Since our arrival, this last week has been smoother then the previous. Deeper connections are being made with the kids. As we have established these connections we are able to go a little deeper in sharing the Gospel with them. It’s crazy to think that they’ve never heard of it, so we had to start from the very beginning. To see the wheels turning inside their heads brought a feeling like never before. The kids are asking questions and continue to want to know more and more in our discussions.
It has been very warm here so we have been able to take the kids outside and play fun games with them at a nearby park. It is amazing to see the smile on their face as they blow bubbles, kick a soccer ball back and forth or play tag. These kids don’t get to go outside very much, so this is a treat. They’re very grateful that we can take them outside. This is just one of the ways we have continued to make connections. All of the kids will come and greet us even before we get to the room. They’re faces light up when we get there. You can tell they’re getting more and more comfortable around us.
However, Satan has come in this week by making some of us sick, tired and weak. We have had to remind ourselves again and again that our focus is not about ourselves but what God is doing in the lives of the children and for us. Even though we are tired and homesick, we can’t believe the impact these kids already have on us.
As our time here comes to a close, it is becoming difficult to have to say goodbye. These kids have not had the best lives, but knowing that what we have done for them has planted a seed in their hearts. These kids have no idea how much of an impact they have made in each of our lives. They have given us more then they know. Even though life is hard they still find joy and hope in their lives. It has been absolutely amazing working with these kids and we pray that God continues to work in their lives.
Maleah and Alex
Everyday here has been spectacular, especially because of this amazing organization we are partnered with. This morning started out with our usual rooftop breakfast before heading to AIM. We led our two Bible studies for the disciples, and for one of the sessions, we sang a worship song called ‘Nothing I Hold Onto’ that they all loved and asked if they could look it up on YouTube. We had a cool opportunity to listen to a man named Floyd who is in charge of the reintegration program. This aspect of AIM teaches women how to be self-sustainable and how to be successful out in the world and not fall back into their old lifestyle. We had an interesting lunch involving pig liver… so we were a bit hungrier than normal tonight. After lunch we were able to pick up the kids from the brick yards and bring them to Kid’s club to keep teaching them about the story of Noah and the Ark. We finished up the day with soccer and volleyball with the disciples. It is starting to hit us that we only have one more day at AIM and it is making our hearts heavy, but we are going to make the most of it!
Thanks for reading!
-Morgan and Kacey
Excited to tell you about our awesome day today! We are getting into the swing of kids camp and leading the small groups for the disciples. We started out our morning with some amazing time with both the leader and young disciples, which are men and women from AIM who have decided to follow Jesus and now they are taking leadership positions within the church and community. It has been such a neat opportunity to begin building relationships with the disciples and hearing their heart for Jesus and this nation. Many of them want to do amazing things in the community such as be a pastor or a teacher. Then, we got a virtual tour of the restoration home which houses girls that have been rescued from sex trafficking. Being able to see the amazing facility and talk about what AIM is doing to bring life back to these girls was very impactful. Next, we headed out for lunch and again were able to build relationships with the amazing people. After lunch many of us went to the neighboring coffee house and got to met the amazing owner names Ton, she taught us Khmer and made us AMAZING coffee.Transitioning into our time at kids club, Rose blew our socks off with her amazing acting out of the building of the arch story. The kids love to be cuddled, held, and high fived. All of us are being so filled up when we get to spend time with the kiddos and are already falling in love with each of their unique personalities. After finishing up kids club we went over to a soccer and volleyball court to play with the disciples. Even though it was hot and we were in danger of our cankles coming back, we went all out! It was a great experience that connected us more with the disciples even with the language barrier. We finished up our night with some explosive team time talking through our day, that ended in sore stomachs from laughing so hard.
Thank you so much for all of your guys support and prayers. We are so enjoying our time here! Please continue to pray for health, unity, and energy as we finish up our last few days in South East Asia. 🙂
Love, Bethany and Makenna
Ben and Breeya here. Sorry we haven’t posted in awhile, our team has had a busy few days. We spent the weekend sight-seeing at the beautiful St. Isaac’s cathedral, and we went to see the ballet Swan Lake, on Sunday we got to go to church and fellowship with other believers. It was really neat being in a room with people who speak different languages yet worshiping the same God.
Overall the trip has been exhausting, always on the move but it’s been amazing to work with the kids at the center. Today the big kids and little kids got to go to the park together and it was so much fun being able to have both groups in the same place. We got to play tag with some of the little ones and a teen from the older group.
They have so much energy it’s unbelievable.
We are coming to our last few days here and continued prayer for our team is always needed. God has been working us hard down here but it’s been worth it to see the kids having fun. Please pray for strength and rest for us as the trip comes to an end.
Ben & Breeya Shade
Ultimately, the team has been patiently waiting for this day since before we even boarded the plane to Phnom Penh—Kid’s Club day one! This Monday morning we began first thing on the rooftop hotel buffet breakfast at 7, leaving the hotel at 7:30am. We started the working day off back with our favorite driver, Mr. Thy (pronounced Mr. Tee), and he stopped on the way to AIM at a restaurant where his wife works; we were excited to meet his wife since the whole team is now very invested in Mr. Thy’s life. Over the weekend we found out that Mr. Thy travelled with some others from AIM to the Cambodian provinces to hand out food with a charity for people with no legs. Mr. Thy dropped us off at AIM, about a thirty minute wild drive from our hotel, and we prepared our Bible studies for their two groups of disciples, students in the AIM discipleship program.
While leading the Bible studies here, AIM’s goal for us is to build relationships and to come alongside these students to build them up focusing on two areas of study: one is the first few chapters of Proverbs and the other topic is qualities of servant leadership. We conducted two sessions of each topic, totaling in four sessions of Bible studies. The team mentioned as a whole in our daily end-of-the-day debrief that one of the best things about leading the Bible studies is getting the privilege to make connections with the disciples and hearing about their lives here and some of their stories. They are amazing people. It’s also been a privilege to work with such wonderful staff translators who help us facilitate the studies by engaging the students and going over and above their job of just translating.
In between these Bible studies and lunch, the team hopped in a van to tour the brick factories with no intention other than seeing them. This was one of the hardest things for the team today as the brick factory workers are in lifelong debt slavery, and they live in abject poverty. Some of their houses are just scraps of tin propped into a shelter with rags covering the bare ground. We drove past all of them, and it was a sad sight. Some of the factories burn rags as fuel to create heat to make the bricks. Burning rags is an illegal source of fuel in Cambodia because of its negative effects on the workers’ health and working conditions, but these people use it anyway since they are so poor. Because of the rag fumes, many of them are in very bad health. It is heartbreaking to see something so clearly wrong and so devastating, and to be totally unable to do anything to fix the problem. What makes it harder is working with many of these children during Kid’s Club at AIM and knowing that these joyful kids will likely never be able to escape this generational debt slavery. Most of the families are too poor to send the kids to school, so the kids will have no opportunities to get out of the brick factories. They grow up and live their lives here. These people have been in debt from their parents and grandparents and great grandparents, and the cycle is devastating to witness. Combined with the two genocide museums we visited on Saturday, this was a heavy moment for the team. Touring the brick factories definitely opened our eyes to yet another sad reality here, and just like the genocide museums demonstrated life in our parents’ generation, the brick factory tour gave us a clear understanding of the lives of the kids with whom we are sharing the love of God.
A local coffee shop owner next door to AIM welcomed us into her shop today, and some of the team were able to make further connections with the field workers and expats here. The father of one of the field workers told us part of his life story about how he was in the war in Vietnam and his wife wrote him letters for nine months without ever meeting him, and he knew that she was the one he was going to marry. He pointed out many instances in his life where God was at work, and this peaceful afternoon moment was encouraging to the team. The shop owner told us that she would teach us more Khmer (pronounced k’my rhyming with ‘high’) if we are willing. We are slowly learning some words in Khmer, the language spoken in Cambodia. One thing we discovered today was that it’s very difficult to work directly with the children when we speak almost no Khmer. The past few days we have been learning a Khmer word of the day to help with this.
Working with the kids was definitely a highlight. We had a lesson prepared for them, and the staff here led the kids in worship before the lesson. Once our team’s lesson about Cain and Abel was taught, the kids created a craft with doilies, crayons, and cut-out hearts, and they played a game like bowling with empty water bottles and bouncy balls. The openness of the kids was unexpected; the instant we walked in the door the kids rushed at us and gave us hugs and high fives and wanted to play games immediately. They braided our hair, climbed on us, played clapping games with us, taught us their names in Khmer, showed us their drawings, smiled at us, held our hands, asked us to teach them English, allowed us to play games with them, sang with us, and filled us with understanding. They are full of energy, and the team felt that they were simultaneously exhausted and filled up to overflowing when Kid’s Club was over. All of us are a little saddened that we only have four more days with them.
One thing that has been amazing has been watching the team grow closer together in community every day and closer to God through everything we go through together. I watched the team interacting with the children today, and God’s love was so obvious in everything about them. The students on this trip are truly incredible students with huge hearts wanting to serve God in everything they do, whether it’s scrubbing suffocating bathrooms with no airflow in 95° heat and full humidity, or teaching a child how to write “I love you” in English, this team has the best attitude and continues to amaze me every day.
We ended the day by going to the restaurant where Mr. Thy’s wife is a chef, and we found out that the owner is also his friend. It was a bakery serving amazing French food. When we returned to our hotel, we did our daily team devotional, focusing on making sure our hearts are in the right place to serve, and we debriefed the day with our individual high and low points. We also went over the next day’s Bible studies and Kid’s Club. Overall, the team was overwhelmed with joy and heartbreak at times when working with the kids here today, and we can’t wait for tomorrow.
Until next time,
Quite a full day today. We started the day off at church with AIM and it was absolutely wonderful to be able to worship with the people there. Afterwards, we got to go and watch one of the guys from The Lord’s Gym (through AIM, and he is also a disciple there) fight and win his kickboxing match! And we ended the day with a traditional Cambodian dance show. It was a long, but good day that we had here.
We are excited to start the kids club that we have been waiting for! It will be an amazing experience to pour into the kids and the disciples that are working with AIM.
Sadly today was a rough day as we visited two historical sites that were mainly focused on the 1975-1979 Cambodian genocide during the Khmer Rouge reign.
We started the day with a devotional led by Morgan. We were able to focus on the importance of prayer and praying fervently. This was especially important for us as we knew today was going to be hard. Many of us were not emotionally prepared for what we were going to experience, but we knew that this tragedy was a significant part of Cambodian culture and history.
First we went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum or the S21 Prison. Our tour guide had a personal connection with the Cambodian genocide because during this time she escaped with her mother to Vietnam. Unfortunately, her sister and father were one of the victims of this tragedy. It was inspirational to hear her story as she explained each building of the prison. She says that in the past she would cry everyday at work, but now she is able to share her story and educate the younger generation. She tells her kids this story to help them understand this so that history doesn’t repeat itself. As we walked through the cells we learned about how they were tortured and interrogated. We saw how poor their living situations were. They were hardly allowed to take showers, maybe once or twice during their three months, which caused deadly skin diseases. We also learned about the horrible ways that were used to torture. There were only seven survivors from this prison. We were fortunate enough to meet three of those survivors. We cannot imagine how strong their will is to stand in the same place they experienced those horrific life events. We left with so much respect for the older generation in Cambodia. We were thankful to be able to learn more about the history.
Next we visited the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, one of the many killing fields used by the Khmer Rouge. All 10 of us had the audio guides which walked us through the history of what occurred during that time. At the beginning of the tour we learned how many of the victims were taken from the prison blindfolded, without knowing where they were being taken. A lot of the buildings that the Khmer Rouge used during this time were not still standing, so there were signs in the exact location of these buildings explaining what each would have been used for. One of the areas we saw was a chemical storage space, for chemicals like DDT. This chemical was used to cover up the smell of the bodies in the mass graves. Some of them were mass graves with people that were beheaded or with women and children. The women and children mass grave was especially hard for some of us. It was next to a killing tree decorated with bracelets. On this tree there were so many innocent babies killed for no reason. There were also graves of foreigners involved with trying to stop the Khmer Rouge. One of the most impactful stories we heard was from one of the survivors that wanted to preserve this historical site as a way to educate and pay respect to the victims. He was taken at 13 by the Khmer Rouge and he survived because another man sacrificed his life for him. Another moment that made us sad was hearing the exact music that would play to drown out the moans of victims that were being killed. This was for many victims the last sound they would ever hear. The last area that we were able to go into was a Memorial glass-walled stupa filled with so many skulls. Many of the skulls were marked according to the evidence of torture found on the victims. They keep the stupa sacred by having visitors take off their shoes and with having incense and offerings at the entrance. Once inside the stupa, just looking at the overwhelming amount of the skulls was heartbreaking and devastating, especially with looking at the smaller baby skulls.
After visiting both areas we could not comprehend why such tragedies had to happen here. What is even more surprising is how recent all of these events occurred. Visiting the sites, looking at body fragments, seeing stains of blood on the floor at the prison, hearing the music and taking in the smells of each site was hard to process for all of us. After lunch at a delicious Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Cali and going to The Coffee Bean across the street we all needed time to rest. We worked on our crafts for Kids Club and then relaxed after being exhausted physically and emotionally. Some of us were grateful to take a nap and others enjoyed the swimming pool on the rooftop.
At dinner we were really able to fully debrief the day and express what we were feeling. We realized that God did answer our prayers to have our hearts break for what his breaks for. Even though we don’t understand why all of this had to happen, God is very present in Cambodia healing the darkness and restoring something tragic into something that creates appreciation for how much Cambodia has overcome. Even though this day was hard for us, we still managed to keep our fun-loving spirits. We had a dance party in the bus with flashing disco lights. Morgan and Bethany had a dance off and we all bounced to the music so hard that the bus shook. We could not help laughing when people driving by us were pointing, laughing and waving at us.
We are so grateful for your prayers and we ask you to please continue praying for us and the people we will be serving at AIM this week through Kids Club, Leader Disciple and Young Disciple Bible Studies. We are excited for what God has planned for us in the next few days!
Daija and Tif
After a fun week full of paint-covered clothes and inside jokes at AIM, today was our first day to explore this beautiful country and embrace the culture around us.
This morning after breakfast, Makenna led us in a wonderful time of devotions, where we challenged each other to be vulnerable and let go of the struggles or objects that we have been holding on to. We each shared prayer requests about this trip and our lives back home, and with a new level of closeness in our team, we headed out for the day.
We went back to Brown Coffee Shop for our caffeine fix for the day, then headed to the AIM shop, where we bought clothes designed, manufactured, and sold by women who had been freed from sex trafficking. It was so great to know we were buying beautiful items while also supporting an AIM-azing ministry!
For lunch we went to Century 9, a restaurant that is part of a ministry targeted towards ending sex trafficking through evangelizing to the men who go to brothels and keep the trafficking business alive. We got to finally have big, juicy burgers (probably not the best to have for these cankles), and these Americans couldn’t be happier!
After our YUMMY lunch, we went to one of Cambodia’s markets called the “Russian Market” with one of the locals we met at AIM! I am definitely not one for tight spaces, especially when it is HOT and STUFFY, but it was so amazing to get a taste of the Cambodian culture. We walked around the market, bargained for cool souvenirs, and even smelt some crazy durian, and let me just tell you, it smelt like sweaty socks (but it’s all good)!
After the market, we went back to the hotel and prepped for the next week here in Cambodia. We will be doing Kids Club, and so we as a team organized the crafts for each of the days.
After prepping the crafts for Kids Club, we went to have some yummy dinner at a restaurant called Titanic, which is right on the water, and it was such a beautiful view.
Right after dinner we had some delicious gelato, headed back to our hotel to debrief, and went straight to bed because we definitely felt that jet lag today. Overall, it was definitely a day filled with new experiences!
— Amanda and Kay