Being in a different country for the first time ever is a strange and nerve-wracking experience, but it is a huge blessing to be here working on the Pnong Project. I am surrounded by rice paddies, palm trees and delicious tropical fruit I have never seen before! I love the fruit, but local people love their meat, including crabs, shellfish, spiders and cockroaches!
The Pnong people are mostly poor subsistence farmers, so when they catch a jungle pig, they invite their whole family over for a big feast. Imagine my surprise when, shortly after my arrival, I was sitting in a local home, shyly trying to communicate without much language skill, and one of the ladies dragged a pig into the house and started slicing it into pieces. Not wanting to offend my hosts, I stayed through the whole butchering procedure.
The Pnong are mostly animists. They are very scared of evil spirits entering their homes. Some were quite skeptical about welcoming a girl from Africa into their community. In this community, many people build little shrines outside their homes where they burn incense and present food and water to the spirits. They make sure the spirits are well supplied, even if they don’t have sufficient food for themselves.
This makes me think about my own walk with the One True God. Do I give all to Him? How much do I trust Him to provide for my daily needs?
My new friends know I am from South Africa, and ask me many questions. “If you are from Africa, why are you not black?” “What is it like to live around lions?” “How far away is South Africa?” God is helping me make friends, but coming to Cambodia alone has been very hard. It’s difficult to be an outsider and understand nothing—to feel so foreign. I spend my free time learning Khmer and Pnong. Everything is so strange. In my tiny home I have a dog named Chester. He is very protective. It’s a small thing, but I believe God gave us animals for joy and companionship.
Soon after my arrival, I was sitting with some Pnong friends, helping them peel and cut bamboo to sell in the market. As we taught each other new words, laughing together as we stumbled over them, I felt a deep sense of inner peace. This is where God wants me to be, and He continues to satisfy me each day.
Janti and her family, with whom I work and live, are currently receiving Bible studies. Their understanding is very basic, but their faith is steadily growing. My Pnong language skills are coming along, and I can put together basic sentences, but not enough to give a Bible study. The Greenfields, the AFM missionaries I work with, speak Pnong well, and they lead the Bible studies. Since I can’t speak the Gospel, I just do my best to live it. My host family goes to bed around 8 p.m. when the electricity turns off, and I have been encouraging them to have an evening devotional time—read a Bible story, sing a song and then pray before going to sleep. I can’t preach, but I can be a living Christian witness.
We are opening our new Adventist mission school in a few weeks, and we are currently receiving teacher training and prepping the school. This school isn’t just about childrens’ education. We also will focus on sharing Jesus Christ in all His beauty and loveliness with children who come from animist homes.
I really miss home and all my friends and just being able to talk in Afrikaans. But I know my will is not important. God brought me here for a purpose!
Please pray for me and the Greenfields as we share the Gospel with the Pnong people. Thank you everyone who made it possible for me to be here. You are all with me on this journey. May God bless you as you continue working for Him wherever you are. And if you are reading this article and want to experience the joys and tears of mission service yourself, please contact AFM and prayerfully discuss where God is opening a door for you to serve.