“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10
As I settle into my fifth day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I find myself asking more and more questions. This is not only my first mission’s trip but also my first trip in Asia. I prepared myself for a cultural shock that would be too much to take in all at once. However, upon arrival, I found myself not struggling with nearly as much difficulty to have everything within my physical senses sink in. As I had more cultural differences and observations explained to me by locals and knowledgeable leaders, I began to wonder just why we were so different. Just why I was so different from these Cambodians.
I believe in the sanctity of life. What does it mean to live a life fully? What about the lives in extreme poverty and brokenness? Where is God in everything?
Here, I see a city, a nation filled with great disparities between the older generation (pre-Khmer Rouge regime) and the emerging current generation (post-Khmer Rouge regime). After visiting the killing fields on the first day, I was filled with a somber outlook and was working through how I truly felt about everything I saw and read about their 70s genocide. But before I completely did so, I was truly blessed to experience God’s boundless grace, great hope and unfailing love for every single person in this world. The next day, we attended a church service at New Life Fellowship Church and I was immediately greeted by the Holy Spirit where I was powerfully moved by the Spirit to show me how He was already working in the nation of Cambodia. I was reminded that no matter how dark our past is, He will be our Light.
This year I am told we have less students participating in English Camp than in previous years. I came baring my North American expectation that more is always more. The loose mindset that more people will ultimately equal more success: more lives touched and more “conversions”. But we know this not how our God works, each life is but one breath and also precious in His eyes. At the killing fields, we saw 7 levels of skulls on display in a stupa and I tried very hard to imagine each skull as a real, breathing person and one with a soul. I was imagining each skull as one of the many faces I saw in the S-21 museum knowing each skull was a person with a distinct personality created in the image of our great God. I felt that God was preparing me for our mission at English Camp – to treasure each person I would come into contact with at this specific time and place in our lives.
I have met some students who come from incomplete families but they are very kind and friendly Cambodians who are eager to learn, eager to teach and eager to get to know one another. I find myself enjoying our smaller groups because we are able to converse like friends and to invest time in getting to know each person just as our Father desires to know us (far more deeply). It has always been easy to imagine what a ‘full’ life looks like with my North American mindset: money and material resources. However, in Cambodia, without these readily available, I am tangibly experiencing other invaluable facets to our humankind often glossed over, repressed, despised and ignored: playing and enjoying each other’s company in the moment.
I was able to have a fun time playing with the students today at the waterpark soaking up some sun. I pray we will continue to have fun, learn and teach at English Camp. And most importantly, please pray these Cambodians will be able to build relationships with each other and have a personal relationship with Jesus.
- Bernice Ma