Embracing My Purpose

The Moments

“We don’t remember days, we remember moments.”

Me and Chay Ly

His sweet face will be etched into my memory until the day I can’t recall my own name. Even then, I think I’ll remember his. Chay Ly’s first year at the hope center in Kampong Cham is vivid as yesterday…

They decided to do the birthday party differently this time. We usually just positioned ourselves at one station or another (From make-up to coloring they range). I liked to be at the Play-Doh station…name an animal, I could mold it for you. But this year everybody was to choose a child and follow him/her to whichever station chosen. It was so we could build one-on-one relationships. Sounded like a good idea!

I picked a shy 8 year-old boy (same age as my nephew at the time) who was new to the center and set to follow him around and play. He then spent the next 2 hours trying to ditch me at every turn. He would go to the painting station, see if I was still behind him, then quickly turn and go to the sticker station. He lost me when he sprinted outside to tie-dye a t-shirt. I had all but given up. This kid didn’t like or want anything to do with me! After the games we handed out the presents. We were to give “our” kids their gifts. He was thankful, let me sit next to him as he opened it, and I figured that was the last time he’d do that.

Was I wrong.

When we pulled up the next year, he was the first to find and hug me. He had grown up so fast! When they sang songs, he stood in the front and sang the loudest. His hand gestures were the grandest. He tried to lead those who couldn’t remember them. He dragged me around the hope center to play games with him and the other kids when I was supposed to be sanding and painting. He was my dance partner at the birthday party. He sat as close to me as possible during the Bible lesson. He clung to me. Chay Ly and IHe had opened up in such a big way. It was then I realized the importance of cultivating relationships. I also saw how much good our hope centers were really doing for these kids.

Last year, he ran down the steps and jumped from them into a bear hug. If the trip had been going badly, that moment would have saved it. That one hug made travelling 8818 miles paramount. It made every frustration with fundraising, travel, and illness experienced worth going through to get to that moment.

The phrase “blessed to be a blessing” is thrown around a lot when it comes to mission work. To make it more practical, I think God allows me to be the person I am here so I can to do the same Cambodia. I think I am sister, aunt, and friend here so I can be one there too. There are times when I feel lost in my existence. I know writing is a part of it, but it’s not all there is to it. What’s beautiful to me is that in that instant, I know my purpose is to love on that kid as if he were my own family. Chay Ly and I dancing


Wading Through Worms

Experiencing Their Reality

The doctor came in with the results of my blood work…elevated eosinophils in combination with recent travel to a third world country= parasites.

We were told we wouldn’t be going to the slum at the dump that day. It had rained too much. Now, rain in Cambodia during rainy season is as common as travelling in professional basketball. However, this slum is located at the bottom of this enormous mountain of trash, waste, and filth. Dump_S;un_2012The rainwater that ran down the mountain had flooded the slum. We were going to be doing this ministry with a group called Joy Club from New Life Fellowship (NLF) Church in Phnom Penh. Joy Club is made up of the volunteers that are over the children’s and slum ministries. They made a decision to go. There are kids who call that trash heap home. We could risk it to bring food, shoes, and share Jesus.

At the street, we are loaded up on an flat bed truck so as to not walk through the murky brown water. We get off at the mostly dry entrance. Then an Australian woman from NLF told us to stay out of the water because it was filled with microscopic worms that bore through the skin. She said if we got near it to scrub our feet, and whatever else the water may have touched, when we returned. Seemed simple enough. Then our team got split up into two groups. One stayed put with the older kids and the other had to walk down the block to the other location for the younger kids. Guess which group I was in… That’s right: the second.

I’m not a particularly tall woman (5′ 1.5″) and the water we literally waded through was up to my calves in parts. dump_slum_water 3We were being lead by a fellow from the Joy Club who wasn’t saying much. He got to the deepest parts first. We were trying to be brave and keep straight faces. I ended up giggling. That’s my response to uncomfortable situations.

As I was doing this, I couldn’t help but think that the little ones who live here, do this every single day. I stopped instantly. Until I saw it. A ray of hope in what feels like a futile situation. A little girl is walking by me carrying who I assumed was her little sister on her back. It’s no rarity to see kids taking care of kids whether related or not. As this girl is walking beside me, I notice her grin. I have no idea if she was humored by the goofy foreigners trying to tip toe or if she was just excited about going to church. Whatever it was, it was the most joyful smile I had ever seen. In the midst of her situation, she was glowing like the sun peaking through dense clouds. It was disturbingly beautiful.

When I’m in Cambodia, I sometimes get discouraged. It feels like we are just not making an impact. What can I do to keep her from contracting parasites? From living in the pile of garbage? It doesn’t feel like enough. God used her sweet smile to remind me that sometimes, just being there makes an impact. Caring makes an impact. It’s not an instant or seemingly practical one, but it’s an impact all the same. If that little girl can smile and be excited to learn about Jesus while walking barefoot through worm-infested water, then there IS hope for that country.

In the doctor’s office…

I had gotten parasites that day. It took 3 months for a doctor to figure out what was wrong. I have never experienced pain like that in my life. I feel like I have been given just a glimpse of what far too many people, especially children, face in countries like Cambodia. Many succumb to it. It fills them and they waste away painfully unable to eat anything without being in incredible pain. I was able to get medicine to rid my body of these harmful creatures. How many of them do? We have to do more.

That’s Malarious!

Take 1: Fight or Flight

“When you turn the lights off, do things come out? Because I sleep with my mouth open.”

It was the end of the trip and that meant one thing: the Phnom Penh Hotel. The fancy hotel in the capital where we can actually use the water. It was our one night of near normalcy and comfort before making the very long trip back to the states. My sister and I begin the arduous task of unpacking to repack. How is it that dirty clothes always seems to expand and multiply?

I decide to take a break and brush my teeth. I’m in the bathroom when I hear a scream; never a good sign. I rush out, mouth foaming with toothpaste, as Autumn is yelling, “There’s a giant roach in my suitcase!” A stowaway from the village, no doubt. I didn’t see it until she makes one false, amazingly awkward move and manages to fling the massive cockroach onto her chest. Then it’s on: that wild, womanly dance of fear and shamelessness; when it’s female versus insect and the rest of the world, along with all dignity, fades. She’s jumping around and, before I know it, she’s on the bed; fight or flight combined into one hysterical, blonde mess. Funny how higher ground always seems safest no matter the circumstance.

Finally, the cockroach decides to save itself, loses his grasp of her now wrinkled and sweaty red shirt, and falls to the floor. We have no idea where he landed. We never saw him again. Although, I did find his much smaller but equally disgusting (thankfully deceased) cousin in the bottom of my bag when I got home…

Yes, Virginia, things do come out when the lights go out. Keep your mouth closed.

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  • "In this life we cannot always do great things. But we can do small things with great love." -Mother Teresa 5 years ago

Off to Cambodia!

July 28th, 2013
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