A wide land with nothing but one palm tree. A meadow in the middle of the outskirts, not much around it. Flooded in the rainy season. Withered in the dry season. Only a bumpy, sandy street would lead there. But there weren’t many reasons to go there. In fact, none.
OUR PROMISED LAND.
In January 2015 we started digging – not for gold. Digging in order to fill up other parts of the land. A common thing here in Cambodia. And as we were digging, we were challenged by lots of ground water which made us decide to build a lake. Water pumps would try to keep the water away. At one point, over a hundred people were putting rock after rock around the shoreline, building the so-called RipRap. Others were filling the holes with cement. Or driving soil around. Or fixing the water pump. Or the excavator. Machines are good, strong, fast – but also quickly broken. They even look like ancient monsters. However, we live in Cambodia. This is routine and we’re supposedto be relaxed even though we know, the rainy season won’t wait for us and the deadline is getting closer and closer.
Cambodia. A country where women are often looked down at, being trafficked, grow up believing they have no value, do not deserve to be loved, are not going to be forgiven after they have made a mistake. Where so many are restless, hopeless.
Cambodia. A country where women need to be encouraged, empowered and their hope revived. And sometimes they simply need to hear that they are beautifully and wonderfully made.
That’s why we held a conference only for women. Watch the overwhelming outcome.
It’s not something we can take many credits for. Yes, we have given our very best and invested much in people, tailored inputs and improvements. However, we truly have been blessed by an enormous and quick growth of our Kids and Teens ministries – which surely nobody had seen coming with such incredible force.
This does also confirm the great need in Cambodia. The youngest generation is hungry. Not just hungry for physical food – no, it’s rather a hunger for a spiritual support. Encouragement. Hope. Love. Joy. They lack it, we share it, they take it. They want more. They want their family, their friends to have it. And therefore we grow.
Some days ago, ICF Cambodia celebrated its second anniversary. On the 7th of September 2014 we had our Grand Opening in Siem Reap. Before that, ICF Cambodia already existed for about 1 year – already as a small kind of house church with celebrations on Sundays and a social arm reaching out to those in need. It simply wasn’t really official yet. We, or rather family Strupler & Co. (I started in July 2014) first wanted to pick leaders as well as get used to people and culture. From the beginning on, it grew faster than ever expected. Within a few months we had great and supportive leaders and to-become-leaders respectively on our side.
Looking back, there is uncountable stories from people who have changed immensely. Something which fascinates me again and again.
One girl was a cocktail waitress in a bar and is now our worship singer and preaches in the ONEIGHTY (youth) celebration.
Cambodian kids smile. Not always maybe, but very often. Especially when they see some white faces. They love them, it might be because in the villages they live they don’t see them too often. Or because white faces often say hello and wave. A Cambodian wouldn’t do that. There is too many kids in this country – too exhausting. Nonetheless, there is more in a life of a child than white faces and a smile. It might be shown in their dark eyes. Rather sad facts. Malnutrition, child labour, child trafficking, death of a parent, … – you name it. And, even if it is – in comparison – only as “small” as the lack of love or attention or being neglected. It carves into their hearts and the older they get the deeper the cut will be.
There is treatment, though.
According to John F. Kennedy, former president of the USA, children are “the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future”. Period. This is why we need to protect the smallest and weakest and give them back what the past of Cambodia – its war and genocide – had stolen years ago: Love. Recognition. Dignity. Belief in themselves. Attention. Faith. Encouragement. Hope. Childhood. An unending list. You can’t buy these. But you can give them. That is, what we made to our mission at ICF Cambodia.
A restart is a new beginning. When people surrender their life to God, it is a restart. They want to start a life completely with God and will start to walk through life with him as friend, father and counselor. This has only been made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. As a sign towards the seen and the unseen world, they get baptized in water – representing the old life, the old habits and sins washed away and starting entirely forgiven.
Exactly for this purpose, we held a Restart Festival on Easter Saturday. It took place under the roof on our Campus. About 400 people joined this special occasion. It was an evening celebration with a lot of worship. ND shared the four points which explain the Gospel in a very easy way: “God loves me. I have sinned. Jesus died for me. I need to decide to live with God.”
Later on, we had baptisms in our lake. It was beautiful to see, how over 30 people decided to follow God and were baptized with water. They not only received a brand new bible, but also personal prayer and blessings.
Let’s party! Within seconds after the baptisms, the roof turned into a spacious dance floor where we shook our bodies and celebrated the new believers as well as Jesus.
It’s high time I spread some exciting news about our Campus!
First of all, we have changed the name. Please note, no ELEVATE CAMPUS anymore. Since the beginning of this year, we only have on name: ICF CAMBODIA – therefore we call what used to be the ELEVATE CAMPUS now ICF CAMPUS. This change enables us to work more transparent and straightforward within the community. Our goal is to spread the gospel while breaking the cycle of poverty. Same vision. Same tasks. Same goal. But only one name! Well, that might have not been too exciting yet. But it goes on……
We are happy and proud to announce that …
SIEM REAP has finally its FIRST PLAYGROUND !
This was only made possible thanks to a team from YWAM Perth. With a lot of creativity and energy they served us within the last few weeks. They accepted the challenge to build a playground, using not much more than tires, bolts and wood. It started with doing research, measuring and drawing plans after plans until they had finally figured out how to order the different obstacles. With lots of confidence and (almost) unlimited possibilities they dreamt of a mind-blowing experience for kids in every age. Filled with passion for the Khmer youth, they sweated, dug wholes into the ground and connected tire to tire.
Khmer. The language of the kingdom of wonder – CAMBODIA. Khmer sometimes does make me wonder. But let’s begin with the facts about this rather interesting language: The Khmer language is mostly spoken in Cambodia and a tiny minority in south Vietnam as well as in Thailand at the border to Cambodia speak Khmer, too. That’s about 16 Mio. people all in all. Just as in Switzerland or other countries, they have lots of different dialects. And it’s not said, that everybody understands everybody. Finally, they use one official language with normal grammar rules for writing. There is no other language like Khmer – neither written nor spoken. At the same time, it has influenced and been influenced by Thai, Lao, Vietnamese and Chinese. All of these languages (and some more) are still being used in Cambodia by minor foreign groups. Since Cambodia was occupied by France, it also has some words in French.
An official transliteration system for the Latin alphabet doesn’t exist. No surprise, that everybody creates his own system. Khmers and foreigners alike are writing with the latin letters how ever they feel like. So don’t blame me when you learn following words with my description and then when you say them, nobody understands you 😉
I don’t know, if there is many better things to do during Christmas time than actually organizing a KIDS CHRISTMAS PARTY for hundreds of Cambodian Kids. Another event we’ve never done before. And the first biiig event on our Campus. I love pioneering. Challenges keep my life running 😉
For Khmers, Christmas might be just another ordinary day. However, for us it’s a great opportunity to spread LOVE, JOY, FUN, …..
Read here how you can add your own part to the this year’s Christmas story:
A few days ago, I got a rather special task which I first really didn’t like but turned out to be quite interesting: On Elevate Campus, we got the delivery of the sheet metal which we would use to cover the roof of our Kids Church. Since we prefer double-checking everything and everyone, I needed to organize a tool to take meassures of the thickness of the sheet metal. No really good construction shop has dared to come to Siem Reap yet, therefore, I started at the sheet metal dealer. With my Khmer friend, I tried to explain, what I need. I had no idea what to call that thing in German, let alone English and she didn’t know in Khmer either. There was not much else left than to describe using hands and feet. The kind lady behind the desk smiled at us and replied that she didn’t have it and also had no idea if that was existent in Cambodia at all. Awesome. I asked her a bit unbelieving, whether she would ever control the deliveries. She – still smiling – went, no, that’s not necessary, the deliverer would only send the right stuff. Oh, I see. From such strong trust I need a piece!
From then on, I went searching by myself. Translation or not – anyways, it will not be easy. Firstly, I rode to the “Bosch”-Shop – pretty much the only one which sells good tools. Quickly, I had to detect that her English was worse than my Khmer. Stupidly, I had found it unimportant to memorize the words “thickness” and “taking meassures”. How foolish. Well. There was the other – seller or customer or angel? – who knew both languages surprisingly well. I explained him, what I was searching, he explained her and BLING! she understood. From a dusty corner she brought a tool with which you could take meassures as exact as millimeters. What a pity, that the sheet metal is thinner than 1mm. Well, let’s go then. The seller/customer/angel added incidentally that I should try in the jewellery section in Psah Leu – the local market. And disappeared. Without me having thanked him. I quickly took a photo – could be of use later – and looked again for the other guy. But I couldn’t find him. Weird.Maybe really an angel … ?
This entry is different from anything you have read here before. It’s about the other side. A honest reflection and probably something you don’t expect.
It’s been a year. Actually more than a year already since I left Switzerland. I remember it as good as if it had been yesterday even though it seems to be an eternity away. My journey was comfortable, took over 30 hours, within which I had to change the airplane three times. Yes, I do a lot to save money. And yes, I also missed a plane due to a delay of the one before. Smile. And if I had considered it as a “crazy challenge” that time (I didn’t), I would laugh at those thoughts nowadays. There is far bigger challenges in a life abroad. In a life as a volunteer in an entirely foreign surrounding with heaps of situations you have to face, to cope with, to get used to.
I’ve been asked many times, what is THE biggest challenge. Well, that’s not an easy question. And I guess, everyone in our team would answer it differently.
From my point of view, there is none. There is no BIGGEST challenge. It is the combination of various obstacles which appear sometimes to be bigger, sometimes smaller, sometimes don’t appear at all – probably depending on time, recent happenings and problems, mood.