Monday, November 30, 2009

All the Way to Cambodia, Part 2

If you missed part one, click here: Allllll the Way to Cambodia, Part 1

Proverbs 13:12 says,
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
Surreal Beginning

My first night's sleep was comfortable and deep in our clean hotel, but cut short. My head sprung up from the bed at what I thought was a man's voice singing at 5:15 am. Actually, I thought it was our worship leader in the room next door, and if so, team unity was about to come to a quick halt. ;) Imagine my surprise when I realized it was a man chanting across the street from our hotel (no offense to our worship leader, I was in a reeeally deep sleep). Apparently, a funeral was going on, and the ceremonies in Cambodia are conducted out in the open. Through a loud speaker. At 5:15 and continuing...

My roommate opened the blinds all the way, and it was the first time I had seen Phnom Penh in the daylight. As I looked out the window, I had mixed feelings. Cars, motos, trucks filled with men, people hanging laundry on their balconies, bustle all around. And the honking. So much honking...with chanting and lamenting in the background. The scene was chaotic and orderly at the same time. Surreal really.

After a jolted start to the morning, it was time for our mission to begin. Though our team was in Cambodia to put on a conference/retreat for the leadership of World Relief, we thought it best to see what the organization is doing there. So we hit the ground running. Riding in a shuttle bus, to be exact.

It was one thing to see the traffic out the hotel window, quite another to be in the mix of it. We were so close to the vehicles next to us that I could look the drivers in the eye and exchange a smile. Not kidding. I will never complain about my husband's driving again. ;0 After quite a drive out of the city, we made it to our first destination. Phew.

HOPE not deferred

It was here I saw "Hope" in the form of community. World Relief's HOPE ministry is anything but "hope deferred." As I watched this ministry in action I witnessed "longings fulfilled" (including some of my own). The Lord wasted no time grabbing my heart's strings and playing a new tune.

A group of teenage girls sat in a circle as their volunteer leader discussed choices with them. They learned of biblical sexuality and marriage fidelity, as well as the many myths, lies and superstitions spread throughout their culture about HIV/AIDS. The leader threw out questions that the girls were encouraged to answer. My impression is that this was a whole lot more than an education group. It's a source of accountability and Christ-centered community.

I was impressed with how intentional the planning was...even the games were integrated into the day's theme. And it only continued from there. A teenage boys' group was held down the road just a bit with the same discussion material, though in typical boys' form, a bit more animated.

As the teen discussion groups were coming to a close, the children's programming was beginning. And wow, Wow, WOW. Kids were rushing to catch the best view as the staff set up its puppet screen. Older kids came with younger brothers and sisters in tow by arm or on a hip. They were EXCiiiiiiTED. The teens came running as well, though most of them stood in the back. Moms were off to the side and in the background, but I sensed they were happy and curious to be there too.

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I didn't expect the program to be as excellent as it was. The leaders were extremely enthusiastic and animated. The crowd was completely enthralled as they sang songs about Dengue fever and cleanliness set to familiar kids' tunes. As the puppets came out, the kids learned lessons about washing hands and stopping the spread of germs and disease. Not only were the kids entertained, but they were also engaged...I'm guessing more than they are in any classroom.

At the end of the show, World Relief gave each of our team fingernail clippers, and the kids crowded around us to have their nails trimmed. Then they washed their hands in anti-bacterial soap. What a perfect conclusion to an fabulous show. I'll never forget how the kids' faces beamed with excitement as they showed off their germ-free hands. It was a special moment to be a part of...

During the puppet show, a few of the girls from the teenage group came to stand beside me. Before long, we were arm in arm. Their smiles completely captivated me, and I'm so glad one of my team members grabbed this picture of us.

HOPE through Hardship

We loaded back into the bus and drove down a few roads to a different kind of meeting. It was an HIV/AIDS support group that meets regularly, where those with the disease come to find hope and help. Each person in the picture below is infected, (other than the volunteers), including the young boy in the front.

During our brief time there, several members of the circle were eager to share their stories, how Jesus Christ had given them hope to deal with their hardships. Many had lost husbands, daughters, mothers, fathers and children to AIDS. Though most of these ladies had been cheated on and infected by their husbands and/or worse, they still gave testimony of the Lord's faithfulness and love toward them.

As if my heart had not been stirred enough, a woman who had been coming to the group a few times gave her life to Jesus during this group's meeting. I could NOT hold back the tears. It was one of the most moving salvation experiences I've ever witnessed. At the end of the meeting, we all gathered around one another, praying out loud in our own languages. When I look at this photo, I don't see a group of HIV-infected Cambodians, I see my brother and sisters in Christ infecting each other with the love of Jesus Christ.

It's hard to believe that this was only half of my first day in Cambodia, but it was a HOPE-filled one. These are once in a lifetime, special slices of life that I will savor forever, ones that continue to reach down and leave marks of change on my heart as I ponder them.

And I'm only getting started...

"For it is for this we labor and strive,
because we have fixed our hope on the living God..."

1 Timothy 4:10

***Most photos taken by Jackie Mosley & Marganne Pearce. Thank YOU!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Allll The Way to Cambodia, Part I

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of Heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’
As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’”

Acts 17:24-28

Long Distance Call

One of the ministries God laid on my heart many years ago was to teach and disciple other believers to live God large, to challenge them to live a life of sacrificial worship and depend on the only One who can rescue, deliver, provide and truly love them. And each step of the way, The Lord has made it abundantly clear that He would first begin by changing me. My trip to Cambodia was and will continue to be one of the significant marks toward that end.

I didn’t even have a passport. Other than a cruise with a day stop in Cozymel, I hadn’t ever been out of the United States. While no one could accuse me of being a prima-donna, I do like to be physically comfortable. Camping in the woods or riding my bicycle outside on a 90 degree day is even sanctification for me. Get the picture?

So why a missions trip?

I’d always heard that if I went on an overseas missions trip, it would change my worldview. While I agree with that wholeheartedly, I’d have to say that, even moreso for me, it has changed my LIFEview.

Yes, it’s true that in the USA, we have a ton of excess, all kinds of freedoms that we take for granted and the like. We need sober reminders to be thankful and overflowing with generosity, because we tend to ignore the realities we don’t see. The underlying question for me as I was making the decision whether to go or not was, “Why, Lord, would you call me all the way to Cambodia?” (And I didn’t realize how far away it actually was until I endured those painfully long flights.) I knew of local missions teams ministering only thirty minutes from my house that testified of making a huge difference, learning the lessons of sacrifice and discomfort and gratitude in the process. So why not keep it closer to home?

Pastor JoAnn answered my question without even realizing it on the very first day as we sat next to each other on the long flight. (paraphrase) “Keep your eyes and ears open. Ask the Lord, ‘What is it that You had to take me alllll the way to Cambodia just to teach me?’” She encouraged another teammate and I to see past the obvious and ask God to do and reveal miracles around us. Wow—my tummy did flip-flops in that moment, my thoughts began runnin’ circles round each other, and we weren’t even in Cambodia yet.

Can you hear Me now? Good!

At least I was beginning to hear. To be honest, every single sense was on overload the whole trip. No one could’ve prepared me for all the sights, smells, sounds and sentiments I would experience in a short 10-day period. It will take me months, maybe even years, to process and express, so I will begin with the thread of realization that holds the whole experience together for me.

It is a deeper Truth, one that I’ve known and even lived out in part through a past full of trials and tears. But the Lord had to take me “alllllll the way to Cambodia” to grasp it more fully. It is this: The most important thing is not where we are placed to live in this world; rather, where the Lord’s place is in our lives. Is He front and center? Can we say that He is our one true hope? Do we surrender and allow the Holy Spirit to break our hearts for what breaks His? You see, these questions know no place, no time, no bounds. He’s either our everything or He’s not.

Why on earth Cambodia?

First of all, it was almost impossible to get in touch with my family. Our time zones were completely opposite, our schedules were both hectic, and it would’ve cost a pinky finger and a toe to call when it was convenient. I couldn’t text or even email more than a few times due to the lack of internet connections and time. May not seem like a big deal to some, but for a mom whose main ministry is home-based through part-time home-schooling, it was a streeeetch. I’m not sure if I was homesick or if I just longed for my family to share the experience with me. More the latter probably, but that was not what God had planned. I would have to do without them. And them, without me.

I felt uncomfortably vulnerable as our team visited the villages where World Relief ministers, probably because everything was coming at my senses faster than I could process it. Traffic through the city like I’d never seen before, trust me on this one. Bumpy roads, new time zone, dirty water, beautiful greenery, sticky sweat, stinging eyes, kids laughing, babies crying, eyes staring, foreign conversation, new foods. Tons of questions were swirling through my brain that I felt too embarrassed to ask, though no one would’ve belittled me. I wondered why I was here with a bunch of other experienced missions team members who seemed to know what to do and say, when to smile, when to look away. Adding to my insecurities was the fact that I couldn’t remember how to greet the villagers in their native tongue even though I had rehearsed it over and over.

Like I said, vulnerable. But it was that vulnerability, coupled with the withdrawal from my family, which left me broken enough to accept all that the Lord would unpack for me. My openness and willingness to see the Lord’s hand in everything, keeping Him front and center would be the key to experiencing life in Him to the full…allll the way in Cambodia.

To be continued…
~ More on what our team did
~ More on what World Relief does in Cambodia
~ More on what God did in me
~ More pictures on all of the above

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Lesson from My Son...And Cambodia thoughts coming soon

I'm at the Internet Cafe today. Will you come by and read what the Lord taught me through my teenage son? Click HERE.

Also, I've been under the weather since returning from my trip, but I hope to have some processing and writing time very soon about my Cambodia experience. God did powerful acts, which is no surprise. Praising Him for His faithfulness!