Phnom Penh, Cambodia 柬埔寨金邊 ~ and a great CMS Conference too!

Cambodia is THE country to go to, and Phnom Penh is THE city!  Just forget for a moment that you’re not really sure where the country is, nor how to pronounce (let alone spell!) the capital city’s name.  It don’t matter ~ just get yourself there!

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Because Cambodia is changing, and changing fast.  Phnom Penh has high-rise buildings going up all over the place, tons of private bilingual (or even tri-lingual, in English, Chinese and Khmer) schools, outlet malls, fast-food restaurants, Starbucks and more.  There’s so many ATMs lined up in rows outside the main post office that they don’t even fit in a picture ~ and that means choice, man, choice!

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Like every other capital city, everyone’s stuck in a traffic jam, but in Phnom Penh, there’s a sedate pace to traffic, hardly any honking of horns or road-rage.  Life moves really quite slowly.  There’s a pleasant laid-back French-colonial-style atmosphere, but mixed with modern Chinese-style ‘let’s get this building up’ can-do attitude.  So the Cambodians are not hanging around, they have a city to build and a country to bring into the 21st century.  And Chinese investment and business opportunities are helping to make it all happen.  Now!  This very moment!

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Of course there are problems.  Coming to terms with the past – the Khmer Rouge and Cambodian Genocide is one.  The current prime minister, Hun Sen has been in power since 1985, and is a former Khmer Rouge commander.  Cambodia has one of the highest corruption rates in the world. Then there’s also problems of political oppression, human rights, land evictions, deforestation, poverty, street children, human trafficking, the list goes on.  Challenges abound.  But I’ll just get on with showing you a bit of this great city….

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I’ve just spent a week in Phnom Penh, October 4-11.  Round and round the streets we went on the little auto-rickshaw-cum-tuk-tuk kind of vehicles.  It’s such fun!  Past the Royal Palace, National Museum, Art Deco Central Market, River Mekong, Wat Phnom Temple and many other temples, the night market, monuments galore, parks and shops.  I could go on going round and round that city forevermore.  In fact I did.  Got lost.  Took 2 hours to find the hotel on the back of the tuk-tuk.  Ah, but it was fun!  Not the air pollution that comes with riding in such traffic, of course, but seeing all the life and the people and houses and streets…..

We were in Phnom Penh for a CMS (Church Mission Society) conference for CMS-UK people in Asia and for AsiaCMS people, who are more local to Asia ~ plus lots of VIPs from the CMS family around the world, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, who were there for an earlier meeting, but some of them then stayed on for the first part of our 4-day conference.  This was the very first photo I took on arrival at the conference, just as we were all going out for the afternoon – posing especially for me!

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These 2 handsome young men posing with me below are our CMS-UK director, Philip Mounstephen on the left – and Raj Patel, in charge of our Asia office at CMS, on the right. Raj came to visit me last year in Taiwan (see that report here) and we had such an amazing time.  BUT now Raj is leaving us ~ and we are so heartbroken!

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I was so pleased to meet Steve Maina, director of New Zealand CMS – he also came to visit me in Taiwan, but that was 6 years ago ~ and yes, we had a great time!  This is one happy Steve in the black T-shirt ~ with Dennis and Lucy, our VIPs from Africa CMS…

For the conference, we were based at the Sen Han Hotel ~ kinda just outside the city centre, with great views from its roof. I was up there regularly at dawn and at dusk – and even to see the rainbow after the rain….

We spent the conference sharing, learning, talking, eating, listening, laughing, praying, singing, worshiping and getting to know each other.  There may have been 60-70 of us altogether, from all over Asia and elsewhere.  Many are working in sensitive areas, so the only photos on here are of those who work from our CMS head offices – in Oxford or elsewhere around the world.  Many new friendships made and old friendships rekindled.  Lots of fascinating stories.  Plenty to think about and reflect upon.   We had fun too.  This was the 3 wise monkeys pose: ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’….

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And we had a great river cruise, ha ha, these guys really know how to pose for photos!

Anyway, the very lovely AsiaCMS people were there only until Friday October 6, while  the CMS-UK people continued on until Sunday October 8.  We had a day on Saturday on strategy, assessment, risk, impact and security.  Important stuff.  This is the very wonderful Anne and Raj who planned and implemented it all….

But I was so pleased to arrive at the party time hour last thing in the afternoon.  The final game involved balloons, and a farewell to Raj as he leaves.   We will miss him so much, he’s so much fun!

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Any conference with balloons will be a success ~ so, of course it was a really good conference!

A VERY BIG BIG thank you to all those in CMS for organizing it all, and for all our CMS friends and link churches for your prayers and support.  Much much appreciated!

But that was not the end of my trip to Cambodia.  Taiwan had 2 extra days off on Monday October 9 and Tuesday October 10 celebrating 106 years of the Republic of China.  So I could take the opportunity to see a bit of Cambodia!

Coming soon….  Part 2, about the trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, followed by Part 3 about visiting the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum…..

So watch this space, coming up soon….

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