Grand County pastor delivers hope where strife rules
December 27, 2007
“I felt like a country mouse sitting in a corner watching history develop,” said Jim Weber, pastor of Stillwater Community Chapel, about his recent trip to South Korea and Cambodia.
For a number of years, the Stillwater church has been involved with GlobalConnection International, a cross-cultural, non-denominational Christian organization that focuses on bridging political differences and bringing humanitarian aid to people held captive by poverty and strife.
Leaders in countries such as North Korea, Cuba, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Vietnam and several African nations have met face-to-face with Global Connection’s founder and president Dr. Jim Groen, with whom Weber has traveled several times.
Weber was recently appointed as Global Connection’s bi-vocational associate in charge of liaisons in Cambodia.
Through Global Connection, Weber is formulating a way to enhance the educational system in Cambodia.
The purpose of his and Groen’s most recent “fact-finding” trip was to meet with national and church leaders to test the waters regarding what could be accomplished for the people of that country who have experienced deep suffering from the Communist Khmer Rouge regime, responsible for mass killings of the nation’s people three decades ago.
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Before they traveled to Cambodia, however, Weber and the team visited Seoul, South Korea, where they had dinner with former president Chung Dong-young, and were guests at South Korean Army Commander Jang Kwang-il’s home located at the 38th Parallel.
They also visited and spoke in several thriving Christian churches established in that country, one of which has a membership of 750,000.
“About 28,000 people fit in their main auditorium,” Weber said.
“Seoul is a beautiful, clean city. The majority of folks are all dressed up, they are driving new cars, and they are a confident and generous people,” Weber said.
“It was not uncommon for individual South Koreans as well as those in the military to express appreciation for what the United States has done in liberating their country and supporting them all of these years,” he said. “It was refreshing to hear that in today’s climate.”
Weber exchanged a Grand Lake Fire Protection District plaque and other gifts with the fire chief in Seoul.
The stark difference between South Korea and its neighbor to the north, however, was visible just from the fence that divided them.
“As we looked across to North Korea, there is beautiful countryside, but every tree has been cut down for firewood as their poverty-stricken people struggle to keep warm over there. Thousands of their people are literally starving to death,” Weber said.
From Korea, they went to Cambodia, where Weber said he witnessed an emerging country that looks much like South Korea did 45 years ago.
The team delivered several tons of rice to hungry villagers and toys to children on two islands in the Mekong River, a river that often floods, creating further hardships for those living along its banks.
“Those children were so excited with their new little toys ” We might as well have given them an airplane or a car,” Weber said.
“Schools are overcrowded, and the overall education system is tainted with corruption,” Weber said.
“The government pays teachers a mere $30 a month, so they are often bribed by parents in order to get special attention for their children. They will also take bribes from the kids to let them out of school during the day and not tell their parents,” he said.
“We sat down with church leaders and asked them what was on their hearts, and every one of them told us that education was at the top of their list.”
Thus, Weber and Global Connection plan to work on a model for education through the country’s established churches, as well as scholarship programs to help young people attend college.
“It’s an emerging country coming out of an unbelievable mess,” Weber said, “but they’re making great progress.”
He now hopes to travel to Cambodia a couple of times a year in order to continue his work there, taking members of the Stillwater Community Chapel and others along from time to time.
“I feel so honored to be a pastor of a little church in the mountains of Colorado and yet get to be involved in these kinds of international relations,” Weber said. “We can still make a significant difference in people’s lives if we’re willing to get out of our own comfort zones and get involved.”
To reach Tonya Bina, 970-887-3334 ext. 19603, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.