The following post is from one of CBF’s newly approved field personnel, Bill Peeler. He and his wife, Noy, will serve in Cambodia. Visit their field personnel page to support their ministry.
It’s time to sit back a while and start thinking about how to put this adventure down in writing. Noy and I just got back from six weeks in Cambodia, the last two of which were spent working with the Southeastern Medical Team in Siem Reap Province, an intense two weeks of going house to house in remote villages sharing the love of Christ through the compassionate practice of medicine applied with a massive dose of prayer.
This is the fourth year running we’ve had the privilege to serve with these dedicated professionals and lovers of God and neighbor. You have to understand that the people we visited are for the most part left to suffer their illnesses, debilities, and afflictions with scant means of alleviating them. This makes for a Stoic race of people. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see that what they must endure is always right there hidden behind the friendly smiles and just around the corner right behind the reflection in their eyes.
I’m calling this account “From Here to Kingdom Come” because that’s what’s happening in Cambodia. The Kingdom of God is coming to that land. Cambodia was once the mightiest kingdom in all of Southeast Asia up until about a thousand years ago. In fact, big chunks of eastern Thailand, southern Vietnam, and parts of Laos were part of that great kingdom. It was called the Angkor Empire.
All that’s left of it today are the weathered stones of those splendid temples, their once proud towers poking through the jungle canopy like the skeletons of the terrible dinosaurs that once roamed the earth, now restored and reassembled in a vast, open-air museum bereft of their flesh and blood and lust for power. And then there are the remnants of the massive waterworks, the great pools and reservoirs where the concubines of warrior kings splashed and bathed and the slaves that served them poled them out among the blooming lotuses in long, slender skiffs of teak. And out of the rubble of that impoverished, war-torn land a far greater kingdom is taking root, like the little mustard seed, a kingdom that will not weaken or fall, will not crumble into piles of massive stone entwined in the serpentine roots of ancient forest trees, but where peace will reign and no longer will there be any war, neither by sword nor gun nor hoards of demons.
Now, you may believe in demons or not, but to the average Cambodian, their presence and power to menace are only too real as evidenced by the amulets, rituals, relics, and tattoos dedicated to the spirits of the air, the earth, the water, and the dead. Theirs is not merely some intellectual nod to the existence of these ethereal beings either, but it is with fear and trembling that they serve these invisible masters.
Our strategy in this landscape of the living and the dead was not to do clinics where we would treat as many people as possible, but to visit as many families in their homes as we could. We wanted to spend time with them while treating their aches and pains rather than merely dispensing medical treatment. In the relative privacy of their homes, which are mostly little more than huts and shacks, and to the degree “privacy” is understood in a culture where the whole extended family and a few neighbors may be present, we had the privilege of getting to know the people and letting them get to know us, telling them why we had come from so far away, and about the one who loves them most for whose sake we went there in the first place.
It was (how best can I say this?) a beautiful thing to behold, to be paid for our services with hospitality and gratitude. I have discovered you can make a decent living off of that. We divided ourselves up into two and sometimes three teams when we had as many interpreters for we had among us three doctors, four pharmacists, and three nurses. In addition there was our team leader, and two others whose qualifications were not medical but that they love God with all their being and their neighbor as themselves. Then rounding out the team were Noy and me to lay out the course, connect with our national partners, and interpret for the team.
In addition we had for four days Kevin, who took time out of his own fast-paced schedule to help us with his language skills in Khmer. I don’t know that anyone could have put together a better composite consisting of people whose abiding desire is to offer themselves and their skills for the purpose of telling the story about Jesus through word and action.
Another important aspect of our strategy is how we worked it so that the whole enterprise would have continuity long after we had left for the States. Noy and I came to Siem Reap prior to the team’s arrival. I had done as much as possible to prepare for them before we left home by arranging via email for lodging and ground transportation. Purchasing meds would be no problem. There are three or four good pharmacies we have always used in town.
But I needed to make personal contact with our local church leaders, that is, the national partners with whom we had cultivated solid relationships over the years before when we lived and worked in Cambodia, men and women who would be crucial to the success of our mission. These are the faithful believers who labor long and hard in the vast, flat fields of souls to bring the Gospel to their people. They would be the ones who would lead us into the villages seeking out the sick and the lost. They would be the ones to introduce us and vouch for us. And they would be the ones to follow up on the work our team had done to spread the word of hope and goodwill in the name of Jesus. Our purpose was to use our efforts to help them advance their labors for greater fruition.
First we worked with Pastor Han and his wife and Pastor Risa and his wife, in Kompong Kdei and Chi Kreng District. Then Pastor Vansan and his wife in Phlong Village in Leang Dai Commune situated in the Angkor Thom District . He also went with us to Kdol Village in Kralahn. Kdol Village is where Pastor Sok Chhay lives and ministers with his two daughters. After that we worked in Krebei Riel with Pastor Thoeur and his wife together with the men who serve with him.
All these places are spread out across Siem Reap Province over an area that is 130 km long and several kilometers wide on either side of the National Hwy 6 corridor with the town of Siem Reap positioned right smack in the middle on the northern end of the Tonle Sap. Last of all we took the team to the War Museum where Noy and I had made some new friends in the weeks before the team arrived. These were the war veterans who had seen the worst of times and yet had managed to cheat death and live to tell the tale. They are missing an arm or a leg or two in most cases. All that they had witnessed, done, and suffered during that time lay quietly stored in their memories behind the friendly faces and warm hospitality with which they treated us.
Noy and I are both war veterans ourselves. It was all the same war really, so we naturally felt a certain affinity with these tough-minded fighters whose struggle to live continues day by day right up to the present time. So what can I really say about them all in just a few lines when it would take a book to do them justice?