It's been a privilege to have an up close view of God at work in and through the lives of some Mission Partners.
Five years ago our apartment was filled with the sound of excited voices. We were in Phnom Penh and thanks to NZCMS’s subsidy we were able to offer hospitality to an ever increasing number of Mission Partners from various agencies and countries as they came into the city for respite or travelled on business. This was the first time though, that we had the chance to host a Kiwi family – their first stop as they began their Cambodia adventure.
It was an enriching experience and we were happy to repeat it a few weeks later, hosting a charming couple as they found their feet on “our side of town.”
Five years on and we were hosted by them –first by the McCormicks and then by the Sussex family, as both celebrate five years of living in Cambodia. What a grace filled time we had, seeing how God has used their time in the country to shape them and use them.
Anthony & Anne live in Battambang city in the north west of Cambodia. It's a largely rural province and the city is small and retains a village feel to much of it. They have made a lovely home there and offer hospitality to a number of visitors, including us, with simplicity and grace.
Two years ago Anthony set out to establish a social work department at World Mate Trauma hospital. We were able to visit his team: a dedicated, professional group obviously appreciative of all “Mr Anthony” had done in training them. The value of what they can offer is slowly being recognised by medical and nursing staff - they feel they could still do more if the staff understood their role. The material Anthony has prepared has been taught to others in social work and will form part of his ongoing ministry in this field.
Anne also works at the hospital, setting up a range of activities suitable for patients (who are mostly long term) and caregivers to help occupy their otherwise hours of empty time. These include books for reading, jigsaw puzzles, games, card work for crafts, knitting. And there's of course helping with paper-making, which provides the paper for card-making which is the major fund source for the materials and equipment with which Anne has equipped the department.
We saw for ourselves people’s faces light up with joy at being able to achieve something so simple as a jigsaw puzzle. We heard laughter from people playing a simple peg balancing game. We saw community and sharing happen as women gathered to be part of a team setting frames to dry in the final stage of paper making. And we heard of needs identified as stories were shared and how these could now be referred to a fully functioning Social Work Department.
In a hospital full of trauma victims, full of the very poor, the often uneducated rural villagers far from home, there is no doubt that the work of Anthony and Anne’s new departments working in very small humble ways is contributing richly to people’s lives.
Phil and Becky Sussex can also look back on five years in Cambodia. Next month they will pack up their home and their lives and fly back to begin the next stage of their journey in New Zealand. The impact they will leave behind in people’s lives is hard to measure. They all know so many people and have supported parents, staff and pupils through major upheavals at Hope International School.
We were unable to join Phil on some of his work experiences but seeing his photos and hearing his stories left us shuddering. We were able to imagine how it has been for him, a professional dentist who has had to cope with students with limited experience, a lack of modern equipment, primitive conditions, operating in the prison (when they were allowed in) and in villages, even in the back of churches. All this in the unrelenting heat of a Phnom Penh summer (and autumn and spring and winter!). Phil is currently polishing up his final lecture series to get it ready to hand over to the university and writing exam questions for the post grad oral surgery exam. Long after he has left this lecture series will be equipping future students.
We enjoyed looking over the new Hope School facility. We found it hard to believe we were in Cambodia – picture the two storied buildings, spacious classrooms and extensive grounds any modern school would aspire to. What is not evident in most schools is the atmosphere. Permeating every part of school life is the love of Christ – students and staff alike seek to live out the command of Christ to love God and to love one another. It is almost palpable! Becky continues to teach part time in the preschool class - a mini united nations! – shaping children, many of whom will become the next generation of missionaries, living cross culturally in the hope of seeing others know the love of Christ.
The kids on the surface are getting on with getting on with life. We remember them from five years ago, delighting in playing games with us and in hearing stories read. Now they are busy about their own grown up affairs: Bryn in creating props for the coming Wizard of Oz production at school, Toby as part of the back stage team fitting rehearsals in amongst his basketball and music, Pippa racing home to play with their cat and foster cat with whom she can do almost anything, and Molly showing great promise in learning the ukulele from big brother Toby.
Their home welcomed us as easily as did the family – the love of God shone through their relationships with each other and the way they ministered to us.
All too soon it was time for us to leave Cambodia again – but it was easier to leave somehow now that we had seen how faithful God is to the Cambodian people. He did send workers who stayed on when we left and he will continue to do so until all his children are gathered in. And you know what – it is all managed without our being there!