A Band of Sisters

The people of Cambodia know what it means to experience loss. Every Cambodian has a story about how their family suffered during the dark days of the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot and his minions will forever be remembered in the history of the Khmer people as the men who filled mass graves with the bodies of their own countrymen.

The Khmer Rouge illustrate what happens when those who do not value the sanctity of human life rule the day. All hell breaks loose! Life becomes a demonic nightmare. No one is safe. Trouble is always imminent and, when it comes, will forever damage and destroy the lives of those in its path.


As Christ-followers, we are committed to sowing seeds of life in this nation steeped in death and destruction. We continue to invest in initiatives that promote the sanctity of human life and offer the suffering the soothing balm of hope — the hope that is firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.


We concluded our time in Cambodia by washing the feet of the women who attended our conference. These women are among the poorest in the area around Poipet, a town regarded as the armpit of the nation. Life is hard for these women. They are unaccustomed to anyone doing anything at all for them. They live with little or no affirmation of their worth.


Kara, our team leader, shared with the women the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. I shared the same story with the men who accompanied their wives. The women listened and took notes. And then, in a move that cemented the lesson in their memories, Kara selected a woman in the room and washed her feet.


This was not just any women. This was a woman who understands suffering and loss. In the waning days of the Khmer Rouge, she was escorted along with thousands of others to a place where they were to be executed. Miraculously, she survived. So, when Kara started to wash her feet, this woman was overwhelmed with emotion. Why would anyone stoop to wash her feet?



The women on our team spent the rest of the morning washing the feet of every woman in attendance and then praying for each one. There was no shortage of tears. This simple act affirmed to each of the women that they are indeed valued by God.



Many of the Cambodian women, who have a low estimation of themselves, were astonished that someone from the west, whom they regard as the highest of the high, would stoop to wash their feet. We explained that there is no caste system in God’s kingdom. He cautions His followers to not think more highly of themselves than they ought and to always regard the interests of others.


After the last prayer, it was hard to say goodbye. All of the women had bonded on a deep level and regarded each other as members of the same family. This was a band of sisters united by their common love for Jesus Christ and for one another. That is the beauty of the kingdom of God and what can happen when we follow the example of service set by Jesus. The simple act of washing feet enabled us to build bridges of love from one heart to another.


Posted in January 2017 Trip | Leave a comment

Company of the Passionate

Poipet, Cambodia

I am interested in the dynamics of movement — of why people will leave familiar shores and risk venturing to distant horizons. This is important because every major discovery in the history of the world has been made by those who moved in new directions despite the risk. These intrepid individuals redefined the map of the world and, in the process, redefined the geography of their own lives.


A key component in the dynamics of movement is passion, a word that comes to us from the Latin word passus, a form of the word pati which means to suffer. Webster defines passion as “a powerful emotion or appetite” and also as “ardent love” and “boundless enthusiasm.” There are certain signs that indicate whether someone is indeed passionate.


Passion leads to presence. Those who are passionate about something show up to make a difference or to demonstrate their support. It was a passion to alleviate the suffering of others, for example, that moved the Good Samaritan in the direction of the unfortunate robbery victim. There is no better way to demonstrate that you care than to show up — to actually be present.


Passion also leads to perspiration — to work hard to get things done. Passionate people are not afraid of being inconvenienced or having to get their uniform dirty in order to move the ball toward the goal line. Because they believe in something greater than themselves and that serves interests beyond their own, passionate people are willing to sweat it out and to slog it out to get the job done.


Passion is in no short supply among our Cambodia team. The folks on our team have come to Cambodia’s former killing fields to sow seeds of life and hope among the most desperate. Our first days here have been nothing less than poetry in motion. From off-loading luggage filled with supplies, setting up dental and medical clinics, preparing to teach hundreds of women what it means to be a follower of Christ, and caring for kids who live in an at-risk environment — passion is on display.


Yesterday was an amazing day as those we have come to serve reclined in dental chairs, visited our medical clinic to find relief from aches and pains, and worshiped and studied the Scripture together. All of this punctuated with the bustle of kids playing games, enjoying crafts, and making new discoveries about what it means to be loved by God. I love the fact that when Christ-followers show up in hard places like Poipet, there is joy and gratitude among the people.


There is no question that the passion to serve the interests of the kingdom of God has brought us here. Passion does that. It alters our priorities, helps us to see others clearly, motivates us to move in the direction of people in need, mitigates the fear of getting our hands dirty, and ultimately helps us to show a world in turmoil what it means to be an all-in follower of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to be in the company of the passionate.


Posted in January 2017 Trip | Leave a comment

Return To Cambodia

The journey from my suburban home to the slums of Poipet in western Cambodia is long — really long no matter which way you travel. The only thing that makes the trip bearable is knowing that my heart is inclined in the direction of the poor and needy.

I live with the daily pressure of concern for the many peoples I have been privileged to serve over the years. I can no longer remember what it was like to go to bed free of this concern. It both calls and drives me. It troubles me when it suspects I am starting to slink into the comforts of my suburban life.


Thus another long journey away from the conveniences of home. Long journeys like this are made more bearable when shared with others whose hearts beat in sync with my own. While I never mind traveling alone, I cherish the days that I am with like-hearted companions who also desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus among the least of these.

And so, I have returned to Cambodia, but not alone. My friend Kara Potts serves as our missions ministry’s point person for our work among the Khmer and did an excellent job of mobilizing and preparing our team. I have returned to Cambodia with friends.


Over the coming days our team will serve the women and children who live in Poipet, one of the least favored parts of Cambodia. Life in this border town is hard. And it is also dangerous because it’s a favorite hunting ground of those who traffic in human beings. Those who have no regard to the sanctity of human life prosper in places like this.

Our work here is strategic and our efforts preemptive in the battle for life and the struggle against human trafficking. Our presence and the resources we invest are making a difference in the lives of the women and children we serve in partnership with our good friend Steve Hyde, the Iowa farm boy turned missionary who knows he will one day be buried here.


And so, we have returned to Cambodia to do good — because that is what Jesus would do. We are here to affirm the value of human life, to care for the practical needs of the poor, to offer medical and dental help, to invest in women so that they in turn will be better moms and steer their households toward the life and freedom found in Jesus.

We are a long way from home and that’s ok. As Kara reminded our team last night, we have come here to live out the words of the Apostle Paul who admonished the Philippian church to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but instead, in humility, to regard others as more important than themselves. And that is exactly what we intend to do.

Posted in January 2017 Trip | Leave a comment

Not Home Yet

At the Hope Center, we sang songs, danced, prayed, read the bible in multiple languages, shared bible stories, and shared personal stories of how the Lord has molded the hearts of each and every one of us.  After two days of sharing, we asked those in attendance if they had something they wanted to share with us – we had been doing most of the talking.  Sure enough, a hand shot up in the crowd of Cambodian women.  Meet So Maly…image.png

On a chilly morning at the Hope Center, So Maly stands up and begins to share a heart wrenching story of survival of the Khmer Rouge.  The Communist Party of Kampuchea, otherwise known as Khmer Rouge, took control of Cambodia on April 17, 1975 and ruled until 1979 – during many of our lives.  While the Khmer Rouge was in power, they set up policies that disregarded human life and produced repression and massacres on a massive scale.  They turned the country into a huge “detention center,” which later became a graveyard for nearly two million people.


Soon after seizing power, they arrested and killed thousands, any were held in prisons, where they were detained, interrogated, tortured and executed. The most important prison in Cambodia, known as S-21, held approximately 14,000 prisoners while in operation. Only about 12 survived. The Khmer Rouge continued to exist until 1999 when all of its leaders had defected to the Royal Government of Cambodia, been arrested, or had died. But their legacy remains and women like Noit Hyde and So Maly lived to tell stories of survival of such a brutal regime.

Through tears, So Maly bravely shared and we join her in sobbing before we even heard the English translation of her words.  Beyond survival, the most precious moment in her story was when she said “after the Khmer Rouge I wanted to go to the USA, but now after hearing so many stories I want to go to HEAVEN!” So Maly knows that life beyond this world only exist through Jesus Christ and because of him she knows Heaven is her true home.

But, we are “Not Home Yet.”  These women will not flee Cambodia for the USA, instead they will stay there, for now, continuing God’s work in their lives and sharing the gospel message to others looking for a home away from Cambodia and the destruction left over from the Khmer Rouge.  These women are a voice of survival and a bright light for the darkness left over because they know the true savior of the world, Jesus.

So Maly and I had a moment to sit and share a little with each other that day.  We had two separate bibles, two separate languages, and yet we were speaking clear as day.  She shared John 3:16 in her language while I turned there in my bible.  Then I shared John 16:33 from my language and she read it out loud in hers.  How beautiful to communicate though scripture the promises of our common Father in Heaven, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” We may not be “home yet,” but as sisters in Christ we have the same mission on earth with the same destination.  I can’t wait!

Building 425: “Where I belong”

All I know is I’m not home yet, this is not where I belong.

Take this world and give me Jesus, this is not where I belong.

Written by Sarah Sallee

Posted in February 2016 Trip | 3 Comments

The Joy of the Lord

There is something about being with other women that is just fun. And then add Jesus in the mix and you have the perfect recipe for joy!

Yesterday our team, along with the staff at the Hope Center hosted a women’s conference for village women of all faiths. The word about the conference spread quickly and over 400 people came to the Hope Center. The women came in truckloads, by tractor, and even by foot with their teens, children, and babies and were ready to hear what we had to share about Jesus.

Once they arrived it was nonstop fun! We started the day with dancing, did special activities with the teens and toddlers, and ended the day as a group embracing each other and thanking Jesus for the time we had together.

Hearing the stories of the women made us realize the need for women to gather and to step out of their daily routine to just have fun! The woman above married very young, had 19 children, has buried 9 of them, and has a husband that never let her leave the house except to run to the market.   She said that today was the first time she left the house and just had fun!  And you should have seen her dance!  She stormed the stage and got her boogie on with our team. It was a joy to watch!

Joy is contagious and our prayer is that long after we leave, Steve & Noit, and the incredible Hope Center staff, will continue to share in Cambodia the message of  joy that comes from knowing Christ.

Posted in February 2016 Trip | 3 Comments

A Real Life Superhero

Children love to watch movies about superheroes and dream of imitating their courage, bravery, their sense of adventure and their determination for good to always triumph over evil. While Batman, Spider-Man, and Ironman are fun to watch in movies, we all know that they are not real people.

I want to tell you a story about a real live Super Woman. The movie about her life would be rated R for violence and we would caution parents that parts of her story are unsuitable for small children. The irony is that she herself was a small child when the story unfolded.

This little girl was born to a Buddhist mother with 6 biological children (she was number five) and 1 adopted child. Her father had another family in a nearby village so she only saw her father three times in her entire life.  She told me very simply that her childhood was “not happy.”

Her earliest memories are of the Vietnam War and the Americans dropping B-52 bombs on her village. She remembers when she was nine years old, the roof of her home fell in on her bed. Thankfully she was not injured but this was the first of many wartime struggles this little girl faced.

She recounts the story of the 1975 Cambodian New Year celebration that was going on in her village when the Khmer Rouge soldiers came in with guns.

At the time this little girl had no idea that Pol Pot had mounted an army and overthrown the Cambodian leaders and that he was systematically going through the nation killing all educated people, all teachers, and carrying out a genocide among his own people. We now know that over 3 million Cambodians were killed during Pol Pots reign of terror.

But in 1975 this 11 year old girl saw her father come to her house for only the third time in her short life to tell her mother to get the children and get out of the village where they lived.  The little girl grabbed her schoolbooks for the journey because she had an exam coming up shortly. Her father led them to an underground pathway because the roads had been closed. He led his second family 13 miles to safety and that was the last time she would ever see her father. As a teacher he would have been one of the first targets of Pol Pot’s evil plan.

The little girl and her family were eventually captured by the Khmer Rouge and forced to walk 32 miles from Phnom Penh to a Buddhist temple that was set up as a refugee holding place. They lived day to day trading what they had for bits of dried fish. Four cups of rice per day was allotted for groups of 22 people. Cambodians were dying of starvation daily, their bodies in heaps everywhere you looked. Each day, groups of people were called to go back to Phnom Penh, but slowly the realization hit that those people were being called to their execution. The Killing Fields were overflowing with bodies gunned down in senseless murders. Even now, forty years later the bones of the people killed in the fields  are still coming up from the ground and collected by villagers to put in a memorial (like the one in the below photo) as a silent remembrance of this horrific time in their country’s history. If you look closely you can see the piles and piles of bones stacked inside this memorial.

For three long years this little super hero lived, separated from her family and working daily in rice fields with more than 70 other small children. They awoke at 4am to walk 2 hours to a field, worked  in the hot sun all day and then walked back at 7pm. They were not allowed to cry. Many children died in the fields and by 1979 there were only 13 children left in the original group.

By her 15th birthday, weighing under 50 pounds, this resiliant teen, her mother and one sister were freed by the Vietamese soldiers and allowed to walk 125 miles back to Phnom Penh. The trip took the family 3 months to complete and when they finally arrived home, their home was gone and everyone they knew was dead.

The shell-shocked family began to rebuild their lives. The little girl was now 19 and her father’s other family had survived and had jobs as police. They offered her a job where she worked each day and took sleeping pills to sleep anytime she was not at work. Life was completely hopeless, until a Dutch missionary came and befriended the family.  The missionary built a friendship with the teen and taught her that in Christ there is real hope. Over the next few years the teen began to believe that God not only saw her, but that He loved her and she accepted the hope He offered.

Today, this Super Woman known as Noit Hyde, along with her missionary husband, has rescued countless orphans and started 2 orphanages, built the Hope Center and personally shared Christ with thousands and thousands of Cambodians. She is a real life super hero and evidence that we serve a God who is a master of restoration. He is the author of stories beyond what we can imagine. He can do “abundantly more that all we can ask or even imagine.”  He is just looking for a willing heart. If Noit can allow God to use her, what excuse can we possibly give for not allowing Him to use us?  What story will you allow God to write with your life?

If I could talk to the writer of Hebrews, I would humbly suggest an addition to Chapter 11 known as the Hall of Faith. I think Noit would be a great addition to the list of the heroes  of our faith.   

Hebrews 13:7 reminds us to “remember our leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”  To the very best of my ability I will imitate Noit and serve the poor, minister to the hurting and boldly teach the gospel of Christ.

Posted in February 2016 Trip, January 2017 Trip | 4 Comments

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?

Posted in February 2016 Trip | Leave a comment