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

17 friends shared a comment:

Yvonne Blake said...

Wow! Touching and emotional...and you haven't even begun to tell us.

Lord, give Lalee the words to express what You've been working in her life. Teach others through her example. Bless her tonight. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Patty Wysong said...

Oh La. I remember those feelings all too well. An emotional tidal wave...

Love you!

Denise said...

Bless you my precious friend, love you.

Dee Yoder said...

I even found it hard to be in JFK International airport, Laura--on my way to Germany--the languages alone intimidated me. Once I got to Germany, it was awful not being able to comfortably converse with anyone. I can't imagine going where you went--but God uses our experiences to point to Him. Always to depend and to trust that He knows why and what He's doing. I can't wait to read about the rest of your journey.

Marguerite said...

I can't wait to see Cambodia through the eyes that God has given you. Thank you for sharing this with us. You are a sweet blessing precious sister.

Laury said...

I'm so glad you are starting to share. Mission trips are awesome and life-changing, for sure.

Peggy said...

WOW and blessings and welcome back to your home life thankful that you are beginning to write out your life changing experience so we can learn & grow with you through this. Each portion that you share shows an awakening of God's spirit in you! Your words are precious & so inspirational & anointed! Take your time to pace this experience! God is stirring up a SERVOLUTION, have you heard? A revolution or is is revelation? Most like the showing us how we must SERVE & be open!

You, my sweet sister, have tasted and taken the first step...being OPEN, allowing worldview and lifeview to coexist & soberly remind us. His love for YOU is great and oh how His heart sings as you experience Him in a new "song"!

Looking forward to more & more! I was still praying when I relaized that you were back!
Love and hugs,

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh you are describing this wondefully!! I am enjoying reading about it. Did you go alone with your church?
My husband went on his first mission trip this spring to Haitti--he described conditions much like you did.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Not long ago, I wrote a statement that God gave to me in the middle of the night after a very difficult season of faith/trust in my life. I said,

“It doesn’t matter how long God chooses to preserve my earthly life. What matters is how I choose to preserve him in the earthly life I’ve been given.”

I thought of this as I read your words here...

When my son returned from Bolivia this summer he said he tried hard to pay attention to the sights and sounds around him; he also talked about his deliberate asking of God to reveal his thoughts to him as he ministered there. It was life-changing. I think he'll make a 3rd trip back this summer, this time for a longer stay.

It's hard to return to our normal lives after these kind of experiences. Even harder to put word around them. May God be tender and kind to you as you continue to unpack your heart along these lines. I look forward to benefiting from such unwrapping.

Love you friend.


Julie Arduini said...

Thanks for being so authentic and sharing your personal experience with us. I can't even imagine even though you penned it so beautifully. I look forward to reading more.


Peter Stone said...

Awesome - you've started sharing your trip to Cambodia. Having been to Thailand, I can so relate to your comments about being overloaded with sights, smells, sounds, traffic, language, the works.
But what I really like about this post, your whole experience, is your comments like this, ‘What is it that You had to take me alllll the way to Cambodia just to teach me?’
Even though you went there to minister, it is never just about that, is it? God is always wants to work in us, not just through us. In fact, it is because of the work that He does in us that He can work through us.

Joanne Sher said...

What an experience - thank you SOOO much for sharing it with us - and what an important lesson. Anxious for more.

Gaylene said...

Powerful statement "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."

Can't wait to read more.

Sherri Ward said...

Hi LauraLee, I passed along a creative blog award to you, come by to pick it up!

Josh said...

I am so glad to finally get to read about your experiences in Cambodia. You said something so very improtant. You said that it isn't important where we are placed but where God is placed within our lives. He has been showing me how very vital this part truly is. You could have went to Cambodia and came back with nothing, because it wasn't about where you went but about where your heart was at while you were there. You had to have the desire to seek God and what He wanted to show you in order to truly allow this experience to change you and change the lives of the people living there. Gonna go read part two now. :)

Karen Hossink said...

Ah, we don't like being broken. But God does such beautiful things when we are broken in His hands.
Looking forward to reading more...

Anonymous said...

So, I've had your blog open for a month to read this, and I'm so glad I finally did! I can hear your voice when I read it, and I love what you're saying! It's something I need to hear again, right now, in my life!