Going for Ride with Friends

Going for Ride with Friends

Sunday, February 8, 2009


We awoke 0345 Sunday morning and found Northwest Airlines (by the way, they are tucked into terminal 1 and must be a poor neighbor because their flights aren't even posted on the electronic board). Though a little stressed as we were running slow, we made it to Tokyo and on to Minneapolis getting through customs by 1230 (which was 0230 to us). We made it to Dayton and home to Middletown at 1930 which places us 24 hours plus from Singapore. The girls did well. I would place one girl on the right aisle and another on the left, blow a whistle and time them to see how fast they could touch the front wall of the 747. Miriam won, but Hannah was close as she had to jump over the stewardess' cart as they were serving supper. Wouldn't that be fun if one could race? We do vote that 747's be retired as they don't have the personal entertainment systems that the newer planes have. My wife vowed not to take four young girls on such a long trip any time soon, but hey, they'll be older in a year. We praise God for His goodness to us. We hope that we didn't offend too many people and that we didn't set back His kingdom too long. We were very blessed by the many people who cared for us, served us, and graciously hosted us in their homes. Lifespring should be very honored to partner with the Collins in building the kingdom of God in Cambodia.

Now let me end this with a final dance:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

In Singapore

Well, the last message is garbled because there were to be pictures inbetween the sentences. Well one can only try. We are leaving from Changi Airport at 0600 tomorrow which means we will be waking up at 0345 to start the day. We look forward to sleeping in our own beds soon. dasen


I wish we could fly these little planes more often. Some thoughts: The area that my parents are in is now better off from an infrastructural standpoint than it were before the tsunami. The Red Cross/Crescent has now given permanent housing for around 15000 dollars per family. The houses are earthquake proof with solid construction. They have special filtering pits beside the house for water purification. People were often given starter moneys and so many have brand new motor scooters. The ~7billion plus aid has gone a long way toward reconstruction. Isn't it interesting that the large loss has led to this change in housing and lifestyle. Ninety thousand people lost to the tsunami is a high price to pay. Walking under the coconut trees that are the marker for the height of the waves is just hard to get over. On our trip we were in many airports so let me show you the variety.

MAF North of Teunom where luggage and passengers were weighed.

Meloboh [sic], Aceh; Singapore; Medan (taking pictures with a Chinese dance troop), respectively

Here are some trip photos from Medan and our trip to Aceh:

An appropriate sign for the developing world.

Let's land at Meloboh (the runway is at the top of the picture).

Even the water was warm, but we got to play a little (Elle got all wet).

The permanent housing is now in the front and the temporary housing has been moved to the back to be used as a kitchen. As you can see, they too are being corrupted by the 100+ channels as they buy their satellite dishes. The water filter system is to the right of the house on the left where the grass is growing.

My parents' open house for us where Hadiah is singing the Hokey Pokey with the 5th/6th graders. The girls did very well with the other kids.

Teammates Santy/Teddy/Jayden and Ferdinand/Feiny/Gabriella from Manado working with my parents

Lunch with Dad's foreman's (Pak Mustafa) family. Some of us liked it and some didn't-can you guess which ones?

We hope that relationships between neighbors which often start around children lead to faith.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Friday Morning

It is Friday morning at 0730 and I couldn't get Rebecca to take a cold "mandi" or dipper bath. Ever since our trip to Borneo in 1997 she has not enjoyed the fresh feel of cold showers in the tropics. The great thing is that my parents don't enjoy cold showers either so heated water on the stove is a ready supplement to any bath. At least I have Hadiah and Hannah on my side. Elle awoke at 0200 yelling for a drink and food. I sat with her as she ate dry cornflakes and drank water. She then went back to bed this time not in her play pen but with her three sisters in bed. At 0400 Rebecca left quickly and came back to our bed with Miriam who fell off the side (she was fine). At 0430 when the masjid started morning prayers, we awoke again but stayed in bed. The electricity went out for a couple of minutes during prayers which brought some silence to this poorly spiritual disciplined Christian. The only problem was that the lights were all out and Rebecca and I were on edge. All is well. Elle's fever is no more. She had 4 small bowls of Cheerios this morning which is a sure fine that she is well. Miriam just got up from bed and the day is into "move ahead" mode.

We were on edge because last night a teenage girl came searching to establish faith. Mom and Dad sat out front while we prayed and got ready for bed. Hadiah wondered if this would be the best night of my parents stay here. Hannah fought with us about something. Elle and Miriam played with this and that. Rebecca and I had visions of angry villagers coming against the infidels. My parents were wonderfully appropriate and wise, but I was struck by being "spooked" by such a thing. I talk of Christian witness presenting itself from the "weak" position of love and truth. Yet, I really am more comfortable with the position of power and influence. Who has the power? I glibbly say that God has "the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen." What I want to have is Hadiah's attitude of excitement at God's working in the world rather than my quick suspicion with self centered care.

I would love to send you pictures of our stay here, but I'll have to send in retrospect as my parents "flexiphone" system is just slightly more potent that dial-up. We are about to meander back to Middletown and look forward to snow and our own beds. Ok so I don't miss the cold weather that much. dasen

Thursday Morning-Rebecca

Today is the last full day of our trip in which we are not in transit. We are at Dasen’s parents’ house in Teunom. Mom and Dad Ritchey have gone to 2 funerals to take rice to the families. The girls are temporarily next door at the language learning center that Dad and Mom started. They have a couple computer programs for kids there that Hannah and Miriam are especially enjoying. Hadiah and I enjoyed a card game and some good bonding, while Elle played with us each in turn. Dasen is napping after reading a book to Elle. Last night was a difficult night for us as Elle was awake quite a bit. Since coming to Mom and Dad’s she’s had a significant fever and belly ache. She reported this morning that her belly ache is going down and God is healing her. She is still on Tylenol and ibuprofen to keep the fever down, as she has been feverish on and off. It has been quite draining and a bit stressful to have her sick as I get concerned for her, and it’s hard to balance priorities when we are visiting with people here such a short time.
Yesterday, Mom and Dad hosted an open house for us- something new to this culture. It was stressful for mom b/c she didn’t know who would come, how much food to get, or where to put people- the men, women, and children all visit in different areas. It turned out lovely though, and we are so glad to have been a part of that. About 6 or 7 women came and sat with me on and off. We talked about their children and families and Dad translated. Our worlds can seem so similar, with similar desires and hopes, yet so radically different that it’s hard to even know what to ask sometimes. I also talked and played with about 12 grade school kids out front, then Hadiah “hosted” about 15 girls in 5th or 6th grade who have studied English with Mom. They all wore head coverings with long sleeves and dresses. Dasen sat outside on the side of the house visiting with several men. Mom and Miriam and Elle floated in and out of groups. Elle slept or sat on my lap while being feverish.
Shortly we are leaving for a special Acehnese luncheon being hosted for us by Dad’s head worker- Pak Mustafa. He is Islamic and helps to follow through with Dad’s projects. I have been so impressed with Mom and Dad on multiple levels. They have learned the secret of being content in God- not dependant on external comforts. They sacrifice their family bonding, mutual Western friendships, a home church, a kitchen that has a sink and clean water, a “normal” sit down toilet, entertainment, and so much more, and yet they count it as joy. They believe God’s love is greater and more worthwhile. Mom washes dishes sitting on a little plastic stool, and believes God has led her incrementally to be fine with all this. I see God’s grace at work and I rejoice that the same God is incrementally working in me. And I rejoice that God loves these Acehnese people in Sumatra enough to send my mother and father-in-law to them. Their neighbors greatly respect them, as do the two other Christian families from other parts of Indonesia who are here as part of their team. The 2 other families are probably in their late 20’s or early 30’s and both families have a child about 18 months old. How amazing to see this multi-cultural, multi-generational team serving here together- truly unique and beautiful.
I hear the Islamic call to prayer from the mosque. It is actually rather melancholy and lovely. I like the reminder to pray. May we all be prompted to follow suite and the lead of the Spirit.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In Teunom

We finally arrived in Medan and were met by my parents who used three taxis to get us to the hotel. We got to bed after midnight and awoke early to get to the airport for our trip to the west coast. Some random thoughts: It is nice to have language to communicate with people. Little planes are fun to ride on. We took pictures of some visiting Chinese taking pictures of our girls. The ocean is not developed here without a hotel in sight. Hot and humid. I've always wondered why I didn't grow up in a more native village setting with the Indonesians, but my parents have saved up till now and are doing the village thing full bore. When you can stand in the surf lapping at one's ankles and look back at the coconut tries way above your head a hundred yards back and know that the tsunami's second wave (out of three) was at the level of the trees, the natural power is awe inspiring. God is bigger. Dasen

Monday, February 2, 2009

Stuck at Changi

It is good to do what you are gifted in doing.
Dance! It does the body good.

Lumps and bumps are great to remove, but when they're near the base of the skull it makes it even more fun especially under local anesthetic.

What every child should be doing, playing in the dirt with their imaginations

The Vietnamese live their whole lives on the river as their houses float and land is unavailable for them to buy

A new Christian shares his testimony while a rural medical outreach goes on

I'll try to upload some of my favorites from our time in Cambodia. We have good news that pertains to being stuck in the nicest airport in the world. The only problem is our 2+ hour delay into Medan leaving now at 2155 instead of 1900. We are in the terminal where Rebecca is trying to put Elle down for a nap on a coach as she was pulling a fit lying on the terminal floor crying. The other kids our in front of a television watching cartoons. We took a free tour of a small section of the city and ate some free offereings from a food bar. The kids remained hungry as they tried some different food stuff and then fed it to me. I was quite content and full. They watched a "dragon" dance with the drums and cymbals as the far east continues to celebrate Chinese New Years. After all that, we still have plenty of time to wait. We didn't bring our swimsuits so we won't go swimming in the airport pool, we might visit the butterfly garden, the spa with massage is too old for the girls, but we do get free meals as the plane was delayed. May God bless His kingdom and may it be on earth as it is in heaven. dasen

Leaving Cambodia

We have left the country of Cambodia and arrived in Singapore, local time 1300. We will be here until 1900 when we fly to Medan to meet up with my parents. We have been very blessed through our visit to Cambodia and our time with the Collins. Hadiah thought her favorite part was the puppies at the site of the future Mercy Medical Center, and Elle thought the best part was the cows and pigs. I don't even remember seeing any pigs. We look forward to our next stage and will keep you posted as able. dasen

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Today we started our next transition. We shopped a little. We did some errands. Rebecca started to re-pack. We then went to the Collins' team Saturday night get together. The team celebrated two birthdays, and Rebecca led the men in a dance-off. Overall we are tired and a litter jittery. Last night Elle woke us up with a vomiting spell but has done well today. We look forward to celebrating a day of rest with the Collins tomorrow. May God bless. By the way, Nate, the man who underwent surgery, is doing well. May he have new life.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pictures from Friday minus the sick


Today was a mixture of oddities, fun, sadness, and joy. This morning I (Rebecca) worked at the medical clinic here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It's a Chrisitan medical clinic established to serve the poor. The day had a difficult start as I had a Cambodian medical student translating for me. He would not tell me what the patient said, but rather whatever he thought about the patient. That made it very hard to make accurate diagnosis or tx plans. I ended up deferring to Doug, who is our close friend, a Family Practice doctor, medical director of the clinic, and able to speak Khmer very well. As the day progressed I would see patients then try to either find another translator or discuss the case with Doug. We ended up seeing some very sick patients, two of them being 17 years old and critically ill. Dasen came to the clinic in the afternoon and saw those same 2 patients, and one other whom he did surgery on yesterday. It was a good experience watching my husband in action, taking care of baffling cases with wisdom and apparent ease. Working on difficult cases with a team of caring Christians and good friends is hard to find in the medical world, but it happened here today. Even though it was sad and difficult to interact with the suffering, which I believe is much stronger here than in America due to underdeveloped opportunities, it was still a blessing to be able to help in some small way.

We came home from the clinic to find Heidi washing their car with all 6 kids (our 4 and their 2.) She has been such a wonderful friend and helper. She has the spiritual gift of service, from which we all benefit. Then this evening our 2 families, Scott (Doug's brother) and Susan (the med student) all went out for dinner. There are some pretty cool restaurants in this city. We ended up at a place called Gasolina which serve a mixture of European/American food. The sunset was lovely, the restaurant was open aired with a large grassy yard and cushioned chairs, and the food came relatively quickly. The tastiest offering, we thought, was Hadiah's fresh passion juice. After dinner all the girls, except Hannah, went in a tuk tuk to a traditional Cambodian dance show. The guys and Hannah opted to come home. They may have made the wiser choice, especially Hannah who is very sensitive. The show was well done, also open aired, with a stage and rows of wooden benches and special lighting. The artist mediums used included puppet like dolls the size of my whole arm, shadow puppets made of thinly carved wood that move behind a sheet with lights to create shadows, and also real dancers. Cambodian dancing involves very intricate hand movements, most of which I would never be able to do. Chosen children learn them at a young age and can then move the joints of their hands to dance with an intricate sign language that relays a story. So… all of the aforementioned was excellent. The odd/rather bad part came with the story line. I am quoting the program: "It is also depicting illicit passion, a cruel murder, a vengeful ghost, and the loyal dog." Does that make you want to take a trip here or what? We thought it was a dance show and since we arrived late (surprise to all those who know me!) we didn't read the program before the show. So we ended up leaving a little early at Hadiah's request and trying to talk about it on the way home. It was certainly interesting and memorial. Hopefully we won't be too scarred.

When we got home we found a dance party to 80's music with Taylor and Hannah. After some chocolate cake we all turned in for the night. (I think that's how every good day should end.) May you have a meaningful day filled with some oddities and fun, and maybe some sadness and joy too. And may you also have the chance to eat some chocolate cake.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Let’s Try a New Method

Today I'm trying a new method to type on the blog. Rebecca has lost two attempts at writing, and I must figure out a way that can work for her. This is to be typed on Word. Here it goes.


Today, Cheun Nate (first name Nate) whom I wrote about on Tuesday underwent a Low Anterior Resection with a protective proximal colostomy. He now ranks as my lowest hand sewn anastamosis. I don't know if that rank is something that someone wants to belong to. The amount of energy and resources to get a surgery done is phenomenal, and I'm reminded of how nice surgeons have it in the West. We use our nurse to watch the patient post-op as the care in the hospital is so poor. The same nurse was our scrub. They also work out the business deal with the hospital as the pay is daily. I was able to use a Balfour retractor and was reminded how much I like the Bookwalter used in the West. Wednesday, we chose the tools that we wanted with the suture. Rebecca was able to work at the clinic yesterday while I searched on the roof storage area for instruments and what not. As you see, I found nice red shoes to wear today. Overall I believe that man was blessed, and I hope that I can use my skills in that setting again. Here are some pictures from my day. Rebecca and the girls went out to the palace, rode an elephant, and shopped. I don't know, I like my day just as much.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Well, Rebecca spent ~1 hour last night typing one of her neat reports, but her work was squashed and erased in the blink of an eye. I played around and eventually learned about CONTROL Z so we hopefully will salvage typing work in the future. Today I was at the clinic in Phnom Penh where we were seeing surgical patients and trying to set up a couple surgeries. The man above is 31 years old and has a very low rectal cancer. We're going to try to deal with it on Thursday at a local hospital. One of the doctors here will help me, but the amount of work to proceed to surgery seems rather daunting. Please pray for complete resection and safe surgery and post-operative care. The second picture was Doug Collins and I working on his neighbor from Chhlong who had a very large posterior neck lipoma that seemed to keep going deeper and deeper. She stayed still for a long time as we removed it. She is a new believer and please pray for her and her husband as they grow in their faith.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Short Comments on Sunday-dasen

We are doing well. It is now Sunday and we are taking some rest. Rebecca and Heidi are at a market. Scott Collins (doug's brother) is going to babysit so we can double date tonight. The Chhlong visit went really well and am glad for our family to do that trip partially as I believe it will smooth over the coming Sumatra trip and what a great thing overall for this little troop. Some interesting notes: We ate evening meals on the floor on mats as a group. The nature of rural life was new for us. For example, Hadiah wondered if there was anything cool, anything at all, on Thursday as she was hot and couldn't get comfortable. There wasn't any drink or food or place cool as there was no refrigeration, and she had a hard time with this. The gecko calling from just the other side of the wall and bed of the girls sent Rebecca into a slight tizzy so I stomped my foot and patted the wall to appease the mother. Hadiah has tried all the food and been a trooper. Elle just wants cereal. The squat toilet has been a challenge for the girls but an impossibility for Elle. She is better trying to go outside, but in reality she has great control and just waits until she can find a sit down toilet. My lower back is in spasms but I'm hoping that will come around. There was no heat on the shower in Chhlong, and I was reminded of how old I am and how I like a little warmth in the water. The shower refreshes so well, after the fact. Mosquito nets are a new thing for us but they do keep the bugs at bay. It was great to have Rebecca doing medical stuff and the kids with me as they got to do a lot more with less stress from their parent. They even got to see what it is like to be the center of attention wherever they went.

Chhlong Visit

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chlongg highlights

The highlight of our trip to rural Cambodia is that I actually was able to "do" some medical missions. Dasen stayed with kids while Doug, myself, and Susan (a 4th yr med student doing a rotation here) went to 2 different villages. The first day was exhausting the 2nd day was great, and the third in Chlongg was even better as the cases were more interesting. After 19 years of setting my heart on medical missions, I was finally able to do some. I am so thankful and relieved, and excited to live on this journey.
So after 3 days in Chlongg we came back to Phnom Penh tonight. We are exhausted. We had a nice dinner with the Collins and Susan, and Scott (Doug's brother.) I'd like to say more but I'm too tired. It's time to fall asleep under our mosquito netting. I hope to sleep without music tonight.
We have now been in Cambodia about 4 days. The journey has been both exhausting and joyful. The kids did incredibly well traveling for 36 hours. The most helpful assests for traveling around the world with 4 young children have been... lots of prayers (thank you to those who prayed for us!), presents to offer for good behavior, pillows, an overnight layover after 20 hours in the air, and plenty of good flossing (just kidding about that last one.)
The only kink in our travel was the passport check as soon as we reached Cambodia. They forced us to seperate but wouldn't let us get the right passports matched with the right people. And it was the first part of our journey in which no one spoke English. It was very stressful for me, but I realized later that it was my "western" mindset that cared about the passports being with the right people, the government officials didn't really seem to care.
Once we got our luggage we were met by our friends Doug, Heidi, Taylor (7 yrs old) and K.C. (5 yr old.) They took us to Dairy Queen at the airport. What a radical change from our greeting in Kenya where we arrived in the middle of the night with no one to greet us or speak English and a civil war going on. That still amazes me.
We spent that first night at Doug and Heidi's house in Phnom Pehn, then went out the next day to see some of the town and grocery shop. Heidi and I, and my 3 oldest girls, rode in a "tuk tuk" which is a little open aired carriage pulled by a scooter. We had a car hit the tuk tuk in the first 5 minutes, but no one seemed to notice much except Heidi and myself. It's a bit like a circus with chaos on the streets, scooters and big cars and trucks weaving every direction, combined with bikers and pedestrians. Much like any other developing nation it seems.
After one more night in the capital we all piled in a van and drove 5 hr northeast to a smaller town, called Chlongg. It's a town where the Collins lived for 2 years, with their teammates, doing church planting work. We went because Doug (who is a family practice doctor) organized 2 1/2 days of medical outreach. The drive was a tiring experience, but Hadiah was thrilled when we stopped for lunch and she was able to hold a "pet" tarantula a little girl was holding. In the past, when Dasen was here 2 years ago, he ate one. This time Taylor bought one cooked and we took it to Chlongg. It sat on the main table in a baggie until I asked if we could throw it out. I got a good laugh out of that, realizing the humor in the fact that I actually had to ask "Can we throw this tarantula away?" Who know I would ever say those words so nonchalantly?
The visit in Chlongg was intriguing as we were able to interact in rural Cambodia life. The first 2 nights we were there, there was a funeral. That meant loud music blared with "chanting" mixed in, and the religious chanter had some sort of head and chest congestion. He would cough and sneeze and hack into the microphone. This would start at about 5:30A.M. and go all day, then have loud music until around midnight. We were relieved when that ended, but then the next night a wedding party started with blaring music at similar times. The wedding music had a stronger bass; so although the music was more upbeat, it also shook our beds.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pictures from Plane

I'm trying to get this blog thing understood so here are some pictures. Rebecca was working hard to keep the children active as inactivity yields to chaos leading to fighting. She had a bunch of presents wrapped so as to give awards for good behavior. We staged shots in Detroit and Hong Kong.

We Are Here--Cambodia

We arrived to fanfare and balloons as the Collins' family cheered us out into the airport exiting area. After a Dairy Queen treat we trailed in taxis and the Collins' car to their house. The girls are out and about playing. We are so blessed to have a place to come and to have wonderful friends to come to.

The trip is done. That is all I'll try to remember. We awoke ~3am and drove to Dayton. Dayton to Detroit was accomplished by 0830. You can only do so much in the airport until 1230 when we boarded the 747. Something was wrong with the airconditioning so we waited on the plane until 1500 when we left for Tokyo. We arrived at 0545 Sunday (US time) to another 747 waiting for us as we were late. We hustled through pseudo customs in the transfer area and boarded to the back of the plane while the crowd waited. We then arrived in Hong Kong getting to the airport hotel 0030 Monday their time which would have been 1130 am Sunday in Cincinnati. We fitfully slept (Rebecca got up with Elle to wonder the airport from 0300 until 0530) after wonderful showers. I got up with Elle (fireball) and Hannah to check in all our luggage that couldn't be checked through to Phnom Penh because Dragon Air and Northwest aren't partners at 0530. The nice lady let me check in our luggage and get passes without the rest of the family's presence though she was worried and begged me to make sure we all got on the plane as it was a security violation to check-in without visually seeing everyone. I think the wandering 2 year old and the helpful 7 year old let on that we weren't out to create any terror on other people. We went through customs and got Burger King and Ramen (yes, we are in asia and have restaurants that have variations on wonderful Ramen Hadiah had curried beef ramen and I had Aesien [sic] ramen. The clock was ticking to get to the plane by this time so I got to eat most of the Ramen (both bowls yum) due to chopsticks not being Hadiah's best tool. We were the last people to board the plane as Elle was howling that she was too old to have to stay in the stroller, but we made it will all our passports and luggage. We arrived on time at 1015 am Monday (2215) and feel so blessed to finally be here. I've gone out with Doug to do some errands on the motorcycle while the girls played. Rebecca is now napping while the kids watch Peter Pan. Elle just wanted me to know that Captain Hook was after Peter Pan but with a little assurance that Peter Pan wins she was willing to go back up. I'll try to get Rebecca to fill in the interesting stuff later about out trip. Thank you for praying for this trip. Doug, Dasen, Hadiah, and KC all have bad colds. We're quite the group. dasen

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Starting Off

Today I'm trying to get this blog up and running. We're about to depart from snowy Middletown Saturday morning and travel to the tropics. Instead of an e-mail post, we'll try to keep up with the blog so that you may check our stories at your leisure. May God bless. dasen