Reported by Beth Landis
What we did before arrival in Cambodia
Read from our assigned reading list including memoirs of Cambodia refugees to the US.
- Searched Facebook for my new best friends for the next week.
- Watched videos online of MCC partners. https://www.youtube.com/user/michaelbade
- Packed modest clothes for hot humid weather.
Partners we visited:
- Women Peacemakers, an organization focused on empowering women experiencing violence and illiteracy.
- RISC, Returnee Immigration Support Center, supporting Cambodians who immigrated to the US and returned because of legal difficulties. I was impressed with their support to 400+ men and women over the past decade.
- Angearhdei School in Prey Veng and we tasted the rice porridge that MCC supplies for the school for breakfast. I am thoughtful about the 70-80% of the students that have a parent away from home, searching for better work elsewhere
- ODOV – Organization to Develop Our Villages in Prey Veng, an influential organization working in 62 villages, impacting 3600 people with gardening, back yard fish ponds, after school programs for middle schoolers to teach tailoring and sewing, and more.
Additional Partner Information
The country celebrated three days of holiday, which meant that the streets were easier to navigate, but not all the offices were open.
- Peace Bridges. Executive director, Mony, visited us, and shared stories of conflict resolution and concepts of peace. It seemed like they touch hundreds of pastors and directors of NGOs, with issues ranging from human rights to land acquisition to church conflicts to family relations and everything in between.
- Precious Women Ministry, Royal University of Phnom Penh, and School of Peace. MCC staffers told us about their roles.
What we Shared with the Partners
- Where the MCC money comes from – relief sales and thrift shops. Jeanne started with photos from a thrift shop in Ohio where elderly folks volunteer at the store or scrub pots and pans at home. Then Denise followed with her story that her 90 year old mother still makes doll clothes for doll babies given to the local thrift shop. I followed with a story of a 92-year-old cousin, a bit frail, but works with his partner, another friend, early 60s, fit and strong, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Together they make a team, volunteering at the thrift store.
- The local Cambodians were amazed at our story and did not realize the money came from small amounts of time and donations made by a lot of folks, many of them, elderly. They said repeatedly to please thank each and every one of the volunteers. We agreed to take back their greetings.
Visits in Phnom Penh
- Restaurants – with the IVEPers, former exchange visitors to the US and Canada to hear their stories of how a year abroad changed their lives and ripples to family and businesses in Cambodia.
- Restaurants – with the SALTers and one YAMENer, young people finishing up a year in Cambodia, enthusiastic about their assignments. We went crazy and ordered “lots” of food, even splitting one dish of taro ice cream among six of us.
- Phnom Penh Mennonite church
- Royal Palace, Genocide Museum of Tous Sleng, Killing Fields of Cheoung Ek.
- The “spa” nearby, for our Thai massages, facial, or deep tissue massage, also a silent sacred time to reflect on the day.
Fooods we ate:
- Mangosteens, the queen of tropical fruit
- Rice paired with everything, in restaurants and MCCers homes.
- Our life stories. If we had sat in the van in a parking lot for the week, I would have come back bursting with anecdotes. Denise served in the Middle East with MCC. Iliana was born in El Salvador and wound up in Alberta on MCC staff. Teng was born in Laos and crossed the Mekong River as a six year old and eventually found his way to a Hmong Mennonite church. Jeanne has served with MCC in Nigeria, Congo, and Indonesia. I live in Idaho. I felt a bit like white bread.
- We asked questions of each other and our hosts. We discussed, what salvation means in this context; what is MCC doing right; and what does partnership mean. Since Cambodia is primarily Buddhist with 2% Christians, many have never heard of Christianity. We agreed that as Christians, we are called to be faithful. The first part of any relationship is caring, reaching out, and friendship to all. The logo In the Name of Christ is part of the MCC identity.
What I’m telling folks about our visit
- As much as I can. My conference gave me “only” 90 minutes for my report.
- MCC has been described as a “non-anxious presence” and as an organization that does not have a rescue complex.
- MCC is fulfilling its mission for relief, development, and peace.