Let the Little Children Come

Thursday nights are chaotic around here.

The neighbourhood kids start showing up around 4:30 for English class and usually stay til around 6:30.  We can keep their attention for studying for about a half an hour so the rest of the time is games, sports, crafts and just all around craziness.  It’s perfect.  I love having a house full of children; laughing and chasing each other.  It’s awesome for our kids too; they’ve made some great friends and I love hearing them trying out their Khmer as they attempt to communicate.

I know each of these kids by name.  They call me “Ming Ashley” – Aunt Ashley – and come running to hug me when they arrive.  They love to watch me bake or sew or do just about anything.  They always have lots of questions and I am happy to chat with them.  They are patient when I mispronounce a word and helpful when I don’t know one.

I’ve always been a “kid” person.  I volunteered and led Sunday schools and kids groups as a teen and young adult so I’m not the kind of person you have to remind about how precious kids are.  Except that it just kind of hit me again.

 

I guess I found myself measuring success by other standards and I got a wake up call today.  There’s a push in our “work” for results.  We have to relay what is happening in our ministries to supporters and partners and there should be some evidence of “fruit” – or some indication that something is happening.

I listened to a teaching this week from Francis Chan about “The Vine”.  At one point in the video, he says “the branch/vine does not have to work to produce fruit; it simply stays attached to the tree and fruit happens”.  I don’t know if that hits you like it hit me but I was really struck by that.  I am a doer by nature.  I kind of love projects.  I always have a list of projects on the go – sewing, painting, rearranging the entire house (Chad frequently comes home and asks “WHAT did you do?!”)

Sometimes, I want to approach ministry/serving the same way.  “Ok God, this is what I am going to do.  These are the results I want.  I’m going to make this list and raise these funds and do this and that and etc etc….”.  I’ve learned quickly that God’s timeline is not always our own and the things that we characterize as valuable are sometimes not what He sees as such.

We had visitors here recently and while we were talking about what we do and the presence we have in our neighbourhood and the neighbourhoods that we are involved in with Asian Outreach, our friend remarked that it’s a long, slow process – a life journey if you will.  It’s not flashy or glamorous; it’s every day life lived with intention (with a cow crossing here and a fried frog on a stick there).

We’ve always kind of known this;  that we’re in it for the long haul.  But to hear it said brought to mind two things for me.  One, our journey is relational in nature.  We will be involved with projects but it’s the relationships that we develop that truly matter.  Those relationships will give us the opportunity to speak life and hope into people’s lives.  Relationships take time.  And two, we need to constantly be searching our hearts to make sure our “results” are the ones that God wants.  Not ours, not even our churches, supporters and friends…but God’s.

To bring it all around again, the push for success or results can sometimes bypass the little things that are important.  Like kids.  I was reminded tonight about what every children’s worker already knows….kids are precious and the chance to speak into their lives should never be taken for granted.kids

It’s Worth the Asking

This was written by a fellow global worker and I thought it put into words well the feelings around fundraising.  To be perfectly honest, it has been a part of our lives that I do not relish.  I have been anxious about what people think of us;  hesitant to ask.  But actually being here has changed my perspective somewhat.  I see firsthand the need; I see how God is actually using us to reach people and I see that the funds given have a purpose.  It’s still not easy to ask.  I still worry about what people think.  But this IS bigger than us and….it’s worth it.  It’s worth the asking.

People MUST get tired of missionary petitions, because WE get tired of asking. It’s embarrassing. It’s humbling. It makes us feel like a needy child instead of responsible adults.

But missionaries ask. It’s part of our job description. We ask because…

• this job we’ve chosen is WAY BIGGER than us. So we ask you to join us in prayer, in dreaming, in completing the mission.

• working overseas strips us of the usual framework that allows us to be independent. So we ask you to support us.

• we commit to a mission without available resources to complete it. So we ask you to contribute.

• our kids LOVE chocolate chip cookies, so we ask you to treat us

• It’s when missionaries QUIT asking that others should be concerned. It happens when we grow weary of feeling like the needy child. The problem is that when we quit asking, it means that WE HAVE QUIT DREAMING. We have limited the reach of God’s work through us to our own resources. And the kingdom of God is far too big for that.

You Matter

I apologize in advance as I don’t know exactly how this entry will end.  I usually have a plan when I write but this morning I will write simply from my heart.

This week I received news of the suicide of a young girl I once babysat.  She was 20 years old.  I haven’t stopped thinking of it since; it seems impossible.  She was young and beautiful, was studying at university and had oodles of friends.  From the outside, she led a charmed life.

I started jotting down some ideas a few weeks ago about how we matter to each other.  People I mean.  I meant to turn it into a blog entry but I just never got around to it.

You know, life can get hectic.  I know…I have 4 children under the age of 6.  Our jobs, our homes, even our ministries and projects can consume us.  It’s not that we don’t care, most of us do truly care, it’s just that we’re busy and distracted.

Friends, some of the things we put the most energy into are things that will pass away.  The ONLY thing that matters in the end is people; relationships.  Your spouse, your children, your neighbour, your co-worker, that girl sitting on the sidewalk crying…THEY are what matter.

How we love is the most important thing we can do in this life.  I believe it was how God intended for us to reach people.  To care, truly and deeply.  To ask the difficult questions and to listen to the answers.  To expend ourselves for others; to be available to those who are hurting and need encouragement.  To look outside of our circumstances and see who God is putting in our paths to reach out to.

Those of us who have lived through the questioning years, through the unsure years and have come out the other side…we OWE it to the younger generations to be there for them.  It is God’s own design.  Never underestimate the impact you can have on a young life and never get too busy to be a mentor or a friend.  Talk to them, listen to them, take them seriously.  LOVE them.

It was my own children clamouring for the attention of a young friend of ours that really drove this home for me.  Now, I do A LOT with my children…I mean, I spend every day caring for them, listening to them, engaging them in conversation, planning activities, going on outings, I even homeschool!!  They are not lacking for attention by any means.  Yet, I watched as they hopped eagerly from foot to foot, each one trying to talk over the other to keep our friend’s attention.  We matter to one another.  YOU matter!

I wish I could have been there for Jenepher.  In that moment, when she believed that she just couldn’t take it anymore, I wish I could have held her and told her how precious she was and how valued she was by our Father.  God, help me never to miss an opportunity to show your love to someone who needs it.

love

U is for Unity

Just a quick thought for this evening (day, if you are in the western hemisphere)….this past Sunday we sang “Did You Feel the Mountains Trembling”.  An oldie but a goodie.

But this time these lines jumped out at me:

“When all the saints join in one song”

“And all the streams flow as one river”

It impressed upon me again the importance of unity.  Unity within the BODY…not just the church or the denomination…but the Body.

I used to love playing in streams as a child.  We have one on my parents’ property that meanders through the fields.  I loved taking the kids to the stream to play when Evie was a newborn and they never tired of throwing pebbles into it’s clear waters or chasing water spiders in it’s shallow curves.  It was a gentle stream but not all are alike.  Some run quickly and cascade over waterfalls and rapids.  Some are murky with sand bottoms while still others are cold and clear.

I’m sure you can see where I am going with this.  Just as the streams will flow as one river so too are we, believers, different as we all are, to join together as one in purpose.  The next line in the song says that we shall wash away our brokenness.  What a beautiful picture.  In our unity, we will be renewed.

Blessings, Sacrifices & Horse Manure

I hesitated before I titled this blog but it just stuck in my mind so I decided to go with it 🙂

It’s a lovely Saturday morning here in Cambodia.  There’s a cool breeze which has been lovely.  The cooler weather starts at the end of November and lasts until about mid-to-end of February.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block.  There’s no shortage of things to say and perhaps, maybe, that is why I’ve struggled to put things into words the last couple of months.

I wanted to share a little story with you though.  I don’t know if it will be as profound to you as it was to me; one’s own revelations seldom are, but I will try anyway and hope that the essence of it will speak loud enough.

I have always loved horses.  I grew up in a horse family.  My siblings and I spent our childhood on horseback, gallivanting all over the countryside.  It was bliss.  It was freedom.    It was hard work.  Horses were not a luxury for us; they were a lifestyle.  We mucked stalls and hauled water buckets and tended injuries.  I thought I would always be a horse person.  It was in my blood.  I thought I would carry on in the family business and ride and teach for a living.  I actually couldn’t imagine any other life.

I won’t bore you with all the details of how that did not come to pass.  It was very difficult at times but somehow I came out the other side satisfied and fulfilled and not regretting anything.  Save for one thing.

Our move across the world meant that my children would not have those hazy, summer days on horseback; slogging around the farm, learning the value of the outdoors, of caring for an animal, of hard work.  It was all those things from my childhood I remembered so fondly.  The smell of horse in your hair, pieces of hay stuck in your clothes, bone tired from working outdoors all day.  It burned in my chest a little but I knew the sacrifice and I knew where God was calling us.

We spent our first year in Cambodia without ever seeing or touching a horse.  Oh there was lots to discover and a new life to carve so the absence wasn’t really noticed.  That life was no more.  Or so I thought.

Two weeks ago we met a French/Khmer man who is the landlord of a house that we are looking to rent.  He wanted to meet our family so invited us to a BBQ at his house which is about 5 minutes away from both the house we currently live in and the house we are hoping to move to.

While there, he asked us to take a walk around the grounds.  He owns several parcels of land that are all connected.  As we are walking, we notice that there is horse manure on the ground.  Surprised, we asked him about it and lo and behold, he has two horses and a little barn out back in one of the adjoining properties.  You can imagine the horse talk that went on for a while after that as my sister Scarlett, who runs the family horse business back home, was also with us.

Our new friend admitted that he enjoys horses but doesn’t really know much about them.  He also went on to say that he wants someone with knowledge to come out and teach some of the kids in his neighbourhood about horses and how to ride.  Mr. V, I will call him, has a big heart and a big love for his country.  Some of the kids in his neighbourhood, too poor to continue to go to school, need something to occupy their time and give them some purpose.  Already, Mr. V has put aside some land and cleared a volleyball court and riding area for the kids to use.

So guess who is now teaching riding lessons twice a week?!

I really wanted to add a huge line of exclamations to that last sentence!

First, I want to point out how unusual it is to find riding horses ANYWHERE in Cambodia (save for a few ranches spread far & wide around the country that do horseback riding for tourists).

Second, most horses are in the provinces.  Not a 5 minute drive from the edge of town.

And lastly…..isn’t our God so good?  I hope it doesn’t seem too trivial from the outside.  This was a desire that I had; that my kids would be able to have all the benefits of being around the farm and around horses, and I had resigned myself to the fact that that was something that we were leaving behind.   Seriously.  Blown.  Away.

And the best thing about it is that even in this small, seemingly unimportant thing…God will be glorified.  This is an amazing opportunity to build relationships in this community.

It drove home to me again that our Father, the creator of the Universe, the One who put the stars in place….He cares about the small things.  He sees our hearts.  He knows our desires.  And He cares.  It’s such a little thing; probably even a little baffling to others and not even something I would outwardly talk about but my God….He cared.

Oh, and Mr. V said we could come out any time to ride 😉

10947479_10204948934796956_861384165_n 10947618_10204948929716829_895322602_n 10952184_10204948928876808_991242013_n 10954122_10204948926756755_1755169728_n 10959168_10204948932796906_1785861639_n

Happy New Year!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and since I’ve had a bit of writer’s block this past month…here you go 🙂

Hope Family Christmas party

IMG_2023

Christmas celebration at Sen Sok village

DSC01859

Pizza party at Teen Challenge centre

IMG_2140

New Christmas Eve tradition – building a nativity

IMG_2250

Christmas morning

IMG_2261

Christmas celebration at Teen Challenge men’s centre

IMG_2324

SreyRoat, the onsite director at Teen Challenge women’s centre, and her son David

IMG_2378

It would not be Christmas in Cambodia without a dance…or two….or three!

IMG_2394

Little friends

IMG_2380

Checking out the countryside at the centre

IMG_2428

Daddy and the kidlets

IMG_2431

Malee

IMG_2406

Photobomb by Nene

IMG_2448

Birthday party on New Year’s Eve

IMG_2488

Evie wasn’t so sure about sitting on Yiay’s lap

IMG_2514

Pic with the birthday boy, his mom, and great-grandmother

IMG_2525

Chad & Hun

IMG_2519

Sharing some special time with Nana

DSC01807

Fun in the sun with Clicker

DSC01825

Happy Anniversary!

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.
DSC00911