Making time for the “big kids”

If you’re only following me here on the blog — and not on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter — you wouldn’t know that we’ve made it to Battambang. Actually, we’ve been here for a couple of days, and we’ll be leaving for Thailand early Monday morning.

The drive from Phnom Penh is getting faster and less dramatic each year. A decade and a half ago, we the roads were so bad that no one who could afford the $30 plane ticket would dare suffer the 14 hour overland ordeal. Now it takes about five hours by car, and given the pace of infrastructure expansion, I’d expect to be able to cover it in 3 hours before 2021. 

We’ve had a great time here, although I know I’m not going to have enough time to enjoy any kind of meaningful visit at all of our 13 homes. With so many kids to see and such limited capacity, we’re doing our best to encourage the staff, honor the teachers at our school and interact with the kids on a scattershot basis. 

Today we set aside the entire day to visit with our university students. This morning we toured the University of Management and Economics where 20 of our graduates attend. I dropped in on a number of classes and chatted for a few minutes with the school’s Vice President. I’m thankful for UME; they’ve given us preferred admission status and discounted tuition. According to the faculty there, our kids are uniformly polite, studious and ambitious. 

Fifteen years ago Battambang’s best students wanted to study in Phnom Penh or abroad. Today there are plenty of good colleges our kids can attend, and most choose to stay in town. With a university degree and a well-established network of Asia’s Hope friends, family and alumni, our grads face strong employment prospects in a country that is often acknowledged to face a drastic shortage of decent jobs. 

After spending a couple of hours at the university, we visited a local elementary school where two of our upperclassmen have already secured full-time administrative jobs. They’re so proud of their accomplishments and are already looking forward to being able to buy plots of land to build their future homes. 

Tonight we plan to hang out with the Battambang Student Center, home to more than 50 of our college kids. This is a special joy for me; the student center is sponsored by my own church, Central Vineyard. These kids have grown up alongside my own boys, Chien and Pak. They’re sweet, sophisticated and sharp. They work so hard and are all the endorsement Asia’s Hope will ever need. As I’ve told them and our staff, I have no worries about the future of Asia’s Hope; our second generation is ready to lead.

If I really told you how much I admire them, you’d think I was just spinning for PR or fundraising purposes. But if you ask anyone who’s met them, they’ll tell you the same. 

[But speaking of money, if you are looking a 100% sure-bet investment in God’s Kingdom, we really need to talk. Our ranks of college students grow every year, and will for the foreseeable future. College here is cheap, but not when you’re buying it for a couple hundred kids at a time. Together, though, we absolutely will change the world. Hit me up, yo:]



Eager Asia’s Hope scholars at Battambang, Cambodia’s University of Management and Economics. 


Dylan gets the shot. 

These Asia’s Hope grads are now not just great friends but proud co-workers. 

These Asia’s Hope grads are now not just great friends but proud co-workers. 

Aw. And they also like me! (Photo credit: Dylan Menges)

Aw. And they also like me! (Photo credit: Dylan Menges)


Samuth, our Battambang 7 home dad is a graduate of UME and a mentor for all of our Battambang university students. (Photo credit: Dylan Menges)

John McCollumComment