I sit here on the brink of finally beginning to write and realize my coffee cup is empty. There is a debate going on in my head, longer than socially acceptable, on whether I should pause for the few minutes it takes to brew a second cup, or (knowing myself) risk being distracted by something shiny, a message on Facebook or the next song playing on Spotify. And there goes yet another day not telling you the glories upon glories Gap G and I encountered as we followed the Lord to and through Cambodia. So, with an empty coffee cup that will find itself full soon enough, let us continue.
July 2nd marks two months of having returned to US soil. I’ve spent most of that time visiting family and friends around the country but these last two weeks have been more constant as I’ve been back in my hometown region of Dubuque and Galena. I’ve had more opportunities to meet with many of you to share about my last year than I ever expected (keep ’em coming!). And I again thank you for listening to me go on and on. I’m pretty sure if anyone gave me eternity, I would still have something new to share. But that’s God for you, infinite.
Generally as I’ve started out sharing about my time leading Gap G and what the Lord has done I start from the beginning and work to the end: Guatemala, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Cambodia. Chronologically makes sense. Yet as the time limit I am given comes to an end, I never feel that I can sum up Cambodia and my time in Asia sufficiently. There are too many faces, friends, stories and miracles. But the one image the Lord continues to press upon my heart is that His story for Cambodia is one that parallels most of ours: a history of pain, sorrow, rejection, deep loss and heartache with wounds that are still open and tender. People longing for love and to be loved. Little by little God is working, restoring and redeeming their story as a country and as individuals. Jesus loves Cambodia and her Khmer people.
If you spend a few minutes researching Cambodia you will come across the well known ruins of Angkor Wat and the more recent heartbreaking “ruins” of life, the Killing Fields, from the genocide that took place in the 70’s killing nearly 1/4th of the nation’s population. Though this took place close to 40-some years ago, this still impacts communities today. The air is heavy and weighted with sorrow and pain. Families are still struggling to make ends meet and often, children sacrifice their education to work long hours in factories to support their family and keep food on the table.
But despite this history, despite the struggles and a present day fight for a freedom seeking life, love and liberty, the Khmer people live out some of the deepest kindness, generosity, love and joy that I have witnessed in my years of travel. Rarely have I gone for a run or walk to the store without receiving a “bob of the head” and hands at heart-center greeting me “Good day,” children and adults alike. They see you and let you know that you are known.
Partnering with our brothers in Christ in a small village south of Phnom Penh we would walk throughout the village praying for the elderly and young. More often than not, we were welcomed and received with joy. The country’s official religion is Buddhism and we were openly Christian, yet they still humbly and gratefully received our company, conversation and prayers. Teaching English at the Joy Community Center was our favorite time of day. The students ranging from 4-20 years old were eager to learn, eager to practice their English and at the end of class, always looked forward to a water fight with baby powder, balloons and buckets.
Through the gospel, through living out the love of Christ on a daily basis these people encountered the love of God through our smiles, our songs, playing a pick-up game of football (soccer) or tag. The women I was privileged to serve alongside with, Team Beehive and our Khmer sisters in Christ, gave abundantly from their hearts. Rarely did I encounter them with empty hands: walking with a student or our Khmer family, holding hands and carrying a sweet babe, or giving away whatever they had to offer. Deep love and deep joy inhabit the Joy Community Center and it is impossible not to encounter the source: living waters and the well from which it they drawn, Jesus Christ.
A few of my sisters from Team Beehive have written some beautiful and powerful testimonies about our time in Cambodia and the stories of our Khmer sisters. I’d like to encourage you to take a few more minutes, make another cup of coffee and continue reading about the Kingdom Jesus is creating in Asia, specifically in the Kingdom of Cambodia. He receives all the glory as your eyes read these words that give testimony of His love, His provision, His faithfulness and His goodness.
My Life in Cambodia – Maggie Gibson
She Is Unstoppable – Maggie Gibson
Let the Redeemed of the Lord Tell Their Story – Emily Westbrook