I tried to post this yesterday, but all of the text got scrambled and none of my pictures posted. So now that we have better Internet access, I'm reposting it! If you have a chance, please re-read this post!
A trip to Cambodia would not be complete without a visit to Spider Town, so on our way to Siem Reap, we had to stop by for a few minutes. I feel the need to specify that I HATE spiders. I often question why God had to create such a disgusting, ugly thing, and Cambodia makes me question this even more. The spiders in Cambodia are like something from my worst nightmare. They are HUGE; I’m talking about like the size of a Big Mac. They are like tarantulas—only bigger and much more gross. So with my healthy fear of spiders, you can only imagine how much I love walking around Spider Town, a place devoted to eating and playing with those disgusting creatures. For some reason, the Khmer people always feel the need to take us by this horrible place. At Spider Town, people walk around with these
Anyway, after that nightmare finally ended, we made our way to Siem Reap, where we always stay at our favorite guest house, “Smiley’s.” That night, we picked up the remainder of our team: Pastor Dee, Andy, and Stephan from the airport. The three of them were so tired when they arrived, but we were so excited to have them finally in Cambodia!
The very next morning, we went to the new NHO orphanage in Siem Reap. Seeing this orphanage finally become a reality really made me happy. See, Siem Reap has historically been one of the largest human trafficking areas in the world. Many children in this province have become tragic victims of the sex slave trade as a result of living on the streets with nowhere else to go. Having a Christian orphanage that is actively picking orphans off the street and bringing them to a safe and loving environment really is an answer to so many prayers I have prayed on our previous trips to Cambodia.
|Andy sharing John 3:16 using a yo-yo|
When we first arrived at this orphanage, I was overwhelmed with how sweet the children were. Small kids, as young as two years old, were waiting for us as we drove up. As soon as we exited the vans, the children ran up to us, introducing themselves, and hugging us tightly. It is always so hard for me to understand how, children who have been through so much pain, can continue be so loving. Their attitude in life encourages me greatly. They are a true testimony of the joy and healing that God can bring to us—even when we have lost everything.
At the Siem Reap orphanage, we finally began to assemble our first series of beds. We had to build 30 bunk beds for this location—15 bunks for the girls and 15 bunks for the boys. It took us awhile to really get into a good system of assembling the beds quickly. We had to learn how each person worked and how exactly the beds needed to go together. Plus, the humidity made many of the boards swell, which made us have to adjust how we assembled the beds. As we struggled to get started and really find a groove, Andy stopped us all and suggested we pray. He encouraged us to not get frustrated but to remember why we were putting these beds together. This gentle reminder was exactly what we needed, and we ended up getting most of the bunk beds completed that first day at Siem Reap.
Despite our diligence and renewed perspective, we did end up having a couple problems that day. First, thirty bunk beds had to be split between only two different rooms. These rooms were not very big, and it ended up being quite challenging to get fifteen beds in each room. Thankfully, Andy and Stephan seemed to like puzzles, and they were able to carefully place the beds in a specific manner-so as to maximize the most use of each room. Somehow, they managed to get all thirty beds between the two bedrooms. Our second issue was that two pieces of the bunk beds had broken during the shipping process. Because the wood had broken into two pieces, it would be impossible to build a normal bunk bed. However, our team ended up being very creative. Through some careful measuring and rearranging, they were able to lower the bunk bed several inches, cutting out the broken pieces, and thereby still preserving a whole bunk bed for two of the children. We really have a great team!
I wish you could have seen the children walk into their bedroom and see their new beds. Their faces burst into the biggest smiles! They immediately ran in and claimed their bed. You would have thought that had just been to Disney World…that’s how happy they were! Sothea later told me that the children looked around and said, “WOW! A bed just for me! We do not have to sleep on the floor anymore!!” For those of you that helped us with this project and could not be in Cambodia, I just want you to know…You did this for those children! You cannot imagine how much they appreciate your gift! Thank you!
The next day we went back to the Siem Reap orphanage to finish up the bunk beds and play with the children. We only had a few beds left, so we planned a lot of great activities for the kids. We started with an interactive skit on the story of Joseph. Stephan played the part of Joseph, while many of the children played his brothers. Nikita played Joseph’s father. Nikita and Stephan really hammed up Joseph being the father’s favorite. For the “coat of many colors,” we used a tie-dye shirt that we had made ahead of a time. We explained that parents often have a favorite child, just like Joseph was his father’s favorite. However, God loves each one of them, and they are each His favorite. After that, the whole team helped the children each tie-dye their own shirt, so they could remember how much God loves them and how special they are to Him. It was so awesome to see my Pastor down on the floor with the kids, helping them to put different color dyes on their shirts—what an incredible example of love.
|Nikita as Joseph's father and Stephan playing Joseph|
After that, Jen and Rachael led the children in some worship. Then, Stephan shared his own story with the older children and gave them a challenge to help their younger brothers and sisters. Meanwhile, we had another interactive skit of David and Goliath. Andy played Goliath, and it was hilarious! We picked the smallest girl (only about 2 years old) to play David. Before Andy came out, she said she was definitely ready to fight the mean giant…then, she saw Andy and she ran away screaming…haha! It was probably the funniest thing I have ever seen. In order to preserve the story, we discussed how sometimes God asks us to do difficult things, and we get scared. We only need to pray to Him, and He will protect us. Holding the little girl by the hand, she was finally able to get the courage to throw the “stone” (plastic bowling pin) at Goliath!
Afterwards, Kayla shared the salvation story with the kids and Pastor Dee lead the children in a prayer. We told them that Jesus washes our sins away, so we are “white as snow.” Then, we threw our snow mix on them, and allowed them to have a huge snowball fight. It was adorable. Before we left, we gave each child a Teddy Bear, a pair of flip flops, and an incredibly colorful pillowcase (made by the wonderful ladies at Fairview Baptist Church). We were also able to give enough mosquito netting so that each child would be able to sleep at night without worrying about getting bitten by mosquitos or other bugs. See, in Cambodia, there are mosquitos everywhere! Because there is no air conditioning and most of the rooms just have open windows and doors, bugs can come in and out of the rooms at night. Without mosquito netting, you will wake up with painful and itchy bug bites all over you! It was important to us that the kids have enough mosquito netting to allow them to sleep peacefully in their new beds.
Saying goodbye that night was difficult. The children gave us each a beautiful, colorful bracelet that they made themselves. Then, with a lot of tears shed by all, we had to leave these gorgeous kids behind. It was so tough to say goodbye.
Alright, that’s all for now. Please continue to pray for us—for our safety and that we may glorify God and bless these children in all that we do. Thank you so much for your support and for sharing this journey with us. We love you all!