It’s Monday, May 23, and Kathleen and I are on board our flight to Singapore. The students left in three waves yesterday – one early morning to Hong Kong, seven late afternoon to Bangkok, and three late evening back to Atlanta. We now have the privilege of writing the final posting on this Maclellan Scholars in Cambodia blog site.
Here’s the short and sweet summary: What a wonderful trip!
First, to bring the travelogue to a close: Our trip back to Phnom Penh from Siem Reap was uneventful, except for another delicious lunch en route. After settling into our hotel (the Royal Palace), where we had stayed our first two nights in Phnom Penh, we enjoyed a marvelous dinner at the home of Steve and Noit Hyde (Steve was traveling in the U.S. during our trip). Steve and Noit are the founders of this large ministry enterprise, including not only Words of Hope and Imparting Smiles but also Antioch Institute, a training school for Cambodian pastors and ministry leaders. After living in difficult circumstances for fifteen years, Steve and Noit were blessed with the gift of a large, inviting house, paid for by one of their primary supporting churches. It’s immediately evident upon entering that this is a home where the aroma of Christ is thick and beautiful. Noit hosted a lovely dinner of spaghetti, spare ribs, seafood soup, rice (of course!), fresh fruit, and an array of delectable desserts. We were also delighted to meet the Hydes’ two children, Paul (age 12) and Anna (age 5 – and, as she eagerly told us, soon to be 6).
After dinner, we gathered in another room with Dan and Heidi Groves, Elisabeth Brooks, and Noit, and the students took turns telling our hosts how much and in what specific ways they had come to love and appreciate them. It was a beautiful thing to hear your daughters and sons speak so personally and explicitly about what it’s been like to watch and learn from them and to aspire by God’s grace for hearts like theirs. Our students could not have given them a more precious gift.
We also said a loving goodbye to Matt Gorter, who departed for the airport at 6 a.m. Sunday.
On Sunday morning, just after breakfast, our group spent a little while expressing appreciation for one another – you can imagine the combination of humor and seriousness as we spoke to and about one another and the unique blessing to the group that each one had been throughout the trip. I’ll let your sons and daughters give you the specifics.
Then we attended Gospel Commission Fellowship church, part of the PCA’s church planting enterprise in Cambodia. After some great singing, the Cambodian founding pastor preached from James 5 on waiting patiently on the Lord, and we enjoyed meeting a number of folks from the community – including a former Covenant student now teaching English in Phnom Penh.
After church we headed to the Russian Market for lunch and some final shopping before the Thailand travelers headed for the airport. Those remaining enjoyed one last meal at the Hydes’ home – pizza and KFC(!), as well as jackfruit, passionfruit, and mangoustin. A bit later the Atlanta-bound group left for their 11:20 p.m. flight.
So how to sum up our time in Cambodia? A wonderful group of humble, hard-working, and ministry-minded students; a sense of true partnership in the work of Words of Life in Kracheh; deep admiration for our hosts, whose words and actions consistently demonstrate the reality of the gospel and their passion for the calling into which God has led them; and joyful expectation for how God will use this time together in this place to prod these students on in discerning God’s particular callings for them.
Because Kathleen and I didn’t teach the Character and Leadership course this past fall, we had not had the opportunity to get to know this group of Maclellan Scholars as we have past groups. In our weekly meetings throughout the spring semester, we began to connect with them and to learn about gifts and interests and personalities. But the long trip to Cambodia via Korea, followed by working and eating alongside them day after day, from early morning through evening, provided unique and fairly in-depth perspective.
And we can say this: We have seldom seen a group of students, diverse in many ways as they are, function with such mutual respect and patience and cooperation and positive spirit. They worked hard, with children and cement, without hesitation or complaint; in fact, they embraced their tasks as God’s good gifts both for them and for our ministry hosts. They did things without being asked; they ate what was put before them; they willingly rode for hours on bumpy roads; they delighted in the sights and sounds and tastes and smells of Cambodia.
Most importantly they loved the Cambodians – the children at the children’s center, co-workers at the bamboo house, the small congregations at the house churches we attended on Sunday, and other folks along the way.
There were a few minor injuries, from scratches and blisters to red ant bites, and some, well, digestive issues (Dan Groves quoted his Cambodian doctor saying, “If you eat in Cambodia, you will get sick”). But God was gracious in many ways, and this group just kept going strong right to the end, finishing all that Dan had planned ahead of schedule.
Prior to our trip, we had discussed several major goals, one of the most important being to encourage our hosts. As we received feedback from Dan, Heidi, and Elisabeth, both during and at the end of our time, we were so grateful to hear the overwhelmingly positive comments they offered about the blessing our students were to them. At that gathering in the Hydes’ home, Dan said, “We didn’t know much about Covenant College, but with students like you it must be the best college in the country.”
Kathleen and I count it a treasure to have had these days with Caroline, Hannah, Holly Anne, Matt, Jake, AK, Taylor, Wilson, Rebekah, Alexander, and Austin. Thank you, families, for being part of our trip through your faithful prayers and enabling support. God was surely pleased to multiply all that you did for our good and the good of those whom we served.
Now may he be pleased to multiply the fruit of this trip for the sake of the work of the gospel and the church in Cambodia and for his future plans and purposes in these students’ lives.
So one final sign-off on behalf of the Maclellan Scholars in Cambodia —
Blessings to you all!