Trip wrap up

We're home! 27 hours of travel and being awake for some 48 hours with little to no sleep almost defeated us but the kids were total champs. It was so nice to be back in our own beds although I did wake up several times last night trying to figure out where I was. I'm always disoriented for a few nights when I return from a long trip. I wake up and sit in bed for several minutes trying to figure out where in Cambodia I fell asleep before I realize I'm home in my own bed. Weird feeling to say the least.

Overall, our trip was amazing. We made many deep friendships with the children at PE2. The last night we were there was difficult for us to say goodbye. There were tears all around. Caleb and Faith were not ready to come home and both cried a lot at the airport and of course Caleb threw in some more vomiting on our way to keep us on our toes. They had an amazing experience and made some great friends. I hope that we can all retun at some point but we will definitely maintain the relationship via email and skype.

Several people gave us money specifically to treat the kids to some special activites. Due to your generosity we were able to do the following: Bring three nice acoustic guitars to leave with them, A special dinner and ice cream party at PE2, a Saturday trip to the zoo and lunch on the river, and a Sunday afternoon at the Central Market where we gave each child $5 to spend on themselves as well as dinner out that evening. They rarely get to go out for food or spend money to buy someting for themselves so that was a very special treat for them. The remaining money collected went into the PE2 college scholarship fund and will help a child go to college next year.

I was, once again, impressed with the people of Cambodia: So quick to smile back, they go out of their way to work through language barriers to prioritize relationships. They are hospitable, family oriented, hard working and dependable. For a people who went through a violent mass genocide 30 years ago, they are getting back on their feet and working through some very difficult circumstances. Discussions about the Khmer Rouge are tearful and heartbreaking even today. But Asia's Hope and other NGOs are doing amazing work there and are very welcome by the people.

I hope to return to Cambodia again in the not to distant future.

For more information about Asia's Hope and how you can get involved. Visit their website of drop me an email. I'd love to share more about this amazing organization.




This guy was hangin around our hotel room last night. Caleb spotted him out of the corner of his eye, walking from the bathroom, and we both had a bit of a freak-out moment. I crushed him with a wicker tissue box. Good thing I did because the kids and PE2 said they have a nasty bite. I hate spiders. So glad they don't come this size in Ohio.

going with the flow...saturday

Written by Becky:

Today has brought about yet another unexpected twist; but we're getting to use to that by now! Narun picked us up at 8 am so that we could get some good play time with the kids before the heat of the day really kicked in. Around 11 though, Faith wasn't feeling so great. She laid down, tried a bit of soda to calm her stomach and some tea that Sopal mixed up for her. But nothing shy of her loosing her cookies all over the front porch would settle her stomach. I'm thankful she got it out before we got in the van. We had a bag ready for the ride back to the hotel and had her sit next to a window just in case. She rested for a while and was thankfully feeling better within about an hour. I've noticed a pattern over these last few weeks. If you're feeling cruddy, once it's passed whether by vomitting or loosing it at other end, you typically feel a little shaky but then you're good to go within a relatively short period of time.

Caleb was so bummed when we told him we needed to get Faith back to rest and in some a/c, so when offered the chance to stay with the kids at PE2 for the day, he jumped on it! I have loved watching him come alive on this trip. My little homebody, that rarely wants to go anywhere (even when we're at home), has turned over a new leaf. He is quick to laugh, eager to hug and hold these kids hands, silly beyond belief and has made friendships that I hope will last a lifetime.

After resting for a bit Faith was feeling peppy again and we hit the pool for about 2 hours. It was kinda nice to have some one on one time with my little peanut. She too has been remarkable on this trip! While more naturally outgoing, she has jumped right in with these kids and had an absolute ball! Prior to leaving PE2 today, she was busy painting nails and toenails. She's had fun teaching & learning lots of new games and just goofing around with her buddies. While homesick, she turns very somber when we talk about returning home. She too will miss these sweet kids we've come to love.

Jer, Faith and I hopped a tuk tuk to get our custom made shoes about 4:00 and then walked to dinner at LeDuo (Faith's favorite restaurant over here). Caleb meet us at the restaurant about 6:30...via moto! I think the 30 min moto ride from PE2 into Phnom Penh just may have made his trip complete! Sandwiched between Vee Ly & Sopal he rode up in style. I think it's a good thing they didn't call to ask me about this one first. :)

We swam for about 40 minutes upon return to the hotel before Caleb decided to keep us on our toes by barfing into a poolside planter. At least it wasn't in the pool! Praying that this too will pass soon.

Tomorrow morning, Jeremy will be preaching at church (all 5 Prek Eng Children's Homes attend). Then it's back to PE2 for our last full day with them. Monday, we'll be packing up while the kids are at school, joining them about 3:00 for an afternoon of fun, dinner and then saying goodbye about 6:30 pm. Our flight departs around 11 pm...27 hours of travel and we'll be home on Tues. afternoon.

A trip to the zoo and lunch on the river

 A month before we left on this trip I asked friends, family, and clients to help us treat the kids at PE2 to some special things. The one event the kids were most excited about happened today.

We woke up bright and early, had breakfast at the hotel and hopped on a tuk tuk out to Prek Eng to meet a bus load of excited kids who were eager to show us their zoo. Part of the money that was donated helped pay for the 25 passenger van that we used to take about 36 people on the 1.5 hour trip. You can see by the photos that we were pretty packed in but no one uttered a single complaint as kids shared seats and joyfully sang songs in unison the whole way there. For most trips as a group, PE2 uses their 10 passenger van that all 30-some people cram into, so this was livin' large! It even had AC!

The Phnom Penh zoo is unlike what we are accustomed to in the US. The most prolific animals there are the monkeys who misbehave, taunt visitors and follow you around the zoo. If you're not careful, they will grab anything loose, a scarf, a purse, a camera and scramble up a tree. Good luck getting it back.

The coolest part is that many of the animals--mostly exotic species of deer, roam the park freely and they walk right up to you, hoping that you will pat them on the head or scratch their noses. The cages used for many of the animals, including bear, monkeys, peacocks, and crocodiles are no more than chain link fences. Get too close to the monkey cage and they will grab you! It was nice to be so up close and personal with many of the animals. Sometimes at the Columbus Zoo, the animals like to hide in the back. Not here though, these guys come right up to the fence; most likely because the tourists here tend to feed the animals.

After the zoo, around lunch time, we all piled back into the bus and headed to what is similar to our metro parks. It had a very wide river running through it and little bamboo thatched huts built out over the water on stilts connected by a split log bridge. We rented the spot for the afternoon. The staff served a fantastic lunch of rice, grilled chicken and pickles. One by one, as they finished eating, the kids changed into their swim suits and jumped into the brown water. It was clear that this was a rare opportunity for them as they played for hours. Becky, the kids and I stayed in the hut and watched the fun as the bacteria in the water would have ruined us for the rest of the trip and beyond.

On the ride home several of the kids fell asleep while others played car games like chop sticks. Everyone was tired and we were ready to head back to the hotel.

Our family walked to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant and had a great dinner of Bun (one of our favorites). Very nice open air place with white table cloths. Most of the entrees were around $4 each.  A fantastic dinner to wrap up a wonderful day.

Once back at the hotel, we did a little swimming to wear out the kids before bed.

Thank you to everyone who gave to make this special day a reality!



Today was pretty low-key. After breakfast we packed up all of our stuff and moved into a hotel that is closer to the center of the city. It was pretty amazing how much you can fit on a tuk tuk. After checking in, we spent a couple of hours exploring the new area. I was pretty hot out this afternoon so we stopped in for ice cream around lunch time. We all hit the hotel pool for a couple of hours before Narun picked us up to take is to PE2 for the evening.

The longer we are here, the more I fee like we see what goes on in the evenings. We are typically at the home, playing card games with a couple of the older kids when the elementary aged kids return from school for the evening. They hurry and change out of their uniforms and the fun begins. Cards games, bracelet making, soccer in the courtyard. The whole place comes alive with laughter. Caleb wiped out pretty bad on the concrete playing soccer this evening and Sopal had the first aid kit ready to go. They cleaned his cuts and took really good care of him. She's a really amazing mom.

We had a fantastic dinner of rice, fried fish with pineapple sauce, mangos, and stir fried vegetables. Sopal is treating us right!

Tomorrow we take the entire orphan home to the zoo. Should be quite an adventure!

2 full days with the kiddos

Saturday and Sunday we were able to spend full days with the kids as the majority of them did not have school. We played countless rounds of Phase 10, Uno & Skip-bo, I painted the girls' nails, and we had fun making various bracelets & box braids with the craft laces we brought. Sunday afternoon we went over to the new land where they are building the new PE2 home & school for the Prek Eng Campus. They have made alot of progress in the past week!  We spent about an hour and a half exploring the various plants growing, playing in the sand pile and walking through the building. Can't wait for these homes to be finished; it will be a huge blessing!

Tuol Sleng


Today was perhaps one of my favorite days.  It was the perfect combination of vacation sight seeing and the joy of getting to spend time with the kids at PE2.  We kicked off our morning with breakfast at Cafe Yejj yet again.  It's a quick walk and they have stuff that everyone in our family likes, so it's a win win.  With full tummies we set off on foot for the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. 

During the month of April, the kids and I really dove into learning about Cambodia's history to give us a framework for our trip. We quickly found some pretty hard stuff to digest. While utilizing various library books to gather facts, we also read through "First They Killed My Father" which is written by a survivor of the Khmer Rouge.  Her writing really captures the essence of what many Cambodians went through.  Having read and thought about what this country has been through, made our trip to Tuol Sleng really hit home. To walk through the halls where innocent people were held captive, to see the hundreds of pictures of those that passed through these doors, the skulls of those tortured, made for a heavy visit.  Known also as S-21, Tuol Sleng, was once a grade school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a place of torture & murder during the reign of Pol Pot.  Interestingly enough, the Khmer Rouge wanted nothing more than to do away with education; their desire was to create an agrarian society in which the "un-pure blood" of the Cambodian people was done away with. Hard work was far more important than education and so they took the very thing that the people held dear and turned it into a place of terror. 14,000-20,000 people passed through the doors of this former school and death would have been a wish granted; instead they were tortured for endless hours, chained to beds (metal racks), stuffed into tiny cells, starved, and forced into agreeing to crimes that they had not committed. Over the course of our time here, we have talked with both Narun & Sophal about their families and how the Khmer Rouge affected them.  With heavy hearts & tears they shared their pain; a bit of their story. As much as I try to understand and put myself into their shoes, I fall short, for my mind cannot truly fathom what these people, this country, has been through; it is a tragedy that must never be forgotten.  

From Tuol Sleng we walked to Orussey Market, the biggest market we've been to yet.  Whatever you're searching for, if you can manage to navigate your way through the three story high building, you are sure to find it.  The smells that waft from these markets is something very unfamiliar to our American noses.  From dried mushrooms, to dried fish, pork, beef, eggs, half dead chickens and tons of other stuff, the smells can be quite overwhelming.  Word to the wise, don't walk through the markets if you're pregnant!  On our way back home, we stumbled across a shoe maker's shop.  Just for kicks, we decided to check it out and ended up leaving with 4 pairs of beautiful, comfortable, leather shoes to be custom made for our feet for $100 total.  We go back in 3 days to pick them up!

Narun picked us up in the afternoon for our time with the kids after school. Sophal once again, cared for us as family and made Jeremy & I a special tea with honey to hep calm our stomachs.  We played lots of card games, football (soccer), & made some friendship bracelets.  As always, we had a blast! I have never met more creative, loving, nurturing, kind, joyful and fun kids! 

Just for fun...things we've experienced while here...we're not complaining, it's all part of the adventure!

  • Crossing the streets here is like playing Frogger.  The driving here is absolutely insane, so crossing the street can be kinda terrifying at times.  I almost got  squished by a moto today.  
  • Diarrhea strikes when it's most inconvenient.  Like when you're on the 3rd floor of Tuol Sleng and you are hoping you make it to the bathroom on the first floor  in time.  While descending the steps, you seriously think you may pass out, the sudden onset of heat waves that are rolling over are crazy you and the sweat just  begins pouring out of your face.  Having remembered to grab the flushable wipes, you make it just in time to loose any nutrition or fluids you had in your body.  
  • When you need to find a bathroom, don't use words like bathroom, toilet,'ll only be lead to a tuk-tuk...which in the end worked out fine...we just  waited until we got back to the guest house to use the restroom. Narun later shared with us that the word toilet & tuk-tuk sound to similiar to them, so we should  ask for the "WC" or "water closet". 
  • A Coke will settle an upset complaint from the kids on this one, especially since they don't get it at home!
  • If you get stuck in a bathroom without your baby wipes, there is no time like the present to try out the ole' bidet.  Not a fan!
  • Eating here is like playing Russian do your best to eat only fruits and vegetables that can be peeled, or have been thoroughly cooked, but you  just never know until a few hours later. 
  • I've been learning to go "all natural" as the power converter that we bought doesn't work at all for my hair dryer or curling iron.  And there's really no point in  wearing any make-up 'cause you're just going to sweat it all off anyways.  At least it's saving me time.
  • When you take your clothes to be laundered, they make come back...

a.  stinkier than when you took them

b.  clean, but stretched out and unwearable

c.  clean, but possibly missing a few items as the number of items you took in doesn't match the number you came home with

  • Never act like you really love something at the market or they won't budge on the price; you gotta be willing to walk away.
  • If you want to know what time something starts, ask several people and go with the majority.  And then be flexible, because that time still isn't probably  accurate.
  • If you're a cute freckled face little girl, just know that people will stare at you and giggle, point at you or pinch your arm & cheeks.
  • When trying to speak Khmer, laugh alot and keep trying!
  • Sprinkling doterra's TerraShield on my bedsheets has seemed to keep the ants out of my bed...not a pleasant way to wake up!
  • The geckos in the house are my friends...they're mosquito control...just please don't crawl over me while I'm sleeping or you may get squashed.
  • Never take forgranted the many, many amenities we have in the US to make our lives so much easier or more comfortable.


The Game Changer

As I sat on the floor at Prek Eng 2 playing multiple rounds of Phase 10, I realized that the metaphor for how our lives are like "the cards we are dealt" is so very true---except for one major game changer.

Phase 10, is mostly a game of luck. Your hand at the start of the game pretty much guarantees whether you will win or loose that round. There are some decisions along the way that might help you win but for the most part, if you are dealt a winning hand, you will win that phase.

Growing up in America, I was dealt a really nice hand. Before the dealer handed me my cards, I hadn't done anything special to secure my position. I didn't prove myself brighter or stronger, or more patriotic than the next guy. I was just given my hand--for which I am truly grateful. I grew up in a lower-middle class family with parents who loved me and who worked hard to make ends meet to support their three kids. We lived in suburbia with our nice lawns and friendly neighbors, were able to take vacations to Disneyland and experience the many freedoms that we as Americans have...I wouldn't change a thing. I have been blessed beyond measure; I thank God for the cards I have been dealt. By the world's standards, I was dealt a winning hand.

I know many friends back home who were not as fortunate. They watched selfish parents dissolve their relationships and split the family apart. They experienced the death of a father or mother at a young age and they never got to experience that part of their upbringing. They had a father who was never around. A mother who was addicted to drugs...these were the cards they were dealt. I have seen many of these folks do amazing things with their hand. They beat the odds and did better than their parents did. They chose to forgive, seek help from their church, and find their peace and direction from the card dealer, God, who wants more than anything to replace that neglect and pain with His love and healing.

So as I sat on the floor, I kept thinking about the cards that each of these children have been dealt. I know all of their stories. Most of them are very similar. They worked the streets, dug through trash for water bottles to recycle, or were out in the city or country side all alone. They watched their parents die before their eyes from malaria, HIV, or starvation. They had no hope for an education, no plan for the future, just survival for that day. The world is a cruel place when you are a street kid with no parents.

It would be really sad for anyone playing the game if this was the end of the story. But it's not.

About 2,000 years ago, God chose to send us a game changer. He sent a man named Jesus. If you are skeptical about Him, read on. I think you will find Him more approachable than perhaps you would expect.

There are two times that come to mind when Jesus made statements that changed the game.

At one point Jesus is approached by a wealthy young man:

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:16-21 NIV)

It's that last part that always blows my mind. It also blew the mind of this wealthy man who came to Jesus with a question. He was a man with a winning hand as far as he could see. The next verse says, "When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth." He was unable to trust the very God who gave him his winning hand in the first place to do amazing things with it. Jesus wasn't asking him to live a destitute life. He was offering him real life. And the man walked away sad because he chose to keep his hand to himself.

Jesus goes on to explain that it is impossible for the rich (that includes all of us who have been dealt a winning hand) to enter the kingdom of God. This perplexes the disciples. Impossible? That doesn't seem fair. Then Jesus clarifies his statement with this: "but with God, all things are possible." No, he wasn't reading it off the official seal of the state of Ohio; He was writing it.

If the ruler had been willing to hand his cards back to Jesus, willing to trust the very one who gave him those cards to do even greater things, he would have lived a life of joy rather than sadness. His would have blessed those with a losing hand rather than keeping it all for himself. And there is no reason to believe that God would have made him live the rest of his life in destitution either. He may have chosen for him to become more wealthy than he was before and allowed him to be a resource to further the kingdom of God through charitable giving, or building orphanages, or creating micro enterprise opportunities to change the game for countless others who were dealt a poor hand.

You see, God wants us to join with Him as game changers. To give our winning hands back to him so we can be part of the solution. He promises us that if we do this we will walk away more joyful than we ever could imagine rather than walking away sad because we didn't want to get in the game.

Each of these kids I'm playing with were dealt the worst of hands until some game changers decided to trust their winning hands to a God who can really do amazing things. I guarantee that all of them have a far better return on investment than they would have if they had placed that money in the stock market. Just experiencing their laughter, sharing their joy, and watching them grow together is worth far more than money can ever pay.

This leads me to Jesus' second teaching.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-21 TLV)

Why do I feel such a connection with these kids on the other side of the world? It's because this is where my treasure is. When we give our blessings to others, God turns our hearts in their direction. This is true in many things in life. People who love animals give their resources to support their local humane society. People who give their money to clean water initiatives, grow more involved in the cause. How we spend our time and money changes the way we prioritize our lives.

The game changer is a blessing to everyone in the game, no matter what cards you were dealt. God promises that if we chose to trust Him, He will return the favor with joy in our lives. He doesn't promise that our lives will be easier as a result but He does promise to change our hearts.

The stars are alive
They dance to the music
Of the deepest emotion
And all of the world
Is singing in time
As the heavens are caving in
Mysterious ways
Why God gave His life
To put motion inside my soul


It's bigger than cold religion
It's bigger than life

Love is the movement
Love is a revolution
This is redemption
We don't have to slow back down