Friday, February 5, 2010

All the Way to Cambodia, Part 5

I could hardly believe my eyes. THIS is in Cambodia? And THIS is where we would hold our retreat? As we walked into the huge, high ceiling, marble floored lobby of the Koh Kong Resort, I joked with the rest of the team. “Okay, this picture is NOT going in the supporters follow-up letter. They won’t believe we were on a missions trip.” I walked, wide-eyed, to the huge bay of windows at the back of the lobby which overlooked the Gulf of Thailand. Its beauty took my breath away. It was one of the most extravagant hotels I had ever seen, and I had to go all the way to Cambodia to see it. The irony.
Then we received our room keys, which led us right back out the front door and across the street. To the “economy” rooms. That was more what I had expected. Though the space itself was more than suitable, the smell of mildew filled the hallways and rooms. It was strange to think that the rooms in that beautiful hotel across the street were probably extremely luxurious and these were, well, not so much. Not a complaint. Merely observation. I actually felt better in my spirit about being in the more humble accommodations anyway. (Oddly enough, one of the World Relief leaders pointed out that this was a perfect picture of Cambodia...the rich living large next to the poor...she also observed that those mainly enjoying the casino inside the marvelous hotel were poor as well. Left something tangible in my mind to remember).

It was time to get to work. We went back over to the “marble museum” hotel to set up the meeting rooms. As we spent our hours unpacking and sorting for the conference, we were excited to think about the families coming to enjoy such a nice environment for the next three days, hoping it would be a treat for them.

Our team was out in the parking lot when the World Relief bus arrived. The families, especially the children (SO many children), were glad to be at their destination after the long, bumpy drive. We found out later that the air conditioning had gone out in the bus, and it was so hot that a few people had vomited along the way. What a horrible start to their break, but we were determined to make them comfortable now that they were in our care.

As we showed the families to their rooms, also in the economy section, they were incredibly grateful and complimentary. It was obvious that it was a special privilege for many of them to be in a hotel. That humbled me as I remembered my earlier thoughts.

Throughout dinner and then as we began the conference that evening, I studied the families since it was difficult to hold on a conversation. They seemed close knit, eager to serve one another and us as well. The kids were curious but would not come close. They, I’m convinced, were studying me as much as I was them. I felt small, but in a good way. “Dependent on God” small.

In the days to follow, our team would provide refreshment, teaching and encouragement to 120 men, women, youth and children, but as it was, I would end up being refreshed, taught and encouraged even more by each of them. They would cause me to worship when they sang out wholeheartedly to the praise songs in their own Khmer language. They would teach me how to pray—personally, passionately, powerfully—out loud and all in unison. They would inspire me with their stories of sacrifice and service on the mission field each and every day.

Yes, I dare say, I was the one who was changed. I’ll walk you through some of the pictures at the conference, and you’ll better understand why.

Our godly and fearless team leaders, Tony and Amy

While Engchy translated, Pastor JoAnn taught on the love of the Father from 1 John 3:1-3, the theme for our retreat.

World Relief team members led worship after training breakouts with Matt and Wayne

Evening worship was on the floor with pillows and blankets, an intimate time cherished by all

Small groups met to discuss the teaching after each large group session

Matt and Emily led the teens in some team building games

The kids loved craft time with the creative and organized Lynn

The kids scooted closer and closer to see the pictures at story time.

We did some afternoon breakouts that were for fun and relaxation: mani/pedi being one of them

Our youngest team member, Victor, led the kids (some big kids as well) in a lego breakout session

Okay, some big girls too...

Lynn led a jewelry making session for kids, teens and adults. This was a VERY popular breakout

The kids couldn't wait until game time with Mr. Tony and Victor

Eli the Eagle was glad to come out and play after that long trip. And the kids welcomed him whole-heartedly

We had a blast and definitely got our exercise as we praised to "Father Abraham/The Lord's Army," "Making Melodies," "Great, Big Love," "Your Love Is Deep," and more...

I'm pretty sure their favorite song was "Making Melodies."

On the 2nd to last day of the conference, we held a baptism service on the beach for Victor. Two other teens joined in and made it one of the most moving and touching highlights of the week.

Victor and his father Lewis embrace after his baptism. I cannot think of a more beautiful example for the Father's Love. Not a dry eye on the beach.

The tears kept coming as we watched beautiful Heng crawl out into the water, get baptized and allow Mark to carry her back onto the beach. This precious teen may not have the use of her legs, but she has an active and powerful heart for God.

Joke & Marganne baptize Mary, who prayed to receive Christ on the beach only moments before...

Sidara won over all of our hearts with her sense of humor and engaging stories. I will never forget her.

Our two hostesses from World Relief, who thought of everything way before we did and worked tirelessly to make us and the staff comfortable. Their hearts are as beautiful as their beaming faces, even more so.

Everyone took turns getting their pics taken in front of the magnificent sunset.

On the last day, Eli came out to meet the kids. After all, he would be living with them in Cambodia from now on...Don't tell anyone, but I think he was the most popular person there.

Before the conference ended, the kids went into their parents' teaching session to give them a surprise. As they shouted out their Bible verse with motions and sang "Your Love is Deep" with all they had, their parents beamed from ear to ear. Treasured memories.

By the end of the conference, we had earned the kids' trust and respect, and they would hug and interact with us like family. No matter where I was in the building or on the property, I could hear them calling "Teacha, teacha," then smile and wave. Melted my heart. If I could say one thing about these children it would be that they are the most polite and well-mannered kids I have ever seen or taught. They show incredible respect for adults and are very patient. I love the way they are grateful for the smallest of things. Absolutely precious.

The Bible says we are not to show favoritism, so I waited until all the kids had left to snap this photo of Moses and me. Not a day has slipped by when I have not thought of or prayed for him. I have no idea why the Lord chose Moses to snatch my heart, but I'm determined not to waste it. I pray that Moses grows up to be one of the spiritual leaders in Cambodia or wherever he finds himself living.

Before it was time to go, we got a group picture of all of us together. It's an amazing thought to imagine being together again in Heaven one day.

Our team, unified in the beginning and even more tightly so in the end, praised the Lord for His accomplishing more than we could've ever asked or imagined. Not only in the hearts and minds of World Relief's finest, but also in each of our own lives. The Love of the Father has no limits, and He demonstrated that faithfully and powerfully over and over again...all the way in Cambodia.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!
1 John 1:3


IF you missed part one, two, three or four, click here:


9 friends shared a comment:

Laury said...

Awesome pictures! Thank you for sharing with us, Laura. I've been on many mission trips, but not as far away as Cambodia, of course - and they are life-changing and eye-opening.

Carrie Cooper said...

Carrie @ comfortedbyGod.blogspot.com

Tears filled my eyes as I read your touching words. What a beautiful account of God's work. I'm so glad I stopped by your blog today.

Sita said...

Awesome memories, Laura. The same thing happened with each member of our group as well--God put a specific child in each heart--I love that--how often I wished that someone had placed me in their heart--until Jesus says--guess who?

jo.attalife said...

Hi. I have several friends in World Vision. What a wonderful time you had! Isn't it amazing (and humbling) how God can use us to bless others? I'm happy for you for experiencing this.

vvdenman said...

LauraLee, I'm so glad to find your blog. I enjoyed reading about your trip to Cambodia. It brought tears to my eyes! Thanks for sharing it with us, but more importantly, thank you for going on the trip.

vvdenman said...

LauraLee, I'm so glad to find your blog. I enjoyed reading about your trip to Cambodia. It brought tears to my eyes! Thanks for sharing it with us, but more importantly, thank you for going on the trip.

vvdenman said...

LauraLee, I'm so glad to find your blog. I enjoyed reading about your trip to Cambodia. It brought tears to my eyes! Thanks for sharing it with us, but more importantly, thank you for going on the trip.

Yvonne said...

Lalee, thanks for sharing these moments with us. It makes us appreciate the little things in our life so much more, doesn't it?
The scene of the crippled girl being carried out of the water touched me the most.

Peter Stone said...

It's sad to see the contrasts of rich next to poor, but what a wonderful time. I love baptisms at the beach, just fantastic, and encouraging to see all the work the Lord is doing there. A lot of changed lives, on both sides, from that trip...
God bless :)