Back in the Penh

From the moment we touched down in Phnom Penh less than 24 hours ago, I’ve been vascillating between abject exhaustion and utter elation. The jet lag is real, man. 12 hours difference is no joke. But the smells, the tastes, the sounds — and most importantly the people — are just so extraordinary, I can’t help but grin. 

I’m joined on this trip by my longtime friend — and former co-worker — Dylan Menges. He’s heard me and others talk about Asia’s Hope for, well, I guess more than 15 years. He’s supported Asia’s Hope in a lot of ways since the organization’s founding, and now he gets to be my traveling companion for the next four weeks. It’s fun watching him experience it all for the first time; it helps me maintain my sense of wonder. So, even though this is something like my 30th trip to Cambodia, it still feels new seeing it through his eyes. 

Both Dylan and I are going to be taking a ton of photos, and I’ll post some of mine along with tales from our adventure. I only took a few today, and I’ll share some of them here. Please keep us in your prayers as we try to bless the staff and kids of Asia’s Hope. 

 

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These boys get in a few minutes of hard after-dinner play before heading in to do homework.

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Dylan enjoying his first meal in Cambodia, grilled pork on rice at a street side cafe. 

Fresh fish and produce at the morning market. 

Fresh fish and produce at the morning market. 

Asia’s Hope dads help with the cooking in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Asia’s Hope dads help with the cooking in celebration of International Women’s Day.

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Beautiful flowers thrive in Cambodia’s tropical climate. 

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Beautiful smiles abound at Asia’s Hope in Prek Eng. 

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A guard stands by outside Phnom Penh’s royal palace. 

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The kids at Prek Eng 4 watch with fascination as Dylan draws a portrait of one of the children.

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The moms from three of our Prek Eng homes start up the grill, an important step in a delicious Khmer dinner. 

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When these guys play badminton, they aren’t messing around. 

John McCollumComment
Thankful for so much.
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As I look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday and the beginning of the Christmas season, my heart is overflowing. It’s been another year full of celebrations and loss, of tragic passings and exhilarating new beginnings. All of us at Asia’s Hope have been inspired by your generosity, your courageous leadership and your prayers of support.

I wanted to take a moment to share some of the things that I’m especially thankful as I reflect upon this day set aside for gratitude.

God’s extravagant favor

Growing up, I believed that God was a harsh gatekeeper, looking for flaws and shortcomings to disqualify imperfect people from service in his Kingdom. But the last 16 years of ministry have shown me that God is actively pursuing flawed, under-qualified people like me to use for his glory and for the good of those he loves. I’m so thankful that God chose people like me — and like you — to act on his behalf to rescue and restore these kids.

Our leaders in Asia

When people introduce me saying, “John runs this amazing ministry called Asia’s Hope,” I have to laugh a little bit. I’ll own up to “stewarding” it, or maybe even “steering” it, but I can’t claim to run it. Nothing — and I mean nothing — would run at Asia’s Hope without the wise leadership and hard work of our country directors: Savorn Ou in Cambodia, Tutu Abourmad in Thailand, Amber Gurung and Sunil Tamang in India. It is an honor to serve with them.

Our home parents and caregivers

Asia’s Hope could not exist without the home parents and caregivers at our 34 children’s homes. Their job is so much harder than mine — they’re on the clock 24 hours a day, every day of the year. They have opened their hearts and homes to the 800 kids in our care, and have become real moms and dads, aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers to these children, revoking the curse of orphanhood and repealing the sentence of poverty and despair that would have otherwise doomed these precious kids. May God fill each of these dear servants with his wisdom and strength.

Our board and executive staff

Led by our board members — Glenn Kelly, Ron Biddle, Sam Cobb, Adam Heath, Sherrod Fields, Keith Wong and John Campbell — our tiny executive staff punches far above its weight. With just four people in the home office — me, Administrator Carol Wardell, Project Manager Addison Smith and Administrative Assistant Satian Preamjaisanchat — we manage a project portfolio as complex as that of organizations with five to ten times our administrative resources. I’m thankful for and inspired by the tireless efforts of our board and executive staff.

Our partners and supporters

Some organizations employ a staff of fundraisers and even hire professional consulting firms to generate the significant resources required to do this difficult and often expensive work. At Asia’s Hope, we don’t have a “development staff.” We have you. We have partners — churches, businesses and family foundations who commit to the hard work of funding significant, long-term projects. And we have individual donors who have dug deep and given generously so we can sustain and grow our ministry to some of the world’s most vulnerable kids. I’m humbled by the opportunity to help you invest your hard-earned money in God’s Kingdom, and I’m thankful to you and to God that we’ve seen such a bountiful return on that investment.

So as I look back over the past few months with gratitude and toward the next with anticipation, I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with some of the kindest, most generous people in the world.

May God bless you and your family during this season of thanksgiving.

John McCollumComment
Marshmallows and Tea — and Popsicles, Too.

Late night marshmallows and tea with friends under a cabana at our Doi Saket 3 home in Thailand.

For the last few nights, our plan to visit our children's homes have been scuttled by heavy rain. And I mean really heavy rain, like those Florida pop-up storms that deliver buckets and then depart as quickly as they arrived. Except these rains kept pouring for hours and hours. The front yards of the homes we were trying to visit were quite flooded.

So last night, we made a contingency plan. We stopped at Toys R Us and picked up some card games, Jenga and Matchbox cars, and invited the kids to come to our guesthouse. Rain or shine, we were covered. No rain, we'd go swimming. Rain, we'd play inside. We ended up getting only a light sprinkle, and splitting into two groups. One group — mostly older girls — decided to hang out with Kori and Xiudan and play. The rest came out with me and swam.

We had a great time, although I may have over-exerted myself. Two-and-a-half hours of pulling kids around a pool in an innertube expends energy in a way that only shows up later, like the next morning. I'm a little stiff today, but I guess I never learn, as we're planning to do the same thing again this afternoon.

At about 8pm, after the kids had returned home and finished dinner and a little homework, we walked over to our Doi Saket 3 and 4 homes (they share a single piece of land), and we sat under a cabana and drank tea. We also brought a few bags of marshmallows, which most of the kids had never seen before. We chatted with translation help from Tutu and, when she was occupied, Google. It was really a memorable evening, and left me longing for that kind of interaction with friends at home. Now all I need is to build a cabana.

Today is Saturday, and is full. We spent the morning at Doi Saket 1, playing badminton and card games with the kids from the four homes there. We ate our fill of homemade popsicles, and grabbed a quick lunch in town with Tutu. Now we're taking a very quick break. I'm going to edit some photos, Kori and Pak are working on college loan paperwork and Xiudan is watching YouTube. If I was smart, I'd take a quick nap.

Tomorrow is Sunday. I'm expected to preach, but I still have no idea what I am going to say. I'll let you know how it goes after...

John McCollumComment