Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adjustments Part Three- Khmer

This adjustment seems so obvious that it is scarcely worth mentioning. But I must say that this adjustment- learning the Khmer language- is a more formidable task than I ever imagined. Although God granted me the opportunity to lay a good foundation in the language before we ever moved here, adding to that foundation has proven to be one of the greatest challenges of my life.

The reality of this challenge is most keenly sensed when I am given the opportunity to preach. I cannot begin to describe the feelings that take place in my heart- and in my gut- before I stand in front of our church family and visitors to preach the Word of God in Khmer. Just knowing that I am about to spend 35 to 40 minutes struggling to clearly present God's Word in the Khmer language causes me to become more nervous than I have been in a very long time. Truly, this is a situation in which I must fully rely on God's grace to carry me through. Perhaps not having an opportunity to rely on any ability of my own is exactly what God has in mind.

The method that I have adopted to learn Khmer is quite simple. Because of prior exposure to Khmer- an opportunity for which I am eternally thankful to God- I am able to understand a great deal of what is preached in church and what is spoken in everyday life. When I hear a word that I do not know, I simply phonetically write it out on a 3x5 card- something I have on my person every day without exception. When I see Bro. Benefield or one of my Khmer teachers- Hawn or Karona, both members of our church- I simply read the word and ask for the definition. God has allowed me to more than double my vocabulary in these first two months in Cambodia.

Of course, new words are obtained through other avenues as well. Every time I work with one of my teachers to translate a sermon into Khmer, I learn at least ten new words. I also learn a good deal of new words by learning songs, whether they be hymns in church or children's songs in our Bible clubs.

Every day, I meet with one of my teachers for a minimum of three hours. We usually set aside about one hour to simply converse in Khmer. This has proven to be vital in understanding how to use all these new words in their right context. We also set aside at least an hour to read through various selections of Khmer writing. This usually includes the Bible, the evangelistic book "Do You Know God?", or a devotional book called "The Daily Light." Often times, in addition to simply conversing in Khmer and reading, we spend time translating one of my sermons.

Some days are discouraging, because I feel like I have hit an unsurmountable wall in the language. But there are two encouraging thoughts that God faithfully brings to my mind in these challenging times. First, I am reminded that God will not lead me to a challenge without giving me the grace to overcome it. Secondly, I am reminded that acquiring the Khmer language is not an overnight ordeal; it requires persistence and patience. If at a certain time I am not making progress as quickly as other times, I am encouraged by this thought: any progress is progress, whether great or small.


  1. Chad, This is Bro Charles Reed. I just wanted you to know that we think of you often, and are praying that God will use you in a big way.
    God Bless!

  2. Brother, this is one adjustment you are making very well! Keep it up!