31 May 2011

Wondering ...

Just wondering why so many tough things happen in this world. Today I was alerted to two sad events that have occurred to young people connected with people I know. The first, a Logos graduate from two years ago (Class of 2009) is in hospital in Holland in a coma, having been diagnosed with cancer and complications. The second, a year 12 student at a Christian school in Tokyo, was killed in a motorbike accident this morning. Those are just two events that I know about. My friends in Tokyo are struggling with this, especially coming on top of the March earthquake and tsunami, and associated events. I suspect the classmates of the Logos student are also struggling, although I also know they will be praying hard for her and her family. We may never know why these things happened. It's not easy to deal with them, but for me, I have to hold on to the truth, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28). It is hard to understand how He does this, but I do know that He does what He has promised. Let's pray today for those young people and their families who are going through tough times. Pray they will all know the comfort that only God can bring. Pray for the "peace that passes understanding" to fill their lives as they grapple with these situations. And while we're praying, let's pray for young people generally. Pray that they will know Christ. Pray that God will work in their lives. Pray that they will be surrounded by people who truly care for them. Bad things happen in this world, but there is a good God in charge.

26 May 2011

Some thoughts on grace.

Isn't God's grace a wonderful gift to us! A long time ago, I learned to define grace as "God's riches at Christ's expense". Oh what a simplification that is. This year I have learned so much more about God's grace.
Why the deep thoughts? Well on Tuesday a very special friend of mine, who has 4 children, one of whom has considerable health problems, posted a link to this blog. She also posted the quote below which comes from the end of the video on the blog:
"God brings us to the end of ourselves, the end of our strength and wits. He destroys our pride and self-confidence in order to reveal to us His grace. Your circumstances don’t define God’s love for you. The cross defines His love for you. Your circumstances are merely used to point you towards that love. To bring you to a point of desperation where you kneel at the cross and surrender all of your strength for all of his grace."
God's grace is so much more than we can imagine. I'm still reading an awesome book that I got from Booksneeze.com, titled Captured by Grace, which has alternatively challenged and encouraged me. I'll write a review on it sometime soon, but one really important gem I discovered was how the brother of the prodigal son needed grace just as much as the prodigal son! Now in theory I knew that, but something about the way it was written in this book really hit me. God is so good.
The author of the quote was speaking from personal experiences, and I'm not proud to say that God did this to me too! It's not a good thing that sometimes He needs us to go through really tough experiences so that we can receive His love and grace in all it's fullness, but praise Him that He cares enough about us to take us where we need to go, all the while holding us safely in His hand.
This year, I have experienced God's grace in a way I hadn't before. He continues to work in me, and I know I'm still a work in progress, but I want to thank Him for all He has given me this year, and all He has brought me through. I pray that I will continue to serve Him while continuing to develop a deeper and fuller understanding of His grace.
What about you? Have you seen God's grace this year? Care to share?

20 May 2011

Snapshots from Wednesday morning at school

On Wednesday, we had visitors from Australia in Grade 3K. The children enjoyed having the extra adults in the classroom, and especially enjoyed the lovely gifts they brought with them. It was also a chance to get some photos of classroom life that I wouldn't normally get, simply because I'm too involved in what is going on to take photos! Thanks to Owen & Jenny for these snapshots of a morning in Grade 3K at EWIS.
Setting out name tags so the visitors would know who they were talking to.
These were a life saver at the start of the school year when I had 42 new names to learn (21 in each class & I taught both classes mathematics so I had to learn all 42 names - some were easy, but others were challenging to my Aussie tongue!
I don't need them now, but keep them handy for days like this.

Here they come! Homework folders, returned work folders and water bottles all come into the classroom!
Backpacks and shoes are left outside.
With our gifts (not always easy to get smiling photos) but they really did like their gifts.
Thank you so much Mr Owen & Mrs Jenny.

Getting our books out, ready to start on the day's work.

Completing the Homework Book so we don't "forget" to do something!

Miss Karen checks the homework is all written down and checks for understanding of the assigned tasks.
Miss Karen listens to ME read. This student had no English at the start of last summer. He's now reading simple books, writing a little, and understanding quite a lot.

Editing practise. D just didn't quite get this one so Miss Karen gave him some help.

18 May 2011

Now why didn't I take a photo of that?

I usually ride my moto to and from school, but today, since I had visitors, I took a tuk-tuk. Now since this is something I don't often do, I decided to make the most of it, and first we went to the post office (nothing there for any of us). Then I was on a mission. The last time I moved house was very shortly after we moved the school, and so I was able to borrow a heap of boxes from school, and then pass them on to the next household that moved. Sadly, that means I actually got very few boxes for this pending move. Now I've been here four and a half years, and it's amazing the number of treasures you collect in that time (books is just part of those treasures), so naturally I needed boxes! Now it's not that expensive to buy boxes here, but getting them home on the moto was going to be interesting, so today's mission on the way home from school was to buy boxes. I'm happy to say we arrived safely at the box shop, and I was able negotiate to buy 30 boxes, and 4m x 2m of bubble wrap and some packaging tape for less than $30. That was OK, and the tuk-tuk driver was very helpful in negotiating. Then came the fun bit that I wish I'd had a photo of. Trying to get all those boxes, plus the three of us and our bits and pieces into the tuk-tuk! No problem. Some went under our feet and the others went behind the driver! Heaps of room. We could have fitted much more in! I mean to say, we had nothing tied on the roof! So now I just have to get the contract signed and get packing. Let the fun begin.

16 May 2011

Cambodian What Is It? - Mystery Solved

Remember this photo?

This is what's inside? Actually I believe it's quite a lot messier than this when it's first opened, but this is Jack Fruit, prepared ready to eat. I'm still waiting for this one to be picked, so I can see what it's like inside. Meanwhile, I was hoping my helper would produce some soon so that I could take a photo and sure enough, she did! Thanks Naomi. Not everyone likes it, but I enjoy it. It's also really good dried! Crunchy! Tasty! And good for you as well!

Thanks to the two people who attempted identification. One knew what it was, but then she has lived in Cambodia a lot longer than I have, so it's probably to be expected. The other thought it might have been "that smelly fruit", by which I think she means Durian. No, that won't find its way into my house, although one day I must take a photo of the stalls selling it that I pass on my way home from school.

12 May 2011

Endangered Animals

One of our Science topics for 3rd grade is Endangered Animals. The children have really enjoyed learning about different animals and some of the reasons why they are endanged.

One of the final activities for this unit was a visit from the Wildlife Alliance education team, which was really great. They gave two presentations over two mornings, one for grades 6 - 8, and the second for grades 3 - 5. Along with a slide show, there was lots of time for the children to ask questions, and ask questions they did! The children really impressed the team with the questions that they were asking. Some of the slides were a tad on the gruesome side (amputated bear paws), but it was very well put together, and the children found out a great deal about what is being done here in Cambodia to protect the local wildlife. The children also had an opportunity to make a voluntary donation to the work of the Wildlife Alliance team, and it was heartwarming to see the children giving out of their own "pocket money" to help feed the rescued animals.

In the afternoon, the team returned to do another session with just the 3rd grade students, and that was lots of fun. There was more time for questions, and then time for a couple of games. Here are some photos from the afternoon session.

The other culminating activity for the unit was preparing and presenting posters on Endangered Animals. Each student was allocated their own animal, and provided with some information sheets about that animal. We also borrowed a number of books from the library to provide some extra information on some of the animals. The children first collected all their information on a mini version of the poster, and then did their final presentation on an A3 size version. They loved doing these, and as you can see by the pictures below, did a great job!

Well done Grade 3K! Looking forward to seeing those completed Country Report posters.

Cambodian What Is It? #1

I'm about to start on something a friend in Japan has been doing on her blog for a while. I'll post a picture for you to try and identify, and then a few days later I'll identify it!

The first in this series is something I discovered at school. I had to ask what it was, and I've been here more than four years, so it will be interesting to see what you make of it.

11 May 2011

Showing my age!

After a busy but good day at school, I had a few chores to do "on the way" home this afternoon. The first was to get a new SIM card for my "spare" mobile phone. We have visitors from down under heading our way on Tuesday, and so they don't feel totally isolated if they have to go out without a "local", a SIM card was in order. I needed one anyway so I don't have to give my personal number to parents, but so they can feel able to communicate with me, and if need be I can phone them without using my personal number. Anyway, the lady in the shop asked me if I had an "unlocked" phone. I proceeded to dig out the Nokia that I brought with me from Australia when I arrived here 4 1/2 years ago. A few days ago my Teaching Assistant had told me that it was a good phone, and that was rather pleasant to hear. When I brought it out in the store today, the lady commented, that's the type of phone the older generation like. I wasn't sure whether to be flattered or insulted. Probably it wasn't meant as either. Anyway, I simply responded with a comment that "it does all I need it to do!". Now this might make me a dinosaur, but I don't need a phone that is also a flashlight, camera and internet! I just need a phone that I can talk to people on and send SMS's on. Even the replacement phone that I now use is very similar to this one. It's a little smaller but not much (if it was too small I'd lose it!), and does basically the same things.

So am I a dinosaur? I don't think so, but having said that, I can remember the days before mobile phones and e-mail even existed! We did seem to manage to keep in touch. I did my final year of school at boarding school 1000km from my family, and we kept in touch regularly by snail mail and the very occasional phone call. There was no e-mail, sms, or skype. Long-distance calls were expensive, so it was mostly snail mail. Thanks for the regular letters Mum.

I can also remember the early mobile phones. A friend had one for his business. It was heavy, about the size of two house bricks stacked on top of each other, and could only be used for making phone calls! Wow, I'm glad technology has improved!

By the way, I realise that the phone was a bit grungy, so it has had its face washed and is now more presentable to hand over to guests! Here's the cleaned up version.

07 May 2011

Mother's Day

Tomorrow (or today for some folk) is Mother's Day in Australia, and I think in some other places around the world. It is a day for celebrating the women of the world who are mothers, and all they do to make the world a better place. Now I may not be a mother, but I do know that their job is not an easy one. One of the reasons I haven't pursued adopting a child is because I believe the job of parenting is too big for one person. Many do it alone successfully, but I'd be fairly confident they would say it was hard.

As people around the world celebrate Mother's Day, let's take some time to think about some very special people.

Praise God for mothers who have enjoyed the privilege of motherhood, and have seen their children grow into happy, well adjusted, adults.
Pray for mothers who have not had that experience for some reason (and usually through no fault of their own).

Praise God for mothers who have happy healthy children now, who are enjoying watching their children grow and change, and who are guiding them carefully through their childhood years.
Pray for mothers of children who struggle with health and/or development issues. They are amazing people who need every bit of support and encouragement they can get.

Praise God for mothers who have done their very best for their children, even if we don't think their best is good enough. Chances are those mothers know they are struggling and feel bad about it.
Pray for the children whose mothers do not always do the things we think best for their children. Pray there will be others who will step into the gap for them.

Pray for those women who would love to be mothers or to have been mothers, but who are either unable to have children, or who have chosen not to have children because of their singleness. Pray that people will be sensitive to these women, even while still celebrating Mother's Day. Praise God that He has promised to meet all our needs, and that includes the emotional needs of those unable to be mothers.

Mother's Day sometimes projects the thought that mother's are perfect. I'm so glad mothers are not perfect, because it would make it very hard for the rest of us. Mother's Day is about celebrating the role of motherhood, and all it means. Thanks God, for placing us in families with mothers and fathers. You knew what we needed and you planned for it, and showed us the right way to go.

Mum, thanks for all you do for me! Mum, thanks for who you are! God made you, and He gave me to you, and God doesn't make mistakes. He knows exactly what He's doing. Love you Mum!