Our home assignment in 2020 had two unexpected challenges. Home assignment is hard enough without extra challenges (that’s why we call it an assignment, it’s not a holiday). Both these challenges related to COVID and they both involved waiting. COVID made life hard in general, this included our church visits in the first half of 2020. We went from meeting in person to meeting online in a split second. Talk about whiplash. Then came the difficult news when our June flights to Cambodia were canceled.

Our first challenge was how to proceed. With the help of CMS we came to the plan of staying in Australia for the rest of 2020. This gave our family stability amongst a lot of unknowns, especially that our children could finish the academic year in Australia. We were in a season of waiting and while it was hard to wait, there was harder to come.

This harder news came at the end of 2020 in December. Our next challenge was that our visa wasn’t approved, so we had to cancel our January flights to Cambodia. That was rough. What was rougher was the unknown-ness of this second challenge. When flights were canceled the first time, we set a time to return. With visa uncertainty, would we ever get back to Cambodia? We were well aware that this has been the experience of some missionaries.

What I want to reflect on is that month of waiting and not knowing (late Dec until early Feb) was harder than the six months previously when we had set an arbitrary date to return. We were waiting and knowing. Waiting with knowledge is much easier than waiting without knowing. This is very much akin to Christian hope. We aren’t hopeful, as in whether we hope it will rain or not. We’re hopeful with more certainty. We’re certain of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. We’re certain of Jesus’ promised return. Hope is waiting with knowing and that actually makes things easier than waiting and not knowing. 

Intro New Blog Series: Pre-arrival to Post-arrival


Ice-blocking down a hill at a recent holiday

It’s been a while. Apart from our latest post, the post before that was one we did from Australia in 2020, before we knew our flights would be canceled, again. So what has been happening since then? This next series catches you up, not only on some of the details of our goings-on, but also adds in new cultural and missiological insights that we’ve picked up along the way. For those who receive our monthly updates, the beginning of this series will be a helpful reminder of our journey in recent years giving good context to where we are up to as well as going into details that we can’t always fit in our monthly updates. Hope you enjoy the ride.

Jenny Asks #1

Living in Cambodia, we’ve grown old eyes for a place we now know much better. Having a visitor helps us remember what it was like to be new and share a little bit more about the basics of our life. One of our next blog series comes from Jenny Kemp’s visit to Phnom Penh in 2022. She asked Sam some questions to help our family, friends and supporters back in Australia better understand what our lives are like in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. These are the first two questions. 

Jenny: Tell me a bit about where you live and what it’s like. 

Sam: We live between the Phnom Penh Bible School and Hope International school, each are a 7 minute drive. We live in a housing complex called a borey, which has a guarded boom gate at the entrance. Our borey has 6 streets, with many Cambodian, Chinese and expat families. We have lived here for 6 years, and there are many more Hope families here now than when we first moved in (American, NZ, Aussie, UK and Danish). The houses are mostly 3 storey brick villas, with 4 bedrooms, each with an ensuite. We have a tiled front yard with a gate. The houses are only 10-15 years old, but they are not well built, and things seem to break frequently. The borey has a grassy area with a dilapidated playground, trees that are great for climbing and there’s corner store at the gate. 

Jenny: What’s a typical shopping trip like?  

Sam: My shopping list is complicated. I miss Coles and Woolies where I can buy everything I need for my weekly shop. Here I ride my bicycle to the supermarket near our house and buy some of the items, and ride home with about 3 bags, either in the basket or dangling off the handle bars. This is the supermarket pictured below. Then Craig or my house helper will buy fruit and veg from the market. I like to buy meat and dairy from an online store which delivers on a motorbike, either the same day or the next day. We buy nuts in bulk which also get delivered by moto. Every few weeks I try and go to one of the other big supermarkets to get the extra items on my list, eg probiotic yoghurt, vanilla essence, jars of sauce, shampoo, multi vitamins. The prices of identical items varies from store to store, so I also try to be thoughtful about which shops I go to first. The range of products available in each store varies month by month, so I need to be flexible in what I want to buy. It is a complicated process every week. I still have not had the courage to buy meat from the wet market! 

The gates to our borey with a corner-store-like supermarket.

Whats next? Transition whiplash

Photo credit to Nick Radcliffe

Hello from Australia. This post coming to you from Corks in Australia.

Just prior to leaving Cambodia our looming transition felt like a tidal wave coming towards me of which I could do nothing about. This is not meant to be negative description of my experience, but more that it highlights the bigness of what was coming and how quickly it was coming. Quite a few sleepless nights also testifies to the size of the change that was coming.

Then as we arrived, whiplash; like landing in an airplane with your body squeezed to seat as you land and you can’t do a thing. Pre-leaving Cambodia had been this frantic dash to the finish. But on arrival there was a necessary slowing from that frantic pace. In that slowing you realise how quick you’d been going, even if you didn’t fully realise it at the time. We went from doing many things in a day to one thing a day (not dissimilar to when we first arrived).

Then as we’ve begun to settle in, there is the feeling of floating above your body (an out of body experience). The reality of what has just happened sinks in. We have just spent the last 3 years in Cambodia and now we are back in Australia for our first home assignment. Having been away there is now a distance associated with our home culture and so with those changes that have occurred in us and in Australia, we take some time to process, hence the out of body experience.

Thus as I try to reconnect my body to myself floating above, I’ll be taking a break from blogging over Christmas, while we settle in. However, I aim to start again early 2020 with more reflections on our first 3 year term in Cambodia, reflections on being back and thoughts as we head towards our second term. If first term was about language learning (even though that was through teaching), the second term could well be characterised as primarily ministry (teaching) although still language learning (life-long learning).

In order to catch me when I start blogging again, sign up on email to be notified when I begin again or like our Corks in Cambodia facebook page.

Transition time: #2. Transitioning from…


Translating a lecture from English to Khmer

In 2018 I have already transitioned from classroom language learning to independent language learning. Now as I edge closer to October I’m transitioning out of full time language learning. With the goal of teaching in Khmer, part of my time this past 6 months has been lesson prep. To streamline my language learning with my lesson prep I geared my language learning towards learning stories from the OT; thinking through how to explain themes and topics that arise from those stories. In a sense, my language learning has been more specific than in the early days. In early days, I was learning basic Khmer for a variety of different situations and on a variety of different topics. Now my language learning (intentional learning) is much more narrowly targeted. Having the goal of teaching in Khmer has actually been really helpful for motivation, a massive carrot.

As I transition away from full time language learning, I’m not really leaving it. What I’m leaving is my independent learning category. For I’ll be still learning massive amounts of Khmer as I teach in it. It’s just that learning won’t be the primary goal, teaching will be. And I guess that’s the case in our native language as well. We never actually leave language learning fully, not even in English. What changes is that it no longer becomes the primary goal, but a secondary bonus. So while I’ll transition from language learning in one sense, in another I’ll never leave it — life long language learning.

What this looks like in practice can be seen when I contrast pre-August break and post-August break. In both periods I was doing language learning and lesson prep. But, pre-break, with my language helper I was more getting help with language learning stuff (rather than lesson prep). Once I came back I got my language helper to help me with my lesson prep. Though, because I am seeking to teach in Khmer, there was still a lot of language learning going on. I’d ask him to show me where my mistakes were, but not fix them, so that hopefully I’d learn from my mistakes and not make them as often. In this sense my language learning and lesson prep had merged. Pre-break, they felt like slightly different streams. It’s kinda nice just having one project to work on rather than two, particularly when the language learning side of things is never ending. But teaching has a definite goal and end point (the end of semester). The brilliant thing about the merge is that I’m getting to work on a long term thing, with the advantage that teaching gives the sense of accomplishment when you’ve finished the semester.

Short posting break


You could say I’ve gone postal …

With the mission series finished, I’ll be taking a short break from blogging, into the New Year, while we prepare to and then actially move countries. I hope to start back again shortly after we arrive. 

My first series will be on Proverbs-biblical proverbs. My reasons here are firstly, I’ve been loving getting into the book of Proverbs over the last few years. Secondly, missiologically they carry great insights into culture. So as I learn how to mine the OT culture, I hope to gain skills to later doing a series on Cambodian proverbs and even Aussie proverbs at some stage.

Cya in 2017.