Visitors at Last Pt. 2

Here is Part 2 as I promised. Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, April 16.

This morning, I mixed up the pancake batter and made sausage gravy for breakfast, then Julianna came out of her room. Not many other people were awake yet, so we went for a walk in the rice field and had such good conversations. Veronica came down then, so we all sat by the hammock and talked some more. Eventually Erica came and said that breakfast was ready. Dallas had fried the pancakes. After breakfast we made our plans for the day. While we waited for Lanita to make her dessert for tomorrow, I got my cleaning done and cut up Mangos with Mom, and the rest of them played bocce ball till we were ready to go.

We got drenched on the way to mini golfing! We saw it coming. Thankfully it didn’t get everyone. It was fun, even though I was wet the whole time and I didn’t get any hole-in-ones. Our team ranked 2nd place out of the three.

The ones who got hole-in-ones

Everyone on the back of the “blue tomato” (they renamed the mini truck) was armed for any possible attacks of water we might face on the way home! They had a stash of water bottles that they had filled up at home and poke holes in the lids. I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a louder truck ride! It was hilarious. All the people on the side of the roads were having a blast. I can understand why though. Doesn’t it sound like fun to soak anyone going by on the road with water and baby powder? Why don’t the states have fun holiday traditions like this? We were thoroughly soaked after going through a couple of groups. Austin turned off of the main road onto back roads to get away from all the people and traffic. When we got back onto Rd 6 the traffic was horrible! The two lane Rd turned into a three or four lane road. Everyone was having a party though. Truckloads of people with big water tanks on the back would attack any other truck group that was equipped with water. It was a sight to behold.

This isn’t even half of the craziness!

After being on the road for much longer than normal, we finally made it home. I was famished. We were all still wet, so we ate lunch on the porch. Any guesses we ate? Leftover grilled pork again! We pretty much finished it off this time. I was so glad to see it gone!

Soon after lunch, we piled onto the Blue Tomato again. We had to push start it again. (We have to every time now) Dad had said that the rice fields were drying up, and the teams wanted to go rat hunting. I was hoping so badly that there wouldn’t be as many water stations on the small dirt roads. I was disappointed. We were sopping wet again by the time we got out. We each got a bamboo stick and headed out into the field to find the rats. Normally we’d dig a couple of their tunnels and they’d come running out. We dug at multiple ones before we got any rats to appear. Austin was digging at the one tunnel and finally found a rat. He quickly put the shovel over the hole so it couldn’t get out till everybody was ready. We encircled the hole and were prepared for when it came out. It ran straight for Friedrich. I think Friedrich killed it with one of his first blows, but he kept whacking at it. He made sure it was fully deceased.

We had been having such terrible luck at finding the rats. Some of us started walking through the rice fields because we were bored. Soon there were multiple people shouting “Rat!”. I wonder what the Khmer people thought when they saw these random foreigners running wildly through the field hitting the ground! I’m sure people got their daily dosage of laughter watching us! It was a blast though. We soon figured out that all of the rats were in the fields. We’d tramp through the field kicking at the hay until a rat would run past (or even over) our feet. Forrest was so excited about the one rat he saw scurry under the hay, I helped him clear the hay away. His “rat” was actually only a frog. The disappointment was very real! My little bamboo stick broke in my efforts to kill one of the rats. I reverted to using my feet instead. Not sure how good an idea that was. I almost got a couple though! I’m pretty sure I jumped on one, I couldn’t find it though. The one thing I am very sure of though, I was kicking around in the hay for it, and I felt it nibble at and run over my feet! I wish so badly that I could have killed that one. We got a good number of them, we missed a decent amount too. Normally we have big wooden sticks that we use for weapons, but this time all that we had was light bamboo. If we would have been doing it where there was no hay, they would have worked. but there was so much hay and our sticks weren’t heavy enough to go through the hay well. We got plenty of rats to fry up and eat.

Photo Credits to Erica

Uhh, I got tired of everyone squirting us on the way home! Looking on the bright side of things, it made me enjoy and being clean and dry after my shower more! I would have loved to have just stayed dry for a bit! It was fun for today, but I’m so thankful that it’s going to be stopped by tomorrow!

I was exhausted this evening. I guess yesterday is finally catching up to me. After supper, the team went down to the schoolroom to practice for church tomorrow. Carissa and I cleaned up. I was in a hurry because I wanted to go to sleep! I finally got done and was getting ready to head to bed when Friedrich came and asked if I could go help them. They wanted Dallas to translate. Dallas said it’d be easier for him if someone would say it and him translate rather than him just telling the story in Khmer. I said I could. My brain felt like it wasn’t fully functioning from tiredness. I don’t think any of theirs were either! It was fun though. I came up after all that time, and the shower still wasn’t empty! I took a nice little nap while I waited. Hopefully I will be able to stay awake during church tomorrow!

Sunday, April 17.

The singing in church was lacking this morning. Most of our good singers, Sen’s, Thain and Sophon, were all gone this morning. A lot of people went to their homeland for the holidays. I was disappointed that most of the kids missed the team’s skit. They did the story of Naman. All we had for leprosy spots was random colored chalk. I’m pretty sure that isn’t how it actually looks but they got the idea! We used a brown sheet for the muddy Jordan river. Friedrich also put a water bottle behind the sheet to pour over his head. The children thought it was hilarious how Friedrich ducked behind the sheet and came up wet! The seventh time took a lot longer because he had to scrub off all of the leprosy. It wasn’t practiced to perfection, but I think both the children and adults enjoyed it.

Oh, I forgot to say that Ruth Kuepfer finally got here yesterday afternoon! After all the setbacks she’s had, she’s here in person. She, Lanita and Friedrich’s all came over for lunch.

Most of us were tired after lunch so most of us laid down or rested for a while this afternoon. I laid down for a bit, then got up to go make dessert for the evening. I couldn’t decide what to make, so I went to ask the girls what they wanted. We ended up just talking about other stuff until Austin came and asked if we wanted to go play volleyball. I was torn in two! Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but I had been looking forward to making dessert, but I also wanted to play volleyball. When I thought about it that I can make dessert anytime, but I rarely get to be with other youth, I made the wise decision to pick people over food. The volleyball was a lot more fun today than it was on Wednesday! Everybody was more enthusiastic about playing.

The Holdemans came for supper. It was good to see Sharon again! After eating, we sang for a long time! It was so good to sing in English with a big group. It sounded amazing! After a while we pulled out the musical instruments played along with the music. One thing that I’m really hoping for when we move home is a youth group that loves singing. I miss it so much here. There is just something powerful about a group of youth praising God with singing that I don’t think I’d ever tire of! I love anytime that we have enough people to sing like that. It’s just refreshing to the soul. My voice can’t last long enough, but I could sing for hours. It was a good day

Amazing singing. Photo Credits to Veronica

Monday, April 18.

Today was a really good day! Carissa, the boys and I took the team to the temples today. Lanita stayed home since she’ll probably take her Mom and sister in a couple of weeks. She also took Ruth to town to get groceries. (My feet are definitely not used to wearing shoes anymore! Both Austin and I lost our flip flops while rat hunting on Saturday, the only other pair of shoes I have that would be good for walking all day in were my sneakers. They are comfortable, but my toes were very sore by the end of the day!)

We went to Angkor Wat first. There was still a lot of people there, but nothing compared to what it would’ve been last week! It was so much fun to watch Julianna. She couldn’t believe that she was actually at Angkor Wat. She said it was all she ever thought it would be. She was so happy to there. We roamed over the grounds, and explored the many hallways and chambers. We climbed up the many steep stairs to the top level. There was a lovely breeze that felt amazing to our hot, tired faces. Once we had seen most of what there was to see, we started the trek back to the front. We tried asking a random Khmer man to take a group picture for us. It didn’t turn out very well. So we waited until he walked away, then took the rest of our pictures on a self timer. Those turned out much better!

Carissa and Veronica

We were all hot, sweaty and hungry by the time we made it back to the truck. We drove around and cooled off until we found a little restaurant to eat at. We ordered our fried rice and fried noodles and the team tried to do some brainstorming for English class tomorrow. They did get a little bit figured out, but we got into more interesting subjects pretty fast! After we had filled ourselves, we went to the “tree temple”. The temple has ginormous trees growing up and through the temple. The trees pushed their way between the stones, causing much of the temple to crumble. I like the majestic awesomeness of Angkor Wat, but there is something more personal and intriguing about Ta Prohm. Someone said “Angkor Wat shows what man can do, but Ta Prohm shows what God and nature can do.”

We were all exhausted on the way home! A couple of us caught little cat naps. When we got home, they did some laundry. We played bocce ball until supper time. Austin and Julianna won both games. Mom made Costa Rican rice and beans for supper. It was so good! I had to laugh tonight. Here’s why. Friedrich asked if we just like Costa Rican food, or how we know about it. I said that we have a lot of relatives that live in Costa Rica. Keith heard that and asked where they are from, he said that he has relatives there too. We found out that we have mutual relatives with Keith because of what we had for supper. Really though, Who does that?! I love food.

A couple of the guys helped with the dishes. (What actually happened was that Friedrich washed the dishes and Austin and Dallas were hanging around, so I handed them dishes to put away. It was still nice of them to do it though:)

Why do they have to leave tomorrow?

Tuesday, April 19.

Today was their last day! It was so fun while it lasted! I’m just grateful that they could come.

They left for English class right after breakfast. I taught school. It was hard for the children to do school knowing that it was the team’s last day here. They got done fast though. No, they probably wouldn’t have gotten any academic awards today. Their main goal was to get done.

The English classes finished around 11, they were packing until close to lunch time. Friedrich and Keith helped me do mangoes for mom. It went a lot faster with them helping me than doing it by myself! I love having mangoes in the freezer, but I get so tired of peeling, chopping, and bagging them! Our freezer is filling up fast.

Everyone left for the last English class right after lunch. Carissa and I quickly washed the dishes and cleaned up, then went over to watch. They did really well! The children absolutely loved the songs and bible story skits! Naomi was telling me about it, and you could easily tell that she thought it was the greatest thing ever. They played games with them for a while, then we all headed home.

Keith and Friedrich wanted to get some drone shots of the “blue tomato” driving down the road, and some of us wanted to go get donuts before they left. So we decided to do both. We had told them about the donuts in Rolous. They are only 500៛ (12.5¢) a piece, and they are so good. They are coated in sugar, they are almost the perfect sweetness. Not as heavy and sweet as some others. After we had eaten our donuts, we drove down the road and got the drone shots they were wanting.

We played a couple games of spikeball for the last time. Then we rushed to get ready for supper. We picked up Friedrich’s and the teachers on the way to town. It was so nice to be able to drive through town and stay dry today! We ate supper at the Mexican restaurant. We had some good conversation over supper. Why do they have to leave so soon after we are comfortable with each other?

After we walked around old market did some souvenir shopping, we came home and they finished all their packing. Forrest and Erica lightened the mood with a sing-off, we all howled with laughter. I think it was funnier because all of our emotions were high, so we let out all the emotions through laughing. Then they prayed a prayer of blessing and strength over us and the mission here. I felt like I could cry with gratefulness for the friendship I had made with the girls, the good talks, and all the fun memories we had made that week!

We loaded up the luggage and push started the truck with them one last time. We all piled on the truck and went to the bus stop. We got there early so we had to wait for a bit. I didn’t mind in the least. Before long, we saw the headlights headed toward us, slowing down and pulling to the side of the road. They put their luggage below the bus and we began saying our goodbyes. We watched as they drove away. Then we had to push start the truck again. Somehow it didn’t feel right to do that without them.

It was a good nine days! Having them here was definitely worth the goodbyes.

All loaded up to go.

Until the team got here, I did not realize how starved I was for connection and community with other young people. I’m not complaining, I do have a couple good Khmer friends. But most of them are older. And honestly different first languages and cultures make it challenging to make deep connections with people. Even though I do know Khmer fairly well, there are days when it is hard to talk, and relationships are hard to keep up. I had become used to not having many people other than my siblings to hang out with. I felt truly refreshed when they were here.

God is a good, good Father. He gives his children what is good. He heaps blessings on us. His gift of community last week was overwhelming. He knew knew exactly what I needed before I did myself! The girls poured into me and encouraged me with Christ’s love until I was overflowing and refreshed. Each single moment was a gift. From spikeball games, rat hunting, mini-golfing, late night snacks, rides in the “Blue Tomato”, to the good deep talks, I was blessed someway through it all. I pray that I will relish all the times that I do get to have friends around me. Thank you for all You have blessed me with Father, and let me never take your goodness for granted!

~Heather for the Helmuths~

Visitors at Last Pt. 1

The long awaited time had come! We were actually getting company again. The covid restrictions here in Cambodia are lifting little by little. They’ve lifted enough that a team from iGo was able to come for one of their ministry trips. After almost 2 years of not being around any other American youth, I was thrilled at the thought of having people who, not only are close to my age and speak English as a first language, but also understand the culture we were born into. I had so much fun writing this blog post and remembering all the good times we had when they were here. It turned out really long so I decided to split into two separate posts.

Monday, April 11.

After a couple of set backs along the way, the iGo team finally made it to our house late this evening. Friedrich’s and Lanita came over for supper. We got to know each other a bit and found our many connections with each other. The poor people was exhausted from their long travels, so they went to bed as soon as they could. They’ve been traveling almost 24 hrs.!

I’m so happy, Julianna and her sister are both going to SMBI the same term as Dallas and I. It’s kind of a relief. I’ll actually at least kind of know someone other than Dallas. Plus they are not only from the mission field, but also from Thailand. We’re pretty much neighbors! It’ll be so nice to have someone with similar experiences in a sea full of “normal” Americans. Oh, there is also two Friedrichs here now, a Friedrich Stoltzfus and a Friedrich Miller (from here).

Tuesday, April 12.              

Today we only had a half day of school so that Carissa and I could go with the team. We watched the well guys drill in the morning. Friedrich and Keith both tried their hands at it. We girls sat down by the stairs and just observed. We hadn’t been sitting there long before the house owner noticed that the white girls were sitting in the sun. Of course it wouldn’t do to have them ruin their beautiful white skin with a tan! What a shame that would be! He quickly brought over chairs and set them in the shade where the sun wouldn’t hit any of their beautiful white skin.

After eating lunch with the well team, we went to one of the fishing villages to pass out bible story books. I love hearing them exclaim over how interesting and different everything is. It made me remember how blessed I am to have a chance to live in a place like this. We split up into two groups. We’d give a couple of children  books, their friends would see and race over to get one too. There were so many children! They’d come flocking around us begging for a book to take home. After we finished those two roads, we made our way back to the front of the village, giving out books as we walked. We were hot and tired by the time we ran out of books!

Photo credits to Keith

Carissa and I were very happy when they were willing to play spikeball with us. We have barely played since Lydia and Lanita left in June last year. Which is really sad, because all of us love playing. It’s just not as much fun with siblings that you see everyday. It was so fun to play again! It felt so good to talk to the girls while we weren’t playing. We had some really good conversations. We got a couple games of spikeball in before us youth went over to Friedrich’s for supper. It was a good day!

Wednesday, April 13.                                                     

After breakfast this morning, Lanita came over and we rounded up enough bikes for her and the team to go exploring all morning. The guys were busy with Wednesday staff meeting. I was busy trying my hardest to get Forrest and Alaina to be excited about finishing their lessons for the day! That didn’t work very well. All they could think about was the team biking all over the village, seeing the sights, while we did school. I was relieved when it was finished!  I have a feeling that school will not go as well as usual this week. Oh well, what can you expect with visitors here?

Dad got one of the SALT guys to order pork and rice for lunch. We thought it’d be fun do something with the staff for Khmer New Year. It’d give the team a chance to get to interact with the staff a bit more. The Salt staff grilled both pork meat and dog meat (sorry if that fact bothers anyone! It was a badly behaved dog, and it wasn’t anyone’s pet.) The team was excited to try everything. It was very good! We all sat in the shade to eat. The Khmer people definitely knew how to make their meat. My goodness, Vut ordered way to much meat! They didn’t even grill all of it. Our fridge is full of pork now!

The team went out with Dad to his bible study in Kompong Pluk after lunch. I stayed at home and did random jobs that needed to be finished. Sreypov had come home from her homeland on Saturday, but I didn’t get a chance to see her. So I went to visit her. The house was totally empty. I called her and she told me that she went back last minute to her mom’s house to watch over stuff while she is gone. I haven’t seen her in so long! I’m so disappointed that I didn’t catch her in time!

When everybody came back, we went over to Sen’s and watched the guys play volleyball for a while. Then they asked us if we wanted to play too. We did play, I won’t say that they were super competitive games because most of us were very rusty. It was fun to play again though. It was a good day today.

Thursday, April 14.

The team went over to Friedrich’s to paint the inside of their house today. Friedrich and Renita took them out for a Khmer breakfast. We had a normal day of school. We ate some of the leftover pork for lunch. I was really tired after school, so I went to lay down for 15 minutes. I ended up sleeping for over an hour. After I finally was awake enough, I took over some tools and stuff to Friedrich’s. The house looks much better with the lovely gray instead of yellow! After I dropped that off, I came home and made cinnamon twists for tomorrow. Everyone went to Lanita’s house for supper. We’re going up to the mountain early tomorrow morning since we have off for the new year, so we all went straight to bed after we got home.

Friday, April 15.

Ughh! I don’t know how I did today! Normally I can barely go to bed late because I’ll be tired the next day. It must be my “people high” that keeps me so energetic, because it’s not at all normal!

I told a couple people that if they think about it, to call me and make sure I wake up. Well, some people got time zones mixed up! One person called at 1:30 a.m. and another at 3:00. It made me laugh. (If you are that person, don’t feel bad! I loved it!) I got up for real at 3:30 so I could preheat the oven for the twists. I video-called Lori and Avi while I got ready. I can’t believe I actually get to meet Avi in person in less than three weeks!

When Friedrich’s and Lanita got here, we piled into the truck. It was a bit of a tight fit with the guitar, ukulele, breakfast, plus all of us in the truck bed. But it made good memories!  Once we finally got there, we hiked down the mountain to a good place to sit. Sitting there surrounded with such good people, I was so grateful for this amazing gift God gave me this week! Julianna and Veronica served everyone coffee. Then we passed around the twists that I made and the breakfast burritos that Renita made. The sunrise honestly wasn’t anything amazing, but it was so worth going up! After we had eaten, we pulled out the instruments and sang for a while. Then somehow a rock throwing contest got started. It was fun.

After we got home, some people decided to take a nap. Some of us girls went over to Lanita’s house to clean the upstairs for her. Ruth is coming tomorrow, she’ll stay in the upstairs. We talked while we worked, a lot of it was about mission related topics. I think it’s so neat that most of this team has lived abroad on missions! It makes you feel a special connection to each other. It was good to talk to Veronica especially. Her family has lived out of country almost the same amount as we have. I think a lot of our experiences, and the way it has shaped who we are, are very similar. It was so good to connect with them!

Guess what we had for lunch? Leftovers. More grilled pork and leftover chipotle bowl. When will it be gone?! The guys left soon after lunch to go swimming. They went to a little lake/pond with cliffs. It looked beautiful! Not the normal kind of place you’d find here. They had a blast jumping off the cliffs into the water.

Meanwhile, the girls decided that we should go find a coffee shop in town with AC and hang out there. We had all climbed onto the truck. That’s when the problems started. We were all on the truck. Mom tried to start the truck, it wouldn’t start. She tried and tried. We called the boys and asked them what the trick was. They tried to explain. We tried. It still wasn’t working. We tried push starting it a couple times. Finally Lanita got on her moto and was going to go get the van. She was on her way out of the gate when it finally started. She put her moto away and we went to pick up Renita. Mom decided she wasn’t going to risk having the truck not work again. So we swapped vehicles at Friedrich’s. We had to connect the battery to the van before we could leave, but thankfully it worked fine after that! We got out to Rd 6. The new year traffic was insane! We sat there for a long time and never got a chance to turn out onto the road. We decided that it’d probably be best to either stay home, or find a shop closer to home. We went to one that Renita had been to before. I’ve seen it multiple times before, but never actually went myself. It was a neat place. They have a big garden/park  with lots of little rooms or shacks to sit in. The place was packed full though. They only had one table available. It was interesting ordering drinks, they were out of so many kinds of syrups and fruit. We finally all got our drinks. The artistic ones in the group pulled out their watercolors and painted for a while. Before we left, each of the girls prayed a prayer of blessing over us individually! They’re some great girls.

Poor Mom, she had to deal with all the vehicle trouble! We got back to Friedrich’s and the truck wouldn’t start again! No matter how many times we tried to push start it, it just wouldn’t cooperate. We pushed it out to the road and it was so close to starting. Finally I gave up and called Dad to come get us. Dad tried once and it started up like a charm! Apparently you have to push in the clutch extra far in order to start it.

We had been going to go mini golfing, but it was too late. We decided just to stay at home and play spikeball or throw frisbee. Julianna and I took the moto to go get vegetables for supper. I saw it coming but there was nothing I could do. There was no way out. Up the road aways I saw the people armed with squirt guns, buckets of water and baby powder. I wasn’t sure if they’d get us if we’re foreigners, so I tried to go out around them. It didn’t do any good. One guy stood right in front of us and gave us no choice but to stop. They drenched us with water, then proceeded to rub baby powder all over mine and Julianna’s faces. Through the whole ordeal, they were apologizing profusely! By the grins and smiles on their faces, they definitely weren’t sorry in the least! I got the vegetables I needed. Then I made sure my money and phone was safe in the grocery bag. I was much better prepared to be soaked on the way back.

After supper, we played random group games until 12 o’clock. Lanita called it a day soon after that. The rest of us weren’t too tired yet so we sat around and talked some more. Keith got out his snacks and kindly shared them with everyone. It’s amazing I’m not more tired than I am with having gotten up so early.

It’s so, so good to have people around! I’m so thankful for them.

To be continued…

Heather for the Helmuths…