July in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

By chance you are reading this piece because you are thinking about applying to go on a globalX trip. You probably have many questions about the entire process bouncing around in your head. Things like, “Am I even qualified to go? Will I even know what to do? Is it worth my time away from work?” It’s too easy to just say ‘yes’ to questions like that. Instead, I’m going to tell you a little bit about my team and our latest trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Before I begin to rattle through the details of the trip (where we were, who we served, what it was like there) I want you to read this blog entry from one of our first time team members and her experience. This was written a couple days after we returned. It says a lot about the entire experience and what it meant to Jennifer.
 
We can’t go back to normal…but perhaps we can go forward as people changed by the experience we’ve shared. Hello. My name is Jennifer and I’ve just returned with the Phnom Penh team from my first mission trip. When I applied to be a part of this team in November 2012, I was coming off a personal low and I was looking to serve as a way to forget about my own situation. I’d heard Andy preach many times about serving in our local and global community, and I figured it was time to see what it was all about. Many people who serve and volunteer in various capacities will tell you that serving does more for them than they are able to do for others. Oh how true! As I acclimate myself back to Atlanta time, I can’t help but look at the clock and think about what we would be doing at that point n Cambodia time. I’m reminded of being greeted by the smiling faces as we got off the bus each morning, the sweet voices of Srey Lin, Srey Mom, Pony, and Chea as we held hands in a circle and shared our prayers in both English and Khmer, and the laughter of Peanut, Narin, and Samnang as they would run and play. These moments stop me in my unpacking process as I prepare myself to return to my regular routine next week. I had the luck of being roommates with Tiffany on this trip. She and I are both public school teachers (she teaches 5th grade and I teach 8th grade special ed math). She reminded me while in Cambodia that she and I are privileged to get to work with kids every day. How lucky are we?! We get to do what we did in Cambodia, every day back home! So as I prepare to start another school year with Georgia teenagers, I can’t simply go back to my usual teaching routine. The love shared by our kids in Cambodia must be paid forward to my kids here. Perhaps the biggest lesson that the kids in Phnom Penh taught me was to love others the way that they need me to love them. The teens in my classes here may not hold my hand and talk to me as our kids in Cambodia did in new situations. In fact, my kids here will likely act out in times of unfamiliar and uncertain situations. So I may not show my love for my kids here in the same way that I could love our kids in Cambodia, but I can love my kids here in the way that they need me to love them. Maybe we could all do that—love those in our daily lives at home in the way that they need us to love them.
 
Pretty good stuff, huh? Well now that you have read about one person’s experience I’m going to flash back and tell you what this trip is all about.
Twice a year three teams travel to Cambodia to continue the service at three orphanages on behalf of globalX. Our specific team was serving the orphanage located in the capital city of Cambodia—Phnom Penh. The church that we partner with in support of these orphanages is New Life Church.

New Life Church, lead by Pastor Vek Huong, has grown significantly since the early 1990’s. Part of the church’s mission became these three orphanages. They allow our teams to come in and spend the week with the children that live at the orphanage. We have the opportunity to serve the children and the church by including these kids in activities they normally wouldn’t get to participate in. Some would describe it as the ultimate vacation Bible school!

As a team, our primary focus was to set up activities that would not only enhance the lives of these orphans but would also allow some much needed fun. Their day to day life is occupied very much with school, chores and studying God’s word. We wanted to come in this year and show them more about what living out God’s word looks like, teaching them to prepare for the future by understanding that one day they will no longer live at the orphanage and take them out on the town for some fun!

Our additional focus was partnering with New Life Church and helping them reach out to the community. One way we accomplished this goal was by hosting a ‘Business Man’ luncheon. This entailed New Life Church inviting influential people in the Phnom Penh community to listen to Pastor Vek speak about the church. We also added our very own Andrew Rains who in turn spoke about better business practices as well as God in his own life. We closed out our community outreach efforts near the end of the week including the kids of the orphanage. Dividing up into smaller groups we traveled on foot to the homes of neighbors just outside the orphanage grounds. We handed out rice with a little note that shared John 3:16 in their language and the address of New Life Church. This gave both us and the kids the opportunity to live out the Great Commission.

To speak for each individual on the team is difficult. However, when each team member is constantly discussing the future of these children and what each individual can do to provide a better quality of life for them I can’t help but think God moved us all. In the same words that we taught the kids before handing out rice to their neighbors I would say, “No matter how rich, how poor, how big, how small or how different you may think you are, we are called by God to serve.” So find your niche. You’ll be glad you did.