My thoughts are still rough and the things I've seen and heard are still too raw to properly address right now, but suffice to say at the moment that God has GRIPPED my heart.
Heart is something that has been a constant lesson during these three weeks, as well as faith. I've been challenged in so many ways in terms of relationship status, mission work as a career, WHAT to do in terms of career, my identity.... There are so many things but I still have to process everything that I've journaled and boil the overwhelming amount of STUFF into a digestible pellet of information. Both for myself and to share with others. Hm.
In the past few weeks we have led programs at World Hope International assessment centre... we worked with girls who were rescued from brothels or rape victims, just allowing them to be kids and singing, playing games, teaching English... we also led programs at two orphanages where we were received with much love and affection- these kids just LOVE skinship and immediately Carmen, Sarah and I had several children dangling from each arm. It was interesting to see the difference in the way we were received at the assessment centre, versus the orphanages... We also visited a few very different churches and each one was so amazing!!!
We went on a City Tour of Phnom Penh which was actually very difficult; the pain this nation has suffered under the reign of Pol Pot from 1975-1979 is just astounding. A reminder of the atrocities that occurred are memorialized in the Genocide Museum (Tuol Sleng) and one of The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek). This was quite a difficult day, as in the morning we toured the Royal Palace, National Museum and Wat Phnom (the temple that sits on the hill that allegedly was the birth place of Phnom Penh as we know it today) which were laden with statues of Buddha and other idols. We headed into the afternoon already spiritually and physically drained... Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek definitely pushed me over the edge that day. Something I journaled in the tuk-tuk on the way back home from the Killing Fields:
Saw three small children on the side of the road... one was passing an old, dusty-looking teddy bear to one of the others. There is so much garbage, dust, crumbling pavement everywhere- and this is in the big CITY.
It's so amazing that people find... joy? happiness? and laughter in any circumstances... but, dilapidated houses hovering over mucky water on stilts? Naked children playing in the dusty dirty streets, begging tourists for money? I'm intersecting these people's lives while driving in a tuk-tuk. What am I taking with me?
I went to bed early, crying and singing praise songs quietly in the room Carmen and I share. Before I fell asleep, though, God spoke so clearly to me... to truly love the people of Cambodia I must understand them, and their history is part of who they are. That day was quite painful, but I was assured that God is bigger than and able to handle our pain, at any time. This made me reflect on my own past and it was a HUGE comfort and lesson for me. PRAISE GOD!
We were able to take a trip up-country to Siem Reap, the tourist-y city of Cambodia where all the famous temple complexes are. SO BEAUTIFUL. I hope to post photos soon!
All in all, I DEFINITELY got a taste of what life in the mission field could be; I rode on a motorbike for the first time (a VERY common mode of transportation in Cambodia), I haggled with vendors in the markets, have somewhat adjusted to the heat, and even had an emergency root canal and wisdom tooth extraction at a missionary dental clinic here!!! Craziness.
Must sleep now, Sarah leaves earlier than Carmen and I so we see her off at 7:30am tomorrow... I really can't believe we're leaving Cambodia.
I don't think I feel like this is goodbye, though. Please pray that God will open doors for me to return soon! :) Thank you all, I will post again about details of the trip when I return to the Western hemisphere!
Love and blessings,