Good development …

“What does good development look like?” David Dornbos asked the students at the two debriefing sessions during the interim. The students’ replies were insightful. One said that she questioned whether it was worthwhile to bring a bunch of people from the the U.S. to serve in Cambodia, given the amount of time and expense it took to transport them and keep them comfortable. Another said that he wondered if it was a good thing for Western Christians to export our inferior (materialistic) brand of Christianity to the country.

After logging hundreds of miles in the van and on foot, visiting many types of NGOs, I find it difficult to conceive a model for good development. But I know there is a guy in Cambodia with a Kentucky accent who will tell you all about the work of RDI, an inter-denominational group that settled here 10 years ago. They make and distribute low-cost clay water filters to the villages. (The leading cause of death in Cambodia is diarrhea, and clean water fixes that.) The group also does water testing and produces a kind of Christian Sesame Street show. “Everything we do, we do to get the message out,” the man with the accent told us. In Cambodia there is also a Korean group, which has founded and maintained Christian kindergartens, a first grade and a prep school. They hope to educate their students well enough to enable them to attend a Christian university–which they also plan to found. I know that the CRWRC is hard at work, developing clean water and small businesses and schools and other good projects, and that a Cambodian pastor is maintaining an orphanage through private donations. “All we care about is their education,” he said of the orphans. I know that Navy Chann and Ly Chay are planning to found a farmers training school.

When I think of Cambodia, one memory recurs. While we were in Krangthnoung village, hanging out in the yard of New Life Church, one of the white vans we traveled in backed over a puppy. The poor, little thing sent up an anguished howling and yelping as it shifted around on its broken hindquarters. Then a little boy ran to the animal and tried, over and over again, to set it on its feet. The puppy continued to howl as its feet collapsed under it. Finally, the little boy lifted the puppy up under its front legs and ran out of the yard with it.

I also remember this: “And 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). God is always at work, and He succeeds–despite our best efforts.

On the day we left, Gil Suh and his wife, Joyce, had us over for dinner. On the menu were ham buns 🙂 and soup. On the guest list was almost everyone we had met. Rick DeGraaf, of the CRWRC, and his wife, Edith; James Zwier, also of the CRWRC in Laos, and his wife, Sara; Navy Chan and Lly Chay of GCT. And we met Russ Palsrok, Asia regional director for Christian Reformed World Missions, and his wife Sherry. (Hey Barb: your cousins say, “Hi!”)

We had another debriefing. “I feel more confused than ever,” confessed one student. And all of these people–who have worked at development for many, many years combined–said that this was quite normal.

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1 comment so far

  1. Ann DeRooy on

    Perhaps the value of the expense of the trip was more in raising North American awareness and in expanding our knowledge of what is going on in the world and which people need to be blessed with our financial bounty than it is our being available to help them for a few short weeks. Perhaps it is true that it was not about “Transforming Cambodia” but about “Cambodia transforming us”


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