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.