Village Life

While our teams are in Cambodia, we often write about Imparting Smiles and take pictures of the children there to share with you.  We also learn and write about the work of the Hope Center, but yesterday, we got to be feet on the ground in the villages with the Hope Center staff.  It may be hard to imagine if you have not seen it with your own eyes, but children like those at Imparting Smiles, come from rural villages of over 160,000 people connected by dirt roads with potholes the size of bathtubs.  These villages are full of women, childeren, infants, and elderly laying on mats and wooden, tree branch connected planks on the ground. There are dogs and chickens running everywhere, unclothed toddlers playing in mud, and women preparing meals. However, men are rarely seen. They are either in Thailand looking for work or they have abandoned their family.

Yesterday, we got to experience this village life. We set out with the staff of the Hope Center to participate in a typical day in the village. The staff is made up of Chea Vuthy, the Director of the Hope Center, who returns nightly to his family and his personal shoe shop in Thailand. Imm, previously an orphan living at Imparting Smiles, is now grown up and actively participating in this village ministry. Lastly there is Phanny, a widow with a young son Joseph, who came to live at Imparting Smiles because she had no where else to turn. These three set out daily to the most destitute villages to teach practical medical care, pregnancy care, and share the gospel to the least of these.  Children (like the one in the photo  below) have a chance of survival due to the care that the Hope Center provides.

Vuthy, in his wisdom, has a charted plan to visit villages on a schedule, document medical issues, and follow through with a consistant message of the gospel to those that rarely experience structure at all in their lives.  He truly cares for the poor and offers them clean water and medical help, but something even better that will last for eternity. He offers them the hope of heaven. In a society where there is no hope, the hope that Vuthy and his staff offer is life breath to weary, discouraged souls. 

We traveled to many villages yesterday. Some groups meet in tin-roofed school rooms (like in the picture below.) Some meet in lean-to shacks where the newest mother in the village has just delivered a baby. Wherever they meet, the people of Poipet are gaining education and the people of the Hope Center are changing their piece of the world to make it a better place.  

We ended the village mission tour at a small village that was packed with women. Both young and old gathered to hear the lesson. To a quiet audience, Phanny delivered a lesson on getting to the hospital as soon as your water breaks. Many babies die because the mothers are told to just lie and wait and see what will happen.

At the end of the lesson Noit Hyde stood up and starting speaking rapidly in Khmer. Although we could not understand her words, there is nothing like hearing the power of the gospel being shared. At the end of her talk, three women raised their hands to profess faith in Christ. You really had to see it to believe it. Their very countenance changed. That is what Jesus does for each of us. He changes our countenance to reflect His amazing love, grace, forgiveness and mercy to those we encounter. Think about your face today. Do people see Jesus when they look at you?

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Offering Hope

The Thai Cambodian border is full of those who are eager to exploit vulnerable women and children. Today we started our day at a small cafe next to our hotel that serves breakfast while also offering hope to those in this area who at the most risk of being trafficked.  All profits from this cafe offer practical help to those in need in the surrounding villages.  They offer hope to the hopeless.

 Our next stop was the Hope Center.  On my first trip to Cambodia five years ago, it was just a piece of land and a dream to offer hope to all of the women in the surrounding villages. Over the past five years the Center has been built, furnished, and now is a refuge for women in the Poipet community who need prenatal care, medical care, dental care, counseling, and discipleship training. The staff at the Hope Center offer hope to the hopeless and some day we we pray it will be a daily gathering point for the entire village.

Our final stop today was Imparting Smiles, one of the orphanages started by Steve and Noit Hyde that is home to 65 children that once had no hope for a future. Over the past five years our team has heard of children being sold, abandoned, orphaned by HIV infected parents, the stories go on, but now these children have new stories, hope and bright futures because of the love and care that they receive at the center.

 Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that Jesus gives us a future and a hope. As the timeless hymn states, “our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus love and righteousness.” I am thankful for the hope that is offered by Christ-followers here in Cambodia and trust that our hope in Christ overflows to all those we encounter.

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Follow the Leader

Like children in school play follow the leader through the halls, so we adults follow leaders in our lives. We have people we emulate and want to be more like. We have people we admire and closely watch how they live to see if we can glean tips on how we can live.

It is very important to choose wisely who we follow. Scripture reminds us that “bad company corrupts good character (I Cor 15:33)”. Not only do we have to choose wisely who we follow, but we must be mindful of those that we lead. Whether it is children in our homes, employees at work or friends who watch us and take cues for how to handle situations, we are all leading someone.

I have had the great privilege of following Pastor Omar Garcia to Kampala, Uganda, on three trips to Cambodia, and on numerous mission projects in the Houston area. Pastor Omar is a good leader.

If you spend enough time observing Omar you learn that he seeks out the poor and the marginalized wherever he is and does everything in his power to help them. He relies on the council of scripture to guide decisions. He is careful to slow down and look at people in the eyes. He is a lifelong learner and is always seeking to learn more about the world and the needs of people.  Probably my favorite characteristic of Pastor Omar is his firm resolve to take the Great Commission seriously. He has dedicated his life to sharing the gospel around the world and as a result he has led a generation of us following behind him.

I believe Pastor Omar, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has transformed the people of Kingsland to mobilize to meet needs locally and abroad. He has empowered us to not wait for a church initiative, but rather to jump in and meets needs in our community using the resources that God has given us.

Omar is an ordinary man who has chosen to live extraordinarily. And there are thousands coming behind him to take the charge to Go Beyond to our Jerusalem, our Judea and to the very ends of the earth.

Though Omar is not with us on this trip, his leadership continues to guide our steps as we continue to Go Beyond in Cambodia. We have watched him over the years and we know what to do.

As Christ followers, Jesus is our ultimate leader, but what a blessing to have great men and women in the faith to practically guide us in our mission to love God and love people wherever we are.

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21 Bags & 2 Days

We arrived safely in Siem Reap, Cambodia with our 21 bags intact and ready to start our adventure after flying 22 hours and losing February 1st forever.

Our bags contain the supplies we need to meet physical needs in local villages while opening doors to hopefully meet spiritual needs as well. Our final destination is Poipet Cambodia, home to 160,000 of the poorest of the poor.

Poipet is full of women and children who struggle daily to survive by whatever means possible. In fact, many adults travel across the Thai border for days at a time to find work, leaving their children alone and vulnerable.  This is why our friends Steve and Noit Hyde have dedicated their lives to protecting and caring for these children.

Over the next two weeks our focus will be playing games with the children and loving the people in the village. We brought sports equipment for the orphans at Imparting Smiles, baby quilts, and prenatal vitamins for the women. Included in our supplies — simple over-the-counter items like Tylenol and Advil. These medications are the primary means of treating illness and are otherwise unavailable in Cambodia.

Along with 21 bags full of supplies, we are bringing days of love and a message of hope that can only be found in Christ.

And this is our hope — to live out the ancient words of Micah 6:8, “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”

Posted in February 2016 Trip | 6 Comments