A year and a half ago I attended a Children’s Pastor Conference and took a great workshop from Jeff Smith of Salt and Light Ministries. I have since used his materials and receive his e-newsletters. What I surprise to receive one last month describing his visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia at almost the same time we were there! He also visited Thailand. His reflections were poignant and he gave me permission to print them (see below). Visit his website for more and to learn about his creative ministry.
Normally, ten days is about all I can do on a trip like this, but I couldn’t be in Asia without taking advantage of the opportunity to work with Krissy and Steve Velasco, our YWAM missionaries in Battambang, Cambodia.
I’ve been to a lot of places in my twenty five years of ministry, but I can’t remember ever being in a place like Cambodia. From the moment I flew into the airport at Siem Reap, I knew this was going to be a totally different experience. The country is at the end of their rainy season and headed into the drier and eventually hotter season. The thought of a “hotter season” than what I experienced there is a little overwhelming. As Krissy so aptly reminded me, “Cambodia is somewhere to go if God is calling you there.”
Although just getting back into the country herself after the birth of her first child, sweet Alexa, Krissy had me moving in ministry from the moment I got there: We did children’s outreaches in several villages; youth after-school programs; programming at a government-run orphanage and work in their recently established Jeevit’s House, a support facility to help and support children at risk; whose lives have been affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Each and every opportunity made me feel smaller than the one before it and I was overwhelmed by God’s love for all people. Even traveling to the most remote parts of the city and into the surrounding villages, I was keenly aware that God knew every person by name. In these wonderful ministry settings, I became a student of ministry and ways to share the gospel to people so completely different from myself. It was an experience that continually took me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to consider these types of culturally diverse people groups as I develop materials for Salt and Light Ministries.
Airlines have helped make 12-hour transcontinental flights more tolerable by installing little screens in front of each seat and loading them with movies. So it’s a movie marathon with some napping in between to clear the brain for the next storyline.
One movie I watched on the way over the top of the world was “Water for Elephants” — not the greatest flick ever, but it helped keep me from thinking about what it would be like to crash on the north pole. And the elephant won my heart.
Little did I know that two weeks later, on our last day in Cambodia, Tom and I would have our own water-for-elephant experience. In our case, it was bananas. Tom bought a whole batch which we fed one-by-one to our 2-ton living taxi. She graciously accepted them with her trunk. In this picture we have just come aboard for the ride into the temple grounds at Angkor Wat. Tom is handing a banana to the driver who then gave it to the elephant.
Photo by Tom Rand
The last time we were together, 3 weeks ago, you gave Mr. Tom and me a blessing for a mission trip. Your blessing went with us over the top of the world and down the other side to a small country in Southeast Asia called Cambodia.
On the very first morning in Cambodia we visited a place where children who don’t have a mother or father or grandmother or any kind of home can go and live. It’s called an orphanage. There are lots of orphans in Cambodia.
The children go to school at the orphanage. I visited the classroom for younger children.
The children sang songs for me and then I taught them a biblical story, just like we teach you. I taught them the story of Jesus calming the sea. Everything I said had to be translated because in Cambodia people speak a different language. But they can draw pictures to learn the story just like you do, and we can understand the pictures even if we don’t speak Khmer, the language of Cambodia.
After class we were all outside and I asked if anyone would let me take their pictures home to show you. I told them about Grace church, and about you. They ALL wanted to give me their pictures to bring back and show you. So I have them here. We’ll make a bulletin board with them.
After class time, the children put on a dancing program for us. The girls danced…
…and the boys danced.
When we were leaving some of the children climbed up a stairway to wave goodbye. Can you see them?
There they are! They are sending us greetings from the other side of the world.
Our team met this evening for evaluation of our program, celebration, debriefing, reflection. And to share stories of re-entry. Nobody’s quite up to speed yet. Still napping a lot and waking up in the wee hours of the morning ready for action. It was SO good to see everyone again and we had excellent conversation.
Discussion about feedback from the Cambodians regarding the value of the training and intentions for follow-up, which led to discussion about how to assist with follow-up, which led to discussion about how WE follow-up. One suggestion was to continue blogging. To use the blog as a venue for on-going reflection on the experience. Sounds good to me. So stay tuned…
We made it home. Thanks for the rich experience, Cambodia! We will pray for you and your people. And look forward to hearing how biblical storytelling develops in the Cambodian Methodist Church.
The heat was amazing in Cambodia. Humidity, too. Classic tropical weather. Our last day, when we toured Angkor Wat for seven hours, was at least mid-nineties. I have never sweat so much in my entire life. Or anyway it seemed like that at the time. But it just felt like part of the Cambodia experience. Like the amazing ancient monuments.
So here’s Tom posing in the photo-op spot “kissing” Buddha. An optical illusion: the stone face is actually on a column quite some distance from where Tom is sitting.
This second picture is of our tour guide, named Too. We liked him a lot. He took good care of us.
We spent the day at Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex in the world and one of the seven wonders of the world. We toured three major temples built 8th-14th centuries and discovered under the jungle and HUGE gum trees by the French in the 19th century.
We started our tour with an elephant ride down the long entrance and through one of the gates.
The largest temple is surrounded by a moat which the king stocked with crocodiles to discourage unwelcome visitors. No longer are there crocodiles, but there are still monkeys.
The temples were Hindu and then Buddhist and then Hindu again and then a different brand of Buddhist.
We are preparing to leave Cambodia now. We start our long trek home at 11:00 tonight.