Mission Notebook 2016

Random ideas, comments, reflections, and information on mission and life in a mission country.

2000-2001     2002    2003    2004   
2005    2006    2007    2008    2009    2010    2011    
2012     2013     2014     2015    2016

On the Streets of Bangkok

9 July 2016

 Traffic in Bangkok

Bangkok has legendary traffic problems and this is a good example of the situation. I finished my test at BNH Hospital, went to get a sandwich at Subway, and then was going to take a bus home. As I crossed the street to the bus stop--observing the traffic stopped in both directions--I thought, this is crazy to be getting on a bus and sitting here. Instead I took the elevated SkyTrain four stops to the major road where the Maryknoll office is located and then took a local bus there to Maryknoll. Probably saved me an hour.

Crossing the Mekong

24 June 2016

Priests and monks boarding a ferry



 Recently, as part of the Catholic Church's Year of Mercy, Bishop Olivier organized a pilgrimage for the local priests to three sites in the Phnom Penh area. One was a Vietnamese parish across the Mekong and as some of the priests boarded the ferry (left), quite a few Buddhist monks were also boarding. They didn't go to the church at Arekysat, though!

Welcome, Marisa!

22 June 2016

Welcoming Marisa Abraham


Marisa Abraham took part in our RCIA program but joined it as a late comer and was not ready to be received into the church at Easter time. But now she has taken the first official step and was formally invited to our community last Sunday by Fr. Bob Wynne. With Marisa as a sponsor is Kathy Tucker, a former Maryknoll Lay Missioner.

Another New Country

21 June 2016

Bulgarian flag

Country No. 109 has now clicked on this website. The newest visitor is Bulgaria in Europe, where it is bounded on the north by Romania and on the southwest by Greece and on the southeast by Turkey and the Caspian Sea. Bularia, about the size of the U.S. state of Tennessee, was a republic of the Soviet Union but regained its freedom and is now a member of both NATO and the European Union.

Church Fellowship

Coffee and doughnuts after mass


19 June 2016

Today we reinstituted a coffee-and-doughnuts time after our Sunday morning mass at St. Joseph Church. We had done it a few years ago but the people who organized it moved and the social time fell by the wayside. Now Couples for Christ has volunteered to organize this getting together on the third Sunday of each month. Today was a great success! Lots of people stayed to have coffee or tea or juice and we had a real chance to get to know each other a bit better. Thanks, CFC!

Caritas Takeo Eye Hospital

Reception area of CTEH

16-17 June 2016

Fr. John Barth, the Maryknoll priest I lived with when I first arrived in Cambodia, was the main force behind the building of the Takeo Eye Hospital (CTEH). Located in Takeo Province its intention was to train eye doctors and eye nurses to serve the poor people of Cambodia suffering from eye problems. The Daughters of Charity worked with John and they laid out a one-floor hospital with several wings and with many of the departments out in the open. This is the registration area where people first arrive.

Nurses station at CTEH

This is a nurses' station. When I had my cataracts removed at CTEH, I came here for some evaluation and testing, and then after the operation I came here at 6:00 AM to have the bandage removed and my eye cleaned up. Maryknoll helped build the hospital and then turned it over to the Daughters of Charity who then managed a transition to the hospital being managed by Caritas Cambodia.

Grounds of CTEH

The site of the eye hospital was previously a tuberculosis hospital but it was completely replaced by this sprawling, well-designed facility. The building is both functional and attractive, and they are set in a spacious and nicely landscaped environment.

Canteen of CTEH

This is the canteen area of the hospital where I ate. Most of the people coming to have eye surgery are very poor and can't even afford the canteen food so their families come and stay with them and cook in a special area with cooking stations for preparing a family's meals.

A Challenge for Christianity

15 June 2016

A finding by Andrew Marin in his book US Against US


13 June 2016

CACD June meeting

Today was the third meeting of the year for the Catholic Alliance for Charity and Development (CACD), the diocese's organization that brings together all the Catholic groups serving the poor and offering outreach in in the Phnom Penh church. A big topic today was the response of the local church to the limitations of basic civil and human rights that people are experiencing.

Loboc Children's Choir

11 June 2016

June 12th is the Independence Day of the Republic of the Philippines and today, as part of their independence celebration, they had a concert by the Loboc Children's Choir, a national treasurer of the Philippines. This is a community choir from the small town of Loboc and it is widely known throughout the Philippines and beyond, well enough known that they would be invited to perform here in Cambodia.

A FOCUS on Mission

26 May 2016

FOCUS group at Maryknoll


FOCUS is a US-based Catholic mission group that works on university campuses in the US. Four campus ministers and five students came to Cambodia to experience mission here, and yesterday they visited the Deaf Development Programme and the Royal University of Phnom Penh and then came to Maryknoll's weekly mass and dinner.

Classical Choral Music

24 May 2016

Choral concert at Church of the Child Jesus
One of the nice things about our Phnom Penh church community is the wide variety of skills, talents, and interests that are present. This past weekend, we had a choral concert of classical pieces sung by a group that has been rehearsing since January. Their long efforts paid off and we experienced a delightful performance of some very beautiful music. The driving force behind this group was Ms. Anne Faissier, here directing the group.

LGBT Christian Service

15 May 2016

Charlie Dittmeier preaching


 This weekend we had what was styled a "Rainbow Mass," a liturgy--actually a Lutheran mass--to which were invited LGBT people, their families and friends, and anyone interested in exploring how Christianity can include its LGBT members along with all the other groups we find in a modern Christian church community. Charlie Dittmeier preached at the service.

Another New Country

11 May 2016

Flag of Sint MaartenThis website got a hit from country #107 yesterday, the small nation of Honduras which is located between Guatemala on the west, El Salvador on the south, and Nicaragua on the east. But being part of Central America, it also has both Pacific and Atlantic sea coasts. Formerly part of the large Spanish empire in the New World, Honduras became independent in 1821.

Nancy Davies' Departure

Nancy's boat ride celebration


May, 2016

A tradition in earlier years of the Cambodia Mission Team was to have a boat ride as a final opportunity to share good times with a departing CMT member and this custom was revived for Nancy Davies. Here Nancy (left) talks to Maria Montello while other members of the group put out the food they brought with them for a light meal on the two-hour cruise on the Tonle Sap River.

Nancy leaving for the airport

On May 3rd, Nancy made her departure from Cambodia. Gathered at the house she shared with Sami Scott were Sr. Mary Little, Sami, Olga Pacumbaba (in truck), Kevin Conroy, Maria Montello (in truck), Nancy, and Meden Tan (and Charlie Dittmeier).

Another Cambodian Experience

3 May 2016

Tomorrow I take a taxi south to the town of Takeo where I will have cataract surgery at the Takeo Eye Hospital. I'll chronicle the experience here but probably not until I get back because [1] I need to get my eye working again and [2] the hospital probably will not have wi-fi. (It doesn't have a nursing service or a food service!) Click here for the updates.

Dittmeier's Own #10

12 April 2016

Often I find that what people are most interested in about life in Cambodia is the ordinary stuff: where do you get clothes? what are grocery stores like? etc. I've started an occasional section called "Dittmeier's Own," where I identify places where I get various things done. The name is a take-off on "Newman's Own" that Paul Newman used for his recipe for salad dressing.

Electronics repair shop

I grew up with ham radio and tinkering with electronics. I made my own transmitters and receivers for my amateur radio station and that led me into work with computers. I'm comfortable taking things apart and doing minor repairs. Now, though, it's a matter of time rather than of ability, and recently when a small pair of external speakers for a laptop stopped working, I took them to this little electronics shop near my home. I had ridden past many times and had noted it for when I might need it. The guy fixed them in a couple hours and charged me $2. I had thought it might be less than that but that price was OK.


On Love in the Family

8 April 2016

Amoris Laetitia
Just a few hours ago, Pope Francis issued his apostolic exhortation named On Love in the Family or Amoris Laetitia in Latin. It is the result of his prayer and his study of the results of the two synods on the family held in 2014 and 2015. Amoris Laetitia doesn't change church doctrine but it is still quite revolutionary because Pope Francis urges priests to exercise careful discernment with "wounded families" and be merciful, rather than judgemental. This should be good interesting spiritual reading. Download a copy and take a look! .

Farewell Blessing

4 April 2016

Blessing Nancy Davies



The lay missioners from the various lay mission groups from different countries meet once a month as a type of support group. Many of them are here by themselves or with just one other person who may be in a different province. The Maryknoll Lay Missioners have nine people here but now Nancy Davies (center of circle) is finishing her contract and will return to the US. At today's meeting, the group had a blessing ceremony for Nancy as she prepares to leave in a couple weeks.

Hectic Time

16 March 2016

Another day without a proper update! Sorry, but I've been in Kampong Cham Province with our coordinator from the Finnish Association of the Deaf (our major funder) and the schedule hasn't allowed time to work on the webpage. Also I broke a rib Saturday night and have been MOST uncomfortable as we ran around Kampong Cham. Today back in Phnom Penh I was able to go to the doctor and get some medicine and I'm starting to feel normal again. Updates are coming!

An Old Friend, Part 2

12 March 2016

The Amsterdam cruise ship
This is the ship Lou Anderson sailed to Cambodia on, the Amsterdam, a ship of the Holland-American Line. The Amsterdam, which has a capacity of 1,400 passengers, is on an around-the-world cruise. They left Fort Lauderdale, Florida in January and will return there in April.

Lou Anderson, Charles, Fr. Un Son
We didn't have any real plan for the day together so I took Lou (L) to see some things that maybe other tourists would not see. We started at the Catholic church in Sihanoukville where Fr. Un Son (R), a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, is pastor. With him at the parish is Seminarian Charles Ekuwan, a member of the Yarumal mission group from Colombia.

Actually, some of Lou Anderson's shipmates found their way to the Catholic church on their own and joined us as Fr. Son was explaining the history of the parish. It is one of two Catholic churches in Cambodia not destroyed by the Khmer Rouge because they used it as a barracks for their troops.

At Wat Leu
The Catholic church is located on one side of a hill overlooking the sea. Opposite it on the other side of the hill is Wat Leu, a large Buddhist pagoda compound. As we arrived in a tuk-tuk, a number of children and monkeys came to greet us.

From the wat, we took the tuk-tuk across Sihanoukville, stopping first to visit a center run by the Good Shepherd Sisters. Maryknoll had a lot of contact with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Thailand years ago. Then we went to the Don Bosco Technical School to visit their training hotel where they prepare young Cambodians for work in the hospitality industry. Then we went down to Otres Beach and had lunch where Lou was able to sample two traditional Khmer dishes. It was getting late after that so we headed back to the ship and said our goodbyes. I was to head back to Phnom Penh and the Amsterdam headed for Singapore. It was great to catch up with Lou after many years!

An Old Friend

11 March 2016

Back in the late 1980s, Fr. Lou Anderson and I joined the Maryknoll Associate Priest program. I went to work with the deaf people in Hong Kong and Lou went to Korea and later to China. He visited me once while I was still in Hong Kong. Now Lou is retired and is serving as a chaplain on a cruise ship. They docked in Sihanoukville in Cambodia this morning and I went to that port city to meet him. We were able to spend half a day together before he had to return to the ship which sailed this evening for Singapore. It was great to meet up with him again! (I have some photos but I didn't bring my camera cable with me to Sihanoukville so the photos will have to wait.)

Lay Mission Gathering

6 March 2016

International lay missioners

Today we had a meeting of the lay missioners who work in Cambodia. Quite a few groups from eight or ten countries are represented. Today's gathering was at the house of the Quebec Foreign Missioners and we used the occasion to say goodbye to Margaret (center, white top) who is finishing her work in Cambodia after 3+ years and will be returning to Hong Kong where she has been part of the Hong Kong Lay Mission Association.

Learning to Think

29 February 2016

Maria Montello with university students




Maria Montello is a Maryknoll Lay Missioner teaching in the philosophy department at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. She goes and teaches the extra mile and here she meets on a Sunday morning with students for an activity to help them develop critical thinking.


Another New Country

21 February 2016

Flag of Sint MaartenThis website got a hit from country #106 today, the small island of Sint Maarten in what used to be the Netherland Antilles in the Caribbean. The island, just east of Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands, has 40,000 people and voted to become an independent nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2010.

Reconnecting [1]

20 February 2016

Recently I was plagued by a coding error on this website which kept the Mission Notebook pages from being displayed. I knew it had to be a human error--MY error--but I looked and looked and just didn't see it. When I left a note about my plight on the home page, Jan Frey in Bremen, Germany took a look and quickly located my mistake. Now the pages are up again!

Jan has his Klein Mexico website and we have traded links through the years. Thanks for your help, Jan!

Reconnecting [2]

20 February 2016

Bob Gehring and Dave Gosnell at DDP



This week Fr. Bob Gehring (L), a priest of the Gary, Indiana diocese and a former Maryknoll Associate Priest in Bolivia, came to visit DDP with his friend and traveling companion Fr. Dave Gosnell (R), also from Gary. Here at DDP with Miguel Granados and Fr. Kevin Conroy, we had a chance to talk with Bob about his experience as head of Catholic Relief Services in Cambodia as the Khmer Rouge took over. He left Cambodia on 12 April 1975, two days before the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh.

Krousar Thmey Anniversary

17 February 2016

King Sihamoni at Krousar Thmey




Today the NGO Krousar Thmey (New Family) celebrated their 25th anniversary and they invited King Sihomani to preside. Here he gives a brief little talk. He is the human, pleasant face of a horrendous, incompetent government.

Students with the king

 The bad part of occasions like today's anniversary is that the security people want all the guests in place before the king arrives. I was talking to the deaf students at the celebration and they said they had to get up at 3:00 and 4:00 AM in order to take showers and get something to eat and then sit for two hours in their places waiting for the king to arrive. It's even worse when the prime minister comes. Krousar Thmey is lucky he is in the United States today.

CACD Meeting

25 January 2016

CACD Meeting

Three times a year, the Catholic NGOs and organizations that form the Catholic Alliance for Charity and Development meet together to strengthen their presence in Cambodia as the social outreach of the Catholic Church. The January meeting was designated as a retreat meeting, a time for greater reflection. (It was also an opportunity for me to test the panorama function on my smartphone camera.}

Learning about the Church

24 January 2016

ISPP visit to Boeung Tum Pun church


Last week fifty fourth-graders and their teachers from the International School of Phnom Penh came to the Church of the Child Jesus in the Boeung Tum Pun area of Phnom Penh as part of their studies of the major religions. Charlie Dittmeier gave an explanation of the basic tenets of Christianity and then explained the church building itself with its paintings and baptistry and sacristy. Normally the school would use large buses for such a group but the streets of Boeung Tum Pun are so narrow and irregular that vans were used.

Another New Missioner

2 January 2016

Sr. Mara Rutten arrives in Cambodia



Sr. Mara Rutten is a newly professed Maryknoll Sister who has been assigned to Cambodia. Here she arrives at the Phnom Penh airport to begin her new life and new mission. Greeting here were lay missioner Nancy Davies (left), lay missioner Karen Bortvedt (shaking hands), Sr. Ann Sherman (behind Karen), and Sr. Mary Little. Welcome, Mara!

Sr. Mara Rutten arrives in Cambodia



Joining Mara in the procession to the Maryknoll project van is lay missioner Maria Montello (left), Fr. Kevin Conroy (center), and lay missioner Meden Tan (right). Mara was here three years ago for a two-month visit to learn about Cambodia.

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