Cambodia: Day 1

Yesterday at approximately 10:00 pm local time (10:00 am eastern standard) we arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia! This day has been a whirlwind of overcoming jetlag by getting to know missionaries and immersing ourselves in the history and culture of Cambodia.

Some of the more lighthearted events of the day include: people-watching at sunrise from our hotel room, a delicious traditional breakfast complete with noodles, rice, mangos, and these wonderful little sesame seed donuts, buying elephant/party pants at the central market (ask your daughter about these upon her return), eating a fried tarantula, eating several complementary fried crickets, eating duriem fruit (“smells like hell, tastes like heaven”), lunch at a lovely Vietmanese restaurant, dinner at a local pizza place with several MTW missionaries and their families, and a spontaneous pool party on the roof of the hotel. In retrospect, it seems like all we did was eat. However, for you to fully understand the experience that today brought, you have to hear the stories that we heard and stand in the places where we stood. You can’t do that, so I will try my best to give you a brief snapshot of the awful reality we came face to face with today.

Our group visited both the torture facility S-21 and the Killing Fields. Allow me to reiterate that my blog post cannot begin to do justice to what we saw or to the victims of the Khmer Rouge. Among rusting instruments of torture, heartwrenching testimonies, and countless photos of victims lining the walls of S-21, one image stood out from all the rest. He was a little boy, probably about 13 years old. He was one of the many children taken from their homes, brainwashed by the Khmer Rouge, and forced to commit unthinkable crimes against humanity. Unlike all the other stoic, somber faces slapped on the wall of victims, this little boy had what appeared to be a slight smile. It wasn’t an evil smirk, mind you, but a boyish grin, perhaps the result of a happy thought. Amidst so much pain, being himself an agent of so much pain, this little boy’s smile made me cry.

Blood stains on the floor, piles of skulls, shards of  burried clothing emerging from the earth, a tree trunk upon which babies were smashed to their deaths. Where was God? There are no good words for this sight, no right answer to this question. Tears are not enough.

When our team was preparing for this trip, a man came to speak to us about his ministry in Cambodia. He told us, “Cambodia feels like death.” As this sentence ran through my mind, another one followed. “Jesus said He came that we might have life, and have it to the full.” How do I rectify what I am feeling as I stand in a scene of despair and what I know to be true about my Savior?

A sappling bravely forging its way to the heavens, rooted in the middle of a mass grave where 20,000 people were slaughtered is a beautiful picture of life, a beautiful picture of redemption in the midst of what feels like death. Duch, the chief director of S-21, held responsible for the haneous torture and death of thoughts of innocents, defected from the Khmer Rouge upon becoming a Christian. This, my friends, is the beautiful reality of life, the beautiful reality of redemption, even in a place that still feels like death.

This day has left my heart full, and I still have much to proces. But for now I am going to go to sleep and prepare for tomorrow. I am thankful for the experiences of today, thankful for this trip, and so very thankful that Jesus is alive, and that He is making all things new.
-Anna Katharine Horne


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Michael Lewis on May 10, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Thank you for your post. I look forward to reading more.


  2. Posted by Lea Kelly on May 10, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    We are so thankful that you are under God’s wing and are praying for grace & peace as you continue to learn and declare that He makes all things New. That is the supernatural end of the story. Thank you for sharing ways we can intercede!


  3. Posted by Marian Horne on May 15, 2011 at 1:12 am

    Anna Katharine, we love hearing your heart through this blog, as do the others with whom we have shared it. I know this particular mission trip will be transforming for you all in so many ways. Please know that many are covering you all in prayer, and we are eager to hear more of how the Lord is working in and through each of you! By the way, as you might imagine, the fried tarantula was quite the topic at our dinner table—yuck!! Love you, Mom


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