A message from Kendall Cox, LWW Director of Education: One of the parts of my job I enjoy the most is getting to know our Clean Water U students. Sometimes I even get the opportunity to do that before a training session. Sichan Siv had already joined his church's water team and they encouraged him to come for training to become a team leader. A member of his church reached out to me to inquire about training dates and at the end of the call she said, "You're going to want to hear Sichan's story - it's incredible." Due to calendar conflicts and then COVID, Sichan's water training was delayed until this past October. As often happens with delays like these, gifts are hidden within them. One gift was that during this delay, I got to know Sichan a bit via email and phone calls, and I got to read his book, Golden Bones. Another gift was that our October session ended up being a virtual training. After worship the first evening, we invited all the students to join us for a time of conversation and visiting. It was then that Sichan shared some of his amazing story with all of us over Zoom. From Cambodia to the U.S. and dozens of other countries over the years, his life has been and continues to be a journey of service.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. - John 1:5
Indeed, the darkness did not overcome the light. Thank you, Sichan, for your service, your words, for bringing tears to our eyes and smiles to our faces. Now hear from Sichan on why he is a part of Living Waters for the World (LWW): Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know - 1 Corinthians 8:2
“I ran out of water by midafternoon although I had consumed it moderately. As the sun was setting, I came upon a pond in the middle of an open field. I crawled toward it. I put my face down to the level of the water. On the other side, my eyes caught the sight of two bloated bodies being devoured by ugly looking vultures and giant flies. I crawled back without being able to quench my thirst.” GOLDEN BONES Chapter 10.
Group at the Instituto Universitario in Leona Vicario, Mexico (Sichan is in the back row, left)
That was Spring 1976. I survived a three-day run from Cambodia’s killing fields with nothing to eat or drink. Fast forward to Spring 2018. I was on a building mission, led by Rich Delano, to Leona Vicario, Mexico. Then Mérida to speak at Seminario teológico presbiteriano San Pablo. A few days earlier at the request of the Yucatan Peninsula Mission leaders, we made a power point presentation to their Instituto Universitario in Leona Vicario where we had spent one week building a classroom. The topic was De la tierra al cielo/From Earth to Heaven. Our creative Mexican hosts came up with the title. It reminded me of our presentation a few years earlier at Cantabria University in Santander. Our Spanish hosts titled it El sueño americano en primera persona/The American Dream in First Person. After San Pablo I traveled to Cozumel to speak at two Presbyterian churches: morning service at Puerta del Cielo/Heaven’s Gate and Emanuel in the evening. The program, including hymns, was projected on the wall. Then, I was invited to address the congregation: De la tierra al cielo. Truly special! I returned to Leona Vicario in July to continue the construction. Rich suggested that I sign up for the Clean Water U (CWU) training in Mississippi which ended up virtual in October. I trained in Project Management, Kim Smith in Health Education, and Bill Weber in Water System Installation.
Sichan with a group of students from the San Pablo Seminary
In response to the question “What is a good day for you?” I once said “When I can bring a smile to five people or more, and learn something new.” Kendall Cox asked me to share my story at the beginning of CWU which I so enjoyed: I was able to learn something new and made more than five people smile. During the training, my memories flashed back to Spring 1975 when I missed the U.S. evacuation helicopter by 30 minutes, put to forced labor camps, faced two death sentences, and found freedom in America a year later. I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me water, I was a stranger and you took me in - Matthew 25:35.
Once again, I feel that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength - Philippians 4:13, for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven - Ecclesiastes 3:1. I praise the Lord for another opportunity to serve for we may make our plans, but God has the last word - Proverbs 16:1.
Sichan Siv, a deacon at First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas, was deputy assistant to President George HW Bush and ambassador to the UN under President George W. Bush.