Thursday, November 14, 2019

What am I doing now?! 4 years after Cambodia..

Hey everyone. So I'll jump right to it!
For those that have supported me before and for those that have been wanting to support me, now is your chance! I NEED your help!

My current progress is: $2,100 / $10,000

Here is How:
Click Staff Support - find Andrew Smith on the drop tab. Then select 'one time donation' or 'donate monthly'
I believe this draws from PayPal (paypal guest optional).
Here is Why:
For the last year and nine months I have taken on the role of a Mission Coordinator with the organization i fell in love with, oh, 5 years ago now.. I was offered a full time position to have my dream career.
With my full time career does come some perks of travel and the organization helping in some areas as best they can. But with our non-profit status comes limited income and financial stability.
Since my time with Praying Pelican Missions I have led or assisted 30 mission trips and consulted several more in addition to those 30. My role is to bring in outside mission teams into Pittsburgh and the greater Appalachian area to do ALL SORTS of things. All sorts of different kinds of ministries.
Along with that comes my personal relationship building with the people and pastors of local churches whom we do everything through. Our mission is "connecting the local church on a global level through short-term mission trips". We empower the church, which empowers it's immediate community, which empowers essentially the world.
We're active in 30+ locations now, and as I said before, my baby is Pittsburgh. We currently work with about 15 different churches - working with those close by who are primarily immigrants, refugees, homeless, elderly, and children from all backgrounds! It's a blessing to meet the people I do and the amazing partners and ministries I get to come along side of. Other non-profits we team up with in the Pittsburgh area are as follows - Light of Life Rescue Mission, The Pittsburgh Project, Living Ministry, Urban Impact, North Hills Community Outreach, Daily Bread, and Northside Common Ministries just to name a few. These are a blend of organizations that ultimately have a heart for people and their communities; building, feeding, housing, teaching, and loving on people.
Here is the POWER of our ministry and organization:
I hope you choose to invest into me and my heart, my passion and calling. I hope you see that you're investing into what these teams and others that have felt God move in their lives to action and to spending time in another city or another country to do these missions that I have the privilege of organizing and sustaining.
Real example trip: if I take my 30 person team from Michigan who came to build, repair, do kids ministry and more in Pittsburgh...multiply each individual doing labor/work for appx 6 hours a day...and then multiply that by 4 days..
That's 1 individual doing 24 hours in one week. Now take 30 individuals and multiply that by 24 hours. 720 HOURS! WHICH, is equivalent to 18 forty-hour-work-weeks for one person that we can do in one week..........
Do you understand where this is going and how big this is? How much one team, how much one week a group of people that come together for one purpose can accomplish.
This year alone we worked more than 2 YEARS (every week for 40 hours) of labor that one man could do by himself. That's 3780+ hours.
Numbers. Anyways, I could go on. If you wish to receive my future news letter, pray for me, or donate (JOIN MY SUPPORT TEAM) and need additional information please message me.
I need monthly supporters and annual supporters so I can continue what I am doing!!! I need YOUR help! Thank you and love you all in advance.
My goal this year is $10,000
Click Staff Support - find Andrew Smith on the drop tab. Then select 'one time donation' or 'donate monthly'.
I NEED monthly supporters so I can rely on a consistent and constant number. If you need other ways to donate please let me know. The website is the best way for it to be recorded and accounted for.
If you desire an in person meeting for more details or just to have coffee and talk, please don't hesitate, let's meet. Quickest way is to click the link above.
Also be looking out for some of my Visions and moves Downtown Zanesville where I still, mostly reside at through the year.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Counting Down Days

It's been a while.  I'm two inches thinner.  Have a man bun.  Still hot (in both ways).  Found a church in my village. And twenty-one days till I step foot in America. 

My friends and family,

 I'm not necessarily sorry that I haven't written.  The dry season was hard and hot.  Most of us missionaries stopped writing for about 3 months.  I still think of you all daily.  But now instead of 3 months, I have exactly 3 weeks from today until I step foot inside the U.S., my beloved home, once again.  This is no new feet that man has not done before, gone away for a year, but it's been new to me in leaving for a year and not returning for holidays or anything in between.

There are a couple things I want to share with you..

I'm here as a volunteer, but also as a missionary.  Not to force people into Christ, but to walk amongst the people in fellowship, learn about them; and in that, I get to share my heart and experience as well. This is Life.

So let me jump right into it..

After 10 months of living here in Aoral, I discovered a church existed, already.  I'd like to think part of our work is to eventually begin the ground work of the future Church here in Cambodia.  This past Sunday I had the opportunity to go to a service. One of my students whom I teach piano plays guitar and lives at the church.  His name is Chharaty.  Why there are two H's, I don't know, but beside the point.  We call him T.  He's a bold and courageous for only being 16 or 17, and in a culture where his beliefs are a minority.  The service made me feel at home.  I had the opportunity to speak to the people.  During the service, which I mostly don't understand, I could feel a small presence that I haven't felt all year..God..amongst His people.  These people are my family, they welcomed me, and I knew they understood my heart and I understood theirs.  I encouraged the church and said there will be one coming after me.  We prayed for a sick lady, and we also prayed over a man, maybe 60 years old, who came to know the name of Christ that very day.  It is tradition that men and boys wear a belt, typically made of a thick string and usually tied and the held tightly all the way around with duct-tape.  This is a symbol and presumably blessed to keep ghosts or bad spirits away.  We cut this from him and burned it upon his request.  I told him after, you won't be needing that, now you have the name of Jesus.  I know some friends might think, trading one crazy thing for another, but, alas, I believe and know that this name has all authority in this world and realm.  

In other news!

I've been dealing with late year adjustments to eating the food here.  Along with about two weeks ago coming down with a stomach virus, which led to a trip to the doctor..which was an experience in itself.  But all went well and is mostly well.  I'm not so sure I have a bunch to share from my heart, though I'm excited to come home.  I miss family and friends and all that comes with my life at home.  I have much to be thankful for in this time and upon returning home..

Bullet Points Time...!

  • Rain has come and people have water
  • Still teaching English (very part time) at the high school - they have improved
  • Am now teaching 3 students piano and music
  • Still hot but cooler now
  • I've had 5 different phones since being here
  • Pizza on my mind 24/7
  • I'll be coaching soccer once again when I return home :)
  • T-Minus 21 days

The Church in Aoral District

The man to my left that surrendered his heart to love and peace..


My very good friend Sophak and teacher Chamnap

Myself and Sophak
Myself and Kimsraw

Staff leaving party

Piano/ music students studying at the office
Again, Charraty and Netra holding up piano fingering charts

Daily Life across the street

A home deeper into the rural province of Aoral

Phnom Penh city, heading to the doctor
A typical breakfast at a restaurant in Kampong Speu.  Noodles with meat, bread, coffee, tea.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Overnight Stay: Village location: Taing Bom Pong Village; 53 Kilometers out in Tasal Commune. Accompanied by: Pech Sophak and Soun Samnang.

The last couple days was a trek of about 53 kilometers away to the village of Taing Bom Pong. The mornings are cool. The nights are rather cold. And by cool and cold I mean about 60-70 degrees F. The day can still get up to the 80s, feels like 90s. It's winter. It's dry-season. Some leaves have fallen off of the trees. The harvest is over. The once magnificently green rice and sugar-cane fields that surrounded my home are now all but bare and brown.

On Tuesday Samnang, Sophak and I headed into the 'field'. I actually didn't know why we were going or really where we were going until I got there, which can often be the case. We made a couple stops in nearby villages saying hello to their other connections or friends they have made; I usually don't speak much in these cases. Of course there is always some tone of, 'oh look a foreigner'. In most cases when I go out into the villages I assume I am one of few, if not the only foreigner they have interacted with. If you head to the bigger cities, that's a different story. But out here, there are no reasons for a foreigner or traveler to venture out this far. And here I am, on there door step. Speaking their language. I always try to let them know where I come from, that I'm not French, but American. I'm proud of that fact, and I think they find it quite fascinating.

Anyways. We end up going out into the jungle! For the first hour of driving over rocks and 'pot holes' we were in what I would call 'woods', for the last half hour of the journey, we were in what I would classify as, jungle. Thick, dense, bamboo, palm trees, vines. The further in we got, the closer we got to the mountains in the background beyond the trees. We didn't make it all the way to the mountains, but we stopped at what was supposed to be a river to take a bath, but, indeed, it is dry season. No water. No bath. So we walk around for a while, I collected a couple shells and rocks that I hope to bring back home. In another month, I should have a new phone (and camera) so that I can take my own pictures and more of them. I found leaves as big as 3 or 4 heads. No monkeys though, or tigers (which may be a good thing). There in other parts apparently.

The woods, I described earlier, had to be once jungle. But it too, like 70% of Cambodia, has been chopped.. The trees and plants were young. I thought, maybe in another 100 years, it may look like it used to. Like the jungle up ahead. 70% of a countries wildlife and trees, gone. Could you imagine? Your home country losing 70% of it's wildlife and trees. Where I live in Cambodia, used to be filled with trees. But business is booming, and electricity here is fueled by wood. Much of the land now is desolate. But, preserves have been marked, and in certain areas logging is illegal, which is a huge concern for Cambodia right now.

The day was long, but rather simple (like most days). We headed back to base for the night where we feasted on fish, and beef, and pork, and, of course, Khmer Cheese. Local wine was gifted for evening. Neither Khmer Cheese or wine are really those things. The cheese here is actually a 'dipping' fish sauce type for leaves and greens. Wine, a strong vodka or whiskey with honey poured in it. Nothing is what it's name is. But if I really tried to explain it all, 1.) that would be boring for me and for you and 2.) well yeah, it'd be boring. Things are not what they appear to be, things are different, I think we've collected that so far.

We ended up sleeping on a wooden platform, which is where many people sleep in the rural area, often without mattresses. The hammock I traveled with for 2 hours didn't get used *grunt*. It's bed time now here. 10pm. The last pictures are of the funniest laughing man in Cambodia. His laugh is rare and rather sweet. It was his home that we stayed at for the night. In the morning, we had rice and pork, took a good-bye picture and went on our way.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

So here I sit, first day in the office; not quite receiving a task yet, but to drink an iced coffee (I always add ice because, well, it's blazing hot here; my colleagues drink hot coffee like no big deal) and drink some electrolyte packets the visiting Lutheran Australians have left me.  There is quite a lot to catch up to do.  So much as about three weeks worth of touring, visiting, meeting, do I fit it into one post?  I suppose..maybe I do several small posts, or maybe I just rant until I stop talking or typing.  I kinda like that better.  The words may spew, but at least I finally get to do an update.

I've been here a month in Cambodia.  Brief moments of home sickness, brief moments of exhaustion, but overall we're smooth sailing over here just as expected.

I'm FINALLY in the province where my heart has longed for weeks.  I've been here for about a week and a half, my home, the Aoral District Province.  I'm very happy to get out of the city, not because I didn't like it, it had a lot to offer, but I knew that I'd just have to pack up my bags and start all over.  So, I am here. In the Life With Dignity (LWD) office, a non-profit organization that works with supporting the rights and freedoms of the poor and oppressed here in Cambodia.

Life With Dignity (LWD):
The organization I am partnering with is working on several, several different projects.  With only a staff of about 20 people (from driver, to supervisor, to 3 security guards), they're responsible for encouraging and uplifting a whopping 70 local villages just within a couple hundred kilometers.  So far, I've visited maybe five.  I'm still unsure the power, statement, depth, or lack thereof my presence brings to these communities, it isn't necessarily the first white face they have seen.  There are, as I recently have learned, two other Americans working with the United States Peace Corps (another organization I am still very interested in) approximately 2km from me (less than a mile).  I finally got to meet them last night as we, LWD staff, hosted a traditional Khmer party and feast for the departing, visiting Australian group.  In accompanying the party was the governor of the district, whom late into the evening serenaded us with a song.  And by song, I do in fact mean Karaoke, it's very popular and very common, take what we know of karaoke at home and add an entire different vibe, sound, and atmosphere, yet still accompanied with laughter, celebrating, dancing, and chatting (even awkward times); sweet love songs and a little more upbeat songs.  A couple other leaders among the community were invited as well.  If I could hold this group, Life With Dignity, in any higher regards for a second..  This organization and people are very highly respected and appreciated among the rural provinces of Cambodia.

The Projects:
I've encountered preschool and primary schools being built or already in function.  These schools are very small in comparison (I can't help but to compare, it just makes sense) to what we know.  They are most always open air, as in, whatever way they can get four walls up and still create a breeze inside, thats they way they go up.  More schools are currently being built.  Land reservation projects are being administrated.  One of the biggest progressions I've seen is the moving of hundreds of (more or less homeless) people into a land where there is nothing but fertile ground.  These fields are now sugar cane fields and more than 600 people have been given work, land, and a new village to be a part of.  They are now working on a market they can establish to make and sell different goods and make extra income with further oppurunity.  The 600+ people can sustain themselves and they now have a purpose and an expectation in their new community.  I hope to continue to follow up on this throughout the year.  Among other various projects, like the magazine I receive yearly around Christmas time in the States from World Vision, LWD gives animals to the village people (ha) to raise.  This creates income for the household, produces food, milk, eggs, and gives them purpose in their villages.

I say this with grains of salt and sugar and 'I don't really knows yet', but I want to figure out ways where you, my church, family friends, can continue to support these projects throughout the year.  This time it isn't so easy as to writing a check, yet.  There are hoops I must jump through.  First, to find a need, then to talk over the approval, mission, goal with colleagues and partners at LWD, then, because I am sent by the ELCA (Lutheran Church of America) I must get approval from them as they find donors.  I could see myself being a valuable person here, but I want to do as much as possible from a place with personal connection and what little power and influence I may bring; resources.  America.  As I walk through these villages and meet the village leaders and the volunteers who want to make their homes and community a better place, I know there is a price on my head.  I only mean by that is, the color of my skin is a little obvious, they know where I come from, or at least have a pretty good idea until they officially meet me and I tell them.  These people are capable of many things on their own, please do not get that wrong.  But if I may inform you in this next section of writing and ranting, there is much recent history that has set Cambodia back for generations to come.. (gear change, hold on tight).

Cambodia has universities, Cambodia has land, Cambodia has resources, Cambodia has transportation, Cambodia has government, Cambodia has laws, Cambodia has Mountain Dew and you can even find a big bag of Lay's Bar-B-Que on the right corner in the big city (unfortunately Conns, my hometown potato chip from Zanesville, OH, hasn't quite made it here yet).

Let me see if I can do this justice...'hhh'...(sigh), I know I've already failed..

The Khmer Rouge.  Pol Pot.  Genocide.  Millions murdered -- the educated--lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, the religious--monks).  If you wore glasses, killed.

Please take this in for a second.  This is a history lesson that often gets overlooked in our history books, because it is not in our history books.  If I could just get you to imagine this happening in your homeland, in America, or wherever you live right now.  Mass genocide.  If you're educated, you're being hunted.  Hunted, betrayed, deceived, tortured, hung, slaughtered by your own nation, by your own people.  Woman raped.  Babies...

(After about a half-hour pause of walking away, sitting, turning in my seat, getting a glass of water, walking outside, using the restroom, conversing...I didn't want to continue typing the next words...)

...heads smashed against trees...

What can come from a single idea.  What can come from one single man's idea.  This.  After WWII and Hitler, it happened again.  Mass genocide.  Brutal Communism.  We share these stories, the stories of Hitler, the stories of the Khmer Rouge to not repeat history.  Unfortunately for the Cambodian people it happened to them, even just shortly after we and the world fought the greatest war the earth has seen against genocide and communism.  The Khmer people want their story shared; so that it does not happen here again to future generations, and so that it does not happen again in the rest of the world.  Share our story they say.

In trying to create the perfect world by force, death happens, control and turning a blind eye to the truth happens.  Communism and Socialism at it's best.  Bring everyone down (or up) to the same level, no room for creativity, no room for religion, no room for growth, no room for education other than what the ruler, dictator, or government wants to educate.  No open market, no free speech, no individual music, no individualism period.  No.  Freedom.  This is what a perfect society looks like, or rather, a perfectly controlled society.

Enter the U.S.A., briefly, it's my home and it's the knowledge that I have.  What I didn't even know before I came here is that my home, the U.S., plays a role after the Khmer Rouge capture the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.  America has dropped tons and tons of bombs on the Eastern part of Cambodia, hearing this I begin to sweat, uh oh, what did we do?  Wishing I knew more, why wasn't I informed or have the slightest clue of what I was about to be told?

(For my generation, I'm sure most of us don't know much about this sadly, unless you have an uncle from 'Nam', but I'll keep it short still)

1978 Richard Nixon orders the bombing of parts of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam (this is the Vietnam war leading to the Cold War for the U.S.) fighting communism against the newly founded Khmer Rouge, the Soviet Union (Russia), Vietnam, and China.  All desiring and pacing for communism against the world.

While I had knowledge, my knowledge was very minimal and I didn't know of the so-to-speak non-superpower that was Cambodia.  I thought about continuing with some thoughts and opinions of the war leading to the Cold War, but I'll put that off for now.  If I want you to get one thing, which we could assume, but to hear and to know is another, that Cambodia has a history and a past with great loss and great victory.  Just like much of the world, just like my homeland.

With That Said:
This was all within forty-years of today.  Many of my colleagues here at LWD were alive and young during the Khmer Rouge, many of our friends in America either were alive or fought in the Vietnam War, yet it's a war too easily forgotten..for those outside of Cambodia and surrounding territory.

And that's where Life With Dignity gets it's foundation.  To raise up new schools, new teachers, new engineers and doctors and lawyers.  To give people back the land where they once thrived.  To train people up to, indeed, live a life with dignity.

Ok ok ok ok...losing steam.

I want to try and post some pictures that give you a visual, maybe of the graphic Killing Fields, but also of the land, the people, among other things I have encountered.  It may seem like word vomit and picture spewing, but I just have to catch up somehow.  And if I missed facts or important things (like grammar!) or am wrong, apologies.

Many new faces and names run through my head right now, Samnang; Vinich; Sothea (female); Sothea (male); John the Australian; my new American friends, Rebecca and Allen; Pao; Neang; Leap; Anthony; Jet; Preap Sovath.

I don't know if I'm saying hello, thank you, or just showing my mother that I have colleagues and made friends..imagine that!  Adios Amigos.  Sorry no Khmer lesson today.

From Cambodia,
Andrew B. Smith

Office Work at Life With Dignity 

A feast for the visiting Australians with the Governor and District officials.
Dancing and singing are a happening.
Preap Sovath with Anthony and Pao.  Preap Sovath is a judge on the equivalent of American Idol, Cambodian Idol, also a very famous singer.  Anthony is a great guy, a business man working toward opening up a school in Phnom Penh.

Balloons?  Balloons!

Preschool.  So very attentive.  Sweet children.

Across from the preschool, a few ladies gathering crops.

Sunset at home in Aoral.  Original colors like I grabbed them straight out of the sky.

Believe it or not, the fruit on the right is an Orange.  The outside is green and looks
like a coconut, tastes exactly like an orange with a different texture.  On the left,
looks like a tomato right?  Tastes more like cantaloupe..

My first "student", security guard Chet, helping each other in each others language.
My friend, Oscar I named him.  The staff just
call him cat.  You'll never find me petting
or speaking highly of a cat, but Oscar is indeed
my friend.  My first and last cat friend, I imagine.

It's one heck of a short ride to the market.
It really is short.

Construction of an upcoming preschool.

A team of workers and volunteers digging a
trench to store water next to a rice field.

Village Volunteers gathering to discuss future plans and projects.
Laying out the blueprints for the market in the field.

Rice Field
There is always time for nap time.  12pm-2pm everyday
you rest, you lie down or take a bath.  It's expected.

Guests in the field. 

Supported Chicken Farmer.  Fun guy.
War casualty victim as result of Khmer Rouge.

SamNang took me on his back today.
Life With Dignity - Aoral District Headquarters.


Pretty sure it's Bocce Ball.
I couldn't possibly describe the sky sometimes.  You know when you want to
describe something as unreal.  It just doesn't quite look real, like it's a graphic. Hm.
One day I'll go into the mountains..Aoral has the highest point in Cambodia, shown above is not that mountain.
I'll upload pictures from the top one day.  Takes a couple days to hike.
The last four pictures are not mine, as I didn't personally take any photos of the Killing Field that we went to.
I did however see all of the pictures listed.  The bones were all collected and stored as a remembrance.  They know
how each person died, and in some of the camps, the people were identified upon entering the camp.  
You walk down room after room with faces all around you.  This is S-21.
Prisoners were taken here and tortured to admit
if they had any education or what background they had.  If one family member was killed, they'd often kill the
entire family along with the one.  In my research, honestly, they killed or at least
tried to kill anyone who came in contact with them, the Khmer Rouge.

 The heavy stuff.  Is remembered and not forgotten.
Do some more image research if you'd like,
it may lead you to reading a bit more about the Pol Pot regime and the Khmer Rouge.