There and back again: a sparrow’s journey to Southeast Asia

This update is long over due, but better late than never, right? I knew I needed an update and summary of the trip God led me on especially for those who gave of themselves so I could give of myself.

So, first off, thank you. Thank you to those who gave financially. I have some names, but I know others gave anonymously. God knows your name, and even more, He knows your heart. Thank you from my heart.

I’ll summarize a bit of the trip, include some pictures, but also share how God used this trip in my heart and life, because God uses everything, right?

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Brief summary of the trip so you’re up to speed:

God opened up my summer and opened up an opportunity to help a missionary family my church supports get ready to come back on furlough after almost 4 years on the field. This may not sound like a big deal, but in reality, it is. I’ll share more on that later. But first, here are the Seawrights, my wonderful hosts:

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There’s Heidi and Chris in the back, then Titus, Seth, Suzanna, Isaac, and Rachel (left to right).

I had actually never met them in person until they picked me up from the Bangkok airport, but they were so welcoming and patient as I adjusted to jetlag, the heat, and their crazy and delightful kids.

I arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, where we spent a few days while the two oldest kids, Rachel and Isaac, were at camp in Thailand. Bangkok was a typical large Asian city, very similar to the city in China I spent a couple summers ago at, so the adjustment wasn’t too bad. After a few days there and after picking up Rachel and Isaac, we made the trip over to Cambodia by car. As we drove, my eyes started to open, figuratively and literally.

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It’s one of those moments when even though you may look at a thousand pictures, think you have a slightest idea of what to expect, but then nothing really can prepare you for what you see. I didn’t even know what to see. There was the countryside with it’s own farmland beauty, the random houses made of wood on stilts with hammocks underneath, the crowded little shops with piles of trash nearby, the people in long sleeves and pants in oppressive heat, the mountains and temples in the distance, the recently paved roads that the missionaries were in awe of. It really is a whole new world that doesn’t quite hit you until you come back to what is familiar and you realize, “wow, did I really just experience that? Was that even real?” And you realize, people live like this, and it’s their home. It’s their livelihood, it’s familiar, and it’s beautiful.

Then, you stop, and you realize, these missionaries, people who grew up in a culture just like yours, with it’s constant AC, access to clean tap water, comfy cozy homes with their matching pillows and bedspreads, pet dogs, clean food, grass and a yard…..

And the most amazing realization: they gladly gave/give up all of those things in order to follow God and love the Cambodian people. And I saw that love through them daily.

On the way to Battambang, Cambodia, during our 9 hour drive, I was able to hear much of their ministry over their years in Cambodia, from philosophy to history. This was a highlight to just hear the ins and outs and their heart behind what they do, and be able to ask questions.

During the next few weeks, I was a helping hand for the Seawrights, from hanging out with the kids to keep them busy so Chris and Heidi could pack/organize, taking random trips to get bubble tea, pack, sit in front of a fan, pack, more fan, more packing…..oh, and watched the kids on my own for a few days so Chris and Heidi could have an incredibly needed mini-vacation. As tiring, and as hot, as it was, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. I didn’t get to explore much of the city, but again, I wouldn’t trade it. I was their for them, not for me.

But, God did open an opportunity for a couple of days away to see Angkor Wat and my dear dear friend, Emily.

So, I guess I played the tourist a bit 😉

One of the top highlights of this trip was the privilege I had to join the Seawrights in Pursat to worship with Cambodian believers at Inheritance of Christ Church. On the way there, Chris and Heidi shared stories of many of the believers in the church and how those believers came to Christ. It was incredible to hear how God had worked in each heart, and then to meet many of them! It was like God putting a tangible grace in front me, not just for my head to learn, but for my heart. My whole time there I understood very little of what was going on, but God allowed me to see Him at work. I wasn’t there to minister to them, but to learn from them. Learn from their beautiful worship of a beautiful Savior who walks with them each and every day through so many trials that they face. And each have come to Christ with much to risk….reputation, family, etc. My head can’t fathom it, but my heart wants that same Light. I begin to understand why the Seawrights love these people so much.

After the service, I was served the most amazing meal ever: sticky rice and mango! And because I kept eating the mango, they kept serving it to me. I didn’t complain at all, though I don’t think my stomach was super pleased later ;). The hospitality shown to me was so incredible.

And speaking of hospitality, one of the women of the church, Ong, opened her home to us for a wonderful dessert (she’s a fantastic baker!), talking, and praying. Of course, I didn’t understand a word anyone was saying, but the presence was sweet.

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After packing up the Seawrights entire house, we breathed quite the sigh of relief. Honestly, and they would be first to admit this too, it was entirely by the grace of God. Everything about this whole thing was. I saw in numerous ways how God provided for them, even in small ways. There was absolutely no doubt that God’s hand was in this. Personally, I was blown away.

Despite having sold their van, we found rides to the border and then on to Bangkok with no trouble. While in Bangkok, we played tourists a bit and I was able to see more the city.

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Then after a few days, we hopped on a plane back to the states.

There is still so much I could say about Cambodia and my time there. From experiencing the food, seeing the idol worship, playing games, laughing til it hurts, never being so thankful for AC…but you’ll just have to go yourself :).
Something Chris and Heidi said about halfway through my time there really stuck with me and gave me a whole new perspective on missionaries coming back from the field….

You know those last few scenes in Lord of the Rings, when the hobbits have come back after all of their adventures, after all they had seen, after all they had suffered, fought through, survived, lost, felt? When the hobbits are in the tavern, everyone around them reveling, going on with their lives? And the hobbits just look at each with those understanding eyes? That. That is how they feel each time they come back. I’m reminded of Frodo’s lines:

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand . . . there is no going back?”

Ah. I start to get it now. I start to understand. At least, for my part.

Lately, I’ve wondered at the experiences God has given me. The open doors He’s given to see the global church but also the closed ones and where He has led me currently. A few people have asked me, “So, where do you see yourself in 5 years? What is your goal? Missions?”

Maybe. But maybe not.

To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t know where I will be, what I’m necessarily working towards. I don’t even know why God has allowed me to experience the things I have or go to the places I have and see the things I have. I could say, yeah, maybe one day I’ll end up overseas, but that’s not today. Today I am called to today. And I’m learning it’s ok to not know those things.

I know these things though:

  • I know my eyes have been open to the work of God around the world.
  • I know my perspective has changed on my own culture of comfort and the different cultures around the world.
  • I know I have a little taste of what missionaries have to go through on a daily basis, even as uncomfortable as it is.
  • I know how to better pray for missionaries and the trials and discouragements and victories they face.
  • I know I have loved meeting brothers and sisters, though our lives are completely different, and putting faces to names.
  • I know that there is still so much darkness in this world, but there is also Light.
  • I know it’s not so scary to take steps outside of my comfort zone, I just have to take them.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “So, are you going to move there? Was this a life-changing trip?!”

Maybe, but maybe not in the way you or I think of.

It is an exotic land that is also a dark spiritual place with idols everywhere, including the center of town….you would expect this life-changing experience of a trip, but it wasn’t what you think or even what I expected. Or even what I thought. I went, I helped a family pack to come back, I played with kids, saw some sights, came back. Nothing spectacular, nothing extraordinary.

It was really just giving of myself, my resources, my time, my strength, if only to encourage one person. Or maybe a whole family. Isn’t this what the body of Christ is supposed to do?

But it also was really a time to learn and listen. I needed this and the people more than anyone needed me.

Thanks again for all your support, financially, spiritually, and otherwise….and if you read all of that, high five! You deserve it! 😉

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