Tag Archives: Cambodia

How does working with TCKs apply to youth work “at home”?

Nathaniel is a youth worker from  Australia. In this guest post he compares working with TCKs in Cambodia with the work he does with 1st/2nd generation immigrant youth in Sydney.

A bit about me

I am an Australian-Born Chinese (ABC) living in Sydney, Australia. My parents migrated from Hong Kong, to England, then to Australia shortly before I was born.

A bit about my Youth Group

Two years ago, our youth group consisted of around 3 youth. Over the past two years, we have grown to a consistent 25-30. It is multi-ethnic, and a mix of Christian and non-christian (30-40%). The youth are a mix of migrant, first-generation and second-generation Australian youth. Our youth group is located in Sydney’s south, which is heavily dominated by immigrant families. The youth group is made up of youth from year 6-12, and they all get on extremely well – not often seen at many youth groups. They are an absolute joy to serve, lots of fun to hang out with, and I love them heaps and thank God for the amazing depth and rate of change in so many of their lives.

Cambodia vs Australia

I had the opportunity to spend two months in Cambodia doing a variety of work, which included working with the expat youth groups, Cross Culture and Solar. Tanya and Christina introduced me to the term “TCK”, and the awareness of their characteristics and needs has helped immensely due the cultural diversity present in my own youth group in Sydney.

Some differences I noticed between the two groups:

TCKs in Cambodia

  • Engaged much more readily i.e. were quite comfortable speaking to people older and in a different life stage to them.
  • Much more aware of cultural differences and how that made them different (whereas youth in Sydney would be aware of cultural differences, but less aware of how that affected how they interacted with the world around them)
  • Switch from acting very mature -> immature, extremely quickly
  • Friendships tend to develop much, much quicker
  • Quirkiness if accepted more readily, if not encouraged. Often helps groups to bond.
  • Greater appreciation and commitment to friendships

There was significant overlaps between the similarities. However, they were often more pronounced and noticeable in the TCKs in Cambodia, which made it helpful for me to identify and realise how important they were.

Similarities with Sydney youth:

  • Will open up to a leader if they know that leader cares and wants to invest in their lives
  • Looking for a place and people to belong to
  • Want someone who will accept them for who they are, but at the same time still encourage growth and development

Since coming back from Cambodia, I’ve really tried to be intentional about:

  • Spending as much informal time with the youth as you can. i.e. time where you both don’t have to be there, but choose to be. This can be the time before or after youth group/church, informal gatherings, optional events, lunch together, etc. Some of the most valuable conversations happen not during events such as talks etc, but the time before and after when they are processing ideas and issues.
  • Asking lots of questions – Find out about their friends, family, culture, country, what questions they have about anything at all. Connect them to places where they can start to address those concerns.
  • Investing in a few – The greater the diversity of the youth group, the more time and effort will be needed in getting to know individuals and how to help them grow. But the great thing is, that if you start to do that, then they start to invest in other youth as well.
  • Cultivating creativity and talents – Not just so they can go “serve” (though they might). Not just so they can play in church (even though that’s a great thing). But because God has made them in His Image and made them with interests, passions and talents and helping them to develop them because those things are good things in and of themselves and are ways for them to express themselves in a very positive way.

After meeting TCKs and TCK workers in Cambodia, it really became apparent to me that the TCK ministry is going to be increasingly important in the future due to the rapid pace of globalisation. So I’d like to say thankyou to all TCKs, people who work with TCKs, and networks such as YiA – it’s a tremendous resource and look into how the Church will continue to serve and reach global cities in the future with the good news of Jesus Christ.


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Posted by on June 17, 2011 in Guest Posts, Leading Youth, TCKs


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Takeo Tales: what a service project can look like in TCK land

Today’s post comes to us from TCK Jonathan Macqueen, who lives (currently) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This is his account of a service project he went on with kids from his youth group shortly after he arrived there (originally published on his family’s blog). He is a wonderful storyteller, so sit back and enjoy this tale from Takeo…  

It all began when I went to the ICF youth group. Christina, the youth leader, had this idea to go with some local Khmers into the provinces to preach to the Khmer kids. A week before we set off Mark (a guy in my class who had quite a lot of influence in the project) left on furlough to see his new nephew. However we carried on and soon we met up at HOPE school and got on the big orange “Cellcard” bus.

The people who went are called: Tennyson, Caleb, Jerome (now since gone back to NZ to start uni) Zoe, Samantha, Chukk, Jesse (boy) and a buncha Khmers whose names I really can’t remember. Oh and don’t forget my amazing youth leader Christina. Also on this trip was an Italian called Jeremy who was working with an Italian NGO and had provided a new primary class building to the kampong that we were visiting.

We set off. The going was good, and soon we must of hit 40-50kmh as we got out of Phnom Penh. Now for you to understand the following dilemma you need to understand a few things. Only days before Cambodia had some of the worst floods it has had in years. 5 inches of rain in a matter of hours! This meant that the lower parts of HOPE were flooded and pretty much the whole of Toul Tom Pong (the Russian market area, where we live) was submerged, so much so that tuk-tuks were getting stranded and any Honda Daelims or any other motorbike under 110CC’s was stopped dead in its tracks should they plough into the muddy brown murk. Cambodia, being very much 3rd world in every way and being one of the poorest countries in Asia sat back and waited. The bridges were severely damaged, and vast areas of paddy field became inland lakes. So it won’t surprise you to know that after about 40mins we stopped dead in our tracks. The bus was too big for the bridge.

We had been paired up with the Khmer university students during these first 40mins and just as I was learning how to say hello in Khmer “Soo-a Sa-die” we stopped. We sat there for a while, ate some roadside fried banana and then broke out the guitar and a whole medley of songs. However, soon an alternative was needed, so the Khmers and a few staff set off piled onto 2 tuk-tuks – thus leaving us stranded by a roadside hut looking over a small lake eating some snacks and taking time to get each other’s phone numbers (unfortunately at this time of my life my phone charger had gone walkabouts so now everyone has my Mum’s phone number…). Soon a mini bus had been summoned for us and with a delay of just about over an hour we piled in (all 15 or so of us) the minibus. This meant that I was squishied against the window with Tenno on my left and Zoe and Sam further on. Now if you have never seen Tennyson then you should know that he is the stereotypical Aussie build, 6ft 1 and quite broad. Fortunately I squish quite well and all was fine. We sped along doing 80-90kmh for ooh, maybe half an hour, until we got stuck AGAIN.

This time, however, was more serious. Stuck in a bus with no aircon is not pleasant and with the absence of a breeze we were soon sweltering. We were caught in a massive jam. The bridge ahead of us was being strengthened before the floods and hadn’t been fixed and operational before the tidal wave of rain water completely swamped it. The original bridge had been utterly destroyed and now a raging river separated us from the other side. For another two hours we waited in that bus. However our spirits were still high. Although we knew that the before lunch programme had been absolutely blown out of question, we came up with the novel idea to combine both programmes and cut out some bits whilst keeping our secret weapons – the skits.

At around 11am-12pm (having started at 7 in the morning) we got moving again. We went down a little dirt track following the course of the river and waiting until we got lower downstream to cross the river. It was very stop-start with vehicles trying to squeeze past each other on what was meant to be a one way road.

Then as we got out for a leg stretch, my toe decided to get itself cut on the sharp underside of the chair in front of me. Fortunately nurse Zoe was very enthusiastic to use the first-aid kit and my toe was mummified shortly afterwards.

After about an hour the traffic eased and we were bowling along. By about 1 we had reached the lunch stop and settled down for a game of cards whilst waiting for our beef loc-lac to arrive. The following event was most strange but the long and short of it was: A man, probably drunk or something, came up to our table, took off Caleb’s glasses, asked for the cards and then didn’t let go. Fellow customers soon tried to retrieve the cards by force and broke a chair. The man took off never to be seen again… Fortunately the cards weren’t expensive but it was a very peculiar event.

After a good loc-lac we set off and reached the small kampong that we were going to visit. There were a lot of children waiting for us, by my estimation 100-200, mainly children under 8 or 9.

We took shelter in one of the classrooms and whipped out face masks. We did a skit on the prodigal son and a skit about the lost sheep. We also sung the duck song “Five little ducks went out to play over the hill and far away, mummy duck said ‘quack quack quack’ but only 4 little  ducks came back” After this we sang some khmer songs with actions and sang the English versions as well. After that we played a game to get them all into groups and split up to do hands-on activities. First my group drew around their hand and stuck cotton wool onto it to make a sheep. Then we played a game where a sweet is passed around a circle secretly and the middle child (who is blindfolded) has to guess where the sweet is. If they are correct they get a sweet. This was my favourite activity with the kids as the usage of khmer was limited and a smile and pointing could do just about the same as talking.

A bit worn by now we sang the song “deep deep down” in Khmer and English once more and then created a tunnel of arms which the kids went out of to get a choco pie cake thing. Buoyed by our success we got back on the mini bus and the Khmers set off on the tuk-tuks. The speed of the tuk-tuks was somewhat let down when the Khmers, who had a 20min head start, were caught up within about 5mins.

Going back, we got to the place where the bridge had broken and we were diverted and took a very wiggly windy road through Cambodian countryside to get back to the bus. From there it was a long slow journey back into Phnom Penh gridlock. Finally around 7ish in the evening we got back to Christina’s place and Jeremy made Italian spaghetti which was most appreciated. Whilst waiting for food we came to the decision that the only thing that we could watch was “The Wiggles” and as we came to the song “lil Dingo” Caleb (who had gone into a state of suspended animation) came back to life, singing to his heart’s content. The Wiggles had revived him.

All in all it was a great trip that really got me planted in the youth group and introduced me to Cambodia, mission accomplished!


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Violence among youth – how does it affect TCK ministry?

I took a course on trends in violence as part of my post-grad course on urban youth ministry (through Fuller). In order to research the trends in violence among expatriate youth in Phnom Penh, I interviewed two administrators of international schools in Phnom Penh.

Both schools serve international populations of largely middle to upper class families. In both these discussions the issue of violence was treated in a general sense, including neglect and self harm. One school reported concerns about self-harm among younger girls (13-14 years old). The trends they reported were similar. Overall violent occurrences are rare. While they admitted there are occasional issues, these tend to be isolated and short term.

Some thoughts that came out of these discussions:

  • Most violence arises among the boys, often related to aggression that comes up during sporting events. It is therefore important to have men model healthy ways of handling aggression on the sports field.
  • Cyber bullying is a larger issue than face-to-face bullying. It’s important to be aware of cyber bullying and teaching media awareness (and the importance of integrity). This includes teaching responses for teens to use if a friend is being cyber bullied.
  • Important to be aware of cultural differences – some Asian families would consider “acceptable” what some Western families would consider “neglect”.
  • Helping parents network – where discussing challenges would be possible (this may apply more to schools than a youth ministry setting)
One of the schools is a Christian school. We discussed what violence could look in a Christian setting. Isolation can make it easier for a family to disguise domestic abuse issues. There is an assumption of health among Christian families (particularly among missionaries) which make this sort of disguise easier to maintain.

I also attempted to gain a better understanding of issues of violence in Khmer families. I spoke to someone familiar with cultural trends contributing to violence within families. Khmer cultural attitudes to be aware of include that boys are expected to get into trouble, while girls should be kept at home. Often in incidents of rape, the woman is held accountable and brings shame on her family. Women have an attitude of “deserving” violence. Better understanding the cultural attitudes towards rape and violence helps me better anticipate some of the identity issues raised in or adopted from Khmer families may deal with.

This conversation brought home to me the importance of understanding trends of violence among youth and differing cultural attitudes towards violence. This knowledge enables me to better serve the teens I work with – it gives me an idea of what they may be struggling with, helping me read between the lines of their stories and predict possible future issues (that I can then help the youth deal with).

All of this shows the importance of fostering relationships with teens where there is safe space for youth to share difficulties.


Posted by on March 14, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs


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A Memorable TCK Quote…

At the beginning of December a friend left Cambodia and, as is customary here, a bunch of us headed to the airport to say farewell and wish him the best as he left. I posted something in regards to this on my status, about a good semester and a trip to the airport. It was a bit cryptic, but anyone here who knew us would have clearly understood the reference.

A couple weeks later, my sister mentioned that friends in the US were asking her if I was home for Christmas, because they “saw something on facebook about a trip to the airport”. An understandable mistake, especially since I was home last year for Christmas.

So today, in the middle of chatting via skype with two of my youth now back in the states, I mentioned this brief misunderstanding, and like me, they were both amused. One replied:

“Where we’re from, going to the airport means many things, sometimes its to say goodbye, sometimes to say hello, sometimes it just means you just want Dairy Queen. . . And occasionally it means you get to go somewhere!”

Her simple comment was very memorable in that it spoke of something at the very heart of international culture in general, and life in Phnom Penh in particular. The airport is indeed an intricate part of my Phnom Penh experience. Many hellos and goodbyes have been said there. The Dairy Queen provides the back drop for this, and provides some sugary relief when it gets particularly hard; it also give a distraction for the real reason we are there.

Her comment, poetic style, and light hearted understanding of international culture spoke to my heart and soemthing that has been so essencial to my Phnon Penh experience.


Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Expat Life, TCKs


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Great Glowstick Games: Building a fire

“Building a Fire” is a game that Joe Jackson, Matt Banker and I cooked up for the Beijing Fall Youth Camp 2010. We were using a Wilderness Survivor theme, and so we created games that would fit that. (We’ll probably write about some of the other games we did in another post – there were some good ones!)

The main reason I chose this for one of our first games posts is that a few months later, Christina and I used it for the Cross Culture 2011 retreat in Cambodia. It was a very different group in a very different location; we adapted it heavily and it worked wonderfully. I love games that are flexible and therefore easy to adapt! Flexibility is important for those of us running games in random places – the traditional models don’t always work, so we change games to fit us.

Building a Fire – original Beijing version

What we started with:

Four teams (total 100 people)
1,000 small red glowsticks
400 small yellow glowsticks
200 small blue glowsticks
Several hundred small green glowsticks for marking
Several large red glowsticks for marking (and some small red ones)
Several large blue glowsticks for “obstacles”

Object of the game

Build enough fires to keep your team warm (and alive). Instead of awarding points for games over the weekend, teams were fighting to survive! Each complete “fire” would keep 5 team members “alive” so teams of 25 people needed to make 5 fires. These “fires” are made by collecting enough of the right glowsticks in the right combination. Each team was required to calculate the number of fires they needed, then collect the right amount of glowsticks and return them to home base before the end of the allotted time.

Adaptation: set the colour/number combinations according to the amount of glowsticks you have available. For our purposes, each complete fire required 10 blue, 20 yellow, and 50 red glowsticks. To fit the narrative, we called the blue “matches”, the yellow “kindling” and the red “logs” – or something like that ;)


Of course, no good game is complete without challenges to overcome. We assigned some leaders to be “Wind” and “Wild Animals” (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!); they were distinguished by holding large glowsticks.  If a kid was tagged by a “Wind” leader they were required to hand over any glowsticks they were carrying; the glowsticks were then redistributed by the leaders (so they could be collected again). “Redistributing” generally meant “randomly tossed over there somewhere”.

If a kid was tagged by a Lion, Tiger or Bear, not only were their glowsticks stolen, but they were mauled. Badly maimed, these kids were required to sit on the ground and not move (they could yell but that was all) until they were carried back to home base (dragged or piggyback or carried by four limbs – anything they came up with) at which point they were magically revived. Every “mauled” kid left out in the field at the end of the game was a life counted against the team’s total.

Setting up the field

The “field” was a wide area full of trees, walls, and low-ropes equipment. There were hills, piles of dead leaves, and random bits of metal. In short, it was rather a mess.

The green marker glowsticks were used to do several things:

  • to mark the trail into the game area (since the kids were making their way out there at night)
  • make the home bases (green circles near four corners of the playing area)
  • mark the boundaries of the play area (where there was no fence)
  • warn of any dangerous areas (i.e. KEEP OFF THE BROKEN METAL THINGS)

That last point is very important for night games – kids who are running around in the dark will often not see danger til it’s too late to avoid. Using a set apart glowstick colour to mark danger helps a lot!

A mix of small and large red glowsticks were used to mark a “safe zone” in the middle of the play areas where the first aid officer and some other available leaders remained throughout the game. When kids had any sort of problem (sprained ankle, clarification of rules) they could find someone to help.

The play glowsticks (blue, yellow and red) were distributed even-ish-ly throughout the playing area. (Some strategy was discussion and used – such as putting certain colours primarily in certain areas, so each team would have to travel away from home base to find them).

Game Play

All game rules were explained to the teams in the indoor meeting room. Kids were released to get cold-weather gear and met out at the playing field, where leaders were available to direct them to the home bases. After 5-10 minutes to strategise, the game was started with a siren. We gave them about 20 minutes to run around collecting, losing and re-collecting glowsticks. A 5 minute warning siren was given, and then a long final siren. (Having a loud, recognisable noise for marking time in night games helps a lot, especially when the group is spread out over a large area).

It sounds simple enough, but it really worked as a game! I was impressed by how it drew in the high school girls in my cabin. One or two were a bit sick, and others just didn’t want to play the game. I convinced them to at least come out and see the glowsticks (the lit up game field is always one of the best sights of camp) and said they could go back to the cabin soon after that. Once the game started, however, they got so involved they never asked to go back to the cabin – they engaged with the game and played the whole time. One big advantage of this game was that there were several different roles – kids could play the game the way they wanted.

  • Strategy – coming up with a way to play the game and instructing others
  • Glowstick collectors – running far away to get what was needed
  • Medics – going out and finding mauled kids then bringing them home
  • Counters – counting up the glowsticks brought home, working out what was still needed, and communicating this to the collectors

Cambodia Adaptation

When we played this at the Cross Culture retreat, we came up with a lot of major adaptations. The game still worked brilliantly.

We started with:

9 kids
4 leaders
20 blue glowsticks
5 pink/red glowsticks
30 yellow/green glowsticks

The kids played as a single team trying to beat the game. Each fire saved three people, and consisted of 5 blue, 7 red/pink and 10 yellow/green glowsticks. Several blue glowsticks were used to mark the “obstacle” leaders. There was one Wind leader and one Rabid Camel* leader patrolling the game field. The biggest change was omitting the home base. Mauled kids were not revived by being brought to base, but by having three team members come to them at the same time. Glowsticks were also not safe until a complete fire was presented to the “safe” leader. The kids were hiding glowsticks under jackets, in their pockets – anywhere they could find!  The play area included a swimming pool and a bunch of glowsticks ended in there (along with several fully clothed kids and leaders). It was mass chaos and thoroughly enjoyable!

*an in joke that was woven through the entire weekend!

I think “Building a fire” is a great glowstick game because it is so flexible! You could even re-story it to fit a different themed camp – have them building something different – not a fire but… <constructing a building/foundation><weaving a carpet><harvesting crops>. Sky’s the limit!


Posted by on February 14, 2011 in Games


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4 perspectives on 1 youth retreat

The annual Cross Culture retreat was held in Sihanoukville on January 7-9, 2011 (Cross Culture is a TCK youth group in Phnom Penh, Cambodia). Attending the retreat were 5 leaders, 9 high schoolers, and the speaker, his wife and three kids. A great time was had by all! Camp always means different things to different people, and so we’ve put together the perspectives of different people who were at the camp….

Most of the Cross Culture retreat participants playing games at the beach...

Most of the Cross Culture retreat participants playing games at the beach...


Nathaniel Cheung – Sydney, Australia

The Cross-Culture weekend away down at Sihanoukville was an amazing experience for both the leaders and the youth. It was filled with crazy games, singing, great talks from the book of Matthew, and time just hanging out together. The weekend gave me a look into youth ministry in a MK/TCK context and the differences and similarities that it entails. Perhaps the most significant thing that I took away from the weekend was the conversations and relationships that continued on afterwards with the other youth leaders. There was a real unity in vision and passion despite the differing personalities, perspectives and styles present. Indeed this proved to be even more valuable in providing a fresh perspective and sparking new ideas as we all continued to talk post-camp. I am certain that God used that weekend to bring us together and to create a real sense of what He wants to do in our lives and in the lives of the youth we minister to. I will greatly miss the time spent with Christina, Tanya and Hannah. But I know that God has much in store for all of us as we each go back and deepen our own understanding, sense and outworking of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and seek to faithfully minister to the youth that God has placed in our lives.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

Hannah Pollock – currently in Phnom Penh, most recently from Christchurch, New Zealand

Where do I start? Rabid camels, amazing worship team, blessed speaker, giggles, girly chats, coffee addictions, sing-a-longs and of course, CHUCK IT!!! To sum up the Cross Culture retreat in one word: refreshing.  I had only been in Cambodia for 2 months and yet I needed refreshing. Spending time with awesome young people who are on fire for God was such a pleasure. It reminded me that our father is constantly working in each of our lives. Hearing new and different stories created in me a fresh awe of God. I loved the theme of camp; only Christina and Tanya could centre a retreat around rabid camels in Australia (you really had to be there, don’t miss out next time!) We dealt with how we include God in our lives: the desert times and the times we try to do it alone. Facing these issues is never fun, but God used our time together to challenge us.

Tanya Crossman – Beijing, China (originally from Canberra, Australia)

This was my second Cross Culture retreat. I love doing camps with the Phnom Penh kids. I love that they are at the same time both very similar to and very different from my kids in Beijing; there are TCK similarities, but every youth group has its own unique culture. The Youth in Asia vision is always stirred so strongly in me when I spend time with TCKs outside Beijing – I am reminded that there are so many groups with the need for quality youth leaders. Spending time with Nathaniel and Hannah (and Christina, as always) contributed greatly to this vision-painting and passion-stirring. At this camp, I was inspired by the concept of adapting and – how the same games can be adapted to fit different situations. I was also blown away by the power of a well integrated theme, with games and messages that connect to a central idea. The narrative of the weekend was a clear connection between all the different elements of the camp. In Beijing we’ve talked many times about creating “hooks” that messages hang on, things that anchor them in the minds and memories of the youth we minister to. The well integrated theme of the Cross Culture retreat provided a constant source of hooks – where games illustrated life lessons, and games/skits made for easier recollection of the message itself.

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. – 2 Peter 1:12-15

Christina Valenti – Phnom Penh, Cambodia (originally from Massachusetts, USA)

Camp for me was amazing! Pretty amazing to think I’ve been involved with camp with Tanya Crossman for six years in two different countries. Each time she comes to Cambodia (this was her third time) it reminds me of God’s faithfulness, and that life is  a journey. His perspective is so much bigger than ours, and sometimes (times like this past camp) we catch a glimpse of what he seems to be moving towards.  Having Nathaniel (visiting from Sydney)  and Hannah (who moved here this past October) be part of camp and the shared sense that we were together to do this now, and would take away an appreciation of God’s heart and the importance of youth ministry in our own groups and each others – reminds me I serve a God at work in the world.

I loved watching my students bond during crazy games and beach time. I loved the late night opportunity for good chats, and memories that LOOOOONNG bus rides provide.  I loved hearing John’s solid teaching and his creative, crazy challenges to respond and watching my youth rise to the challenge  in a memorable way each time!  I know Tanya and Nathaniel were appreciated as they led us in worship times. And nobody will forget the rabid camel hunt on the beach . . or the antidote the next morning.  Creative, memorable, fun, crazy, community all these words sum up camp for me; in other words as the FB statuses stated days after camp . .   EPIC. . . now to do it even better next year  =)

Christina, Hannah, Tanya, Nathaniel

Christina, Hannah, Tanya, Nathaniel


Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Leading Youth, Special Events, TCKs


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