Dancing in the streets
Sundays are always fun at Asia's Hope. This one had us dancing in the streets.
The morning started at Hope Fellowship, our church in Battambang. With more than 400 attenders, this counts as something of a megachurch in Cambodia. We kicked off the service with a few congregational worship songs, and followed them with performances from three different groups of our kids. I sang one song, and then I preached a message from Romans.
I love worshipping with the Asia's Hope staff and kids, and this time was extra special, because I was joined by my family, Carol's family (Carol is the administrator for Asia's Hope's main office in Ohio), Addison (our project manager) and the co-directors of Asia's Hope India, Amber and Sunil and their wives. It's probably unwise for us all to be in the same place at the same time; if a meteor struck, Asia's Hope would be set back significantly by the loss of executive personnel.
After the service, we stopped to take a group picture at each of our 13 homes. Even at a quick pace, it took us more than an hour. We had a delicious lunch together with Savorn at a local Indian restaurant, and returned to our hotel for a brief rest.
Late afternoon, we headed out for a dedication party at the brand new University Student Center, home to 25 young scholars who grew up at Asia's Hope in Battambang. I've known most of these kids since they were quite young, so it's a real kick to see them living more independently and thriving in their studies. We've been blessed with a beautiful — and affordable — facility for these kids, and they all seem to love it there. Next year, we're adding 10 more students to the center, and will probably have to open a second one within the next couple of years.
This center — and the one like it in Phnom Penh — are key elements of our strategy to transition our kids to independent adulthood and to raise up a new generation of educated, hardworking and responsible leaders for Asia's Hope's and Cambodia's future. We're working now to develop funding and operational strategies that I'll be talking a lot about in the coming weeks and months.
We hired caterers for the party, and enjoyed a dinner of beef (roasted whole on a spit), noodles, Cambodian sour soup, and fresh fruits. After the meal, we danced. For hours, it seems. And I know I've said this before, but I'm always so impressed with the difference between Asia's Hope dances and the ones I've attended (or chaperoned) in the States. These parties are wholesome, inclusive and joyful. It's so much fun to join our kids in cutting loose, laughing and dancing without judgment or self-consciousness.
Our day was not completely without its sorrows. Addison had to cancel his trip and leave suddenly — just a day after arriving in Cambodia — due to an unexpected and serious illness in his family. And Punam, the wife of Pastor Sunil, found out that her sister had died quite quickly after a short battle with cancer. As always, around here, tragedy and celebration are mixed together, drunk often in the same cup. So please pray for Addison's and Punam's families. Punam has decided to stay on and finish her trip. I hope that spending time with these kids and staff who have themselves lost parents, siblings and children will be deeply comforting.