At the end of my third and final week in Cambodia, I’ve been trying to process everything that I have done and seen. Cambodia has been an incredible experience that has radically changed my view of the world. Everything here is so different, yet the problems that Cambodia is dealing with America also has. We are just better at covering it up (same but different).
A few nights ago we were having our nightly team debrief and Troy asked us what we thought God was teaching us during our time here. As my teammates were sharing the incredible things they were learning I thought about what I was going to say. I was struggling because I could not think of a single overarching theme that God was teaching me. Instead, it was more like mini-lessons that a single day would impress upon me.
The first day we spent serving in Battambang, we went to a house church in a surrounding village. And I looked at those children who were so skinny and their orange hair (I learned later that day from Troy that orange hair was a sign of malnourishment). They lived in these shacks in such total poverty it was shocking to see. I also saw a few girls with eye shadow on, one, in particular, stood out to me. She had pink eye shadow, a sparkly shirt, and a cat eye headband. She was so withdrawn and quiet. Sara (Sway’s wife) asked about it later and Troy said she was probably sold and trafficked by her parents. This girl couldn’t have been older than six or seven. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this girl and the look on her face. That day was really rough; God showed me the brokenness that is this world and what sin has done to it.
The next lesson was during another village visit in Battambang. The day before I was really convicted because I had been stressed out with preparing a craft for the kids and honestly did not really enjoy my time there. So the next day it was a constant prayer in my head “be more like Mary, less like Martha.” What I meant by that is to take joy in my time here and with the people I’m meant to serve instead of being stressed out with something that is meant to be a mode of us loving on these people. So that day I learned to take joy in what I do everyday if it is for the Lord.
My next lesson was in Siem Reap after visiting Rafa House. I had gone into that day expecting to see a group of girls who were so broken that is all you could see. What I saw couldn’t be farther from the truth. I saw a group of girls who were made whole by the love of Jesus. I came expecting brokenness and instead I got redemptive healing.
What God taught me next was a bit of a harder lesson to swallow. It was the day we visited Tuol Sleng (the Kmher Rouge prison) and the Killing Fields. I have never been a place so evil, where such horrific acts were committed. I remember looking at the memorial and inside was a gigantic glass case that was about six feet long on four sides and was at least forty feet tall. Why this memorial impacted me so significantly was that it was completely filled with human skulls. All these people were brutally murdered and left to rot in a ditch, piled together like garbage. So much death and destruction, I walked around that day sick to my stomach. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more horrified and angry. I was angry at the men who caused this pain, and we learned that one of them was a man called Duch; he ran the prison that we visited. We heard his story and how he has repented and given his life over to Jesus. It was such an awe-inspiring experience, to learn that this person who committed such horrific acts is now redeemed through Jesus Christ. It convicted me that this man who I was unable to forgive was forgiven by the only one who could judge him for his crimes. That day I was reminded of the absolute forgiveness of Jesus.
Time has passed since that debrief and God has still been teaching me so much. This week in Phnom Penh was incredibly difficult. I was struggling with insecurity and wondering why I was even here because I felt like I wasn’t contributing anything. I was awkward with kids and all I did was crafts. However during a discussion last night with some of my friends and team members I came to a realization. That just because God doesn’t use me in the way I think will be helpful doesn’t mean that He isn’t using me. What I am doing makes a difference because it is for the Lord. He gave me gifts and skills different from other people on my team so we would be balanced and be a more effective team. I was placed on this team because God wanted me here. Yesterday God taught me the value of my gifts and skills when they are used for His glory. Our time in Cambodia is swiftly drawing to a close and I am sad to be going but I admit that I miss my family a lot and being able to drink water from a tap.
My life has been changed by this trip and I can’t wait to come back soon and see the amazing changes that God is performing in Cambodia.
Danielle Schneider, -NCU student