Transformation in Cambodia

Cambodia Team

How do you describe an indescribable experience? It’s like when you are trying to retell a story that you so desperately want someone to understand and find as hilarious as you do, but they really had to be there to comprehend how immaculate and special that moment really was. The 2011 Cambodia trip cannot be summarized, nor can it be limited to a paragraph on a website, saying, ‘we had a good time.’ This trip was incredible. As a team we were challenged in so many ways as eyes were opened to life in a reality so different from our own. Not only were some crazy photos taken, 25 kgs of shopping added, and some incredible life long friendships formed; as a team we all grew in a personal revelation of who God is, and what His heart is for all people, from every background and circumstance.

Christina and team members with Cambodian kids

Firstly I have to say that EVERY baby in Cambodia is cute and that every child you meet you want to secretly keep forever. Every team member quickly grew accustomed to our ‘itinerary’. Each day we would have a program outlined, such as meeting with village elders or running career development classes, but it was rarely planned that and every time we would walk out of the building there would be dozens, if not hundreds of kids waiting and ready to play! These children seemed to emerge from the rice fields themselves! Day in day out, every team member received supernatural strength to play hours of volleyball, give piggy backs, or run games in the sun and heat that rewarded kids with pieces of chalk (and then proceeding to wash and wipe stick figures from every solid surface visible). There was never a dull moment. It was amazing to see these sit still and listen as you shared a bible story with them, and then watching as they folded their hands and bowed their heads and ‘thanked God for what they had learned today’.

English classes

Each day brought a new adventure. Our ministry experiences provided equally as much diversity as the 24 hour fresh produce market located on the street behind our hotel. We started by running English classes, building conversational skills and using the development of personal relationships to invite non-Christians to church. Many of the young people we had met during our time teaching English shared a similar testimony. They would hear from a friend that there was a place they could learn English for free. Due to the major asset this is for personal skills and employment, there are always new faces in the class. As relationships are built, these new faces are invited to youth services, and over time have their lives dramatically changed by the blessing and power of God. As a team we were really moved by the commitment of staff and volunteers and New Life Fellowship. It was amazing to physically see and be a small part of meeting the needs of the local people, and seeing how a smile and sharing Christ through Love, can impact an individual or entire community.

Some of our other activities included; performing at youth services, visiting housing dorms and NGO’s that reach out to the poorest children in the community and feed and educate them, meeting people who work to rescue women from the sex trade, and also being a part of the ‘kids at risk’ program that allowed us to hang out with some young adults and build relationships with them, while trekking through the jungle to a waterfall, where we spent the afternoon making friends!

As a leader I feel one of the greatest moments of the trip was when the team all shared their testimonies with university students towards our final day. Many of those on the team had been unsure of why they felt to come to Cambodia, or even how they had been used by God in the past, but nearing the end of the trip, it was fantastic to hear these same individuals sharing the breakthroughs and revelations they had experienced while away, and how that has helped them discover more of who God is. They had a clear understanding of how Jesus has been shaping them through their past experiences, preparing them to come to Cambodia and enabling them to tell others about their personal relationship with Christ.

Children praying

The most challenging but rewarding experience nominated by most of the team was visiting homes of people in the rural villages, interacting with the families despite a language barrier, and then proceeding to pray for healing or provision for their physical needs. It was here that we experienced the unity of the body of Christ. Despite different languages, the visiting team and the local church prayed together, and saw healing and hope restored to the people. This was such a phenomenal experience, and a real blessing. We saw that living in faith a reality to those who really need to depend on God to survive, and this opportunity to practice our faith in an all powerful God who heals and delivers, blew us away as to how much we all really need God to survive.  God moves when his people pray, and when a little faith goes a long way, it was clear that these guys had plenty of it!

The short-term team experience is encapsulated by the fact that no matter how much you give, you are blessed three-fold. During a final conversation with a team member, the question was posed, ‘Where to from here? Now that we’re back, what do I do next?’  It just shows that after you’ve seen, and after you’ve experienced a disparity in living different to your own, you have no option but to ask, ‘What more can I do?’ You are called to action. I believe a short term team is 50% what you do while your away, and 50% what you do when you get back, they go hand in hand, in order to make a lasting change. When God moves in your life, you have no choice but to be moved. I couldn’t be prouder of the 2011 team, and am so excited to see what great causes for social justice and world evangelism arise from their new passion. I am equally excited to meet the next group of people who will stand up and answer the call to go into all the nations, and make disciples of all people. For those ready to be challenged and are ready to see and experience God moving in another country, short term teams could be your next step, they are an opportunity to share Christ’s love, be challenged and stretched and I’ll guarantee many laughs along the way.

– Christina Hanger