It's been four days since the team has come back from Cambodia. Many have gone back to school and work right off the bat. I, on the other hand, am blessed because work resumes next week and school resumes in a month. (((: So here I am, writing to our supporters the last blog of how the mission was completed. In the previous blog, we left off with giving rice bags after Sunday service and celebrating Lucy's 24th birthday. And now, Monday rolls in.
| Monday, August 20th, 2018 | Day of Play
Although our teaching days with the children are done at the church, we still had two more days to spend with them. After giving out the goodie bags on Friday, I was glad that we had two more days with them because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to them yet. Before we start class, we usually play only three songs of worship with the kids, but that day Daniel had eight different tabs open, ready to jump and dance for 20+ minutes. When he exited out of the first tab all the team members saw the number of other songs he had prepared and we all looked at each other like, "No way..." Daniel would shout, "Another one!!!!!" and as we looked at him in disbelief we would laugh at our faces. Though it was an insane amount of dancing, we enjoyed every moment we had with the kids.For Monday, the younger class had a huge game of charades with all of the words we learned in the past two weeks. That's a total of approximately 75 vocab words!!! I'm not sure if Jeremiah wrote ALL of the words on the flashcards, but even if he didn't the hat was filled. Many of the kids had a hard time remembering some of the difficult words, especially since they were very young. But they had a blast acting out what we told them to do anyway, waiting with anticipation for one of their classmates to understand their gestures. Honestly, even I had a hard time trying to comprehend what they were trying to say, but the students were shouting out words anyway, trying to gain as much points as they can. If they answer five words correctly, they get a prize. Quy, likely the best student in the class, quickly got all five points and his reward. Because of that, we didn't call on him very much to let other students try to answer. It was sad because he would know the answer and wave his hand frantically in the air (sitting in the front row), but Daniel, who's helping us teach, would look over him to call on other students. Quy would get so sad and slouch in his chair because we wouldn't call on him. I would look and smile at him to comfort him and he would brighten up quickly in that moment. So precious.
|This is Quy!|
The older class went outside to play some games together in a circle. They would play something called Dippity-dippity-dip, the Animal Game, and Bang. You can hear the laughter outside and as they walk in they have huge smiles on their faces. Although it wasn't a day of directly teaching them, we hope that they learned about God's love through our interactions with them. It was a blessed day.
| Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 | Goodbyes
Our last day with the kids. We know it's a bittersweet day, but we embrace it with joy nevertheless. It's another day of excessive amount of vbs worship songs and games. The older class continued with their outdoor games, smiling and creating memories with Henry and Kayla while they could. The younger class inside of the church played elementary games instead of charades this time. We taught them how to play down-by-the-bank, though it took them quite awhile to understand that you hit the person on your left with your right hand instead of your left hand. Some didn't even know what to do at all and just sat there when it was their turn to pass on the hit. All in all, everyone had a great time learning and playing the game. Afterwards we played head, shoulders, knees, and toes. The game was to keep up with the leader--me. We progressed from super slow to super fast. Daniel and Lucy were the referees to see who would mess up and call them out of the circle. Jeremiah was put on babysitting duty for those who lost the game to make sure they were still having a good time but not causing havoc. After a certain amount of time, everyone joined together outside for free time. During this time, you can see all the team members making sure to spend as much time with the kids as possible by joining in on games, taking pictures with beloved students, and having conversations with the kids. After free time, the kids lined up to walk back inside the church for the last bittersweet moments. Once everyone settled inside, Daniel began calling up students to give some words of thanks to the teachers. The first few students, Anh and Binh, cried as they said their thanks and farewell to us. Thao almost cried too but she held it back and finished her message to us. Although other students were laughing that their friends were crying, all of the teachers were touched and some, including me, teared up. It was these moments that you can see how much the kids loved us spending time with them. To see them cry as they speak hits you in the heart because most of the time they run around laughing and smiling with you. But on the day that you have to say goodbye, they become so sad about it that they cry. We, the teachers, we also so sad that we had to say goodbye. After seeing their faces for 3 hours a day (some 6) for twelve days, it was so sad to know that we won't be hugging, dancing, and playing with them for a very long time. My heart was heavy. After Binh finished his message, he went around to hug all the teachers. Henry was out taking care of something and when he came in Binh walked across the classroom and they embraced with a hug. They were separated from the rest of us in the back and you can see Binh crying into Henry's shoulder. The two of them have gotten especially close during the trip because Binh stays after class to hang out with the family and help take care of the yard. During these times, he and Henry have spent plenty of time bonding together. Knowing this, it was a beautiful moment to see Binh walk away from everyone to give Henry a hug and have their sayings of goodbye.
After the selected kids finished their words, it was the teacher's turn to come up and say their thanks. It was warming because every time a teacher finished giving encouragements to the kids, the kids would start chanting for the next teacher to go up and say something. We settled down afterwards and watch an episode of veggie tales together. I doubt they understood what was being said in the episode since it was in English but I wish they did. It was about this little boy/thing that was having problems flying because everyone around kept discouraging him and it literally weighed him down as paintings. It was becoming unbearable until he came to this mountain where he met God, though not knowing that it was specifically God. God told him that all the things other people said about the boy wasn't true and God gave him a painting that He made saying that was who he really was. It was the boy painted as a strong and confident person, flying and soaring. God put the painting in the boy's backpack and the boy began to fly. It's a message that you are loved and created by God, and that's what makes you special and able to do things. Maybe some children did understand it through the graphics and maybe some did understand it through English. But I pray that truth becomes a part of their lives as they grow up.
We sang a few songs, prayed, and each hugged the children as we gave them parting gifts. We took a group picture and sent them off. As we were waving goodbye to all of them, there was one of our students who looked back to wave who knows how many times. His name is An and he was one of the last students to leave. We were standing outside of the gate waving goodbye to him and we said to each other, "He's gonna keep looking back." We kept our eyes on the bright orange kids walking down the dirt street and passing by small businesses. Though he was rather far from the church, we could still see him turning around to see if we were still there then wave goodbye. Once he was nearly out of sight, we went back in to rest for the day.
For that day, my goal was to not regret anything. I completed that goal by spending my time and having fun with one girl named Phung. From the first week, we especially enjoyed being in one another's presence. However, as a teacher I gave my attention to other kids during teaching and free time, trying to reach out to all kids. But for the last day I wanted to give Phung my special attention because I knew I couldn't create a special moment for someone if I were to spread myself out to every kid. It wouldn't be as intimate. My argument for spending time with more kids in the past was that it wouldn't be good it only one kid felt special when there are so many kids. However by thinking in such a way, I had already devalued how special a single life is. Even if it's just one life, to make that individual feel special and joyful can create a huge impact. It's like when one person accepts Christ out of a hundred people (like last week). You can be downcast and say, "Aw man... Only one person accepted Christ today..." Or you could be like the angels and through a lit party in heaven BECAUSE one person accepted Christ. That's how much one life means. With that in mind, I wanted to make sure that Phung felt very loved that day, especially because she always motioned for me to come to her, but I always was drifting around other students. I wanted to pour my heart out personally for her and bless her that day. And so I did. With the countless of vbs songs we sang, I sang and danced by her side and interacted with her, making sure she smiled. I even was able to actually worship with the songs we sang while dancing with her, focusing on the words of the songs. Usually I just dance and have a good time with the kids, not thinking much about the lyrics. But no regrets for that day meant no regrets towards God as well, so I worshiped as I danced with Phung. It was a good time. (: During games when she motioned for me to come over and sit next to her, I never rejected the offer and went to her without a second thought and her smile was so big when she saw me come. When we watched Veggie Tales I was with her, and when we prayed and took pictures I was by her side. As I was sending her off, my heart was heavy knowing that I wouldn't be able to hug her for a long time. But as she rode off on her bike, my heart was more glad than sad because I was thankful I got to meet her.
|This is Phung ~|
| Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018 | Siem Reap Pt. 1
Wednesday and Thursday were the days the family would take us out to Siem Reap to experience the culture of Cambodia. Wednesday we woke up for devos at 4am so we could leave the house by 5:30am to drive 5+ hours. For most of the trip, many of us, including the family slept. We made some pit spots for meals, restrooms, and gas. Our first pit stop was for breakfast where the family bought tarantulas and crickets to eat on the way to Siem Reap. We ate the tarantulas during our lunch stop on the side of the road. Vietnamese style. With a bunch of land around us and only a road, we stopped on the side of the street to pull out the lunch basket and eat there. Some did the asian squat, and some stood. You can deduct who would do what. ((: It was here that we tried the tarantulas and crickets. The tarantulas had a crunchy first bite, then became chewy as you finished it off. It tasted almost like beef jerky. The crickets I did not try but Kayla and Henry did, so you can ask them. When people weren't sleeping in the car, the ride was very chaotic and fun. The first row had to squeeze in four people: Daniel, Chi Hau, Heng, and Jeremiah. It was a wonderful combination because half of the time, the're waging war on each other with flicking each other's ears, tickling, and hitting the back of heads. Everyone would laugh together as the first row went into mayhem. Again, it was especially fun to see Daniel (a massive figure) have a blast at fooling around with his younger brother. Heng's reactions are GREAT. They're comical, sassy, and have plenty of fobby English. Sometimes Chi Hau would turn around to join in by pulling Heng's hair. Don't get me wrong, the first row themselves are laughing as all of this is happening. No harsh feelings were involved. (:
We finally arrive at Siem Reap and check into our hotel rooms to rest for a bit before heading out to the Cambodia museum. At the Cambodian museum, you can see plenty of temples and houses that were of old times. We went into two rooms. One was of how ancient Cambodian life was like. You can see actual animals that have been reserved and stuffed so you could see the actual size and fur of them. (Some were oddly stuffed where the head didn't look quite as realistic but it was still pretty accurate.) We saw paintings of ancient history and war, clothing that were worn, tools, and jewelry.
In another room we walked through a wax figure museum. Most of the figures were creepily real. It was as if they would turn their head at you any moment to say something. Thankfully, none of them did. In there we saw some of Cambodian's pop culture before the Khmer Rogue. We saw Hollywood films and pop singers to name a few. We also saw plenty of wax figures that highlighted religions and beliefs such as Buddhism and the martial arts. Kings, Queens, and scribes from different eras were displayed. As we're walking through, Daniel is giving us commentary and history about each wax figure, saying the names and function of the individual in Cambodian history.
Afterwards we toured around the entire park on a mobile cart with a tour guide that (unfortunately) only spoke Khmer. Though I couldn't understand her AT ALL, the temples and houses were pleasant to look at. They're very intricate. We made a stop to take pictures of each other with a Superman statue. The statue was of a huge Superman who was holding a boulder up with his head missing. His head was missing a head so that visitors could climb up some stairs and place their head on the spot. It was fun to see the family members (and Jeremiah) get excited to put their head on the massive statue. One we finished touring with the guide, she raced us all the way to a show. She was going as fast as she could with the kart and it was funny because we passes by another tourist kart and we waved at each other as we zoomed past them. I assume she wanted to get us to the show on time so she was flooring it. Once we were dropped off, we found seats for the show. It was a musical about.....royalty?? To be honest, I wasn't sure what was happening since it was all in Khmer. Daniel was giving translations but I was too far to hear him. Since I couldn't understand what was happening, I actually created a story about what was happening. I won't detail everything that happened, but know that it involved potatoes and primarily tomatoes. In Cambodian paintings of women, you can see that when they're dancing their hands are bent more back than it's naturally supposed to be. I thought it was only for paintings but as I was watching the Cambodian woman perform traditional dances, I could see that their hands actually could bend the other way. It must've been from practicing it to be that way.
After the show and some pictures, we walked around some more to look at the houses on the waters. They were very nice and grand with bridges connecting to other houses on the waters. It led us to a house on land that had a huge stairway to the entrance. The reason for these stairways was to keep the houses away from the ground because there would be a lot of animals from the jungle roaming around. In the house was another show, this time it was about the wedding ceremony for Cambodians. It wasn't as interesting as the previous show because it was very slow and simple, so we left before it ended. This was our last activity at the site before we headed back to the hotel to wash up and get ready for our buffet dinner.
The buffet dinner was very good. There was a handful of selection for Asian food, including Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, and Korean food. Of course you have the corner of American food on the side but the Asian selection was much better. My favorite dish was the Pad Thai, which they made on the spot for you. It was so food that I got a second plate WHICH was a mistake because I was incredibly full yet had it instilled within me to finish everything on plate. My joy turned into sadness very quickly. While I was struggling to finish the plate, the boys were having a blast talking about English words with Heng, who couldn't pronounce things correctly. They played with pronunciations, wordplay, and elementary tricks with him and even got Lucy and I to laugh along with them. After being filled with food and laughter, we went to the outdoor market to find gifts for our supporters then went back to the hotel.
At the hotel, lots of the siblings and team members met in one room to play games. One of which was the pocky game but instead of using a pocky stick we used a long strand of dried fish. Henry was paired up with Heng and Hong An with Lucy. The girls ended up winning. We played Saboteur and I went to sleep early while everyone else continued to play. The arrangement of the rooms was two people each room. Hong An and I were paired in a room. However, when Hong An came in later that night, she came in with Chi Hau and Kayla (both who were supposed to share a room together). Being half asleep, I hear them talking about sleeping in trios instead of pairs and I no idea why. Chi Hau ended up sleeping with our room, sharing the bed with Hong An.
| Thursday, August 23rd, 2018 | Siem Reap Pt. 2
The next morning I woke up to meet with the team for devotions. Afterwards I went back into the room to ask Hong An why Chi Hau slept in our room. Apparently in the night before, Heng told a ghost story that freaked everyone out. There were knocks on the door late at night too, but when they opened it no one was there, adding onto the fear all the girls felt. It was likely the receptionist knocking to tell them to be quiet, but because of the ghost story they became paranoid. As a result, instead of sleeping in pairs in one room, the girls slept in threes together for the night.
After breakfast everyone got ready to leave to see Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Our guide for the day was a friend of Muc Su Hung, named Sim. He spoke Vietnamese, Khmer, and English very well. For the exploration of Angkor Wat, it was only the kids while Muc Su Hung and Co Trang stayed in the car to pick us up. The temples were massive. As we walked around the temple you can see the intricate designs that were carved into the wall. The walls and pillers were filled with tiny carvings, and to think about how big the temple is that is a lot of work. I couldn't wrap my head around how they built in the past. You don't see many bricks at all in the temple. Many things are from one huge ROCK. There aren't many lines or crack to indicate that it was assembled like a brick wall, making it astounding as to how they were able to construct the ginormous temple(s) without today's technology. We climbed it to see the areas where Buddhist would gather for meditation, prayer, and offerings. Some shrines were actually set up inside for people to pray. We saw a few monks too.
Sim was a very good guide. On top of giving us the history of the temple, he also took pictures for us and they were actually very good. One of them was to gather around the phone with a selfie mode and he would take the picture. If a picture required him to squat, he would squat to get that perfect angle. You would see other tourist guides doing the same kind of pictures because they're from the same company, but Sim would really put his heart into it, asking people to get out of the frame and concentrating really hard to make sure it was good.
There was this one part of the walk where a bunch of monkeys came out for treats. The siblings would throw wrapped candy at them and we would tell them not to give the monkeys the wrappers. But the siblings said that the monkeys were very smart and took the candy out of the wrappers before eating it. Confused, we all would watch a monkey and BEHOLD they tore the wrapper off and put the candy in their mouth. We also fed them bananas as well. I was kinda scared to feed them the banana because you would have them take it from you which requires close proximity with the creatures. But as I stuck my hand out with the split banana, the monkey took it quickly and ran off. Feeding a monkey a banana wasn't on my non-existent bucket list but I checked it off anyway.
After crossing another temple, we got ready to get picked up. We ordered and drank some sugarcane juice and were off to relieve ourselves with the air conditioning. In the car, Co Trang and Muc Su Hung bought each team member a Cambodian clothing. Henry and Jeremiah got shirts, Lucy and Kayla got dresses, and I got a skirt. We all thanked them greatly. We were driving for a few minutes and Muc Su Hung makes and stop and everyone starts to get out of the car. "What's going on?" I asked. Turns out, we only visited 1/5 of the temples. (((: As a reminder, I was still struggling a lot with my vitamin D deficiency and WOOOO WEEEE I was exhausted. But ride and die, ya know, so I continued with the group. Thankfully the plan was to only visit three temples. After visiting the second temple, a majority of us were very tired since it was a hot day and there wasn't much shade provided. For the last temple, only Jeremiah, Henry, Kayla, and I went. The third temple was actually a lot smaller than the others and had a lot of shade from the trees. It was really beautiful to look at because it was covered in bright green moss and surrounded by tall trees. A lot of the temple was in ruins because nature broke through the temple. You can see the trees impaling the walls and covering parts of the temple. That particular temple was actually used in Angelina Jolie's 'Tomb Raider', which was what started the tourism for Cambodia. Before the movie, no foreigners visited the temples. But because of Angelina Jolie's movie, which was filmed at the very temple we were, Cambodia started to boom with tourists interested in the temples. I never watched the movie, which I was thankful for so that I could see the temple as it is. Sim said himself that the movie wasn't very good haha.
Visitation to the third temple was done, marking the end of our journey to Siem Reap. Driving out we gave Sim out thanks and blessed him and his child to come, and we were off for home. The car ride was filled, yet again, with laughter and joy with the family as we drove to eat pho for dinner then head home to finish the night off with more games.
| Friday, August 24th, 2018 | S-21 School and Family Time
Friday was the day we went to go to the S-21 school. This is the school where mass murders were carried out during the Cambodian Genocide by the Khmer Rogue. If you're familiar with Cambodia's history or have read Justin's blog from last year, then you have some background to the heaviness of this location. If you don't, a summary of it would be that the Khmer Rogue was a group of people that carried out a genocide against its own people. If they came to you, you either kill or be killed. The goal was to essentially restart Cambodia from scratch due to frustrations of historical circumstances, and if you were against it then you would be killed. The Khmer Rogue killed anybody and everybody who had any kind of educational background/degree/profession along with their family and kids to avoid revenge plans in the future. Much of that killing was done at the S-21 school, the very place we visited. There are no pictures provided from our team. Knowing what happened in the very rooms we walked through, we could only mourn in our hearts for the lives lost to such an event. There are pictures on Google that show exactly what we saw. Though it may be hard for some, I encourage those who can to see the pictures of the rooms so that it doesn't just remain as a thought.
In the rooms you can see the beds where prisoners were chained to for interrogation. If an answer didn't satisfy the Khmer Rogue, prisoners would be tortured in different ways. Beneath the beds you can see brown stains on the ground which is the blood of the prisoners. Even after others cleaned up the rooms, the floors could not be washed away from all the blood that poured on it. It was so disheartening to be standing in those rooms. Before missions I had learned about the Khmer Rogue and Cambodian Genocide in school and my heart was already sad. But to know that I was standing in the very room where blood was spilled, screams were heard, and death occurred was...surreal. My heart was in sorrow but I was trying to get my mind to grasp the reality of it. That I was standing in the very rooms I learned about in class. The rooms where there was bloodshed right at my feet. It's not fiction. Maybe I wouldn't have been able to handle it. Maybe my visual instincts would kick in too much. Regardless, I knew I was walking in a place where there would be blood and dead bodies at my feet with torture machines before my eyes. My body was in that building.
We continued rooms where the prisoner cells were. One of them still had the blood of a prisoner in the past. You can see drops, smudges, and splatters of red on the walls. It's not fiction. We walked into rooms where there were faces of the victims lined up on bulletin boards front and back. There were paintings created from a survivor who saw all of the different ways people were tortured and killed. He created the paintings so people like us could understand the horrors he saw. One room was filled with some of the skulls of the victims. Their skulls lined up and filled shelves from case to case. Real bone from real people who were victims to the Khmer Rogue. It's not fiction, but why couldn't I grasp the reality of it?? It frustrated me. I see and I know what's before me is real, but why wasn't it weighing on my heart more than I thought it would? Was God keeping me from something I couldn't handle? I don't know! But even if my feelings weren't what I expected, I didn't let it change the truth that we were in sorrow in those moments.
After walking through the other rooms, we gathered together with Daniel, Hong An, Thien Nha, and Heng to lift up a prayer for Cambodia.
To lighten up the atmosphere for the remains of the day, we spent time with the siblings who were with us. We went to a market in Phnom Penh to buy supporter gifts, ate lunch at Aeon Mall, try to win a carnival game but lost 20+ times and lost $20+, and headed home.
To end the night we had a rather unexpected yet delightful scenario. We all tried on the gifts Muc Su Hung and Co Trang bought for us and were all happy with the gifts greatly...except for Lucy, who's dress was too loose and claims that she looked like she was from the Old Testament. In an attempt to cheer her up, we decided to put on a fashion show for the family to have fun. We were hoping that it would cheer her up and with a lot of time she warmed up to it. The sisters of the family went ham tho. It started with decorating us with some headbands and a bracelet, then it escalated to eye-wear, earrings, and makeup. Lots of makeup. Even makeup for Jeremiah and Henry haha. Although I didn't enjoy makeup and Thien Nha was a beginner at it, I wanted her to have a good time with the few moments we had left. And so I let her apply as much makeup as she wanted. Chi Hau (who is the most mature sibling and is very reserved) had a child-like moment as she put makeup on Henry and jump up and down, proceeding to run off giggling. And yes, we were having a blast too. We finished the decorations and makeup and lined up to get ready for the cat walk. Music turns on, and we each take a turn showing off our clothes and accessories. After round one finished we were brought back into the rooms for touch ups and this time we had Heng as the last model walking out, being the flirtatious designer of everything. His walk was the best in my opinion. Clearly out shined the rest of us.
| Saturday, August 25th, 2018 | Departure Day
Our last day with the family. We relaxed, ate, watched a ghost movie together, and had conversations. I let Thien Nha do my makeup again, though she messed up on the same eye approximately 20 times.
In the last moments we had at the house, we all gathered together and sang the Khmer and Vietnamese songs Co Trang taught us. Then we blessed Muc Su Hung and Co Trang with an American worship song (Build My Life). I didn't have a pick to strum the guitar with during that time, but the whole room filled with all of our voices, including the siblings who sang along. It was a blissful moment of worship with them. Later Co Tran shared a poem and Muc Su Hung shared a short message. Then we went around the team members to give a few words as to why we came to Cambodia for the mission. After some prayers together, we were off for the airport. We had to use all of the back row for luggage so all the girls squeezed into the second row and the guys into the first row. On the way to the airport, it felt as if we weren't leaving because we were having so much fun in the car like in the past. The boys were going crazy again and were hitting and teasing each other while the girls laughed in the back. After arriving and checking in our luggage, we spent as much time as we could with the family. We had drinks and chatted until time forced us to leave. We prayed one last time together and took A LOT of photos. There was more laughter than tears, which I was thankful for because we were parting with joyful spirits. It felt really weird to be leaving them and the church. We had lived with each other for almost a month now, becoming family. Now we wouldn't be seeing their faces for a long time. We said goodbye to each other three separate times before we left. Even as we were going up the escalator, we were waving goodbye to each other until they were out of sight. Just as we greeted each other with smiles, we departed with smiles. Only this time it was with a hint of sadness in our hearts. Still with so many emotions going on, we left. And the mission came to an end.
We are SO thankful for everyone who has supported us financially and spiritually through prayers. This mission definitely could NOT have been done with those of you who were back at home. We thank God for the opportunity He has provided us in coming to Cambodia and blessing others, and we thank Him for His grace. Keep an eye out for a recap video that will be released! Tune into Sunday services at TLC as testimonies of what happened or of what we learned will be given sometime during service. (:
We thank you again. Shalom!
Trisha aka Co Sushi