Reflections on the Bus

By Elizabeth Rand

We are riding the bus back to Phnom Penh, heading for the airport to catch a flight to Siem Reap. We see rice fields, water buffalo, and the inevitable motos passing us on hairpin curves. Amelia is quite brave to sit in the front seat! We will drive past mountains and cultivated palm tree forests. We will also pass mounds of trash, abandoned by the side of the road. Tara, one of our translators, told us that sanitation is a huge problem here. We experienced this even when we swam in the Gulf of Thailand. We saw trash, not sea creatures, floating in the waves.

It will take a long time to process all I experienced this week at the biblical storytelling training. Tola, my translator, and I facilitated three workshops, at which pastors learned to tell the stories of Jesus and his Family, Jesus Walking on the Water, and Peter’s Denial. We always began by doing the story learning activity called “Repeat After Me”. I said a line of the story and did a gesture. Tola translated the line into Khmer and did the gesture. Finally, the pastors repeated Tola’s words and actions. This was time-consuming at first, but the pastors learned the story quickly and were able to explore the stories more deeply and connect them to their lives. At the end of the workshop, we invited pastors to take turns coming up to tell the stories. This inevitably became a group telling, as all of the pastors did the gestures and prompted the teller if she or he faltered. On Thursday night, I watched the pastors take turns telling stories in their circles of ten. As I looked around the room, I saw the pastors from our workshop making very familiar gestures, and I knew which story they were telling. I felt so honored and humbled to be part of this storytelling community, which is a community in every sense of the word.

Amelia has already posted a blog describing our day with the Christian Education committee and Sunday School trainers. As we demonstrated a whole array of story learning activities I got some fun new ideas for teaching at home. One activity is called “Sing a Line”. We all chose a line from the story we were learning and set it to a tune. (I kept wishing for my friend Kim, who is brilliant at composing songs to sing to her daughter, Maya.). Amelia and I sang our line up and down the scale. We gave our Cambodian colleagues five minutes at most to set a line from the story to music. Then we invited the groups to sing, and they sang sophisticated melodies. One group even used motions! It was amazing. At the end of the day we recorded some if the songs so we can show them to others at home.

This was more than a storytelling training, however. This was also the first Pastors and Spouses retreat. Pastors and their families rested and played together, some seeing the sea for the first time. Some pastors, including the family my church supports, live in challenging conditions, lacking running water, electricity, and indoor plumbing. They had all if these things at the hotel where they stayed. On Wednesday night the pastors and their families gathered for a gala. They ate a special meal together and then took turns singing and dancing with a band. We were invited to this celebration. Elisha, Will, Tara, and Tola formed a band and played four songs. They sang the song, “Give Thanks”, which I did and I do, for all of the ways God’s kingdom was revealed to us in this place and with these brothers and sisters.