(Today’s blog is written by fellow travelers Wayne and Kerry Watanabe)
Journ riep suah! That’s how they say “Hello” here in Cambodia. After over 16 hours of flying plus some airport layover time we arrived safe and sound in Phnom Penh around 11pm local time. Even at that time of night it was very warm and humid with a steady rain. Being a northwest kid and a wimp when it comes to warm weather it was very obvious that we were not in Seattle (or Kansas) anymore. By the time we got to the hotel, unpacked, showered, etc. it was well past midnight and despite not having slept much on the plane and having a whopping 6 hours until breakfast, I didn’t sleep much. Maybe it was the jet lag, or maybe the excitement and anxiousness of this being a couple of “firsts” for me: First time in SE Asia (actually first time west of Hawaii) and a first time mission trip.
God is good and both Kerry and I felt pretty good the next morning (well OK, maybe not pretty good but at least not totally wasted!) We had a good breakfast – although I kept wondering if I should eat the fruit (had it been washed in unfiltered water? Had it been cut with a knife that had been washed in unfiltered water? Was I just being paranoid?) Throwing caution to the wind I went ahead and ate the watermelon. What a risk taker! I subsequently didn’t throw anything in my stomach to the wind either so we were able to head out to our first stop at the World Vision Cambodia headquarters.
World Vision is deeply involved in improving the conditions of the Cambodian people. They are truly living out God’s call to be “salt and light” in the world. If you know anything about Cambodia’s past you know how the Khmer Rouge killed millions of Cambodians and how the effects of that genocide continue to devastate the people today. World Vision has been focusing effort in 4 areas: Malnutrition in children, extremely low levels and quality of education, child protection (human trafficking), and connecting with the youth who make up a large percentage of the population and who are more willing than past generations to stand up against corruption and to get involved in change.
Our afternoon consisted of visiting several Area Development Projects (ADPs in World Vision lingo). These ADPs are areas where World Vision is developing a community of residents to address critical issues – things like caring for children, preventing the taking of homes by government of private parties, and developing economic programs to lift communities out of poverty. All of these areas are tough places to live. One area was next to a former land fill. Another on a canal so polluted it is called the Black Canal because the water literally is black. The conditions here are eye opening to me. It is hard to look at it but it is also good for me to see. The needs are so great and the obstacles seem so huge – but God can take the smallest thing – a mustard seed or a few loaves and fishes and do miracles.
The people of Cambodia are open to God’s word and His Love. This was not always so. Before the Communists took control and killed so many, Cambodia was considered one of the most difficult places in the world to share the gospel. We have a great opportunity and a great privilege to be here and serve in Jesus’ name. Thanks for letting me share on this blog. I should sign off now as I am getting very tired and punchy. Perhaps it was the impact of all that we experienced today…… or maybe it’s that watermelon I ate this morning………