Sunday, November 22, 2015

2015 Cambodia Cabinet Mission: Temple Ruins, Living Churches

November 19, by Matt Curry

Our last day in Cambodia was marked by visits to three remarkable temples --- culminating at Angkor Wat. These heritage sites are notable for many reasons: religious significance, artisanship, architectural achievement, popularity, historical importance, and more. I’ve been told that Angkor Wat is both the largest religious site in the world and the second most visited tourist site in the world. 

As this was our last day in Cambodia, I can’t help but look back at the entire week and draw some comparisons. We began our Cambodia Mission journey with the privilege of opportunity of dedicating the parsonage and chapel in Okroch. What Angkor Wat represents in magnificent scale and artisanal details, the Nugent Chapel more than makes up for in the intentions of the faith community; both the simple chapel and the ancient temple are monuments to faith … shared places steeped in prayer. While Okroch Methodist Church will never draw crowds by the millions, it will form the lives of the children who play in its yard and the families and individuals who pray and worship there.

I meditate on my experience in these sacred places, I can’t help but hum the song we offered in worship this past Sunday in Okroch: 

“Lord, prepare me to be a Sanctuary; 
Pure and holy; tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living; Sanctuary for you.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015

2105 Cabinet Cambodia Mission: Different Country, Familiar Issues

November 18 by Rev. Ken Kieffer

Today we visited the Cambodia Methodist Bible School in Phnom Penh. I’m guessing we arrived later than we were expected because the traffic en route could have made even the most seasoned NYC cabbie give up driving. Picture every type of person driving every type of vehicle on the same two-lane road at the exact same time.

There are a couple buildings on the Cambodia Methodist Bible School (CMBS) compound, but it hasn’t always been that way. A few years ago, students actually slept in their classrooms, arising as early as 4 in the morning in order to prepare the room for learning and prepare themselves for early morning worship. Fortunately, thanks to the partnership of several significant sponsors, dorms were built for the students.

We met a handful of 4th year students. Of the group gathered (one young woman and 4 young men) one hoped to be a professor and the remainders aspired to become pastors. We didn’t spend a great deal of time with them, but with the courage, faith, and strength that they have already demonstrated to get even this far, they will be a wonderful blessing to the church of Jesus Christ.

After poking our collective heads out of their classroom, we stopped in the “Cabinet room” upstairs and visited with the 11 District Superintendents in the United Methodist Church in Cambodia. Despite our differences, I was struck by the fact that their problems are the same ones we in NYAC’s cabinet struggle with every day – a short supply of resources to do the ministry we would like to offer, buildings that are inadequate, and finding just the right pastor for each of the congregations under our care.

We covenanted to be in prayer for one another and considered the possibility of working together towards the lofty but shared goal of making disciples for the transformation of the world.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2015 Cabinet Cambodia Mission: Transforming Love, Fellowship and Hope

Monday, 18 November, Rev. Denise Smartt Sears wrote:

Today we moved at a much slower pace, it was still about 91 degs F but our outdoor exposure was limited. Our visit to the District Superintendent’s home was a great reminder of what the church is. A community, a place for sisters and brothers to live, learn and love God and one another. When we entered the pastors were engaged in bible study, while younger children were in a classroom (nursery school setting). Living room area is where they hold worship, some instruments were alongside the wall, and upstairs is where they live. There was a room for men, the women and another room for the DS and his family. The laundry was hanging outside to dry, the house was “full” of god, love and fellowship. Their attitudes were just as full – they expressed gratitude, love of God, love of each other. There was a genuine openness.

My mind reflected on these words: “But you are a chose race, a royal priesthood a holy nation, God’s own people in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into the marvelous light. Once you were no people, but now you are God’s people. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10) Let your light so shine before others, so they may see your good works, and glorify your God in heaven (Matt. 5:16).  This is my prayer.

Tuesday November 17, Ross Williams wrote:

Today started with breakfast at the hotel. Around a large table we chatted about Sam’s moving recollections and reflections of his time and service under the Khmer Rouge. Hearing the stories first-hand was a sat yet valuable experience. I imagine some of us, like me, are anxious about what we will see and feel as we tour the Killing Fields later today.

We next met with the staff of GBGM who operate the only such office in Cambodia (photos). Their mission work appears to be immensely rewarding but also very challenging as they must raise much of their own financial support. It was a wonderful morning filled with praise to God in the form of Songs, devotion led by Rev. Tim Riss and spirit-filled connections.

The group went on to tour the Tuol Sleng detention center, which is now the genocide museum. My own emotions ranged from anger, disgust and a profound sadness. The museum is an important reminder of the presence of evil in the world. May the Cambodian people continue to embrace the light of Christ to prevent any such human catastrophe for occurring again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

2015 Cabinet Cambodia Mission - Words of Healing and Hope

Sunday, November 15, 2015 by Rev. Tim Riss, DS Catskill Hudson District

Today was a very big day! We went to Okroch to participate in the dedication of their new parsonage and church building, which will also be a community gathering point and maybe a school. Already World Vision has said they would hold a training event there. Many dignitaries were there – The D.D., the Mission Superintendent, nearby pastors, the pastor of Okroch Methodist Church, the chief of the village and half a dozen other official, plus a friendly Buddhist priest. Six Cambodian teen aged girls performed a dance, a dozen girls were in a youth choir, maybe two dozen were in children’s choir, and we had three adults singing groups: a half dozen singers including the pastor and his wife, a group of a dozen (including the composer) who sand a new song in honor of the occasion and the nine of us from New York Annual Conference. Bishop Middleton preached a wonderful sermon on becoming living stones (1 Peter 2:4-10) who would be added on top of Jesus, the cornerstone and Peter, the Rock (Matthew 16:13-20), to form a great building for God.

There were many prayers, and after a couple of hours flew by, we had a sumptuous feast of broiled chicken and fish (garlic and ginger on the fish), with vegetables and rice. Afterwards we went next door to see the pastor’s house and the building in which the church formerly met. A bus ride deep into the village followed. There we found the Samrath Methodist Church and the dormitories for 59 girls and 9 boys who were attending a nearby school. We toured the dormitories, and Bishop Middleton engaged the 7th through 12th grades in conversation. Eventually we went into the church building (built with help from the Louisiana Annual Conference), and we heard choirs again. Our part was to lead a Bible Study, created by Rev. Betsy Ott, DS of New York – Connecticut district. She engaged the teens in Bible Study around Theodicy, drawing from a sudden disability visited upon her son when he was in Cambodia, but later healed through prayer. Rev. Ken Kieffer, DS of Connecticut, helped the young people ask questions of God in relation to Luke 13:1-5.

Afterwards, we visited the pastor’s home (which had once housed the church as well, and a women’s economic ministry across the street. These women are taught to raise pigs and chickens effectively for market. We prayed with a woman there who was suffering with an enlarged heart. We hope her tears were a sign of her healing. We came back then to our quarters in Kampong Thom and had another wonderful meal. The weather was strange. There was smoke all around and many insects. People said perhaps it was a sing of rain – in the dry season! Climate change is of great concern here.

God has given us many blessings on this trip. It’s our prayer that we, ourselves, have been given as a blessing to the sweet, friendly people in The Methodist Church of Cambodia.

2015 Cabinet Cambodia Mission - A Growing Church, A Different World

Rev. Betsy Ott, DS New York-Connecticut District, writes:

Reflection after a long day. We learned about the growing church in Cambodia. Scholarships for boys and girls to attend college and universities -$500 a year. $800 for engineers, $1,500 for doctors. Trying to keep educated young people in Cambodia. Trying to keep them out of trouble, sex traffic in Thailand. Then we rode 4 hours to be present for the dedication of a new church and parsonage. The parsonage is a huge blessing and will help make the appointment of pastors possible. Up until now Pastors have been living in their own homes and farming to supplement their income. Elders here make $100 per month and our equivalent of local pastors, $70 per month. There is no pension or health care provided. But the church is growing and changing and changing. And parsonages will help support pastors and their families.

Our ride took us through country with rice paddies, sugar cane fields, lots of Brahman bulls everywhere. There were grass huts and small houses on raised stilts with tin or tile roofs. Shops press against the road in the cities and villages and architecture is a mix of old French style and the very new merging with Buddhist pagodas and statues of the Kingdom of Cambodia. We saw the people from our bus. Working in the fields, laying bricks, managing small family, children playing as children always do, young adults on bikes and scooters, a man peddling a huge load of wood, rubber plantations, small fishing boats on the river, a woman in her hammock on the porch of her home in the heat of the day, children selling fruit to tourists … mid ride rest stop. “Pineapple lady? Earn money – Go to school.”

There is a Boom going on here. Out of the brokenness comes beauty – life from the crash of the past. War, Khmer Rouge. The People are working hard to build their lives. And we are a presence. Blessed to be present. Ready. For what? We’re not sure but we belong to God and God will take us there. We’re on a journey. Ken said, In Incheon in ten minutes he heard fur Elise from the Motown carts, re-enactment of the
Korean king and queen from the historic past, and heard strings playing the Beatles. The world is very small and for us, getting smaller as our community becomes larger. We are learning through it all, and growing as God plans.

Monday, November 16, 2015

2015 Cabinet Mission: Building Lives of Hope for Young Cambodian Women

The 2015 NYAC Cabinet mission trip has been experiencing bonds of fellowship and support as they have been visiting the works of the Holy Spirit supported by the time, treasure and talent of New York Annual Conference members and friends in Cambodia.  Cabinet member Ross Williams has been posting dozens of amazing photos of these events, which are included in our blog photo collection. A key visit was to a dormitory for girls supported by NYAC. Ross writes:

"The Samreth Methodist Church runs a dormitory primarily for girls because most family resources are directed to sons vs. daughters. Education and options for girls in Cambodia are extremely limited. We brought and handed out school supplies and learned about the strong academic performance of the children that live in the dorm behind the church. These girls will become future professionals and leaders within their communities."

The options for young women in Cambodia are often not wholesome, so being able to intervene with the support of the dormitory is a crucial step towards creating lives of dignity and hope where neither had existed.

Also on the Cabinet's agenda is taking in the rich culture and heritage of Cambodia, to understand its ways and to get a taste - literally! - of a different way of life. Don't look too carefully at some of these offerings in a local market - not what you'd find in your neighborhood supermarket!

When people go on mission trips, they forge bonds of fellowship with local people that can last a lifetime, bonds that change lives both here and there. If you haven't already experienced a NYAC VIM mission trip or you know of someone who might benefit from this experience, consider how you might help to enable these transformations in places all over the world that transform people in this nation to see themselves and our world differently.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 Cabinet Cambodia Mission - A Blessed Dedication

The NYAC Cabinet team has had a wonderful day filled with many blessings, as you can see from the following photos. More photos from the dedication of the church and parsonage in our mission village may be found here:

Saturday, November 14, 2015

2015 Cabinet Mission - Welcome to Cambodia!

After a long journey, with a layover at Seoul's Incheon airport, the NYAC Cabinet team is safely in Cambodia and getting oriented. All photos from the trip may be viewed here.

Betsy Ott writes:
The sleep was wonderful.  We’re in Phnom Penh today. Hot and humid – very big change from home.  People smile and are friendly. View from our hotel out the front and across the street – sunrise over the water.  Gorgeous and a gift of God to start our day.
Galled by God to wonder and God wonders with us.  God is there when we arrive.  We are blessed to be a blessings.

Friday, November 13, 2015

2015 Cabinet Trip - Traveling to Korea

November 12, 2015  by Betsy Ott

With a variety of experiences getting to the airport, we gathered for prayer and boarded our plane.  Not sure what to expect, what we will see, taste, touch, feel, hear, smell  … only one this is certain, it will be a new experience for each of us and God goes before us to .. the way.

We have left behind our families, loved ones, friends and work to take on new responsibilities and opportunities. We are blessed.  Let’s be a blessing to others.  Off to Cambodia.  Godspeed!

November 13, 2015

An entire day in the plane to Incheon and now time for walking through the airport.  Korean cultural exhibit and photo ops (see pictures).  Walking so much as we can.  There is a chapel here!  And showers free WiFi and massages  available. Quite a cultural difference.  Raining about 52 deg F

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NYAC VIM 2015 Cabinet Mission - Learning from Cambodia and Korea

The Cabinet is going to Cambodia and Seoul Korea!

Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, New York Annual Conference Mission Coordinator, writes:

Our Bishop, Rev. Jane Middleton, along with District Superintendents: Rev. Denise Smartt Sears, Metropolitan District, Rev. Elizabeth Ott, New York /Connecticut District, Rev. Timothy Riss, Catskill Hudson District, Rev. Kenneth Keiffer, Connecticut District, and Rev. Sungchan Kim Long Island West District, Mr. Ross Williams, Chief Financial Officer, Rev. Matthew Curry, Director of Connectional Ministries, and I are headed on a Mission Journey.

Some of us have never traveled on a Mission Journey before, and some are very seasoned. Together we anticipate a very meaningful time as a group. We ask for your prayers as we take this journey. One of our many highlights will be the dedication of Okroch Methodist chapel (see photo 1) and the parsonage (photo 2) on Sunday November 15, 2015.  We plan to have Bible study and fellowship at Raksmei and Samrath Methodist churches. We will celebrate the Women’s ministry Livelihood projects. 

We plan to interact with Cambodia Methodist Bible School students and members of the Phnom Penh Methodist Church;  AND  we plan to see the Genocide Museum, Killing Fields, and Angkor Wat, a temple complex and largest religious monument in the world, considered to be the 7th Wonder of the World.

Our journey starts November 12th 2015 but the mission partnership between Methodist Mission in Cambodia and NYAC started years ago. In 2010 NYAC funded the purchase of the land at Okroch for the building of a church and a parsonage when Rev. Romeo del Rosari, the Director of MMC invited the NYAC Youth Ambassadors in Mission to worship at Okroch. (see photo 3).  Since then the relationship has been blossoming and will be strengthened during our visit.

We are excited to be part of the naming of the chapel within the new Okroch Methodist Church. It will be named Randolph Nugent Chapel in honor of Rev. Dr. Randolph Nugent. Rev. Nugent served as the Executive Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries for many years and was the first to appoint and bless the first missionary to Cambodia Mission.

After we leave Cambodia, we will visit Seoul Korea where we will be hosted by the Incheon Methodist Church for 4 days. There we will tour the DMC, and the Appenzeller Museum which is Korea's first western style modern educational institution and was established in 1885 by the American missionary Appenzeller.

I invite you to join us on this mission journey with you prayers and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.