Sues’dai, faithful readers!
At the end of yet another long but very memorable day, I am happy to share a few thoughts and observations with you.
First of all, I feel the need to introduce our incredible hosts a little more thoroughly, as they have put in so much time and effort to serve us and everyone else around them. We have been primarily working with three American missionaries: Dan, Heidi, and Elizabeth. All three have done anything and everything they can to make our trip run smoothly, from translating to delivering bottled water to driving us around to bandaging up scraped knees. Dan and Heidi are a young married couple who have been here since 2007, working with Words of Life Ministries. They truly give their all to the children’s center here in Krache. Their heart for the Lord shines through in their complete surrender to His plan for their lives, and especially in their humble desire to serve. They live in a single room off of a boys’ dormitory at the center, taking cold showers, with the only electricity being drawn from a generator between sunset and 9:00pm. They work alongside a small Khmai staff to care for the 70 children that live there, beginning around 5:00am each morning. In the midst of all this, there is absolutely no hint of a complaining attitude from them. Rather, the beautiful joy and love for the Lord and people which they emanate are truly contagious. Despite their quiet demeanor, they are full of incredible, often heart-breaking stories of the people here, as well as testimonies of God’s redeeming work in the midst of the darkness.
Elizabeth is a wonderful sister in the Lord who performs so many thankless administrative tasks behind the scenes, while simultaneously providing much cheer and laughter to our group every day. She is the administrative assistant of the Words of Life missions team here, and she has also served as our go-to person for any need we have along the way. She’s a constant encouragement to us. She has spent less than a year and half actually in Cambodia, but it is clear that she has fallen in love with it. She speaks the Khmai language impressively well (as do Dan and Heidi), which is just another evidence of her dedication and drive to serve wholeheartedly where God has placed her. Not only is she fun to be around, but she is genuine to the core, especially in her love for Jesus Christ. While one minute her jokes make us all laugh, the next she eagerly sparks up a meaningful conversation about our relationship with our Saviour and friend.
Our Cambodian hosts have also been fabulous, including Noit, the wife of the team leader, Bit, our driver, Sotie, our amazing cook, the staff of the Center, and, of course, all of the children who welcome us with open arms and smiles every day. All that I have just said has not been the result of a sense of obligation to provide acknowledgments, but rather is the true overflowing of my heart as I reflect on our stay so far. Our gratitude to these people goes far beyond what I’ve been able to express in writing, and several of us were talking about how one of the most valuable things that we will take back from this trip will be what we have learned from the examples of these amazing people.
Eventually, however, you will want to know about our day. As usual, after a delicious breakfast, we split into two groups, one to the Bamboo House and one to the children’s center. All the hard manual labor that has been poured into the Bamboo House is paying off with visible results. More importantly, however, is the fact that working hard alongside our Khmai friends has provided a brilliant opportunity for building relationships and for sensing the deep bond between us, born from a mutual love for the Lord and belonging to the same Body. Yong is just one example of a friend I’ve made through this experience. He is 19 years old, in 10th grade, and is eager to practice his English. Between lifting countless buckets of rocks and sand, we talk to him about everything from corny jokes to worship to dating and marriage. A couple of us have also had the pleasure of riding with him on his Moto down muddy, rut-filled village roads.
At the Center, we had a blast with the kids from beginning to end. Nothing melts a heart like pure love from a child. While learning and remembering their Khmai names is a struggle, every one is precious to us. Today was my first day of tutoring, and I spent hours playing “Math soccer” with the kids. While I started with just one boy, we were surrounded by at least ten kids by the end! While I taught them some simple arithmetic, they taught me how to count to 29 in Khmai! They motivated me by clapping and jumping when I got it right, and shamelessly pointing and laughing when I mispronounced a word. We quickly became friends. After studying, we played a variety of games, most of which I had never played before. Their lack of both electricity and money inspired great creativity in their play, which was really cool to me. Every member of our team was surrounded by eager and loving children by the end of the day, and we relished it! Having been given the opportunity to spend just a few days with these children gives us such an incredible appreciation for the work of the Dan and Heidi and the Center, which provides a type of haven for these kids from rampant disease and sex trafficking, which take such a staggeringly large number of children from this area.
In the evening, we split into small groups and ate at three different restaurants, giving Sotie a well-deserved break. The discussion in this smaller group was really meaningful and exciting, as we shared some of our testimonies and how God has spoken to us throughout our lives.
Please continue to pray for physical health and energy as we finish out our trip. Thank God with us for this opportunity and for all these wonderful people through whom He is blessing so many people, including us! Be praying for them to feel God’s pleasure and powerful hand in their work here. Pray also for our team to have humility, unity, and focus on the One by whom and for whom we live each and every day. Finally, pray for the country of Cambodia, as it is stands in such need of real hope in the midst of darkness, suffering, and confusion.
You are all such a blessing, and God is responding very tangibly to all your intercession on our behalf! Thank you SO much.
Your fellow servants and brothers/sisters,
Matt Gorter (and the rest)