In the Free Methodist Church in Cambodia, a few young men like Thyvenn (pictured at left) have used their painting skills to pay their way through Bible school, and are now supporting themselves as they plant a churches together around Phnom Penh.
Two years ago on a trip to Asia, SEED co-director David Brewer talked with the three about their training, local sales of their painting, and the use of their skill to teach others. This is a common feature in the Reaksmei livelihood group, having skilled artisans teach others so that all may gain skills that can produce self-sustaining income. I asked if they might paint for me, all three on one picture. They said they had never done that before.
Dom sat down and quickly started to paint. He painted a beautiful landscape that looked complete. I was amazed at his skill and complimented him, then commented that he was only supposed to paint part of the picture! He handed the paintbrush to Thyvenn; rather than paint immediately, Thyvenn looked at the picture for a minute, and then painted. He added several touches, and it was incredible to watch not only the skill, but also the vision to see what was missing from what I had thought was a complete picture. What a gift! Now, I thought, surely it is complete!
Thyvenn handed the paintbrush to Samnang, who also paused to study the existing picture. And then he added birds, a fishing boat, a man and his son, and a few other touches. I was astounded, again, to see not simply skill but tremendous vision. The picture was now complete! And they presented it to me as a gift, for which I will always be humbly grateful.
Many times over the past several months, it has occurred to me that seeing Samnang, Thyvenn, and Dom work that day was an allegory for the work of SEED. It could be said that the SEED staff team are Dom. As we direct SEED, we have a picture in our brains and we paint it, to build SEED, toward that image. We are humbled that God has taken our simple painting and made something beautiful out of it. And we know that many look at what we have done and think the picture is complete. Of course, it’s not.
God has brought many Thyvenns to surround us: people with different skills from ours, who see things that we have not and add them to the SEED picture. The livelihood groups and many volunteers come to mind. I also think of Rachel, a professional product developer, and Nicole, a professional graphic designer, who volunteer their time and expertise.
But without you, without the people who give, who pray, who share about SEED, who purchase partner group products, the picture would still be lacking many of the things that make it so wonderful. Your partnership enables people to walk on the path God has for them through swine projects, food carts, and artisan groups. And through you, God continues to add the birds in the sky: a new way of looking at things, a fresh expanding vision of SEED, and also of SEED’s place in God’s wider work in the world.