For almost two years, I sensed God pulling me to follow Him to another country. This summer, He led me to Cambodia to teach English and meet Cambodians who need to hear the Gospel so they can move from darkness into light. I eagerly went while in my mind expecting God to call me to a third-world country to set up Teaching English as a Second Language program. I desired to escape America, but He had and still has other plans.
This trip to Cambodia was harder than I expected. To me, 30 days in Cambodia meant 14 days of homesickness, 12 days of joy, four days of illness and days upon days of peace after my return to America as He led me into new paths built upon the lessons He had taught me in on foreign soil. I thank God for giving me times of testing this summer so that I would learn I need Him every hour. But, that is not all I learned.
1. Cambodia is hot. The humidity drained me of energy at times. Sometimes in Cambodia, you just need to rest. Imagine the hottest, most humid summer day—that is probably equivalent to 9 a.m. in Cambodia.
2. Cambodia is not the cleanest of countries. Many people are homeless; many beg; many live in shacks. In the villages, the children have a peculiar smell and in the capital city, it is not uncommon to see people brushing their teeth in the gutters. Women picking lice from children’s hair is a frequent sight. My shallow, almost daily prayer was, “Lord, please do not allow me to get lice.” Life there is so different.
3. Cambodians are friendly people. The Cambodians are the warmest people I have ever met. It is impossible for an American to venture into public without hearing numerous “Hellos!” and seeing many smiles. It is like being famous. Everyone wants to talk to you. In the villages the people are more shy, but welcoming nonetheless. The Cambodian Christians have a glow and many loved to ask how long I have been a Christian and how I have changed since being a Christian and what Christ means to me.
4. Do not carry bananas near monkeys. They will smell them and do whatever it takes to get the bananas from you. While hiking a mountain, I carried a bag of bananas with me for a snack. The monkeys upon smelling them turned nasty and confiscated the bananas for themselves. I now fear monkeys more than I fear tigers or centipedes.
5. Sometimes we need refining. God needed to take what I held tightly—the beautiful weather in PA, my family, my church family, my health, a comfortable pillow, styled hair, my family’s orchards in the countryside—to teach me to hold these things loosely, to show that He is the source of these blessings and to see where my hope lies. Refining isn’t fun, but it’s for our good. God tries us and wants us to come forth as gold (Job 23:10).
6. The love of God is beyond geographical boundaries. He knows every person in His universe. The village where I taught existed where few would have reason to venture. I stared at the kids as they sang songs about Jesus thinking, “God knows every child and has a future for them. He loves these children who are unknown to the rest of the world.” Some of them will be a part of all tribes and peoples worshiping before the throne of God. I am grateful to experience a small taste of that beforehand.
7. I love America. Now I have no hint that God has ordained for me serve in that developing land. I had longed to leave this country. At first, it was disappointing to be called back here. But the disappointment was short-lived. As I stepped foot onto America’s soil and became gloriously overwhelmed by washing machines, the comforter on my bed, safe water to brush my teeth, a macadam driveway, restaurants with doors, the smile of my father and worship with my church family, I declared to God, “I love this land!” Ignited in me, by the flame of our God, is a desire to reach America for Christ: To see all our nation, young and old, follow Him devotedly.
And now, I plead with you to follow our Sovereign Lord to the land where He has ordained for you to journey. Perhaps, you will have a similar experience to mine—He’ll send you to a foreign country because there are lessons He needs to teach you that He cannot teach you here. And then He’ll send you back to live, move, breathe in Him as you serve on the soil of America. Or perhaps He plans for you are to go “become all things to all people” in another country, to another tribe, in order to win some to Him (1 Corinthians 9:22, TNIV). As was told to me in the past, delayed obedience is disobedience in the eyes of our Savior, so go as soon as He calls.
Do not fear; do not hesitate, though He may lead you to a rugged place. For He promises, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn darkness into light before them and make rough places smooth” (Isaiah 42:16, TNIV). Wherever you go, join me in praying that many nations will declare, “For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:8-9, TNIV). We will one day worship Christ in heaven with the redeemed of America, Cambodia and the uttermost parts of the earth. May we be faithful in serving Him on earth today.