New Family Additions

There’s really nothing quite as fun as spending time with the whole family is there?! Especially when you don’t get to see them very often! We were delighted to meet Stephanie! It’s weird to have a sibling dating and never have met her, but Luke definitely found himself an amazing girl! She’ll be a great addition to the family! I approve wholeheartedly of the match!

We had a work team here over the time that they were here so we didn’t get to do that much out of the ordinary… after a couple days we got to know each other better and the awkwardness vanished, and it felt like we’d known each other for lots longer than a couple days! Then we could talk about normal things and forget the small talk. Luke went to work with the guys a couple days, and took Steph to see the sights and meet the people she’d seen pictures of. His students were happy to see him! One Sunday evening, one of the Khmer ladies from Bakong invited some of the people from the church and ALL the Americans over for supper. And there was a lot of Americans! But she said she wanted to give them all a chance to try curry with rice noodles! It was a good experience for the team! most of them liked the it, but some were a bit hesitant to try Khmer food!d156a86e-773b-4cce-a781-7cb937965284

One night after the team had left from supper(it seemed like they left early that evening), after the house was cleaned up and we were almost ready to crawl in bed, I heard a shriek and laughter downstairs! I thought something must have hit the boys really funny! I pulled out the phone to ask them what happened and there was a loud banging and more laughter in the hallway by our bedroom… Carissa jumped out of bed to see what was so funny! She opens the door and screamed “LORI!” That was definitely not what I was expecting to hear! James and Ruth left early to go pick them up at the airport, they were the only ones who knew! Lori had us all feeling so sorry for her, she’d always send such pitiful sad emojis when she’d talk to us! It was around 11 when they got to our house. James had the key for the gate and let them in. Also this was the first time Cordell’s had been to this house so they had no idea what was where. All of the lights were off except for one room off to the side, they decided to just go in and HOPE it was a bedroom! Luckily for them it was, Mom, Dad and Luke were still up talking… We went downstairs and chatted for a bit the shock wore off and the drowsiness kicked in. It took a bit longer for the shock to wear off for Alaina. once she got upstairs she started weeping happy tears, she’d stop for a minute, come give me a huge hug and say “Joy! Peace! Happiness!” Then she’d jump for joy and start the whole process over again!

Thankfully we already had plans to take off and enjoy ourselves the next day! We went to the silk farm then at lunch and played games at the reservoir. Saturday evening we invited our closest friends over for pizza, and had an impromptu singing afterwards! Lori had so much fun surprising a couple of her friends! Mali’s reaction was priceless! She came out of the kitchen door, she saw Lori and her hands flew to her chest, “why?! What?!” Cordell’s were not here nearly long enough for us! Only six days!img_0699-collage

There was lots of laughing, story telling, and game playing in those 6 days. The lovely evenings sitting around the table, long after supper was eaten, talking of days gone by and days to come. Some especially exciting days to come! For starters, Mom and Dad are gonna be grandparents! We’re super excited! We tried to make the most of their time here, Luke and Steph’s flight got canceled and the left a day later, so that worked out nice for us! We honestly didn’t do that much, we just hung out and talked when we weren’t busy. We went shopping once or twice. Putt putting. Before we knew it, the time was up and they had to leave. Even though it was super short, we all loved it! The next time we’ll see each other is at Luke’s wedding!  686ba756-9689-4e7a-8fa2-a224a9d902c1

Until next time, Heather for the Helmuths

Weddings

I hope this finds y’all all healthy and hopefully not quarantined! I’ve been stressing out about getting everyone updated! There’s so much to write about that it was overwhelming! So I decided I’d break it up into smaller sections, and post them as they get done. Here is the first of many (hopefully)!

~Weddings~

In the last month we’ve been to two weddings. These were the first weddings that we were invited to the ceremony. (Here they only invite close friends and family to the wedding ceremony in the morning, then later in the evening, neighbors and other acquaintances come for the reception)

The first wedding was quite interesting not only because it was the first ceremony we were involved in, but also the boys got asked to be the groomsmen! It tickled me to see the guys in the traditional clothes! The groom was one of our staff members and comes to our church. His girlfriend lives close to two hours away, and the ceremony started at 7 o’clock, so we had to get up at 4 to get ready and left at 5. Despite the cold, I enjoyed watching the stars from the back of the truck! We don’t see many stars where we are because of the city lights.
I loved watching the ceremony, it was so rich in tradition. They had a very traditional Khmer wedding, but they also implemented God into it very much! They often set up tents and have the ceremony at the bride’s house. Once we got to her place they ushered us in. Every chair had a golden bowl setting on it with fruit or food of some kind wrapped in it. After about five minutes, everybody got up and walked down the road away. They call this part the “fruit walk” (traditionally the groom and friends would bring fruit to the bride’s family as a gift of acceptance). Everyone forms a line of two, walking beside someone with the same kind of food that your bowl has… the groom and groomsmen led the procession back to the bride’s house. When we got back to the brides house, her family met with the groom and they checked to make sure it was the correct house and the correct bride and groom, since all was correct, the fruit was given to the bride’s family.

After the fruit walk everyone was served shrimp rice Porridge for breakfast, with a side of loud music!

Later, two pastors, advocates for the bride and groom, asked the witnesses if the couple kept themselves pure. Some of the fruit that was brought was then put into two trays, given to the two families to taste, to make sure it is real fruit and that it tasted good. The actual ceremony asked a lot of the questions that a Christian wedding would have at home, if they’ll commit for life in prosperity or poverty, health or sickness.
One of my favorite parts was when they washed their parent’s feet to show their respect and thankfulness to them. Before they washed their feet they thanked them for what they did for them. It was emotional for both of them since both bride and grooms fathers are not living. So she had an Uncle stand in, he had his older brother stand in for the entire ceremony. They had a couple special prayers for the couple, then we finally ate lunch! Then everyone went home to rest and get ready for the reception.

At 4 o’clock guests that were invited for the reception started to arrive. The wedding party stood in the entrance welcoming the guests and handing out favors. They served 6-7 different courses, fish, beef, chicken, beef salad with ants (it was good!), soup, and a tapioca-lotus seed dessert! All accompanied with loud music! Sophon tried to get them to turn it down but they kept turning it back up! No alcohol was served, which was an answered prayer for the Sophon!

By the time we left, I had a throbbing headache from dehydration, the heat and the loud music!

If you’re interested in watching their wedding videos you can find them here and here.(notice the many different outfits throughout the day!)

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Here the guys have lavender shirts…

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and here they have on blue shirts (the pictures were only taken about 30 minutes apart)

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the bridal party

The second wedding was my friend Sreynit, the only other youth aged girl at our church. She got married to one of the staff guys. There is a bit of an age difference between the two, her only being 17 or 18. It was quite a surprise to hear that they were engaged! It was a bit hard for me to grasp, especially since she’s only a bit older than me! Their engagement was just over a month too!

The day before the wedding, Hong called dad and asked if dad could have a blessing prayer for them, he also said that we are supposed to be there at 8. Well, at 7 frank called and asked why we’re not there yet, it’s going to start any minute. Then we rushed! Once we got there everyone was lined up but thankfully they hadn’t started yet! It seemed like they picked the hottest and most humid day of the week to get married! Thankfully the church house had ac in it so it was bearable for a small part of the time. Sreynit’s wedding was very different from Sophon’s! Instead of having the fruit put on trays, they had a pastor and his daughter walk/dance up the isle and “picked” the fruit as they went. It’s interesting seeing different ways of doing it! They family then tasted the fruit (and made sure it wasn’t fake). Both parties were satisfied, so everyone went outside and ate rice Porridge together! We thought the music was loud at Sophon’s wedding but I think this was even louder! We were lucky to sit decently far away from the wall of speakers for breakfast! Their service was more westernized than Sophon’s, Sreynit walked up the isle on her father’s arm and wore a white dress (one thing very different from an american one was that all the bridesmaids wore white too). I sat in on a bit of it but most of the time I was out in the scorching heat, taking care of Selah. The poor girl was tired and the heat and loud music didn’t help! Poor Forrest took a couple too many turns on the merry-go-round, he declared that he’s NEVER going to ride one again! Their reception was at a restaurant later in the evening. They had lots of good sea food, octopus, shrimp, fish and seaweed salad, and a couple things that we are not sure of what it was!

Speaking of all these weddings, we are going to be having a wedding in our family this year! Luke and Stephanie are engaged!We are all super excited for them…

Till next time…

~Heather for the Helmuths~

 

Visitors in the Night

We’ve been loving having Luke and his girlfriend Stephanie visit! I’ll write more details some other time… Right now, I want to tell you a story!

It was around 11 when I had crawled into bed. I heard a girly laugh downstairs! I figured something hit the boys really funny! I pulled out the phone to ask them what was funny… then there was a great ruckus outside our door. Carissa jumped out of bed to see what it was! It was something we would never have guessed! Lori and Cordell!They surprised us all! None of us knew they were coming! Lori only told James’, they picked them up at the airport and brought them home. Once we were in our bedroom again, Alaina cried happy tears!

They’re only here for 6 days, but we will enjoy it as best we can! It’s good to be all together as a family again!

Until next time… Heather for the Helmuths

Prayer Requests

As some of you know, we bought an old school building in Bakong planning to renovate it and eventually move into it. Dad had seen this building long back and always wanted to buy it. In the beginning of last year, we were planning on buying it, the board had just given the ok. The day after, he was going to go tell them that they wanted to buy it. And the same day someone offered them a higher price than what we were offering, and they sold it to them. A couple months later, while we were back in the states, Frank messaged dad that the people who had bought it needed some quick cash and they were wanting to sell. So after all that, we finally got the house!
APSARA is the Cambodia management authority responsible for protecting the Angkor Archaeological Park. It puts restrictions on businesses and buildings close to the temple ruins. Our building is in the APSARA territory. We understood that we can do any renovations in the house that we want as long as we don’t make it bigger. When we had the last mountain view team here, they started tearing out walls for us, and some of the authorities came out and said that we can’t work on the house without a building permit! By this time the board had a couple teams lined up to come help. APSARA said that we should be able to have the permit first of January. It was going to work out fine! The first team would get here right after we got it made! Well, things don’t always go as planned! Turns out, the people who said that only could make a permit for smaller houses. So they had to go to people higher up, and they don’t want to expedite the process. They say it won’t be done till the last of February! That’s after the last team leaves! So we decided that we would just get them to build a little house on the other piece of land that they purchased and we already had the permit for that one!The guys just got good and started building that one, when APSARA came again! They had to hold off on it for a couple days! they’re back at it again though. We are hoping that the permit will go through for the school building soon, so they can get that started! Hopefully everything works out! Pray that God could use this for good!

Two weeks ago at church, Chhum”s sister in law ,one of the church members asked that we would pray for her husband to overcome his problem with alcohol. He added that he wants to stop drinking, and really wants prayer to have spirits leave him alone. He has not been sleeping well and a couple times the spirits got him during the night and took him out into the jungle. What I found amazing is he said when he slept at chhums, he slept better than what he had in a long time! It’s seems like because it was a christian house, the spirits couldn’t have any control over him! Because God is so much stronger than the evil in the world! He went to the front and they gathered around and prayed for him. This week, he asked for prayer again. another one of Chhum’s brother in law asked for prayer. When his son (a member) heard his dad request prayer, saying that he wants to stop drinking, he started clapping for his Dad. He has asked us to pray that his dad would dry up several times. And now his dad has requested prayer himself! As they both walked to the front everybody gave them a round applause, cheering them on! We gathered around them, and prayed that God would give them the strength, and direct them in the right path! So please keep them in your prayers! Not only that they would break their habit, but that they would commit their lives to God, and become godly leaders for their families!

~Heather for the Helmuths~

Christmas Festivities

Happy Holidays! We hope you had an enjoyable Christmas and new years! The Holiday season has once again come and gone! Christmas over here was pretty low key, we don’t have any of the rush that comes with Christmas in the states.

We worked the day before Christmas, in the evening, we had a special supper and a family gift exchange. We like to joke that here, you don’t go get a present, you go FIND one. You can know exactly what you want to get, but to find a shop that sells it is another story! Christmas morning, some things came up that the boys had to work on in the morning. We girls were in the kitchen most of the morning preparing dinner. Kevin’s came over for dinner, Then we spent the rest of the afternoon putt putting. We came back, had a snack, and hung out the rest of the evening. It wasn’t a “normal” Christmas, but it was a very nice break.

Our church had our annual Christmas party again. This year, however, it was much smaller than previous years. With building the church house, we were short on funds, so only those close to us were invited. The morning of the party, we all gathered at the church building to set up and make food. While the men got lights, sound system, and the church ready, we ladies laid out a tarp to sit on and got busy. Being
surrounded with conversations and laughter made the preparation much more enjoyable!

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The service was supposed to start at three o’clock. However, things don’t run on time here! It was five before enough people were there to start! The Khmer people have taught us that for something like this, you invite them for earlier than you want to start. So, since they actually wanted to start at five, they told everybody to come at three! That is a great example of culture differences! It can be aggravating at times, but then I realize that I do many things differently than they would. And you understand that it’s not right and wrong, just what you’ve grown up with.

It was a fairly laid-back party, our church, and some friends and family. We sang some congregational songs, and Tain sang a couple songs.
Behind the scenes of the nativity play this year was, well, hectic! Since we don’t have many youth in our church yet, Sophon asked some youth from another church to help out. However their party was two days before ours, so they were often busy getting ready for theirs. It only worked out for them to practice with us once! But we decided we’re going to give it our best shot! There was a few blunders, some unrestrainable giggles, and a couple forgotten and improvised lines. But the imperfections made
everyone love it even more! One person said her lines for the first scene and started saying the lines for the next scene, then realized what she had done. Mortified, she walked off of the stage and whispered “Oh, I forgot!” We discovered later that the mic was still close to her and picked up what she had said! The crowd roared with laughter at that!

After the play, Sophon came back on stage. “Now we’ll have Teacher… Um, Teacher…?” Sen came over and told him” Allen, Teacher Allen”. “Yes, Teacher Papa Allen will be sharing a small message for us today.” It tickled me to think that very few of the Khmer people know Mom’s or Dad’s name. They are just known as mama and papa to everyone.

One of the nicest things about having a small party was being able to sit down, eat,and visit with the guests. Previous years we were racing around serving tables until the guest left. And often there would be very little food left over because everyone wanted to take some home for their family.

So this is what we did for Christmas! It wasn’t a typical american Christmas with family. Even though we don’t celebrate the same way or do the same activities as we would at home, the reason and joy of Christmas is the same worldwide!

~Heather for the helmuths~

Six Years and Counting

The 11th marked the sixth year since we came! In some ways the six years seem like forever, but in other ways it doesn’t! We are still learning new things everyday, and we still have many firsts! (Monkeys, bats, etc… for lunch)

Thinking back I am flooded with memories. Memories of stepping off the plane and being hit by a wave of warm, humid air and then being confused when everybody greeted us in jackets, shivering, trying to stay warm! The first night, after we got through security and loaded all of our luggage into the vehicles, I was told to climb on the tuk tuk with mom and dad. All the peculiar smells were overwhelming! I was very concerned when the tuk tuk turned right and the rest kept going straight! It’s funny now, but in my little kid mind it was definitely was not a laughing matter, my imagination ran wild! I was sure this man saw this as a chance to make some extra cash, and he was kidnapping us! And I had no idea what dad would do because he couldn’t talk any Khmer. You have no idea how relieved I was when I pulled up to our house, and no one was missing!

Some of the things that come into my mind when I think of the first year are

  • Holding your breath when walking through the market
  • Being scared to talk to strangers, for fear they would rattle off in Khmer and you wouldn’t understand a thing!
  • Always forgetting to take TP with you wherever you go.
  • Debating if holding a baby is worth a chance of getting peed on.
  • Wishing Market sellers would let you at least glance at something without them asking you to buy it!
  • The fact that if you’re a little white kid personal space doesn’t exist
  • Getting aggravated at how being on time isn’t important!
  • Walking through the market and all you hear is “Hello Madame! Buy something please!” and “Good price for you Madame”
  • Loud music at parties being unbearable!
  • Eating only rice and soup or vegetables at the village because you’re too scared of getting a bone.

We’ve definitely adjusted to living here, the stench of the market that I used to dread, and try to avoid, I don’t think about anymore. And for the most part, we don’t have to worry about not understanding people. And now we’re the ones that bundle up for 70 degree weather!

People often ask “When are you moving back?”. Right now we are the only family here, so that makes it hard for kinda to leave. Dad says that if we’d leave right now, he feels like we’d let a lot of people down. So at the moment, only God knows. However Ryan has decided that it’s time for him to move back, He’s planning on leaving in March. It’ll certainly leave a big, empty hole here!

Another question we get asked frequently is “Do you miss the States?”… Of course there are times when it would be amazing to be closer to family, having people to spend the holidays with. There are times when all you want is youth aged people, people that share the same culture and language that you were born into. But there are times when I can’t imagine living back in the states, not living close to these people we’ve grown to love! And not being here to watch the kids grow up! We’ve learned so much, and have been so blessed with this opportunity that not many other people get! Honestly, its home, and I wouldn’t trade having lived here for anything!

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Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

~Heather for the Helmuths~

 

 

A welcomed visit!

We’ve been adjusted back for quite some time. Life hasn’t been slowing down and it won’t for quite some time! In a couple weeks we won’t be the only Americans here until after February! We are going to have a a lot of people coming through helping with the house that ALAM bought and they are going to fix it up! Once the house is finished we’ll be moving out there. Luke and his girlfriend Stephanie bought tickets for Jan-Feb!!! We can’t wait!  Combine all that with holiday activities and we shouldn’t have much extra time!

The Mountain View team left yesterday… it was so refreshing to have other people here! They only had a week here, but we enjoyed every minute of it!
The day after they got here we went out to the fishing village with dad. We sat in on his lesson, then took a boat ride out on the lake. After eating lunch one of the girls went to Khmer class with me while the rest of them went to town. They spent the next day going to Angkor Watt and the silk farm.
Sunday was extra special since the team sang for us, and Jeff had the message! It was quite a treat to have a Sunday evening with playing games and hanging out with youth again.

Monday the team went out to the school house and started tearing down walls. In the afternoon we were going to take the girls fabric shopping but when we got there everything was closed! So we went back and picked up the guys and went to see the boat races… and by the time we got through traffic, they were done boat racing for the day! So we slowly wiggled our way back to the truck. As soon as the fireworks started, everyone stopped wherever they were, pulled out their phones, and made it next to impossible to walk at all. Ryan and Austin met us at the restaurant for supper, then we all headed to night market. Almost all of the team did the fish massage (basically you pay somebody to let their fish nibble all the dead skin off of your feet). Some of their reactions were priceless!

The next day, after the guys worked on the church house, we went out to pick them up and all the girls sampled grilled dog. After the boys washed up, we headed into town again, and this time we got there in time to see the races. I think that the big crowd with voices and music blaring over the speakers was a good taste of the culture for them! The team cooked us a delicious Mexican supper that evening!

Thursday, their last day here, the boys took the day off and we all went out with dad to Preah Lingeang. This village is about 50 miles from our house. But because of bad roads, it takes 2 1/2-3 hrs. to get there. They still do not have electricity. A couple of Chum’s siblings live there. Soon after we turned off of the main road, I started hearing comments about how bad the road was. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself to think about what they’d say about the last road! The poor baby! She was probably bounced more on the way there than she ever has been before! She couldn’t even keep a hold of her bottle! Once we finally got there, dad told a short bible story and the team sang for us. The guys past us, soon after we got on the dirt road, however they took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up way off the road. By the time they got there, two of them had lost their flip flops and we were ready to eat lunch without them! Right after lunch, we headed home, they were leaving that evening and weren’t going to have much time to get cleaned up and have supper. It was getting close to dark when we got back, they showered, ate a quick supper, and started their goodbyes. It was sad to see them go!

In two weeks Dad’s uncle is coming to do plumbing at the house. So if anyone wants to send cards or family pictures etc… We would love to get them! They should get there in time if you send them soon. You can send them to, 2033 Irish path, Rockingham VA 22802.IMG_5592

~Heather for the Helmuths~