My adventure in Cambodia began on June 8th, when I landed at the Phnom Penh airport. After a whirlwind weekend in the capital, I made the journey to Angk’jeay village, where I would stay for the next seven weeks with the Smiths. Angk’jeay is small, but picturesque, with the rolling mountains and sparkling green rice paddies providing a beautiful backdrop. My days in the village were spent teaching English at the Smith’s home in the afternoon and evening, as well as in the 6th grade class at the local public school. I also helped to lead an arts class two days a week, where the students learned dance and singing. This class was particularly fun, as I taught ballet to the students. Despite minimal exposure to dance, many of the kids surprised me with how fast they picked up the challenging technique.
Some of my favorite parts of the summer internship were spending time with the students outside of class. We would walk to their homes, ride bicycles, trek through fields, and once we even attempted to climb a mountain. The students in the village were so eager both to learn and to get know the interns. We spent hours playing games of tag, Uno, charades, and Mafia – they especially loved this game of mystery and betrayal! These are some of my most fond memories, playing with the students, and slowly getting to know them personally. It felt so rewarding when they started to confide in me and trust me enough to include me in their conversations. Learning their names was challenging at first, because there are so many new sounds in the Khmer language, but I picked them up eventually.
Living with the Smiths enriched my Cambodian experience, because both Luke and Sokha were terrific resources for me, and readily answered all of my questions about the culture, food, people, and language. Getting to know them and their children was a pleasure, and I was so grateful for their hospitality. It is quite clear that they have made an impact on the village of Angk’jeay. Spending the summer in the village also opened my eyes to the daily challenges of missionary life. I had never been on a mission trip like this before, and it was definitely a learning experience. Long-term missionary work is a full-time job, and it touches every area of your life. It is a difficult work, and while it doesn’t always pan out the way you expect, it is comforting to remember that God is always in control and can use sinful, broken people to accomplish His work. I learned a lot about myself through this trip. This experience highlighted both my strengths and weaknesses, and I think that it has helped me to know myself better. I also learned ways that I can continue to serve God in my own community. There are people that I can be humbly serving everywhere, and I think that this internship has equipped me with some of the knowledge and skills necessary to continue serving from a different part of the world than Cambodia. I will always remember my summer spent in Angk’jeay, and I am so thankful that God called me to be here.