Phil, Becky, Bryn, Toby, Pippa and Molly Sussex left New Zealand at the beginning of 2011 to work as NZCMS Mission Partners in Cambodia. Phil has been training dentists and providing dental care for the poor and vulnerable while Becky has been teaching at Hope International School – a Christian School which provides education for Mission families working in Cambodia.
We have hugely appreciated your support over the past 5 ½ years that we have been living here in Cambodia as NZCMS mission partners. Early in January 2017, we will be finishing our work in Phnom Penh and relocating back to New Zealand. There are a number of family reasons which have led us to the conclusion that this is God’s timing for us. We have a real sense of peace about our decision in spite of the sadness which comes in leaving behind people we love in the place which has become our second home.
Looking back over our time in Cambodia I (Phil) have created 8 different undergraduate university lecture series, all of which have now been handed over to Khmer lecturers – it’s exciting that they are now being taught across two dental schools. Over the past five years I have seen a steady improvement in the standards of oral surgery which I will continue to tutor for the rest of 2016. It’s been great to partner with local pastors who have been using the dental outreach clinics as a platform for sharing the Gospel. I plan to hand over his clinic work to the senior Christian students who are soon to graduate. The One-2-One weekly dental prison ministry is in good hands and will continue beyond my departure.
Our family has experienced first-hand the hugely important role that a mission school like Hope has in the pastoral care and education of MKs and TCKs. Over her time at Hope School, Becky has had the privilege of contributing to the lives of many children. Bryn, Toby, Pippa and Molly have had an amazing experience of Christian community and education while I have played a role in the governance of the school as a board member. We are more than ever convinced that Hope School has a vital role to play in enabling mission and we are very sad to leave that behind.
We really do value your prayers as we continue to work here for the rest of the year before heading into this next major transition. During the next few months, no doubt our heads will be straddled between two worlds. Please pray that we will stay ‘present’ here with the work we still have to do whilst at the same time, be in a space to make necessary preparations for our return to NZ.
Some people talk about poverty in terms of a lack of options. Using that criteria, prisoners in Cambodia are surely some of the poorest of all, lacking even the option of a traditional dentist pulling out a painful tooth. Instead, they normally have no choice but to put up with an acutely abscessing tooth until it settles, hoping that the infection won’t spread into the upper face or neck with potentially fatal consequences.
For the past three years the Christian organisation I partner with (the only provider of dental care for prisoners) has been locked-out as they attempted to re-negotiate a new MoU with the government. After much prayer and multiple attempts, I am happy to report that three weeks ago we were finally allowed back into the main men’s prison. Each Wednesday I take a team of 10 students to fill and extract teeth as we rotate every few months around Phnom Penh’s main prisons. Operating in high temperatures, we have already been struggling with equipment breakdowns and push-back from guards keen on wielding their power. However, we have seen God at work with positive outcomes in spite of the conditions. One man’s abscess had spread into his cheek and was serious enough require incision, drainage and antibiotics, for which he was really grateful. Our team values your ongoing prayers. Phones and cameras are not permitted in Cambodian prisons but for an up-to-date report from outside the walls watch the video above or click here.
In August we sent a newsletter fundraising for equipment for a new church-based clinic. Thank you to everyone who donated! We had a great response and now have all the money that we need. Phil has done all the purchasing and along with his students has been operating the new mobile clinic for a few months already. Recently Pagna, one of his key student leaders, pointed out how he liked working each Monday and Wednesday at the church-based community clinics because ironically, he could now do better quality dentistry in the middle of paddy fields than he could at the university clinic! As planned we have kept the extractions free and the villagers all seem happy to pay for the $2 fillings.
Take the tour by watching the video above.
Here’s a short video from Phil Sussex giving us a glimpse of one of the rural dental clinics he is involved with. It was filmed particularly to thank those who donated towards clinic materials and equipment.
The newly revamped Monday and Wednesday clinics are working out really well as a good venue to help local people with their dental problems, as well as to train dental students and to encourage the four Christian students Phil is working with closely.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to drive a motorbike through the busy streets of Cambodia? Here Phil Sussex takes us with him on his morning commute. Try not to smile as you watch him weaving in and out of traffic like a local.
Many thanks to Toby Sussex for editing this video!
Last week the NZCMS Kiwis in Cambodia have been hanging out together. They enjoyed a few days sharing experience and encouragement on retreat with their wider ‘umbrella’ team in Siem Reap. On the way home the Sussex family stopped to check out Battambang, where the McCormicks are based. Anne and Anthony took them to experience the legendary Bamboo Railway – what a blast!
Commuting in Phnom Penh is a little ‘same-same but different.’ It is the same awful feeling when the alarm wakes you from a deep sleep, the same tea and coffee routine – just add some nice tropical fruit to those cornflakes. The same voices on National Radio Morning Report and Checkpoint – only streamed via the internet to my phone. The same peak hour traffic but with more interesting things to look, and get mad at – what happens to the passenger of the motorbike holding the large sheet of plate-glass or the baby without clothes (let alone a helmet) when they crash? At times we get gridlocked just like Auckland, but here you think nothing of riding footpaths, kerbs and through service station forecourts, accelerating wide around cops, being careful not to make eye contact!
My day started at 5:30am with breakfast then a fairly rapid commute north before the traffic becomes too heavy using a 100cc scooter to the University where I teach dentistry. After a 7am lecture to 5th year students it’s back on the bike, but now the tar-seal is breaking up into potholes and ruts, trucks blinding me with their dust as I head 30 minutes further north of the city.
Mental note to self – pack goggles!
I spend a very pleasant morning at the “Elderly Living Hope Church” (great name) providing very basic dental free care (mainly extractions) to the local community, all of whom have been forcibly relocated here after being evicted from slum dwellings located on prime development land in Phnom Penh. It’s an OK location but this far from the city there are very few jobs and for most, such relocations result in them being much worse off.
I work here with the pastor’s wife in their house beside their ‘church’ – a concrete courtyard. Three years ago they noticed how many of the community had dental problems for which treatment was completely unaffordable. The church began praying for a dentist and when none eventuated they sent the pastor’s wife, Leangna, off to Dental School where she has just completed year 1 of 7. Ever tried smoked fish and watermelon? Turns out that’s a very popular among older Cambodians. Today when I turned up with a melon Leangna rushed off to buy a little smoked fish to accompany it for our lunch – delicious!
This afternoon I’ll take a ‘back seat’ and supervise some of my students (a couple Christians and others not yet) as they learn the trade and help some locals along the way. There’s no shortage of rotten teeth here – Cambodia has among the highest rates of dental decay among kids in the world (the average 6 year old has 9 rotten teeth)! Fingers crossed as we head home late afternoon – monsoon rain can add a whole new dimension to travelling by motorbike. Wonder what I will see along the way….