A Water Project!

This past week I had the opportunity to be a part of my first project with the Cambodia team!  We visited a site in Kampong Chhnang province that wants to build a conference center and supply a nearby village with water.  The project team split the tasks into three components.  A couple folks spent the whole time outside setting control “hubs” for future surveying that will take place in October.  A couple more people were working on getting the water from the stream to the project site and village.  Myself and one of the interns worked on water treatment options.

Day 4 of the trip was water sampling day.  Because some of the sampling was time sensitive, one of our interns and Ian brought supplies up, we sampled in two locations and they took the samples to the lab in Phnom Penh.  Ian and Reatrey met us at a tiny village near the two sampling sites.  The villagers came out to see what we were up to and were delighted when I hugged Ian (and asked us to hug again, which of course we obliged).  Ian then went on a steep hike with half the team to the first sampling location.  I’m pretty sure Ian didn’t mind that we asked him to hike up to a waterfall to sample water.  I took the project leader and two interns downstream to take our samples.  Each intern had the chance to take a sample and Reatrey (who had not done water sampling before) was delighted with the process.


Each trip has it’s own unique challenges in design and this was no different.  Survey was conducted primarily with a drone.  Most of the property was safe, but properties nearby still contain landmines.  One of the water pumps on site was created from a retrofitted car engine.  That was interesting to spec!

For all the challenges, the area were we were was beautiful, and the family that hosted us was amazing.  All the food that we ate was produced on site, including the python and rabbit.  Talk about fresh!  Also, there were a couple litters of two week old puppies to play with!

Puppies 1


6 levels, 10 months, 13 teachers, lots of friends…

It is done. It is finished! (But not really.)

Yesterday, I (Ian) finished my formal Khmer classes. (Laura will continue through the end of the year, as her role requires more language proficiency than mine does).

Starting from our second or third week on the ground until now, we have been attending classes, working with language helpers, and studying late into the evenings. All told, that’s over 540 classroom hours (about 35 college credits worth), and thousands of words, phrases and grammar structures learned.


It’s been quite the experience, and there are a lot of good memories along the way. We’ve become close friends with our teachers and fellow students. After all, when you only know how to ask a few questions, you get to know everyone’s responses pretty quickly. I can tell you more quirky details about my friends Mike, Gerjan, and Lucy than I can tell them about some of you.

Gerjan, Lucy, Ian & Mike

With the end of language classes, I will start working from the office regularly on Monday. Starting the “real work”, the reason we came to live in Cambodia. At the moment, I’m lined up to help build a new church, facilities for an agricultural NGO, a school, and a few other projects. Personally, I’m really glad to be getting back to engineering — among everything else, this year has confirmed that is what I was built to be! Laura also has some exciting things lined up that she’ll write about soon.

A mystery location… Stay tuned!

For all we’ve accomplished, it’s easy to see how much more there is to learn. Right now, I can rattle off a lot in a market, and am sometimes able to hold my own on a construction site. But ask me about issues of worldview, or theology, and I run out of Khmer really quickly. It puts the challenges of those famous first missionaries (Hudson, Carmichael, etc) in perspective — those were dedicated, tenacious people, to find the ways to communicate the depths of the Gospel in brand new languages.

So, after a short breather, I’ll be continuing to learn Khmer on the side. There are lots of words still to learn, and lots of concepts to reinforce. It’s a long road — but after this year, I have the tools I’ll need to travel it well. Some day, I’ll be able to fluently share the hope we have in Jesus in both English and Khmer. But in the meantime, I’m thankful to be able to lean on our brothers and sisters. DCIM100MEDIADJI_0007.JPG



(Don’t) Find me in the river…

A few days ago, I (Ian) was able to go with a teammate (Chad) to visit a church here in Phnom Penh that is having some trouble. As with many of these visits, we had been referred by word of mouth passed along a few times, so we really didn’t know what to expect. We try our best to go into these meetings open minded, but it was still a bit of a shock to see what was going on.

This church has a small congregation of ethnic Vietnamese, and has been around for nearly 20 years. They have services on Sunday, plus classes and community outreach during the week. They also normally have a family that lives in the church to take care of the property and protect it (empty buildings here often fall prey to vandals or thieves).

So, when we walked in and saw this…. it was another reminder of how many things I grew up taking for granted.20180821_1421131887343289.jpg

This church happens to be located on the bank of the Mekong River. And as you can see, when the river is in flood stage (as it is currently, and will be for several months), the lower level of the church floods. It is currently close to a meter deep — and as you might imagine, that water is not particularly clean. This cuts off access to the only bathroom, and the care-taking family is not able to stay at the church until the river recedes. While the church has done a great job taking care of the building as best they can, the roof is also well past due for replacement, causing leaks and water damage.


So were these folks discouraged, or ready to give up? Not at all — they still meet there every week. In fact, they asked us out to look not only at fixing up the building as it currently stands, but how it might be possible to expand the building!

We’re still sorting through the possibilities to find the best way to help with this project. But I really hope we get to work with them in the future. It’s a great reminder that while we certainly want to do our best to provide good, safe, healthy facilities, the Gospel will move on, no matter what the conditions.


Five Countries

We are halfway through August and that marks approximately 10 months in Cambodia already!  Time is moving fast!  With that in mind, I wanted to share a few updates that are coming up in our near future and ask you for your prayers.

  • Ian is finishing up his year of Khmer language studies early and will be joining the office staff full time in September.  He’s very excited to be back in engineering and they are excited to have a structural engineer.  (Let’s be honest, when Ian is talking to the team about engineering, he’s like a kid in a candy store with unlimited pennies.)
  • I am going to continue language school through this year.  I still love my grammar and reading Khmer in particular.  I’m also working on helping out with a few office items (data cleanup and gathering resources for discipleship training).
  • As of this week, we will have five different countries in the office – Cambodia, Canada, USA, India (rotating staff) and South Korea (intern).  We can’t wait to all learn from one another but also are going to need a lot of grace and patience with that many cultures!
  • In the next couple days, our team is getting together for some serious self-evaluation.  What worked well and what didn’t this last term.  How do we want to handle different scenarios moving forward?  This will be good for office progress.

A lot is happening and even more coming down the pipe.  Stay tuned!


Loving Neighbors

When we first moved into this house, I was excited but a little nervous.  Where we lived in the apartment near the school was a mix of Khmer and expats.  We wanted to practice our Khmer language, but there was always someone nearby who spoke English if we got stuck, or a western restaurant if we missed a taste of home.  The markets were used to Westerners and we had a bakery across the street.

Since moving to this Khmer neighborhood, our neighbors were quick to take us in and make us feel welcome.  Geordi and Ian have been a popular attraction on our street and are followed by a herd of small children on the daily walks.  When I’m outside, often the women come out and ask me lots of questions.  I try to be good about cooing over all the little babies and practice asking questions too (I need to learn more baby words).  Cookies from our oven are a popular attraction.


We are learning all sorts of fascinating things from our neighbors too.  Recently I bought an interesting fruit from the market, but Ian and I didn’t really know what to do with it (I’ve been told its a “pomelo”).  A neighbor was over and asked me if I wanted her to show me how to cut it properly.  Yes please!  Thanks to our neighbor, we were able to enjoy this delicious fruit — and now I know for when we get it again.  She has also taught us new words and how to spell some of them.  Other things we have learned:

  • How to get wall paint (very different from paint I’m used to) out of clothes (using gasoline).
  • How to give directions to our house when the street has no name.
  • How to get deliveries or help from the moto drivers to hunt down the pizza guy.
  • How to cook rice properly.
  • Names for household items or foods and how to cook them. The kids especially are always excited to teach us new Khmer words.
  • How to care for tropical plants.
  • If there is something we can’t find, we can ask a moto driver.  They know where everything is!

It’s humbling to no longer know some of the basics we take for granted in the US.  We are used to big hardware stores that have everything, but now we need to ask where to find a hose or a tool. One store might have it, or they might send you across town to another.  I’m used to walking into the grocery and being familiar with what I’ll find.  Being in so many unfamiliar situations makes me thankful for good neighbors who answer halting questions, rather than laugh when we don’t know something small.  I am grateful for their patience!!!