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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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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JULY 2019


GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JULY 2019

And we…are being transformed into his likeness… 2 Cor. 3:18

Globalization is a word that is often used to describe economic activity that involves countries with high production and labour costs (like Australia) accessing cheap goods from poorer developing countries that have low wages and less consideration on environmental impacts and the like. Cambodia is certainly engaging in this global economy, but it is more complicated than the fact that a Chinese company may set up a garment factory in Cambodia and employ staff to work 12 hour days, 6 days per week for 80 cents Australian per hour, so you can walk into K-mart and pick up a $5 t-shirt. You might be wondering why we have spelt globalization with a ‘z’ and not an ‘s’, but hey, that’s another example of globalization! Globalization affects how Khmer people see the world on their smart phone through Facebook and YouTube; the American rap songs that teach the Khmer children new swear words and expressions like “oh my god”; the pull of urbanisation that sees families separated and uprooted from their rural rice farm to sleep under a tarpaulin and carry bricks at a building site in a big city. Forests have given away to cassava fields for Asian noodles, foreign owned rubber plantations and sugar cane is expanding and Chinese cotton varieties are being tested.

The merging of world economies and culture is also influencing the village where we live outside the city of Siem Reap. The rice fields and vegetable gardens are disappearing as new streets, houses and businesses appear in their place and the city seems to be swallowing the countryside around it. For more than 20 years in our village, locals have shopped in one compact traditional market. When you don’t own a refrigerator, the local market is the place to go every day to purchase fresh supplies. The walkways between stalls of vegetable, fish and household items like shampoo sachets used to get rather muddy every time it rained, but it has been the beating heart of ‘Phum Chreav’ (Chreav village) for as long as many locals can remember. This market is where Deb visits daily, but in recent weeks it has been demolished and replaced temporarily around the corner, split in two. The old site has been excavated and there is plans for a double story facility with an underground car park can you believe? The impact of these changes has been dramatic for our local friends. Some stall holders who have shared a space with a relative for years have been separated while others have scattered to another street. There is now a busy dirt road dividing what was once a tight knit market community. There have been many changes and challenges for this village from one impact of urbanisation. Some feel their livelihoods have been held in the balance. But for some sellers they have experienced new customers and spaces for new sellers has allowed the market to expand. Globalization is not just a threat, there will be opportunities and some of Cambodia will never become like America, China, or Australia. Just this week one prominent Khmer politician encouraged families to have at least 5 children each. It is a privilege that we are able to share life with our friends and neighbours, as they deal with their fears and hopes for the future. 

Old Market of over twenty years
Old village market on the day everyone left.
New market same friends selling vegetables
Our Khmer friends set up their vegetable display in new settings not sure what will happen next.
Thankfulness:
For our team retreat building into and onto our relationships.
For safe travel of all recent visitors to and from Cambodia.
Grateful for answers to prayer for health and well being across the team.

Requests:
For fruitfulness with language, cultural learning and building relationships.
For substantial rain for wet season rice crops that are currently struggling to survive.
For team family units with children who have 7-8 weeks ‘summer holiday’ from school, and some are balancing language and culture learning and some family holidays.

 


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JUNE 2019

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JUNE 2019

but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. John 16:21

Cambodia’s birth rate is healthy. Cambodia has more than double Australia’s percentage population growth rate (and that is before you take out the migration rate of Australia that is more than half of Australia’s population growth). But hidden in statistics are real people, including those couples who cannot conceive. In many cultures still today infertility for a woman is a source of significant shame. Even for men in Cambodia, if their wife fails to conceive, the husband may be teased that he is ‘weaker than a chicken’. Medical options that assist in fertility is not an option for most. Last month in the village where we live, we welcomed into the world a baby that was of special significance; the parents had struggled for years to have a child. You may remember the story of Deb’s friend Mrs M it is with joy to share she has had a healthy baby girl. We both have visited her and her family a few times since to encourage her and them in this new season.

As Deb stares at her Khmer friend’s precious new baby, a wave of emotion comes up within her. Infertility can be one of the most painful seasons a woman can walk through. Additionally, one of Deb’s previous language nurturers (who now helps other team members with their language learning) shared recently that she is expecting a baby later this year. Deb had prayed with her for a couple of years that she would be enabled to get pregnant. A joy to celebrate new life and all it represents. As we sit alongside of our Khmer friends in their many seasons of life may God’s deep love for them be unpacked and revealed.

Do you remember the first time you saw a significant iconic place in your country, maybe Ayres Rock, Sydney Harbour, or where ever that noteworthy place is in your country of birth? A day outing always brings excitement among our Khmer friends. Two of our visiting friends from Blackwood Hills, Adelaide, joined us as we piled into two 14-seater vans with our Khmer friends of over fifty people for a day trip last month. This excursion brought excited anticipation as all the family was together visiting some iconic places most of them had never been including a local mountain where the water is considered by some Khmer people to have healing properties, Mt Koulen ភ្នំគូលែន and to the structure represented on Cambodia’s flag, Angkor Wat អង្គរវត្ត We shared their eagerness of going somewhere together, conversations, life stories, food, activities, photos, swimming lessons (many Khmer do not know how to swim) and so much more. Shared experiences like these are full and exhausting but they are immensely rewarding and enrich relationships as we share seasons of life with our Khmer friends and their families.

Mrs M’s new baby
Growing deeper relationships mean shared experiences with our Khmer friends
Thankfulness:
Mrs M new baby and Deb’s past nurturer new pregnancy.
For numerous opportunities to sit with Khmer friends and grow together.
For the provision of a second team car.
Requests:
For peace and provision for Scott, Janelle, Rosie and Isaac Windus as they prepare to leave Cambodia to be based in Australia for a season.
For our team retreat 23-29th June for insights and wisdom as we are formed as a team.
For ongoing team discernment for considerations for visas and platforms.

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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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