Preparing to go back to sunny, dusty, noisy Cambodia with R has been…. interesting. We were first/last there in 2012, naïve 18 year olds, ready to make an impact, change the world, better people’s lives. The children we played with taught us so much instead, perhaps more so than the few English words we could impart. They taught me about joy, about contentment. They showed me the talent that triumphs in adversity, (a team of HIV+ children formed an acrobatic team and came in 2nd in their local competition), how to share when you have so very little.
They revealed to me (fun fact – this is the story I shared at my KCL interview that I think really helped clinch the spot 😉 but when I shared at my Sheffield interview caused the interviewers to say ‘please get to the point’ while rolling their eyes 😡 ) that in the depths of my heart, I did not think that Cambodian children would have the same standards as the children I personally knew. And so when 10 little kids were clamouring for me to help them cut something and I decided (quite literally) to cut corners, having a little one come back and tug on my shirt to point out that I hadn’t cut out their picture for them perfectly really just opened my eyes to that mindset that led to me not honouring each and every little one with my very best efforts.
(bless their/his tiny little hands! look at the other little one trying to distract him from his goal)
(slums behind the learning centre – it floods very badly here every rainy season and people are often displaced)
I remember being keenly aware of the possible negative impact social-tourism has on these children – people come and lavish love for two hours, then up and leave and they never see them again. For the HIV+ children at an orphanage we were working with, this would be but a reminder of the family they had lost to AIDS or were abandoned by. I remember questioning my motives closely; I didn’t want to go and just feel great about myself, feel like I’m a noble, kind-hearted person blah blah. It was definitely hard. I left having learnt more (about myself as a person) than I think we managed to teach the children. But what surprised me most was how closed I kept my heart to those children, because my mind was fixed on the knowledge that I would probably only see them once a year.
2 years later, R and I have teamed up again to teach the same 2 groups of children in Phnom Penh: a group of slum kids who hang out in a Christian learning centre, and children living with HIV.
I woke up today with Jesus close to my heart, excited to encounter Him as we did our final preparations to work with the kids. It’s hard to remember that when your hands are cramped up from cutting out endless shapes. I want to do all things, even little things, with love. It’s easy to lie on my floor and think ‘what am I getting myself into?! why did we pick a craft that requires so much preparation?!’. It’s so easy to forget that I’m lying in air-con, using scissors I bought with my own money, that I’ve known how to use since I was 5, and that I’m doing it for children who live in slums, who don’t know how to use a pair of scissors, much less own one. How easy it is to forget Who and who I’m doing it for.
When the lesson plan I prepared came back with comments from the lady who is organising our trip, I did not expect to see questions like “How would you handle if they say that the only miracle they want for themselves is to be healed of HIV? Or a longing for family?”. I was stunned – we go and we think ‘we’re going to impart a heavenly identity, we’re going to teach about a God who heals and loves and provides’. How do we do this and expect children to believe it when I live in a situation where everything I need is provided while they don’t even receive much physical love (because of the stigma associated with HIV)? They barely have enough food to eat, and still I talk of the Jesus who provided for 5000. I almost felt reluctant to teach lessons like ‘God can perform miracles!’ But I don’t want to shy away from what I believe wholeheartedly is the truth, to avoid tough, uncomfortable questions. I want to be able bless these children as much as they will bless me, by pointing them towards that Greater Love that conquers all.
I started off writing this post as a break from my lesson plan edit, to just clear my head and shape up some thoughts. There are still more things to be sorted out, of course. But this post has helped me really remember that this trip isn’t just a filler in my summer break, another taster of medical missions, a ‘feel good’ dose. It’s going to be tough at times, real, and raw. I want to go in with eyes wide open and Kingdom lenses over my own short-sighted, self-centred human ones. Hahaha as I typed that line, a song called ‘Fix My Eyes’ just came on shuffle!
So, dear Reader, I’m asking for you to do more than just read. I’m inviting you to partner with R and I as we head back to the country shackled in the bonds of sex trafficking and still suffering from the effects of the genocide of its people. Please pray for us, and for the bigger group (15!) who are going up to bless the nation. My dad will also be coming up and teaching. Your prayers are much coveted, warriors!
(looking like Jesus 😉 ‘let the little children come to me’)
Please pray for:
– a smooth journey there
– health and protection for every group member
– wisdom for R and I to really teach what’s on God’s heart and to be able to deal with any tough questions or situations we might face
– energy: those children really are an crazy bunch!!
and lastly, that His light will shine in the nation of Cambodia.
N & R
Ps: if you would like to find out how you can take more active steps to help or are interested in hearing more about who we work with, please comment or drop me an email @kitscheartache.gmail.com)