So… How’d It Go? Sound of the Nations: Battambang, Cambodia

Photo Credit: Kenia Godard

It was a sort of divine, grand experiment: Could we bring a distinctly African worship seminar, in both sound and staff, to Cambodia? What would happen when drums and Township Gospel met chimes and Temple Karaoke? Would it all be lost in translation? Would the catch phrase, “From the Nations to the Nations,” survive being put to the test? We had five weeks in the hot season (and let me tell you it was REALLY hot) to find out.

Average Temperature: “Frying Pan”

Tastiest Treat: “Fried Spider”

School Catch Phrase: “A ‘notha Level!”

(There’s something spectacular about Cambodian’s declaring: “It’s A ’notha Level!” complete with a South African accent.)

YWAM Muizenberg, South Africa staff, Kevin and Tonya Stanfield (USA), Billy Edwards, MJ Abrahams (South Africa), Kenia Godard (Columbia), and Fy Rasolofoniaina (Madagascar), joined forces with the incredible YWAM Battambang base to pull off the second Sound of the Nations School in Cambodia (and discover a whole new appreciation for air conditioning). Let me quote a student’s blog to tell you more:

“The purpose of this course is to dig deeper into worship, raise up local worship leaders, and encourage authentic ethnic song writing! There is a distinctive lack of contemporary ethnic Cambodian songs… God made this country’s sound exquisite and totally unique. It would be so sad to miss out on their expressions of worship!” – Caroline Clymer

Writing a song may seem easy to some, but creating unique music requires a freedom of soul and a confidence that goes beyond the skill of one’s voice: An assurance is needed, one that runs deep and quiet, whispering of the unique song that resides within each one of us… and that this song, my song, is worth hearing. It is, in fact, God’s song too.

So did the divine experiment succeed?

Our Muizenberg staff jetted around in tuk-tuks, learned to eat rice with EVERY meal, and shared our personal stories of apartheid, broken families, failure, and redemption. The Cambodian staff added their language skills, local knowhow, and heart stories, including fleeing the Khmer Rouge. Together we taught guitar, piano, voice, song writing, and running sound. We performed, shared our lives, our foods, and discovered Cambodian country-line dancing.

We waited… and wondered… (and perspired)… and prayed.

Somewhere near the end of week three, it began. The Breakthrough. Holy Spirit used the boisterous nature of Africa to coax forward Cambodian freedom. Fifteen days of teaching on cultural redemption, embracing our humanity, and trusting our unique design took root. The original songs began to be sung – tentative at first and then with gusto – in Khmer, in Chinese, in English, in Samoan. With tears. With laughter. With words and instruments. With silence. With rest. With dance. Cambodian worship. American worship. African worship… a tapestry of cultural sounds. New songs. Unique sounds. Perceived by new ears to hear and eyes to see.

Let me steal a quote from that student’s blog again:

“We were created to WORSHIP Him in FREEDOM, and we do it with our whole selves and our whole lives…Worship isn’t something you can nail down or box in; it’s an attitude of the heart, and its expressions are as unique and diverse as the people God created.” – Caroline Clymer

From the Nations to the Nations. Or in this case, from South Africa to Cambodia (and vice versa.) Together we caught glimpses of God’s image in humanity we’d otherwise have stayed blind to. No wonder God’s plan is for every tribe, tongue, and people group to surround Him, worshiping, for all eternity! We each reflect His Love in a way no other can!

I am a hole in a flute

that the Christ’s breath moves through

listen to this music

I am the concert from the mouth of every creature

singing with the myriad chorus.”

Hafiz – 14th century Sufi Poet

To the Battambang base, its Sound of the Nations staff and students: Thank you for being part of this divine experiment with us. Your humility to receive what we brought humbled us in turn; your hospitality ministered to us; your hard work blessed us; and the unique beauty of your culture caused us to celebrate… everyday. YWAM Battambang truly is “A ‘notha level.”

Next up:

Sound of the Nations, Cape Town

October 12 – November 20, 2015

Click Here:

Release Your Sound!

About the author

Tonya Stanfield
Tonya Stanfield

Tonya Stanfield has been in full time ministry for 18 years and has served as a youth pastor, writer, speaker, YWAMer, and founder of Justice ACTs. She has a B.A. in Communications/Bible from Moody Bible Institute and is currently working toward her Master's in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship with the University of the Nations while juggling ministry, two kids, one husband, and three furry creatures... without dropping any one of them thus far.

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