Love Cambodia – A Journey of Faith

For most, the decision to go on a missions trip is not an easy one.  It requires a level of sacrifice.  The reality however, is that we all have commitments such as family, work and study etc.  I personally have wanted to go on a missions trip for many years.  From a very young age, I have had a desire to be part of something bigger than myself and always felt challenged to give time to the needy and the poor.

So, 2014 kicked in… I started a new job that I loved and felt extremely blessed to work with the people that I meet each day… As a result of me returning to work after 2 years of being a stay-at-home mum, our day-to-day life became a juggling act.  We have two boys, 5 and 2 years old and everyday is an adventure.  Anyone who knows me know that my boys are my JOY and I take parenting very seriously and I am committed to giving them the best childhood ever!

But my desire to go on a missions trip was so strong and yet we had our boys to think about.  Would they go with us?  We quickly decided they would not because we were uncertain of how they would cope with the constant changes.  Also, one of them has allergies which means food could be an issue for him.  It just didn’t make sense to bring them along on this trip.  But it also didn’t make sense to leave them behind for 2 weeks while we jetted off to a foreign country.  I have studied early childhood development at university and know very well how important that sense of security is to children and their development.  I was terribly afraid that they would not cope without us and that our youngest son would forget who his mum was!

DSC02977Long story short … My husband decided that we would go on a missions trip without the kids.  The only conditions was that my dad would agree to care for them for 2 weeks.  He was their 3rd favourite person in this world (after my husband and I of course!)  They adore him and he loves them deeply.  My dad was very quick to say yes.  Umm … that was easy!

But I still continued to ask God, is it His will for us to go?  My dad said yes … but … I still struggled with the idea of leaving my children for 2 weeks… All kinds of scenarios were in my head .. what if? what if?  What if the plane crashed and they will never ever see me again.  Oh so dramatic!  I was already crying and missing them 6 months before hopping on that plane.

Then came the decision to choose which country we would visit.  Cambodia was a very practical choice.  Firstly, it was the cheapest and it was a shorter plane trip compared to India and Ethiopia.  If there was an emergency with our boys, we could quickly hop on a plane from Phnom Penh to Singapore and then back to Melbourne.  Easy!  But on a more serious note, we heard we will meet lots of children which was important for us.

Leaving our boys behind in Melbourne was our step of faith.  We trusted in God that He will look after them and He will keep us safe.  And He did.  The boys greeted us with big smiles and hugs when we arrived home.  We are closer than ever as a family.

DSC02936It has been almost 2 months now since my husband and I returned from our trip to Cambodia.  Boy did we have a wonderful time with our Cambodian ‘family’.  We fell in love with Cambodia.  People with such beautiful and generous hearts.  We trusted in His plan for our lives that this trip would become a significant part of our God journey.  We trust that He wanted us to SEE beyond our four walls and do something about the plight of those living in extremely difficult conditions.

Cambodia was a country of ruins after the civil war waged by the Khmer Rouge and its ruthless dictator Pol Pot.  But Cambodians are resilient people.  They bounced back from their history of torment and pain and begun the process of restoring a war-torn country as best as they could.  They do what is necessary for their families and communities.  They work very hard to provide and feed their families and give their children an education.  But for the majority of Cambodian families and more so in rural areas, poverty is still a significant issue.  For these families, agriculture is their primary source of income which yields little.  This makes saving money extremely difficult because their income is used up to pay for everyday expenses.  And for many families, it also means that they are unable to pay for their children’s education.

Our trip has enabled us to see firsthand the realities and struggles of many Cambodian families.  There is a stark contrast between my life and theirs.  Things that we take for granted in our home country are luxuries for them.  Forever etched in my memory are:

  • The mother who relies on child sponsorship to pay for her twin boys’ education
  • A rural pastor with a wife and three daughter who cannot afford to rebuild his house which is falling apart and no longer liveable
  • The child searching for ‘stuff’ at the rubbish dump
  • The young girl not more than 9 years old laboriously working in the rice field
  •  The children living in the slums of Phnom Penh
  • The family from Stung Kbal Domrey who used to live in a shelter with no wall
  • The young man from Prey Koy who was thrilled to meet us foreign and odd looking people and tried very hard to communicate with us in broken English
  • The families from Veal Thom who now have access to clean water through water wells and
  • The young women from Precious Women restored from a life of sexual exploitation.

DSC02071Now, each time I lament on how difficult and stressful my life is, I remind myself of how many would rather have my life than theirs.

Two months have now passed … my husband and I continue to fondly talk about Cambodia and the beautiful people we met.  We still practice speaking Khmer (the Cambodian language) and we hope that it was not our last trip to Cambodia but rather the first of many.  We never expected this trip to have such a significant impact on our lives.  Even though many of our friends expressed how much of a blessing we would be to the Cambodians we ministered to … I reckon … WE were more blessed.  We were the lucky ones.

– Lena