I am back, and mostly recovered from my two weeks in Cambodia. I’m taking today to show you pictures and share a few stories with you. It was an awesome trip and we had a lot of fun but it was also very heavy.
Cambodia has a very sad history; from the beginning they have been a very oppressed country but most recently (1975-1979) they endured 4 years of ruling by the Khmer Rouge and it is estimated that at least 1,386,734 victims were executed and an additional 1.7 to 2.5 million died because of disease, starvation, etc. (source) The leader of our trip, Chamron, was a survivor of the Khmer Rouge ruling, they tried to execute him many times but God spared his life.
On our very first day in Cambodia we toured 2 sites of the Killing Fields, which was very sad, surreal, and emotional. I don’t know why but they photographed their victims before executing them so in one of the museums there were pictures of hundreds of victims just lining the room. This picture ripped my heart out, seeing a mother and her infant.
The second site we went to was where mass graves were cleaned out in the 1980’s. When they cleaned out the graves they saved all the skulls and put them on display in this tower. Our leader said some of those skulls are probably from friends and family members of his, it was so incredibly surreal.
Each one of the big holes in the ground is a grave where between 50-150 people were buried.
Here’s a full look at the building that is full of skulls.
After this very sobering day we were excited, the next day, to get to go out to a village and hang out with some of the beautiful people of Cambodia. In the village 4 churches had gathered to come hear Chamron speak. They were so excited to see us and gave us a sweet welcoming, including fresh coconut milk, straight from the coconut!
While the adults were listening to our leader preach we got to work with the precious children. We taught them how to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in English, we played games with them, colored, passed out candy and crosses.
After the ministry time was over we walked out to a pond for baptisms. It was so moving to see people flood the pond to be baptized, and the joy that was on their faces when they came out of the water.
The people in this village were so precious.
I can’t post pictures of the girls that went with me from the safe house but it was so awesome to see them enjoying the people, playing with the kids, praying for people, and stepping out of their comfort zones in every way possible.
One of the more adventurous ways a few of them stepped out of their comfort zones was to eat crazy stuff! The craziest things they ate were tarantulas, crickets, snails and balut. This seriously gave me the heebee geebies and I was not about to eat any of those things but I did take pictures of all of them eating them! Here’s a picture of one of the girls from our team, holding a tarantula and then eating one!
The most adventurous thing I tried was sugar cane juice, pressed straight from the cane at a street cart. It was good but I kept thinking about how unsanitary it was so I had a hard time finishing it.
Here are two pictures of what traditional Cambodian homes looks like. It’s basically just a large room with 4 walls, if they are lucky. A lot of the homes only have 3 walls. The bathroom and kitchen are in a separate room outside of the house.
Another village we went to was way out in the jungle. It was so far out there we had to ride in a trailer on the back of a tractor-type thing to get out there. Just getting there was an adventure.
Everyone we met was so precious. How can you not love these faces?
One of the things I loved about this day was getting to pass out clothes to the children and the moms with babies. The kids were so shy and didn’t know how to receive the clothes which broke my heart. I’m sure they are not given things very often, if ever, so it was very emotional getting to bless them with clothes and other goodies. I love this picture of the little girl with her new purple tank top.
On my birthday we got to do my favorite thing from the whole trip. We traveled way up a mountain to visit the soldiers that protect the border of Cambodia from Thailand.
While we were up there we visited the ruins of an ancient temple. The soldiers told our leader that the temple had been in tact until 2011 when Thailand attacked the border trying to take over that portion of Cambodia.
On the way down the mountain we passed out noodles to the soldiers, and their families, that live along the road and fight to protect the country. The soldiers there are not paid well and they are never paid on time, so they don’t know when their next meal will be. It’s really sad that they have given their lives to fight for the country but the government writes them off and takes advantage of them. Seeing them come out of their stations and run to our truck was moving but seeing the joy and gratitude on their faces, when we handed them the food, was so incredible, I absolutely loved it.
Overall the trip was awesome. I had a hard time because I didn’t fall in love with the country, like people often do on missions trips, but my heart did break for the people. It is such an oppressed, fear-based country that my heart breaks for the people and what they have endured, and continue to endure.
The thing that broke my heart more than anything (I don’t have pictures) was seeing young girls being trafficked. There was one night that my future daughter saw two girls go into a hotel room, not far from ours, and then come out a short time later. It killed me that she had to see that but it did spur on a good conversation about how the families in Cambodia are so poor that many parents will sell their children for money, so the rest of the family can eat. It is not a life the girls choose, but one they are sold into by their own families. Talking to her about it shattered my heart but it was that conversation that made me realize that I will go back to Cambodia someday to love on those girls. I have no idea what it will look like, or when it will happen but it’s my heart to take my whole family over their to show the trafficked girls God’s love, and to give them hope.
Thank you so much for your prayers, encouragement and support for my trip. This trip truly changed me and gave me a whole new perspective on how incredibly blessed I am, to have been born in America, and to have the life I have.
laura wilson says
Wow- sounds like a great experience! Just seeing your photos makes me want to go back…. thanks for sharing your story!
God bless you and the others who went with you–just seeing the pictures of those beautiful people brought tears come to my eyes. The “killing fields” of Cambodia showed once again the depths to which we humans can sink.
We too often forget how blessed we are to have so much when so many have so little. Thank you for the reminder.
You are so blessed. Thanks for sharing a little bit of those that have so little and still smile. The little girl that you were holding in the last picture said it all. Thanks for sharing.
Carol Wood says
Thank you for going and for this post. I knew about the killing fields but the aftermath pictures you took were very sobering. Kind of reminded me of going through a WWII concentration camp in Germany a number of years ago. There is a building in a cemetery in Verdun, France (the location of a years long battle during WWI) which houses bones of soldiers whose remains were dismembered. You can peer into the basement windows of this building and see mounds of skull, stacks of femurs, etc. Very, very sobering. Our church (First Baptist Church, Jonesboro, GA) has smaller ethnic congregations which meet in our facilities. One of these congregations is a Cambodian congregation. They meet in the church’s chapel which is also the same place where my husband teaches an adult S.S. class. Their congregation meets right after our class ends. The Cambodian pastor usually sits in our Sunday School class before leading his services. We see the Cambodian congregants every Sunday. Most are fairly young but the seniors are the ones I find interesting. They don’t normally speak English which is probably good for them because I would, no doubt, be trying to “interview” them regarding their experiences! After reading your post I am going to suggest to my husband that he invite the Cambodian pastor to speak to our class one Sunday. I would love to hear him speak.