28 February 2010

Another HOT week

I safely returned to Phnom Penh on Monday afternoon, having stretched my funds to cover the weekend, and even having some left at the airport. I was very grateful for a ride from Phnom Penh airport from the father of one of my previous students, who just happened to be on the same plane as me, and was being picked up by his driver. Praise God for His provision for small details.

I managed to get through Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with a minimum of preparation. Between having taught the material before, and power cuts, things went OK. Friday we headed out to Northbridge for the Invitational Track meet, which was lots of fun for the kids, and when we returned I started showing "Mary Poppins", until the power went out. Fortunately it wasn't out long and we were able to continue, but I've had to promise to show the rest of it at a future date, since we only got about half we through it. The children were loving it!

The weather here is definitely moving into the hot season, with the thermometer usually hitting 30 degrees Celsius by about 10am. Humidity ranges from about 35% to 70% during the course of the day. Having no air-conditioning until after lunch is definitely taking its toll on both students and teachers, and I'm seriously lacking in motivation at the moment. If you are a praying person, please pray that our electricity situation will be solved sooner rather than later. We've been told at least another month, and I'm really struggling with that. Meanwhile I will have to depend on God for an extra measure of his strength to get through the weeks ahead.

OK. That's it for now. I'm off for a cool shower and bed. At least I have air-conditioning in my bedroom at home so I can sleep reasonably well.

In His service


20 February 2010

God knows best

I know that I shouldn't be amazed by God's amazing provision for us in the various circumstances that we find ourselves in, but I'll admit that I'm often pleasantly surprised, and even amazed, by God's provision for our needs in ways that we least expect it.

Take for example my trip to Bangkok this weekend. I booked the tickets for this weekend get-a-way back in August 2009, when they were a great bargain. God knew, even then, that I would be in real need of a chance to get away from daily life, and to spend time with Him, and to just relax and forget about teaching students for a few days. In addition to that, He knew I'd left my wallet with my Thai money in it at home, and prompted me to get enough money from the ATM at PP airport to see me through this weekend in BKK (I didn't realise I didn't have the wallet until the plane was in the air). Praise God that He cares for ALL the details in our lives.

Another example of God's amazing knowledge has been some of the readings in my devotions this week. He has met my needs in and provided encouragement for me that has been so relevant to where I am at the moment. Consider the following:

On Monday, the topic was "Defining Failure" and the key verses was "Who through faith ... out of weakness were made strong. - Hebrews 11:33-34". The last line of the main article was especially encouraging: "Our life is not a failure if we've repented of our sins. God can still use us to serve Him." and the concluding poem
The lessons we learn from our failures
Are lessons that help us succeed,
And if we are wise and we heed them,
Then failure is just what we need.

Then on Wednesday the topic was "In the Car Wash", thinking about Isaiah 43:1-13, and especially verse 2, "When you walk through the waters, I will be with you."
How wonderful to know that He
Who watches from above
Will always keep us sheltered in
His ever-present love!

On Thursday, Psalm 62 was the focus with the key verse being verse 8: "Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." The closing worrds were a timely reminder:
"While there is great comfort in sharing our difficulties with a friend, we miss the greatest help if we fail to bring them to the Lord. Joseph Scriven said it so well:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

On Friday I was directed to James 1:2-3: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."
Though you cannot see the outcome,
Trust the Lord--He knows what's best;
Be assured He sees your trial,
And He's with you in your test.

And finally today's key verse was Psalm 40:1 "I waited patiently for the LORD; and He turned to me, and heard my cry." and the reflection also highlighted Psalm 27:14 "Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart".
Praying, resting, waiting, trusting--
These are words that tell a story;
As we wait for God to lead us,
He responds, "Just seek My glory."
God orders our stops as well as our steps. Praise God that he ordered this weekend's "stop" for me, and also that He has my steps for future service already planned for me.

So far I've enjoyed sleeping in, riding on the subway, and wandering through Tesco Lotus and CarreFour (Thailand's answer to my yearning for KMart & Big W), as well as IT City. Tomorrow I'm not 100% sure what I'll do, but I think it might include the famous Chatuchak weekend market and a movie on the BIG screen. Whatever I do, I know that God will be right there beside me.

By the way, the cake featured in my last post did not last long! Several of my colleagues enjoyed sharing it with me on Tuesday afternoon. It was moist, and delicious!


15 February 2010

Not all work!

This evening when I came home from school I decided it was time to try out that banana cake recipe I downloaded from the internet. It was really simple and I had all the ingredients (the incentive was the left over bananas from the carnival which were just right for cake). In the absence of real cake tins, I had purchased a package of aluminium foil food containers about the right size, and one of them was just perfect. In addition to that I had no trouble getting it out. Here's the evidence. It tastes yummy too! Thanks Jenny & Murray for making this treat possible.
And yes, that top is crunchy. I can't remember where I got the recipe but it was really easy, because you don't have to cream the butter & sugar (a real challenge without a mixer). Instead you melt the butter, sugar and vanilla together first, then add the other ingredients progressively to the saucepan. Now that's very helpful too when you don't actually own any proper mixing bowls. If I was staying in Phnom Penh, both these things would be on my shopping list for this weekend in BKK, but as it is I'm not sure. Maybe. Maybe not.

OK. I'd better go and at least open my resume. I'm waiting on replies to some e-mails before I can finalise it.

12 February 2010

Contemplating the future

Jeremiah 29:11 says this "I say this because I know what I am planning for you," says the Lord. "I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you and a good future".

Why am I thinking about this verse? That's easy, because right now I have no idea what the future holds for me past the end of May 2010. This afternoon I was told that I will not be offered a contract for next year at Logos International School in Phnom Penh.

I'm disappointed about this, but know that God is in control, and He obviously has other plans for me. It's hard to be told that you're not the right fit for the job you've been doing for 3 years, and it hurts, especially when you only want what is best for your students, and want them to be the best they can be. I still believe that it was God who led me to Cambodia, and to Logos, and I've always said that I would be here for as long as God wanted me here. It seems like He's got other plans for me and whether they are in Phnom Penh, or elsewhere in the world, I just do not know. Now I have to be patient and wise, as I seek His guidance over the coming days, weeks, and months.

Having said this, I was also told that I'm a great teacher, and the work I put into it was acknowledged, with the suggestion that I would probably be better suited to teaching Middle School students (Grades 6 through 8), but that there are no vacancies in that area of Logos at the moment, and that the principal would be happy to give me a recommendation for teaching Middle School, so all is not totally wasted. When God closes a door, He opens a window. Now I need to be patient and see where that open window is.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know he holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives.

10 February 2010

Life in a Rural Country

Today on the way home from school I actually had time to stop and snap this pic. I often see these guys with their oxcart, loaded with clay pottery on the way to school in the mornings, and occasionally on the odd day that I head home while it's still daylight. This afternoon I was heading home for Home Group this evening, and this cart was stopped by the side of the road, with a "Lexus" parked behind it. It was clear the guy from the Lexus was seeking a bargain from the pot seller, and the girls with their bicycle took great delight in getting in the picture. Each day as I see these carts, I am reminded of the rural nature of this country, and how so many of the people live in daily dependence on the land that God has blessed them with (although they don't all know that). Many have limited income, and are still dependent on skills they have learned from previous generations.

A couple of days ago I saw an even more unusual site. I can't remember what was on the carts, but as I travelled to school one morning I passed several smaller carts (a lot smaller than these) which were each being pulled by a single pony. Now that was something different, and definitely not something I see every day. If I see them again I'll have to stop and take a photo, even if it makes me late for school (it probably won't).

Meanwhile school has been relatively quiet this week, with most of the high school students away on Bible Camp. Certainly it was much easier doing "Rover" duty this afternoon (clearing hallways and other areas of the campus of students who are supposed to be somewhere else).

It was interesting that just this morning the principal mentioned as a major prayer point our electricity situation, when by 9.20am we lost power completely, and were told we would be out until 5pm this afternoon. It was a pleasant surprise when it came back on around 12.30pm and stayed on for the rest of the day. What tomorrow will bring, who knows, but as there's nothing we can do about it, then there's no point in worrying about it. So why is our electricity situation a major prayer point? Unfortunately when the school was constructed, the amount of electricity we would need in terms of supply from the mains was somehow either not calculated or miscalculated, and so consequently we don't have enough. Now I'm not talking about a minor not having enough, I'm talking a major issue. Currently we have one 100Amp line coming in to the school. Now that's probably adequate for a domestic residence, but for a school with 300+ students? I'll let you work that out. Consequently classrooms on the Southern side of the building can run air-conditioners in the morning (but only one per room), and rooms on the Western side can run one per room in the afternoons. The office and several other areas are not running any at all. The other day, I turned on the Overhead Projector without turning off everything else in the classroom, and oops, minutes later we all went out. I won't do that again. So progress has been made in establishing what the true needs of the school are, but the cost is going to be in ten thousands of US dollars. So why pray? Because our God is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills, and we know that He cares for us. Somewhere out there, God has already decided how the necessary equipment and work will be done. Please pray with us, that He will make this clear to the management team in the near future. The "cool" season is rapidly drawing to a close and the days when it will by 30 degrees Celcius by 9am are fast approaching. Teachers and students alike find it hard to work well in those conditions. And if you know someone or an organisation that might be willing to consider contributing to this, or taking it on as a sponsorship project, please contact the school through the website (or e-mail me if you know me personally). Meanwhile we will continue saving on our electricity bill, and trying to be fair about who gets air-conditioning when.

Time for bed.



06 February 2010

The Carnival is Over

The 4th Annual Logos International School Carnival is over! Praise God it wasn't as hot as the 1st one, which was back in February 2007, when I was relatively newly arrived in Phnom Penh. Wow, 4 carnivals and I've been here for all of them. This one was rather different for me. Instead of running a game with my students I was running our first ever Scholastic Book Fair. While we didn't sell out, or even sell enough to cover costs, we did make a reasonable number of sales, and we can always have another go sometime in the next couple of weeks. So while I sat in the relative peace of the Art Room, surrounded by books, the rest of the school buzzed with excitement as children and adults tried their hands at a wide variety of games, enjoyed heaps of tasty snacks, and even checked out a couple of Chevy cars! My teaching assistant, and the library assistant very capably ran the 4th grade game of "ten pin bowls", which had been popular last year, and was just as popular this year. Thanks Mr Kosal & Mr Ly. The "ticket" booth, and prize table were busy places, and we had a parade of unusual faces wandering through the book fair. One of the grades was operating a "jail" where, in order to get out of jail, you had to have your face decorated with moustache, eyebrows and other interesting features. All in good fun.

After all was over, and we'd back up and counted the takings, a few of us decided that a swim would be the best way to cool off on a hot humid afternoon. The water was very comfortable, even a little warm for me, and I managed to swim 30 laps today. Sadly I'm feeling it now, with some aching shoulder muscles. It's about 12 days since I last swam, so it was hard work, but I'm keen to build up to the point where I can complete 40 laps (1km) in 20 minutes. OK, OK, I know that won't win me any world records, but it will be good exercise, and a big step back to improving my fitness level.

Well, I have a pile of Math tests waiting for me to grade them, so I'd better go and get on with it. Who said teacher's work 9 - 3 and have lots of holidays. They obviously have never been a teacher!

That's it for now