After close to six months our children are finally able to physically be back in school. Praise God!
Theirs is one of the few schools in the country that is now open and this comes with some fairly strict requirements from the government. Jonathan, Aaron and Emily are still getting used to full-time mask wearing, constant hand washing, separate desks, no library and limited play time.
They are into their first week back and are glad to be there but hopefully there will be an easing of the restrictions soon.
Life in Cambodia
Some things are open and others are still closed. All religious venues are still shut, however the malls and markets are open and most people are carrying on with life as normal. There are odd ways in which things are operating too. Karaoke bars are only allowed to open if they serve food as well (as then they are classed as restaurants, which have different rules. The big movie theaters are allowed to open but only to sell food from the snack bar, not to show movies. People have also been asked to refrain from going to beauty salons and hairdressers. All this, alongside the heavy-handed approach to schools, can lead to people being uncertain about the seriousness of the current situation.
No, this is not someone's name. Rather, Pchum Ben is one of the main religious festivals in the Cambodian calendar. It is a 15 day festival where Cambodians remember their ancestors and earn merit through visiting the temples and offering food to the monks there. It’s believed that during this time, the gates of hell open, allowing tortured spirits unable to pass onto the next life to enter the land of the living. Hungry, the spirits roam the earth searching for food. If they fail to find it, it is thought they will avenge their living family members and curse them.
This year the festival concludes next week and friends of ours here comment that it can feel like a spiritually dark time. Cambodian Christians are often at odds with their non-Christian families over what they should do. It can be a difficult balance between showing respect to your family but not compromising in their love for Jesus.
Finally, thank you always for your thoughts and prayers. We know that even though we are far from "home" we have so many people here alongside us, supporting us. Thank you especially for the many kind messages over the last couple of months since my (Neill's) father died. We were able to watch his funeral with no internet or power issues, and were delighted to hear the kind things said about him. We continue to miss him but thank God for his life. Please keep Mum in your prayers as she copes with life with him not in it.
Neill, Rebekah, Jonathan, Aaron and Emily.
Neill, Rebekah and family, NZCMS Mission Partners to Cambodia