Four weeks prior to today I found myself packing for the two weeks that Josh and I would spend at the Prek Bey home in Pursat. We spent the first week at the home cleaning, setting up rooms and beds, and watching the entire property get transformed into what would be the site of the 2008 medical clinic. Tents, chairs, and a pharmacy’s worth of medication were brought in along with a team from New Life comprised of medical personnel and support staff. I had been anticipating this team coming for quite some time, not only for the care packages filled with clothes from Target and Luna bars they would bring Josh and I from home, but mostly for the chance to experience life in Cambodia with some wonderfully familiar faces.
The time together working at the medical clinic was rich. That is the best word I can attach to it currently. People were there to serve, both the Cambodian and foreign staff alike. I watched as our pharmacist trained up the support staff to organize and hand out medication, as bonds were formed between the medical staff and their Cambodian translators (who were incredibly well trained and prepared for the clinic), and I saw literally thousands of faces (over 8,500 in all) come through the gates to receive medical treatment and to hear the gospel told to them in their own language through both written material and stage presentations of music and traditional dance. It was a phenomenal week. The medical and support staff served tirelessly despite humid weather and long hours and I was continually impressed at the attitudes of the team, how they were grateful to simply have the opportunity to come and serve the Cambodian people in whatever way they could. This is what we are called to. This is how we are able to partner with people from whom we might otherwise feel quite different.
Josh was recounting a conversation with someone the other day who had asked him for one thing that he could relay to people regarding Cambodia. Josh’s response to that question was that we would be reminded that we are all the church; we are all the body of Christ. It is not exclusive to American Christianity and how we choose to define that, it goes beyond our individual cultures and feelings of superiority (thinking perhaps at times that we have the market cornered on God. I will be the first to admit guilt in this regard.) or perceived differences. The ground we worship on is not separated according to culture or background or status, it is common ground we can walk together if we allow the Lord to be the foundation for it.
Apart from the clinic itself, I had a wonderful time getting to be around people from New Life and be a part of the daily devotions, times of worship, and post-dinner reflections as people shared highlights from their day and one or two people shared their testimonies (“My Stories” if you will) each night. It is amazing what you can learn about people through their stories and it is true that we all have one to share. It was quite comforting to me throughout the week to feel so a part of New Life while living on the other side of the world. I don’t know that it would be possible to feel more connected to the people there so far in my time here. They are some of my most favorites :)
And I will say that the smoothness of this clinic, the cohesiveness of this team, and the structure that held much of it in place was courtesy of the missions pastor at New Life, Rick Sawzcuk. He did a great job not only of running 86 miles each morning before sunrise, but more importantly making sure that his team was well cared for. He fostered a great sense of community as we all lived at the same home together for a week, sleeping under mosquito nets and making daily treks down to the river for a brief reprieve from the heat. It was also a sweet moment at the end of the clinic as Rick offered the chance for anyone who wanted to be baptized to do so in the river. Josh and I were blessed to re-connect with people we already knew as well as spend time getting to know people we look forward to re-connecting with when we see them again.
We saw the New Life team off a week ago, an hour prior to the next team flying in from our second sending church, Hope Foursquare (because you can never have too many sending churches. This is our motto :) We welcomed in a team of six and headed out to the incredibly beautiful province of Mondulkiri to help build a fence at one of our homes to aid in keeping the animals within the property. This team worked incredibly hard for six days digging out holes with breaker bars, clearing brush with sickles, mixing cement on the ground with both large and incredibly small shovels, carrying cement fence posts (or trying to carry them with a patient husband who lets you take frequent breaks....they're heavier than they look), painting the windows of the home, and connecting with the children and adults there through corporate times of worship and some down time spent playing “sey” (aka feathered kick toy game…similar to hackey sack).
I am now sitting back on the comfortable Mekong Express Limousine bus beginning the same six hour trek back to Phnom Penh after a day and a half the team spent in Siem Reap at the markets, restaurants, and temples which Josh and I found the perfect environment to make some critically acclaimed motion pictures which will be ready for the general public shortly. We have a few days to prepare for the next team that will come in from California and then we’re off again.
We are doing well, feeling refreshed, excited to have a few days in the office and a weekend to date each other :) We welcome your continued prayers for protection, health, our marriage, our discipline to be in the Word and in prayer, and our wisdom in leading teams well. We are incredibly grateful for our time here and want the Lord to grow us, mature us, and stretch us in whatever way He would purpose.