Hello from Phnom Penh! This is Rachel kicking off the updates for the 2016 FEDCB Cambodia Missions Team, or as I like to call it, “FECDB Cambodia Season 2.” 🙂 It’s taken us a little longer to start posting updates as we’ve been trying to rest after our long flights and then have had a busy first day and a half here in Cambodia.
We were greeted at the airport by Sovanny and Jillisa from the Mission to the World (MTW) Cambodia team here and taken to our hotel to unpack and rest for a bit. Jillisa, an American young woman (from SoCal) who has been working with children and dorm students on the mission field here for about a year and a half, will be our primary guide for this trip. It has already been great getting to know her, and she has been an excellent guide. She first took us on a boat tour around a little river that overlooks the city, so we could see a scenic overview of different parts of the city. After that we had dinner at a Thai restaurant (we tried fried duck tongue, among other things). On the way back to our hotel, Jillisa asked us lots of questions to help us stay awake and fight our jet lag so we could wait to go to sleep on schedule with the local time.
This morning we started out early with breakfast and then orientation at the MTW team office. Sovanny, who is a native of Cambodia, gave us a crash course on Cambodian (Khmer) culture and taught us some basic Khmer phrases. Paul, who is the leader of the MTW field team, gave us an overview of the team’s work here and some basic guidelines for our trip. It was great to hear a little about what the field team has been doing here and specific ways that short-term teams like us can be an encouragement and support to the field workers and the local people with whom they interact.
We then enjoyed lunch at a restaurant called Daughters, which is part of a larger organization/ministry called Daughters of Cambodia, which provides training, employment and therapeutic programs for women who have been trapped in the sex-trafficking industry. After lunch was the most intense part of the day, which was a visit to the Tuol Sleng genocide museum. Last year’s team also visited the museum, and I can identify with the feelings of fear and grief that some of them expressed about what they saw there. This is where thousands of Khmer people were imprisoned, tortured and executed during the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, and the site now serves as a museum housing records, photographs and artifacts from those horrific events. I cannot adequately describe here what it feels like to walk through a place – the very site – where such atrocities occurred and to see the faces of both the perpetrators and victims. It is deeply disturbing and haunting. It makes you sad, sick and scared and makes you ask, “Why?! How?!” over and over again. Jillisa reminded us before we went in that we needed to remember that God is good and sovereign, and I definitely needed to cling to that. I can say that this visit deepened my sympathy and compassion for the people of Cambodia by helping me understand the source of some of their deepest pain, and how that still significantly affects their daily lives today, nearly 40 years later. It encouraged and reminded me to be in ongoing prayer for this nation to know the healing and restoration that Jesus Christ offers, and to know the God who is greater and more powerful than any evil human regime.
On a lighter note, we wrapped up our activities for the day with a visit to a Russian market (a favorite destination for last year’s team). We picked up a few souvenirs for ourselves, family and friends, and also started practicing our bargaining skills.
Tomorrow we begin six straight days of more direct ministry activities with the children and college students that the field team ministers to on a regular basis. We’ll be doing a Vacation Bible School program in the morning for the children and then helping with English class for the dorm students in the afternoon.
Please continue to pray for us! Specifically for: 1) restful sleep as we’re still getting over jet lag; 2) continued protection against illness; and 3) productive relationship-building with the missionaries, children and students.