Eric does not need me anymore.
Let me explain. Eric, born in Puerto Rico, is fluent in Spanish and English. When I first met him, he hardly knew where Cambodia was, let alone how to speak a word of Khmer. By the time we launched to Cambodia in 2018, he had awkwardly learned a few simple phrases from our short informal practice classes during training. Upon arrival to Cambodia, I was the primary communicator for the family and had to answer phone calls, do market trips, negotiate with neighbors and translate everything for Eric. Thankfully I had a head start in the language because I am half Cambodian and have been exposed to the language my whole life, though I was not fluent when we first moved.
We took Khmer classes for a couple of months at a university in Phnom Penh before moving to the village, giving Eric a foundation for learning the highly complex alphabet and having simple conversations. He then started tutoring with a local friend, Azim, once we moved to the village.
Eric started to create language learning tools and resources like video recordings of Khmer lessons, a simple phonetic system for writing Khmer that is easy to type and read (this had not previously existed), a Khmer typing game to learn to type Khmer, and various other tools that have helped him and others. He has spent countless hours studying the subtle differences between the many Khmer vowel sounds.
It seemed like he was taking the slower approach to learn Khmer, while I abandoned bookwork and all efforts to read and write. I have mainly expanded my conversational Khmer through practicing with friends and neighbors. So it seemed like I was gaining ground a lot faster. However, all of Eric’s studious efforts have paid off, and in the past year, his language skills have exploded. Not only does he read Khmer at a functional level, but he is also much more independent now and was able to oversee the building of our house with minimal help from English speakers.
He and Katiet have one-on-one Bible studies a few times a week, and he can read and study the Word in Khmer, communicating effectively. This year, Eric is leading the translation and recording of fifty Bible stories in Khmer that are being posted on social media, pushing his language to improve even faster. He now handles his own phone calls and interactions, hardly asking for my help. In church, he can lead the lesson, pray, and read the Bible with the group, all in Khmer.
Alas, Eric does not need me anymore, and I could not be more proud. He finally feels like he can make independent, productive strides in ministry and relationships, and he is so excited by the doors that are opening because of all his efforts. In training, they said it would take a while to learn the language, understand the culture, and build relationships. Sometimes we feel like we are not getting as much done as we would like to daily. But looking back, we can see the growth from when we first arrived, and we cannot help but thank God for His patient guidance and provision. We ask you to earnestly pray that all our preparation and time investment over the past few years will produce fruit this year—that our language skills will continue to improve and open doors for us in our community.