After 8 long hours on an overnight bus and a trip in the back of a truck through rolling hills outside the provincial capital, a group of five young men, along with Brian, Bophal, and Mr. Virak (YESIC Drop-in Center Director at DOVE), arrived at an isolated farm in Cambodia with the task of helping out with a farming project.
The group of young men who participated in this trip are part of Dove’s leadership Club, Men Group, and Al Anon group. Some know Jesus, some do not. Some have prior experience with the hard work of farming and others do not. This diverse group of young leaders is all truly marginalized, most coming from single-parent families “ravaged by alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and general neglect” (Brian & Bophal). After engaging in hard physical labour on the farm, isolated in nature, they went home with more than they initially anticipated. They carried with them newfound wisdom and leadership skills, as well as deepened connections with one another and their wider communities.
Tay (age 18) recounts feeling “refreshed and at peace” at the farm, in comparison to the city, and describes a sense of empathy and appreciation for hard-working farmers who do this type of work on a regular basis. Nap (age 17) was “glad to have had this experience even though it was hard,” and Phearon (age 19) expressed his gratitude for his community at the farm, as they all “helped each other and that made it easier.”
Though these young men were faced with a very different context than their usual surroundings of “big buildings, constant construction and traffic noise, distractions, and the smog in the city,” (Tay) they were able to learn from the hard work and new surroundings. “The hard work on the farm as ritual was to remind them that ‘life is hard, and they need help.’ That help is available in their communities … and from God. The farm work was ritual and it included spiritual, emotional, social, physical aspects. It was sacred.” (Brian and Bophal)
“Faith must take actual form in a living, loving group of people (ekklesia), otherwise, it’s only a program, doctrine or theory.” (Brian and Bophal) Community is so important for the development of our faith. In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world is uncertain and constantly changing. Every day we are faced with new challenges but amidst all this, we can lean on our communities like the group of young leaders in Cambodia. Though we may not be spending our days engaged in physical labour on a farm, “our hard work together … reminds us that life indeed is hard, and God is gracious to give us the gift of communities where we can prepare for a positive response to life in spite of the difficulties” (Brian and Bophal).
If you'd like to learn more about Tenth's partners in Cambodia, including DOVE, click here: https://www.tenth.ca/ministries/tenth-global/pages/cambodia