The countdown clock says, “13 more days until departure”. We are heading back to the States this summer for some rest, relaxation and a time to reconnect with friends and family. Two years ago, when we went back for a visit, COVID was swinging into full force and things were starting to shut down. During that time in Texas, we didn’t get a chance to do our “normal” activities so this summer is filled with even more anticipation. Some things we aren’t looking forward to are higher gas and food prices, but everything will be wonderful! See you soon Texas!
Ready for the New Year
As we usher in 2022, our family is ready to get back to a more normal “routine”. Starting in January 2022, Luke will be allowed to attend school in-person full time. John will be going to his office at Hope full time after staying home with Luke in the mornings to help him stay focused for at-home, online learning. Ashley will be going back to classroom full of students after having half the class in-person every other week and then switching for the other half the next week. Things will start to feel more “normal”.
As our family ushers in a new year, we are thankful. Thankful for good health, especially after all three of us had COVID in November. We are thankful for family and friends in the US who are faithful to love, pray and support us financially. We are thankful for our Cambodia community of friends who have grown to feel more like family than just friends. We are also thankful for the Lord, El Roy, the God who sees me. The three of us constantly feel the presence of the Lord in our lives as we go throughout our day. He provision, His peace and His guidance have been steadfast this year.
We are looking forward to what 2022 brings! Happy New Year!
Sometimes you just have to go with the flow…
In a world that is constantly changing, sometimes you just have to “go with the flow”. COVID has definitely changed our little world and the country we live in. Luke and I haven’t been in school full-time since March 2020 and have been learning/teaching online since the beginning of this 2021-2022 school year. John started a new position at an international Christian school near our house.
What we have been reminded of through this time…
John and I were able to get vaccinated with a vaccine from the US a couple of weeks ago, which was a huge praise and took a lot of patience. The Lord gives peace.
The government was requiring a two week mandatory hotel quarantine and $2,000 deposit when coming into the country. This past week, the government lifted the two week quarantine to just a one week hotel quarantine. The Lord is just.
Luke is learning online from teachers in Cambodia, one who was in Scotland and one who is still in Canada and Luke is thriving! The Lord gives endurance and perseverance.
Last week, the government started requiring people to show their vaccination cards when entering businesses (this includes grocery stores) and has encouraged unvaccinated and sick people to stay home. The Lord knows the future.
Through this ever-changing season, the Lord has given us peace, has been just, has given endurance and perseverance and He knows the future. This is an ever-changing journey we are on and we know who is along side of us!
A Breath of Fresh Air
We were able to get out of the city this week and head up northwest to Siem Reap. Thanks to some generous donors back in the States, we were able to rent a small two-bedroom house with a small pool for the week. We met up with another Phnom Penh family a few times for some mini-golf, swimming, wakeboarding and ziplining. The road up to Siem Reap was paved and the traffic wasn’t too bad with only one check point on the way up. We are thankful for this week to be able to relax and be refreshed during these hot summer months.
Here is a picture of Luke at the ziplining course on a skybridge in Siem Reap!
Thank you for your continued prayers. Prayers for safety and time playing together.
the Phifer Trio
Please pray for Cambodia
I don’t know if you have heard “through the grapevine”, but Cambodia had another community outbreak at the end of February so some things are shut down again. All schools in the country are back to studying online, entertainment venues are shut down, masks are required everywhere and some cities are shut down from people traveling in and out. John and Luke are back to working/learning from home. Ashley is able to teach all students on Zoom from the classroom.
Things are different right now, but honestly we can’t complain. Traffic is significantly reduced because people are staying home, malls/restaurants are empty, food delivery is still working like normal and no shortages in supplies. We haven’t experienced any of that stuff here like last year in the States. Our area of town hasn’t no reported cases. We are thankful for that!
Please continue to pray for our family as John and Luke are home working and learning. Pray for Ashley as she teaches all classes online. Pray for Cambodia as many people are fearful and many people are without income for their family because places and businesses are shut down.
We are trusting in God’s faithfulness and leaning on His understanding for the future.
A Seasoned Perspective
A few years ago our pastor from our home church came to Cambodia. One of the questions he asked us was what would be one thing that would cause us leave Cambodia. At the time, our answer was traffic. Of all the things that we could have answered, that was one of the daily hassles our Western minds couldn’t fully grasp. I have talked about traffic here on this blog before and one of our close friends previously described it like a river. The water flows down the path and if a rock gets in the way you just go around. It doesn’t matter if going around the rock is on the side walk or the wrong side of the street into oncoming traffic. The water also flows at a variety of speeds between a person walking on the street to a large cement truck barreling down the same road at 40mph. I say barreling down the road at 40mph because the normal speed limit on a majority of the streets I drive on daily is 40kph (25mph). Stop lights and street signs are also optional depending on how important you think you are that day or what type of vehicle you are driving. Part of that discussion also centered around things that we could find easily or things that were hard to find. It’s still very common for me to visit 2-3 grocery stores to find all the things on my list.
If you asked me this question 2 years ago, I would have said power cuts. The country was grappling with a loss of water to the hydro-electric dams on the Mekong river. A certain country decided to decrease that supply dramatically and the down stream countries had to deal with the consequences. For us, that meant daily 4-8 hour power cuts that lasted for several months.
If you were to ask me that question today, I am not sure how I would answer. The traffic hasn’t changed, but we have become used to it. The availability of random products hasn’t changed, but again, our family has worked around that. The power cuts still happen, but on a dramatically decreased scale. We still lose power 1-3 times per week, but now it ranges from 5 minutes to 2 hours.
Many things have made it easier to live in Cambodia. We have a 23 year old truck, but a wonderful mechanic that keeps it running. Our home is connected via fiber optic so we have fast internet at a reasonable price. Our cell phone coverage isn’t amazing, but it’s only $5 a month (take that AT&T). Large modern malls have opened with a wide variety of brands from all over the world. Western food choices have become abundant. I can get a Krispy-Kreme donut then a Starbucks coffee, grab a Burger King Whopper or Carl’s Jr. burger and finish it with a Dairy Queen Blizzard or Cold Stone Creamery ice cream all in one place ( I don’t recommend doing that all at the same time, but at least you can if you wanted to). We even heard a rumor about Papa John’s coming to Cambodia soon.
My wife has a job she loves. My son has friends all around him that he can play with daily. I have a job that is flexible so that I can help my family when needed and help Ya with her jewelry business on the side. We have family, friends, supporters and an A-Team (hyphenated?) that pray for us continually and support us financially. Cambodia has largely been spared the wrath of COVID and beyond schools and churches having restrictions, everything is open as normal.
All of that to say, our perspective has changed over the years and we are happy to be in Cambodia serving the Lord.
If you want to be part of what God is doing through us here in Cambodia, make sure to follow this blog and if you want to donate, you can do that by clicking here.
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.
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:
- A negative Covid test result with 72 hours prior to arrival (this includes the 24+ hours of travel time)
- An original signed and stamped letter from a doctor saying we are Covid free and ok to travel
- An original letter from our insurance company with a minimum of $50,000 coverage
- A Covid test upon arrival
- A Covid test 13 days after arrival
- 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.
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…