Social Work in Cambodia

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The last update posted here from the McCormicks focused on Anne’s work. But what about Anthony’s new social work project?

In the same time-frame that I have set up my programme, Anthony has set up a social work department at the hospital, starting from scratch, in an environment where social work is not well understood. This is typical of Cambodia, not just the hospital. He began in October last year, working alone initially, developing policies and writing procedures to set the department on a good footing to a professional standard.

A translator joined him and together they worked on making all the documentation bilingual, as there is very little by way of social work resources in the Khmer language. This is due to the fact that it is a relatively new discipline in Cambodia, the first students graduated from a degree programme run in Phnom Penh in conjunction with a Washington university as recently as 2012.

Two fulltime social workers and a counsellor have since joined the team. They have found, as they visit patients in the wards, that there is a huge need for their services. The lives of so many at the hospital have changed forever because of the accidents or incidents which they have experienced. The social work team works to try to help them overcome the difficulties and challenges they will face in their daily lives when they are discharged from the hospital.

Training and mentoring the social work staff is a big part of Anthony’s work and is an aspect that he enjoys.  He has developed connections with social workers in other organisations and they join his team for monthly training sessions.

Anthony feels that, like me, he is putting his past training and experience to good use and the result is lives better equipped to face a different future.

Anthony’s social work team is pictured above: Sothea (translator), Sreymom (social worker), Sitha (Counsellor), Visal (Social worker)

Nothing is wasted

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As I work away happily at the hospital these days, I can’t help but think back to all the training and experience I have had throughout my life and realise afresh that it is all being put to good use as I pursue my current role. My library training and desire to put books into the hands of Khmer people who, traditionally, are not great readers, meant that one of the first things I did when I started in this role was to purchase some books, have a trolley made by the hospital maintenance team and trundle around the wards several times a week to deliver books to the patients and their caregivers – my own mobile library!

The book trolley was cobbled together from old IV drip stands and other scrap metal from retired hospital equipment of various types! I found what I needed in a shop, photographed it, showed it to the team and, bingo – a week later I had my very own recycled trolley. It works a treat!

Almost all patients have a caregiver staying with them 24/7, as nurses in this country give out medication and do dressings, but they don’t feed, bathe or toilet their patients – those tasks are left to relatives to do.

Every day is different – I never quite know what I’ll be doing from one day to the next. My interaction with the patients is governed by the schedules of the doctors and medical staff who do the ward rounds daily. If the rounds are completed efficiently, I am able to spend some time in the mornings with patients. If there are delays, I have to work around the doctors’ schedules, which may mean little or no patient contact. If that is the case, I usually try to do some activities with the caregivers.

I have found that the best way to generate interest in what I have to offer is to take an activity into the sitting areas outside the wards and just start doing it. I am usually joined quite quickly by folk curious to see what I’m doing and before long, quite a crowd gathers and they all join in. It is obvious to me as I watch that my activities are stress-relieving, as the relatives and caregivers chat away to each other and laugh – a welcome release from the rather tense atmosphere in the wards where there is often so much pain and tragedy.

Nothing is wasted.

Sometimes I feel as if I’ve graduated from the Recycling 101 class with flying colours. I’m taken back to my Guiding days when I learned “a Guide is thrifty”, or to the times my Mum said “be careful and don’t waste anything!” Both Mum and my Guide leader would be proud of me as I really have got into recycling and making something out of nothing in a big way – a direct result of having to be a creative problem-solver as my project is reliant solely on donations (of money and resources) and currently receives no hospital funding.

Let me share some of the ways I recycle with you:

The paper I use as a base for the fabric pulp has had a previous life in the hospital office or social work department, or as pages that children in the hospital have coloured in and discarded when they have finished. The cotton fabric scraps I use in the papermaking machine are all pre-loved and started their days as clothing, bedding, towels or tiny bits of fabric of no use by Sokim who sews for the “Days for Girls” project I have started. (Visit to find out more about this worthwhile project) A tailor in the market keeps small scraps of traditional Khmer silk for me for use in trimming the cards we make My friend who runs a foot massage project which uses coconut oil products made by her staff, sends the leftover husks my way Sugarcane husks are rescued from the roadside where they have been discarded by the man who makes sugarcane drink Flowers from the Bougainvillea bushes near my room are carefully removed from the pile of pruning done by the gardener, to boil up to make dye for the more uninteresting coloured paper we produce Fabric given to me for the papermaking machine, if it is not pure cotton or linen, is redirected and is sewn into bags in which toys and games are kept and circulated to patients Scalpels past their use-by date make great mini craft knives! Many hospital patients have benefitted from donations of reading glasses from an optometrist in Melbourne, brought here by the Care for Cambodians group which visits a couple of times a year. The two most common reasons I am given when asking patients if they would like to borrow a book to look at are “Knyom ot jeh arn” (I don’t know how to read”) and “Knyom ot merl kern” (I cannot see).  While we can’t help with the first reason, the donated glasses go a long way helping people who otherwise couldn’t read the books I offer them.

I find it very satisfying to see how the various aspects of my project inter-connect and especially, how leftovers from one part of the programme, or from another hospital department, can be utilised. I continue to marvel at how God has equipped both me for the work I am currently doing, as well as the programme with resources. My room, empty except for basic furniture when I started just eleven months ago, is now bulging with equipment. My heart is warmed and a smile crosses my face when I reflect on how I am making a difference in the lives of hospital patients who have met tragedy in their lives.  That is what I came to do. Thank you, Lord!


The above post has been shortened. To see the original click here.

New Role: Asia Network Coordinator

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Asia is a region of the world that needs some of the most dedicated, strategic Gospel partnerships. The continent is a melting pot for the world’s major religions and is home to an incredible diversity of cultures. Many of its cities and economies are growing rapidly, in many places it is experiencing rapid cultural change due to globalization and many of its people have never heard the Gospel. But God is at work in Asia building his Kingdom through many emerging mission movements. NZCMS is therefore seeking to identify and work with strategic partners to support missional efforts of the Church in Asia.

To better fulfil this vision for Asia, we are establishing a new Mission Partner role based in Asia: the NZCMS Network Coordinator for Asia. This person will provide leadership and oversight for NZCMS in Asia, networking with strategic partners, identifying mission opportunities, developing synergies with our sister organisation AsiaCMS, deploying and supporting Mission Partners, and nurturing key Asian mission leaders.

The successful candidate will have a track record of significant accomplishments in mission engagement and cross- cultural/mission experience in an Asian Context.

For more information and a full job description, contact 

More hands needed

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I’ve been having a great time interacting with patients at World Mate Emergency Hospital in Battambang, Cambodia. But I have a significant problem. As it turns out, I only have one pair of hands and that isn’t nearly enough to handle all the work that needs to be done!

If you would like to help out, there is an opportunity for short term volunteers in my activity programme.  Are you planning a holiday in Asia?  Could you call in to help for a while? Drop me an email at if this interests you.

Church in Cambodia

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I figured you might be interested in finding out a little bit about what church looks like for us Sunday by Sunday.

Christianity in Cambodia has its roots in Battambang, so perhaps it is not surprising that, although there are many temples in this city, there are also around 35 Christian churches – not a bad number for a Buddhist city of around 200 000 people!

The church we attend is called Cambodia Christian Church.  The current church building was built in 2011.  Visiting and helping sick people, the elderly, widows, assisting poor children, orphans and people in need is an ongoing work of the church.  Bible lessons, English language, music instruction and song are shared throughout the week to children without cost.

The Sunday service commences at 8.30am.  The average attendance each week is around 70 people, and unlike the other churches we have attended since coming to Cambodia in 2011, there are proportionately quite a few older folk – older than us!  There are also young adults and children and often, visiting teams from Youth With a Mission, which has had a long association over the years with our church and which is very active in Battambang, due mainly to the presence of seven universities in the city.  We have teams regularly from Colorada Springs and Montana in the US.  A number of the young people in the church have had involvement with YWAM in the States and, on their return, they assist with translation as their English is usually pretty good. The service is primarily in Khmer, but translation of the main components of the service happens when there is a significant number of foreigners – which turns out to be most weeks!

A typical Sunday service opens in prayer and then we sing three or four worship songs, often songs we know – like Hillsong, as well as some homegrown Khmer songs.   Like everything here, the music is LOUD!  (Khmer people are not known for doing anything quietly and church music is no exception!).  We have a music group, consisting of a keyboard, guitar(s), drums and, sometimes, a tro –  traditional Khmer fiddle – played by an older man.

After the worship in which we all participate, there is usually a musical item from a large group of church members, both men and women.  They sing from the hymnal and the hymn is a traditional Khmer one, which is to say the tune is rather strange and unpredictable and, to my ear, not particularly musical!  Sometimes the children from the family ministry or the young adults perform a song, usually with actions, and these items are quite delightful.  Next comes the offertory (dongwaie) and we all parade up to the front of the church in a line and put our offering in a blue crate type offertory box.

Pastor Khiev Phon (pictured above) then shares the notices.  We are exhorted to pray for church members who are unwell or who have a need of some sort.   It is not unusual for the pastor to announce the passing of an older church member, or someone from another church.  There is a special fund which operates amongst the Christian community in Battambang and, when someone dies, a financial contribution is made from Funeral Association members, to help cover the cost of the funeral.  Traditionally, funerals here take place at the temple and the locals are cremated there too, but this is obviously not appropriate for Christians, thus the existence of the special fund.  Sometimes the pastor announces a special appeal, for example, to build a fence or make an addition to the roof and a second offering is received for this purpose.

Next comes the sermon but it is not usually the pastor who preaches!  He is almost 78 years old and is desperately trying to find a successor.  He usually invites one of the elders or a visiting preacher to preach.  Sometimes our American friend and retired pastor Don Whitney preaches and we can be sure of a good message – in English! – when he does.  Don is usually a quiet, reserved man – but, when he preaches, it is as if he undergoes a character change and frequently has us shouting out “Hallelujah” and “Praise the Lord” when cued!  He also loves to dance and often has us dancing as he finishes delivering his message!  Sometimes one of the YWAM group shares the message, so all up, we have quite a variety of preachers.

The service concludes with Pastor Khiev Phon reflecting briefly on the message of the sermon and praying.  We then sing the doxology and it is time to go home.

We have had a few particularly memorable services recently. One Sunday recently, the pastor introduced a new convert to the congregation – a teenage girl who had been witnessed to by her sister and had made a decision that, like her sister, she wants to follow Jesus.  These two young girls face quite a lot of opposition from their Buddhist family, so practising their faith is an ongoing challenge for them.

Perhaps the most notable service was last Sunday when the pastor shared his testimony and gave us an informative presentation about the history of the church. Pastor Khiev Phon spoke of his early years, growing up with his grandmother as his parents had separated. He became a Christian through the ministry of American missionaries and his grandparents were particularly influential in his Christian development. His grandfather was a pastor, who attended Bible School in Battambang in 1927 and began his ministry there. Mrs Ouch Dyna, Pastor Khiev Phon’s wife, has also been a Christian for many years. Her father was a Pastor and a missionary to Thailand. They have seven children and 18 grandchildren, most of whom are involved in the church, which Pastor Khiev Phon started in 1997 after quite a few years as a teacher and school principal. In his testimony he spoke of God’s miraculous intervention to save him from the hands of the Khmer Rouge soldiers, who usually killed anyone who was educated. It was a very moving occasion and concluded with us gathering around Pastor Khiev Phon and praying for him as he currently has some health issues.

I found an interesting blog on the internet about Pastor Khiev Phon.  It was written a few years ago by a YWAM team member and I recommend you read it for more information about this remarkable, yet humble man who loves and serves His Lord faithfully. Click here to read it.

To see the original post by Anne, visit their blog at

The view from above in Cambodia

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The Sussex family have returned to Cambodia after a season of Leave and Home Service here in New Zealand. Becky is returning to her role teaching at the HOPE International School. In fact, the whole family have connections to the school: the Children attend the school and Phil is on the school’s board.

The school exists to support missionary and other Christian expatriate families who are working with the people of Cambodia and the surrounding regions. The school embraces the diversity of God’s people, with over 400 students representing over 25 nationalities, from Preschool to Year 12.

Since a picture really is worth a thousand words, Phil and Becky have sent us this video clip that helps us get an idea of what the school looks like and how big it really is.

What an idea can lead to

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Some Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in New Zealand very kindly sent us up a gift so we could hold a summer camp for PWDs here in the Philippines. We excitingly started planning, looking for a good speaker and setting up other arrangements. In these two day camps we have different activities, speakers and group discussions, a fun night, swimming… and many come to Jesus. Our group is called PCFFD (Phil Christian Fellowship For Disabled).

We are way up north. I said to Leslie, our co-ordinator who is wheelchair user, whether we should consider sending a tithe of the money down south to Pastor Rod Bicaldo, a crutch user who is well known to us from the past – he was an early convert. Why send the money? So Rod could hold a similar event, even just a one day summer programme, to encourage PWDs down there. We didn’t hear back from him straight away, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t interested. In fact, he was so interested that he dove right into planning the event!! About a week later he finally answered, complete with a schedule. He even had a name for the group: PCFFD Davao Chapter.

They held their meeting at a swimming area with the theme of “Promoting Unity among PWDs in Davao City.” Close to 30 came. Pastor Rod (with crutches on the right in the image above) suggested to the group that they establish the chapter under us. They were all very willing for that and very keen to participate in the next activity. They even want to reach out to disabled people in other villages in the near future!

Please continue to pray for our work with PWDs in our area, and pray for Pastor Rod’s vision to do the same in his area.

Deadly heatwave in South Asia

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Last month a record heatwave struck parts of India killing over 2500 people. Temperatures soared to an incredible 47C in the state of Andhra Pradesh, taking the lives of 1700 people there since 18 May. As with tragedies like this, it is often the poor who are hit the hardest. Wealthier people have had better access to water and electricity for cooling, while many poorer people find their resources running thin.

Though India’s heatwave appears to be over, BBC reports that temperatures are now rising in Pakistan. Pakistan’s prime minister has called for emergency measures as the death toll from a heatwave in a southern province reached nearly 700. Emergency medical camps have been set up in the streets of a major city where the temperatures have reached 45C. As with India before, power cuts in the city have made battling the heatwave massively more difficult. Many of the local hospitals are overrun, with one doctor quoted as saying: “we are still receiving a never ending flow of patients”.

Please be praying for the people of both India and Pakistan, and pray for our friends in this general region.

Buddhism in Asia: How Can Christians Engage?

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By Hugh Kemp

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission. To receive this free bimonthly publication from the Lausanne Movement, subscribe online at We’re highlighting the article because, for NZCMS to focus more purposefully on Asia, we need to better understand Buddhism.


Christian mission among Buddhists in Asia has traditionally been ‘very hard’, not because of open conflict necessarily, but because of indifference to or misunderstanding of the gospel, or because of the way the gospel has been offered. One can easily imagine the saffron-clad monk respectfully listening to the gospel message, apparently agreeing with much that he has heard, and then not doing anything about it.

Missionaries tell stories of long years and much prayer invested in Christian witness to Buddhists, with little fruit by way of explicit conversions. There are a handful of exceptions: phenomenal church growth in China and Mongolia are two.


Buddhism throws up many challenges:

There is language which is outside of Christian experience. (What might ‘taking refuge in the Three Jewels’ mean?)

Words are used differently (emptiness, self, enlightenment).

The texts are written in Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, and Sanskrit, leading to different spellings of words (nirvana, nibbana).

There are complex words that are simply difficult to pronounce (try Ajitasenavyakarananirdesa) and concepts that are unfathomable (emptiness, nirvana).

In some cases, it is best to leave the original words: hence dhukha, nirvana, dharma, bodhi, samsara are all now widely used in English (and their equivalents in other European languages), without change or translation.


There are a number of ways that Christians could approach Buddhists:

A textual approach might ask questions like, Which texts are important? What is the canon? What is the nature of textual authority? What is the key teaching? (Some Buddhist sects gather around one particular text, like the Lotus Sutra.)

A historico-critical approach might examine historical developments of the texts, the teachings, and the praxis: have they changed as Buddhism has spread?

Phenomenology would look at what Buddhists actually do. What of ritual and festival?

Sociological: How does Buddhism work out in people’s lives and their communities? Who is involved? Why? How is leadership played out? Power and social order?

Other approaches might yield different and interesting insights: Political, Anthropological, Feminist, Philosophical, Psychological.

If a Christian engages with a Buddhist, any one of these paths will yield profitable conversation. Christians need to actually talk with Buddhists themselves rather than simply learning about them.

Buddhism worldwide

Estimates vary, but there is broad agreement that around 6% of the world’s population is Buddhist in some sense (between 350 million and 500 million, and maybe up to 1 billion). Data can be gathered from censuses, but this only measures a snapshot of self-perception. Buddhism is often mixed with local religions, whether the animism of the hill tribes of Thailand, the original Bön of Tibet, or the Shinto of Japan. Additionally, some countries have Buddhism as the official state religion (Sri Lanka), while for China (by contrast), it is simply unwise, if not impossible, to sift Buddhism from Daoism and Confucianism.

Buddhism in some form is present in over 125 countries. Nevertheless, Asia is its home. A percentage of the population who are Buddhists in each country looks approximately like this: Thailand ~87%; Cambodia ~85%; Bhutan ~84%; Myanmar ~75%; Sri Lanka ~70%; Japan ~56%; Mongolia ~55%; Laos ~53%; Vietnam ~50%; Taiwan ~27%; South Korea ~25%; Macau ~17%; Hong Kong ~15%; Singapore ~15%; Nepal ~12%; Brunei ~10%; Malaysia ~6%; and North Korea ~2%. There is also a small but significant population in India (7 million). China, with about 244 million Buddhists, is arguably home of about half the world’s Buddhists. Los Angeles, California, is actually the most diverse Buddhist city in the world, with representation of all Buddhist traditions.


Buddhism unsurprisingly ‘looks’ different in each of these countries. Buddhism demonstrates quite some variation between schools/traditions. Some are very textual and doctrinal, some ‘use’ doctrine to a point, and then discard it, and others eschew doctrine altogether. The Buddha himself said that his teaching (the dharma) was like a raft used by a person crossing a river. When he had safely reached the other shore, he could discard the raft and continue on his journey.

Many Buddhists approach Buddhism as a practice, rather than a belief. Orthopraxy is often more important than orthodoxy. In early Buddhism, new groups formed due more to issues around monastic discipline, rather than doctrinal heresy. This is in contrast to the first five centuries of Christian history where conflict—and subsequently creeds—were likely to be caused by doctrinal issues.

Buddhism is often more about techniques of doing and ethics for living. The disciple follows a path or way, using a technique towards an end (awakening/enlightenment), such as meditative practice which is claimed to lead to enlightenment, or taking vows of ordination as a monk or nun.

The main idea is to experience what the teachings and texts are offering. Rupert Gethin sums this up well:

‘The aim of Buddhism is to put into practice a particular way of living the ‘spiritual life’ (brahma-cariya) that involves training in ethical conduct (sila) and meditative and contemplative techniques (samadhi) and which culminates in the direct realization of the very knowledge (prajna) the Buddha himself reached. Therefore what the Buddha taught is often referred to in the early texts as a system of ‘training’ (siksa), and his disciples may be referred to as being ‘in training’ (saiksa) . . . Thus in certain important respects the nature of the knowledge that the Buddha was trying to convey to his pupils is more akin to a skill, like knowing how to play a musical instrument, than a piece of information, such as what time the Manchester train leaves tomorrow’.


Therefore, a Christian wishing to talk with a Buddhist in Vietnam will likely have quite a different type of conversation than talking with a Buddhist in Tibet or in Taiwan—or Los Angeles! It may be wiser not to think of a unified religion called Buddhism, but rather to think of Buddhisms, a collection of loosely related ideas and practices that is informed by a historical and textual tradition.

Zen Buddhism in Japan and Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet ‘feel’ similar, but look very different. A Nepali villager may never have heard of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, let alone articulate them. However, if you read them to her, she might say something like, ‘Oh, that’s more or less the way I see the world.’

How to engage

When a Christian seeks to engage with Buddhists, it is common experience to feel overwhelmed. The categories are complex, based on fundamental differences in worldview assumptions. Stephen Prothero rightly notes that Buddhists and Christians see the problem in the world and the answer to that problem from two completely different angles:

For a Buddhist, the fundamental human problem is suffering, and the solution is awakening, then release from samsara.

For a Christian, the fundamental problem is usually articulated as sin, and the solution is salvation/freedom in Christ.

I would recommend a respectful conversational approach, seeking to listen well so as to clarify meanings, but also being unapologetic about differences.


To continue reading and to get some practical advice about engaging with Buddhists click here.

The Family Continues to Grow

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These last few months have seen us being blessed with many people interested in becoming part of the NZCMS Mission Partner family. Only two weeks ago we welcomed Margaret Poynton and the family continues to grow! We’re delighted to welcome our latest Mission Partners, Dean and Amanda.

Dean and Amanda have an established record of cross-cultural involvement. They have spent many years on and off serving in South Asia in a variety of capacities with various organisations, focusing their efforts on coming alongside and supporting the poor. Their heart to serve the poorest of the poor has drawn them back to South Asia. They have been invited to serve with a Christian hospital association that focuses on the poor, largely in rural areas. Dean and Amanda will serve as Programme Manager for the association’s Children at Risk Programme. One of its main areas of focus is anti-trafficking. They will provide technical support for grassroots project managers, helping build capacity while networking with other organisations. Their complementary strengths and skills will bring much to the job. They return to South Asia with their two children.

For information about supporting Dean and Amanda, please contact the NZCMS office.