Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cambodia 2009 Wrap-up

FINALLY! - a post-trip report. I really did need a little time to let the most significant things settle out in my mind, or this would probably be a 10-page letter. Overall it was an amazing experience and I saw God do some significant things in the midst of our circumstances and in my own heart.
Those of you who received my “on the field” updates already heard that the first few weeks were pretty rough. I thought I knew what culture stress was like from previous mission trips. I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be this time around. The combination of heat, communication difficulties, frustration with trying to remember unfamiliar name pronunciations, loss of freedom & independence, and, among other things, trying to carry a Western schedule into a non-Western environment resulted in constant exhaustion. I told the Lord that I was willing to return to Cambodia long-term if that was His will for me, but He was going to have to make the calling clear because, at that point, I just couldn’t see how it was going to work! Bit by bit the Lord changed my perspective, however. I began to settle in and things gradually became less overwhelming. The puzzle pieces started falling into place so that within another week or so I was saying to the Lord & to myself, “Yeah, I can see myself living here.” At this point, I really do see it being a good fit with the calling the Lord has put on my heart, along with my skills, experience, and temperament. I’ve concluded that the Lord is indeed calling me back to Cambodia for long term ministry. I will graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary this May and I am praying for His direction in preparing myself for what He has prepared for me. As you have faithfully prayed for us during this two-month trip, please continue to pray for me in this preparation time, and also please continue to pray for Cambodia.

So, now for the trip highlights. I’ll break them down in list form:
The main ministries:
1. Logos International School – taught 5th & 6th graders for 2 weeks: devotions, science, computers, & arts & crafts. It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to lean on the Lord.
2. New Hope School – taught English to Vietnamese high schoolers. It was a really great group of kids and we had such a wonderful time.
3. Daughters – worked with some dear young women who have left working in brothels to start new lives through this ministry: built relationships and helped with putting together a catalog to market their products.
4. TEEac – Assisted with data entry for a ministry providing theological education materials.

My 4 favorite things about Cambodia:
1. The beautiful, warm, friendly people – The people are outwardly friendly, in general, though at first it felt difficult to connect because of the language barrier. I did not make friends here as quickly as I did in Russia (with Russians who spoke English). Once I did have the chance to develop friendships I quickly felt the kind of connectedness that is a big help in feeling at home in a place that’s not my home.
2. The culture – Though it certainly has negative aspects, as all cultures do, I appreciated the relaxed, community-oriented nature of this place. Everywhere I looked I saw people gathered together. They even get together by the hundreds to do aerobics at Olympic Stadium.
3. The food – Okay, I know that’s not very spiritual, but it is a relief whether you’re living some place for two months or for a number of years to find that you not only can tolerate the food, but you really like it!
4. Seeing God at work – God’s activity was very real to me in our own circumstances as well as the testimonies of numerous first generation believers. When I asked how it was going from Buddhism to Christianity, time and again I heard them say that Buddhism didn’t have answers and Christianity did. As Christians we might presume that what is reasonable to us would be reasonable to them, but this has not always been the case for Buddhists presented with the claims of Christianity. I believe it is clear that God has been at work in breaking down the stronghold of Buddhism which has blinded the eyes of these people for so long. In terms of our personal experience there was an event which took on tremendous significance for me. During our final days in Phnom Penh a baby was brought in to Daughters. She was being cared for by her aunt who was trying to save her life. The baby was just five days old and had spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal column does not close correctly around the spinal cord, leaving it protruding out in a pouch and causing paralysis below that part of the spine. The baby was unwanted by her mother & no one in her family was willing or able to pay for the care she needed, so the hospital had sent her home to die. Being a PT, I was asked by the ladies at Daughters to take a look at her and see what we could do to help her. I fell in love with her within moments but was struck with a feeling of helplessness as I realized that what she needed went way beyond what we could offer her. I was able to do dressing changes and a little massage and movement of her legs, but she still had an opening where her spine had not fused that was leaking cerebrospinal fluid. I didn’t know how long her body could keep up with producing more to replace what she was losing, but, aside from that, she would surely develop a deadly infection before long. I was reminded of II Chronicles 12:20 where Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, receives word that they were about to be attacked by a combined force of three different armies. They were ridiculously outnumbered. With all the people assembled, Jehoshaphat prays to the Lord for their deliverance, concluding the prayer with, “…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” Exactly! All we could do was look to the Lord, our resources were completely insufficient. And the Lord came through – a day or two and many prayers later this precious baby was back in the hospital and receiving the care she needed. (Ask me if you want to hear the full story). Looking back at the account of Jehoshaphat, it is interesting that, though the Lord promised Judah that He would fight this battle for them (which He did), they were still instructed to take up their positions. Seems like an analogy for missions in general – we are insufficient for the task on our own, but He calls us to “show up” and watch Him accomplish things that we never would have imagined.
Some specific praises and current prayer requests:
1. Praise God for answering your prayers! We had a great team who worked together well and came to really love each other, we were all kept safe and stayed relatively healthy. All of these were specific things that I asked you all to pray for. So, thanks for the prayers and thanks be to God for His gracious response!
2. Praise God for how He has been and continues to be at work in Cambodia, building His church.
3. Pray for God’s guidance in choosing a mission agency for the long term. I’m considering staying with CrossWorld or going with World Venture. They are both great organizations but, since it is a long-term commitment, I want to choose the best fit. This is my number 1 prayer request right now because I need to be able to get going with the application process.
4. Pray for my perseverance to finish well at DTS now that I’m in the home stretch.
5. Pray for God’s direction for the “in between time” following graduation from DTS and prior to returning to Cambodia.
6. Pray for people to partner with me in this ministry through prayer and financial support.

Grace & peace!!