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Cambodia Trip Report, Part 4

Dec 16, 2017

The killing field site which I wrote about yesterday was near Battambang, the city where S----’s fiancé (“D”) lives. I will refer to her as “D” because the humanitarian work that she does is not appreciated by the government. She does what the government neglects to do, and the Communist government wants everyone to think that it is the sole provider of all things.

In fact, wherever we went, even on small dirt roads in rural areas, there were political signs posted about every 200 yards reminding the people that Big Brother was watching.

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While we were there, the ruling Communist party, known as the People’s Party, found a way to interpret the Constitution in a way that outlawed their main rival political party. The real reason was that their rivals were becoming too popular with the people, and the main party does not like competition unless they are too weak to matter.

“D” is active in the opposition party that has now been outlawed. But even in the past, she has always in some danger, along with others who assist her in distributing books and supplies to poor school children in rural areas. The young woman below, a friend of “D” who spoke excellent English, told me that she had been taken recently at gunpoint to the police station and questioned. It was more of a warning not to be too helpful to the school children, as this would only increase the popularity of the opposition party.

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S---- assured me that we ourselves were in no danger, because the government did not want to answer to the US embassy and thereby expose its real face for all the world to see.

One of the first things we did in Battambang was to visit a school for the handicapped, which had been closed about five years ago for lack of government funding.

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There were nice facilities for classrooms and dorm rooms, but no one learning any skills.

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In the backside of the property was a building where the greenhouse stood unused.

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The outside gardens were unplanted and run down.

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The sewing machines stood idle, whereas some years ago the women used to learn to sew clothing and other items that could be sold to the public or to tourists.

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This is the type of project that I would like to sponsor someday. It is a practical way of helping the people learn skills, and also a way to demonstrate the love of God to those who are so often neglected. I would envision also teaching them English, as this would give people opportunity to get employment in the tourist industry. At the same time, English skills would open the door for them to read the Scriptures (and my books, too), as well as give them access to a huge part of the internet that is otherwise inaccessible to them.

The beautiful outdoor restaurant between the dorms and the classrooms and surrounded by water was closed for business.

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The day came for S----’s engagement ceremony. Neither Brad nor I had taken any dress shirts, but S---- assured me that this would be no problem. The ceremony began on the driveway near the entrance to the condos where D’s parents lived. As “father of the groom,” I led a procession, carrying a traditional vessel of items appropriate to the occasion, while someone alongside of me beat a gong.

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Brad was also given something to carry.

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We had to walk about 50 yards only, where there was a tent with tables and chairs in the wide driveway situated just outside the condo.

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The front door of the condo appeared to have been removed, and the living room inside was being decorated with fruit baskets and flowers.

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We were soon seated for the ceremony to begin. As the father of the groom, I was positioned facing S----, and brother Brad sat just behind me. Brad took this photo.

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D posed for me as I took this photo of her. She was beautiful.

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I managed to get only one photo during the ceremony, since I was called upon to take part in it. Probably my main role was to give my bowl of goodies to D’s father, which meant that I, as S----’s father, was thanking the bride’s father for raising his daughter in the right way so that she could be an ideal wife.

I could not sit on the hard floor in the traditional way, but I was able to sit cross-legged long enough to endure the lengthy (but traditional) speech that someone gave in the Kmer language. The one making the speech was perhaps the closest thing to the officiating minister. I wondered if he might be a Buddhist monk, though he was not dressed in the traditional orange, but S---- assured me that he was not a monk.

After the ceremony, pictures were taken of the wedding party. The bride and groom were in the middle, Brad and I on one side, and the bride’s parents on the other. I am not sure who the others were, other than the bride’s brother on the far right side. He was also our driver.

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Then we gathered in the tent outside and had lunch.

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From there, we drove about an hour to a mango plantation, where the photographer took more pictures. This hill is a popular place for wedding pictures, so we had to wait our turn. You can see the mango trees in the background in the valley.

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From there, we drove about a half mile to the main building, where we were refreshed with some fresh coconut juice.

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The steps led down to the river behind me, and Battle Mountain on the other side of it. This mountain served as some sort of military headquarters during the Pol Pot regime.

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We were led to go down to the river for prayer and communion to answer the voice of blood that yet cried out from that place.

The sun was setting as we left that place. I noticed two trees standing nearby, one dead, and the other alive. I could not help but ponder the contrast between two paths and two ways of life that are set before us. The work that we did in Cambodia was to bring life out of death.

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Category: Trip Reports
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones