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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 GLEANING JULY 2018

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate- bringing forth food from the earth: Psalm 104:14

 

 

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JULY 2018

A stark cultural difference between the Khmer where we live and our home culture is the different approach to growing grass around the home. It is usual for Khmer people to remove every blade of grass anywhere near their house and sweep the dirt clear of any residue of organic matter. A ‘lawn’ is a strange sight to be seen grown around a home. Some belief that grass attracts mosquitos or provides protection for snakes.  When we moved into the village we decided to grow some grass out the front of our home for what we think can be visual appeal and soil benefits. This has brought much discussions and interest from our neighbours who observe our strange habits, as they watch us plant, water, and cut the grass. Being in the tropics this grass has grown rather rapidly, especially as the wet season has now arrived. Unlike the rate of growth of tropical grass, relationships can be relatively slow to grow. Just like in Western culture some relationships are challenged by busy work schedules and competing priorities (particularly we felt this in our relationships with city friends). But Khmer culture also has other factors such as ‘saving face’ and giving of respect and honour. Often we are given the place of respect and privilege in relationships that is first made obvious by the best chairs being given to us to sit on, even when most Khmer are seated on the ground. We have even noted at times children being told to move when they choose to sit on a more elevated seat than us. Our white skin gives us a special honoured status, but there are other dynamics that include the patron and client aspect of the culture where we are given the status of patron (with the assumed responsibilities that come from this relationship). Navigating these interactions are becoming easier as we learn more of the Khmer language and culture, but we still lack so much vocabulary and our foreign accent doesn’t help always either. Deep relationships take the time of many ongoing encounters to build patterns of trust and understanding. Grass can sometimes seem greener on the other side of the fence. But it doesn’t take much experience to learn that grass is greener where you water, fertilise and nurture it. We are so privileged in many ways living here. Not the least of these privileges is the knowledge that we have the support of so many like you to take what time it takes to build deep and lasting relationships. We look forward to many conversations in the future that help our friends grow in realisation of lives of wellbeing, wholeness and peace.

Collecting grass to feed cattle
Cambodian jungle recreation
Thankfulness
That new Queensland team members the Crilley family will arrive in early August.
For the opportunity to take leave and enjoy trekking in the Cambodian jungle together.
That the Chreav school community has kept the vegetable garden maintained in Rob’s absence recovering from surgery.

Prayer Requests:
For national elections on the 29th of July.
For flexibility and wisdom as we are shaped as a team with newly arriving members.
For complete healing for Rob.


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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JUNE 2018

But when you plant the seed, it grows. It becomes the largest of all garden plants. Its branches are so big that birds can rest in its shade.”  Mark 4:32

 

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JUNE 2018

We have such a privilege to be living in this rural part of Cambodia. One of the life giving things we like to do around where we live is to take a bicycle ride in the coolest part of the day. Our own village is surrounded by rice fields, vegetable plots and homes encircled by tropical fruit trees, coconuts and palm trees. Our neighbours will often call out greetings, which frequently involves asking us where we are going. Occasionally we go for a longer cycle for 30 or 40 kilometres that can take us to some beautiful and interesting places. As we waited for some friends to join us for one of our long bicycle rides, we met the village lolly man who crafts animals on sticks from multi-coloured toffee to sell to children waiting outside the local village school. The children gathered to watch him making them chickens, rabbits, fish and elephants etc. He told us he does this because he did not have lollies growing up. Deb shared she could relate to not having many lollies as a child, but then he expanded that actually he did not have much food growing up. His story impacted on us, as does his joy and life choices. This is not a healthy treat but it comes from this mans heart to bring delight to children watching him plying his craft to create their own edible art. The Khmer people are open to sharing their life stories as we go about our every day lives here. These stories are shaping us and guiding us to walk alongside the Khmer people that God brings our way. Join us in praying that God’s sweet love will have a lasting and transforming impact on the lives of Khmer people we share with as we go about our everyday lives here.

Watering a garden is more than just turning on a tap. For Rob at the school there is an underground well that requires someone to wind a handle to fill a watering can. Watering is something Rob and his students are doing a lot of to help grow the garden produce. Now we see the importance of water for life is vital in any growth, really relationships are similar to growing a plant. A seed is sown, nurtured with water and nutrients and behold a plant grows, fruit and foliage appears and provides a place of shade and shelter. In a relationship a chance meeting becomes an acquaintance, it turns into friendship when you meet often and a level of trust is developed. Then you continue nurturing the relationship through care, love, a feeling of mutual respect and comfort. When you water the plants of your relationships they may turn into deeply rooted and sturdy trees. Through these long lasting relationships we pray that there will be plants of God’s kingdom grown.

Thank you for how you partner with us and allow us to be a part of this privilege of seeing God’s transforming work here in Siem Reap Cambodia.

Our village “Candy Man”.
Watering a garden brings growth
Winding the well to water the school garden
Thankfulness
For opportunities to listen to the stories of Khmer people as we go about life here.
For the varied relationships developing and sharing his gifts of lasting love, joy and peace.
That the Barnes family have made a great start at settling into many new ways of living within the Khmer culture.

Prayer Requests:
For full recovery of Rob after recent surgery.
For the preparations and partnerships of the 3-4 families soon to be new team members.
For our growth and understanding in our Khmer relationships.

Everyone has a story that will break your heart. And, if you’re really paying attention, most people have a story that will bring you to your knees. Brene Brown

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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MAY 2018

A farmer went out to sow his seed… Luke 8:5

GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MAY 2018

ROB

The Khmer have a word for hard, compacted, difficult to work with soil. ‘Nain’ is a word that I think even sounds harsh to say. I think I have found the most ‘nain’ soil in all of Cambodia. It is at the front of the Chreav school yard, where I hope with the help of the Chreav community to start a school garden. The soil is so nain that the points of a pick hoe that I and the children have been using to break up the earth is bent almost at right angles to the direction it is meant to go. Maybe this is also evidence of the quality of the tools available at my local hardware store, or the many rocks mixed with the nain soil, but it is so nain that my hands are also blistered from trying to penetrate it with various tools. This past week I got a neighbour to deliver a load of sandy soil that hopefully mixed with the clay, might make the soil a little less hostile to the roots of vegetables.
The garden project at Chreav school has often reminded me of the parable of the sower. The school has some rocky ground, some nasty weeds to compete with, but at the moment the ‘good soil’ is more like the path that was trampled on and where the birds ate the seed. Someone reminded me this week that the parable story can be an encouragement just to keep doing the task of “spreading the seed” as we have little control of how the seed is received by the soil. Interestingly the Khmer bible translation identifies the ‘sower’ as a man…maybe a cultural insight for study another day where vegetables are mostly sown my women who place seeds by hand in the carefully prepared soil! Talking of things called ‘Nain’, a little before the sower parable in the Matthew gospel, Jesus raises a dead child to life in a town called Nain. The Hebrew word ‘Nain’ means “green pastures” or “lovely”. At the moment I look forward to the day when I can think of the Hebrew meaning of the word ‘Nain’ for the garden at Chreav school rather than the current soil quality.

DEBHe has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14
God rescues. Pondering on the verse above redemption is past tense but spills over to my current circumstances. I accept part of my redemption story God is still in writing. Lately I have been musing through God’s rescue through ‘redemption’ (a term that describes, not just saving, but gaining or recovering possession of something through payment, like clearing a debt).

God works redemption through his Son, Jesus Christ, it is through Jesus Christ that all of life is made well and whole, all of life is healed and restored, all of life is put right. Now our language program called Growing Redemptive Participatory Approach (GRPA) has 6 phases. Presently I am well into phase 4; a phase of Deep Life Sharing. Really this is a make-or-break phase, or perhaps the sink-or-swim phase. This is the phase when life among the Khmer people needs to take off. Really the cause and effect of the relationship building among the Khmer people resonates within me deeply. I sense God’s redeeming work at hand. I am moved by the privilege to come alongside Khmer people and listen with my ears, heart and soul to their life stories.

Living within the village now I am told by our Khmer community here I have become part of their families, homes, community, their hearts, their lives. I am not ever going to be a Khmer person but being an accepted outsider brings privilege, honour, pain, Khmer cultural responsibilities I am still learning; transformation and a deeper grasp of God’s redemptive work in me and for my Khmer friends.

A recent experience of God’s redemptive work in me whilst sharing life here. For the Khmer families living around us, a big part of their agricultural work is through long hours as rice farmers. We have witnessed our Khmer friends through these seasons of preparing the land, ploughing, sowing, ensuring it is well watered using channels and drains, making sacrifices and request for good favour over their crops, harvesting, drying, for some hand harvesting and threshing their rice, collecting the rice straw ‘hay’, finally storing the rice and hay. Then our Khmer friends will wait to sell their rice storing it by filling in and around their homes with piles of near to 100 kilogram bags of rice.

Waiting until the rice price is higher. Acknowledging that most Khmer people in these rural areas they do not have bank accounts. Rice is not only a staple part of the Khmer diet, but a currency here in rural Cambodia. Recently we were with our Khmer friends as they sold their rice which we have watched them labour over together in all the processes to get it this far and the ‘good rice price’ was 20 cents/kg. This reality of intense work labour and earning what to me (my cultural head space) is so little in return ‘costs me’ (it hurts deeply) as I adjust my cultural views and understandings to celebrate alongside my Khmer friends who are delighted with a good rice price. The value of the Khmer people to God does not dip nor wane but is a constant and they do not have to work for it. The price God paid he did for me, for you, and for the Khmer too. I am grateful for how you all are a family to us in these spaces and places of sharing his light, hope and love. I claim and release my growing pains in Khmer culture and in Khmer relationships daily and in these processes welcome God’s redeeming story at work within me and within the Khmer people. By acknowledging my personal cost and pain I am welcoming God’s redemptive work within me and ways I can share Him who sees the Khmer people as priceless treasures and that they each individually are worth the King’s ransom.

Recent activity preparing a school garden
The rice farmers harvest prepared for sale.
Thankfulness
That we are growing deeper in our Khmer relationships.
Catherine Rogers settling into new seasons of life here in Siem Reap.
The recent sharing together with our Khmer friends and their families through the Khmer New Year and village festival events.Prayer Requests:
For the transition of our Cambodian team as we welcome the Barnes family this month.
For God’s strengthening presence as we both have been challenged in the heat.
God’s resourcing of the Cambodian team candidates based in Australia to join us in his timing. 

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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS SEPTEMBER 2018

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

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John...
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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS AUGUST 2018

Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honour. Proverbs...
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GRIFFITH GLEANING JULY 2018

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate- bringing forth...
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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS JUNE 2018

“But when you plant the seed, it grows. It becomes the largest of all garden...
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GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MAY 2018

A farmer went out to sow his seed… Luke 8:5 GRIFFITH GLEANINGS MAY 2018 ROB The...
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