When I was asked to write about my recent trip to Cambodia I was very excited. Serving is my passion and although I’ve worked on service projects in South America, nothing touched me like this trip to the wonderful nation of Cambodia. Our group agreed to help construct a building that will function as a church and school for a small community of outside of Takeo. A couple of us were also asked to help teach English at one of the local schools. I’m not sure what I expected Cambodia to be like but I fell in love with the country and the people there stole my heart.
During the day we would make the one hour drive to the small rural village where the church and school were being built. It was fulfilling to know that the many young children who lived nearby would soon have a safe place to worship and gain an education.
There were probably fifty or sixty children in the community, and I miss all of them so much. While I went there to serve them, I cannot begin to explain the impact that these kids had on me. They were happy all the time and I was constantly greeted with big, beautiful smiles. Just talking about them makes me tear up.
Once again I was in awe of how people who have very little in the way of material possessions can be so happy. This is very different from to the attitude in the United States. It broke my heart to come home to a place where we want for little, yet find so many reasons to grumble and be unhappy. Every time I go on a trip like this, it refreshes my perspective on life. No longer can I live the same way I used to. Not after seeing how many in the rest of the world live.
I spent a lot of time getting to know the children and I will be the first to say that I was the one who came out very blessed. At first I was a little nervous because I don’t speak Khmer and they don’t speak English, but it did not take long for all of us to realize that we had a common goal; to love. Would it have meant as much to these people if had gone to Cambodia just to build a building, but spent no time building relationships? We had the opportunity to show them that we love them dearly, even from across the world, and found that they love us dearly as well.
Even the smallest children joined in to help us move large rocks and buckets of gravel. This really touched me as I thought of the times I helped my dad install sprinklers in the yard, or helped mow the lawn. In reality I was sitting on my dad’s shoulders while he mowed the lawn, but I still look back and think “I installed the sprinklers and I mowed the lawn”. That is exactly the kind of memories the kids we met in Cambodia will have and I hope they cherish them as much as I do. When they are attending school they will look back and say, “I built this school”. For me that is worth every drop of sweat, and every penny spent.
When we first arrived in the village they were just planning on the building being for church only, because they didn’t have the funds to start the school. We asked how much it would cost to start a school and were surprised that it would only take an additional nine hundred dollars. We were not okay with leaving this building that we had all worked so hard on as just a church, when we had the opportunity to provide a school as well. All thirteen of us pooled our money together and raised about fifteen hundred dollars to start up a school. The additional funds went towards school supplies for the kids.
Our last day in Cambodia was bitter sweet. Everyone was so excited that there would now be a church and a school in that community, but we were extremely sad to part ways. As we were saying goodbye to the kids, two girls that were holding onto me started crying and asked when I was coming back. Well of course I had to start bawling too, and pretty soon our entire team was drowning in tears.
Our team put a lot of sweat, and for some unfortunate people in our group, blood, into that building. However, it is all worth it knowing that we made a difference in the lives of so many children. I encourage everyone to serve in some way, whether it is in your local community, or half way across the world. Don’t just make a difference, be the difference!
I believe that if we go into everything with a serving heart and good attitude we can have a positive impact in the lives of others. Whether you are half way around the world or in your home town, giving a little more of yourself than is expected goes a long way toward building relationships that last a lifetime. This is especially true for small business owners. If a customer is having a bad day, be the person to make them smile or laugh. If a customer is really struggling, do your best to lend a helping hand. Your customers will appreciate your heart for service, just as the people in Cambodia appreciated my team’s heart.
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows (Isaiah 1:17).
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice (Proverbs 31:8-9).