We've been in Thailand 3 months now! Praise God for His faithfulness to us!
Look who's driving in Thailand!!!! You just saw the first CAR DRIVER using hand controls in Thailand!!! Woohoo!
In the last week of September, I (Greg) took a trip to Cambodia with Jim (the dean of ABTS) to scout out the possibility of opening classes there. ABTS has had a handful of graduates from Cambodia, but until now has never held classes there. Up to this point our Cambodian students have had to travel to another of our sites (such as Bangkok or Singapore) to attend classes. Over the past 3 or so years, there has been discussion about opening a new site in Cambodia but it was uncertain whether or not there are enough students to begin classes there.
Many of the ABTS sites work on a cohort system: rather than scheduling regular classes and hoping that enough students register for them, we start cohorts of 15-25 students that will take all of their classes together. This ensures both that we will have enough students to hold class and also that the students have a group of peers that can support them and share the education experience. It also gives ABTS a lot of flexibility in our sites: we can start new cohorts when the need arises and can easily open multiple sites in a country if the need calls for it. Our main job in this trip was figuring out if there are enough students for one or more cohorts in Cambodia, which meant that we had a lot of meetings with people to discuss the demand for graduate Christian education in Cambodia.
As I mentioned above, we had A LOT of meetings in the few days we had in Cambodia. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the people we interacted with there.
Somnang is a recent ABTS grad who took his classes in Bangkok. A really interesting guy who grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand and works now pastoring and offering counseling and assistance to other pastors. He has 3 of his own kids but his family has also cared for 15 orphans! He was our main contact in Cambodia and drove/accompanied us everywhere.
Ranier is a missionary pastor from the Philippines that has been in Cambodia for decades. His church is relatively small, but the reason why is important: they have sent out dozens of missionaries from their church and as a church support more than 100 missionaries! We discussed the possibility of using their church facilities for classes and the interest level of his congregation for enrolling at ABTS.
Rogil and Janice
This married couple are missionaries with PABWE (Philippine ABWE). Rogil is a current ABTS student and Janice often audits classes with him. They minister at Cornerstone Church in the center of Phnom Penh, working with university students. Their church is another possibility for classroom facilities for our classes, and they also have a network of people possibly interested in ABTS.
Dr. Hai Joon Kim
Dr. Kim actually reached out to ABTS about the possibility of partnering together. He’s involved in so much that it would take too long to list it all here. He has a PhD in mathematics and got connected to Cambodia through exchange students when he was teaching. He’s been in Cambodia since the 90’s and has built an international mission agency that ministers not only in Cambodia, but also to unreached groups in Africa and Central Asia. In Cambodia the ministry he runs is a complex that includes a number of ministries including a primary school and Bible college. El Shaddai Bible College graduates often become teachers for the younger students at the complex, so Dr. Kim is very interested in providing them with graduate theological education. Their facility is in rural Cambodia (about a 2 hour drive from Phnom Penh), but is very well provided for. There are already enough students ready to take classes ABTS classes here, so the prospects look good!
Bora (pictured on the right)
We met Bora because we had a lot of mutual connections. Very interesting guy. He grew up in an orphanage ministry in Cambodia and went to the Christian school attached to it when he got older. He spent his senior year of High School in Colorado, then did his undergrad studies at The Master’s University. Since he’s been back in Cambodia, he works translating Christian works into Khmer. He’s also written is own book as well! Super great guy and it was fun to get the chance to talk to him!
From the ABTS side of the trip, things look great! We’re working on some legal registration issues and making sure that we have enough qualified students to open a site here. If everything works out, we can start ABTS classes in Cambodia next year!
Some general thoughts on Cambodia: I was in Cambodia for just a few days 11 years ago. It was my first year teaching in China, and me and a few others traveled through Southeast Asia during the Chinese New Year break. At the time, Cambodia was a mess. Phnom Penh had frequent power outages and there really weren’t what most would think of as roads in a lot of the country. I can’t even begin to explain how much things have changed in the past decade! Now the roads are great, the power stays on, and there is a crazy amount of development going on. All in all, very encouraging to see! There are still come issues, however. It’s rainy season, and old Phnom Penh definitely still has some drainage issues!
Overall, it was a very, very encouraging trip and a lot was accomplished. Thanks so much for your prayers!