Friday, May 31, 2013

In the Province

Asian Hope's 2Five2 program took on an additional project this past year to open a partnership with another organization called Children In Families.  This organization works to help children who are orphaned stay in Khmer families through foster care and kinship care before they would ever go to an institutionalized orphanage.  We have loved working with them and are excited to see where our partnership leads us.

It all started last Christmas when they approached us with helping them in a public school development project in a neighboring province to Vietnam, called Svey Rieng.  Children In Families has worked in this community for the past 10 years, but are seeing the effects of the lack of child safety and hygiene knowledge, and poor schooling on the children they serve.  So for the past five months Asian Hope has been doing projects to help develop the government school and educate students in this small community with the hopes of it benefiting the children that attend.

In honor of International Children's Day this Saturday, Asian Hope and Children In Families did a distribution of need school supply items.  All 716 students in the primary school received a school uniform, backpack, needed school supplies, and a bathroom towel.  We even worked with Tom's shoes so everyone could get a pair!  So yes, for those trend setter out there, now over 700 children are a proud owner of a pair of Toms.

I spent all day Wednesday at the distribution, (which always includes some long ceremony where I am forced to speak my bad Khmer in front of everyone and suffer through that) and enjoying one last day in the quite and peaceful provinces of Cambodia.  As the distribution ended at the school some traditional Khmer music came over the loud speaker and played a perfect soundtrack to the hundreds of children leaving school on their bike with their baskets full of school supplies.

We then had lunch provided by the school, which I ate knowing it was a 50% gamble of getting sick from it, and prayed over each bite and then we headed home.  But no Khmer road trip is complete unless you stop for ice coffees in a bag and fried insects (I only opted for the coffee), and me made it home in under 2 1/2 hours!

It was exactly the day I needed in my last week here in Cambodia.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stayin' Classy at Graduation and Senior Banquet

Leanne, myself and the Moons acting fancy at Banquet. All my ties were packed, don't judge! 
Two of my most significant events of the year happened in the last two weeks. First and most obvious was the Logos graduation ceremony in which the school said congratulations and goodbye to 21 seniors whom I have come to know well and love over the last three years. For the second year in a row I had the distinct priviledge of giving the commencement address and I loved the opportunity to give these students one last piece of my mind. I will miss them dearly because they have been at Logos throughout my time. I have taught or coached every single one of them and I have a deep respect for this year's class. Fortunately many of them will be going to the States for college and I will cross paths with them again as they go on to their next step.
This year's tiny but dynamic graduating class. 
A week after graduation we had the Logos Banquet which is an end-of-the-year celebration for the junior and senior classes. Songs were sung, speeches were made, delicious food was consumed and good times were had by all who attended. I had the duty of planning and paying for this year's banquet so, though I enjoyed it immensely, I was content to see the night go well and be finished. My enjoyment came at the end of the night where a few teachers enjoyed a post-banquet happy hour at the swankiest hotel in the city. It felt nice to pretend to be fancy.
Me and some of my students stayin' classy. 
These two events were bookends to a week of celebration. I have worked very closely with the juniors and seniors and it was wonderful to celebrate the end of this chapter of their lives. International schools are funny because the students often have to take care of the teachers in such a foreign nation and these students took great care of me. I will always appreciate my time with them and the chance we had to celebrate together.

Leanne with a few Logos teachers.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Starting Over Again. Yup Again.

The craziness of packing, cleaning, sorting, more packing, and somehow stuffing our lives into perfectly sized 50 lbs boxes is well under way.  We are days away.  No longer months, only days.

In a matter of days we start over again...again.

Often I find myself overwhelmed with the thought of trying to end a life in Cambodia.  Finishing our jobs well, saying all the hard good-byes, and wrapping up all the logistics needed to move across the planet.  But I have to remind myself I have been here before.  We've been days away from an international move, and we survived...somehow.  We have been days away from our whole life packed in 50 lbs boxes, and days away from leaving one home in hopes of finding a new one.

We did this three years ago.  Friends and family came to a 5K race and paid a stupid amount of money to run around Denver in the freezing rain so we could get to Cambodia to start our work with Asian Hope.  (p.s. we totally suckered you into that, it was so cold that morning.)

But we were leveled by love, floored by the generosity of our family, friends, coworkers, and strangers who sent us off over 3 years ago.  And now we do it again, this Saturday we sell off the rest of our belongings in hopes to use that money to start over in America.  People will buy our Christmas tree, our safe, and our photo frames, and we will take that money to buy jeans (something we will need and wear again), pay rent, and buy sugar and flour once again.  We will be starting over again, again.

But, we really truly believe that God has been grooming us to be an influence in the public school system and to enter the world of formal counseling.  So we move, again.  We really truly believe that God has big plans for us in Denver at Manual and the influence we can and will have in a community. So we move, again. And we really truly believe that God is at work in our hearts, and that these new ministries have been laid upon our spirit. So we move, again.

So we ask for your prayers. That Chris and I can make this insane transition.  That we can land in Denver and start over. Buy a phone, get car, find a home, and re-enter into American life.  That we can do this in a glorifying way, and not in some crazed fashion because we only have 2 weeks before Chris will start work on July 8th.

We ask you pray for our last meals, moto rides, and lunches with our respective staffs.  For our last service at church, and for our highs and lows we experience each day.

Last weekend we said bye to the Khmer church that partners with us in Prek Pneu.  They showered us with love, thanks, and gifts.  We were able to join hands one last time and pray for one another, pray for the communities we will live and work in, and sing one last Khmer worship song together.

This week Chris will teach his last class at Logos, give his last final, and attend his last chapel at this wonderful school.

Jesus Loves You Church in Prek Pneu

The Khmer Church Pastor and the Leadership

Friday, May 17, 2013

One Last Visitor

We have had the privilege to host many family and friends here in Cambodia.  We have had each of our families come, and a handful of some of our closet friends.  There is nothing as special as showing your life to those you love, and we feel honored that we have gotten to do it so often.

For the past week Kim and Taylor Nelson have been hitting Phnom Penh by storm.  They arrived here over a three day holiday so we have enjoyed being able to take them to the markets, eat at our favorite places, and see our everyday life and work.

Since we are only weeks away from moving, they also have been helping us in getting all our last minute errands run.  They helped us shop for last buys in our favorite markets, and even carried loads of our stuff on the back of the moto as we head to the next errand.

Taylor holding items while Chris drives, and Kim doing the same on our moto.

It has been so fun to have them here and really just join us in life.  We went on our last bike ride in the open space behind Logos and they joined in with big smiles, as we rode past these small villages for the last time in the blazing hot heat.  They even had the courage to go on a morning run with us despite the 100+ temps.

But more than anything we feel blessed to once again sit at the dinner table with them and share stories of the past year(s), and hear what is next for them and us. 

Khmer soup for lunch in the Toul Tom Pong market.
We will drop the Nelsons off at the airport tonight, but after that the next time we will go to Pochentong airport will be for our final flight out of Cambodia...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Cambodia Bike Project Keeps Rollin' Along

Starting Cambodia Bike Project has been such a blessing and an exciting part of the work that Leanne and I get to do here in Cambodia. The program is so simple to manage, pay for and organize but it has such a substantial and long-lasting impact.

Leanne was kind enough to connect me with a teacher that she works closely with and recently I was able to do a distribution just around the corner from our house here in Phnom Penh. Children and families gathered together to hear about how to take care of the bikes and they all agreed to use them for the purpose of attending school each and every day.

What I love about CBP is that it has very little to do with me and everything to do with the Cambodians who we support. They are the ones who talk to the kids, they are the ones who pray for the kids and their new bikes, they are the ones that do all of the applications and check-ins. It is the development of Cambodia by Cambodians and I really like being a part of that movement. CBP is simply a conduit for pastors and teachers who want to help their communities and classrooms and I hope it stays that way!

Here are some pics of the kiddos with their new rides and with their families. What a fun and exciting day for all of us.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

So We Did a Conference

So we did a conference back in 2012, and it was a big deal. A big deal to us.  You know one of those life changing ones.  I know it sounds over-kill, but really for us it was exactly what we needed at the time.

It was called Refocusing Leaders and we wrote about it a little here. It is a year long conference that meets four times for 2-3 days at a time.  I know super intense, right? But each Sunday when we finished, we drove home on our moto talking about how much that impacted each of us.  You know in the life changing kind of way!?!

So now that the conference ended almost six months ago, we wanted to tell you where it lead us.

It lead us to moving back to America.  Moving next month (pause for a small scream of nervousness), yup... in a month or so.  Chris has accepted a teaching position at Manual High School located in Denver in the 5 Points community.  Leanne will be attending Denver Seminary for her MA in Counseling (pause for a small scream of excitement). 

Through our conference we were able to take lessons from our past, hopes and desires for the future, Biblical truth, and guidance with friends to create a pretty little package that helped us know ourselves, each other, and the plans God has for us more clearly.

Chris wrote of his desire to be in public schools, a place where most students don't know Christ, and have less opportunity to hear about Jesus than if they were at a Christian school like Logos.  He learned of his desire to help students that live in the brokenness that America brings to our families, homes, communities, and neighborhoods.  His desire is to embody a life that gives wisdom, stature, and favor with God to those in his surroundings.

I wrote of my desire to be in relational ministry.  The kind of ministry where you sit at the dining room table with your neighbors, community, church, and family and friends.  The kind of ministry you see at the Last Supper when Jesus sat and ate and drank with his closest of followers.  To share in the ministry of breaking of bread like we see in Acts 2.

Each us through this time developed a Biblical purpose statement, a vision statement, and discovered our individual values.  We also walked through transitions, timelines, ways we see God work, and even set roles and goals for our future ahead of us.  It was a lot. And sometimes it was heavy. Sometimes it brought tears, and sometimes lingering smiles.

But now it leaves us with Chris starting on July 9th at Manual, a year round school, and Leanne starting Seminary on May 20th with an online class and then fully in August with her first full semester.  It leaves us with a daunting move across the planet...again.  It leaves us with heart wrenching good-byes.  It leaves us flying away from a place we love. also leaves us with an excitement and peace as we follow God's leading and calling.  It leads us into a long-term ministry.  It leads us into further obedience and dependence on Christ.  It leaves us seeking prayer once again as we move.

Pictured above is dear Khmer friends Phany and Lida and their two boys Daniel and Samuel.  Also Sarah Blaine, who was in my Bible study, and her daughter Clara.  Our season of good-byes has started already.

"How lucky am I to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard." - Winnie the Pooh

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mamma was in Town

It has been a busy month, but now we are back.  Starting four weeks ago Chris broke his wrists, then we were gone for our "spring break," then my mom was here visiting us, and last night we ended a very busy work week where I was training my successor to take over 2Five2.  But for now I want to give the highlights of my mom's visit.

We met her, and our close family friend, Mary Beth, in Tokyo where we spent 10 days seeing the sites of Japan and visiting friends who live there. We loved seeing the four different cities we visited and getting a glimpse into cherry blossom season.

After tour 10 days in Japan we all boarded the plane and headed back to Phnom Penh, and we continued to be their tour guides in Cambodia, and it looked a little like this...

Since this is my mom's third trip to Cambodia she knows the sites, is used to the noise, dust, and smells so we are able to send her off on her own adventures and then hear their stories when we would gather again for dinner at our house.  Mary Beth had never been so they visited the main tourist sites in town, but I joined them for trips to get a pedicure and I even surprised them with an early Mother's Day trip to the best spa in town.  It was a treat to spend an afternoon in relaxation in honor of my mom, and to share that sweet memory with her.
Also in their time in Cambodia we spent a weekend going to the coast and visiting two coastal towns, Kep and Kampot.  Only 6 miles apart from one another we would eat lunch in one, and dinner in another.  We stayed in Kep at one of Chris and I's favorite places, The Kep lodge, and enjoyed long mornings of book reading, coffee sipping, porch sitting, and mother daughter talking. It was wonderful.  But here is the photo tour of our weekend at the coast.
We started with dinner in Kampot at the famous Rusty Keyhole and dined on the finest of ribs, beer, and lemon meringue pie that this river town has to offer.

We then headed to Kep and enjoyed our porch chatting times with this amazing view.

 We spent our Saturday taking a boat to Rabbit Island where we napped, read, swam, ate wonderful beach front seafood meals, and ended the day with my favorite thing of all, Cambodian iced coffees.

To end the weekend we had our final dinner at the Kep Crab Market where you watch the women aggressively selling their newest catch, and head to the nearest over the ocean restaurant to literally watch them catch you meal, cook, and serve it. We enjoyed several amazing sunsets, great Cambodian seafood, and time together.

Now mom and Mary Beth are back in America, and we cherish their visit to Cambodia and the memories we created on this trip.  Thanks for the visit and your depth of love for Cambodia.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

one month...

We have one month before we leave Cambodia. One month of the sights and sounds of the streets. One month of the dirt and the rain and the dirty rain. One month of lizards in our trash cans and bats in our bedrooms. One month of flooded homes and streets. One month of three dollar meals and fifty cent beers. One month of pushing hard and making the most of the opportunities we have, and I hope we can make it.

Cambodia is a bit of an ass-kicker. It is hot, our stomachs are constantly gurgling from something we ate or drank. The danger of the roads is ever present and the cultural stress is vice-like. I think I may feel a sense of relief when our plane lifts off and the patterned rice fields turn to a sea of brown land as we depart from 30,000 feet. This sounds crazy but to be honest, Cambodia is really hard. What Leanne and I have been a part of has been rich and significant but it has also been challenging and stretching and even on some days, a bit unnerving.

For Leanne and I, living in Cambodia has not been the simple fulfillment of a desire for some quarter-life adventure. It was a calculated move that required us to uproot from great jobs, loving families and dear friends. We are different now because of what we have experienced in some ways better and in some ways worse. We worry about our reactions about home, our relationships with friends and our expectations for our jobs. We are concerned about what it will look like when we land for good, not just as visitors.

We will be busy for our last 31 days with graduations and goodbyes. We will turn over programs and projects to people who will take them further than we ever could and we will walk out of offices and a home that are as important to us as any other has ever been. This will be a challenge.

Two weeks ago I asked Leanne, "what do we do when we land in Denver, where do we start?" And she calmly explained to me, "just like each day here, we will wake up and continue, having faith that we will be taken care of on that day." That is my prayer for each of the next 31 days and beyond. To wake up, praise God for what he has provided and continue to walk in his ways. If we can do that then there is nothing to worry about.