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…

They’re Here!!!

THEY’RE HERE!!!  After over four months of great anticipation, we are so excited that this long looked-forward-to event is finally here! Charles and Donna Wagler and their family arrived late Sunday night. We’ve already had so much fun catching up on eachothers lives. They’re all still struggling with jet lag, so we’ve mostly been here at home “relaxing” and catching up on sleep, but hopefully soon that problem will be remedied and they can sleep ’til 7 instead of 3 am and go to sleep at 11 rather than 8.

And oh, what fun we’ve had going through the treasures they brought with them from our wonderful friends at home. Meat and cheese…Cream cheese…Books!…Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzel Pieces!…Toys for the children…just to name a few. Thank you…so much! It’s almost overwhelming to see what all people sent…it made me think of another time someone came over and had some things for us. Carissa said, “I guess we’re special after all!” Your support means so much. Hopefully soon we can get more personal thanks to those of you who sent stuff, but for now, “thank you” is all we can say. (One piece of luggage got lost en route, so if you think of it, breathe a prayer that it will find it’s way here. But even without the lost bag, we have so much to be thankful for.)

I think in the next few weeks there will definitely be some blog-worthy happenings, but for now here is a post I wrote last week.

The Water Festival

The Water Festival is a big, yearly holiday in Cambodia, celebrating the end of the monsoon season. The past few years they haven’t celebrated it in Siem Reap. Back in 2010, a horrible accident happened during the festival in Phnom Penh. According to Wikipedia, 347 people were killed and another 755 were injured in a stampede on a bridge. Witnesses said too many people were on the bridge, with people on both ends pushing. This caused sudden panic, and the people in the middle fell over and got trampled. In the mayhem, electric wires got pulled down as well, which caused electrocution.

The next year, it was decided that no festival would be held. Then the king died and so they didn’t observe the festival the next year. Anyways, this year was the first year since 2010 that Siem Reap had its water festival. All the Khmer people that work with us took a three day vacation, and the schools we teach at were on break as well, so we had a break too. Thursday evening a week ago, after the children came home from school and the men came back from the village, our family ventured out into the crowds around the Tonle Sap river to watch the boat races. There were scores and scores of people lining the banks. I noticed though, that the bridges were carefully blocked and guarded. I’ll let the pictures tell you about the races.

My personal favorite was the ladies’ teams. There were only a few, and my, what shrieks came from the boats. The crowd seemed to enjoy them too, because the applaud was much louder when they came along.

Once we got tired of watching the races, Dad gave each of the little people 2000 Riel (50 cents) to spend, and we wandered along the streets looking at the things the various shops and vendors had to offer. Cotton candy seemed to be the favorite among the younger children, although I think even the big children were robbing poor, oblivious Alaina of her supply. I got one of my favorite Khmer treats…rice and beans cooked in bamboo.

At one of the places the children were buying something, I was standing there waiting, and a dear old Khmer lady walked up to me. She took my wrist, and wanted to tie a piece of red yarn around it in exchange for money. It’s a Buddhist thing…I’m not sure about all the details, but it’s a ‘good luck charm’ that I really want nothing to do with. I told her in my limited Khmer that I believe in Jesus. She nodded vigorously, but still wanted money. I gave her a little, and she walked away. Thinking about her though, and how many people fall for the ‘luck’ the charm might bring, and seeing the shrines with fruit and incense for Buddha…walking among the hoards of people…it’s just a sad, helpless feeling that comes over me when I think about all of those people that have never heard of the love of Jesus. Who am I? One person among millions. Where can I even begin?

The other day Forrest said something that is a great answer to those thoughts…I was talking with my friend Contea about the problem of drug abuse in here in Cambodia. Forrest saw us looking at some pictures of side effects of drug addictions and asked what that was. I told him, ”Some people think if they take medicine it will make them happy…but it doesn’t. The only thing that will make them really happy is if they worship God.”
”Well why don’t they just?” he asked.
”Maybe no one told them about God.”
”Well, we should just tell them, then they could tell more people, then those people could tell more people, and more and more!”

Wise words from a four year old I think…a challenge for all of us. Let’s do our part in telling people about the wonderful God we serve!

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Bummys and Bites

 

Hi y’all! English classes today were cancelled due to an extended water festival holiday, so I decided to take advantage of a free afternoon and catch you up on life here.

Last Saturday Matt told us to expect four extra people at church on Sunday. We had no idea who it was going to be, but were excited anyways. When they arrived on Sunday morning, Carissa came up to my room, and told me “The lady has a green dress on, and there’s a little girl too!” =) I soon had the privilege of meeting Packy and Laura Sporre, along with their children Melinda and Lyndon, who had come all the way from Wisconson. They were visiting friends in Thailand, and as I understood, Packy had been in Cambodia before and wanted to come back. (I missed some of the details.) I guess it was through the friends in Thailand that they heard about our mission, and decided to visit for church. We loved having them, and wished it would have been longer. It’s always refreshing to have Christian, English speaking company. Come back anytime, y’all! And for the rest of you…if you ever find yourself in Cambodia, please stop by! =)

Bummys…

“Bunnies”, really. Forrest’s last two puppies are no longer around. Brudo just went missing one morning, and then the next dog, Toby, took a trip on the truck to the neighbors house, and there he stayed. He just couldn’t get it in his head that the porch was not the place to do his business, and we were all tired of it. Veasna’s brother, Hane, loved the dog, and so they agreed to take him. Since then, Forrest has been begging for another pet, but Dad wasn’t quite ready to take just any mutt in again. A few weeks ago, he came home from town with three fluffy bunnies, much to the children’s delight. Carrisa, Heather, and Forrest named them Cottontail, Oreo, and Peter, but Little Miss Alaina just calls them “bummies”. The children have really enjoyed them so far, and are already looking forward to the day when the bunny population starts increasing by leaps and bounces. (If these bunnies are anything like mine were when I was little, it won’t be long before we have a yard full!)

Big bites…

We had a wonderful break this summer from the strange maladies of Cambodia. Recently, though, we’ve been struggling with strange bites and flus again. The other morning Heather and Forrest both woke up with a huge blister on their arms. The blisters were full of pus. Frank and Kompeak thought they were maybe spider bites, and Dad and the pharmacist decided they were blister beetle bites. Eventually the blisters popped, and Forrest’s especially has been “weepy”. Heather’s is healing up pretty well, and Forrest’s is on it’s way. I’ll skip a picture of those sores for the sake of the squeamish.

Alaina’s poor little legs are also covered with some sort of painful, pus-filled bites. We’re not sure if they started as mosquito bites and then got infected, or if they’re something else. They probably wouldn’t be so bad, except she just picks and picks at them, and so they don’t have a good chance to heal. Covering them with band-aids doesn’t help – she just picks those right off too. We’ve tried putting pants and leggings on her too, but they’re both too short to keep all of the bites out of sight. Forrest and Heather got some then too, and one of Forrest’s in particular seemed to be really infected. The bone by the bite was sore when he walked, and he started running a fever. Dad took him to the pharmacist, who prescribed an antibiotic and said if he’s not better in a few days he needs to see a doctor. He’s been feeling much better now, PTL, so we’re hoping that will take care of it for him. Mom’s been faithfully putting Betadine cream and band-aids on Alaina’s legs at night, and we hope they’ll improve soon too.

Those bites reminded me of when I was much younger, and had lots of scars and scabs from too often scratched mosquito bites on my arms. “If you keep picking at those scabs you’ll have scars all over your arms, and then the boys won’t like you,” teased a much looked up to lady one day at fellowship dinner. I think I knew she was teasing, but the thought worried me a little at that moment! I don’t remember if I heeded her warning or not, but the memory sure stuck and I have to grin whenever I remember. =)

Birthdays…

Our dear Veasna turned 17 last month! Jasmine, Shaila, and I took her to the Blossom Cafe for a little birthday celebration. The Blossom Cafe is ranked #3 of nearly 450 restaurants in Siem Reap, and it deserves that rating! Delicious, beautifully decorated cupcakes are their specialty, and I’ll be happy to support the trainees in their efforts. =) If you come see us here and want to go out for coffee, that’s the place to go!

Veasna was fascinated with the fondue cakes at Blossom Cafe, so I decided to try my hand at a marshmallow fondue cake for her birthday cake on Sunday. Humph. I’ve decided that birthday cakes weren’t to be made in Cambodia. It seems every time we try, it’s too warm and the frosting gets all runny. I thought maybe the fondue would be better, and I think it would have been, had I not started with a cold cake. It was looking great, and the fondue was yummy, but then the cake started condensing. By morning it was a rather sad sight. The fondue was all sticky and wet looking, not to mention the tiny black ants that had discovered the treat during the night. The ants disappeared with a little coaxing though, and after setting the cake in an air conditioned room with a fan blowing on it, it looked nearly normal.

And just for your information, no, it’s NOT supposed to be a hat, and those are NOT eggs on the cake. =) One man who was here for lunch was wondering why we would put eggs on a cake. I think it made a bit more sense to him once he heard the eggs were actually supposed to be flowers. Oh well…the cake was good, and that’s what counts! So much for my cooking adventures…

Mom, Dad, and Luke also had birthdays in October. Luke is 18 already, and is a dependable young man. He is great with kids, and does well at the English class he teaches. Mom and Dad are a few years older. =) They spent a day together in Siem Reap acting like tourists – something mom has wanted to do for a while. There are so many neat little tourist shops in town, and we don’t find the time to go to many of them.

Baby AhVia…

On the other side of our compound wall, in the house right beside Sen and Mum’s lives Contea. I met her on one of my trips to talk with Mum about something. She was uncomfortably pregnant, and had a bad cold. The doctor had given her some medicine to take, but she was afraid it would hurt the baby. She asked me if I could look it up online and see if it was okay to take. I was happy to oblige, and that was the beginning of our friendship. Once we had pizza for supper, and the next day Mum asked me what we’d baked the night before. “Pizza,” I said. She told me Contea had smelled something cooking, and she just knew we were making pizza. Oh, she wanted pizza! “Maybe it’s cinnamon rolls,” Mum had said. No, she still thought it was pizza. We had some leftovers, so I warmed them up, and took a plate of pizza over for her. She was so excited! She’d wanted pizza for so long, but her husband wouldn’t buy any for her.

Since then, often when I go over to talk Mum, Contea and I will start talking. She’s a sweet lady, and has lots of questions about Christianity, but doesn’t seem very open to the idea of accepting Christ yet. She says she’s not a Buddhist…she just thinks as long as we do kind things to others that’s good enough to get her somewhere good when she dies. Please pray for me as I interact with her…that she could feel the love of Jesus, and that I would have wisdom and clear, understandable words when she asks hard questions.

Anyways…finally, in August she had little Mr. Ahvia. He’s a great excuse to run over to visit. Someday I want to capture one of his adorable dimpled smiles on camera and share it with you. =)

Company Is coming!

The main thing occupying our minds these days is preparation and excitement for the arrival of Charles and Donna’s family. The girls’ paper chain counting the days til Charles’s get here is getting shorter and shorter. Just six more ‘sleeps’! We can’t wait! Then the day before Thanksgiving an IGO team arrives…fun, but even more fun since my dear friend Crissy will be on that team! So yes…there’s lots of excitement going on around here. It will be a busy time, but so much fun.

Have a happy Monday, y’all!

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Tiny Seeds, Big Plans

It’s interesting to see what our hearts start pining for when we’re so far away from the old normal. We all miss different things. Mom misses cream cheese and sudsy Palmolive dish soap. The boys wish for their guns and hunting season and the shop with its abundance of wood and tools. The younger children miss friends that speak their own language. We all miss having our friends nearby. I guess it’s a strange, unimportant thing to miss, but I miss the South Carolina summer wildflowers. It was so relaxing to walk out to the garden for a fresh bouquet of cosmos or zinnias, or to wander down the back roads gathering daisies, bachelor’s buttons, and Queen Anne’s lace on a summer evening. Here there just aren’t many wild flowers suitable for bouquets.

While we were in the states for Grandmom’s funeral, I picked up some seeds of the flowers I miss the most, and when we came back I could hardly wait to plant them. Finally I found a spare morning to carefully put them in the soft dirt. And then was the waiting to see if they would be happy with the sandy soil and pounding rain Cambodia has to offer. I prayed over those little seeds. Doesn’t God care about the smallest desires of our heart? Couldn’t He at least let a few of the seeds grow?

A few days ago I went out to check the ground for signs of life again, and there they were. Tiny green shoots. Not all the varieties have come up yet, but God definitely did let at least a few grow. I know it’s probably silly to be so excited about little green things sticking their heads out of the earth, but I can’t help but go out to my flower garden several times a day just to see if they grew anymore, or to make sure the torrents of rain didn’t drown them.

I’ve been thinking about the seeds I’m planting in the lives of people around me. The last while I’ve been feeling discouraged with what I’m doing here. Teaching English day after day – am I accomplishing anything more than just teaching English? Am I even accomplishing that? I struggle daily to come up with lesson plans, and feel so unequipped for this job. And I don’t want to just teach the children English – I want to plant seeds of God’s truth in their hearts, and yet I struggle to do that. How can I, when I can only hold the most basic conversations with them? I struggle with discontentment. Why did God bring me here when there are so many others that could do a better job?

And then the little green plants taught me a lesson. Well…I guess they are teaching me a lesson. I want to learn to be content and fulfilled right where God has planted me. Like those seeds, God brought me halfway around the world, to a place much different from where I usually ‘grow’. He brought those seeds life, and if I let Him, He will bring me life in this soil. He will equip me for wherever He takes me, and He has greater plans for me than I could ever dream up. Pray for us as we continue to try to bloom, and that we would have opportunities to share the seed of truth.

Okay, enough philosophizing. Pictures will tell the stories today instead of so many words.

Rain, Rain, & More Rain

Yes, we have entered rainy season. The landscape has taken on another look entirely. When we arrived in December, everything was dry and brown and dusty. When we came back after Grandmom’s funeral, the rain had transformed the country into a lush green. The rice fields are now flooded and thriving, and the once dusty roads are now rutted and muddy. The mud makes for interesting times on the motos!

One of the first times it really rained, we were all so excited. It was just pouring down like we hadn’t seen for a long time, and the yard was a developing lake. The younger ones of course thought it looked like perfect swimming. We all stood around and watched in amusement, and I think we were all thinking what fun it would be to be kids again. Then Dallas couldn’t help himself. Why not jump in? And then there went Austin…Frank had been sitting in the truck, (maybe trying to convince himself to behave like an adult) but suddenly he couldn’t help himself either, and he joined right in with the children. They had a grand time! It was a joy just to watch them, and to feel the cold mist blowing through the windows. After it stopped raining we drove into town, and the roads were flooded. Definitely not something we experience in SC very often.

One day I arrived at school, and my little classroom was flooded. The students perched on top of their desks, and I tried to teach…but it’s hard to concentrate when you’re constantly in danger of slipping on the slick concrete, the bottom of your dress is soaked, and your flip flops float merrily by. Finally one of the other teachers told me there was an empty classroom in the school building that I could use for the day, so we moved everything over there. It was entertaining while it lasted!

Visitors….

I wrote a bit in a previous post about the much enjoyed visit from the Dad’s cousin, Marvin Mast, and his wonderful family. It was a short visit, but we packed it full of fun times. Their family had booked a photography tour of Angkor Wat for one day, and invited whoever wanted to to tag along. Everyone wanted to go, but in the end only Luke and I went. Several hours into the day we were all glad the younger children weren’t along. It was warm, we had to walk quite a bit, and the hoards of tourists around didn’t make that easy. Btw…one perk of coming to see us is getting to see one of the “Seven Wonders of the World”. I didn’t even realize until after we got here that one of them was located right here in Siem Reap. It was very interesting to see the temples up close and to hear about how they were made. To be honest though, after awhile they all started looking the same, and so my favorite part of the day was just getting to know the Masts. Thanks for coming y’all! Don’t wait so long for the next visit!

A Trip Across the Sea…

The day after my last post about Grandmom’s passing was a blur of activity and planning. There were plans to be made, packing to be done, and tickets to be bought. Mom, Dad, the four youngest children and I left for the States Monday evening already, and the four boys followed the next day. The next week and a half were filled to the brim with family, friends, tears, and laughter.

I was able to fly to South Carolina to get some things out of storage for our family and to renew my drivers’ license (PTL!). An added benefit of going to SC was the time I could spend catching up with some dear friends. The time spent with them was just what I needed. And the ‘real’ hamburgers, fresh peaches, and sweet tea they served me were simply amazing!

I caught a ride up to Tennessee with friends then the day before the funeral. It was so wonderfully bittersweet to see all my uncles, aunts, cousins, and Granddad again. It was a busy time, but good…crying together, sharing precious memories of our dear Grandmom, and laughing like only Helmuths can. Like one of my aunts said would happen, we left feeling like we’d seen so many people and being happy about that, but feeling sad that we hadn’t been able to spend much quality time with so many of them.

*Random insert* At the visitation and funeral, I was happy to hear from many of you that you enjoy hearing about our life in Cambodia through this blog, and in the newsletter ALAM sends out. After a number of such comments though, I did begin to wish that more people would think about how much WE would enjoy hearing from THEM! =) You might think your lives are boring and that no one wants to hear about your daily ‘stuff’, but you really have no idea how much the emails we get from home mean to us. We love to hear from you – to know that we are remembered. Those emails and comments make the time and effort that goes into this blog worth it. *End of rant* =)

After the funeral we travelled to Kentucky to mom’s sister’s home, and spent the remainder of our time with them. We were able to do some shopping for things we can’t buy in Cambodia, so that was nice. Mom, Dad, and the four youngest flew home on Wednesday and arrived home the following evening, and Granddad took my brothers and I to catch our flight in Nashville the following day.

Our flight from Minneapolis to Seattle was delayed due to mechanical failures, and then delayed again, and then canceled. The airline was asking for volunteers to be ‘bumped’ to a flight the next day in exchange for flight vouchers. We quickly called home to ask dad about that possibility, and he said, “Absolutely!” So we talked to a representative, got five tickets home for the next day, and five $1300 vouchers in our pockets! Those will be a huge blessing the next time we need to fly home. Then we found our way to a motel, and tumbled into bed for some wonderful sleep. Once we were rested enough think straight, we got a shuttle to the gigantic Mall of America to find some food and to occupy ourselves until bedtime. (Minneapolis is a great place to have an extended layover!) Thankfully our flights the next day were all without delay. By the time we got home, we were all feeling pretty drained, both emotionally and physically, and a lot of the next week was spent getting our nights and days straightened out and catching up on much needed sleep.

We as a family would like to thank you all for your support during the time of Grandmom’s sickness and death. Your kind emails, phone calls, and prayers of support meant so much. So many people went out of their way to help us with tickets, food, and lodging. Thank you, too, to those of you who helped with the cost of flying home. Your support and friendship means so much.

And….that’s all for now!

loridawn

Coming up next…

Sunsets, snakes, crocs, class trips, and a new classroom! =)