8 Hours North

We made it to Siem Reap!

Two days ago we got to take the kids to the market. This is where our team pairs up with one or two children from the home and go to a huge outdoor market in the city with 25 dollars to spend on whatever they need. They suggested that we buy things like backpacks, shoes, hats, clothes, and toys. We also got to take the pastors and buy things for the home like tables, bicycles, and school supplies. Our 25 dollars went a long way in rural Cambodia. For example, 25 dollars bought one kid a soccer uniform, new shoes, a belt, several pairs of underwear, and three full outfits. You didn't need a translator to tell you how excited the kids were about their new things. There were hugs all around, and some kids who had been afraid to talk before were singing and dancing.

Then we all got in a large circle in the sanctuary and got to give prophetic words to the kids. Some of us had a scripture or word to share with the entire group, and some had something specific to share with one or two kids. Some of them had never been honored like that in their entire lives. And they will remember what we spoke into their lives forever. One highlight was how we got to give words to the pastor and his wife. We moved on and left yesterday, but their work is going to continue. It's easy to sweep in and love the kids in these huge moments, but it is hard to love them day in and day out when there is little support.

The day ended with a feast. The staff of the home wanted to honor us so they made a huge meal for everyone with two kinds of meat, and soda (which are a big deal in that part of the world). They wanted to show how grateful they were for everything we gave to them. What they may not know is how grateful we are for them! Their joy, their gratitude, and their love for one another is something we all want to take back to the states. There is simply something different about the people here, and we all want to be more like them when we grow up.

The very last thing we did was have a dance party. We brought out the speaker and played music from both of our countries. All of the kids danced with us, and you couldn't even tell that we had been working all week. We ended with a spirited rendition of "Footloose."

It was tough to say goodbye, but we know that these kids are in good hands. It's possible that we won't see the kids again during our time here on earth, but we rejoice in the fact that we WILL see them again when we meet our Father face to face. It is a perfect picture of heaven; All people and all cultures praising the same God. Our future is sure, and that is where our hope and joy comes from.

Yesterday after our final goodbyes we boarded a bus and rode for nine hours to Siem Reap. The first hour was quiet as we reminisced on our time at Jaw and looked over our pictures. After that there was some activity but it was mostly subdued as we all felt the weight of the previous six days of work. When we got to our hotel last night we  slept really well. 

Today we visited Sna Songkream! It was a new experience for some and a second and even third time visit for some. We started out with a meet and greet and then we got to take them to the lake. Unlike America, this is an experience they will rarely get to enjoy. It was a great day! Tomorrow we head to Battambang, where we will visit our last home, Ou Kcheay!  

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Finishing Touches

Yesterday we finished pouring cement for all of our posts. Overall we finished 79 posts which has been incredibly fast.

It was probably the hottest and driest of all. You would work for ten minutes and then spend 10-20 minutes in the shade. Still, things moved quickly because we worked out a system and everyone knew their place in it. At the end of the day we made a long assembly line to pass buckets of cement to the last few poles and got to celebrate as our team coordinator Khemera poured in the last bucket.

We finished early, which means we got extra time to play with all the kids. We broke out the Play Doh and coloring books, took instant print polaroid pictures that they could keep, and showed them pictures from our phones. We also got to spend a half hour cleaning up the property from garbage. We even had the children follow us during this time so they could learn how to take care of their home when we are gone.

Today we get to take the kids to the market, give them prophetic words with an interpreter, and have a feast at their home!

We are incredibly encouraged by all the Lord has done in and through our team and the trip is only halfway over! It is a daily reminder that He will continue to do IMMEASURABLY more than we could ever imagine if we choose to be obedient to where He leads.

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Changing Generations

We managed to get done with 38 posts today, exceeding our goal by 3!

Today was more hot and dry than previous days, and our team felt it. We took more frequent breaks, and broke out the aloe vera for sunburns. We're starting to feel the strain after three continual days of work, but we're also enjoying ourselves more as we have our jobs figured out and our relationships with the kids are flourishing.

Today we got the test results back for the children and found out that none of them have Hepatitis B! We also finished vaccinating them, which means that they are safe from the disease. And not only that, but because Hepatitis B is generally inherited, the children of our children are safe too. The work we're doing here is literally changing generations.

We want to highlight a girl at the home named Srey Phea (pictured below). She was born with Down Syndrome, and then when her mother died a couple years ago, her father abandoned her to start a new family. In this culture it is generally believed that a child born with any defect is actually cursed, so nobody would take her except Jaw. She understandably has a hard time with people. The first day we came to the home she hid in her room the entire time. On day 2 she interacted with us some. There was breakthrough on day 3 as we got her out of her room and dancing along to the songs on our speaker. Now on day 4 she interacts with and plays with everyone. Despite so much adversity in her life, she has the most joy out of everyone here.

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The Answer is in the Blood

Our second full work day is in the books.

We spent almost all of the work doing concrete again. The first half of the day we made concrete for the fence posts. This was even more of a process because our piles had to be twice as big, and we had to mix them by hand rather than pouring them into a hole along with water. Still, we managed to fill 23 posts with concrete, which is excellent for a team our size.

Today, if you saw us with the kids you would not believe that we met them all just two days ago. We play games, pull pranks and do piggy back rides. We also got to play musical chairs with the kids, which they absolutely loved!

Yesterday was a big day for the kids, as they got blood drawn to check for different illnesses, such as hepatitis. This is a big deal and very important. When the medical team is aware of it, they can take the right precautions for those who have it and vaccinate those who don't. A common phrase on this topic is, "the answer is in the blood." They don't take this lightly, and it was very encouraging to see how much the Cambodian team cares for these kids!

We're starting to get into the rythm of things as a team. One special thing we do every dinner are "verbal high fives," where anyone can stand up and point out something positive someone did that day. The first night we did it there was some participation, but now there are dozens of shoutouts every time.

Today, we have 35 more posts to fill, which is hard but possible. It's going to be a good day.

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Concrete Concrete Concrete.

Our first full work day complete!

The day started with some worship and prayer time in the sanctuary at Jaw church home. The kids were still a bit shy, but not for long. As soon as we were done worshiping the whole property began buzzing with activity. As you can imagine, building a fence made to last is a process, especially with no machinery. We finished digging all of the holes we needed for fence posts. Then we placed large rocks around every hole in order to stabilize the post. After that it was time to mix cement.

Here in rural Cambodia concrete happens a little bit differently. You make a giant pile consisting of one wheelbarrow of small rocks, two wheelbarrows of sand, and one bag of concrete mix. You use a team of four shovelers to move the entire pile over a few feet. Then you move it all back. This mixes the concrete. Then you shovel it into small buckets and walk them to every hole in order to be poured in along with water. Altogether we did 48 holes, not bad for a day's work!

We spent the last half hour relaxing and playing with the kids, who have become fast friends with us. One highlight was how we spent our lunch letting the children write and draw in our journals. It let us express ourselves to each other in a way we couldn't with words, and given us something we can take home and look back on.

We're all tired out now, but it's the best kind of tired. We wouldnt want it any other way.

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Let's get to work!

We spent the first couple hours yesterday in transit. Our home, Jaw, is located near the capital city of the province just south of Phnom Penh. One thing an American will notice about Cambodian culture is that the pace of everything is much slower. People don't hurry on the roads. They don't plan out every hour on their calendar. When we asked Sam how long our drive down would take he said, "Two hours, give or take five."

Outside of the major city, lunch consisted mostly of authentic Cambodian food. The servers would place some stew or a fish on the center of the table and let us dish up whatever we wanted. They went around making sure we had plenty of rice. A meal without rice is almost unheard of in this country.

We checked into our new guesthouse around noon. It's a six story tall hotel with running water, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning. It was only built 6 months ago. This nation is rapidly modernizing, especially in the areas around the capital city.

At 1:30 p.m. we arrived at Jaw. The children there introduced themselves to us by singing a song and telling us their names and ages assisted by a translator. After that, we sang a song of our own and gave them our own names and ages. The kids at Jaw are more shy than the ones we met the day before at the training center. They aren't used to seeing new people from a different nation.

At 2:15 we got to work. The first major project at this home is to build a fence. This gives the property protection, privacy, and legitimacy. We followed the lead of the FCOP staff who immediately began fastening rebar poles together and digging holes for fence posts. We made some excellent headway in the time that we had, especially as we had to move an entire swingset further into the property.

By the end of the day, the children had begun to warm up to us, especially those of us working near them. Over the next few days, we both have a lot to give one another.

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Learning The Land

A trip to the Phnom Penh Genocide museum took up most of yesterday afternoon. For those of you who don't know, the nation of Cambodia experienced a civil war and genocide in the 1970s that the nation is still recovering from. The museum we visited was a high school turned prison and interrogation facility by the Khmer Rouge. As we walked through we stood in cells that had been used as torture chambers and small classrooms that had been used for mass detention. We left with a better understanding of the nation's history and wounds.

The day ended at the Wimberly house. We sat around asking the missionaries questions about their life and work here, and kept each other awake as we adjusted to the 14 hour time difference. Sam Tolle also showed us pictures and videos from his phone including the baptism of our bus driver Pirom which occured in January.

Today is our first "work day." We are about to board our bus and ride out to a home called "Jaw," to introduce ourselves, assess its needs, and get to work.

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COFFEE

Once breakfast finished, we hopped on the bus bound for the FCOP Training center for church. Sam acted as our guide during the ride, explaining some of the history and aspects of the culture as we got our first good look at Phnom Penh. One might experience culture shock on the roads here as drivers have little regard for right of way or personal space.

Church service was in certain ways very similar to what you might see at Living Water: A three guitar band, three vocalists, and a three song lineup. Close of worship, offering, a sermon, and response/ministry time to conclude the service. The differences were that the entire service was conducted by the Cambodian people in their native language, and everything had more fluidity than your typical service back in the states. For example, many of the congregants didn't leave until an hour after service because a torrential downpour flooded the entire grounds. We used the time to introduce ourselves to and play with the children around the home. There were tearful reunions and new beginnings all around. 

After a brief tour of the training center (while things dried out) we got back on the bus to a little place called Steve's Steakhouse. If the condiments weren't partially labelled in Khmer then you might mistake this for an American restaurant. The owner, Steve Billington, has a good relationship with Foursquare Children of Promise, the organization we are serving with. 

Over 50% of our orders were for cheeseburgers.

Our lunch time was rounded off by a trip for coffee in one of Phnom Penh's cafés. Of course, in 92 degree weather we're all opting for iced. 

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Good Morning!

We're all gathered around a long breakfast table at our hotel in Phnom Penh. It's the first time since boarding in Seattle that we have all been able to sit down and converse face to face.

Our first flight was a long thirteen hour cruise up the west coast of Canada, along the Aleutian Islands, down Asia's East coast, and finally into Incheon, a port right outside of Seoul, South Korea. If you asked any one of us what they thought of Korea they would say "I don't know, it was mostly a blur." Our connecting flight was scheduled to take off just half an hour after our first flight landed! We sprinted through the airport in three minutes, escorted by a very athletic flight attendant who put us all to shame in terms of speed.

Compared to the first flight, the second one into Phnom Penh was rather uneventful. However, once we landed in Cambodia, you could tangibly feel the excitement. People who had been on this trip before couldn't wipe the grins off their faces. We passed through customs without a hassle and discovered that we need to wait one day for our suitcases to catch up with us. Thankfully, we have enough supplies in our carry ons to last us, and a nearby convenience store to fill in the gaps.

Sam Tolle and Pastors Tim and Dhana Wimberly greeted us right outside the door and saw us to our hotel after greeted us all with handshakes and hugs. Checking in went smoothly, and at 1:00 a.m. following 24 hours of continuous transit, sleep came easy.

Today we're looking forward to church, lunch at Steve's Steakhouse with Ted Olbrich, a museum tour, and more.

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Departure

We're sitting here at gate S11 in Sea-Tac waiting to board our first flight into Seoul Korea in just half an hour. Most of us are restless, making last minute preparations, double checking our boarding passes and making sure that we didn't forget our travel pillows.

We started the day at 9:00 a.m. in the Living Water Sanctuary for some worship and prayer time. There was an electric atmosphere as people prayed for one another, and gave prophetic words. After that, we all got together for last minute logsitics and prayer. Unity was at an all time high.

Our shuttle ride up went quickly. When everyone was asked how they were feeling, the most common response was "excited!" More than half of us have been to Cambodia before and can't wait to make the return, while the rest of us are taking everything in with wide eyes. We made it through check-in and security with no hiccups (except a random backpack search) and got to spend a leisurely hour shopping and enjoying a final bite of American food. Spirits are high.

Can it be?! Sna Songkream?!

Yesterday feels very much like a dream.

Our excitement grew as we passed familiar streets. Before we knew it, we were at Sna Songkream! This home is very close to the hearts of last years Anthem class. Last year we spent 5 days building a fence here and grew really close to the kids. I don't think any of us could have anticipated what it would be like to return to this home.

We spent the afternoon as what felt like a family reunion. Many kids from the village came to see what all the excitement about. The team worked together to clean, cut, and style the kids hair. They loved it! It was awesome to see the joy the students had while serving them in such a simple way. 

There was much rejoicing as we prayed together and said our goodbye's.

Today we depart from Siem Reap and head south to Phnom Penh. The 8 hour bus ride ahead will be great time for the team to process all of the incredible moments we've shared this past week.

X's & O's.

Yesterday morning we attended church at Our Kcheay and prepared our hearts to say goodbye. Before we left we spent time giving prophetic words to the kids and encouraging them to never stop following Jesus. We all agreed that this group of kids will be essential in bringing change to the nation of Cambodia. I know that none of us will ever be the same because of the way these kids have loved us this past week.
This part of the trip is never easy; the deep relationships you develop within 5 short days, with people who don't even speak the same language as you, is only made possible within the Kingdom of God. 

After we left Our Kcheay, we headed north to the Otdar Mean Chey Province. This province is home to Chuuk, a very special church home filled with some of the most gifted kids around. This is one of the three homes that Living Water sponsors. We spent the afternoon playing volleyball, kicking around the soccer ball, coloring pictures, and the girls even broke out the nail polish. 

We are now in Siem Reap for the next two days! So excited for the week ahead!

There is power in the name of Jesus!

It's Sunday morning here in Battambang and we are headed to church at Our Kcheay.
Today we'll have a time of prayer with the kids, and say our goodbye's.

Yesterday had to of been one of the most powerful days of the trip so far. We began the day with worship as usual, but Pastor Dhana was obedient in sharing a word that led to breakthrough for many of the people on the trip. Chains were broken in Jesus name! 

We also took the kids to the market yesterday! There really is nothing quite like this experience. All of the kids were so excited to be hand in hand with us as we got to buy them essentials, like a backpack, shirts for school, or new flip-flops. We also had the opportunity to purchase some things for the home as a whole, like new chairs, a water pump, and other necessities.

Dr. Lina and his team paid us another visit and gave the kids vaccinations! This is a game-changer for the rest of their lives! Some of their expressions were priceless.

This evening we travel north to Chuuk. Stay tuned!

A hedge of protection.

Well, it's official, Our Kcheay has a fence! 

Over the past four days the team has put in long grueling hours mixing cement, carrying buckets, and hanging the chain link fence. It is so satisfying knowing that as a unified group, we completed this project. The fence not only serves as boundary lines for this home, but also as a hedge of protection for the children. 

And to celebrate, we had a spontaneous dance party!

Tomorrow we are finishing the last of the painting, and also taking a trip to the market with the kids. We are all beyond excited for what's to come!

Blood, sweat, and tears.

What another incredible day here in Battambang!

Everyone is feeling the physical toll that comes from working long hours in the sun, however that didn't hinder us from accomplishing the task at hand. All of our cement posts are poured and we have a large majority of the paint completed. Tomorrow we should have the fence completely finished and the outside of the home totally painted!

We also had a very special visit from Dr. Lina, who took a six hour trip from Phnom Penh to Battambang to draw the kids blood, and will be back on Saturday to give vaccinations. This is a huge blessing for this home! 

There's no better way to end the day than to play a fun game of "monkey in the middle". It's these moments that matter the most.

With only three days left at Our Kcheay, it's really settling in that our time here is nearing the end. These people have become family to all of us.

Yellow.

The team finished another work day at Our Kcheay, and it's incredible how much has been accomplished so far. Almost all of our cement posts are poured, and the house is looking great with it's fresh coat of yellow. 

It's been inspiring to see the students push through the heat and make it happen- all in the name of love. Today I was reminded of Mark 10:45 that says, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many". This is exactly what has happened over these past two days. We came to serve, and to give our lives away to these children. But there's such a beautiful exchange that happens between us, and the people that live here. They want to serve US, just as much as we do them. This is the love of Jesus on display. 
There's no way we could have gotten this far in the fence or painting without the help of these children. 

I am beyond excited for the days to come as we finish the projects we've started, but also to see more of the Father's heart towards the people at Our Kcheay. 

A beautiful day at Our Kcheay.

We arrived to Battambang early this afternoon and headed straight to the home that we will be at for the next 5 days. This home is called Our Kcheay. During the duration of our stay here, we hope to finish a fence that a previous team began, and also give the home some color with a fresh paint job.

The second we arrived, before we lifted up a single shovel or paint brush, the team spent some time in worship. This moment was very special; the Holy Spirit ministered to our hearts as we lifted up the name of Jesus, and it was the perfect start to our stay here.

After we ate lunch, the work began- It was incredible to see the Anthem students work together as a unified team. I believe all of the hard work and time spent together this year was brought to full fruition as they worked non-stop in the pouring down rain. 

Now, after a full day of traveling and work, it's time to get some rest for the week ahead. 

We can't wait to spend more time with the sweet spirited people of Our Kcheay. 

We've got to stop in Pursat!

The team left Phnom Penh early this morning, and we headed north!
As I have mentioned, our destination is the Battambang Province, where we will spend a majority of our trip building a fence and helping with other projects. However, to get there we have to pass through Pursat, a province that is home to Prek Bey, a church-orphan home that Living Water sponsors.

So after a 6 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Pursat, we paid a visit to some very special people. 
 

It wasn't before long that we became inseparable. 

There was non-stop fun with the children at Prek Bey. There might have even been a spontaneous dance party...

We spent our last minutes praying, embracing one another, and saying our goodbye's. 

My hope is that these photos would be able to tell the story better than any words ever could. But also, that they would be used to show God's heart for Cambodia and its people.

Tomorrow we leave for Battambang and it's time to get to work!
Stay tuned.

This is just the beginning...

It is now 9:28PM, here in Phnom Penh, and the team is just now headed to bed.

We started the day with a lovely breakfast at Hotel Cara; which has become a starting point for most Living Water trips to Cambodia. Once we were all fueled up, the team got on the bus and headed to the FCOP Training Center for church. Upon arrival, we were greeted with hugs from many of the children there. With our hand in theirs, we found our seats, and service began.

There's nothing quite like experiencing a full-blown Cambodian church service- including powerful worship, spirit-filled preaching, and a special performance by the children, all in Khmer! However, most of us were beautifully distracted by the little one's sitting next to us.

After church, the real fun began! Piggyback rides, patty cake, and just being kids; that is what it's all about. It really is incredible how quickly you can fall in love with these children. 

We said our goodbye's, and headed to get lunch...and also made an obligatory stop at Brown Coffee.

Our afternoon was spent touring the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. What is now a museum, once served as a high school and then a prison during the Khmer Rouge. The tour, although very emotionally taxing, gives great perspective to the tragedy this country faced during the late 1970's. We had the opportunity of meeting one of the few survivors from the Khmer Rouge Prison S-21, Bou Meng (seen in the photo below). 

After touring the museum, we spent the rest of our evening at Pastor Tim and Dhana's home where we enjoyed pizza and quality time. A few of us couldn't resist playing soccer with some of the neighborhood kids, who put us to shame in a game of 3 on 3. 

Tomorrow we leave Phnom Penh and head north to Battambang! 

 

Phnom Penh, here we come!

The day is here! Anthem is headed to Cambodia!

We arrived at the church this morning, and there was a palpable excitement as we stepped on campus. Our theme for this year has been 'Dare Mighty Things', directly derived from the famous Theodore Roosevelt quote, but also from the story of Jotham in 2 Chronicles 27. These shirts are more than just a token phrase for us. It's our anthem as we cross borders into Cambodia. In the month's leading up to this trip, there has been an overwhelming sense of expectancy that God was going to do something BIG on this trip. We are believing for the miraculous! 

We are just about to board our 12 hour flight to Seoul, South Korea and from there, a 5 hour flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 

Stay tuned!