Christmas Season

Hello blog readers, John here.

The Phifer family just finished a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with friends at our house last weekend. Cambodia doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving so most expats worked on Thursday and then celebrated with dinner that night or over the weekend. We chose the latter as it would give us time to cook a 21lb bird. The story behind the turkey is we ordered from a company that supplies restaurants. When the order was placed, we simply asked for a turkey. We have previously received smaller turkeys, but I guess this year, they decided to go big. The upside is I was able to eat leftovers for a week and we were also able to share with friends.

This will be the first year in quite a while where we don’t have family in town for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. The main reason for this is obviously Covid. In the case of our host country an incoming traveler must present a $2,000 deposit upon arrival, have 3 negative Covid tests over 15 days and then spend 14 days in a quarantine hotel without leaving. I cannot recommend anyone come here based on those restrictions. Therefore this year we will have Christmas via Zoom (or other video platform) with family back in Texas.

I was sitting with a friend just the other night and we were talking about my past work before moving to Cambodia. At the time I joked my office was in a cubicle kept at a wonderful 72degrees. I then moved to Cambodia and worked at the Wake Park with Alf and my office was a hammock between 2 palm trees. My office most days now is my kitchen table with Luke doing daily home school learning. It’s crazy how things have changed over the years.

Ashley and I are very thankful for your prayer and support over the past 6 1/2 years. We couldn’t have done this without you. As we finish 2020, keep us in mind if you plan to make any year end donations. You can find all the information to donate here.

Back in the Penh

Well, that was a smooth trip!  We arrived in Phnom Penh late on Friday night, July 10th, after 28 hours of travel.  We had a few hiccups along the way but the best part of the trip was the long flight from Los Angeles to Incheon.  The plane was nearly empty and we each had a row to ourselves for sleeping.  Cambodia accepted all of our documents (thanks to Fran at Open Arms Clinic for helping with the tests) and we were taken to a hotel near the river for 2 nights.  Everyone on the plane tested negative and we were released early Sunday morning (thanks to Philip from Logos for his truck to get us home with our 15 bags) to finish our 14 day quarantine at home.  The expats around us have been more than willing to grab items from the store and help us transition back to life in Cambodia.  We go for our 3rd and hopefully final Covid test on July 23rd.

It took us a couple of days to unpack everything.  The truck started right up after I reconnected the battery, but my moto needed a mechanic to get it going.  Luckily, he had it back to me within 24 hours and so we can be mobile upon exiting quarantine.  Logos is awaiting results from the Ministry of Education for if they are able to open for school in early August with some significant adjustments to the classrooms.

Yesterday, we had a visit from the governor of Phnom Penh Thmei and vice governor of Sen Sok with a few other people to check our temperatures. They also asked if we have any questions about our quarantine. This is the first visit we have heard of, so we were quite surprised when they called and showed up at our house. They were very friendly and the vice governor of Sen Sok spoke great English.

Be in prayer for us to finish quarantine and get a negative test result next week.  We have seen positive reports of a quick return of the deposit paid upon arrival,  but still be in prayer for this process.  Pray for Logos to get approval from the Ministry of Education to open to students in early August.

~John

Staying Positive

Flexibility, going with the flow, we will figure it out, saying “this too shall pass” and staying positive.  Those are words and phrases that Ashley and I seem to use on a regular basis.  As the world adjusts to Covid19, our family has gone through the same level of adjustment as all of you.  One good thing about living overseas, is that we seem to be prepared for this level of change.

For example, I usually do the grocery shopping for the family.  With Ashley working at school, it’s just easier for me to get out and get it done with my work schedule being much more flexible.  It’s not uncommon to visit 3-4 stores looking for a specific food item.  We don’t have the luxury of driving over to the local Wal-Mart to pick up everything we need including getting a oil change on the car and an entirely new wardrobe.  I generally take my moto, which is a small 223cc Honda FTR.  I can only carry so much on it before I have to call it and drive home.  Plus, during rainy season, I would have to accomplish this in a rain poncho.

Another example is the current entry requirements going back to Cambodia.  We are required to have all of the following upon entry:

  1. A negative Covid test result with 72 hours prior to arrival (this includes the 24+ hours of travel time)
  2. An original signed and stamped letter from a doctor saying we are Covid free and ok to travel
  3. An original letter from our insurance company with a minimum of $50,000 coverage
  4. A Covid test upon arrival
  5. A Covid test 13 days after arrival
  6. A $3,000 deposit in cash upon arrival – This deposit will go towards paying all of the “fees” upon entry into Cambodia.  For example: $30 per person per day for food while in mandatory quarantine until the 1st Covid test in Cambodia is returned (usually a day or 2).  Hotel room of approximately $60 per day.  $5 per person for transportation.  $100 per person per test for the 1st and 2nd set of Covid tests.

The best case scenario is every single person on the plane tests negative upon arrival and our total out of pocket expense is about $800 to enter the country.  The worst case scenario is one person tests positive on the plane and all remaining passengers are required to stay in mandatory government quarantine.  We estimate this will cost us around $3,500.

One may ask, why go back now, why not wait until the requirements are lifted or lessened for foreigners upon entry?  For us, we need to get back into the country before school starts on August 3rd.  Ashley has to be back at school 1 week before that date which means we need to finish the 14 day quarantine 3 weeks before August 3rd.

So as of right now, we will continue to have flexibility, go with the flow, figure it out, thinking “this too shall pass” and staying positive!  Please be praying for us near the end of the second week of July.  If you want to partner with us in prayer, make sure to join this blog for further updates.  If you want to partner with us in giving, via a tax deductible donation, click on the Donate button at the top.

~John

Meanwhile, back in Texas…

As a child, I loved reading a book called “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch” by Trinka Hakes Noble. As I sat down to write this post, that book title came to mind. Many of you may not have known, but in the middle of March we were informed by the Department of Homeland Security via email if we wanted to fly into the US from another country, now was the time to do it or plan on staying indefinitely. We knew we wanted to be in the US for the summertime to reconnect and refresh, so John and Luke went to the travel office and changed our tickets to fly out the next day. The next 24 hours were a whirlwind, but by God’s grace, we were able to get on the flight we wanted and off we went.

After a flight cancellation in Seattle, we arrived in Texas to a much different Texas than we remembered two years ago. So here we are in Texas, rotating every two weeks between the Phifer’s house and the Rice’s house. It’s been a big adjustment for us. Luke is doing remote learning through Google Classroom and daily emails sent home by the wonderful Mrs. Stanley. Ashley is teaching remotely through video recordings, live Zooms at night (morning in Cambodia) and daily emails with the listed assignments. We are thankful for the time with our family even though some times we are a little antsy to get out and do things we miss.

We don’t know what the future holds. Our plan is to return to Cambodia mid-July if we are allowed to return, currently the border is closed to Americans.  Please be in prayer with us. We would love to meet with all of you while we are here so we can share with you the good work the Lord is doing in Cambodia but it may not be possible… but we do know this, God is not done with us. So meanwhile, back in Texas, we wait…

Year End Giving

Merry Christmas from the Phifers in Cambodia! It’s been unseasonably cool here for this time of year. We have been enjoying the low 70 degree mornings and mid 80 degree days. John’s parents were here last month and we enjoyed spending about 2 weeks with them. Ashley’s parents will be in town for Christmas so we are excited for them to come as well. John just recently finished a 6 month project to outfit a new kickboxing gym in Svay Pak for Agape International Missions. Ashley is preparing her class to lead this coming Wednesday for the 3rd through 5th grade chapel, while also preparing for Carnival and Jog-a-thon at the beginning of 2020. Luke participated in a soccer tournament this weekend and although his team was eliminated, he scored a goal and also made some great saves while playing goalie.

If you decide to make any year end donations, please consider us. We are currently fundraising for our furlough tickets as we plan to be in the States next summer for a couple of months. You can make tax deductible donations through a 501(c)3 called International Outreach Ministries using the following link on their website.

Anticipation

anticipation (n.) – the action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction

For the next four months, 4 different groups of people are coming to Cambodia – one missions team from our home church, friends from our financial organization and family members from both sides. As we make sure everything is set up for each group, we are anticipating our time together!

Please pray for safe travels and health for these 4 groups as they travel to Cambodia and while they are here. Pray our time together to be encouraging and God-honoring.

Waiting in anticipation…
The Phifer Trio

5 year Cambo-versary

5 years in review…

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy”

Since landing in Cambodia on July 1, 2014, things have definitely changed. In these 5 years, we have seen God open and close doors to different ministries, we’ve seen some amazing friendships form, Luke accepted Jesus as Ruler of his life, leadership roles were given, close friends returned back to their home countries, Luke grew like a weed, swam with elephants, cried when gotten into arguments, learned how to drive a motorcycle (John), visited new countries (Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia), operated Cambodia’s first wakeboard park, played at Kid’s City and a local waterpark, a student accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, saw some new movies at IMAX in the new mall, learned the basis to a new language and many more things!

We are thankful for your partnership throughout these last 5 years. We don’t know when the Lord will call us back to the United States but we know we are happy to serving Him here in Cambodia!

“He gives and takes away,

He gives and takes away,

my heart will choose to say,

Lord blessed be your name”

Family trip to Kampot, Cambodia 2015

 

Kam-Air 2015

 

John and Luke swimming with the elephants in 2016

 

John and Luke visiting a waterfall and the beach in Koh Kong, Cambodia 2017

 

Praise the Lord, we have water!

Good afternoon from Cambodia! I know many of you have been praying for the water situation in our borey (neighborhood) for several weeks now.

UPDATE: John came home on Sunday from the States and asked for our landlord to come over on Monday to talk about the water situation. The landlord came over and said he would pay to put in a water pump and a tank. His worker starting working and got everything installed and working in one day. Praise the Lord, we have water!!

Thank you for your prayers and messages!

~Ashley

A Great Example of the Body of Christ

John has been in the States for 2 weeks now visiting with our church team, talking with various groups, spending time with both sets of our parents, and seeing many friends. While Luke and I have been “holding down the fort” in Cambodia, we have had lots of macaroni and cheese for dinner (Luke’s request) and managing ok since John’s been gone. But this week I caught some type of stomach bug along with all the symptoms… fever, vomiting and diarrhea, on and off for 3 days.

Today, I am feeling much better. I wouldn’t say ALL my energy is back but better. Looking back on the last 4 days, I am very grateful for our community here in Cambodia. From friends who took Luke to school in the mornings and others who brought him back home in the afternoons, to people who went to the store for us and others who offered, to my wonderful colleague, and friend, who covered my class on Thursday and Friday (my 2 busiest days of the week)… and not to mention all the people who texted to check on Luke and me.

Last week in class, I was teaching the students about what it means to be the body of Christ and to serve others. I saw the body of Christ clearly working together this week. Having the extra help this week reminded me to reach out to people, just a simple message or an act of kindness means the world 😉

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you! Many of you were also praying in the States. Thank you for praying for a fast recovery! Our Father knows just what we need!

~Ashley

End of the Year Giving

Would you consider giving a special year-end giving gift to support our family and the ministry in Cambodia this Christmas? Each month we rely on the gifts of God’s people, especially as the year comes to a close. Thank you for your consideration and partnership in the Gospel!