Here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, we’re not under an official lockdown, but still, many things have changed. We’re in our eight week with no school, this will be our eight weekend with no church meetings and our language learning has mostly had to move online.
Cambodia, being a relatively poor country with minimal health support, is not well equipped to deal with a major virus. There are few testing kits - mainly limited to the capital city of Phnom Penh - there are no ventilators in the country and if you do have to go to hospital often your family has to be the ones to provide daily care for you.
I’m sure you’re aware that social distancing and working from home is a luxury that many people around the world just cannot afford. It’s no different here. If people don’t work, they don’t eat. They generally can’t bulk buy in advance and the lack of tourists is hitting many people hard. For many of the poor they will be affected economically much more than anything else.
On the spiritual side, it’s been disheartening to hear of some Cambodian Christians who have turned away from God at this time to lean on traditional religious practices. However, there are hopeful moments too; recently we had non-Christian Khmer friends asking us to pray for their families!
One of the biggest decisions that the government has made was to postpone the Cambodian New Year holiday and all the celebrations that go with it. This is one of the biggest holidays of the year and most people go back to their hometowns for a week to be with their families. However the government has said that, rather than travelling and potentially spreading the virus, it is safer to continue working.
As for our family, our three children have coped well which has made life easier. They won’t physically be back in school until the new school year in August however, so we’ll see how we’re all doing in a few months’ time. We have delighted in being able to spend some more time together, even if that involves playing the same board game several times a day! It’s also been lovely having “home-church” where we’ve been able to pray and sing together and tune in with various church services from New Zealand. The joys of technology!
Like all Christians around the world, we can’t give definite reasons as to why this is happening. But we can endeavour to show love to our neighbours and share the very definite hope we have in Jesus.