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Advent 2023 newsletter


Hang Tran, Cambodia


Prayer with monk

Family and friends pray for departed souls with a monk.

Yay Jantu (Grandma Jantu), a woman on staff at the Home of Hope, had just lost her younger cousin. When the neighbors relayed the news to her, she ran to see her cousin, bewildered and crying. He had not died by natural causes.

Yay Jantu sweeping

Yay Jantu, sweeping the yard at the Home of Hope

People said that he was in his 40s, unemployed and his wife was no longer with him. Their daughter and son had left home to find work but had not yet been successful. He had recently tested positive for tuberculosis. The public health department provided free medication for him to begin treatments. Yay Jantu and kindhearted neighbors had been assisting him with food, clothing and shelter.

The police came to examine the scene of an apparent suicide. By the end of the day, they released the body for cremation and funeral arrangements. Could this violence against self have been prevented? Would there be vicarious traumas on the family members who survived him?

Yay Jantu’s cousin may have been stressed — financially, socially, physically and mentally — to the point of unbearable. According to the World Health Organization, the suicide rate in Cambodia by gender was 8.4 male and 3.1 female, age-standardized per 100,000 population, 2019. (In the U.S., it was 22.4 and 6.8, respectively.) This event prompted me to learn more about mental health and available prayers and resources on suicide awareness.

As part of the traditions after the funeral, Yay Jantu, the neighbors and I gathered to pray for the soul of her cousin at a nearby Buddhist temple. Folks began by lighting incense and lifting up their intercessions. The names of the cousin and other neighbors who had passed away but had no one to pray for them were read aloud.

Simon laying on hands

Simon at the Home of Hope has taken to laying hands on people’s heads for healing.

Together with a monk, the people chanted prayers for mercy and compassion on the departed souls. The monk encouraged all of us to observe our own thoughts, speech and actions in our daily lives without judgment, and to then gently guide that thinking, speaking and doing toward goodness.

Folks in this circle have modest means and various tribulations, but there was no blame or criticisms. They were empathetic and shared a communion with those who had gone before. The monk concluded by sprinkling water in blessing for everyone and their works. People seemed more at peace and smiling after the prayer service.

On a lighter note, at our Home of Hope, a differently abled kid named Simon is spreading comfort and joy to anyone within reach, whether they want it or not! He recently was impressed by a priest laying hands on those who are sick and ever since has been imitating that ritual.

A few days ago, as I was busy with a kid in a wheelchair, “acting chaplain” Simon seized the opportunity to put his hands on my head and whisper sounds as healing. I let him finish and thanked him.

Please consider supporting my mission work at the Home of Hope with a donation through the link below.

I invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 


Hang Tran
A Maryknoll lay missioner since 2013, Hang Tran works with young people living with disabilities at the Home of Hope in Chom Chao, Cambodia.