Cambodia endured extreme economic and social devastation during the years of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, which has left a legacy of widows and orphans; of people who find it difficult to trust each other enough to work together; and a generation without the education to swiftly escape poverty.
I have watched interviews with Yiv Toch, a hardworking mum, and with Gneam, 65, who had lost her husband to malnutrition under the Khymer Rouge, and, then, her second husband (given her in one of Pol Pot’s forced marriages). Both have no margin against hunger or sickness, save borrowing at 120%.
However, the local church, largely composed of recent converts, (and their energetic volunteer Pastor Ke Pich, a Tearfund worker Navy, and a Youth worker Thany) is catalysing the community, infusing it with new hope, enthusiasm, and energy to pull itself out of crushing poverty.
The little miracles Jesus describes in his Gospel stories are a reality here. Yiv Toch who was given 8 chicks describes, joyfully, how she now has 50, which she can sell for extra income. The two community pigs are pregnant. Landless families who dream of a bit of land can grow vegetables in the church’s communal garden.
The pump donated by a well-meaning church, was dug so deep that the water poisoned crops and then it broke; there was no money to repair it. The community brainstormed and decided to cooperate to dig a pond to store rainwater so that—in this village without running water–they can grow vegetables, even out of the rainy season.
I love these real-life stories of using creativity, ingenuity and hardwork to escape poverty. It would be a privilege to tell them!
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The roots of my Christian faith are entwined with the poor. When I first committed to follow Christ, aged 17, Christ’s command “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me,” leaped out at me from the Gospels, and I decided to work with Mother Teresa.
I worked with Mother Teresa for 14 months, and truly enjoyed hanging out with the poor, with the “scheduled tribes” in Orissa, whom India’s development hasn’t benefited, and at Kalighat, Mother Teresa’s Home for The Dying Destitute.
However, after I came to England, studying English at Somerville College, Oxford, I have worked as a writer, and in publishing. But each time, I listen to Heidi Baker mention God’s directive to her to sit at the feet of the poor, I uneasily feel as if I am missing out on a vital aspect of the Christian life. The Gospel is good news to the poor, and perhaps the Gospel alive in our lives must, in some way, bring good news to the poor.
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I would particularly enjoy observing and telling the story of the village of Tonle Batie, Cambodia, since I am an entrepreneur. I have founded two businesses with minimal capital, and the second, a small publishing company, now solely supports our family. So I am impressed by the village’s income generation schemes, which will gradually create self-sufficiency through creativity and ingenuity.
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Another reason I am eager to visit Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is that the primary theme of my blog, Dreaming Beneath the Spires, is the intersection of faith and theology with everyday life. Hanging out with the poor—close to stark reality—you encounter the great theological questions (and perhaps answers): Whether God is indeed just if we contend with him; why God permits suffering, and whether there is anything redemptive about it; whether the Gospel and the power of prayer work anywhere in the world; whether God’s love and care is an ever-present reality for people in Tonle Batie, Cambodia as for those in Oxford, England, where I live.
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I love travelling: visiting new countries; understanding, soaking in, and photographing new cultures; and writing about them on my blog, sensitively and affectionately. Writing about travel is a secondary strand in my blog, and interests my readers. I would love to tell the story of how Tearfund’s partner International Cooperation for Cambodia, and the local church are helping people heal after the traumatic years of the Khmer Rouge; and to learn to trust one another, and work together for the future with hope.
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I have been blogging for three and a half years, and have begun developing a “platform”– about 15,000 page views a month; about 1700 Facebook fans and friends; and about 34,000 followers on Twitter where I am active (and have been a finalist for the Christian New Media “Tweeter of the Year Award.”)
I would be delighted to leverage my story-telling gifts and social media friendships to help raise money for Tonle Batie by telling its story. I regularly exchange guest posts with other established bloggers, and would love to to guest-post about my experiences in Cambodia.
Tearfund would like each blogger to inspire 20 people to contribute £3 a month so that 23 new families could go through the Church and Community Mobilisation process, being able to send their children to school, learn new farming techniques, and put food on the table. I feel certain my amazing warm-hearted audience of committed Christians readers as well as my personal and church friends and family would enjoy supporting this interesting unfolding story. I look forward to doing so myself.
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Personally speaking, the practice of gratitude has been transforming my spiritual life and is an important strand in my blog. I was struck by people’s shining eyes as they described chickens multiplying, vegetables growing, not having to worry about having enough food, or having to withdraw their children from school. Oh I would love to learn and relearn gratitude for the goodness of God, which I can take for granted!
The Gospel is good news to the poor, and is the world’s greatest force for poverty reduction, I believe. Where it roots, people pray, which gives them new hope and precipitates divine assistance. People work with new enthusiasm, for the Gospel catalyses creativity. People act honestly, which breeds the trust on which co-operative entrepreneurship depends.
And since the Gospel is indeed the power of God, it will work anywhere in the world. It will be exciting to observe the Gospel at work, and Aslan on the move, in the community of Tonle Batie, Cambodia–and to tell the story of this new chapter in The Greatest Story Ever Told!