ENCOUNTER CAMBODIA TEAM SUMMER 2018

From Emily...

From Chris...

From Chris…

Coming into this trip, I had a few ideas and expectations of what we would see and do, but not many. I wanted to keep an open mind to what we would see and experience. I knew if I set a lot of expectations, then those expectations would most likely be different than what I actually experience here.

As soon as we got here, we went straight to the genocide museum. I thought we would just be going to a building and see some objects and read some information about the genocide. But, the museum is the actual prison that was used during the genocide. It used to be a school before the genocide, but was transformed into a prison, and it was horrific. I learned a lot, and I am definitely glad that we went. It felt so real being in the actual place…seeing the rooms used for torture, the tools used for torture, and there were bones in a glass casing.

I really enjoyed going to Rapha House and spending time with the girls. It was awesome to see them happy and to see that God always paves the way for hope even in the midst of what may seem like the most extreme darkness. There were many times during the days that we were at Rapha House that I would all of the sudden become sad, because I would realize that these girls have been through horrific tragedy. And it is hard for me to understand. But, the girls enjoyed our presence and I definitely see God at work in Rapha House.

I really enjoyed going to the mountain and riding a motto up the mountain. But, that experience was also difficult because of the history. The cave was used as a killing spot. Our tour guide told us that children would be taken to the top of the cave and thrown off. We went down into the cave and saw bones in a glass casing. They were bones collected from the bottom where the children were thrown and murdered.

We went to Angkor Wat, which I believe is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Most of us climbed all of the way to the top, and I really enjoyed that experience. I enjoy history and learning about it, and we got to be there and experience some of it.

Lastly, I want to talk a little bit about kids club. It was so much fun to be there! The team was surrounded by children everywhere! We got to do a prayer walk in the surrounding community and see where some of the kids live. The poverty and living conditions are absolutely terrible. It is really hard to see how some of the people live.

Coming into this trip, I thought I would be the one bringing encouragement to the staff and kids at Rapha House and kids club. And, I am sure myself and the team has. But, I have learned a lot from them as well, and I did not expect that. The faith of the people here, especially Theara’s family, has encouraged me greatly. God is working here and His light is shining bright!

From Brendan...

(No Title)

Prayer Walk Photos

Hey again! We had another full day today - we started off by going to church at Women’s Island, a small Island that is home to...

Kid’s Club

Hey again!

We had another full day today - we started off by going to church at Women’s Island, a small Island that is home to many families as well as the church that we attended. Theara’s dad is the pastor of this church, so we were able to spend time meeting her parents and sister for the first time today as well.

A little background on Women’s Island…the island was once a place where women and children were killed during the Khmer Rouge. It was a place of devastation and sorrow…which only makes it more beautiful to see the way that God has redeemed it. People who lived on the streets now have homes and make it a priority to come together and worship. We so enjoyed getting to see the dances and songs that the kids and teens put together for church. We even got to sing a song for the congregation!

Our next stop after lunch was to Theara’s home. Theara and her family are truly some of the coolest people…first of all, her family is a Christian family in a country that is 98% Buddhist, and so they’ve spent many years choosing to follow Christ in spite of the fact that there is a ton of opposition around them. I’ll try to make a long story short here so you understand what we were walking into. Years ago, Theara’s parents opened up their backyard to children in the neighborhood to come and play and sing songs. Theara says that many of the songs they would sing with the children were about Jesus. They never intended for it to become anything huge, but every day, kids came back and asked to sing more songs. Flash forward and this backyard gathering of children has turned into a huge program called “Kid’s Club” and has over 525 children. Theara and her family have sacrificed a ton of personal gain to invest in their community through these children. They have created a safe space for children to go who might otherwise be forced into trafficking, have made connections with other parents in the community, and are able to share the gospel. Kid’s Club became a partner with Rapha House around 2008 and has only continued to grow and thrive through American sponsorship.

So not only did we get to see Theara’s home, but we got to go into her backyard to hang out with a TONNN of kiddos! We played sports, sang songs, and played games in the sweltering heat for a few hours - it was such a fun day!

After playing with the kids, we took a prayer walk through the community. We don’t have tons of pics from this part of the day, mainly because it felt a little weird to snap photos of people’s homes…but it was definitely eye opening. Many of the homes that we saw were not like what we are used to in the United States. Most homes were built high off the ground to prevent flood waters from entering in. Most of the homes didn’t have walls…only tin roofs to keep the rain out. We saw tarps that were put together to make tents - someone’s home. We saw boats down by the river with small coverings at one end - someone’s home AND someone’s workplace. This prayer walk was one of the more difficult things to swallow because of the reality of people’s living situations in many parts of Cambodia.

We finished our evening with a home cooked meal at Theara’s house. Her mom cooked for all of us and made some of the most delicious food we have eaten during the entire trip - we are so grateful for their hospitality!

Here are some pics from our day…

From Katie...

From Katie…

Cambodia has stolen my heart. These kids have taught me so much about loving, giving, and being joyful no matter the circumstance. I came into this trip thinking that I was going to get to love on these kids but it’s been the other way around. I have never felt so loved, even though I don’t speak the same language as most of them.

We did a prayer walk today through the community where Kid’s Club is, and it was heartbreaking. When we’re just playing with these kids, we can’t tell what situations they come from. They act like any other kid, dancing around and laughing. But when I saw what the living conditions of some of these kids are as we walked around the community, it was impossible to even wrap my mind around. Houses that are the size of my college dorm room with up to ten people living in them. Pieces of tin with tarps over them on small wooden boats acting as a home. Alleys covered in garbage, stray dogs, and mud. On many of the pathways we had to take to get to parts of the community where many of the kids live, there were shards of glass and metal on the ground. Some of the kids that had grabbed our hands and joined us during our walk through the community didn’t own shoes. I tried carrying as many of the shoeless ones as I could so they didn’t have to walk barefoot on all of the garbage but this is what they do every day. No one should have to live the way that some of these people do. But despite circumstances that would be easy to be angry and complain about, they are more joyful and giving than any kids I’ve ever met. They are so quick to grab a hand and give a hug. They are always making us bracelets out of anything they have and putting them on our wrists without a second thought. They share their snacks without hesitation. We could all learn a lot from them.

The people here are what make this country so beautiful. They are so full of hope, so forgiving, so resilient, and SO sweet. When I said that God is doing great things in Cambodia, I couldn’t have been more right. Being here and seeing it happen right in front of me has been indescribable. I can’t wait to see how it continues these last few days and long after we leave.

From Kayla...

From Autumn...

From Autumn…

In these two weeks I’ve seen God’s provision and love for us everywhere. He creates art here every day with the clouds and rose up mountains to decorate this wonderful place. I love how beautiful Cambodia is.

There have been many beautiful moments that really stand out to me but my favorite is that in the last two days when I got to connect with a little girl at the safe house. We were getting ready to do our devotion and we all introduced ourselves to the girls. I got to bond with a little girl because both of our favorite colors are yellow, and because she couldn’t say my name she just called me yellow. It was so special to me that she called me that because in my life the color yellow is a reminder that God is with me and that he cares about me and I see it in the sun and the stars and the flowers he grows up every spring. It was another strong reminder that the king of the universe not only created me for a reason but that he is with me, but also that he is with these girls. It’s been so hard for me to say goodbye to all of them but he has been reminding me that He is with them too, and that He loves them so much, and that they are safe. It has meant so much to me to be reminded of how much God loves us through the ways he has provided for these girls in these awful times in their lives. God is raising up a generation of hope through Rapha House. He’s doing amazing things here, and we’ve only seen a tiny glimpse of that.

(No Title)

Elephant Photos

Hey there from Phnom Penh! Our team took a six hour bus ride back to our original starting point - Phnom Penh - this morning....

Hello again!

Hey there from Phnom Penh!

Our team took a six hour bus ride back to our original starting point - Phnom Penh - this morning. Yesterday was a LONG day, so we haven’t had a chance to do any updates! Therefore, this might be a little bit longer of an update, so buckle up.

To back up a little bit, we got to tour the safe house at Siem Reap on Thursday. It was fascinating to make the comparison between the two safe-houses in these different cities we’ve visited. Rather than living in one large house, the girls lived in smaller houses - eight girls per house - and went to school, art, and counseling in different mini-buildings. The purpose of this is to create more of a sense of family and community in the smaller houses, just to help the girls feel at home.

Kayla and Lyndsey led a devotion for the staff about remembering that we all have important jobs in the body of Christ, and that every single person matters. Jenni, the director at Siem Reap, mentioned that their devotion had touched on something that they had only just been talking about and working through as a staff…pretty cool the way that the Lord works in those ways. We also got to learn a little bit more about the process of getting the girls to the safe house from Jenni, and how the government has become more involved in social services in Cambodia.

Lastly, we broke into groups and walked around the grounds, praying over each building and what it meant to the girls who were living there. It was beautiful to walk down their little street with all of their houses, surrounded by colorful flowers and tress - if only we could show you photos! I feel like we got a glimpse of heaven.

We did return to the safe house after lunch to do a devotion and craft with the girls - led by Emily. I think its safe to say that most everyone walked away with a handmade bracelet made by one of their sisters in Cambodia!

Moving on to Friday…

We knew that the morning would start off with touring Ankgor Wat, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world (and also where Lara Croft, Tomb Raider was filmed - fun fact). The old temples were absolutely breath-taking…it’s amazing to think about how long some of the structures we walked through have been around.

After exploring for just a little while, we went on a mission to find a great spot to take a group photo. We found a really pretty corridor on the edge of the temple, and the group started posing for photos. Much to the team’s surprise, when Brendan and Katie had their photo taken, Brendan got down on one knee and asked Katie TO MARRY HIM!!! Everyone screamed in celebration, and we were quickly told to be quiet in the sacred temple - oops.

Anyway, it was such a sweet moment for the team to be a part of in one of the most beautiful an unique locations! Such a special thing to happen on this trip.

We continued to explore the temples (in the blazing heat, in case we haven’t talked about how hot it is here yet) and the only thing we were left wanting was some signs to explain how the temples were used or where they came from. Regardless, it was definitely worth the trip! Some of the team even got to ride elephants!

We made a brief stop back at the hotel after lunch to change our sweaty clothes and hop back on the bus for our last afternoon at the safe house. We spent time playing soccer with the girls, and some games that they taught us. The language barrier is something that I know many of us were worried about going to Cambodia - how would we even connect with girls who barely speak the same language that we do? Yet we all managed to teach each other games, simply by using body language, the few common english phrases we knew, and sometimes asking Theara to explain! We ended the night with an ice cream and dance party. Bonus fun fact: the girls really like to eat their ice cream on bread…like an ice cream sandwich made with regular sandwich bread! Some of our team tried it that way, and some of us stuck to a regular old cup and spoon.

At the end of the dance party, we were EXHAUSTED. Molly’s fit-bit told us that we had taken 20,000 steps that day, most of it in the heat. My guess is that sleep came easy to everyone last night!

We have a few more days in Phnom Penh, and then we head back to the US…pretty unreal how quickly time has flown by. Thanks for following along with us!

Silk Farm Photos

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Rice paper and silkworms

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Yesterday was another travel-heavy day, this time from Battambang to Siem Reap. Before we left, we were able to take a Tuk Tuk ride through Battambang and we stopped at a few places. A Tuk Tuk is essentially a cart on wheels that is pulled by a moto. We fit about four people inside our Tuk Tuk.

One of the places we stopped was the home of a family who allowed us to come and take a closer look at their rice paper business. This family operates out of their home and works all day making rice paper for people to buy and eat. We got to watch the process of mixing and shaping the rice paper and then laying it out to dry in the sun. On a sunny day, this family might make about 2,000 rice papers and could make $30 for the days work. Rainy days slow down the production, however, since the paper isn’t able to dry in the sun. It was a little surreal to think that this is how many people live in Cambodia. They were gracious enough to let us into their home and to ask questions about their house and their work - it is an entirely different way of living than we often see in the US.

At another stop, we got to see another business - a family who makes and sells “sticky rice.” Sticky rice is made with rice, coconut, sugar, and black beans and is cooked inside a piece of bamboo. We got to try sticky rice and it was delicious! Many of us purchased our own to snack on for the rest of the Tuk Tuk tour.

Our last stop was at a memorial for the genocide that took place during the Khmer Rouge. The fields that we walked on were yet another place where the people of Cambodia were tortured and killed. It was a very somber experience to read the stories of what happened in our history not so long ago.

After our Tuk Tuk tour ended, we traveled to Siem Reap. We noticed that this city had quite a lot more tourism than Battambang, as well as more bugs! We toured a silk farm that was just outside of the city and had a wonderful tour guide! He took us through the entire process of creating silk garments - we held silk worms, watched them create their cocoons, saw the silk get dyed different colors, and finally weaved into scarves. It was fascinating and gave us an appreciation for the work and craftsmanship that went into each final product.

Here are some photos from our Tuk Tuk tour - I’ll make a separate post with pics from the silk farm! Time to get some rest before we spend time with the Rapha House girls this afternoon!

From Tori... Wednesday, May 23: Before we drove from Battambang to Siem Reap, we did a Tuk Tuk tour. First we stopped at a home...

From Tori…

Wednesday, May 23: Before we drove from Battambang to Siem Reap, we did a Tuk Tuk tour. First we stopped at a home where a family makes rice paper. Then we stopped to get sticky rice from a place that makes it using bamboo and banana leaves. Our last stop was at a temple/museum about the Khmer Rouge. The temple had drawings and captions at its base that transparently told what happened. It was hard to process everything this country went through during that time.

After the Tuk Tuk tour, we got on the bus and headed to Siem Reap. For me, the drive was emotionally different than the drive from Phnom Penh to Battambang because I am beginning to see the country through a new lens. Instead of seeing poverty and sadness, I see HOPE and JOY. The more we interact with the people here, the more beauty I see. In the U.S. people value materialistic things but are always dissatisfied. Cambodians do not place such value on material things but instead live simply, and they are more joyful and appreciative than I’ve ever experienced. This reminds me of 1 John 2:15; we should not love the world or anything in it and the man who does the will of God lasts forever.

Thursday, May 24: Today we went to the Rapha House in Siem Reap and did devos with some of the girls. Then we split up and did prayer walks throughout the facility. It was so special to pray in person and physically touch the buildings to pray for protection, staff guidance and healing for the girls. I am so excited to go back this afternoon for another ice cream/dance party!

Last day in Battambang

No photos to post today, as we spent the majority of our time at the safe house or with girls from the safe house.

We got an early start this morning, which was hopefully not too torturous - I think most of us are feeling less jet-lag effects, but man does the heat make us tired!

Our day started with a devotion time with the staff at Rapha House. Chris and Matt did a great job encouraging the staff with the word of God. The staff at Rapha House are majority Khmer people, and they include counselors, House Mothers and teachers who are dedicated to serving and helping the girls who have been rescued. It’s a difficult job and it’s a priority that their staff are healthy so that they can do their jobs well, so our prayers are not only appreciated but needed. Please pray for these wonderful men and women who have dedicated their lives to helping others - we love them so much!

In the afternoon, some girls from the “small house” came to go swimming with us! All of these girls have special needs and were also rescued from trafficking - they stay at a separate house from the main safe house. It was so fun to see the girls enjoying the water - they were great swimmers!

Lastly, we went back to the safe house in Battambang to spend one last evening with the girls. Autumn and Gaby led a devotion, we made bracelets and danced with the girls. Saying goodbye was very difficult - we cannot make promises to the girls that we will be back, mainly because none of us knows if we will or not and we don’t want to make promises we can’t keep. After many hugs and exchanges of “I love you, sister!” we headed out the gates. Our journals will help us keep the memories of those sweet faces.

Tomorrow we head to Siem Reap to see how Rapha House has grown. Thank you for your continued prayers!

From Matt...

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“All of our encounters with the girls at the Rapha House in Battambang were filled with smiles and laughter. Whether it was doing fun handshakes, thumb wrestling, playing soccer, or even dancing around like a bunch of crazy people in the pouring rain, I was smiling the entire time and loved every second of it. I was so surprised at how inviting they were to me and the other guys specifically, considering the terrible past they went through. That is what made today especially hard. Leaving this Rapha House for the last time was a very emotional time for me. I feel like I had a connection with these girls, despite not understanding a word they said.

Then an 18 year old named Paula asked about my life and gave me encouragement by saying “God has a plan and he will bless you because of what you’re doing.” This was difficult to hear because I thought that I was supposed to be saying those types of things to them, not the other way around. That’s when it really hit me that not only are we impacting their lives, but they are impacting ours in a HUGE way. I could go on for hours talking about these girls and the amazing things that I’ve felt so far in my short time here. These girls have shown me love that I never expected and I’m hoping that I can give them the same amount of love back and to encourage them to love Jesus.”

From Lauren...

From Amber...

Mountain Photos

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Trying to get this blog post to post with spotty WiFi is testing my patience tonight - here goes nothing! Yesterday as we were...

“The Best Day Ever”

Trying to get this blog post to post with spotty WiFi is testing my patience tonight - here goes nothing!

Yesterday as we were getting ready to go to the mountain, it started POURING rain. We tried to wait it out, but decided to postpone our mountain trip to the following day. Instead, we walked the streets of Battambang, sampled some different fruits, and enjoyed a meal together. Durian is known as the “stinky fruit” here in Cambodia…our hotel literally has signs to say that people cannot bring it into the building because the stench is so strong. Here is Autumn’s description of it’s taste…

“It sort of tastes at first like root beer that has been sitting out for too long…then later it taste like gym socks in my mouth” - LOL.

We were able to make it to the mountain this morning! We each rode motos up to the top, stopping along the way to learn about some of the more somber moments in Cambodia’s history. We saw a cave where many died during the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 70’s. It was strange to see so much sadness with such a gorgeous mountaintop view as a backdrop.

All in all, it was an incredible experience - probably once in a lifetime - to see Cambodia from that vantage point. I think we are all falling in love with this country!

We ended the day at Rapha House, where we brought ice cream to the girls and had a dance party. Right as we pulled up to the safe house, it started raining HARD again - we ran theouh the puddles to hang with the girls and ended up dancing the night away in the rain. Every single member of our team was drenched in water and joy - what a perfect day.

Make sure to check out our next post with pics from the mountain because tumblr will only let me post 10 at a time!

The word I would use to describe day 3 of the trip is emotional. When we went to church at Rapha House, I was overwhelmed by how...

From Lyndsey…

The word I would use to describe day 3 of the trip is emotional. When we went to church at Rapha House, I was overwhelmed by how inviting all of the girls were, how they pulled us in and sat with us and how smiley they all were. We listened to them worship in their own language, and I was overwhelmed by how big God is, and how amazing it is that these girls were singing to the same God I sing to at home. At the end of our time there, the girls hugged us and wrote their names in Khmer in our notebooks, and told us that they loved us. It was so beautiful to feel so deeply loved by them, and to love them so deeply after only just meeting them. I will never forget the joy they have, and I hope that I can share with everyone at home just a fraction of the love, joy and happiness that I experienced today.