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.


Empty religion is everywhere.     (photo: Roger)
It says “Coffin” not Coffee shop. No Lattes served here!     (photo: Roger)
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)
Guavas are in season.     (photo: Roger)
Pizza!     (photo: Roger)
Donuts!     (photo: Roger)
Chicken! KFC. One of the first fast food joints to arrive in Phnom Penh.     (photo: Roger)
Burgers!     (photo: Roger)
New Carl’s Jr. It is going to be Cambodia’s first drive-thru.     (photo: Roger)
What? Coldstone?     (photo: Roger)
Yes!     (photo: Roger)
Mama! She is from the Bronx. Great food and she cooks it all.     (photo: Chantha)
Gasoline can still be found along the road in old soda bottles.     (photo: Roger)
Bamboo scaffolding. OSHA approved.     (photo: Roger)
Father and son.     (photo: Roger)
I remember my mom looking like this when she had her hair in curlers. I think this is something different.     (photo: Roger)
Hard workers, make very little money.     (photo: Roger)
A pole vaulter on his moto?     (photo: Roger)
Break time.     (photo: Roger)
Ditching school.     (photo: Chantha)
A junk collector, but a happy one.     (photo: Chantha)
Caught in the mirror.     (photo: Chantha)
Stop!     (photo: Roger)
No railcars have been on this line for many years.     (photo: Roger)
Buddhist beggars   (photo: Chantha)
Check out the oil containers in the barbed wire.     (photo: Roger)
Meaner than a junkyard dog.     (photo: Roger)
Cool wagon shot.     (photo: Roger)
Big signs over the roads here.     (photo: Roger)
Building, building, building. It is amazing.     (photo: Roger)
Mom taking her daughter to school.     (photo: Roger)
I gave an old beggar woman a couple dollars and a tract.     (photo: Chantha)
She was grateful.     (photo: Chantha)
Colorful junk.     (photo: Chantha)
Guardian of the corner.     (photo: Roger)
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)
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.

Translation in progress.
Living Water


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.


Today in Pictures: August 18, 2016

Beginning the day with a small latte.
Construction is booming.  But, the workers only make $100 or less per month.
Cambodian art abounds throughout the city.
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.
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.”
Men play Camboidan Chess in the heat of the day.
Vendors sell household items.
On their way to market to fill baskets with vegetables.
Striking color captured my attention as we made our way through the crowded streets of Phnom Penh.
Big business in wheelbarrows with all of the construction.
A grandfather walks a narrow littered road.
Children hanging out in their parent’s store.
School is out, time for a snack.
Coconut water is good for the soul!
More colorful, plastic, household goods.
The lumber mill.
A vehicle you NEVER want to ride in.
More color.
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.
No Obama phones here!
Fresh chicken delivery.
Mom and the kids in the station wagon.
Lebanese Schwarma in the heart of Phnom Penh.
The gateway to somewhere…
Religion and royalty (foreground) and capitalism (background).
The government is putting up new signs to try and educate drivers.
Naps are crucial in the oppresive heat and humidity of the afternoon.
Doing what he can to earn a few dollars to feed his family.

Today in Pictures: August 17, 2016

Getting ready for a Hope Now movie night on Friday.
We found a big supermarket with lots of junk food for the movie night.
The store employees helped carry it to our Tuk-tuk.
These vehicles hold a lot of goodies.
Along the way we met up with a deportee who runs his own Tuk-tuk business. BMW on the back.
Lunch on a hot platter.
Chantha working hard, preparing for the movie night, in the new Starbucks.
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.
Cars get close to us on the road in the heavy traffic.
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.
This guy has two spares tires in case of emergency.
Not sure if this Coca-cola product has made it to the States. It is an “energy” drink, uh-huh.
Rows and rows of motos for sale.
Trees are blooming. Beauty in the midst of chaos. 
T-shirts blowin’ in the wind today. What’s that? A Los Angeles hat in the lower right?
Colorful fruit stand.
You can get anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant. It’s a niche market.