“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.’”
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.