During our first year on God’s mission with Stronghold Cambodia we spent much of our time out of our comfort zone physically, emotionally and spiritually. We talked about how our “right” and “wrong” boxes had shrunken but the greatest change was in our “different” box as it grew in leaps and bounds. There is a saying in Cambodia, “same, same, but different” which pretty well sums up our acclimation to living in Cambodia.
Initially, relationships took a direct hit from Satan as we struggled with separation from our family and friends and acclimation to the Khmer culture. Skype, email and face book helped bridge the gap with those back home, but it was not the same as being there. As personal family issues weighed heavy on our hearts, we came to realize that these hardships were Satan’s attack against God’s work in and through us. Our dependence upon God to work in the lives of those we loved increased because we were absent and unable to help them ourselves. God’s love shined through Jesse’s family and our new Christian Khmer friends who welcomed, encouraged and prayed for us here just as our family and friends did at home.
When we returned to Cambodia this year, we returned to a familiar place instead of a new place and our relationships grew and changed even more. Just as we had rejoiced at the reunion with our families and friends in the USA, we rejoiced at being reunited with our family (students, parents and staff at SC) and friends here in Cambodia. We now felt as if our hearts were in two places – each half way across the world from the other. We were no longer simply serving as English teachers but we were now developing deeper relationship with those we came to serve as well as those we came to serve alongside. This role change added a new sense of value to our work.
At the same time, our appreciation grew for the short-term mission teams who travel half-way around the world joining us in God’s mission to share Jesus’ love with the people of Cambodia. Their visits refresh and restore our own faith as we work together as God’s body of believers on the ground in Cambodia. God nourishes us through their love and care for us personally. The time that we gather with them to share in Holy Communion is especially precious to us. While on furlough in the USA this past summer, we were overwhelmed by the privilege of coming together with a body of believers to worship and praise God in our own heart language.
Just as life in Cambodia is “same, same, but different,” we too are “same, same, but different” as we have grown and changed through God’s work in us. Join us as we pray for the short-term mission team traveling to Cambodia now, that through this experience God return them to the USA “same, same, but different.” May we all thank and praise God that although He is working in each one of us to mold us into vessels that leak Him to the culture where we are planted, God remains the same yesterday, today and forever.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.