Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Final Thought

It has been almost 2 months since our team has gotten back from SE Asia. Despite our new experience, our endless hours of sensory bombardment, and our extreme exhaustion, I, speaking on behalf of the group, have managed to get back into our common and comfortable living style. It's strange how quickly I've readjusted; I mean it has only been 2 months. It feels as if I was dreaming and that memory is starting to fade away. My busy seminarian life, my responsibilities and duties started to put aside the amazing experience I have encountered. Couple of days after our return, I was telling tails of our epic journey. But now, I need to retell my own story just to remember... I hope this video will remind me of my experience in SE Asia.

Southeast Asia 2011 from Megan Hunt Fryling on Vimeo.

(Direct Video Link)

More to Come

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SE Asia Trip

Today was amazing, filled with thought provoking experiences. After we checked out of our hotel in Siem Reap, we first went to visit a recently constructed well that was partially funded by our contributions. Helping to build wells in poorer neighborhoods is an important part of Pastor Samuel’s ministry in Cambodia, helping to spread the gospel through acts of Christian love. The well only cost $450.00 to construct and will provide multiple families in the neighborhood with clean drinking water for years to come.

After visiting the well, we took the van a little farther out from Siem Reap and caught a boat ride to the “floating village.” The village rests on the river quite a long way from the road with roughly 250 families living there. Residents of the village needed to sell the land they were previously living on to settle various debts, and thus they’ve been forced to build small shacks that float on large bamboo pontoons in the water. Living so far from the road, the villagers are forced to make a meager income fishing and hunting snakes, and have little access to proper schooling and healthcare.

Despite such difficult conditions, many of the folks living in the village would smile and wave as we road by. Christians are quite active in the floating village, ministering to a small but increasing number of families and running a primary school. Near the end of our tour we stopped at a small deck restaurant where Pastor Samuel and another pastor sort of summed up their experience as Christians in Cambodia. The sense of call, dedication and focus in both pastors despite great adversity was both impressive and instructive while thinking about my own call to public ministry. – Dustin

SE Asia Trip

22 January 2011

This trip has been one big whirlwind of a time. Yesterday we went from visiting prison S21 in Phnom Penh to taking a bus across the Cambodian countryside and into Siem Reap after spending only two nights in Phnom Penh.

S21 is the prison where educated and rich Cambodian people were taken to be tortured and detained before they were sent to be murdered at the Killing Fields, which we had visited two nights prior. This conflict was one of which I was totally unaware until coming to Cambodia. I am still not very clear on why it all happened, but what I understand is that the new government in Cambodia was striving for equality for all people and the easiest way to accomplish this was to eliminate the rich and educated folks. Over the course of 4 years, over a million lives, men, women, and children, were destroyed in order to create a just society.

The other day we witnessed the bones and old clothes at the Killing Fields; at the prison today we saw those but also very graphic photographs, the cells where people were detained and tortured, and some of the torture devices actually used on people in that prison. I find that more and more this trip I feel the weight of human sin, something I want so desperately not to be real or to be able to ignore. But I cannot ignore the pictures of real people, emaciated from starvation. I cannot ignore the pictures of dead bodies, bodies that had been abused and broken in order to gain information, and then the people eliminated when they were no longer useful. I cannot ignore the torture devices in that museum along with the paintings on the wall showing how they are used. And I cannot ignore that all these things were done in the effort toward a better Cambodia, in the name of the greater good.

People inflict very horrible acts on other people; I know that in my head, but have not really seen it so blatantly laid out before me or felt it quite so keenly. The worst part about it is that the capability to do these horrible things is within each of us; THAT is the power of sin. It is hard during this trip of visiting war memorials and genocide museums to not get crushed under the weight of that sin; it lays very heavily upon my heart, especially knowing that I am no different from the people who perpetrated the violence. I do not know how non-Christians deal with the tragedies and traumas caused by sin; I imagine I would be adrift in a sea of melancholy and confusion all the time if not for the promises of God to comfort me and make me hope for a better time, a new creation. I am still feeling a bit crushed under the weight of it all, but in writing this blog I am able to work through some of that and remember the joy and hope that God gives. Thanks be to God for the gift of forgiveness and new life!

--Julie Recher

23 January 2011

Today was a lovely break from some of the more heavy aspects of the trip; we got to visit Angkor Wat and many of the surrounding temples, as well as spend some time in the market. Going back to yesterday’s blog and thinking about the different ways people can cope with the weight of human sin, I realize we do not have the monopoly on peace and hope. The temples were sometimes Buddhist, and sometimes Hindu, but whichever they were, they remain to this day places of tranquility and sacred spaces. While these temples were overrun with tourists snapping pictures (like us!), there was still a sense of the sacred for me, a recognition of the time and effort it took to build the temples and carve all of the intricate details to not only share the story visually but to memorialize it, to venerate it. There is holiness in the thought that people came to these temples seeking a connection with the divine for centuries. The stairs and the walkways were well worn from worshipers as well as travelers, and many ways to follow the story throughout the temple buildings. Symbolism abounds; I wish I knew more about it. We are so blessed to be in these places, experiencing history and culture in such a tangible way.

SE Asia Trip

Hey readers .. it's been awhile since we posted anything. We had some issues with the internet and long hours of traveling has really taken a toll on us, but have no fear I'll be treating you guys with 3 blogs to read! Enjoy~ Pictures will be up later

A man pushed a gate open as our van pulled inside the entrance to the Phnom Penh Bible School. There was a brick pavilion on the left that was neatly lined with picnic tables. Bright yellow buildings formed a U shape around a quad —a volleyball net in the center. Each building was open. Instead of walking through a main door to a building and having to navigate the halls from inside, the hallways were outside with the sun reflecting off the tile floors.

As I stepped out of the van into the warm sunlight, I had a flashback to Philadelphia. I pictured trekking across Germantown Avenue in ten feet of snow: my face bundled in a scarf.

And I thought: I can totally transfer here.

We were greeted by Anna: the registrar for the Bible school. We sat at a large wooden table and listened to how Phnom Penh Bible School was the first Bible school to open after the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement on October 23, 1991. This agreement allowed Cambodia to have freedom of religion; therefore, the Phnom Penh Bible School was officially recognized by the government in 1992.

We had the opportunity to sit in on a class that was not spoken in English. We sat in a line in the back of the classroom observing how the teacher and students interacted with one another. The students did not bat an eye as a gecko walked up the yellow wall. There were no laptops, just graph paper that each student wrote notes on.

At first, it thought this classroom couldn’t be any different than LTSP; however, I quickly saw how similar it was. The students and professor laughed together, asked each other questions, and were engaged with one another. They were a community.

We had the opportunity to worship with the students and faculty of the school. The chapel was open as well with birds chirping and flying around the chapel during the service. Two students lead the community in song with the accompaniment of two guitars, a keyboard, and drums.

I did not understand the words, but I appreciated the beauty of the student’s voices. As the second song started to play, I immediately recognized the tune to “How Great Thou Art.” The students and faculty of the Phnom Penh Bible School sang in Khmer, we sang in English. Our voices swirled in unison and starkly contrasted one another beautifully.

After chapel, we had the opportunity to eat with the students. As I sat at a table, I was greeted with a warm smile and quickly started to get to know the girl sitting next to me. We would ask one another questions, often stumbling to understand one another. As we got to know one another, we learned that our live couldn’t be more different.

She was 21. I am 24.

She has six siblings. I am an only child. She commented that my parents must be able to show me a lot of love, while I was amazed by the idea of living with six siblings.

She has a best friend she referred to as her sister. I have a best friend who I refer to as “my BFF.”

She was wearing a long skirt and a long sleeve shirt with gem buttons as I had sweat beads on my forehead even though I was wearing a short sleeve shirt and skirt. She told me how she likes it when it’s warmer, but that was about as warm as I would ever like to be.

She went to church for the first time in order to learn English. I went to church because my Dad took me each week for as long as I can remember.

Her parents do not believe in God, and this is a source of pain for her. It’s a source of tension in her relationship with her parents. She goes home each weekend, and often her parents ask her to stay home rather than going back to Bible school.

However, despite our differences, we were similar. In that moment, we were able to connect with one another and learn from one another.

As I sat down in the van and it started to pull away, I was struck by the beautiful silliness of the world. She and I live on opposite ends of the world, in completely different cultures, and yet we are connected to one another—we can grow together even if it was for that short lunch. - Joanna

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 5/6 SE Asia Trip

8:54 pm Thursday

Goodbye Saigon, Hello Cambodia!
After 6 hours of bus ride we have arrived at Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Tristan

We're in Phnom Penh. And yes; after the long and bumpy bus ride we made it!. We met with Pastor Samuel Chim (sp?). What a very kind and pleasant spirit. He took us to the Killing Fields. What an emotional visit it was, at least for me. We all learned what happened and why the killings happened to men, women and children. Those who were educated or related to the same were the targeted population for annihilation. The trickery also into bringing persons into the country to be educators only to then make this a time for their demise as well and for the reason they were brought to the country!?! At one point I shed a few tears in hearing these details and also while viewing the remaining skulls, teeth, bones and graves. Why people do what they do; taking human lives.....

On a more "light" note we had an enjoyable lunch together.

The Pastor and skilled driver drove us to view the outside of the Royal Palace which was absolutely breathtaking ...a teaser before our scheduled visit on tomorrow. The area surrounding the Palace was something that you would have to visually experience in order to truly appreciate.
We later had dinner at this great restaurant where we shared a variety of Asian dishes and a wonderfully blessed fellowship!

As a side note, the Pastor has a laundry business in addition and offered to launder clothing for any who may be interested/in need. Payment for the service would benefit the Bible School. Several of us took advantage of this service!

Later that evening we relaxed individually and some collectively prior to calling it a night! - Pamela Robinson

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 4/5 SE Asia Trip

12:48 pm Wednesday

Hello readers! My apologies for late blog. We had a full day tour to Handicap Handicraft Factory, Cao Dai Temple, followed by Cu Chi Tunnel, so everyone was pretty beat. I promise to make a double post later today. -Tristan

For your viewing pleasure:

Today was a packed day, an exhausting day, but a memorable one.

We started out at the War Remnants Museum, followed by the Jade
Emperor Pagoda, Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, The
Reunification Palace, and Chinatown. Each experience could draw much
valuable reflection, but I want to comment specifically on the War
Remnants Museum.

We had the best tour guide to date, a local man named Sol, who spoke
excellent English and was able to make us laugh, but also able to make
us reflect. He dropped us at the War Remnants Museum, a place which
Wikipedia can describe more succinctly than I: "Operated by the
Vietnamese government, the museum was opened in September 1975 as the
"The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the
Puppet Government [of South Vietnam]." Later it was known as the
Museum of American War Crimes, then as the War Crimes Museum until as
recently as 1993. Its current name follows liberalization in Vietnam
and the normalization of relations with the United States."

We did not have enough time to see the entire museum, which is quite
large and requires a lot of reading, but I did make it to the first
and second floors which primarily showed, with very graphic pictures,
the consequences of the American involvement in the war--birth
defects, child deformities, missing limbs, mental retardation, and
many, many more diseases brought on by the atrocities of war.

To say the pictures were disturbing is a gross understatement. They
were absolutely horrifying. I started to get sick and needed to leave
the exhibit to get some fresh air and calm myself down. My heart was
heavy. My mind could not wrap itself around the enormity and the
gravity of what I was seeing.

I cannot pretend to be able to articulate much of anything about the
Vietnam War. I was not part of that generation. My parents were not
actively involved either in fighting (my dad received a medical
exemption) or actively protesting. Living in Seattle, they were able
to be physically far from the turmoil both in Washington DC and
abroad. On top of a lack of personal ties to the war, I did not study
it in school and my primary means of learning about it involved
Hollywood films depicting the American side of the story.

So when I saw the pictures, read the facts, and felt the gravity in
those museum rooms, I felt like I was learning about the war for the
very first time. This of course is one side of the story, but a side I
had never really known about. It greatly disturbed me.

Once we were back on the bus and Sol gave us the opportunity for
questions, I asked a question that had been on my mind since arriving
in Vietnam: "How do the Vietnamese feel about Americans today?"

His answer has really helped me. He likened the relationship between
Vietnam and the United States as a marriage that ended in divorce. But
once the divorce happened, there were three possible scenarios that
could play out. One, the couple runs into each other on the bus. The
tension is so horrible that at the next stop one of them gets off the
bus and they never see each other again. Two, the couple runs into
each other at a restaurant. Each has a new partner. Mutual
introductions are made and the exchange of phone numbers and promises
to get together for dinner. The relationship is amicable. Third, the
pair realize that their relationship just can not end. This conviction
lead to a second marriage (which is legal in Vietnam), and the couple
reunites. The couple, having divorced and remarried, are wiser and
share a stronger bond the second time around. Much work must be done,
but this time around, their experience can guide them down a road to

Today, Vietnam and the United States are in their second marriage.
There is much work to be done, but wisdom and experience will be their

Much of our pain and suffering in life is caused by broken
relationship, both with God, and with others. But we do get second
chances. There can be a remarriage. What happened in the past can be
forgiven and forgotten and the potential for stronger, wiser, and more
loving bonds of relationship are within our reach. -Nic

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 3/4 SE Asia Trip

9:00 am Monday

Today, we had a big bite of the religious pie served in Asia, which we would learn was actually more of a small taste. We visited two seminaries, United Methodist and Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA) by denomination. The denominational designations mean relatively little here in Asia, except as "vehicles" for Christianity and a direct relationship to others to provide funding. At both seminaries, we were blessed to share conversation with seminary leaders who graciously fielded our questions. We talked about the experiences of living in a socialist country that sometimes limits religious practices, while seminaries do not have the space for all those who want to go to seminary. We learned that seminarians must get permission from the government to move from their district and then must return to their home after seminary to serve. Each of us is harvesting many thoughts, but as the blogger for the day, I'll share with you one of the things floating around my mind, since there was so much food for thought today. I was amazed to hear that in North Vietnam, a place that sees much persecution against Christians, the church is thriving and growing. This was the situation of the early church, too, in which the Gospel was shared and took root in many places, even though things didn't look promising.

We spent a lot of time seeing Ho Chi Minh City from the van, going over the Saigon River, watching more people creatively build and successfully drive full mopeds, with anything and everything, and witnessing people living life in many different ways. We enjoyed more delicious Vietnamese food (I'm not sure there's any other kind) and then split to walk and explore the city, doing some shopping along the way.

Day Two in Vietnam (and in this time zone) is hitting many of us with the tiring effects of jet lag, so this is a short blog so we may rest up for a full day tomorrow.

Here's a few pictures to feast on from the day. (Will be uploaded later)