It's funny how different this trip was for me personally than the trip last year. I was much more open and receptive to the children. Last year I was more scared. This year I ran up and grabbed the children, hugged them, held their hands, swung them around, played, built, and decorated with them. They are more amazing than I had remember (and I remembered them as being very amazing).
As we each walked into the orphanage there were children who naturally drifted towards each teammate. It was amazing to watch each of my teammate interact with each of the children individually and in a group. Without a common verbal language (the children can say a select few English phrases and we could poorly count to 10 in Khmer) the common language became love. And the unconditional love of the children and the adults at the orphanage struck me to my core.
The children that gravitated towards me (or I towards them) and some of the (million) memories I have are...
Arriving at the airport. Polin was there.
She was the girl I bonded with last year. She stuck around me a lot. She is in middle school and helps with the cooking and cleaning around the orphanage. She is amazingly beautiful. When we arrive the children have no clue who is coming, when she saw me she lit up and said "Kristie. I miss you." All I could say back was I missed her too!
Sunday service. It's amazing to hear God praised in other languages. I absolutely love it as it reminds me of how big He really is. There isn't anything that separates us from him. No language barrier. He knows them all. It was at Sunday service that I first saw Heing again. He is the child at the orphanage that I sponsor.
This child has more personality in his little finger than I have period. He just lights up a room when he walks into it. His smile melts hearts. He once said that when he grows up he wants to be Prime Minister and I think he would be perfect for that role. It was great to see him wink at me in church and later point at me in a way that he and I had done the year before.
The first drive up to the orphanage. There were no children waiting. It was crazy, they weren't expecting us. When the first few arrived and greeted us with hugs and 'hellos' one of the boys ran off only to come back a few minutes later holding the hand of Narin. The boy surveyed the group and then said something in Khmer, pointing straight at me. Narin's face lit up. And so did mine. I jumped up and down, he remembered me! I screamed Narin as he ran towards me. I ran towards him and gave him a huge hug and spun him in circles.
He also was the one on the last day who decided, for the group, it was time to stop saying goodbye when he shoved me into the bus. Someone said later he was crying but didn't want me to see.
Pechhing repeating what we would say.
He is an absolutely brilliant kid. Literally.
Mike taught him how to play checkers. After one game no one could beat him. He can think strategically like no other.
He was sick the entire time we were there. My nickname for him became my 'Cambodian Space Heater.' I'm the only person I know who would need a space heater in 90 degree weather. He is another amazing boy. He is in the same grade as Polin and he is give the responsibility to hold keys for some of the rooms. This is a big deal as the grownups don't even have the key! We asked one of the translators to let us into a locked room and they had to call Rathanak to unlock it for us.
I miss them all...
And, to end the trip my team headed to Siem Reap. It's the most westernized place in all of Cambodia and is a fun place to shop and just hang out. On the last day, the team went on an ELEPHANT RIDE. I know, what kind of mission trip was this??!!?! Ha! But I have to say, it was pretty cool!
After the ride I got to feed the elephant bananas. Bonus!!
A quick reflection and plug to finish the post...
Reflection 1. When I think of the trip, this song comes to mind.
Reflection 2. When I think of the trip, Joshua 1:9 and James 1:27 come to mind.
Plug. Fallen Sparrow is a non-profit built from people who have gone on the same mission trip and continue to have a heart for the children at the New Life Orphanages. They are trying to raise about $12,000 for rice (for 3 orphanages - about 90 children) for the next year and to provide a few computers. If you would like to contribute please do so by going to their site and clicking on Give.
For greater things are yet to come...