Two Average Men

 

“If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men… of average talent.”  D.L. Moody

Dwight Lyman Moody is a name that most people would not recognize, yet in the late 1800’s, he was one of the most well-known men in all the world. Often he spoke to audiences of 10,000 to 20,000 people. He presented God’s offer of salvation by his voice or pen to at least one hundred million people. 

Moody was unconventional in the way he attracted people to hear the gospel message. He drew the children of the German and Scandinavian immigrant underclass to his mission with candy and pony rides, and he drew the adults through evening prayer meetings and English classes. He was convinced,

“If you can really make a man believe you love him, you have won him.”

Chantha and I hit the streets of Phnom Penh.  I am a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Chantha is a student there. We used some of D.L. Moody’s unconventional tactics to share the Gospel.

Our day did not turn out the way we had planned. The plan was to have a day off, a recreation day.  Plan A:  Three of us, Chantha, me and one other guy would meet up for breakfast and then head over to the Mall for some bowling competition. I am the bowling champ among these youngsters and I needed to retain my title. At the last minute, the other guy came down with an extreme migraine.  I told him to stay home and rest and we would bowl another day. The three men turned into two.

Plan B:  We did not have a plan.  Chantha showed up at my hotel at 8 AM.  We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast although we had to swat mosquitoes biting our ankles.  After breakfast we discussed several Bible studies for Chantha to lead on Saturday mornings.  He will take the Hope Now Cambodia guys through the life of Abraham. Understanding Abraham and God’s promises to him will help guys understand the New Testament better.  We had a good planning session and Chantha is excited about a new study.

Now what do we do? Since our number three guy was out, bowling was out too. “Let’s go down to the riverfront and just walk around” I said. We thought we would let God lead us. Our driver dropped us off in front of the royal palace. 

As we walked along the street, drivers, beggars and vendors were calling out to us to buy their goods, give them alms, or to drive us around the city.  One Tuk-tuk driver called out “Tuk-tuk? You go shoot? Bang bang?”

There is a shooting range in Phnom Penh where big guns, like rocket launchers can be fired, seriously! Small arms can be fired too, but the draw for tourists is to shoot the big guns. Rumor has it you get to blow up a cow! Every driver we passed by wanted to take us there. We rounded the corner, and another driver asked the same question, but this time we engaged him in conversation and our unplanned walk took on a new purpose.

I turned to the Tuk-tuk driver and put my hand on his shoulder and said, “I am from California in the United States.  In the U.S.A. I can own a gun, I have a permit to carry one.  So I do not need to go to the shooting range, I can do that at home (although I admit, I cannot blow up a cow), and besides, I have been to Cambodia eight times.  If I wanted to go, I would have gone many years ago.”  We bantered back and forth about the shooting range and guns in a friendly, jovial tone.  We were laughing and enjoying the gun conversation. 

Earlier in the week, I observed a shop owner throwing pieces of wrapped candy into the street.  I thought that was odd. Why was she doing that? It was not only one shop owner, I saw several do it. I asked Chantha why they threw candy in the street; he did not know the reason. 

As we talked to the Tuk-tuk driver about guns, at his feet were pieces of wrapped candy and incense sticks stuck in the ground next to the candy.  Chantha remembered our conversation about the candy and asked the driver, “Why do you throw this candy in the street?” He responded it was a way to bring the store owner, or in his case, the driver good luck. “Does it work?” I asked him. “Does the candy bring you good luck?” He shifted back and forth, thought for a moment and said, “Everyday is the same, even if we do not throw the candy in the street.”

It was then I took a page out of D.L. Moody’s playbook, he used candy to draw kids to the gospel, I used dollars.  I reached in my wallet and pulled out two dollars and said, “Jesus Christ has brought you good luck today, here is money for you in the name of Jesus Christ!”  I know Jesus does not bring luck, but I was using terminology in which he could relate. He looked surprised by the money. I told him we are Christians and have good news for him.

Chantha shared the Gospel in Khmer. He told him, “You cannot reach God or gain luck by doing things. Good works will not help you for your eternal life.  Jesus Christ is the only way.  You must believe in Jesus and just as you received this money, receive His free gift. Jesus will save you.  That is the message we wanted to share with you today.” 

The young man was happy to hear this message and he and Chantha exchanged telephone numbers. We may follow up with him before I leave for home. Chantha asked him his name, “Chanthea” he said.  “That’s like my name” Chantha said, “It will be easy to remember.”  Please pray for him.

In the New Testament, the apostles received a beating from the Jewish council for preaching the gospel. Upon their release Acts 5:41 says, 

“They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

Chantha and I did not receive a beating, and we did not suffer, but we could relate to the “rejoicing” part.  I imagine the apostles walking away saying to each other, “Can you believe what just happened? That was awesome! We got to suffer for Jesus Christ!” 

We had much of the same sentiment as we walked away, Chantha said, “I shared the gospel with him!” We were both excited. It began with a conversation about guns and cows. Now we are praying for his soul.

We crossed the street, and another driver said, “Shooting range?” Here we go again! Now we knew what to do.  I gave him my same spiel, and said, “I want to bless you, here is a gift in the name of Jesus Christ.”  Then Chantha shared the gospel in Khmer with this young man, and he listened attentively.  He was interested in what Chantha was telling him.  Chantha exchanged phone numbers with him too.

We left that exchange rejoicing again that we shared the truth of Jesus Christ and everlasting life with these men today. We thought we were going to be in a bowling alley, but due to a migraine, God had other plans. It was as if God said, “Bowling?  I did not send you here to bowl.” I am not suggesting that God gave our friend a migraine, or that bowling is wrong, but God used the circumstances as an opportunity to direct us on a different path from what we thought our day would be like.

The plot thickens…

THE NEXT DAY:

Chantha and I met for breakfast this morning and worked our way through Genesis, chapters 13 and 14.  After we finished, I wanted to buy some Khmer language Gospel of John booklets.  I looked online and found a place in Phnom Penh that sold them; The Cambodia Bible Society. We decided to find their building.

We gave the address to our Tuk-tuk driver and after maneuvering through massive traffic jams we arrived in about 45 minutes.  The little shop, located on a bumpy dirt road, was very nice and had lots of Khmer/English Gospel of John books, and other tracts and Bibles. We bought several books.  Finding these books made the drive well worth it.

Our purchase in hand, we headed back to the riverfront.  What did God have in store for us today?  We were about to be surprised!

I told Chantha, “Let’s take the same route as yesterday. Let’s do the exact same thing.”  We prayed and began walking.  The street where I used to stay when I came to Phnom Penh was up ahead, so we walked along to see if Virak, my old friend and Tuk-tuk driver was there (See Virak’s story by clicking here). He was there, and we greeted each other warmly.  I gave him a Christian tract, then Chantha and I went on our way.

As we rounded the corner, we came upon Chanthea, the young driver we met yesterday.  He was sitting in his Tuk-tuk with another driver, Sina, waiting for customers. Chanthea was happy to see us and Sina was personable. 

Sina, began to ask us questions about Jesus and God, which we answered.  After ten minutes of questions and answers, Sina moved over and sat next to Chanthea and asked if we wanted to sit in the Tuk-tuk with them and talk more.  We did.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out two Gospel of John books and handed them to each young man.  They received them with gladness.  As we answered more questions, I showed them various verses where Jesus said, “Believe in me and you will have everlasting life.” 

Moments before, Sina asked, “Are you guys trying to make us believe?”  Chantha replied, “We want you to believe, but we are not trying to do anything except tell you the truth about everlasting life through Jesus Christ. Whether you believe is up to you.”

I showed them John 3:16, John 6:47, John 14:6 and each time we turned to a verse I pointed to it and said to Sina, “Read it out loud.” As he read, Chanthea listened and was quiet. I thought, “Sina is interested in the gospel, I am not so sure about Chanthea.” (Later, Chantha told me he was thinking the same thing.)  After Sina read John 14:6, I turned to one more verse, John 20:31, where the apostle John states the reason he wrote this book. It says, 

“This gospel is written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Before Sina could read it, his phone rang and he answered it.  We sat there waiting for him to finish the call.  He got up out of the Tuk-tuk and continued his conversation outside, standing on the sidewalk.  We waited a little longer and I began to think, this is a ploy of the enemy to distract us. I said to Chanthea, “Why don’t you read this verse—read it out loud.”  He read it clearly in his native Khmer language. When he finished I said, “That is what this book is about, Jesus is God and he offers you everlasting life–he will give it to you if you believe.”

I could tell something was different after he read the verse out loud, his demeanor changed.  He said to Chantha, “No one has ever shared this good news about Jesus with me before. I want to believe in Jesus.”  Chantha and I sort of gulped; we had not asked him if he wanted to believe.  We had not coerced him or led him to say that. We did not manipulate the situation. We did not say, “Repeat this prayer after me.” or “Say these words.”  He just read the verse of Scripture for himself and believed! That is the Holy Spirit at work.

“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

Chantha prayed for him in Khmer and Chanthea had a look of happiness on his face when the prayer was finished.  I told him,

“You now have everlasting life, Chanthea. Your sins are forgiven.”

As Chantha was praying, Sina came back into the Tuk-tuk and observed.  He did not say he believed, but perhaps his friend Chanthea will lead him to the Lord? 

I gave them each $3.00 because we had taken up their time. They could have been earning money driving. We said our goodbyes, and encouraged them to read the gospel of John and call Chantha if they have questions. Chantha and I went away rejoicing for a second day!  After we had walked down the street, we stopped and prayed, thanking God for allowing us to share the good news with someone who was hearing it for the first time; with someone who was ready to believe.

We walked over to the marketplace, each of us still in shock (The good kind. The goose-bump kind of shock) over what had just occurred.  I found a hat that summed up our day.  The apostles rejoiced in Acts and my hat had essentially that message embroidered on the front in Khmer lettering.  It reads, “Happy”.

We are two average men doing what Jesus has commissioned us to do,

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel.” Mark 16:15

I am happy He used us.

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Our driver dropped us off in front of the royal palace.
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Beggars called out to us as we walked. We gave them money and tracts.
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Chantha spotted the wrapped candy and incense on the groung.
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Chanthea and me, the first day.
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Chantha and the other driver we told the good news to. The first day.
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We found the sign directing us to the Bible Society store.
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The sign on the gate.
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Holding a Gospel of John in Khmer/English.
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Looking over our purchase.
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We filled a few plastic bags full of books and tracts.
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Virak greets me.
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Sina looking at the Gospel of John we gave him.
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Sina reading John 6:47
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Chanthea (now a new believer), Sina and me.
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The guy in the marketplace sold me my hat “Happy”. Only $5.

Today in Pictures: August 23, 2016

Chantha and I took some photos as we travelled today.  The  good ones are his, using his nice Canon SLR.  Enjoy.

 

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Empty religion is everywhere.     (photo: Roger)
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It says “Coffin” not Coffee shop. No Lattes served here!     (photo: Roger)
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Found an old driver from years ago. He asked me how my “cancer” was. I said, “Thank you for asking, but it was a kidney problem, not cancer.” I was so amazed he remembered after four years that I had a health issue.     (photo: Chantha)
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Guavas are in season.     (photo: Roger)
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Pizza!     (photo: Roger)
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Donuts!     (photo: Roger)
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Chicken! KFC. One of the first fast food joints to arrive in Phnom Penh.     (photo: Roger)
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Burgers!     (photo: Roger)
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New Carl’s Jr. It is going to be Cambodia’s first drive-thru.     (photo: Roger)
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What? Coldstone?     (photo: Roger)
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Yes!     (photo: Roger)
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Mama! She is from the Bronx. Great food and she cooks it all.     (photo: Chantha)
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Gasoline can still be found along the road in old soda bottles.     (photo: Roger)
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Bamboo scaffolding. OSHA approved.     (photo: Roger)
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Father and son.     (photo: Roger)
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I remember my mom looking like this when she had her hair in curlers. I think this is something different.     (photo: Roger)
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Hard workers, make very little money.     (photo: Roger)
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A pole vaulter on his moto?     (photo: Roger)
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Break time.     (photo: Roger)
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Ditching school.     (photo: Chantha)
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A junk collector, but a happy one.     (photo: Chantha)
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Caught in the mirror.     (photo: Chantha)
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Stop!     (photo: Roger)
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No railcars have been on this line for many years.     (photo: Roger)
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Buddhist beggars   (photo: Chantha)
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Check out the oil containers in the barbed wire.     (photo: Roger)
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Meaner than a junkyard dog.     (photo: Roger)
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Cool wagon shot.     (photo: Roger)
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Big signs over the roads here.     (photo: Roger)
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Building, building, building. It is amazing.     (photo: Roger)
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Mom taking her daughter to school.     (photo: Roger)
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I gave an old beggar woman a couple dollars and a tract.     (photo: Chantha)
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She was grateful.     (photo: Chantha)
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Colorful junk.     (photo: Chantha)
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Guardian of the corner.     (photo: Roger)
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I found my gecko. I have bought one of these each visit. This is number 8 and I think the last one in Phnom Penh. It took us two weeks to find it.     (photo: Chantha)
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I was very happy with my gecko find. The store owner must have known this was the last one in town. I paid a fortune for it!     (photo: Chantha)

The Art of the Deal

I stick out like a sore thumb.  Yes, I am an oddity in Cambodia.  I am big and tall; I am light-skinned, and my arms are hairy; I smile and say “Hello” to people, a lot.  The other day, I was walking along the street and I greeted a man with the traditional Khmer greeting—hands pressed together just below the chin.  He greeted me back. As I walked by he reached out and felt the hair on my arm. I did not skip a beat, I kept walking but inside I was laughing.  Most Cambodians have smooth skin.  Once, on an earlier trip, a hotel worker stood next to me and rubbed the hair on my arm and laughed. Yesterday as Chantha and I walked along a street not frequented by foreigners, a mother with young children sitting next to her pointed at me for her children to see the strange man.

Cambodian people respond to a smile or a kind gesture.  I have watched foreigners, many who are non-conversant and often rude to the locals.  Or, on the other extreme foreigners fawn over local religious practices.  I am respectful of religious practices, but am not afraid to comment on the hopelessness of ancestor worship or animism. Being a Buddhist country, it is everywhere.

There is a brand new coffee shop near my hotel.  This month they are offering a 30% discount in honor of their grand opening. The coffee is good and priced right.  The Khmer owner is a nice man, speaks English well, and gave me great service the few times I patronized his shop.  Two days ago, during some kind of Chinese religious observance (I asked around, but no one seemed to know what the day was about), I walked into the shop and right in front of the cash register was a religious shrine, complete with two cooked chickens, burning incense, flowers and several stacks of fake money. The incense overpowered the aroma of the coffee.

To top it off, the bakery case was empty. Ignoring the shrine for a moment (Which was difficult), I maneuvered around it to ask the employee “Where are the baked goods?”  He said, “It is late, and they are gone.” It was 7:30 AM.  I pointed to the sign on the door smiling and said, “You have only been open for 30 minutes!” He looked at me, shrugged and smiled back.  I said, in a respectful but firm tone, albeit choked by the incense, “And this altar? Putting it in your store is not a good thing. It is in the way of customers, and If you believe it will bring good luck, you are wrong.  It has just brought you bad luck because I will buy nothing today.” Okay, I could have gone a little easier.  I could have, or should have been more holy, but I needed a pastry and incense gags me.  I am not sure he understood me, anyway.

The language barrier is difficult since many do not speak English and I know only a few words in Khmer such as, “Turn left”, “Turn right”, “Thank you”, “Check please!” “Yes” and “No”. Yesterday, my Khmer/American friends, Mout and Chantha were with me. They speak the language well.  I told them I wanted to find a Christian bookstore to see if they have any Christian tracts in Khmer.  We found a small hole-in-the-wall store, they had tracts.

The young woman working in the store may have been scared by three big guys walking through the door. I pointed to Chantha and said to her, “Watch him, he steals things.”  I do not think she understood, but we all laughed. She was friendly and had the joy of the Lord.

I found a tract which looked good by its cover. It showed Jesus speaking to a woman by a Well. The picture gave away the message inside, but I needed to know what the tract said, since the text was in Khmer.  I asked Mout if he would ask the shopgirl to read the tract to him and he could translate for me. That worked well.  I liked the message of the tract. It was clear about who is Jesus and that by believing in Him one can have Living Water, everlasting life.

I asked the bookstore girl, “How much are these tracts?”  She said “These are free, they are give-aways.”  I said, “Oh nice, I will take the entire stack.” She looked shocked and said, “Only one per customer.” I said, “But I want to give them to people, if I only take one, then only one person will hear the gospel.” She replied in a sweet tone yet remaining obedient to what her manager must have told her, “Sorry, only one per customer.”  We continued to make a plea for her to give us at least 25 of them.  She said she could not because it was only one per customer.  Mout said, “She’s a tough one!”

Now the battle was on. Determined to get through to her we needed those tracts, I reached for the ultimate weapon, my wallet and pulled out a ten-dollar bill. “Here, I will give you ten dollars for them.”  She didn’t know what to do. She shook her head no. I said, “You can take the money and give it to the people who brought these tracts to your store, as a donation. They will be happy.” This continued for a while.

Poor girl, she was only trying to follow the rules.  I told her, “God will forgive you!”  She relented and said, “You can have them, but I will not take the money.” Fair enough; this girl has integrity and, thanks to us, tremendous guilt!  “Do you have tracts for sale?” She showed me others, and I bought them so the store would have a sale.

This morning I gave my first hard-won tract away.  Lyna is a young girl who works in the restaurant of my hotel. She rides her bicycle to work, 30-minutes each way. She lives at home with her mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, and three younger siblings. They are poor.  When I checked in to the hotel last week, she remembered me from my trip in April and was happy to see me and I her.  She knows I am a pastor, but I am not sure she knows what a pastor does. I think she likes the fact I give her a $2 tip every morning at the buffet breakfast!

Yesterday she told me her grandmother was in the hospital, and she would not be at work tomorrow because she had to go visit her.  I asked her, “How old is your grandmother?”  She said “Seventy and five.”  I told Lyna, “I will pray for your grandmother. I will pray to the True God (I pointed up) that she will get well.”  She looked at me surprised, but happy and said, “Thank you.”

Later that day, after I had prayed for her grandmother twice, I came back to the hotel and Lyna saw me walk through the door.  She came over and said, “My grandmother came home from the hospital this afternoon!” I know God answers prayer, but it surprised me. That was a quick answer. I told her “God has heard the prayers.”

This morning I asked how her grandmother is doing.  She said she is recovering at home and her mother is helping her.  I brought one tract to breakfast to give to Lyna and I blessed her with $20. “Lyna, this $20 is to help your family take care of your grandmother, and you can read this paper to your grandmother when you get home.”  She teared up at seeing the $20, and she held the tract with reverence and care and said, “I will gather all my family and we will read this. Thank you, Mr. Roger.”

I don’t mind standing out in the crowd so long as I am showing the love of Jesus.  There are many ways to show Christ’s love, through words, a prayer, and gifts.  In this land of Karma or doing good works to gain a positive rebirth, the gospel message is unique and refreshing, like Living Water, in that no works are necessary. Jesus is the Living Water, one only needs to drink.

Salvation is a gift.

My prayer is for many to receive Christ’s love (believe in Him) and like the tracts, His love is free.

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Translation in progress.
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Living Water

Student

Returning to my room in the afternoon, I discovered my key card did not work.  I walked down the five flights of stairs (having just walked up) to the front desk where I told the manager, “My key card is not working.”  She said, “No problem, sir.” Then, making small talk she said,  “You had lun already?”  I leaned toward her and said, “I do not understand.”  She said, “How do you say it? Lunch?” And she spoke the word clearly (In California style) putting emphasis on the “ch”.  “Yes!” I said, “perfect, it is lunch. Very good I can undertand you well.” She had a big smile and handed back my reprogrammed key.  As I rounded the corner out of view, I heard her saying over and over again, “Lunch. Lunch. Lunch.”  My first English student.

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Today in Pictures: August 18, 2016

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Beginning the day with a small latte.
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Construction is booming.  But, the workers only make $100 or less per month.
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Cambodian art abounds throughout the city.
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The result of this new wave of capitalism, is that the rich can buy nice cars.  There is no middle class, they’re stuck with motos and push-carts.
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Shoes are colorful and popular with the street vendors.  I entered one store and the lady took one look at me and said to Chantha, in Khmer, “We don’t have his size.”
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Men play Camboidan Chess in the heat of the day.
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Vendors sell household items.
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On their way to market to fill baskets with vegetables.
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Striking color captured my attention as we made our way through the crowded streets of Phnom Penh.
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Big business in wheelbarrows with all of the construction.
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A grandfather walks a narrow littered road.
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Coconut!
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Children hanging out in their parent’s store.
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School is out, time for a snack.
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Coconut water is good for the soul!
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More colorful, plastic, household goods.
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The lumber mill.
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A vehicle you NEVER want to ride in.
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More color.
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It is amazing these motos are waiting at the stop light.  There must be a cop positioned at the corners.  Usually, people blow through the lights.
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No Obama phones here!
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Fresh chicken delivery.
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Mom and the kids in the station wagon.
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Lebanese Schwarma in the heart of Phnom Penh.
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The gateway to somewhere…
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Religion and royalty (foreground) and capitalism (background).
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The government is putting up new signs to try and educate drivers.
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Naps are crucial in the oppresive heat and humidity of the afternoon.
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Doing what he can to earn a few dollars to feed his family.

Today in Pictures: August 17, 2016

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Getting ready for a Hope Now movie night on Friday.
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We found a big supermarket with lots of junk food for the movie night.
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The store employees helped carry it to our Tuk-tuk.
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These vehicles hold a lot of goodies.
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Along the way we met up with a deportee who runs his own Tuk-tuk business. BMW on the back.
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Lunch on a hot platter.
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Chantha working hard, preparing for the movie night, in the new Starbucks.
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Today is some kind of holiday. Buddhists are burning fake money (notice the Benjamin Franklin going in the flames), and signs that say “Range Rover” or “Mercedes”. I guess in hope of getting one in their next life. Very hopeless. Notice the little girl behind the glass case, learning from her mom.
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Cars get close to us on the road in the heavy traffic.
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Maybe they had one of these machines to build the Great Pyramid? I couldn’t get the shot, but there were a couple of guys in hammocks underneath the massive stones, in the shade, taking a break.
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This guy has two spares tires in case of emergency.
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Not sure if this Coca-cola product has made it to the States. It is an “energy” drink, uh-huh.
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Rows and rows of motos for sale.
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Trees are blooming. Beauty in the midst of chaos. 
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T-shirts blowin’ in the wind today. What’s that? A Los Angeles hat in the lower right?
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Colorful fruit stand.
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You can get anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant. It’s a niche market.