: Where are all the people? We could drive though a whole suburb in a city and only see people through windows of the car that drove past (presumably the remainder were hidden within the house where they live). In rural Cambodia where we have grown to call home, people spend most of their time outside. Houses are a place you might choose to sleep inside, but that is about it. There is so many more opportunities to build relationships with Khmer people just by the design of their homes. Khmer people in a rural village cook, eat and wash their dishes outdoors; they sit, entertain guests and even bathe outside. We have so many more opportunities to interact with our neighbours living in Cambodia.

Warm hospitality has been our experience of our time spent with friends right around Australia during our travels. Some of the homes we have stayed in however, purely by design, make us strangely feel isolated from other people. Modern architecture has taken away the outdoor sitting space on the front veranda, as well as the space to hang a hammock or swing a cricket bat! Aussie architects, don’t forget the importance of community and being a blessing to your neighbours…

In past weeks we visited friends at Wagga Wagga, Wodonga, Torquay and around Melbourne. More recently we caught up with South Australian friends from Laura, Broadview, Andrews Farm, Blackwood and beyond with more to follow. During the next month we have a number of opportunities to meet with people in 2 states, some of which are mentioned below. If you haven’t booked a date to catch up with us, please be in touch.

For those around Adelaide we welcome you to join with us either Saturday 29th February, Global Inspire 9-11:30am at Blackwood Hills Baptist Church (rsvp required ASAP to Jane Norman in the Global Interaction state office email jnorman@globalinteraction.org.au), or afternoon tea (as a less formal time to listen, sharing and building understanding and support for our journey in Cambodia) at Brenda Anderson’s home (bring a plate to share), Coromandel Valley 4-6pm Wednesday 11th March (rsvp required for attendance and address at least a week before to email coro.brenda@gmail.com).

Global Interaction is the organisation that equips, cares for us and sends us to Cambodia. They rightly require that we raise 100% of the budget required for the next 3-year term in Cambodia. This doesn’t need to be all the funds in our hands or bank account, but if good people like yourself are able to pledge to support us regularly in the future that can be counted as well. At this time, we need to increase our support by close to $900 per month for 3.5 years. If you are in a position to become a financial supporter or even increase the support level that you might already give, please be in touch. We hope to reach our budget target through donations and pledges by April. If you would like to contribute either a pledge of a regular (monthly/quarterly/yearly) amount or a once off donation please be in touch, or click on the ‘Support Rob & Deb Griffith‘ link below.

https://www.globalinteraction.org.au/who-we-are/people-groups/khmer/rob-and-deb


Stop Press…We now have a print friendly PDF copy click here to open

Support Rob & Deb Griffith
We have been privileged to feel some beach sand under our feet and bicycle tyres!
A typical living space at a Khmer home.
Thankfulness:
For reconnecting in person with Rob’s parents for the first time in well over 3 years.
Making new friends and reconnecting with old ones across 3 states in January and Feb.
For valuable training opportunities and time for reflection, study and retreat.

Requests:
For increased financial support to reach our 100% required target by April.
For our team in Cambodia as they prepare for a team gathering and covenant making early in March.
That God’s Mission, globally and locally, will be something that ordinary Aussie Christians see themselves as engaged in.
For team Cambodia members preparing for the transitions of home assignment.
For wisdom, discernment, family, rest, energy, fruitful meetings, sharing, travels, and daily schedule.

 

 

 


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JANUARY 2020

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JANUARY 2020

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Happy New Year! We have found ourselves back in Australia to experience our first Christmas and New Year back on ‘home’ soil after being in Cambodia for the previous four Christmas and New Years. Living in a country that places far more importance on a lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian one has helped us see these events in different light. Christmas is not celebrated in Cambodia and passes as just an ordinary day. The passing of one calendar year to the next is similar in that not much attention is given to it, especially in the mostly non-urban parts of Cambodia. The Gregorian Calendar makes more sense in parts of the world with distinctly cold and hot seasons. Geographies that are hot all the time like Cambodia have remained more connected to cycles of the moon and wet seasons, will leave their new year celebrations until the right moon cycle in April.

The New Year celebrations and Christmas are literally big business in Australia. Australians empty their wallets and expand their credit card debts while bottle shops and department stores make their largest sales volumes for the year. It all feels a bit strange behaviour to us after our long absence. We found many other strange things returning to Australia such as driving on the opposite side of the road and other drivers speed and techniques that suggest they don’t anticipate anyone else is on the road! We also wondered where all the people were in Tasmania at first until we realised that they were sheltering inside their houses or cars from the cold weather. Khmer people in contrast to Australians drive defensively to survive and tend to live life outside their homes more than they are in them.

We returned to Australia via Tasmania in November. We loved coming together as a family to share in our son Jeremy and new daughter-in-law Alana’s wedding. Sharing in the preparation for the day and packing up together with the expanded family was a gift. Deb’s purple dress was worn to honour the Khmer sewer and was not out of place. We have been based in our eldest daughter’s South Australian country home for much of December and the beginning of January, before we start our first interstate trip and participate in some Global Interaction training in Melbourne over the next month.

We would love to catch up and share some time together with you whilst we are in Australia. We are traveling across four states over the next five months, so please be in touch if you want to see us and we can share locations, venues, events and churches where you might catch us near you. Our calendar is looking quite full, but there are lots of opportunities to meet including the following events for South Australians. For those around Adelaide we welcome you to join with us either Saturday 29th February, Global Inspire 9-11:30am at Blackwood Hills Baptist Church (rsvp required a week before to Jane Norman in the Global Interaction state office email jnorman@globalinteraction.org.au), or afternoon tea at Brenda Anderson’s home, Coromandel Valley 4pm Wednesday 11th March (rsvp required for attendance and address at least a week before to email coro.brenda@gmail.com)

We will also need to increase our support level before our mid-year departure due to a fall in the Aussie dollar value and some increased expenses. If you would like to contribute either a pledge of a regular (monthly/quarterly/yearly) amount or a once off donation please be in touch, or click on the ‘Support Rob & Deb Griffith‘ link or box below.

https://www.globalinteraction.org.au/who-we-are/people-groups/khmer/rob-and-deb

Back in Australia but feeling out of place

We are back in Australia but feeling culturally out of place now having two home country’s but not fully belonging to either.

Our family sharing in wedding together

Our family sharing in Jeremy & Alana’s wedding together.

Thankfulness:
For the joy and love shared together with all at Jeremy and Alana’s wedding.
Reuniting in person with family relationships.
For good health reports for us with our catch up medical reviews.
Happy news our eldest daughter Rebekah announces her engagement with fiancé David.
Requests:
For meaningful opportunities to share with family, friends and supporters.
For cultural adjustments to living in Australia whilst feeling we don’t quiet fit as well.
For wisdom, discernment, energy, fruitful meetings, sharing, travels, and daily schedule.


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS OCTOBER 2019


GRIFFITH GLEANINGS OCTOBER 2019

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Do you have a favourite insect or animal? Chances are that you associate traits of that creature with human characteristics that you admire. There are many insects in Cambodia, colourful insects, large and small; ones that suck, chew and sting. Insects are also sometimes a part of the diet of Khmer people. There is a delicious soup made from a type of ant; crickets, grubs, grasshoppers and some beetles make tasty snacks fried with chilli and spices. As a child I remember going to see a movie about a spider that was a friend of a pig and managed to save the pigs life from slaughter. Stories like Charlotte’s Web, and other more recent animation movies give animals and insects human emotions and attributes. Anthropomorphism is the crediting of human traits, emotions, and thoughts into creatures that are not human. For a culture that is so intimately connected to insects like the Khmer, it isn’t surprising that insects are given human traits like some of the stories we grew up with. The differences however is in how Khmer culture sees characteristics that are admirable in insects is as fascinating as any study of culture. Let us take termites and cicadas as examples. What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think about termites? Our experiences with termites have been very influenced by the extent of damage that they create when they sneakily enter a house that has parts made from their favourite food source timber. It has cost us thousands of dollars encountering them when we lived in the Adelaide foothills. Before coming to Cambodia, we probably wouldn’t find it easy to think of any admirable traits of termites. Cicadas on the other hand are attractive creatures and are impressive how they can make such a sound from such a relatively small body. Coming from a Western culture we learn to think and express ourselves as individuals. This is different in a communal culture like Khmer. The Khmer are able to look at how termites cooperate together in community and notice that these tiny insects are able to build a termite mound more than two metres tall. Cicadas on the other hand are proud and noisy ‘lone-rangers’ that want to be seen and heard! We have found many more differences between our home and host cultures in these past three years.
Sometimes we have found ourselves standing out by our cultural differences in how we tend to operate in community, manage time, what we like to eat, how we like to holiday and even what parts of our body we consider sacred or not. But we have had the opportunity of seeing our home culture through a new perspective and some of the differences we have embraced have been transformative in positive ways. We have had the privilege of being invited into the world of our Khmer friends and beginning to learn how they see community and the world around them. As our relationships have deepened so has the quality of the conversations we can now have about life, relationships and what gives us meaning. One of the hallmarks of living cross culturally is the inevitability of saying goodbye. Next month we leave Cambodia for our first visit back to Australia in three years. Many of our village friends treat us like family members. Now we prepare for the cycle of bittersweet goodbyes and hellos when we leave Cambodia for six months and say hello to our family and friends back in Australia. The cycle repeated in reverse towards the middle of next year as we return to Cambodia.
We are grateful that we have recently shared some more lifegiving communal experiences within some of our Khmer friendships. During a significant Khmer festival, we were invited to travel and share with Rob’s language nurturer’s family visit to his home province. We got to meet the wider family, travel together for adventures and ceremonies and share times to hear stories, laugh, wash, prepare meals, and eat together and go deeper in our relationships. Experiences like this have grown our relationships as we have learned about what is important to our Khmer friends and been an opportunity to explore differences together in our cultures, traditions and beliefs. At one point in our experience we shared how we bless each other every morning before we get out of bed. In a culture that highly values ways of honouring and blessing important relationships, this was significant for our Khmer friends.
As we return to Australia soon, we will take back many new perspectives on many fronts and maybe even down to how we view certain insects!
Learning togetherness in preparing traditional Khmer snacks
Learning togetherness in making traditional Khmer snacks.
Mr S Rob’s nurturer and some of his family
Mr S Rob’s language nurturer with some of his family members.
Thankfulness:
For recent and past shared experiences that deepen relationships with our Khmer friends.
Steady progress in language and culture learning.
That we know one who faithfully watches over our comings and goings and cares for family and friends near and far.
Requests:
For good leaving and reuniting with friends and families in Australia and Cambodia.
For transition and adjustments for us, our family and Khmer friends.
For meaningful opportunities to share with family, friends and supporters.

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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS SEPTEMBER 2019

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS SEPTEMBER 2019

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

“Have you eaten rice yet?” is the greeting that the two-year-old daughter of our Landlord has begun asking us this past month. This might sound like a strangely out of place question if you haven’t visited Cambodia, but in the community where this child is growing up, this is the standard greeting; equivalent to ‘Hello, how are you?’ in our home culture. Cambodia is a country rich in culture and customs, and it is often the people and their traditions that capture visitors’ hearts. Learning the necessary cultural and language ways to engage with Khmer people has been our main priority in this first three-year term in Cambodia. Learning how to show proper respect, how to be understood and get our message across can only be done when we learn language and culture together.

One area of learning Khmer culture in a village community is the importance of visiting others and receiving visitors and how this is done respectfully. An example of these insights is the greeting placing of palms together with a bowing of the upper body is called a “sombpeah” (សំពះ). It is a way to show respect in a formal greeting, for greeting someone worthy of respect such as an elder or teacher, or for greeting someone that you haven’t seen for a long time. The sombpeah is also used for praying by Buddhists during ceremonies and making offerings. A greeting is meant to be initiated by the younger person in the relationship. It’s important to know that the higher the hands and lower the bow means more respect.

Younger Cambodians are considered impolite if they maintain constant eye contact with the elders. Not talking too much and not giving excessive eye contact are polite behaviours that show respect. People that talk too much are considered impolite and bad people. In Cambodian culture, the head is considered the most important part of the human body, so it is not appropriate to touch a person’s head even if they are children. The feet are the farthest part of the body from the head, so they are considered less worthy. Be careful how you sit in Cambodia as pointed at someone with your foot can be taken as an insult. Also, the feet must never be placed higher than someone’s head, so it’s better to sit with your legs tucked under you and touching the ground (not always an easy task when your legs are not as flexible as they used to be!).

We frequently find that we have to step outside of our comfort zone to express empathy and respect in this culture. Thank you for how you support us and have in a way joined with us as we learn to live respectfully within Khmer culture. We find it an amazing privilege and experience learning these things and growing in this culture together that feels like stepping into a whole new world as we share observations and many of you give us encouragements. Thank you for taking the time to “travel” together with us as we journey into a different part of the world here in Cambodia and a unique culture among the Khmer people that has changed our lives. We look forward to continued discoveries and learning new habits as long as we are here.

Visiting and walking beside members of the village is part of our life here. A two kilometre procession to a cremation site is one of the last activities of a funeral that involves several days of ceremony.
The local village monk visits shares some of his story and that of his family.
Thankfulness:
For good health in the midst of a dengue fever epidemic in the village where we live.
For Khmer friends who patiently guide us into their cultural world.
For recent visitors bringing encouragement and news from Australia.

Requests:
For focus, energy and wisdom in all things as we conclude our last months before a pause for our first home assignment.
For team members exploration and discerning options for platforms and visas.
For guidance in pursuing conversations regarding further formal study and training.


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS AUGUST 2019

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS AUGUST 2019

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance. Proverbs 1:5

Have you seen advertisements of how you can learn a language in one week? We are not sure whether to laugh or cry when we see phone apps or learning methods that make such promises. Sure, you can pick up some phrases and speak enough to order a meal and find a toilet in a week, but learn a language and find out enough about a culture to not cause offense, takes quite a lot longer. Being able to understand and speak the language of the Khmer people where we live has been a major priority of our first couple of years living in Cambodia. There really is no other way to live in a respectful and understanding way than to learn the language and the culture of the community where you live. This is what happens when we are born into a family and grow up in a community. Thankfully the method that we employ in our language and cultural learning is modelled on how we naturally learn as a child. As we have struggled to remember words and how to put them together to be understood, at times we have felt a lot like babies. We have even experienced feeling a little jealous of actual Khmer babies who don’t have a lot of expectations on them as they learn.

As we learn the Khmer language, we learn Khmer culture. Language is not separate from the way of life (culture) that it supports, activities of the people and their relationships. Rice is a really big part of life in Cambodia. Most of the population still live in the country areas and many grow rice; everyone eats rice 2 or 3 times a day. It is often the first words of a conversation “Have you eaten rice yet?”. Before coming to Cambodia, we only knew one word to describe the plant or the end result of cooking the grain that is eaten: ‘rice’. The Khmer have a word for rice when it is growing, they have another word for the harvested grain with the husk still attached; another word describes the grain after it is milled to remove the husk and finally a different word is used to describe the grain after it is cooked. Respect is another facet of Khmer culture that influences the language. Back on the subject of eating, we can’t think of too many English words for ‘eat’, but the Khmer have a different word for ‘eat’ relating to age and status. An animal eating food is described with a different word to an average person. A young person generally has a different word for ‘eat’ than an old person and monks and kings both have a different word to describe what they do when they ‘eat’. It can be an insult to use the word for an animal eating in the wrong context. To learn a language should involve growing into the life-world of host people and their communities.

A privilege that we have found in our language and cultural discovery here in Cambodia has been that the people who help us learn are so much more than language teachers. We choose to call them nurturers for the reason that our learning is nothing like a traditional student-teacher relationship. They invite us into their world, their relationships, family, celebrations, the way they think and why. Together we grow into our hosts life and culture as we participate in it. Our nurturers are special people; they are not trained in education, but were chosen as people who lived nearby to where we live and are flexible enough to walk with us in our learning while they live their life in the same community and help us to learn enough to participate in our community. Thankfully we are surrounded with a community of people who are patient enough with our mis-pronunciation of words and misunderstandings. Amazingly we are treated with so much respect and honour, just for our efforts to speak their language and learn about their culture. We also have a wider team who support us and we seek to support as we work together to engage in this different culture to our home country and desire to bring wellbeing, completeness and wholeness into people’s lives.

In the past week the school principal in the school where Rob volunteers came over and said in perfect English “hello friend” (normally all of the conversations are only in Khmer). It was very heart warming to hear such generous words in a language that Rob has heard spoken all his life. It is such a privilege to have begun the journey of speaking the words of another person’s birth language and know that this also brings them joy and opens their hearts in such a way.

Rob with his nurturer Mr S
Rob’s nurturer Mr S. We had just given our nurturers a thank you gift of new shirts they are not a uniform.
Deb with her nurturer Mrs J
Deb’s nurturer Mrs J. Join us in prayer as everyday we pray and share deeply with our nurturers.
Thankfulness:
For receiving the official documents for Deb’s volunteer role in the village health centre.
For good health across our family.
For deepening relationships within the local Siem Reap team.

Requests:
For the many transitions ahead for the Windus family as they have recently left team Cambodia to live back in Australia.
For our continuing growth in Khmer language and culture and deepening relationships.
For the final months of preparation for the marriage and life together of our son Jeremy and his fiancé Alana. 


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