FURLOUGH!!!

It is hard to believe that our furlough is already gone…I guess time flies when you are busy. We did a lot of stuff on our furlough, but we started it off with the best thing of the entire trip, seeing Lori.

It all started on June 11 when we flew from here to the US, but it was the afternoon of the 13th before we arrived at Beaver Lake Camp in Canada. Needless to say we were very excited to see Lori. After the rounds of hugs were finished we went inside to eat lunch and do a lot of catching up.

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Lunch Time

If you knew our family before we came over to Cambodia you’ll know that our whole family loves fishing and that was high on our priority list. Fortunately for Dallas he was only fourteen and could fish under somebody else’s fishing license. So almost right away he was down at the lake fishing and caught a nice Northern Pike. The people at the camp said that they didn’t know that there was any that big in that lake. Dallas was one very happy camper. After a couple of days the rest of us got our licenses and spent a lot of our free time fishing. We had some really good luck for smaller pike, sometimes each of us catching over twenty in a day.

Dallas's 35

Dallas’s 35″ Pike.

Fishing, a family activity.

Fishing, a family activity.

The only walleye of the trip

The only walleye of the trip.

One day we decided to go back to the corral, a place set up for camping back in the sticks, to cook some chili soup over the fire for lunch. This was as close to camping as we got, but it was a lot of fun and the food was delicious. The corral is right next to a big field that had a lot of beautiful wild flowers in it. Heather and Carissa picked some beautiful bouquets, while the soup was cooking. The soup was really good but just relaxing together as a family was a lot better.

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One day we really enjoyed going to a picnic with all the Beaver lake camp staff. We had a lot of fun even though it didn’t get much above fifty five degrees with no sun and a nice cold breeze. It was cold for everybody, but especially us.

Bean Toss

Bean Toss

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Another thing that we enjoyed doing was going out on the canoes on the lake after supper. It was a bit chili some evenings but it was still a lot of fun. Sometimes we just sat on the dock with the guitar. Either way it was still fun.

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We also helped Lori get the cabins ready for camp, painted some archery targets, and did some other odd jobs to stay busy and help out. All too soon though it was time to say good bye. Lori gave Forrest a stuffed moose as a goodbye present, and told him that if he missed her he could just hug the moose. Well for the first couple of hours he was crying softly and hugging that moose as hard as he could. All of us were feeling that way to some degree, but the younger ones showed it most.

From Canada we drove all night to Ohio to try to get there in time for a board meeting that Friday, but found out after we got there that the board meeting had been postponed to Monday evening. That was a bit disappointing, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Since we didn’t need to go to the board meeting, we went to straight a friend’s shop where he makes candies and had a tour of that along with some free samples.IMG_7106IMG_7134IMG_7123 Edited

I also needed to get training on a new accounting software, while I was in Ohio. We decided to do that first thing so that Friday I went up to CAM to get training for that. It turned out that they weren’t exactly sure what they were supposed to be telling me and I wasn’t sure either, so they gave me a basic over view of the software. It ended up that I had to fly up from South Carolina for another meeting a couple weeks later.

There wasn’t that much going on the next couple of days. On Saturday Mom really enjoyed meeting up with her best friend for coffee. Monday a highlight was shooting clay pigeons. Then that evening they got a volleyball game together for us youth while mom and dad went to a board meeting. We ended up staying till around 12 o’clock, and we still had to pack to leave the next morning early. It was definitely worth it though.

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We teach them young.

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It ended up that we didn’t head out the next morning quite as early as was planned, but by 8:30 we were on the road for a Yoder reunion in Tennessee. That evening we had fun catching up with cousins that were there. Lori and Tony, ya’ll were definitely missed very much. The next day we were planning on playing softball, but the field was about little league size with waist high grass just past the outfield. We knew right away that wasn’t going to work, so somebody ran into town and bought a whiffle ball set. We had fun playing that instead. Most of the day was taken up with that and some other activities. Since everybody was heading out the next morning after breakfast, some of us cousins decided to extend our time together by staying up all night. It might not have been the smartest thing to do, but we sure had fun!

After breakfast, we headed for South Carolina. We stopped at Grandad’s place on the way home to chat before heading the four remaining miles to our place. It was very different being at Grandad’s and not having grandmom there welcoming and fussing over us. It hit dad the hardest but she was definitely missed by all. After a while we headed on to our place. There was definitely some mixed emotions about getting “home.” This place feels like it should be home but yet it doesn’t feel like home anymore. (For me,at least. Mom thought it felt like home.) It was good to be back though.

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Friday we spent a lot of time cleaning up around our place and grandad’s place before all dad’s siblings got together to go through grandmom’s stuff. Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday we were together going through stuff.  One exciting thing that happened on friday evening was that Grandad and Freda Yoder announced their engagement. We had a good time with the people that were there, but all to soon everybody headed back home again.

Announcing the engagement.

Announcing the engagement.

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That didn’t mean stuff slowed down for us though. Instead of going into all the details of where we went suffice it to say that we had something going every evening. I really enjoyed everything we did while we were there, and all too soon it was July 16th time for Ryan, Austin, and I to leave. Ryan and I were headed to California to help my uncle put together chicken cages. Austin was going to the Idaho Wilderness Boys Camp as a camper. We would be states side 2 weeks longer than the rest of the family who came back July 21st.

Ryan, Vernon, and I had a lot of fun batching it and working. The next two weeks were full of work during the day, and fun at night. The second Saturday we went to san Francisco and spent the day walking around the wharf and going over the Golden Gate bridge. It was a lot of fun just watching the people and street performers. One night Ryan decided to give himself a haircut. This might not have been worth mentioning except for the style of haircut he did. It ended up that it was all about a quarter of an inch long. When he came down the stairs I had to look twice. The third Saturday evening Austin, my aunt Jean, and Jared came flew down from Idaho. We had a lot of fun that Sunday afternoon along with some amazing food. Early Monday morning we had to leave for the airport, and Tuesday evening we arrived back home in Siem Reap.

This is how bachelors cook:)

This is how bachelors cook:)

Before the haircut.

Before the haircut.

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and after.

Street performer.

Street performer.

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Life has been busy since we came back so I might start writing another post right way. But this is all for now.

Luke for the Helmuths.

Recent Highlights

In the past two months since Lori left there hasn’t been many blog worthy happenings, but I’ll try to tell a few of them. But first are a few random pics i thought ya’ll might like.

Frank Chillin out :)

Frank Chillin out :)

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Alaina…

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One of the highlights in April was a visit from Elvin and Ruth Martin. They live about 45 minutes from our place in South Carolina, but had been living with the DNI mission in Phnom Penh for 6 months. They decided to stop in for two days on the way up to Thailand. We had a lot of fun showing them around Siem Reap.

In the beginning of May they started filling in the pond across the road from us. Grrr. The little bit of country side around our house is fast disappearing. They finished filling the pond in and connecting the drain line the other day, and I am guessing that they will soon start building a house on the lot.

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On May 12th Ryan left to go back states side for Bruce Wagler’s wedding, and to work for a month before we come back on furlough. So far he has been having fun working and connecting with friends again.

The night after Ryan left we had a visit from some Mennonites that are starting a mission in Battambang. It was fun having visitors, even if we didn’t know them before. They were very glad they stopped in, because we told them about CAM’s 25 Bible Stories books that we had printed. They had been looking for something like them but didn’t know anybody had any in Khmer. They took a couple hundred that night. They soon had these all passed out and were wondering if they could have some more to hand out. We gave them 4000 more, and they are already wondering when we could do a reprinting as they would like to help expenses on it.

Then Monday the 18th a mission team from Hillcrest came to spend just a little over a week here. We had a lot of work for them to do and pretty much kept them hopping from the time they got here to when they left. Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of fun with them to, but it was busy enough that a week seemed like 2 maybe 3 days. On Monday afternoon after they got here they went out and passed out Bible Story books at one of the village schools. We stood beside the road on both sides of the school, so that the teachers wouldn’t get in trouble for having Christian literature passed out in the school. Soon the kids started coming from the school and word got out that we were handing out books. A big crowd came rushing out and in a couple of minutes 400 books were gone and there were still kids that hadn’t gotten any. That evening a big storm came through that blew over 20+ electric poles and some houses, including Sokhum’s sister’s house. So Tuesday morning we went out to her place to help her take her house apart and salvage what building materials we could. We had the house apart before lunch so we took a long break trying to figure out if we could help anybody else in the area, before eating lunch and going home. That evening we went out to the village and they taught all the younger classes. Wednesday morning we went to teach English again. Then after lunch we went to the floating village…While there I sold my camera to one of them J, but after Wednesday I don’t have any pics.L Sorry for that, but I wanted it sold and wasn’t sure how I was going to sell it so I was very happy for that. Thursday we loaded up on the white truck and went to a poor fishing village to hand out Bible Story books. This village is back off the main road and the people back in there would see very few foreigners. Handing out books was a huge success. The children came swarming for the books, and even the adults were happy to have them. In 4 hours we had handed out all 2000 books we had along. The only downside of the day was that it was very hot. I think everybody was sunburned when we headed for home.  Friday we had a work day out at the school. We cleared out some brush and leveled out five dump truck loads of dirt by hand. On top of this we also spread out half of a termite mound. Needless to say everybody was very ready to go home by the time quitting time came around. Amazingly we still had enough energy to play volleyball for youth in the evening. Saturday morning they went to Angkor Wat with Mom and Dad, while us children spent a very relaxing day at home. Then after lunch they went to the silk farm with Matt. Monday the biggest project for the girls was painting Miriam’s kitchen for her. Then in the evening most of us went up to the mountain to watch a beautiful sunset. Tuesday morning they headed back to Phnom Penh to catch their plane back home. They were a big blessing to us while they were here. All the work they did and also just having more youth around was a lot of fun.

The house that blew over.

The house that blew over.

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Taking apart the roof.

Taking apart the roof.

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The floating village.

The floating village.

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Crocodile

Crocodile

Where did he go? :)

Where did he go? :)

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Isn’t he cute…photo credits Ashlin Good.

Some of them were brave enough to try the half incubated duck eggs.

Some of them were brave enough to try the half incubated duck eggs.

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Well that was up to two weeks ago, right now things are really busy, because WE ARE COMING HOME ON FURLOUGH TOMORROW!!! So as you can imagine with a family of 9 (the oldest two aren’t here) it takes a lot of work to get everything packed and ready to go, get the house cleaned, and do all the last minute things (like getting this post finished). We did have one disappointment though. We bought our tickets planning on being there six weeks almost seven, but found out this week that the tickets are made out for five weeks almost six. It looks like it will be a really busy five weeks and I will try to fill you in on what happened when we come back.

So until next time…

Luke for the Helmuths.

Stories That Haven’t Been Told

A lot has happened since the last of February. This is going back a long way I know, but since a lot of the happenings have been post worthy I thought I’ll try to fill you in.

One of the last weekends in February, the family decided to go to the beach for one last vacation before Lori left for Canada. We left for Sihanoukville around 10:30 Wednesday evening, and due do the distance and some mechanical troubles on the bus we didn’t get there till 3:30 Thursday afternoon. Needless to say, we were all worn out and hungry. So after freshening up all of us except mom ,who wasn’t feeling well that evening, went to get some supper. After supper, all of us were happy to go to bed. The next morning we headed out to the beach loaded with sunscreen. After walking down the beach a while, we arrived at a part of the beach that was fairly deserted. We decided to stop there so that we could have some privacy while swimming and having fun. Sorry to say, we ignored renewing the sunscreen until it was to late, and everybody was sporting different shades of sunburns by the end of the day. After supper we hung out in the hotel room before turning in. The next day Dad went to get bus tickets, but was very much beat out that there was no tickets available to return to Seam Riep that Sunday. There was some to leave Monday night, but this didn’t work out well because two of our cousins were coming Monday night. So he took Ryan with him to the bus station in the hopes that Ryan who knows much more Khmer than the rest of us could get tickets to Phnom Penh. Then tickets from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Which he was eventually able to do. The rest of the day was pretty much a repeat of the first except that we took family pictures on the beach that morning before we went swimming, much to some of the boys displeasure. Towards the end of the day, Austin and Luke got stung by some jellyfish. This was enough to send Heather and Carissa hurrying for shore, even though these stings didn’t hurt much. The next day being Sunday we had a little service before hurriedly packing or things since we had to be out of our rooms by 12:00. We got our things packed with time to spare and since our bus didn’t leave till 5:00 we left our bags in one of the hotels conference rooms where they watched them for free. We decided that since we needed to get on the bus that afternoon we would just walk the beach in the opposite direction of what we normally went. After a few minutes walking we came to the end of the beach, but found a path that looked like it went on around the point which was very rocky. Eventually we found a nice shady spot to spent the afternoon. Some native children soon came up and after finding out that we could understand some of what they said were very eager to show us some of the sea creatures they found. After relaxing there that afternoon we got something to eat so we could start our bus ride on full stomachs. The bus ride home was pretty much uneventful and much shorter except for in changing buses Lori’s camera bag was stolen. This was a big disappointment especially as all her pics from this trip and the family pics were still on the card. The good news is is that she will get her camera back, not the same one, but that is her story to tell so I’ll let her tell it.

A long walk to a part of the beach with less people.

A long walk to a part of the beach with less people.

Alaina munching a snack.

Alaina munching a snack.

Mom and Carissa.

Mom and Carissa.

The third day we had only a few hours on the beach before our bus ride home so we just walked.

The third day we had only a few hours on the beach before our bus ride home so we just walked.

My Beautiful Mother.

My Beautiful Mother.

A veiw of the beach.

A veiw of the beach.

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A fish that one of the native kids caught.

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We got back from the beach Monday morning and that evening our cousins Jody and Jeana Byler came for a visit. We had a lot of fun taking them with us to the village to teach English. This was a priority since Jody had been asked by the mission board to come help with the english teaching program. We took them to see the sites around town, this included taking them to the silk farm, Lori taking them to be tourists in town for a day, a trip up to the mountain to see a sunset, and they also went to visit the Anchor Watt temples. As you can imagine, we really enjoyed their stay. The highlight of their visit, at least for me, was a moto trip to the Thailand border. The four oldest of us siblings, Jody and Jeana, Frank, and Ken Gingerich went on four motos. We spent most of the day on our bikes but took a 2 hr break on a cliff that looks back into Cambodia. Close to the cliff is a restaurant that has little huts with hammocks in them for visitors to relax in. So we ate there then relaxed in the hammocks before heading back home. On the way up, the clutch cable broke on the bike that I was driving, and on the way back Ryan’s bike had some electrical problem that made the bike turn off several times. So the trip wasn’t without some difficulties, but it was still a very good day. On March 8th, Jody and Jeana headed up to Thailand for a few days visit before heading back home.

Jody and Jeana.

Jody and Jeana.

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Gas stop on the way to Thialand.

Fixing the busted clutch cable.

Fixing the busted clutch cable.

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Sitting on the cliff.

Sitting on the cliff.

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Because of the updraft at the cliff you could through the straw down and it would come blowing back up.

Because of the updraft at the cliff you could throw the straw down and it would come blowing back up.

Waiting on Lunch

Waiting on Lunch

One of the three stops on the way home due to the electrical problems with Ryan's Bike.

One of the three stops on the way home due to the electrical problems with Ryan’s Bike.

In the week after Jody and Jeana left, we decided to try Ken’s well drilling rig out. We only use a machine to drill wells when the soil is to rocky to drill by hand because it costs a lot more to drill with the machine. There are a couple of areas that we know about that really need more dependable wells. In a lot of these areas it is a lot easier to drill with a machine. One of these places is were Chhom’s parents live. That Wednesday we packed everything we needed on the truck along with hammocks to spend the night in. It was fairly late by the time we got there and got everything set up and started drilling, but we decided to keep on drilling anyhow. Soon we had a big crowd of spectators. Most of them were Chhom’s family, but there was also neighbors in the mix. When it started getting dark, most of the people started going home, but since it was so much cooler, we set up some flood lights and kept on drilling. After probably an hour of drilling in the dark, we noticed that the fuel tank had a decent sized leak. It was big enough that it definitely needed to be fixed. The nice thing was that the engine used to power the drilling machine came from a big power tiller like the ones that many of the natives use. One of the guys that was watching said he had an old tank that was still good at the house. He went and got it, but it needed a little jerry-riging before it fit the newer engine. By the time we got the engine fixed, it was to late to keep drilling so we went to a neighbors well and took a khmer shower, came back and hung our hammocks for the night. The next morning we started drilling again at about six o’clock, and drilled for an hour before breakfast. After breakfast we drilled a bit, but soon the rig wouldn’t pick the drill rods up. While the boys were working on getting that fixed Dad, Lori, Austin, Forrest, and Alaina came on the mini truck. Dad needed to bring some gravel and cement out, and the others came along for the ride. Dad helped the boys work on the rig till lunch time, but after lunch he took Lori, Luke, Forrest, and Alaina home, because Lori and Luke needed to teach English. Before starting, Luke had tied up a hammock in the back of the truck to ride in on the way home, but since he needed to drive a moto home Lori rode in it instead. After driving a while, Dad hit a bump that was just a little bit to much for the hammock rope. The rope busted which dumped Lori along with Forrest and Alaina who were both sleeping onto the truck bed! Luckily Lori landed on Luke’s backpack so she wasn’t hurt, and Forrest and Alaina barely woke up before sleeping again. Meanwhile, the boys got the rig fixed, and finished drilling the well. Unfortunately the bit wasn’t big enough for the PVC so the well didn’t get finished. That night they packed everything back up and came home. So now we have one well that needs to be finished sometime.

Getting set up.

Getting set up.

Some of the spectators.

Some of the spectators.

Drilling...for the most part it is just watching the rig do the work.

Drilling…for the most part it is just watching the rig do the work.

Ken Gingrich built the rig and enjoyed watching it work.

Ken Gingrich built the rig and enjoyed watching it work.

Working at sunrise

Working at sunrise

The next week Frank and Austin were out by our school building on Frank’s land in Bakong. A few yards from the school Frank spotted a spectacled cobra. He yelled at Austin to get a big stick to catch a snake. Using the stick he pinned down the snake’s head, and then with Austin holding the stick down he caught it behind the head where it couldn’t bite him. Carefully he put it in a bag then brought it to our place to show us. Before they killed it they milked the venom into a jar, then let it loose to get some pictures. Unfortunately I wasn’t home, and those that were couldn’t figure out the correct settings on my camera so I only have a few decent pictures.

Spectacled Cobra

Spectacled Cobra, and yes it is still alive.

Milking the Cobra.

Milking the Cobra.

On  Sunday, before Lori left for Canada, she decided she wanted to learn to drive Ryan’s FTR. The main thing that was the trouble with driving this was the hand clutch. She not wanting to be embarrassed by us watching her try to start got Ryan to take her to a road with very little traffic and started there. Little did she know that Austin and I hopped on another moto and followed to take pictures, but since we didn’t want to be seen we couldn’t get a good pic. While she didn’t stall the first time, she did stall before she was finished, but I thought she did very well. On the 18th Lori left for Canada. When we took her to the airport I think everybody was teary-eyed, and I almost forgot to take any pictures as it was only one tuned out decent. Needless to say, we all miss her very much, but we are happy that she could go.

Lori's driving the FTR!!!

Lori’s driving the FTR!!!

Taking Lori to the airport and saying goodbye.

Saying goodbye to the ones you love is never fun.

March 21st was Alaina’s second birthday.

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Alaina with her gifts.

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Isn’t she adorable?

On March 22nd Frank and Kompheak’s baby girl, Annya, was born. As you can see from the pictures Frank is one proud Daddy.

Annya.

Annya.

Frank was proud as a peacock.

Frank was proud as a peacock.

Frank and Kompheak's family.

Frank, Kompheak, and Annya.

Dad proving he still has the skills.

Dad proving he still has the skills.

Everybody had a turn at holding Annya

Everybody had a turn at holding Annya

Recently a lady named Sokchea came into our lives. Let me tell you the story as Dad told it just reworded a little. “Over the time that we lived here Lori befriended a neighbor lady named Contea. She lives just on the other side of the wall from us. Lori has visited with her and taken different food items over for her in the past year, especially when she was expecting her first son. She works for an organization that has a “safe house,” and she works as a social worker. Several weeks ago she came by our house and was wondering if a lady she was helping could come to our church? She said the lady is a Christian, because she sees her praying at times and wants to attend a church. Of course we told her that would be fine. She gave us a short run down of what was happening, and ask that we keep it to ourselves, until such a time that this lady would tell us her story herself. Here is her story. Her name is Sokchea, and was born here in Cambodia, I don’t know what happened to her parents, but she was an orphan and stayed with an Aunt. When she was seven years old, her Aunt sold her to human trafficking, and she ended up in Malaysia for seven years. A pastor from Phnom Penh found her there, rescued her, and brought her back to Cambodia. After coming back to Cambodia she became a Christian, got married, then they moved to Thailand for work. It appears that he was not a Christian, because he didn’t want a Christian name for their little girl. Sokchea has since named her daughter Rachel, who had her first birthday on February 1, (and is cute as can be!) In October Sokchea’s husband died and she was left with a baby and expecting her second one. Sometime in November or December, a wealthy couple from Thailand wanted to buy Rachel from her mother, but because of her experience, she was not going to let her daughter go down that road. One day she had someone babysitting Rachel while she worked, and these people had heard about the money the wealthy couple offered for her, and figured it would be easy money for them. They brought Rachel to Seam Reap without Sokchea knowing, called the couple, and sold Rachel to them. As I recall, mother and daughter were separated for about three weeks! This is when our neighbor lady, (Contea) got involved. I don’t know the details, but Rachel was found, and reunited with her mother. Praise the Lord! It was soon after this that Sokchea came to our church and wanted to talk with Matt and Dad. She told them a short story about her life. After she was finished with her story they were wondering if this could really be true, but Contea verified what she knew of the story, and everything lined up. Contea then wondered if our church would consider to give Sokchea housing, food, and moral support until at least two months after the baby is born, (who was due the last of April). After discussing it with the two board members who happened to be here right about that time, we agreed to help her. It has been such a blessing for us to see how she responds to the things we give. She is so thankful, and is afraid we are going too far out of our way for her. Some of the things she needed, we had to assure her that it was ok for her to have. She doesn’t have the “give me, give me” mentality which makes it a lot nicer to give stuff to her. All of us, but especially Dad, have enjoyed playing the role of Uncle/Grandpa for Rachel. :) We have had to wonder why God brought her to our door? What does God want us to do? What are we to learn from this experience? Our desire is that we can show Christ’s love above all else. The other day Lori said, “I wonder how many times Sokchea has read her Bible through.” It seems most times when we come to her room (that we rent for her), either her Bible or a song book is open and laying on her bed. It looks to us like her walk with God is strong. We pray for wisdom to lead her farther.” The latest news about her is that Easter morning she had her baby boy. She hasn’t named him yet so obviously I can’t tell you what the name is.

Lori, Sokchea and Rachel.

Lori, Sokchea, and Rachel.

Sokchea's Baby.

Sokchea’s Baby.

Not much else has happened since then…so until next time! Luke for the Helmuths

Alive and Leaving

Alive. Yes. The people of the Cambodian Chronicles are still very much alive. Very much busy. Too many should-have-been-written posts. And at the unearthly hour of 4:15 a.m., I am very much awake. Effects of the bit of coffee and tea that I drank last night, I suppose. I know. Caffiene only affects old people. I guess I’m getting old.

I don’t feel old. Definitely not old enough to be getting ready to fly away from the safety of my family in TEN DAYS. Sometimes I just want to go back to being two years old with not a care in the world, trusting my parents for all I need, resting in the security of their love. But I can’t. Make no mistake…their love and help is as present as ever, just in a different way. And I suppose if given the choice, I wouldn’t really want to go back anyways – it’s just nice to think about it.

Many of you know about the new chapter in my life that started opening last October. When my family and I moved to Cambodia, they committed to staying for three years, and I to one. I didn’t have any idea what would happen after that one year was over. Of course, about the time of Grandmom’s funeral, the questions started rolling in. “What are you going to do next?” “Are you staying longer?” The answer was simple. “I don’t know.” I treasure the time spent here in Cambodia with my family. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. I have learned so much. But I wanted to know what the next step was.

In October I started seriously asking God to show me His will for my life. Before I came to Cambodia, I had decided that I didn’t want to pursue a different mission. If I was supposed to go somewhere else, I wanted them to ask me to come, not me ask them if I could come. One night I thought to myself how ridiculous this was. What mission is going to ask someone who’s already involved in another mission to come help them? What if deciding to do it that way was a mistake? I decided to ask Dad what he thought, and went to sleep. The next morning I groggily checked my email, and amidst the spam mail the words “Open Door” popped out at me. It was an email from the Camp director of Beaver Lake Camp in Dryden, Ontario, telling me about an opportunity to come serve as a Personal Worker. If you know me, you probably know how close to my heart my Native friends whom I met during the three summers I spent in the North are. It has been a desire of my heart to return to the North for a longer term of service, but each time an opportunity arose, it just didn’t seem like it was God’s will for me to go. This time though, I was amazed at the timing of the email. Could it be that God was giving me my heart’s desire? Whether He was or not, just the email about the opportunity was a huge confirmation to me that God truly did care about me and that He heard my heart’s cry.

The next weeks were some of the hardest, best weeks of my life. It was such a journey of learning to surrender and trust. To give up my own plans for His perfect will. Of trying to control things on my own, in the end realizing that God really does have everything under His control and that I only mess things up when I stick my fingers into the ‘dough’. A journey of tears, and l.o.n.g conversations with my Dad that probably left him wondering where the “Emotional Female Manual” was. I won’t go into the many details of how I felt God leading me (if you’d like to read more of the ‘story’ leave me a comment or message with your email address and I will send you the long version). =) But in the end, He made it so clear that Canada was the next place He wanted me to be. I am so grateful to Him for His leading. Yes, to be sure there are doubts, questions, and fears, but when I start to doubt His leading, I go back to those specific answers, and can rest in Him.

That was five months ago. When I agreed to come, five months seemed like a long, long time to get ready to leave. It wasn’t. Those five months have sped by so quickly, and now the time is almost here. With each passing day, I realize more and more how very much I will miss Cambodia with it’s smiling people, delicious fruits, my dear students, and most of all my precious family. Tears appear from nowhere at the silliest times…when Alaina falls asleep in my arms, her hair a curly mess, and I realize she’ll keep growing without me here to watch. When Forrest runs up to me, eyes glowing, with some exciting tidbit to share, and I just know in my soul how MUCH I’ll miss his amusing ways. When I think of life without Daddy’s reassuring, gentle presence and Mom’s ever dearer friendship. Without my big brothers around to ‘protect’ me from the dangerous world and carry my bags for me, and without my sisters who are growing up way too fast. I will miss them. So. Much. And I know that my leaving will leave a hole here that will be felt probably even more than if we were at home living a “normal” life, but they have given me their blessing, support, and encouragement, and for that I am forever grateful.

I’ll (hopefully) be sending out prayer cards once I arrive at BLC, so if you’d like one please let me know.

This post was going to be about a family trip to the beach, a stolen camera, and how God is bringing it back to me. It’s pretty much blazed a trail of it’s own though, and now here’s one of those should-have-been-written-months-ago posts. =/ For now I will leave it at that, and end with an earnest request for your prayers in the next several weeks, for myself and for my family as we prepare for and adjust to our lives apart.

God bless you all today, and every day.

As always…

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And as a closing treat, here’s a favorite picture of mine from Granddad’s visit. This little lady and her twin kinda weasled their way into his soft Granddaddy heart. (and maybe someday you’ll see more pictures from his visit. Who knows? Maybe another coffee mistake will do it.)

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Seeds of Truth

One of my favorite days while the IGO team was here was the day we went out to Chhom’s homeland village. Several weeks prior, a huge shipment of the Khmer “25 Favorite Bible Stories” that we had translated and printed finally came in. Like I mentioned in my last post, the people in Chhom’s village had been asking us for clothes, and we were excited for the opportunity to pass out some of the Bible story books as well. When our first plans for the trip didn’t work out due to some vehicle issues, we had to wait to go until after Charles’s family left. We were disappointed they couldn’t go along, but were still excited when we set out Thursday morning. The well truck was loaded…big trash bags full of cloths stuffed under the wooden seats, and people piled on the seats. The mini truck was full too.

It was about a two hour drive out to the village. It always amazes me how much the scenery changes in those drives…first the relatively affluental houses in Siem Reap, then the midrange neighborhoods on the outskirts, and by the time we get to the village it’s down to poverty levels. But the people are happy with what they have. What an excited group of people awaited us at Chhom’s relatives’ home. First we passed out balloons to the children, and spent some time playing with them.

And then we handed out the clothes. At first it was an organized operation…we’d each help one child at a time find the ‘perfect’ outfit. Gradually it became more and more unorganized, and suddenly there were people everywhere digging through the piles. It was fun though, seeing the mothers sort through the clothes, a happy look on their faces.

And then was my favorite part of the day – handing out the Bible story books. It was so good to see the smiles on the faces of the children when they were handed a book. To see them poring over each page. To think how they and their parents could hear stories of Bible times. Stories of Jesus, and how He loved little children just like them.

It was a bunch of happy children that walked back down the dusty road to their homes.

Chhum’s family served us a (mostly) yummy meal then. Forrest and Alaina weren’t so excited about the food…they had found a cute little puppy to hold and chase around. Before we knew what was happening, Alaina was feeding the little thing her sucker – and then back into Alaina’s mouth it went!

And here are some favorite shots of the day that just didn’t find a spot in the categories up there….but I didn’t want to leave them out!

It was a tired bunch that headed home soon after our late lunch. But as soon as we got home, the IGO team and a few of us “home folks” headed out to the village to teach our evening English class. We had decided to have our first official Bible class that night. (This is the class that we started at the beginning of this year, and wanted to gain the parents trust before we ‘scared them off’ with Bible teaching…we taught them a few songs, but that’s it.) I think more children showed up that night than had ever attended at once before. They sang the songs we had taught them at the tops of their lungs. My heart just about burst with happiness at the glorious sound of 70+ beautiful children singing praises to the King of kings.

Then the IGO team did a skit about Jonah and the whale. The children (and the adults that had gathered around) watched with rapt attention, as Jonah ran away from God. They giggled uproariously when Jonah was thrown from the ship and “swam” around til the blanket fish swallowed him up. When the fish spit Jonah out (Loren did a wonderful job of being a projectile…I can imagine he was sore the next day) one of the ladies that was watching just about lost it. She bent over and just laughed and laughed. The combination of seeing Jonah flying through the air and watching Aunt Euw laugh had me in stitches. I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face.

And then we handed out the Bible story books to all the children. The adults were eager for their own copies. As I watched the books being handed out, my eyes might have been slightly misty and my heart swelled with…it’s hard to describe what all filled it. Happiness and Sadness and Hope, I guess. Happiness to witness the first time the children had ever heard a Bible story, to see these seeds of truth being planted in the lives of these precious children. Sadness for the many who have never heard, or who have shut their ears to the truth of the Gospel. Hope that these children would recognize these stories as truth, and that someday I can live in heaven with all of my dear students. Pray with us that the seeds would take root in the hearts of the children and their parents and grow until it produces fruit to the glory of God.

A sidenote: That English class had been getting unmanageably large…60+ children for three teachers. Brain-boggling. We thought that maybe once we started the Bible class some of the parents would stop sending their children, but it has seemed to have the opposite effect, and more children are coming regularly. Usually 70+ per night! That leaves us a little understaffed and breathless at times, but we’re excited at how well the teaching has been received.

Have a wonderful weekend y’all! Until next time….

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The Visit

I still haven’t written about one of the main highlights of our first year in Cambodia. You know that we had some amazing visitors, but you haven’t heard much about it yet, at least not from our perspective. It’s been on the back burner long enough now, and it’s about to burn. I should do a poll…is old news too boring to bother posting, or do you like to hear it, even if it is a month (or three) late?

Anyways…Here it is, boring or not.

Finally, Amber walked around the corner with the rest of the family soon following. And the fun began! With them came luggage. Lots of luggage. Filled with goodies from lots of friends. We are so blessed by you. I requested prayer in an earlier post for some lost luggage…well, it came through the next day, PTL!

A Trip to Srey YOung

One morning a few days after Charles’s got here, we all piled onto motos and the well-truck-turned-caravan with its makeshift 2X6 woodens seats, and set off for a tour of the country. Srey Young is a village about two hours from here where the guys have drilled some wells, and we also helped them build a much needed bridge. The country between here and there is quite varied, so it makes for an interesting drive. (At least for the first hour. =/ ) We took along some candy and balloons Donna had brought along to hand out to children, and had fun throwing them out to the children along the road. I’ll let pictures tell you about our day.

The day got stretched out a little extra long when one of the motos had some trouble. (After we fed it some ‘go-juice’ it worked just fine.) We were all very tired and dusty when we arrived home, but it was a good day.

Phnom Kraom (Under Mountain)

One evening we packed a picnic and drove up a little mountain/big hill nearby – in Khmer it’s called Phnom Kraom, which means “the mountain underneath”. I think it’s called that because it’s located under Siem Reap. We got started a little late, so it was dark and the mosquitos were out full force by the time our supper was ready, but the sunset was breathtaking.

Thanksgiving Day

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving more lovely folks moved in. An IGO (Institute for Global Opportunities) team of five people came from Thailand to help out for the next ten days. We loved having them here! Deanne and Geneva stayed at Matt’s house, Crissy stayed with Gale and I, and Loren and Darrell stayed here with the boys. The guys especially had close quarters, but I didn’t hear too many complaints. The more the merrier I guess!

It was lots of fun to have so many people around here for Thanksgiving Day. Dad had bought a pig for a good price out in the village several weeks prior with Thanksgiving meal in mind. We fattened him up with our delicious scraps, and Thanksgiving day found Dad and Charles hard at work grilling him to perfection. In the afternoon people started gathering at our house for Thanksgiving dinner. Most of the regular church attendees came, along with Charles’ family, the IGO team, Matt’s family, and our family. It was quite the crowd. And quite the delicious food too. Not the traditional Thanksgiving spread for sure, but it sure was worth giving thanks for!

We really enjoyed the crowd after dinner when we all gathered around and sang together for awhile. It’s amazing how much life a few extra voices can add to a song!

Charles’s oldest son, Gordon, arrived late that night. He is in voluntary service at Hillcrest Home and wasn’t able to come for the entire time that the rest of the family was here. We were sad he couldn’t be here the whole time, but excited to have him around for at least a few days.

Floating Village & Angkor Wat

Saturday we took Charles’s family to a nearby floating village. The IGO team joined us as well, then went on to tour Angkor Wat for the rest of the day. Charles’s family along with the children from our family also went to Angkor Wat that evening, trying to get in after 5 so we wouldn’t have to pay the $20 per person fee. We didn’t get to see too much, but we did find some monkeys, which was a big priority for Amber. They weren’t too happy to see us, though, so we didn’t stick around for very long.

It was again good to have so many people around for church on Sunday. The IGO girls took care of the children’s Sunday school, and Darrell taught the adults. We had to chuckle at the size difference between Sen and Darrell. Dad was pretty sick, so Loren took his place teaching the Sunday school in Bakong.

Work…

Work?! Oh yes! Don’t let all the pictures of the fun days fool you. We didn’t just have fun. We worked too! (And had fun while we did it. =) The guys spent several days out in Bakong building a new shelter where we are planning to have English class, as well as SALT meetings and Sunday school. The IGO team took over the English teaching while they were here. (I plan to write another post about the IGO team’s activities.) Donna and her girls and the IGO ladies helped so much with the housework, and Donna even did some sewing! With more people around, housework just seems to multiply. Somehow, though, I don’t seem to have very many pictures of work happening. The ones I do have are mostly phone pictures and the quality lacks a lot. Oh well, better include them just so you know we did work!

Tuesday we had planned a trip to a village in Chhom’s homeland. They had been asking us for clothes, and we wanted to pass out some of the Khmer “25 Favorite Bible Stories” that we had recently gotten printed. The well truck had a small problem though, so Ryan took it in to quickly get it fixed before we needed to leave. We sat around waiting, and waited, and waited, and waited some more. Long story short, the truck had some BIG problems that surfaced after the little problem was fixed, and in the end the trip was postponed until later that week. Instead, the youth headed over to Matt’s house to sort the humongous pile of clothes we had gotten in a clothing bale from one of the local markets. Poor Lightning stood in as Frank’s mannequin.

The goodbyes started that night. After being treated to a delicious supper by Charles and Donna, we took Gordon to the airport. Charles’s family started packing the next morning and late that night we said our sad goodbyes. I guess those are the times we have to remind ourselves, “Don’t cry because it’s over…smile because it happened.” And we do! It’s hard to put into words how GOOD it was so have them here. I described most of the big events, but I think my favorite times were the times I didn’t write about…the little moments. Shopping at the markets. Piling four people on a moto and going to town. Blossom Cafe. Playing games in the evening. Swimming with the girls. Snow Yogurt. Just talking to our hearts’ content.

Thank you all sooo much for coming!! You blessed us so much, and we thank God for you! We trust that despite the heat and too much rice (I heard a rumor that someone thinks we had rice way too often =) ) you had as lovely a time as we did. Come back soon!

Now.

Yup. Now. Our visitors left, but last minute plans had our dear Granddad flying over a week after Charles’s left. We’re thoroughly enjoying having him around here. The kids in the village love him! It was especially nice having him here for Christmas. Seeing him walk out of the airport without Grandmom at his side was hard. It makes it so much more real that she’s not here anymore. But it has been good. He was sick for almost a week with an upset stomach. At first we thought it was just a flu, but finally Dad called our family doctor and he thinks it’s some sort of intestinal infection. He prescribed some antibiotics, and that snapped Granddad right out of his ailment. We’re so happy he’s feeling better!

Luke flew to South Carolina last Saturday. He’s spending some time with family and friends, and then this weekend he’s leaving for two three-week terms at Calvary Bible School. He seems to be having fun so far, but we miss him! I’m sure he’d love to hear from you while he’s there, so if you need an address, just let me know and I’ll be happy to give it to you. Please note. *You’re also welcome to send any extra Christmas letters or pictures you had to that address, and he will bring them back so that we can proudly display you on our wall. =)*

Well…it’s definitely bed time over here. Wishing you all a wonderful 2015 of learning to better know our Father.

‘Til next time…

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Moi Chnam

One year.

Tonight one year ago we wearily climbed down the plane steps and for the first time walked into the muggy strangeness of Cambodia. A land and people we had only seen in pictures and heard about was suddenly our reality, our life. Strange smells and nameless sounds assaulted our senses. Alarm rattled in the corners of our brains as we rode in the warm open air to the place that was to be our home, seeing our new friends sweaters and hearing their shivers and exclamations about the unusually chilly weather. This – chilly?! Why were we coming here again? The house was big and much different than the picture our minds had conjured up, and a frightening amount of scaly reptiles inhabited it with us.

It doesn’t seem like it could really have been a year ago. It feels like it was only yesterday, but at the same time it feels like half a lifetime ago. Time is strange like that. As our family sat around the table in the restaurant this evening, celebrating our one year Cambodia anniversary, I thought back over our first year and my heart was full.

It’s been hard. There have been challenges, sorrows, adjustments, and tears. But it has been good…so good. God is moving in our hearts and working all things for our good. He has been with us every step of the journey, with grace for the moment.

We thank Him for His goodness. For His provision. For His grace. For you, our friends who have been a constant encouragement and support to us.

I will write more…later. Grandad arrived tonight and it is very late. For now, like last year right this time, I am going to close my weary eyes and sleep.

Thank you Father for this year of grace.