The following blog post was written by Sharon Jung who was part of the January 2018 Sojourner Church short-term team. Sojourner Church is the sending church of our teammates Paul and Susan Lee.
I didn’t have a lot of expectations for this trip. Isaac, my husband, encouraged me to go and his experience was almost vacation-like last year. So, I thought I would see some ministry work, hang out with the Lee’s and get a break from my ordinary life.
Our first full day was jam-packed. We worshiped with KCC (Khmer Christian Church), the Lee’s local church in Cambodia. I couldn’t understand a word but I still got all choked up realizing we are all part of the same body of Christ. Paul and Susan, Caleb and Nate are so much a part of the community there. Watching them interact with their church members, speaking in Khmer, it was very cool … I understood why Cambodia is “home” for them now.
So that same day we went to Prey Thom with KCC. And there we had several “stations” going on at the same time. A dental clinic, VBS and I gave a talk on nutrition and handed out vitamins. I honestly know nothing about nutrition and some of the kids ate a week’s worth of vitamins all at once even when we told them not to. We also saw a little boy, maybe 3 years old, who had been in an accident with a large farming machine and had a huge gaping wound on about a third of his face and I had nothing to help clean or disinfect it. The children clearly came from poor families and most of them had no shoes and were wearing tattered hand me down clothes. We saw this huge need there but I felt unprepared, inadequate and unhelpful. But at the same time, I was so encouraged. The members of KCC were so happy to be there, playing with the kids, tending to their needs while Pastor Thet was leading worship with the adults. I can’t imagine going there every Sunday, 3 hours each way, but they do … preparing lunch and eating together on the way and with praise songs literally blasting in the van on the ride there and back.
The next day at Precious Women I gave a training on basic self-care and other health topics. There was some miscommunication and they were expecting an actual doctor to be there to examine the women. While I thought my training went well a part of me knew I wasn’t meeting their expectations. Many of the questions were about their ailments and wanting a diagnosis and treatment, something I can’t do. I talked and fielded questions all day. By the next day the physical and mental toil took over my body and I literally cried all day. I couldn’t stop crying, the tears just kept flowing.
Then we left for Angk’jeay. When we got to Luke’s house, it was like walking into the equivalent of a governor’s estate. He had built a playground, a basketball court and several open areas for ministry and teaching. Again, we had a dental clinic, VBS, we also taught English and I gave my self-care training. The same thing was happening, a line of women wanting to know what was wrong with them, how to be cured, wanting medication. But this time I turned to Sokha, Luke’s wife and my translator, and said “We live in a fallen world, there will always be sickness and pain, I don’t know what to say to these women.” And she goes, “then we pray for them.” And then we started praying for them.
That’s when I realized this is what it’s all about. We can certainly help with physical needs and temporary “band-aids” but God wants all of us to ultimately go to Him, for comfort, for strength, for healing, for answers to the meaning of our lives. Short-termers can only do so much and even “lifers,” what we call missionaries like Paul and Susan, are at the mercy of God’s plans.
And we were lucky enough to see some of the fruits of those plans. I mentioned I talked about nutrition in Prey Thom that first day, my translator was a girl named Pisey, a university student from KCC who grew up in Angk’jeay, the village Luke and Sokha live in. Pisey learned English and the gospel from them and eventually went to the city on a scholarship through MTW. And now she ministers to her own people in Prey Thom with KCC and returns to Angk’jeay once a month to teach Sunday school.
I can’t fully describe how it feels to witness such fruit. To see the poverty, the corruption, the lack of opportunities for most of the population in Cambodia and then to see God revealing Himself and making opportunities and showing His people that He loves them, you just have to go and see for yourself.