It’s Monday morning and we have just loaded onto a bus heading for Singapore after spending the past five days in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. We’ve spent more time here than any other place, so we’ve really had the chance to become familiar with this beautifully modern city. On Thursday and Friday we got to see some of the famous sites, such as the eighty-eight-story Petronas Towers, the National Mosque, and the Batu Caves–a majestic cavern turned into a Hindu shrine that is accessed by an arduous climb up 272 steep steps.
Yesterday we had a special opportunity to to attend a Christian church here in KL. Much of this trip has been about studying other world religions (like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam) and visiting their places of worship, so we enjoyed being able to experience a Christian worship service on the other side of the world. The church is called Petaling Jaya Gospel Hall. Frank and Aleen have formed lots of friendships with congregation members over the course of their many trips here.
The service began at 8:30, and for the most part, it wasn’t all that different from services at some American churches. The first hour was spent in worship, following by a message about the biblical basis for missions. Fortunately, everything was in English. Things wrapped up at 11:15. For lunch, some of the young adults treated us students to lunch, which gave us a chance to get to know them and their way of life.
Overall, Malaysia has been a great place to visit, and we’ll be bringing home lots of good memories from this place.
Chiang Mai was one of my favorite places on this trip. I was looking forward to riding an elephant since before we left, and our experience at the Maetang Elephant Park definitely did not let me down! Sure, it was a little touristy, but who would deny riding an elephant in Thailand? Not me. We also got to float down a river on a bamboo raft. It was a very relaxing ride, with a gorgeous view of the mountains.
On Monday, after our ride on a night train across the country, we had dinner with some missionary families that live in Chiang Mai: Andy and Carmen Owen and two other couples and all of their kids. They fed us some great Thai food and the children provided some interesting entertainment, as only children can. It was neat being able to talk with these families and hear what it’s been like living in Thailand for the past several years.
I loved our time in Thailand, and all the things we got to do while we were there. I mentioned only a few. We had a lot of adventures, and I would love to go back someday and have some more. And now I have Thai friends to visit.
Many hours of traveling later our group landed in Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam. My first impression was the massive amount of people everywhere. You step outside of the airport and are greeted by the hum of horns, people yelling and airplanes landing. It was all very overwhelming. One of the highlights of Ho Chi Minh for me was getting to experience bartering in a huge marketplace. This was an experience that I had never encountered before and it was exhilarating.
The way in which commerce in Ho Chi Minh is so aggressively pursued by the vendors leaves me wondering if this business practice is more profitable than the business style commonly found in America. In America, business seems to be more about consumers knowing what they want or need and then buying products or services that fulfill those needs. The difference in these business practices is apparent throughout Ho Chi Minh and show up in many places like outdoor vendors and indoor stores. Through experiencing this different style of business my eyes have been opened to the many different ways that global business is done.
Dr. Aleen Ratzlaff and Dr. Frank Brenneman, professor emeritus, are leading a study tour with six students and two nonstudents to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The emphasis of the trip is increased awareness and sensitivity to these Asian cultures, which will involve focusing on high context communication, history, the arts, and the religions of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism.They also will visit mission workers in Cambodia and Thailand: Tim and Darlene Ratzloff (Phom Penh), Andy and Carmen Owens (Chiang Mai), and Ricky and Karen Sanchez (Chonburi). The travel dates are Jan. 6-29. This year will be Dr. Ratzlaff’s eighth and Dr. Brenneman’s ninth Interterm study excursion to SE Asia with Tabor College students.
The last stop on our tour of Southeast Asia was the country/city of Singapore. Me and my friend Whitney had the opportunity to explore the whole city using the metro.
We began by visiting a Night Safari on one side of town where we got to see how nocturnal animals interact with each other when most zoos would be closed. We got to witness a pack of wolves howling to each other, which was really cool. Later we were on the complete other side of town when we visited Sentosa, which is a resort island that has some nice beaches. Singapore is a very nice city and very clean compared to some others that we visited. It was fun to get to adventure around the city and see the sights.
Submitted by Logan Zielke
I have never seen God so clearly than in a nationally Islamic country like Malaysia. Here in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Muslim women go about their daily lives with head coverings, sometimes even black, full-coverage robes with only their pretty eyes visible. And I was scared that my tiny cross cartilage earring would be too much of a loud religious statement.
Although we stood out as tall, wild Americans with no handle on the culture, religious offense seemed to never be taken. One of our day trips in the city was to visit the National Mosque downtown. We were miserably lost; however, God revealed himself to us through random people on the street to direct us through the confusing construction and rampant sidewalks. Once at the bright blue, modern mosque, women with short sleeves and uncovered heads borrowed lavender robes.
The main prayer hall is closed to the public out of respect for the Muslims that use it. A helpful tour guide informed us on tidbits about the structure, 5 pillars of Islam, and comparisons of the Qur’an to the Bible. At the end of the visit, the guide gave me his translated meaning of the Qur’an. I still wish that I could have traded his book for a pocket-sized New Testament, just to show him where we as Christians stand without attempting a fight. Overall, I’m really glad we visited the mosque, just so I could understand a culture that’s under just as many misconceptions as Christians.
Submitted by Cheyenne Derksen
We had the chance to be in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a couple of days. When I was in high school, I got the opportunity to go to Thailand with my family and some others from my church. We had traveled to Chiang Mai, so I was very excited to go back. Chaing Mai is a good sized city with quite a bit to offer tourists. I noticed right away that even though it is a large city, it is more slow-paced than some of the other cities we have visited so far. We did so many different activities. We went to a night market which was filled with food, clothes, jewelry, cloth, handmade gifts, and more! Us girls thrive in situations like that! We also trekked through some nearby mountains and jungle-like terrain. No picture could come close to how beautiful it is there. We ended up at a waterfall that a few boys were brave enough to jump into and get freezing cold. We also rode elephants which was an unforgettable memory for all. We finished up our group activities by floating down the river on skinny bamboo rafts that definitely would not pass a safety inspection in the states! It was yet another beautiful and fun memory to make!
These were just some of the activities that were new and wonderful experiences. I was lucky enough to meet up with an old friend that I met years ago when I came. Her name is Goi and she lives in Chiang Mai. When I last came, she was helping Andy and Carmen Owen, local MB missionaries. She was not yet a Christian but came to know Christ as her personal Savior a couple of years later. When we met up one evening, we went out to eat. She is now involved in YWAM, a Christian organization. I was so amazed to hear her talk about her relationship with Christ and see how much she lights up!
The time we had in Chiang Mai was definitely one of my favorite experiences of the trip, not because of markets, elephants, and rafting, but because I was reminded of how powerful and life-changing our God is.
Submitted by Stacey Warkentin
Bangkok, Thailand was the city I chose to write about because, in my opinion, it was the biggest city we visited, and with over 10 million people, there was a lot to see. What I enjoyed about Bangkok was the fact that even though I didn’t speak the language, Thai, I was still able to communicate and get my messages across. The people in Bangkok were not as friendly as the other people from the other countries we visited and this is probably due to the big city environment. I have been fortunate enough to establish relationships with at least someone from each country.
On the train ride from the Cambodian border to Bangkok, I befriended an older gentleman who offered me the seat in front of him. He spoke very little English & and I spoke not enough Thai. The only Thai I know is to describe someone as cute and pretty. That obviously was not going to help me in this particular situation. The longer we were on the train the more acquainted we became. This is incredible due to the fact that we did not understand each other. I relied heavily on communicating nonverbally. My hands and facial gestures became our language. We even shared a mango fruit and those who know me very well know that mangos are the way to my heart. Sadly my newly found friendship did not last the whole train ride. The Thai gentleman got off on one of the first stops.
Once we arrived to Bangkok, I saw how truly big the city was with my own eyes. It was incredible. The traffic had that L.A vibe, while the streets full of people reminded you of New York. Life passes you by out here. This was not how it was in Vietnam & Cambodia.
We visited the Royal Palace & the architecture of the building was amazing. It had some European influence while still maintaining its Thai roots &influences. The Reclining Buddha was also remarkable. It is over 120 feet long & about 45 feet high. The outer layer of the Buddha image is pure gold.
We also visited a floating market and this market is more for locals so the prices are relatively lower here. As I was walking the locals thought I was Thai. They would be yelling in Thai to get my attention but I would just point at my mouth & lips & shake my head. It was quite the experience I am sure I will never forget.
Contributed by Jose Reyna
Today in Siem Reap, Cambodia, our group traveled to Angkor Wat. Translated literally, Angkor Wat means “City of Temples.” Originally it was built as a Hindu temple, but when a new king took over in the late 13th century, it was changed to a Buddhist one.
This entire temple complex consisted up multiple temples and even a city with about one million people. All that is left is ruins, but they are beautifully preserved. The building project was so well put together that the temples have remained for hundreds of years and we could still see a lot of detail on the decorative walls.
The first temple we visited was Angkor Wat, The views were amazing and the detail was astounding! There were ornate carvings for borders of doors and windows, and every wall was covered with battle scenes depicting religious history such as Vishnu, monkeys and demons. We also got to visit two other temple areas. Angkor Thom had over 150 giant smiling faces for towers and Ta Prohm had giant trees covering the ruins, and was also where the movie, Tomb Raiders was filmed.
Overall, the entire experience was very impressive. It was amazing how they pulled off creating such elaborate structures with more “primitive” methods. Everything was so beautiful!
Submitted by Deidre Derksen
“When broken glass floats” is an old proverb that Cambodians use to signify the prevalence of evil. When broken glass floats evil appears to be winning and the bad is all you see. But eventually a the glass sinks, good makes a comeback, and the evil is vanquished.
This proverb became literal for the Cambodians in the 1970s when political unrest led to a new group taking over called the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge inflicted genocide over all of Cambodia where 3 million people were killed. The population of Cambodia at the time was only 8 million.
On Wednesday January 9th our group visited a site from the genocide called ‘The Killing Fields.’ This was a concentration camp where hundreds of men, women, and children were executed despite having committed no wrongs. Today the area is a museum for tourists and locals to learn about the tragedy that swept across the nation.
On entry visitors are given a headset and map, and then set out on a cleared path to walk around the area. As we walked and listed we learned of the many ways people of all ages were tortured and killed before being mercilessly thrown into mass graves. It was heartbreaking to see the mass graves of hundreds of children who were murdered regardless of their age.
In the center of the field was a memorial tower filled with levels of skulls enclosed in a glass case. These were the actual remains of the many victims. Whose lives were taken at the field in the tragic genocide.
Today Cambodia is still recovering from its sad past. Although the glass has sunk and the Khmer Rouge was overthrown long ago, you can still feel the effects of the disaster today in Phnom Penh.
Visiting these fields was an experience unlike any other, the chance to learn the heartbreaking story of a small nation that most have never even heard of.
Deidre Derksen views rags and pieces of clothing of victims collected from the site.
Contributed by Logan Zielke