Saturday, November 16, 2013


Photo compliments of Cambodia Trust

I've been doing this daily devotional of sorts lately called Daily Office. It's meant to be a means of breaking into your workday a couple of times each day to get quiet with the Lord so that you can learn to focus on and be led by Him throughout the rest of the day. It has a big focus on meditation and being quiet to allow the Lord room to speak. It's something I've needed, and part of a work that God is doing in me to break me of my need to be constantly doing. I believe God wants me to line up my behavior with my belief that I desperately need connection with Him every moment of every day. Fostering that connection means taking time out with Him and not allowing any task to be more important than that fellowship. I'm not not where I'd like to be in that area, but I'm learning.

Anyway, this past week one of the readings was that section of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8) which starts out, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens."  I took a little time to meditate on the verses and to see if any of them resonated with me in particular. I found that "a time to plant and a time to uproot" really hit the mark for where I am right now. I have planned ever since I came to Cambodia that I would be going back to the U.S. for home assignment in March 2014. I've vaguely sensed the time drawing nearer for that, but in the last month it hit me with force that my home assignment was a little over four months away. That has done some crazy things for my psyche and it's been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

It's hard to express all that is involved in adjusting to living in a completely different culture than the one in which you had been raised. It was helpful to have studied about this prior to coming, but it still doesn't fully prepare you for what the experience will be like. I imagine it's kind of like the difference between hearing what child birth is going to be like and then actually giving birth. I get through one "phase" of this adaptation process and start to feel like I've adjusted, when, next thing I know, I'm thrown into another level of learning to adapt, or finding where I haven't adapted as much as I thought I had. Well, the sudden realization that I am soon to be returning to the States just broke me out of the "new normal" that I had established. I feel like I'm kind of caught between the "time to plant" and "time to uproot." My focus has been on planting, but now that I really need to start preparing my co-workers here for my absence and also making plans for my home assignment, my brain really wants to shift to "uproot" mode. To be honest, I'm a bit frustrated and impatient with being in this in-between time. I'm still here. I need to be here in my head and heart as well as in my body, but my head and heart have already started wanting to run ahead to March when I get to hop onto that plane. Don't get me wrong, I'm still ever so grateful to be doing what I'm doing here, but I've really missed my friends and family there, and now that I am actually making plans for seeing them (for many reading this, you) it actually seems to have intensified the longing. It feels like there are areas here where I still need to plant, but I so badly want to focus on the uprooting.

So, as I'm experiencing all of this emotional turmoil, something that I noticed is that, as badly as I want to return to the States right now, I really, really want to return to Cambodia. I've spent enough time planting here that my heart is now forever split - I feel like whenever I am in one place I am going to be missing the other. It's a good thing, but not always an easy thing. Kind of like longing for a Kingdom you've never seen but that has been planted in your heart by the King. Please pray for me as I go through this emotional planting/uprooting season.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

No room for boasting

The LORD said to Gideon, 'The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'" Judges 7:2

Gideon is one of the guys listed in the Hebrews 11 "hall of faith" and his place in God's story is found in Judges 6-8. When he is first called by the Lord to deliver Israel from Midianite oppression he is addressed as a "mighty man of valor." The verses that follow, however, would incline one to view that as a rather facetious statement. Gideon seemed anything but valiant.

But, who am I to talk? I'm not the ideal missionary. I'm not nearly as brave as I'd like people to think I am. My trust in God is not equivalent to what I know it should be in light of all of His faithfulness to me. In the midst of the political anxiety that had recently gripped Cambodia during & after the recent elections there were times that I had felt fearful and anxious. Of course, it is not bad to be wisely cautious, but, I had to wrestle with questions like, "What am I really willing to risk for the sake of the Kingdom?" And even when things are relatively normal, I wrestle with wondering how effective I am. Is my effort going to have an impact? I'm an idealist and in my idealistic imaginings I am the kind of disciple who is willing to weather any storm with steadfast faith; the kind of follower of Jesus who would do anything He asked without question or complaint. But in my emotional response to the recent political tension, as in so many other things, I find that my real self does not measure up to my ideal self. But maybe that's okay. Maybe it's not about what I can bring to the table so much as just my being willing to show up, knees knocking as they may be.

Because as I was talking a few days ago with a fellow sojourner, I was so encouraged to be reminded how much God is doing through my being here which has been totally beyond my control. It's just one of those paradoxical ways that God works. I can see that there are some really good things happening here through the ABLE ministry that very likely would not be happening if I had not come, and yet I can take virtually no credit for them. A prime example of this is our hiring of Savorn, ABLE's community rehabilitation team member in the village. Being so culturally and linguistically distant from the village, I was completely dependent on our other village staff to find someone to fill this role. The way it all played out, I didn't really even have a chance to explain to them exactly what we were looking for, and so, when she started, I kind of had to just hope for the best. Well, as I've seen Savorn at work, I have been blessed beyond all I could have hoped for. She has been a very receptive learner in all that Srey Ny (our Khmer physiotherapist) and I have been teaching her, and she really seems to have a heart for serving these children and families. The other village staff have commented on how impressed they are with the improvement they are seeing in some of the children we've been working with, and we could not have had this kind of impact without Savorn's consistent follow up. In God's providence, the dream I had for this ministry is starting to take shape and I have no room for boasting, only gratitude. 

Savorn, ABLE's community rehabilitation team member

Monday, May 13, 2013

When You Can't See The Forest For The Trees

Cambodian Mangrove Forest
(Photo courtesy of 9comeback /

When I was in my Intro to Missions class at Dallas Theological Seminary I was really energized by seeing "the big picture" view of God's plan for the salvation of people from all across the world; how this theme of a master plan of redemption is woven throughout the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, and how He has been using everyday people throughout history to bring it about. It was encouraging to think that we all have an opportunity to participate in a plan of epic proportions that is guaranteed to succeed, and to realize that what is required of me is not stellar performance, but faithfulness.

 Fast forward to today. The thrill of that dream can get lost in the ebb and flow of everyday life. I see problems that I don't know how to solve, I see hurts that I don't know how to heal, I see barriers that I don't know how to breach, and I feel incompetent in areas that I previously viewed as strengths. All of that coupled with little aggravations of life in a developing country that are not really such a big deal in and of themselves but start to feel heavy when they pile on you all at once (as they seem to do at times). Yes, I sometimes find my view of God's big picture is blocked by a gnarly tree planted six inches in front of my face.

 But the awesome "Master Planner" is also a tender Shepherd. He knows when I need help to re-shape my perspective. Like when I was in church yesterday and, seeing some new friends I had met recently, I was reminded of the big picture plan. These sweet ladies are Chinese Christians who are in Cambodia learning Khmer to be able to share the gospel with Cambodians. How awesome is that? Totally unrelated to what I am doing in Cambodia, but all part of the same master plan. Also, I just had a visit from my WorldVenture International Ministry Director and his wife, and as we talked about my current struggles, he pointed out that these struggles are not the same as the struggles I had less than a year ago. Then many of my struggles were related to just learning to survive in a new culture. Now my struggles are so much more related to doing ministry in this context. That means that I am doing ministry. As frustrating as my limitations can feel, people are being shown the love of Jesus and I am reminded that He can do more with my five loaves of bread and two fish than I could ever hope to imagine. And all that is required of me is faithfulness.

Friday, March 8, 2013


The "outhouse"
Inside the "outhouse"

The Lord provided me with a funny object lesson in expectations about a month ago. It was when I went out to the village with my newly hired Khmer physiotherapist to check out the new office space which was also to serve as our accommodations in future visits out to the village. We plan to spend about 4 days every other week out in the village evaluating children, developing treatment plans for them, and training our field staff person who will follow through with implementing the plans during the time that we are not there. I knew that for at least a few months we would not have electricity. I decided I'd better get a handle on what the bathroom situation was going to be as well. Since bathrooms in the village (for those who have them) are often what we in the U.S. would call outhouses, I ventured out behind the office and spotted what seemed to be the most likely option. Peering inside, my suspicions were confirmed. "Oh Lord," I prayed, "I know that You can help me do this," resigning myself to the squatty-potty and the tank of water which I anticipated I would have to use to bathe by the dipper-full as most Cambodians are accustomed to doing. No sooner had I breathed this prayer of somewhat reluctant submission, than the landlord called out in Khmer to tell me that the bathroom was inside. I was seeing a bathroom, but not the one we were going to be using. I went in to check out the new alternative and I just had to laugh at the Lord's tender sense of humor. Had I seen this bathroom first, I have to confess that I may not have been overly impressed, but, when I saw it after seeing what it could have been, man was I grateful!! Yes, expectations are huge in how we respond to situations.

Hurray! An actual shower & sit-down toilet!
That got me thinking about the weight of expectations that I experience in a lot of other areas, including my expectations and hopes about the future (some of which appear to be in conflict with each other), my expectations of my own performance in the tasks ahead, and my perception of other people's expectations of me, whether that be Khmer people, expat co-workers, or supporters back home. I trust that the Lord, in His abundant mercy, will help me to submit all of these expectations to Him and trust His faithful, gentle shepherding of me in all that He's called me to do.