Out of Touch for a Few Days

If you have been following along with the blog posts and the Cambodia team’s itinerary, you may have noticed some odd references to dates that don’t seem to match up with the calendar here in the states. As I write this post early Frrday evening (6:00PM) here in Nashville, it is already Saturday morning (6:00AM) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Just imagine posting a story from Cambodia knowing that it will be seen in the states yesterday….it can be a little confusing. All that to say: The team will spend the next couple of days in a village that probably does not have internet access…and without that access, there will be no stories posted here on the blog.


During their absence from being connected electronically, I would ask that you look into the faces of these six women and (continue to) pray for this team…their health, their safety, their attitudes, and their impact on those who they minister physically and spiritually. So many of you have already supported this team financially, prayerfully, and publicly (including your comments here). Thank you for that. When the team returns, I assure you they will read your comments and understand even better just how much support from family and friends means to their Cambodia experience.

I Thessalonians: 16-18
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


Another Day in Paradise….I mean Cambodia

bikes_sm.jpgThere is a saying among some of the expats I have worked with in Cambodia…it is TICB (this is Cambodia Baby). Today, I had to say that alot. Stephanie and I headed out to the Ouressey (sp?) market with our new Cambodian friend, Yoen. He is helping us to get to the village tomorrow. We had bikes to buy, helmets to size up and many other supplies to take to the village. This particular market is mainly used by the local Khmer people. Stephanie got an eyefull and a nose full. The sites and smells are very different from the trip to the market in America as there are tons of dried fish, fermented fish paste, shrimps (dried), cockroaches, grub worms and numerous other interesting edibles hanging around almost everywhere you turn. It is always an experience bargaining and buying in the market. At times, it can be draining as you wonder if you are getting a fair deal.
My mind, body and heart were reminded of the difficulties we face in trying to provide help in a country that is still corrupt and has been raised on foreign aid. We were able to go to church again last evening. My family has joined us here and my husband was able to lead a song and the prayer. Ceszar Lopez did the lesson so it was in English. The electricity went out again and remained out during most of the lesson, but that did not slow him down. The bat flew through, but we did not see the rat, but of course, it was dark. So, we had church by candle light. The lesson was very impactful and focused on relationships and what destroys them. Selfishness tears down relationships and selflessness builds them strong. We are all praying for a selfless heart. For me personally, it gets harder as I become tired after almost three weeks. I was very grateful to have scriptures and the lesson to remind me of Jesus’ character. I am also constantly thinking of the scriptures that focus on healing and the power we have through Christ. All things are possible through Christ….Just ask for anything in my name and you shall have it…..
er-friends_sm.jpgToday at the hospital was a different experience for us all. Anson had a full day helping patients. She has done such a wonderful job and has impressed all of us and others around her. The rest of us monitored the nursing check offs. We were split up for lunch and the students ended up in a Khmer restruant with wait staff who understand little English which was an adventurous experience for them. Sharon and I were joined by the nursing leadership and we were reminded of the deep friendships and family we have developed over the years. We both certainly felt well loved and appreciated. It has been amazing to see such change in some of the nursing staff.
I must take a moment to just lift up this group of students. I have been so impressed with their hearts and eagerness to work at anything we have put before them. The attitudes have remained positive, helpful and encouraging. This has certainly been a life changing experience for all of us. I never cease to be changed in some way when I come to my second home.
SusanTomorrow’s trip should be full of new and exciting adventures. Remember we may not be able to post again until Sunday or Monday. We will be sure to take lots of pictures. Please continue to pray for our hearts, minds, bodies…that we may always have the compassion of Christ, the love of Christ, the wisdom of Christ and the strength of Christ. We have so many donated items and will be providing so much because of the generosity of many. I want to thank you all. You have been amazing in your support with money, comments and prayers. We love you and will see you soon.

Some Thoughts

everyone_sm.jpgWe spent today at the hospital as our last official day of work, as tomorrow we go to help with nursing check-offs and to get ready for our trip to the village on Friday. We have all gotten to see and do so much at the hospital here and its been really interesting to compare it with healthcare in the US. After the hospital, we went to church with Susan’s family who flew in on Monday. It’s been great getting to know Susan’s husband Chas and her two sons. They have made such deep connections with the people here, its really nice to see them reunite with their friends. After church we went to great dinner and discussed our thoughts and feelings about the trip thus far. It’s crazy to think it’s almost over. We have all learned so much from this trip, its unbelievable. All the things we’ve seen and people we’ve met have impacted us and changed us in a way that I can’t describe. Cambodia is such a beautiful country and all the people we have met have been so nice and warm and caring.
It is absolutely incomprehensible to think about the state of this country only 30 years ago. Seeing Toul Sleng and the Killing Fields and the horror of torture and genocide and then going to back to work with the same people who lived through all that… I don’t even know what to say. I am constantly filled with so many emotions. I feel so lucky to be here and see the country and Angkor Wat and all the beauty, but I hate that such good, hard working, strong people are still suffering and starving because of the war. The resilience of the human spirit is amazing. Absolutely, utterly amazing. Cambodia has come so far so quickly and we are trying to do our part to help, but after meeting the people here I have no doubt in my mind that soon this country will be thriving like it used to.
JuliaI just want to say thank you so much for all your support. My family especially, thank you for being there for me and giving me everything I could ever want or need. I am so grateful to be able to be here and I appreciate your love and prayers more than I could ever say.

Busy Days at the Hospital

AnsonAfter returning from Siem Reap on Sunday, we geared up for another busy week at the hospital. Since I am in the physiotherapy department, I will share a bit from my experience. We see both outpatient and inpatient. Inpatient has been mostly strokes, severe broken bones, and brain injuries. Outpatient has been moto bike fractures and dislocations. Unlike the US, many of these fractures and dislocations are never properly healed, leading to deformity and prohibiting return to prior function. I have been teaching the 2 physiotherapist more than I expected (making me very thankful for my neuroanatomy and orthopedic classes).
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I will share an exceptional story that happened today. There is a 19 year old paraplegic who has been confined to his bed for 12 years. His hips and knees are bent at a 90 degree angle (contractures). He has scoliosis so severly that he has problems sitting. He has 3 pressure ulcers so big and deep that several inches of bone is exposed. He also has no family to take care of him. Today, we went to see him. We did some bed mobility, range of motion, sitting balance. At the end, I was doing some arm exercises (PNF), and he thought it was a wonderful game. He was working so hard, but smiling and laughing the whole time. The other physical therapist translated for me, and told me that the boy really enjoyed the treatment and having someone spend that much time with him. It was a very fun, rewarding experience.
The group is also preparing for our weekend trip to the village where we will be doing nutritional assessments on a school with 400 students. We have a supply of general antibiotics and vitamins for the entire community. We met with the Cambodian man who will be guiding us to the village. He gave us some helpful hints about what to bring, and warned us that people from neighboring villages have heard that we are coming and will be traveling to see us. There is no health care in the area and no health care professional has ever visited. We were rather overwhelmed by the news, but can only promise to treat everyone we have time for and would benefit from our care. We have been reading and researching about health problems in the area. Your thoughts/prayers would be appreciated in preparation for this weekend.
killing_fields_sm.jpgAnd the last thing to write about, our afternoon trip to the Killing Fields. The Killing Field is the place where the Khmer Rouge would take people who were too weak to do manual labor or they suspected of crimes against the government. (Please see my last entry for a brief history of the Khmer Rouge.) The people were forced to dig their own graves, and then brutally killed. In 1980, they discovered piles of thousands of dead bodies in the field. It was powerful to see the tower of skulls, piles of clothing, and deep holes where the bodies were disposed.
Overall, we have been staying super busy by learning a ton about the Cambodian culture and teaching small things to help the hospital run more efficiently and provide a higher level of care. Be sure to check out the next blog for a nursing student’s perspective of the hospital….

First Day in Siem Reap

DianeHi, everyone! Let me give you all a quick update on our day. We left Phnom Penh this morning for a six-hour, uncomfortably warm bus ride through the Cambodian countryside to Siem Reap. Siem Reap is famous for it’s ancient temples, most notably Angkor Wat. After arriving at our hotel this afternoon, we rode the tuk-tuks to one of the temples to see the sunset. It was beautiful, and we were blessed by a nice breeze as we watched the clouds from atop the temple.
Our plans for tomorrow include several hours out at the temples to experience the 3-D history lesson. In the evening we will go to a performance of traditional Cambodian dance. It should be an exciting day, and I’m sure we will have lots to report on!
Thanks to all for staying in touch!

Home Visits

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Today was a very eye opening day for Diane, Julia, and myself as we did HIV home visits with the hospital’s social worker. Before heading to the homes we stopped at the market to buy apples and sardines for the families to eat. I feel that out of the homes we visited the first was the most heart wrenching. I would not even consider the first home a home but a shack. It was a bamboo plank raised off the ground with different plastic pieces of trash connected as a roof. One family’s 6×6 area was connected to the next family’s area. We arrived to a mother who was 25 and has AID. At home with her was her 10 year old son who does not have HIV, her 17 month old daughter who has HIV, and her 7 month old daughter who has HIV. The father was at work making $2.50 per day. As I looked around at their “house” I was blown away. I just could not believe that a family of five could live in such a small rundown space. We have tool sheds in America that are more stable than their home. I was also astonished to learn that they pay $25 a month to rent it! Words and pictures do not even begin to describe how sad their situation is. The social worker began to explain to us that the mother also has TB. She is on the hospitals DOTS program which means she must come to the outpatient clinic everyday for someone to directly observe her take her TB medication. However, she does not regularly make it to the clinic so her children have now all acquired TB as well. Also, the 10 year old boy had to stop going to school because it cost $10 a month and they could not afford for him to continue to attend. This made all three of us very sad because we knew without and education he has barely any opportunity to better his future living conditions. Our other visits were much like the first and we left feeling emotionally drained and wishing we could do more than give apples and sardines.

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On a different note I know that our trip to the village is coming close and we are all very excited. We know that God has something very special to show us because there have been so many doors opened for us. However, there are still a few things we are not sure about and I would like to ask everyone to please pray for everything to fall into place the way God has planned and help us to trust in him.

We miss everyone at home and want you to know that your comments brighten our days and greatly encourage us and your continual prayers are needed.
Matthew 17:20 “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”

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Amazing Grace from an Awesome God

susan_kids_sm.jpg exercising_sm.jpgWow…..what a trip so far! Today has been so full, I feel like we have had 2 or 3 days in one. So many things to share about that I will put them under subheadings. The morning began early at 0530 with the whole group going out to exercise. We witnessed a beautiful sunrise and then joined a group of Cambodians exercising in the form of dancing along the river front. The tall women from America were a big hit and we did the macarena (sp?) and some Khmer dancing. It was a great start for the day.
OUR PRAYERS: We have been praying together for our work in the hospital and village trying to focus on God’s ability to heal through us as well as healing that comes through the love of Christ. Our prayers have been specific that God give us the wisdom, compassion and love we need to make a difference in the places we go.
stefani_julia_sm.jpg patient_line_sm.jpgTHE MOBILE CLINIC: HOPE has started a mobile clinic that consists of a truck with supplies, a doctor, nurse and other helpers. It travels around the city providing free medical care to the poor and needy, children and adults alike. We were asked if we wanted to join and of course we did. None of us including myself had any idea of what to expect. It was totally and completely amazing. We went to the area of Stung Mean Chay which is the city dump. It is the area the children come from in the orphanage we have visited in the past years. We walked in and were greeted by small children from the local school running to hug us. Later, the Khmer physician who runs the mobile clinic set up an area for me to see patients! He asked me if I would like to see them myself or together with him. I was a little nervous at first, but realized that God was providing me an opportunity to learn about the types of illnesses we would see next week in the village. We decided my Khmer language skills were not good enough to see patients without translation, so we settled on seeing them together. The group played with the kids and then helped triage the patients into the clinic. It has built the faith of each one of us to see how readily God is providing us with the wisdom we need to treat the children in the village. I learned so much about the medication available and types of illnesses we will see; most of which are due to such poor nutrition. anson_pt_sm.jpgAnson was able to use her PT skills and I realized today how valuable that will be in the village as many women came with sciatic pain or other overuse type ailments. During our discussion tonight of our “highs”and “lows”of our day, the mobile clinic and how God is providing was at the top of each list.
THE HOSPITAL: After the clinic was over and we had a wonderful lunch at a favorite restaurant, we went back to spend a few hours at the hospital. As the group was all off doing their “thing”, I headed to talk to the pharmacist about helping us to order some medications to take to the village. The idea was to purchase some de-worming medications, antihistamines (it is allergy season here), antibiotics and a few others. Well, God showed his love for the poor once again and HOPE is donating most all of the medication! They are providing enough medicaiton to treat 500 children for worms, antibitiotics, tylenol, pre-natal vitamins and more. So, far the only purchase of medications we will need to make will be for flagyl. Another prayer we have had is to provide us with a Khmer nurse to go with us to the village. I will admit, I was a little skeptical because I understand the issues with staffing at HOPE and we would be asking someone to volunteer their time as well. God is amazing and it was so easy. I did not even ask for a nurse to go, I was offered one! So, one of my dear Khmer friends who is a nurse educator at HOPE and a Christian will be coming with us to help in the village!
THE CHURCH: We attended church on Sunday and again tonight. The trip to church was miserably long due to rush hour traffic that is total chaos, but we finally made it and were happy to see everyone. After you read this next part, close your eyes an imagine this: Sitting in plastic chairs outside with fans blowing on you. The preacher is speaking in Khmer and there is a translator talking over the sound of the fans. Mosquitoes are biting at your ankles. The heat is still considerable even with the fans. Electricity goes out two to three times during service. A bat flies over the group a few times and then the large rat runs up the side and across the front behind the preacher. We think the rat is a cat, but realize it is not.
The church is actually doing great! There have been many teens baptized over the past year. The church that was planted from Phnom Penh in Siem Reap has grown from 7 to 24! There is much joy and excitement among the disciples and we have felt their love. They have come to pick us up for church in the van each time and then drive us all the way back to our hotel. I mentioned the village trip to Sovann and Sopheap (leaders of the church) and from the very first Sopheap wanted to come help translate. Prayerfully, she will be able to join us. I can see us in the village provided physical and spiritual help the the poor in health and spirit. Our God is a mighty and loving God who will do great things here.
sunrise_sm.jpgTHANKS: To each of you who has made this trip possible through allowing your daughters to come, donating money and supplies, supporting us with encouragement and prayers. We feel your prayers and rejoice in them. We are receiving Mannah from heaven and I pray that we remember the gifts God is lavishing on us now when we come to a time of suffering and need. We love you all!

Sihanouk Hospital in Cambodia–Same, Same but Different

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Today was our first full day of working in the hospital. Some of what we see and experience is similar to the US but much is different! In both venues, we see caring health care providers, sick patients, loving families. In Cambodia, however, families are feeding, bathing, and turning their family members who are sick; nurses are regulating IV rates by counting drips rather than using IV pumps; medical decisions are being made with less sophisticated equipment (X-rays rather than CT scans and a plastic chair on wheels rather than a wheelchair, for example.) One patient that we saw today (left image above) had a leg wound that had been treated months earlier in the hospital but who had then resorted to Cambodian traditional medicine, having the leg wrapped in a grass bandage. By the time he was brought back to the hospital, he was disoriented and the infection had spread throughout his body.
Another patient had a textbook case of ascites (right image above). We have many opportunities for learning–about skills, culture, and even about ourselves. Our group is awesome and positive even in the face of obstacles such as transportation and scheduling issues. Thank you for your prayers and continued support. Continue to pray for us and the people of Cambodia.
Click images for enlarged versions.