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2013 Reports from Janne

November 2013

Dear Friends and partners,

The months of October and November are always very busy months for us at Tabitha. A large number of house building teams as well as visitors come and spend some time with us. I often wonder the impact of these visits on our visitors.  The impact on our families that I know! As the holiday season approaches I would like to share some of these moments.

In October  we had a team of teachers from the Australian International School in Singapore come and build some houses. One of these teachers was a fellow named Daniel. Daniel wrote a reflection on his experience. He was not overjoyed with the possibility of house building. He came reluctantly; convinced he could not contribute to the process.  He believed that he had nothing to offer and Cambodia had nothing to offer him.  I share with you an excerpt from his reflection:

So, we traveled into a little village about 2 hours outside Phonm Penh. We were given a little demonstration on how to hammer nails into floorboards and sheets of tin into wall frames - looked simple enough. Oh how wrong I was. I started hammering the nails. And no word of a lie, every single nail that I tried to hammer into the same floorboard, bent over, and this took place for almost an hour! I like to think that I am a patient person. I like to think that I cover my anger and frustration from others, but I was seconds away from throwing my hammer into the jungle and giving up completely. Everyone was so capable. They could do it, why couldn’t I? At this point, a young gentlemen from the village climbed up the ladder of the hut we were working on and literally grabbed me by the arm and took me away. Without thinking, all I took with me was my hammer. I was taken to the next hut where another team had begun working. Through the rain I could see a man wearing a grey floppy full brimmed hat walking towards me. He looked to be in his mid 60s. This man stroked my arm, ever so gently, and stood beside me. And without speaking a word of English, he started hammering a nail through a bottle green coloured sheet of tin and then gestured for me to do the same. I said I couldn’t, shaking my hand- no no no. I better at floor, hammering nail into floor. Again, he touched my arm, pulled me closer and hammered another nail into the wall, although this time, he only hammered it half way in. Step by step, nail by nail, we walked the perimeter of the house, hammering away, laughing at the nails I kept bending, me apologizing profusely, him just beaming his magnificent smile as if to say, it’s ok. For someone to recognize that I was struggling even without speaking a word of English, to show me how to do something, to stand by me and offer his patience and encouragement was just, oh I can’t think of how to describe it.It was just so special, but you know what? After my little moment with my friend in Cambodia I’ve realized something.  I’ve realized that I am capable. I can do things that seem impossible.  I need to admit that I’m hopeless at somethings. I need to reach out to those who are good at doing things and let them teach me.I’ve also realized that this wall I put up really doesn’t exist. It’s in my mind. It's crystal now. From this day forward, I’m going to do things in order to understand.  I’m going to stop listening and watching and sitting back. I’m actually going to do something about it. And if I can’t do it, I’m going to ask someone who can to help. And on the flip side, when I am teaching, I’m going to allow my students to do the things that they think they can’t.  I’m not going to just talk to them and show them, I’m going to let them do it. And I’m going to be by their side all the way.

We had another special visitor,Andrew Troedel and his children. Andrew came in deep mourning Pru, his wife had passed away suddenly this year. Andrew wanted to build a school in Pru’s memory.  He came to build houses and officially open the school.  Andrew sent me an email. I would like to share his thoughts with you:

I am writing to thank you for being so kind and thoughtful during our recent visit. It was not an easy time for my daughters, others in our group who loved Pru dearly,and for me. And yet in another way it was not difficult, knowing that we were doing what Pru would have wanted. The school is a wonderful tribute to her concern for others.

It may not be surprise for you to know that as the plane took off from Siem Reap, I wept,knowing that I was leaving behind in Cambodia much of her spirit. And so I must return.

Interesting feedback from our group came when I asked what they appreciated most about the trip , apart from the dedication ceremony. I had expected mention might have been made about Siem Reap or the floating village at Kompong Luong, or the pagodas in Myanmar, or the temples at Bagan. They all said the most memorable aspect of the trip, was the house building. Asked "why?" they replied that "helping others, and being involved was so satisfying".

Scott Selwood a young man who plays professional football in Australia (he is a player with the West Coast Eagles, a club in the AFL) came to see the impact of his giving.  Scott has dedicated some of the funds he receives from sponsors to providing water sources to our families in Cambodia. We took Scott out to see the impact of water on our families slowly working their way out of poverty through the raising of pigs and chickens or through being able to grow crops year round. He saw the impact of families building their dream houses,their children in school.  In the midst of visiting the families, we stopped by the school being built by the West Coast Eagles. Scott took it all in stride. I asked him “Why do you do this?” He answered with humbleness,  “I have all and more than I need. I want to give to those who have so little.” An extraordinary sentiment for one so young and in the strength of his AFL years.

All these people represent all of you. One of the greatest privileges in my life and our work in Tabitha is all of you, hearing your words, the changes in your lives- this all affirms the vision I had so many years ago if I just put people from all backgrounds together, simply give them an opportunity to serve, then we can change Cambodia,  we can bring peace to a country torn apart with sorrow.

The holiday season is fast approaching. It is time of sentiment . Peace on Earth, Good will towards men. Each and every one of you is a living testimony to these sentiments. I thank my God that this is so.  I thank my God for each of you.

Janne