Projects, Updates

Site Visit!

Hello all! It has been a busy time here in Cambodia as we’ve moved into our new home across town. We’re excited to be settled in now and back to a (new) normal schedule.

We have an exciting update — a site visit!

As you know, Laura and I have spent the last 9 months primarily learning the Khmer language. We still have a ways to go there — while we’re passable in many everyday situations, there are a lot of ways we still want to improve. That’s especially apparent now that we are building relationships and want to be talking about life, emotions, and faith. However, we’re also starting to look forward to our roles in the office with the rest of our team.

Today, I (Ian) happen to have the day off from school, so Chris and I went to meet a local ministry constructing a new facility here in Phnom Penh.


They’ve had some questions throughout construction which we’ve answered along the way, but also have some significant questions about wanting to re-purpose their space. Many times, an NGO building process takes several years from original concept to funding to completion, so it’s not uncommon for their personnel and needs to change along the way. We’ll be working with this ministry to help them through this process and make the best use of their new facility.

One other common theme has been a question of matching local construction practices with western expectations. So far, the workmanship we’ve seen has been well-thought out — but NGO’s frequently like to have a professional they can trust observing that rather than going from their knowledge. Most NGO staff don’t have a background in construction — they have backgrounds in education or theology or health. That’s one of the big roles we’ll be playing here, as “owner’s representatives” or “cultural translators”. By knowing both western construction standards and local construction practices, we can bridge the gap, making sure that the NGO ends up with a quality building that meets their needs, without placing complicated, onerous or expensive requirements on the local contractor.

We still have several months of language learning to go — but today, it felt good to get the work gloves back on!

Meet the Team, Updates

Meet the Team — Nivo

Nivo is another new member of our team here in Cambodia.

He comes to fill a major role as our first architect, and highly recommended at that! Nivo has been a critical part of big projects for organizations across Cambodia in the past few years — hospitals and schools. From design to coordinating on the ground — Nivo knows how things get done in Cambodia.

But it’s his heart that has us most excited about adding him to the team. A lot like many of the others, Nivo wrestled with reconciling his faith and his future during his teenage years. He wanted to serve God — but knew that being a pastor wasn’t the right fit. Architecture was, but through school and into his early career, he held on to a promise that his life would have impacts around the world. Now, with EMI, he’ll be a part of exactly that.


Please join me in welcoming Nivo and his family to the EMI Cambodia team!


Khmer New Year

This week has marked our first Khmer New Year in Cambodia. This is one of the biggest  holidays celebrated in Cambodia, with lots of celebrations and parties. And games — they love to play group games! Many aren’t too different from those we played as kids. In the games we’ve played so far, I’ve recognized elements of spoon races, shuttle races, bocce, even one that’s a lot like a piñata.

There’s also dancing — some serious, some silly — and a lot of good food of course.

Cambodia has a lot of public holidays (28 this year) — but KNY is special for us. Opposite of the Water Festival (Bon Om Touk) in November, many Khmer return to their ancestral home villages to celebrate the new year with their families. And in a culture that values working really hard (most work between 5½ and 7 days a week), KNY is set aside for rest (even if one told me “rest so that you can work hard next year”).

Rest. When we were preparing to come to Cambodia, we were told several times that rest was critical. As in “ignoring rest will either burn you out or kill you” critical. And as we’re approaching a more normal lifestyle after living in Cambodia for 6 months — that same draw to just add one more event to the schedule, just help one more person, just postpone rest for a few days has come back hauntingly.

Thankfully, the warnings stuck. And we have come to understand what rest really means. Rest is trusting and honoring God. When we rest, we acknowledge our place in the world. When we rest, we re-affirm our relationship with God. When we rest, we rely on Him to be more than we can accomplish on our own.

So this weekend — we’re resting.

And celebrating! Happy New Year!

Meet the Team

Meet the Team — Neth

As I mentioned in our last email newsletter, we’re excited to begin introducing our Khmer team members. Back in January 2017, five families from North America stepped off their planes and began lives in Cambodia. Laura and I joined them later that year. But the goal was never to have a bunch of westerners living and working in Phnom Penh by ourselves. From the beginning, we knew that we both deeply desired and really needed to find Khmer team members with the same heart for using design to serve God’s people.

Enter Neth (pronounced Nate).

Neth has been a part of our team for several months now, and I can honestly say we wouldn’t be anywhere near as far along as an organization without him. He’s officially our Office Administrator, which means he does everything. Whether it was navigating the legal documents we needed, helping find and prepare the office (including pulling lots and lots of network cable), being our go-to cultural and language expert, or literally dozens of other things, he’s been a huge help!


But beyond how critical to the team he has been, Neth and his wife Ata (plus daughter Natasha) are fantastic people as well. The faith, joy, and devotion that shows in their lives is unmistakable. I really hope we’ll get a chance to tell their story in another blog post.

I’d be remiss not to mention that Neth and Ata both have a big heart for worship music, and lead worship teams at a thriving church here in Phnom Penh. They actually just released a new album — here’s one of the songs: