We had a fantastic time in Cambodia this past month. Below is a video montage, over a hundred pictures and some reflection I did while waiting for a flight on the way home. This has been an eight year journey and it was crazy to finally experience Cambodia.
Grace + Peace,
[Written Friday, January 29 - Bangkok, Thailand]
Well... Here I sit, people all around me as I wait for a my connecting flight in Bangkok airport. Of course the first place my internal GPS takes me in any city is to coffee. I've ordered my $5 Americano and have found a few minutes in this concrete and glass masterpiece building to reflect on the last two weeks.
Before I can even put into words the last two weeks my mind races to January 2008. Eight years ago.
A lot happens in eight years. Birthdays, anniversaries, first homes, second homes. Babies. More babies.
Over the last eight years our family has laughed, cried, partied and mourned with the people in our lives. We have seen so many victories. We have also watched people go through the valley. Accidents, miscarriages, sickness. Life is filled with strawberries and sometimes it's filled with lemons.
Eight years ago this month I led a small team of people to Thailand. Heather was all set to go with us but couldn't because we had found out she was pregnant. While she stayed home our small team of six headed to a brand new place. There we visited some local churches, a bible college and spent time in the hill tribes. It was so much fun. Two weeks filled with laughter, lifetime memories and a ton of fun with our friend Peter Dewit.
On that trip were two people that had quickly become good friends. A newly married couple, teeming with life and an openness to what God wanted to do with their lives. Their story was somewhat unique. She was a classic Canadian girl with a love for horses. He on the other hand had the mother of all stories. Born during civil unrest that was taking place in Cambodia in the late seventies and early eighties, he was adopted from a refugee camp by a loving family from Stratford, Ontario. A true miracle story out of a country that had experienced so much devastation during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.
As we prepared for this trip in 2008 I remember Chad and Ashley expressing their desire to go to Cambodia after we had visited Thailand as a team. They wanted to go to the bordering country to see and experience Chad's place of origin.
So, that's what they did. After two weeks out team returned home and Chad and Ashley went on to experience life in Cambodia. They came home sharing stories of how people in the streets would come up to Chad, surprised at the fact that he did not speak Khmer. He looked the part but for him this was a whole new world. It was clear that something happened on that trip. There was a passion for Cambodia and slowly but surely the seeds were being sown to return as full time global workers.
Seems simple right? You just feel the call and go.
Not so fast.
It was a journey. I remember in 2012 sitting at PAOC headquarters with a team of well respected leaders discerning if this was actually going to happen. Would this family be sent? I still remember the look on Chad's face when they got the news, "It seems good to us and to the Lord that you would be appointed!"
The joy of that moment brought forth the reality of the coming months. Training. Fundraising. In the midst of this they managed to have four kids in yes, four years. Departure dates and then renewed departure days.
Finally the day came in November 2013. I remember the last visit we had with Chad and Ashley and their family a few days before they departed for Cambodia. As they put their kids in their van and drove away I wept. I remember going to work that afternoon and sitting in my dad's office and just crying. I admit it must have been awkward for people who were coming through the office that day, but it was what I was feeling deep inside.
Why the emotion on that day?
Not only were we sending our best, I also think part of it is that, whether they like it or not, was the fact that I have felt apart of Chad and Ashley's journey. The trip in 2008, the moments of listening and discerning and doing everything we could to see this happen. All of this made us feel like we were along for the ride. Sure, I wasn't packing up my family but I was learning through Chad and Ashley what sacrifice and responding to God's call looked like.
Now, you may be asking yourself, "What about the last two weeks?"
Well. This backstory sets the stage for what I experienced the last two weeks.
Over the last two weeks I have been able to experience first hand what God is doing through the McCarthy's. The little seed that was planted in 2008 has blossomed into a tree that is bearing fruit. The thing with this tree is that it is getting stronger and stronger every day.
I was amazed by the sights and sounds of Phenom Penh and some of the surrounding provinces we visited. I was even more amazed sitting back and watching Chad and Ashley do their thing. The last number of missions experiences I have been on have been filled with preaching or leading other activities. This time I was able to simply sit back and observe.
I observed Chad doing a great work partnering with Asian Outreach to do ministry in the surrounding villages of Phenom Penh. Chad knows the city well and is building relationships for the future. Not only is he a great team leader, he also gave us the full experience in Cambodia, showing us all the sights and sounds. He is the ultimate tour guide.
Ashley is not only doing a fantastic job at raising four young kids, she has also deeply embedded herself in their community. This has manifested itself in gathering some of the ladies close to their house to start a business that makes clothing. Their home is also filled with children from the community throughout the week for English lessons and outdoor activities.
Evie is a spark plug! Ethne loves to sing and create. Eliot is adventurous, always climbing things and discovering new animals in the back yard and Dezmond is dominating everyone at Blockus.
The McCarthy's are on mission. Their lives are not compartmentalized. Everything they do is reaching and touching the people around them.
Cambodia is home. I'm not just saying it. I saw over the last two weeks that the journey Chad, Ashley and their family have been on the last eight years has led them to their home.
So here I sit. Watching people come and go. Some with tears in their eyes because they have left loved ones. Others hustling to their next flight for business. And as I finish my Americano I am reminded that all of us who follow Jesus are called to this beautiful mission of reconciliation. It may be across the world, it may not. What matters is that we are listening to the voice of the Spirit and following him into the depths of his mission to renew all of humanity. It's as simple and as challenging as that.