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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

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JANUARY 2020

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


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

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS OCTOBER 2019

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

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

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS SEPTEMBER 2019

“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

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

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS AUGUST 2019

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


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

                                  GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JULY 2019

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

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

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JUNE 2019

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 JANUARY 2020

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a...
article post

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS OCTOBER 2019

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to...
article post

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS SEPTEMBER 2019

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others...
article post

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS AUGUST 2019

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance....
article post

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JULY 2019

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

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JUNE 2019

but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is...
article post