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By Dalay Lawrence
Tristan and I finally made our much-delayed trip to Cambodia! I was granted permanent resident status in early March, and we left in mid April. How exciting it was to be able to show my American spouse the country where I came from!
My family and Joseph Chanís family came to greet us at the Pochengtong airport in Phnom Penh. The next two weeks were filled with nearly constant traveling. Tristan and I made it to five provinces: Kandal, Kompong Cham, Mondulkiri, Siem Reap and Kompong Som, after which Tristan had to return to the US to go back to work. I stayed behind as there were more things I wanted to attend to.
After seeing Tristan off (he was loved by everyone in my family that met him, which is good), I went straight to Lucky Star Hotel for Cambodiaís First Methodist Youth Conference. I did not get the invitation to present until shortly after our arrival in Cambodia and I gladly accepted the invitation even though I wished I had more time preparing! The participants were very energetic and I had a great time.
After the youth conference, I traveled back to Kompong Cham and conducted Childrenís Day Camp, an event partly sponsored by St. Lukeís Mission. This year 16 students in that province have been given scholarships, which aim to assist them in their education. Classes in Cambodia start from 7:00AM to 11:00AM or 1:00PM to 5:00PM. The rest of the time students, who can afford it, normally go to their teacherís house for additional learning/tutoring because the teacher saves whatís important to teach at there, which they charge per hour or per month. Teachers only make $15-$25 a month and this is the way teachers can earn enough income to support themselves or their families. However, this common and acceptable practice affects those students who cannot afford to pay the teacher. Thus, children from poorest families face difficult times receiving good education or passing to the next grade/class. Quitting and starting to work at a young age then seem to be the only option left for them.
Through St. Lukeís scholarships many of these childrenís lives are impacted in a very positive way. During my time with them through the Day Camp and personal visits, I saw smiling faces, gratitude and hope for a better future. I donít know what words to use here to express how much joy and impact the $100-per-child scholarships have had on this community in Kompong Cham town. I am sure the same could be said about children in Siem Reap.
The $500 dollars sent by St. Lukeís was used for the Day Camp events in four different churches: Kompong Cham United Methodist Church, Mohaleap United Methodist Church, Preak Sandek United Methodist Church, and Siem Reap Center United Methodist Church. I provided leadership for Kompong Cham Day Camp. We had about 50 children. Activities for the two-day event included prayers, singing Godís praises, Bible stories, acting out the stories, crafts, shared meals, discussion groups and games. Gifts were given to each child in the form of school supplies and school uniforms.
After the Day Camp I went back to Phnom Penh to meet with some of the GBGM missionaries and the committee of local leaders to understand and discuss whatís been going on with the mission. There are still problems between the locals and missionaries in their working relationships. I ask for your prayers for them and for Godís work/mission there in Cambodia.
I was grateful that I had the opportunity in my short visit (33 days) to be invited to speak at different churches, to teach at the youth conference and childrenís day camp, and to meet with local leaders and missionaries to hear their struggles and hopes as they continue to serve God and each other. I reminded myself again at the end of this Cambodia trip how good it is we have it in the US! And how fortunate I am to receive education in the US. The challenges I encountered here have helped me gain new experience, knowledge, and get to know myself better Ė my weaknesses and strengths and where I need to continue grow as a person.
Thank you St. Lukeís and all the people that involved for all you have done for Cambodia and for me Ė my entire three years at Iliff School of Theology. Even though I am not able to return to Cambodia at this time, I am still planning to go back and use what I learn from here to help others as much as I can. I will end by saying that if you were to visit Cambodia with me, you would see faces of our young people, faces of our children, and you would understand the depth of hope and a difference your gifts, your involvement with Cambodia mission have brought to their lives. I invite you to come with me next time I visit Cambodia if you can. Thank you very much!
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