We have officially been in Cambodia for one year today! Most of you following along with us have shared in the journey so I don’t need to go too much into details here but we wanted to share about a few things we have learned. Here goes:
1. People are not so different. Yes, there are definite cultural differences and world views but we’ve found that many of the things that people struggle with in Cambodia, are things that people also struggle with in North America. Relationships the world over require hard work and communication.
2. Christianity is not a North American religion. I’ll admit that I held this idea, albeit not consciously, but it has been truly, truly amazing to be a part of an international church with peoples from all the nations of the world that love God and so visibly seek His will. And how blessed we have been to develop relationships with Khmer friends who have a vision to see their country transformed by the hope that is in Jesus!
3. There is power in unity. This sort of ties in with #3. There are 144 NGO’s in Cambodia and that does not include the Christian organizations who have workers here. Our church is packed out every week and most of those people are NGO workers or missionaries…people who are serving the Lord here in Cambodia. Every week is emotional for me as we see the love that people have for Cambodia and the united desire to see God move here.
4. God does not stay inside of one denomination. This was always something we believed but as we answered the call to Cambodia, almost three years ago, it was one of the things that God spoke to our hearts the most. God took us to many different communities as we fundraised and never was it so obvious to us that we are all on the same side. Here in Cambodia, you are a believer. Not a protestant or a catholic, nor a pentecostal or an anglican. Just a believer. It is beautiful and good and right.
5. “Don’t do something for someone that they can do for themselves”. This is now our mantra. Every time we think of doing something or being involved in something, we say this to ourselves first. A lot of “doing” takes away the opportunity to allow nationals to be a part of their own solution; to “own” their own success. Simply doing without research, without understanding and prayer, and without relationship creates paternalism and dependence. Someday I will write more about this; I could write 50 blog posts including firsthand experience on this subject but instead I will encourage you, if you are interested in poverty alleviation and work in the humanitarian sector, to read “When Helping Hurts”.
6. I guess this is a good time to announce that you will probably not find us spearheading any new projects. We will definitely be a part of projects, they have their place and there is great need in Cambodia, but we have felt from the beginning that our role would be more relational and less physical. The reality is that in world missions there are national workers in every country that are capable of leadership and capable of vision. And like every leader, they need encouragement and support. This is where we come in. Our role is mentor, friend, advisor and the helping hand to see the dreams that God has put in the hearts of His people come alive. Now it’s a lot easier to write home about schools and wells and community centres than it is to write about conversations about marriage or advice given on raising up children or times spent in prayer with new friends but we hope those who know us will understand and will hear our hearts in this.
7. God is faithful. I saved the best for last and though it’s the most obvious, I am continually surprised at how often I need to learn this lesson. You may remember me writing about this about a year and a half ago. We were right in the thick of fundraising and though I wouldn’t change that experience for the world, at many times it was disheartening. I remember thinking we would never get to Cambodia. O ye of little faith! This year I experienced a trial of sorts and at one point I said “God, it’s impossible. It can’t be fixed” and God halted me right in that thought and reminded me that nothing is impossible with Him; that He will always come through if we put our trust in Him. Always. I’m a thinker by nature and I like to have answers but God is teaching me just to trust. Not overthink. Not problem solve. Just trust.
So there’s my short list of things learnt our first year overseas. Oh there are the cultural nuances and language peculiarities and the ins and outs of mission work but we have many years and many blog posts to cover those ☺
It wouldn’t be a proper anniversary post if I did not send out a huge thank you to friends and family who have supported us in finances and prayer. Words cannot convey the gratitude and humility we feel. Bless you.