We arrived in Koh Kong by bus, and the traffic was crazy. James and Pat loaded us up into the trucks and drove us down to the waterfront to our hotel. I have to admit, at first glance I felt like I was in the tropics! Beautiful water, sunshine, palm trees, and sitting areas under straw roofs… not such a bad deal! But I was snapped back into reality by the stench of burning trash and fish and shrimp, and the sight of open tanks full of crawfish and eels outside the restaurant of our hotel. Our room has great air conditioning and a mini-fridge, but Kirby had to capture a lizard off the wall and we learned quickly that running water is apparently a luxury that we don’t always have!
We took off this evening to check out the gym that the missionaries run here in Koh Kong. It has a tin roof and is so hot inside! They have an area with weights and benches, several ping pong tables, badminton, stationary bikes, resistance bands, hula hoops, and an area with a screen for aerobics (a big hit with the ladies!).
The gym is vital to the ministry here. In the U.S. we tend to think of missionaries as people who just go up and down the street handing out Gospel tracks and leading people through the prayer of salvation left and right. That is such a misconception! Mission work here in Cambodia is a long, slow process… it takes years to build relationships, and it takes a miracle from God to lead these people to the Truth. The culture is so very different from what we are accustomed to, and people are not very open to emotions and discussing their thoughts and feelings. Personal relationships have to be worked at over long periods of time, and on top of that, the Khmer people are heavily entrenched in the throws of Buddhism. It is all they know and have ever known… many have never even heard the name of Jesus. Asking them to consider His word as truth is asking them to turn their backs on everything they’ve ever known, to take a step away from their family, culture, and heritage… it is not an easy task, but through His power lives are being changed. It just takes a great deal of patience and time, and us Westerners are not too keen on that. We want results, and we want them now!
Through the gym ministry, people are coming to know Christ. They come in to work out and have some fun, and the missionaries get to see the same people on a regular basis. That is where relationship building begins. They get to learn about the lives of people, get to know them a little more personally each day, and they earn trust and respect. They are also building their network in this area… as they get to know individuals, those individuals lead them to other individuals, and they are able to connect with people they otherwise may have never seen. It just takes time.
We walked outside the gym, and as we stood there several children came up. They would taunt each other to get closer and closer to us, and we started playing around with them. They were so full of giggles and smiles, and so eager for attention! Kirby gave them suckers, which they snatched right up and started eating instantly (after they threw their wrappers on the ground- even adults do that here). They ran off to a group of older kids standing on the corner, and then one of the boys came back begging for money. The older kids put him up to it, and Lynette explained to him that he shouldn’t do that. It is amazing how early they learn to beg.
Of course, through all of that, the mama in me wanted to scream, “Where are your parents?!” I would never allow my children to roam the street and accept candy from strangers. But, this is a different world.
|Our hotel.. Koh Kong Bay|
|The gym in Koh Kong|