This morning was a time to experience the recent history we have read about through tours of the prison and Killing Fields. For some reason, back in the late 70’s, the Khmer Rouge took pictures of each prisoner as they entered the prison. Now, those faces bear witness to the tragedy that took place there. One would think they wouldn’t want to keep the record of the faces…the hundreds of people who they would torture and kill. As we saw the pictures of the faces of those who entered Toul Sleng Prison and never left and the skulls of those discovered in the Killing Fields (where up to 300 people were killed a day during its worst times), you think that there must be an inherent anger in those my generation and older who survived this recent tragedy.
Perhaps that’s what makes someone like Pastor Abraham especially encouraging. Pastor Abraham is the antithesis of the anger or even self preservation you’d expect from someone who has had to survive such brutality. He runs Organization Development for Cambodia (ODC), a non-governmental organization, in the Andong community. He, too, lived through this brutal history and, because he did, he focuses on small, positive change for communities that have little opportunity. When this community of people (the Andong) was relocated from Phnom Penh by the government in 2006 (assuming making room for “progress” in the city), they were moved to a flood plain in the middle of rice fields where Pastor Abraham now lives and works.
Pastor Abraham is working hard in many areas for the community…nutrition, education, pastoral care, health and more. We were able to learn about the partnership of Imago Dei (a church in Portland) with Medical Teams International and ODC. Our group project focused on providing shelter through newly installed tin roofs, clean water pumped to homes and sanitation training to improve basic health. Pastor Abraham has many success stories to share but seemed very proud to know that kids that are the recipients of this partnership and his ongoing hard work are now becoming top students in city high schools and are destined for universities. Pastor Abraham mentioned many other communities that he’d like to establish a similar partnership in. It’s good to know that this basic health project was part of a foundation for their ongoing learning and growth. It’s also good to know that, long after we completed it, our partner remains a vital part of the community. Imago Dei also continues to send a team here once a year.
It can seriously rain here! I’m from Seattle and I know rain. When it rained today, the Andong community became a flood plain almost instantly. The rain, thunder, and lightning were, in and of themselves, worth witnessing. When we returned, Phnom Penh’s streets became streams through which bikes, cars and motorcycles jockeyed for space. We made it back and are gearing up for tomorrow!