Oh my goodness, I can’t even believe I’m getting the amazing opportunity to go back to Cambodia on another mission trip. Say What?!?!?! I really am a blessed woman!! A huge part of that blessing are all of the people who have chosen to partner with me over the past 9 years in prayer, in love, and in financial support. When I hear the phrase, ‘it takes a village’ I know I have one of the best villages around!!
To take a step back, God led me [or dragged me – depending on your view] to go on my second ever mission trip in 2009. It was my first mission trip to Cambodia and I never expected my time there to go beyond that one trip. But, God knows better.
The year before, I went to Slovakia on my first ever mission trip and I was rocked. I know God used me on that trip but, honestly, I feel like I got so much more from that trip than I ever put in. I learned so much about life, about forgiveness, and about the grace of God. Even with that rocking, I knew when I got back from that trip that I wasn’t going to be going back again however I still felt the tug to go somewhere else.
In between the feeling I needed to go on another mission trip and the actually signing up of said mission trip I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. If you know anything about that diagnosis, its very painful and causes a lot of other issues. With life change, I realized that a lot of mission trips were out to me: anything that required a lot of physical activity or anything far away.
As I looked thru the list of potential options thru my local church, it seemed to me that everything was crossed out. The only maybe was a Cambodian mission trip in December. It was a Christmas trip to an orphanage. I have never been a big kids person but thought I could do something Christmas related until I looked up where Cambodia actually was. South East Asia. Waaaaaay to far away for my aching body to go.
But, there was that little voice in my head whispering, ‘Sign up.’
I wish I could say I listened right away to that little voice but I chose to ignore it. Kept putting it off. Over and over. Until one Sunday I was sitting in church listen to my pastor talk about Jonah and the little voice that used to whisper was now screaming at me, ‘why are you running from me??’ As soon as the sermon was over I ran straight to my computer and signed up, figuring with all of my restrictions I wouldn’t be picked.
But I was.
And in 2009 I went on that first trip to Cambodia and met some pretty cool kids from the New Life Phnom Penh orphanage. The kids who stood out the most for me were Narin, Polin, Rathanak and one we called Peanut. And, just like any other short term mission, even though I was trying to give all I could I ended up coming home with way more than I got. I learned unconditional love, I learned immediate attachment, I learned that God loves everyone all around the world, and I learned that we are all inner connected.
I knew before I left Cambodia that I had to do this again. Maybe one more year. So, in 2010, I went back with another team. I was doing everything I could to give of myself to some kids who I knew needed it. I was right in my element. Even with a language barrier, I was getting to know some of these kids. God was doing amazing things there that I felt so blessed to be a part of. And I was having such a great time one of the guys asked me, ‘have you ever thought about moving here?’
But that little seed in the second trip started to grow.
I was blessed to be able to go back two more times in 2011. And that tug to move kept growing to the point where I remember sitting in my bed in my shared hotel room praying to God to either take away the Fibromyalgia or to give my mom peace about the idea of me moving, figuring the peace would be way easier. However, I heard clear as day, ‘it is finished.’ And I knew it was the illness. The day I got back from that trip I quit taking all the medication and vitamins I was on to feel good and, amazingly, I felt even better. Things I hadn’t been able to do for a few years [walk, run, stay awake all day without naps] I could do again! It was a miracle!!
And that meant preparing for a change.
Luckily, my mom eventually came around to the idea of me moving there and in 2012 I did! I loved getting to see the kids in Phnom Penh every weekend, I had a blast every time mission trips came, I got to meet and get to know the kids at the Battambang and Banteay Meanchey orphanages. I loved getting to go out to restaurants with the older boys who lived at the church and Phannara became my little brother. I learned so much about change, about being different yet being the same, about loving even when it hurts and how to not let helping hurt. Not everything was roses but I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
In 2013 I came back to the US to spend some time with family and friends. And, while I was home, my brother’s best friend asked me out. I went back to Cambodia and finished out the year there before getting married to Nate December of 2013. I *only* got a year and a half to live in Cambodia, to hang out weekly with the kids God had put on my heart but I came back again with so much more than I could have dreamed. I know how blessed I was for the time I got to spend there. And, most of the kids are now on Facebook so I still get to ‘see’ them often!
The beginning of 2014, Nate went with me to meet my Cambodian family and to get to experience something that I love. It was great on so many levels that he got to see why I love it there so much. It was fun watching the kids I know and love interact with the husband that I know and love.
I was super lucky [being that I now live in Colorado] that I was selected again in 2015 to go back on another mission trip with Global X. Unfortunately, it was broken out into two teams: one for Phnom Penh and one for Battambang/Bantey Meanchey so I had to make a decision and I went back to Phnom Penh. It was great to see how much the kids had grown, to see that they were happy and to know that I’ve had the privilege of impacting their lives as much as they have impacted mine. I was amazed that Narin, the kid I bounced a ball endlessly with and carried around the orphanage in 2009 was now starting to look like a young man. And I was amazed that Rathanak, the one I held while he was sick and the temperature of an oven one of the first time that I came, was growing up before my eyes. And, I was excited to see my brother Phannara again! He even took me on his super fast motorcycle around town.
Unfortunately, because of my schedule, I was unable to go to the orphanage last year. Every time I looked at Facebook or blogs while the teams were preparing or in country I was a crazy mix of happy and sad. Happy the kids were getting to spend time with people who love them so much. But so sad that I couldn’t be there.
That’s why I’m so excited that I get to go back to Cambodia again in 2017!! A lot of things have changed: the trips now lgo thru Fallen Sparrow, the kids are going to be a lot older, all of the orphanages will be together for the week we are in country [yay!], and this is the first trip with all returners. I’m excited to be a part of this inaugural Fallen Sparrow trip and I’m excited to see what the team will do together. I can’t wait for October!!