Posts in Cambodia
And so it begins again...

Well, it’s t-minus seven days.

In exactly one week, I’ll be on a plane heading west. So far west, in fact, that it’ll be east by the time we leave. Kori, Chien, Pak, Xiu Dan and I will be in the air for about 24 hours (30+ if you include airports) and arriving bleary-eyed and hopefully-not-too grumpy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia — a city that feels to me like a home away from home.

One of my first requests as Asia’s Hope’s full time Executive Director was for the board to grant me the option of taking a travel budget designed to sustain three or four separate month-long trips to Asia and use it to take one very long trip each year for not only me, but for my whole family. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to choose between my family and my job. I’m also thankful for my pastor and my church family; the emotional, logistical and spiritual support they provide makes all of this possible.

This summer promises to be one of the busiest and most productive trips yet. Kori and the kids will be joining me for the first two months and returning home with just a few weeks to prepare for school. I’ll spend June in Cambodia, July in Thailand, most of August in Cambodia, and the first part of September in India. Along the way, I’ll be joined by board members, friends and family, and will have the chance to meet up with many of the teams visiting from U.S. and Canadian church sponsors.

Wait, India?

Yes. India.

This year we’re adding India to the itinerary. I’ll be traveling with Asia’s Hope project manager Seth Earnest (and, I pray, Executive Board Member Dr. John Campbell, who is recovering from a blood clot and a small handful of other health incidents) to West Bengal, India to meet with lawyers and potential ministry partners. We’re praying that God will provide the support necessary to rescue 125 orphaned children in the remote hill areas near Darjeeling in 2012.

If time and technology permit, I’ll be updating this blog at least two or three times a week. Please check in frequently and travel the world vicariously through us. I promise you won’t get bored. You probably won’t get Dengue Fever, either.

All joking aside, please pray that we stay healthy. As many of you remember, I got Dengue at the end of my trip last summer, and it was miserable. I lost about 25 pounds, and aged – perhaps permanently – about five years. If I get it again, I have an increased of getting a more serious version. I’d hate to go through this again, and I don’t want to see anyone else in my family suffer this kind of malady either.

We can use all of the prayers and kind words we can get. Pass this link along -- the more the merrier.

Catch you all on the flip side.


School Days

Well, neither Kori nor I slept terribly well our second night in Cambodia. We both woke up at around 4am after a somewhat fitful night’s “rest.”

We are thankful, however, that we were not greeted this morning by the sound of a pack of feral cats eating a baby strangling a parrot. That, or something very like that, was our cock’s crow yesterday. This morning, we were wooed to semi-consciousness by the collective groan of our household realizing simultaneously that sleep would no more grace our weary, sun-baked bones. 

So at 5:30, our adventuremongering son, Pak, who had previously promised to “go out every morning and watch the city wake up” croaked, “Less juss eat here this mrnnning…”

Yesterday was a big day.

We rose early (thanks to the aforementioned and unwelcomed cacophony) showered, dressed, and headed out to my favorite breakfast spot, a road-side phở stand off Mao Tse Tung Boulevard, across the street from a Cham Muslim mosque. As I suspected, my family was enchanted by the toothsome mélange of beef, wide rice noodles, shallots, herbs and chilies swimming in a savory broth. Pak ordered a second bowl, and would have eaten a third if he hadn’t already snacked at home.

We headed off, fatter and happier, to Prek Eng, and arrived at the Asia’s Hope Christian School, greeted by a hundred smiling elementary kids. I got a few hugs, but most of the attention was lavished on my wife and my kids. “Kori! Hello, Mommy! I love you!” “Hello, Chien! We miss you!” “Pak, Hello, my friend!” “Xiu Dan! You are so beautiful!" 

My kids were somewhat bewildered, but allowed themselves to be led off, grinning, to various parts of the school. For the next four hours, we played games, sang songs, and participated in classes. “Where’s Pak?” I asked. “I think he’s teaching in one of the rooms,” answered Kori.

When the lunch bell rang, the kids went back to their homes for their three hour break. We drove to a nearby restaurant and reflected on the day thus far. “This one girl kept tickling me,” said Chien, trying hard not to smile. “They keep pinching my cheeks!” exclaimed Xiu Dan. “Can we go back now?” asked Pak.

We finished our lunch quickly and headed to Prek Eng 2, the nearest orphan home. We played with the kids for another hour or so, and then walked with them back to school. Kori took a short nap on a cot in a shady area behind the school, I sat in on a staff meeting with all of the orphan home directors, and the kids participated in the classrooms. When the school day ended, I barely had energy to drive home.

After a delicious dinner at a local Thai/Khmer restaurant, we returned to the guesthouse and crashed. Hard. I guess it was about 7:30pm. Maybe waking up at 4:30am isn’t so bad after all, considering.

This morning, we’ll relax for a while and maybe eat breakfast at the guest house. I’ll probably take the kids out to the school, and then I’ll return for an important meeting with the ministry of Social Affairs. I’ll need to put on a suit (I’ll only do it for Asia’s Hope. No one else, so don’t ask.), prepare a short speech and exchange pleasantries with various officials including, I hear, the Secretary of State. I think maybe I should shave, too.

So, we’re busy. We’re tired. But we’re happy. Thank God for Asia’s Hope.

Featured Bio: Rarot

Asia's Hope now provides comprehensive care for almost 500 kids in Cambodia and Thailand. Now that we've reached a certain scale -- 16 orphan homes -- it could be tempting to evaluate the ministry in terms of statistics more than stories.

And God knows I have a lot of statistics I have to review on a daily basis -- donations, expenses, projections, exchange rates, salaries, rents -- the list goes on and on. But the real measure of our ministry can't be charted on a spreadsheet. Our children are our greatest treasure, and each one has a compelling and often heartbreaking story.

Whenever I get overwhelmed by the "business end" of the ministry, I take some time to look over the bios -- the personal stories -- of our kids. I'm often moved to tears, and I'm always moved to thankfulness; I'm thankful to our supporters for their generosity, and to our Father God who has given us the opportunity to act as conduits of his mercy and love to these precious children.

So, I've decided to share with you on a more regular basis some of the blessings I receive in reading the stories of these amazing kids. I'll try to post at least one bio a week. 

Here's an excerpt from the biography we have on file for Rarot, a beautiful nine-year-old girl who lives in our Battambang 1 orphan home in Battambang, Cambodia. I always look forward to seeing Rarot's wonderful smile every time I visit Cambodia. It's amazing to think about the suffering this now-happy little girl once endured...

Rarot's father contracted malaria. Her mother sold their land in order to get money to pay for his treatment, but he still was not able to recover. Without a home, her mother sent the children to live with their grandmother and went to Thailand to find work, but she has never sent word home. They lived in a poor shanty. Every day she took care of her two sisters, washed clothes, cooked and went to catch crabs, snails and fish to make stew. Many times they did not have enough food to eat. For nighttime they didn’t have blankets or mosquito nets. The roof leaked when it rained, and their clothes were often wet. She could not attend school, and lived a miserable existence of extreme poverty.

In 2007, Rarot came to live at home 1 in Battambang, Cambodia, sponsored by Westview Bible Church in Montreal. She is very healthy and happy to be living at the orphan home. She has a lot of friends, a lot of good food to eat, and good clothes to wear.

Rarot's favorite subject is Math, and she would like to become a doctor when she grows up.

If you're interested in receiving a bio and updates for a child like Rarot, you can sign up today to become a supplemental sponsor!