This summer, Caroline Macon, served in Cambodia on Bent Tree Bible Fellowship's summer team. They and other US Church Partner teams taught English and photography to local staff, helping tell the story of the work of the church and World Relief in Cambodia. During my first car ride in Cambodia, from the airport to a hotel in Phnom Penh, I could already feel the presence of God in the country overwhelming me.
What's remarkable about this is that it was by no means a spiritual "high". The whole trip was like this -- an authentic longing to bring betterment to a suffering society. The vibrancy of the culture in Cambodia inspired me both to immerse myself in their fascinating lifestyle and to be a part of the Christian movement in a primarily Buddhist nation. As a person who has always been enthusiastic about southeast Asian cultures, I was blown away by Cambodia as my expectations did not meet reality at all.
The reality of Cambodia, from its beauty to its progress, was exponentially higher than I ever could have imagined.
Every morning, I would wake up and look out the window, and every day I was awestruck by the gorgeousness of the land as well as the general song of Cambodia. One of my team mates commented on the "sounds of Cambodia". And since, I have thought about these sounds: the roosters crowing in the morning, children in their early playtime, monks chanting, the preparation of a wedding. Every sound in Cambodia sounded so fresh and new to me.
Of course, many things about Cambodia broke my heart. But my motivation in hope outran any sadness I felt. Many testimonies I heard there were tragic. They were nothing I could have dreamed of in my American bubble. I have never experienced so much death and loss as so many people I met while away. But these people all had an admirable optimism.
Because of their suffering, they are compelled to do great things. They are proud of their roots, despite a dark history. One staff member of World Relief especially comes to mind when I say this.
Born in 1957, Siv Keang told me she lost all of her siblings during the Pol Pot regime. But she is the most lively woman I have ever met. While she carries these burdens, she doesn't let them control who she is. She is an icon of someone trying to make a difference. Both hardworking and welcoming to rest, she is someone fighting for a happy ending. Siv Keang is just an example of the many people I met on my trip. The entire staff at World Relief amazed me daily. They made me feel at home. They definitely made me want to return to Cambodia sometime when I can stay longer. Like I said early about not having a spiritual "high", I felt a legitimate connection to this country, and the causes and organizations I was introduced to during my visit will severely change my life.
I saw God everywhere in Cambodia. I saw him in Khmer dances, I saw him in the great big smiles of the staff, I saw him when working on the field, when sharing meals with Cambodian families, and especially when we saw a beautiful rainbow in the mountains during one car ride. Cambodia resonates that He is amazing, and He is bigger than any genocide or any societal turmoil. He is definitely there, and I would encourage anyone I met to visit and see it for themselves. I will go back.
Caroline is a freshman at DePaul University and is studying Playwriting.