Just playing

I always get asked, "What do you do while you are in Cambodia?" "Is it a 'missions' trip?" "Are you doing a service project?" "What do you hope to accomplish while you're there?"...

People are usually surprised by my response: "We go to play."

Seriously, that's why we are here. To play. 

Asia's Hope's model allows us to have a real friendship with the kids at PE2 — the same kids who have been here for 10 years. This isn't a mission project. It's not a service project. We do the "doing" by supporting the kids financially throughout the year and allowing local leaders to do the good work that happens. For our trips, our focus is on "being," taking time to love and really focus on the kids.

As a child, we never lived near extended family so we saw Grandma and Grandpa once a year at best. Imagine them coming to stay for a week at Christmas and they walk in the door, drop their bags, and leave to work on a Habitat for Humanity house the entire time or volunteer at the local soup kitchen for the week. Both of those are very noble causes, but the purpose of the visit is to spend time with people we love and don't get a chance to see very often. That time spent with family makes us better people and gives us a sense of continuity and identity. We are encouraged by them and them by us.

In America, it seems like we attach value to any endeavor by claiming the results. What we built, how much was raised, how many ditches we dug... But maybe "being" is more important than "doing." Being means that we aren't focused on a goal or quota but instead focused on a relationship. It's slower, more intentional and relationship building. The only "doing" is in the form of crafts, games, eating, singing, talking, hugging, and lots of laughing — all in the context of spending time and getting to know each child and their unique personalities and gifts. 

If I came to Cambodia to dig ditches, I may have come once and chalked it up to a good experience. But it's my relationship with the families here that keeps me coming back and giving me the desire to share my joy with others who have the opportunity to come with us. 

On a side note, I would like to do more "being" and less "doing" back home in my personal life as well...it doesn't just have to happen on the ether side of the planet. 

 

These kids...

They enthusiastically invite me into their home and their lives over and over again and I'm a better person because of our friendship. They model grace, forgiveness, love, kindness, generosity, and compassion better than anyone I know. I'm so blessed to call these kids my friends.

Angkor Wat Photos

Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world.

My fourth trip to Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom was just as breathtaking as the first. 

The weather was overcast and the coolest I can recall from past visits which made for a beautiful day!

Giving Photos: using the Fujifilm X-T10 and Instax printer in the market

Aside from the "big picture" roles on this trip, I assigned myself two photo-related personal projects. The first is to shoot a portrait of everyone at PE2 before I leave. The second is to use my camera to engage with people in the marketplace. I have been to the markets many times and have lugged a hundred trinkets back with me to the US and this trip I have decided to do less shopping and more sharing. 

I am not taking photos, I'm giving them. I brought along my Fuji Instax camera and have spent time walking the market and really focusing on the people rather than the merchandise. When you focus on the people, you often get a smile back in return. At this point I will step closer and ask them if I can take their photo. Most of the time, they agree and I snap a few quick photos. 

Next, I reach into my bag and grab the Instax printer, choose the best photo on my camera, and send it to print. The people in the area start gathering around to see what is going to happen with the strange white blinky thing in my hand and they are astonished when the photo ejects from the printer. When I hand them a blank, white card they stare at it for a few seconds and look puzzled until they begin to see their image slowly appear (que puzzled looks turning to smiles). I stick a pre-printed label on the back with my name and my blog address and leave them with the photo. This is always followed by  "arkoun chraen!" (thank you very much!) as they show the photo to their friends.

It struck me that these folks see tens of thousands of tourists walking past, day in and day out, in search of items to bring home. They may even get their picture taken now and then. But no one ever gives them one. 

MY GEAR:

Fujifilm X-T10 with either a 50mm f2 or 23 mm f 1.4
This small, mirrorless, interchanagble lens camera is plain, discrete and looks like an old film camera from the 70's. It makes the entire experience much more engaging and keeps the subject much more at ease than when using a big DSLR.

Fujifilm Instax Share Printer
This small, wireless, battery-powered printer works exactly like a small Poloroid instant camera, only better. You get to choose the photos you want to print and send them seamlessly from your camera to the printer AND you get to keep the digital photo on your card.

The Best Thing

What is the best thing you've ever done? My list-toppers would include marrying my wife, starting a family, owning my own small business, being involved with my church community, expressing my gifts creatively...but each time I come to Cambodia, I realize one of the "best-est things" I've done is step out of my comfort zone to visit the family home at PE2. 

Honestly, my first trip in 2012 was a bit unsettling. I had never traveled this far and the fear of the unknown was a bit much. 

But each time I return, I feel more at home. The people, the places, the smells, the sounds, they have become comforting rather than foreign. I really love this place!

PE2 asked me to preach at church next Sunday and a few of my fellow travelers have encouraged me to speak on 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about the church being a body with many parts, various gifts, roles and functions. Without each of these parts, the body can't function as it should. 

When I think about the "best things," I realize they are all from God, but they also required me to take a chance. Marriage, families, jobs, commitments all require you to give something of yourself with some element of risk involved. But the benefits are so very rewarding!

We function best as a body member when we are willing to step out and pursue a direction God is leading us, especially when there is risk involved. When we step out in faith, allowing God to move us where He wants us, using our unique gifts and calling, we experience the "best things" This, in turn, affects the entire church body, allowing it to be healthy and sustainable, encouraging and strong. When we give our "best things" back to God, He multiplies them and gives us more. What a generous God we serve!

Tuol Sleng and The Russian Market

We started our day yesterday at Tuol Sleng. As much as I love visiting Cambodia, my fourth trip to this site still depresses me. It is important to come here as well as the Killing Fields (which we will be visiting soon) in order to understand the context of where Cambodia is today and why family-style orphan care is so essential to the rebuilding and redemption of the country. 

Afterwards, we grabbed a great lunch at one of my favorite places: Cafe Yejj, and had only 45 minutes to rush through the market for an overview before heading back to the hotel to meet Narun for our trip to see the kids in the evening. The Russian market is my favorite market in the city and I could tell everyone wanted to spend more time there so we plan on making a morning of it today. Sure glad we have extra space in those checked bags!

Happy Birthday PE2

July 1 marked the 10 year anniversary of the opening of Asia's Hope's PE2 orphan home. It was our privilege to be here to celebrate with them on their birthday. 

We arrived to the home to see it fully decorated with colorful balloons and photos of the kids and staff as well as many who have come to visit them over the years. It was beautiful. 

During the evening, we were treated to a traditional Khmer dance performance by the kids, an amazing home cooked meal, Coke, cake and ice cream, a video slideshow documenting the past 10 years, and an opportunity to stand in front of the group to express congratulations and appreciation. Oh yeah, and there was dancing!

The older kids, who are now college students and live in the city joined us for the party as well. It has been my privilege to see them grow from children to responsible, warm-hearted, adults. As
I looked around the room at the kids who have been in the family since 2006 as well as some young, new faces who are more recent, I am reminded that this is why we are doing what we are doing in Cambodia. It's about raising compassionate, smart, spiritual, gifted, bright leaders who will impact their country for generations to come. I am so inspired by these kids! 

Happy Birthday PE2! Thank you for allowing us to be part of your lives!

Decorating Visors

A few months ago, Becky posted a Facebook request to our neighborhood for craft and art supplies and activities. We received so many we had to turn stuff down! I love Clintonville! Yesterday, we got out some visors and fabric markers that had been donated. It was a rainy day and the perfect afternoon to be inside. 

PE2 Portraits

My personal project for the trip is to spend a few minutes with each child and staff member at PE2 and take a photo of them in their favorite spot on campus. Below are some that I took yesterday. 

I also brought along my Fuji Instax printer with plenty of film so I could print each child's favorite photo and give it to them. This little printer is magical. Watching the images slowly develop is so much fun and each kid has really treasured their own print. 

Nerd facts: These we all taken with my Fujifilm X-T10 and 35mm F2 lens shot at F2.

We are off!

I'm sitting in the Toronto airport, in a bit of a fog, waiting out our 6 hour layover. 3am wakeup times will do that to you. Faith and I met the rest of the team at Port Columbus at 3:45, ready to roll! The weather is great for air travel and our first flight was smooth. Praying that is the case for the remainder of the trip. 

Despite this being my fourth trip in five years to visit our friends and family in Cambodia, I'm trying to see this trip with fresh eyes. It's easy to fall into a "been there, done that" mindset. I really enjoy leading these trips and one of the the best parts is watching my team mates experience Cambodia for the first time. It's a magical place with kind people and even the most mundane things are eye candy to the visiting westerner.

God, help me to experience this trip with a fresh perspective. To not worry about the schedule or reservations, but to really engage with those I meet. Help me to step outside my comfort zone to a new level of relationship. Thank you for a fourth time to experience what many would consider a "once in a lifetime" opportunity. 

13516377_10153740075240687_3778213269926931064_n.jpg

I can't wait to see the smiling faces of my friends at Asias' Hope Prek Eng Campus and the hugs and laughter that come along with them. It's a little piece of heaven. 

See you all soon!

 

 

The adventure is just around the corner

I am super excited about my upcoming trip to Cambodia this summer! I will be playing "Tour Guide Barbie" for a team of seven friends who get the opportunity to visit and enjoy two weeks with the children and staff of Asia's Hope's Prek Eng 2 Family home. I can't wait to see all of my friends. 

This is where you will be able to follow our travels, see photos, and follow along with the action. Check back frequently during the last week of June through mid July 2016. I hope to post something new every day. 

Meet the team: (L to R): Jeremy, Faith, Shannon, Jakin, Deb, Rachel and Stacy

Meet the team: (L to R): Jeremy, Faith, Shannon, Jakin, Deb, Rachel and Stacy

If we happen to come to mind, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers for safe travel and heath for the whole team.