Sorry About That!

Due to an unexpected medical/health emergency with VWAM’s Associate Director, Joette Ward, the Blog has been ignored over the past three days.

Joette became ill and was admitted to Hoan My Hospital in Da Nang Saturday night, and discharged Tuesday afternoon. She will continue treatment for her condition back in the US. Joette and Chuck will return to the US on Sunday after two days in Ho Chi Minh City completing VWAM business.

The All-Women’s Medical Team from Double XX Effect will complete their work on Thursday, and head to Cambodia on Friday.

To keep up with the VWAM & Double XX Effect team here in Da Nang, please go to their Blog at .

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Doube XX Effect/VWAM Team Ready!

The all women’s medical team has arrived in Vietnam.

In preparation for their work that begins on Monday, VWAM’s Chuck Ward has met with Director Dr. Hunyh Ba Tan and Vice-Director Dr. Ngo Quang to finalize the work schedule and itinerary for the upcoming week. Medicines have been purchased that will be given away “free” to the patients, all of whom will be adult women and female children.

The team will have a devotion/meeting after breakfast each day before heading to the Center. Office hours begin at 8:00 a.m. and conclude around 5-5:30 p.m.

Expect photo’s and other news/updates beginning on Monday!

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Double XX Effect/VWAM Medical Team

Beginning on Sunday, July 17, an all-women’s medical team will be working in Da Nang City at the Center For Reproductive Rights. Please come back to read our blog!

PS: Just in case you we’re wondering why, Facebook is “Blocked” by the Vietnamese government. That’s why you haven’t heard anything from VWAM via that medium.

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Cambodia Medical Mission Team – “Reflections”

One million Seven hundred thousand – 1,700,000.

Two million one hundred thousand – 2,100,000.

Those are the low and high estimates for the number of Cambodians killed during the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge. It’s a mind-boggling figure, something I don’t like to think much about because I find it so disturbing. One of our team members said, “How could they do that to their own people?” I responded, “How could we (America) abort millions of babies?” Evil masks itself in many different ways.

The Cambodia people are a soft-spoken, well-manned, and compliant group based on our medical team experiences of the past two weeks. They were more orderly and reserved than the Vietnamese we serve, less boisterous, more disciplined. There was an air of acceptance, almost a patient understanding, that they would be seen when it was their time. No sweat. Nothing like the desperation we see in the Vietnamese patients who are always moving forward, pressing, cutting to the front of the line fearful that they won’t be seen or get theirs. Perhaps it has something to do with their form of governance, I don’t know.

Speaking of evil again.

When the communist took over Cambodia in April 1973, they cleared all the people out of the cities including the capital of Phnom Penh. In just four days the city was empty. Imagine, if where you live, every single human being was chased out of town into the countryside. When the Vietnamese “liberated” Phnom Penh four years later, they encountered empty ransacked buildings. There was overgrown grass and weeds everywhere, piles of cars, refrigerators, televisions, and other modern conveniences stacked-up in huge mounds. Then they arrived at the high school, to their horror.

The Vietnamese, no stranger to brutality themselves, were taken aback by what they saw at S-21. Thousands of skulls, bones, and persons in obvious stages of torture were in the building and on the grounds. It was revolting and sickening. The odor of death permeated everything.

Meet Comrade Duch, a communist and high-ranking member of the Khmer Rouge, who was the official that ran S-21. S-21 was the name given to the former high school where 20,000 plus Cambodians were sent for interrogation, to “confess their crimes against the people,” and then killed. He personally signed all their executions papers – Adults, children, even babies. How can a baby be guilty of “crimes against the people?” Only 7 people are known to have survived out of that 20,000+ between 1975 and 1979. What evil existed in the heart of this man, the Khmer Ruge’s chief jailer, interrogator and butcher, a darkness that could never see the light. Really?

As a Buddhist, Comrade Duch was well aware that his sins could never be forgiven or cancelled out this so-called bad karma. In other words, little or no hope of immediate salvation from committed sins. Then Comrade Duch met fellow countryman, Pastor Lapel.

He survived the Khmer Rouge, fled Cambodia through Thailand, and made it to America. He became a Christian in a refugee camp. Later on in life he decided to return to Cambodia and begin the process of reconciliation for all concerned – the people, the Khmer Rouge, and the country all based on God’s Word. Comrade Duch had changed his name by the time he met Pastor Lapel. To make a long story short, Duch accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, and asked for forgiveness. It was a liberating moment for him when he realized all the bad things, the sins he had committed including the atrocities and genocide, were forgiven. While he was absolved of the penalty of his sins, he understood the consequences of his sin were another matter.

Comrade Duch became a new person. Everyone noticed it. He was “different,” and soon he was working for a Christian NGO. He helped hundreds, if not thousands of his people, to a better life. He helped the poor, clothed people, fed children, impacted community development, improved public health, etc., and so on. He loved his people and that love was displayed in a tangible way.

His spiritual walk was genuine. If the church doors were open, he was there. Soon his family became believers, he a church leader, and eventually Duch was ordained a lay pastor. Dozens of his family members came to know Christ. He wanted everyone to know Jesus, to do good things, to be a changed person. A “Light” had pierced his heart of darkness!

We all know God’s Word teaches that our sin will find us out, to paraphrase it, and Duch was found out. When an investigative reporter finally located and confronted him with his past, he owned up to it. He eventually turned himself in and spent several years in prison waiting for the inevitable trial. Those several years turned into a decade and just a few weeks ago, Comrade Duch was sentenced to 35 years in prison, commuted to about half of that for his crimes against humanity in the genocide that wiped out three or four generations of Cambodians.

Why was he not put to death? In an attempt to move on and make something good out of a horrid past, reconciliation is more than a buzz word in Cambodia. The country knows they have to reconcile with one another to be able to move on to a bright future, a new day.

Comrade Duch’s actions proved he had become the “real deal” in terms of a follower of Christ. He was, indeed, a changed man after meeting Jesus. It makes one wonder what would have happened if he had met Christ in the early 70’s instead of twenty-five years later? This page of Cambodian history may have never been written.

Reconciliation between man and God, between man and country, and between one another is only possible through Christ. It’s the founding scriptural admonition for VWAM – II Corinthians 5:18 – the Ministry of Reconciliation.

And Comrade Duch is proof evil is overcome by good, the goodness of the Gospel, and “Amazing grace” is amazing indeed.

Chuck Ward, Executive Director, Vets With A Mission – July 6, 2011.

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Cambodia Medical Mission Team – Final Day

Optical Tech Pat Cameron with Interpreter Joe

It’s the morning of June 30, and the team has departed for the US. Earlier today they flew from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh to make their international connection. A few team members have continued their trip by touring in Cambodia or Vietnam, one has gone to Taiwan and another to China.

Our partners, Love In Action and Dr. Cho’s dental team, have also gone their separate ways. A few  LIA volunteers left yesterday afternoon and the dental team made the long drive from Anlong Veng to Phnom Penh also on June 29. The last contingent of LIA people left this morning. Statistics do not tell the full-story, but it gives one an idea of what this team accomplished. Here are the best estimates at this time:

- Raised $13,600 to complete the Children’s Shelter in Phnom Penh.

- Expended over $9,000 for medicine, diagnostic tests such as x-rays, ultra-sounds, echo-cardiograms and other tests. Another $1,150 was spent on hospitalizations/surgeries.

- The numbers of patients seen by each of the three components over seven days totaled 2,797 or 978 optical, 801 dental, and 1,018 medical. This included 471 total patients in one day – all new record numbers for a VWAM medical team!

The Ruins at Angkor Wat

But the team’s efforts weren’t solely dedicated to physical healing. In Phnom Penh the first three days of clinic was sponsored by a church, in fact, it was the church building itself that housed the dental and optical members. The uncompleted Children’s Shelter provided space to locate the Pharmacy, and patient’s examiners worked in the courtyard outside the family homes of the pastor and his children. This was the largest outreach effort ever for this church! A VWAM team member has funded the completion of the shelter.

Outside Siem Reap, Pastor Reaska opened his church and school to the medical team to serve his members and the village. Every patient exiting the compound received a track or other religious pamphlets. Two patients received additional testing and lab work-up. There was even an emergency patient here that was taken care of in an exceptional manner by ER Dr. Dave Jester.

In Anlong Veng, the David Center’s fifty-six students and staff received medical, optical and dental check-ups. Many of the local church, both members and staff, also were examined along with people from the community. Again, some religious material as well as follow-up by the local Pastor was implemented. And it was here that the most procedures, tests, and hospitalizations were scheduled. The David’s Center’s leaders, Randy and Krystal Odom, will provide over-sight and accountability of funds expended.

MUSC PA Medical Students Grace Hall & Kelly Gleffe at Work

This was an experienced team with several first-timers that achieved remarkable results. Devotions were powerful, and team unity was splendid. In Anlong Veng not a single person complained of the Spartan accommodations is this rural area even though two-thirds of the team never had hot water in their rooms. In two different locations the team worked a ten hour day in order to see every individual who had come. At least two interpreters will sponsor additional education opportunities for them. And the Cambodians weren’t the only people to receive medical treatment. Two team members received Out-Patient procedures courtesy of PA Michael Overcash and one other had three teeth filled by Dr. Cho!

This team attempted to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the indigenous people, and it appears they had a high degree of success. They made a genuine difference in the Cambodian people’s lives by turning the “Killing Fields” into the “Harvest Fields.”

To God be the glory!

Pharmacy Dispensing Meds under a Thatched Roof Hut!


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Cambodia Medical Team – Final Clinic A Huge Success!

It was different working in the rural war-torn border town of Anlon Veng: the people seemed a little more shy, but very welcoming and eager to learn about the Lord Jesus who sent such a generous team to their forgotten village.  Several of my patients were soldiers in the Khmer Rouge army, others had bullet wounds from the Khmer clearly visible on their bodies.  The team embraced them all, and gave them their very best.  We also saw some of the healthiest patients of the trip – the children from the orphanage…

some highlights from the clinic:

Dr Roger Hamm removed some shrapnel from one patient’s leg; Sara Wilson removed a painful cyst overlying a man’s spine; a 19-year old lady in hyperthyroid crisis was sponsored to go to Siem Reap for life-saving care; A young woman married 8 years and unable to conceive was sponsored to get hormonal evaluation and fertility treatment; a melanoma was removed; many were treated for typhoid, diabetes, skin infections, anxiety and depression, motobike accidents, cobra envenomation of the eye, centipede envenomation(pictured at right), dog bite to the eye, head trauma, and too much more to list.

The dental team tirelessly cared for hundreds of patients with love, compassion, and excellence:

mucocele excision

Dr. Tom Love and faithful assistant Tyler Perry

I would guess we’ve seen over 2,000 medical patients this week and over 1,000 dental and glasses patients.

This morning each of the interpreters stood in front of the team and shared about their experience here – I realized that a large part of our ministy here is not just helping the patients and sewing seeds of the gospel, but also the great investment in those who are the future leaders of Cambodia: our interpreters.  These bright and eager medical students, law and other college students, told stories of experiencing Christ’s Love in action, many vowing to continue the work begun here.


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Cambodia Medical Team – Day 10 “Special Report”

Here is a special report until the team returns to Seim Reap:

The chanting is getting on the team’s nerves. There’s a Pagoda within ear-shot of the clinic and the droning has gone hour for almost two hours. What is not getting on their nerves are the children, and what the team is learning here. The medical team is 35 minutes from Siem Reap in the village of Proyouth.

The last American’s here we’re Special Forces or advisor’s in the mid 70’s. Now the American’s have returned again, but things are a bit different than in the turbulent years of the Vietnam War.

Meet Pastor Reaska, a Cambodian-Canadian, who has returned to the village of his youth and to the place of his greatest heartache.

In early April of 1973, the communist Khmer Rouge met in the jungle only 7 kilometers from here. They planned their attack on Phnom Penh and other cities strategizing the final defeat of Cambodian government forces. By mid-April they had achieved their goal. Victorious Khmer Rouge troops flooded the cities first, and then the villages later. The people of Cambodia lined the streets to welcome them. The euphoria of victory was captivating, and everyone looked with great anticipation to the new, free Cambodia. However, the “New, free Cambodia” didn’t last long.

Within days the Khmer Rouge ordered everyone out of the cities under the guise of rooting out American spies and Royal government forces. The people were told they could come back to their homes and businesses in just three days. Three days turned into thee months that turned into three years. The displacement was tempered by the promise of everyone getting to go to school when they returned to their homes. Pastor Reaska was one of them who lived through “going to school.”
But “Going to school” was not what you think.

When they came and knocked on your door to take you to school, it turned out to be your death sentence. Entire families, up to four generations, were worked to death or simply executed. Their crimes were wearing glasses, being educated, military or clergy, or simply because you questioned the policies of the Khmer Rouge.

As a 13 year-old boy, Reaska was marched off “to school,” where he watched in horror as his father was club in the back of the head by a shovel, hit with an axe in the head, and bludgeoned in the side of his ribs. A Khmer Rouge soldier jumped into the body filled mass grave to cut his throat. Reaska’s younger Brother was next, then him.

Hit behind the head near the base of the neck, he fell into the mass of bodies. They hit him upside the head with something, but it wasn’t the sharp end of the axe. He wasn’t dead. A soldier was going to jump into the pit to finish him off, when the order came to go get the remainder of the people in the village. When the Khmer Rouge soldiers left, Reaska freed himself from the pile of bodies, and climbed out. He cried and screamed out for revenge. He almost took too long to grieve, and hurriedly decided to run and hide in the jungle. Just when he made it to his hiding place the nightmare continued.

He watched in fear as his Mother and sister came into view. They were marched to stand next to the pit, and a Khmer Rouge hit them both in the head. After falling into the mass grave, the soldier jumped in and butchered them. His family was gone.

Reaska escaped over the Cambodia-Thailand border, miraculously through a minefield, even as people around him set off booby-traps and mines, but somehow he made it through. After years in a refugee camp, once refused entry into the US, he finally made it to Toronto, Canada in 1989.

He did odd jobs here and there, got a college degree, married, and earned a doctorate in Psychology. In 1999 Reaska came back to Cambodia and became a policeman, all the while plotting his revenge. But after giving his life to Christ, he returned to the very village he fled twenty years earlier. Vets With A Mission talks about and preaches reconciliation, but Pastor Reaska lives reconciliation.

He found the very Khmer Rouge soldier that had killed his father and tried to snuff-out his life. He gave him a traditional Cambodia gift that means love, new clothes that symbolized friendship, and a Bible. And then he asked him, the killer of his Father and younger Brother, for forgiveness in plotting his revenge. For years all he had dreamed about and planned was to kill the men who killed his family. Now, remarkably, he did the same thing again to the very man that killed his Mother and Sister. He forgave him and asked for forgiveness in plotting this man’s death. True reconciliation. Amazing love, no doubt?

Pastor Reaska came back to his village and planted a church, then three more. He built a school and expanded it with a library. This is where the VWAM medical team worked, but there is more to the story.

Being a Cambodian-Canadian living in Toronto, he became a Maple Leafs fan – hockey! And now there are hockey fans in the village of Proyouth. Yes, children have been taught the game of hockey. It’s too hot for ice hockey, so they are playing street hockey.

A connection to the Vancouver Canucks though a mutual friend, led to hockey being introduced to the kids of Pastor Reaska’s village. Can you believe it, street hockey complete with hockey sticks, street hockey balls, two goals and the outline of a miniature ice hockey rink painted on the compound patio. They even made sides to the imaginary rink with wood “boards.”

Hockey Fans in Proyouth, Cambodia!

Each day at four in the afternoon the kids begin showing up. Practice and warm-ups begin shortly, and at Five o’clock the game begins. Coach Reaska is the judge and linemen too, he does it all with his whistle. The kids drop the ball at center ice, and the contest is on!

"Defending the Goal!"

They have been “Schooled” in the game, passing to center ice from the boards, running down the wings, attacking the goal. It is fun to watch, and even more fun to hear.

You see, the chanting and droning of the Pagoda hasn’t stopped, but the team doesn’t hear it anymore. All they hear are the yelling of the kids asking for the puck, wanting it passed here or there, and then the proverbial cheering after SCORE!

How does hockey get to a small village in Cambodia, a place of indescribable pain and so many horrific memories? How does a man so deeply hurt come back to minister to his former enemies? The answer is simple.

With Jesus the past is the past at last.

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Cambodia Medical Mission Team – Day 10-12

The mission team is now in Anlong Veng, two hours north of Siem Reap, and it will not have Internet access in this rural jungle region.

Do not expect any further posting to the Blog until Wednesday, June 29.

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Last clinic in Siem Reap:

After breakfast the team received a challenge to invest our talents, as the parable in Luke 19, when the nobleman gives his servants minas to invest for fruitful return.   By the end of the day, we all had invested in our patients, around 400 of them!  Many received glasses, included one girl finishing high school, pictured here with her new glasses!

We are all especially amazed at the dental ministry in place here, doing fillings, extractions, and teaching.

Our students are becoming increasingly knowledgeable and taking on more responsibility in the dental and medical stations.  We are amazed every day at the strength, trust, and bravery our patients demonstrate.  One 10-year old boy laid motionless as a small tumor was biopsied from the corner of his eye.

We are all enjoying the blessing of being able to pray and share Christ with our patients.   They are very appreciative and open to the Good News.

Tomorrow we head to the most rural area: Anlong Venh.  Thank you all for your support and prayers!

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Cambodia Medical Team – Day 9: Clinic in Siem Reap

This morning the team was sent off by our faithful Pharmacist Lou Cappiello (a.k.a. Batam Lou, Pharmacy Lou) who is already an inspiring person to us all. He challenged us to view patients as Mother Theresa explained – to see Christ in all of them.
Jesus himself told us in the book of Matthew that “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do to me” even if it’s just giving a famished person some food or drink.  So, today we left with that goal – in every face today, to see the face of Christ, to love them as if we are embracing the very Christ who reconciled us to God through His great sacrifice.

So it was.

At the first day of this new clinic site near Siem Reap, we saw people with many new problems. Common things were gastritis, inner ear infections, parasites, fungal infections, typhoid, and great need for eyeglasses and dental care.  Some patients presented us with odd disorders such as leshmaniasis, lichen nitidus, sialadenitis, cauliflower ear, kerion, pterygium, and tuberculosis (You’ll have to look-up some of those condition s in your online dictionary).

Please pray the Lord will give us endurance, compassion, wisdom, and healing hands for all we will see tomorrow.  And may we see Christ in all of them.

Some pics from today:

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