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! =)