By Daniel, a member of the Christ Central Presbyterian Church short-term team who visited our village for about a week last summer.
The Cambodia missions trip was my first mission trip of my life. I wasn’t too nervous because I knew that this was something that I am called to do. There was no doubt. Also, I thought of it as a duty that I must fulfill and something that I must do on this earth before I die as a believer. I’ve only imagined how missions is from what I have heard from the missionaries I got to talk to. When I got to Cambodia, it was definitely different.
As a team, we met up quite often before departure. We would get together and pray. We also tried to prepare lessons and crafts for different ministries that we were getting involved with. Right from the get go, the first day, we realized that we should revise our plans. We scrapped our weeks of planning. I personally felt like I was robbed, but it was necessary. God humbled our team through this. Because most of us were planners like myself, we liked things to be organized and structured. But God had different plans and different ideas in His mind. As we went through day by day, we would adjust to new settings, new people, and sometimes unexpected surprises like a heavy rain. But during our sharing time at the end of the day, we knew that God was good. Besides, we are simply His instruments.
Unfortunately for me, this humbling part was the easy part. The difficult part was trying to convey to these people that God is good. Being a Christian is a good thing. It is something that you would want to cling onto even if your own life or even if your family’s life is at stake. So whenever I interacted with new believers and unbelievers, I smiled. I tried to be kind. I tried to be generous and thoughtful. Of course, God broke me down once again.
I realized that this fake smile was very exhausting. I realized that I did not have the true joy of salvation. My 3 week trip seemed unexpectedly long by the beginning of week 2, and I wanted to go home. My passion to be involved with enthusiasm died down. I was physically drained. The heat and humidity was getting to me. I wanted the comforts of my own room. I missed my clean and nice clothes. As this desire grew, I was not able to smile anymore. I was unsatisfied doing God’s work. But when I saw my teammates smiling and professing the Gospel, I was encouraged, but also discouraged at the same time: why can’t I be truly joyful?
I knew that I was not fully convinced that being a Christian is necessarily good. Sometimes, you feel even more lonely when you you believe in God. Sometimes, the struggles you face are unfathomable by your friends outside of the Christian community – or even within the community. Sometimes, I would have to give up things that I have grown to love more than God. Sometimes, this struggle is just too real to feel joyful. I felt like I was lying – leading these people into suffering and more heartbreaks.
As God broke me down, God also provided me a way to escape this by the time I got to the village of Ankjeay. Physically, I was very drained. Even though it was hotter and there was no A/C, I didn’t care. I was simply too tired to complain. Fortunately, I taught the guitar the next day to the kids in the village. This was something that I enjoyed doing back at home. And the kids were simply so eager to learn that I couldn’t help but smile. When the kids learned new chords and strums faster than I anticipated, God showed me visions of how some day, these kids may become praise leaders, leading people into worship. That motivated me to stay after hours. A week is a short period of time, but I wanted to teach much as I could. This ministry that I got to work with became almost effortless. Also, by this time, our team got very close and understood each other a lot better. Our team’s considerate encouragements toward one another and the warmth of the family meal by Sokha and Luke definitely kept me going. I was even more excited when Pastor Luke shared his plans with some of these kids. Some will be granted scholarships to get into colleges in the city. And by the grace of God, the selected kids did pass college entrance exams, and are on their way to college. These little miracles and work that God is doing in this village and other ministries of Cambodia, made me want to stay or revisit. I wanted to witness the good work that God is doing here.
Soli Deo Gloria. That’s what I wrote in my journal every night on this mission trip. And God really did do everything to glorify Himself. Even discontent son like me, God used. I don’t think I was ready to go either, but I don’t know where this boldness came from. This trip was about God, but I focused too much on myself. Only after I saw God working in these individuals, I was able to be more honest and be more relaxed. I realized that regardless of what I do or don’t do, salvation does not belong to me, but it is a simple gift of God. I can only pray that God will be gracious to these people as He was gracious to me to taste the glimpse of the joy and the hope that I have through Jesus Christ even during the times of trial. That is my simple prayer that I still cling on to after the trip.