Friday, November 21, 2014

Trip to Cambodia and Thailand (November 2014)

I made a quick trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November (12-15). The purpose of my trip was to talk about "Microfinance for Sustainable Development" to an audience of 300 people from all walks of life. I was one of six speakers for a conference organized jointly by Handong Global University (HGU) and National Bank of Cambodia (NBC). My attendance was in the capacity of a faculty member of HGU.

The theme was "Improving the Management and Financing Competencies of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)" and the conference was supported by UNESCO's UNITWIN (University Twining and Networking) program. HGU is the only hub university in Korea for the UNITWIN program.

This one-day event may not be remembered for long by many people because I felt the conference could have been better organized. But it gave me a golden opportunity to visit Cambodia for the first time and unexpectedly I was able to meet up with missionary Insong Kim who is being supported by Logos Central Chapel, Denver Colorado. He is running Jesus Mission.

Missionary Kim, local pastor, Mrs. Kim

My first impression of Cambodia, more appropriately Phnom Penh, was that the country was poor, predominantly agriculture; the people seemed friendly; the street traffic seemed pretty chaotic and disorganized. Also, I have heard that the corruption level is very high and it holds down the country's economic progress that many citizens long to see. I was told also that the Chinese people living in Cambodia control a significant portion of the national economy, particularly the distribution system, thus blocking competition and free market dynamics.

I learned that ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) will open up their borders to make the flows of resources (capital, human, technology etc) among the member nations. It appeared that Cambodia was concerned about adverse impact that the free flow of resources may bring to the country. The conference was put together in an aim to bolster the competencies of SMEs to better prepare for the upcoming competition.

Gathering with people who have interest in BAM

This trip to Cambodia also gave me a golden opportunity to visit Thailand. The airfare to Phnom Penh only was more expensive than an itinerary that includes another stop over in Bangkok. So I took advantage of this extended trip to visit with a business missionary Lee, Hyun Guk whom I met at BAM Consultation 2013 and 2014.
Business Missionary Lee

This trip turned out to be a wonderful experience of meeting several BAM practitioners and providing some assistance. Also, I met up with several missionaries and young adults who are keenly interested in BAM for one reason or another. I felt greatly encouraged to hear of their desire and also their request for me to come to help them. I consulted a few young BAMers and spoke to dozens of Thais who worship at a church started by a Korean missionary, Young Sung Park, who is also trying to incorporate BAM ideas into his ministries.
Missionary and Mrs. Park after service

15 recipients of scholarship

After talking about "Living the life of Light of the World"

Mandy from Colorado, a high school graduate

A couple of young BAMers
Obviously I was indulged significantly with excellent delicacies of Thai food thanks to the great hospitality of the missionary Lee and missionary Hong, Jung Hyun. They were exceedingly hospitable and I felt indebted to them. Hong was reaching out to students on college campuses under the umbrella of Students for Christ (SFC). He served in the Philippines for nine years before he came to Thailand to start up a new SFC.

His wife was a BAMer. Through her business, namely Nebia House, she was making fabric toys that were exported to Korea. Missionary Lee has helped greatly for the business to be shaped and take off with the products that are commercially salable. Through this business, many people gained jobs and consequently higher income. There were not only direct beneficiaries of this BAM, such as people who work directly for Nebia House, but also indirect beneficiaries who were able to earn income through outsourcing. Church pastors were delighted to see their congregation members earn income.

Missionary Hong and Mrs. Hong

One of the products Nebia House sells

Noteworthy was another BAM, called Samaritan Creation, started and run by an American missionary Mike who married a Thai lady Kay. They make fashion jewelry, fabric toys and fly fishing baits. Their ministry is to help the prostitutes leave their night life and start a new life through normal employment with Samaritan Creation. Samaritan Creation is one of the Nebia House's outsourcing suppliers.
Kay and Mike

All in all, I have come back to Rwanda with greater conviction of the positive impact that a BAM produces when it is properly run based on biblical principles. I have become more assured of God's calling for me to be involved in BAM. Moreover, Thailand may be a place to help bring the gospel to the nations in Indochina where Thailand is situated at the center. May it be true and a reality! Praise the Lord!

The last day, we were able to visit some places of interest, such as a fruit farm, a market on the water and a beach near Pattaya due to my midnight flight schedule. Again, I appreciated the kind escorting and guide of Missionaries Lee and Hong. - Jeffrey