December 29, 2011


Two days ago our group of nine crawled out of bed early to catch a bus to Siem Reap.  It was a six hour bus ride including a stop for lunch that was less than appetizing.  Let's just say that Nathan practiced trying to catch a fly with his chop sticks the entire meal.....and he had many victims to choose from.

We arrived in Siem Reap a little unsure of our agenda.  All twelve orphanages under Asia's Hope in Cambodia were going to be here and the goal was to spend some more time with our kiddos from Vista.  We got here a day before the kids so we had some time to explore Angkor Wat along with other famous temples.  Apparently it's amazing to see Angkor Wat at sunrise so we got up at 4 a.m. and made our way by tuk tuk in the dark to this historical location.

I know very little about these temples.  I did zero research before going and we opted out of getting a guide which was fine with me seeing as how I can get impatient with Scot for reading an informative sign never mind listening to someone talk about carvings for an hour.  As it turned out, we spent ten hours exploring, climbing, and coercing the kids with promises of pool time and snacks.  I took hundreds of pictures and was overall amazed with all we saw.

Marla and I were both fighting off stomach issues this day.  We never did figure out what caused it in either of us, but my guess is that whatever found me to be tasty enough to bite me over 40 times may have caused my fever, nausea and vomiting all afternoon and evening.  

I opted out of dinner retreating under my covers alternating between swearing off food for the rest of my life, wanting to take a bristle brush to my legs, and freezing from fever.  Marla checked on me when they got back and informed me that all twelve orphanages would be having a Christmas program in the morning and we were invited to join.

There was NO way I was going to miss out on my last chance to see the kids.

Oh my.  There are zero words to express how much this morning meant to me.  A room full of kids and their house parents all dressed in costume and with props since each orphanage was going to have a chance to perform.

The feeling of being recognized by our kids and having them run to us and proudly lead us to seats in the front row.  The feeling of all those sweet arms wrapped around my neck.  The feeling as we watched the kids perform.

The Most Adorable Award went to these cute kids dressed as lambs.

While we were at the guest house in Phnom Phen we had the opportunity to meet two young men in their 20's, Jarod and Chris, that recently moved to Cambodia to help a local church.  I asked a ton of questions and found out that Jarod's family supports at least one of the orphanages.  His family is also responsible for gifting all the kids with the trip to Siem Reap.  His parents were flying to Cambodia in time for the Christmas program. I have to say that watching Jarod's dad while the kids from the orphanage he supports sang on stage, was almost more than I could take.  He grinned and cheered on the kids and his wife cried through the entire thing and I was a huge mess.  The kids sang Worthy is the of my all time favorites....and I could barely contain myself.

Then it was time for our kids.  We hooted and hollered and clapped as they went on stage to perform a fishing dance.  I couldn't resist the picture of Sovern, the house dad, as he recorded his kid's performance.

It ended too quickly and I was dreading our good-byes.  We gathered together for one last group photo......I'm hidden in the middle surrounded by the kids.  Absolute heaven.

Sovern let them know we were leaving and we started hugging the kids.  I was holding it together until I saw this....

very quickly followed by this.....

but the damage was already done and I was a goner.  I was hugging and promising to visit again and trying to keep some composure.  I looked around for Scot and saw that he wasn't doing much better than I was.

This is certainly nowhere near the most attractive photo ever taken of us.  But what I see when I look at this picture is not a girl with a swollen nose from crying or red eyes or hair that needs to be washed....what I see is a couple who has been challenged and changed by a group of 22 orphans, 4 young adults trying to make a difference at the Boy's Center, and the incredible Taviano family.

I am amazed at how much life we have lived in the last 8 days and it was possible because of the vision and passion of Marla and her family.  They worked tirelessly as a family for a year to raise the funds to get here and I am humbled by the depth of their love for the people in Cambodia.

I had never met Marla in person and we had no idea what was going to happen when our families joined together in some difficult situations, 24/7, for eight days.  In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined it being any more perfect than it was.  Marla and I were instant real life friends, our husbands got along great and our kids were inseparable.

Our families said good-bye to each other tonight and there were lots of tears.  I just don't want it to be over.  It makes me smile to write that sentence remembering how I felt just a couple of weeks ago.  Wow......things have changed!

I know this post is super long and I'm sure that's against some sort of blogging rule but I am at a loss for how to wrap things up.

Let's just say that I am speechless.

Except for this.....

God is so, so, so very good.

December 26, 2011

An Extraordinary Day

It was a morning unlike any Christmas morning we've ever had before.  There was no tree, no decorations, no cinnamon rolls and coffee, and no presents.

Or so we thought.

Because turns out the Tavianos got a word from God and gifted us with a bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms and there was great rejoicing by the Jenkins.  They also gave us a super fun game and an adorable birthday banner that Marla's sister had made.

We are staying at a guest house run by a pastor and his wife.  They have been incredible hosts and work hard to provide an affordable and comfortable place for short term missionaries to stay.  There is a beautiful courtyard where most mornings you will find the kids playing chase and the adults on laptops.

Christmas morning was no different except the kids had something special brewing for the four of us adults.  I was called in to assist as narrator and was in awe at the homemade costumes and organization as they put together a re-enactment of the Christmas story to usher in Christmas Day.  There was the normal bickering as they worked through their creative differences (aka: Nathan wasn't getting to  run the show) and then Garrett rang the 5 min warning bell.

I knew that dragging him to the theater would come in handy!

They had placed plastic chairs in a row with my chair stuck in some bushes because apparently narrating meant channeling my inner Disney where music and magical voices come from vegetation.

The story opened up with Mary receiving a visit from the angel Gabriel.....

Mary and Joseph proceeding into Bethlehem.  Not pictured....Nathan as the donkey Mary rode.  And don't let Garrett's face fool you, he was totally into the whole thing.

There was an adorable shepherd that played her part perfectly.  Not pictured....Nathan as a lamb and then Nathan as a wise man.  The costume changes were frantic but he managed to pull it off. 

They finished up the telling of the Christmas story by singing a few Christmas carols and I can honestly say it was perfect.  It was spontaneous, home made, and wonderful.

After a few rounds of Spot It (you must get this is crazy fun), we headed out for lunch and then to the riverfront to wait on the entire orphanage to arrive.  Asia's Hope was treating them to an hour long boat ride along the river and the kids were super excited!

The river is really low right now and not particularly pretty, but that didn't stop these kids from loving every moment of it.

Our kids had a great time with their friends....there was a lot of running and laughing and posing while Marla and I prayed no one would go over the railing that was about a foot high on top of the boat.

It seemed only appropriate that our two real life angels from the Boy's Center, Yvonne and Steph, joined us on the boat ride.  I find it incredible that they both are involved in ministries outside of their own.  I'm just in complete awe of them.

After the boat ride we took the kids out for fried chicken, french fries, and ice cream cones.  They were in heaven!!!  It was a huge treat for them and I was so impressed at how sweet and gracious they were....all 20 of them.

Christmas night we had tickets to a church event.  Panha and Visna are brothers that work with Yvonne and Steph at the Boy's Center.  They invited us and we were honored to attend this not so small event.

And then came dinner.....

Because we didn't get a chance to give Panha and Veasna the gifts we had brought them, we did it today.  If you remember from a couple of posts ago about Panha sneaking up into the toy room at the Boy's Center to play with toys, you can understand how excited we were to give him his presents.  The Tavianos were super generous with both of them and we gave them micro lego type things.

After reading about Panha, Nathan had decided to give him his PSP and some games.....along with a verbal instruction manual.

If our boys turn out anything like these two when they are older, I would be thrilled.

We leave in this morning for Siem Reap which is a 5-6 hour bus ride from here.  Heaven help me.

That meant saying good-bye to our new friends and it wasn't easy.  I have been inspired and humbled by the people we've met here.  They make me want to be a better person.

Last picture with our tuk tuk drivers.....Po Heng and Po Sivana.

I can not believe how quickly these last 6 days have flown by.  We have 3 days in Siem Reap, Cambodia before we begin our journey home.  All four of us are excited to come back to Phnom Phen to spend time with our new friends and continue to invest in the amazing things God is doing through some folks that are faithful and humble and obedient and self-sacrificing.

Now that we know, we have to do something.  It is, I believe, one of the reasons we are here.

Thank you all for your words of encouragement and prayer.  It has meant a lot to all of us!

Merry Christmas!!!!

December 23, 2011

Picture This

This is one of those times when pictures are going to tell a better story than I am.  At some point, after we've returned to Singapore and I've been able to process all that I've seen and heard, I will be able to hopefully share with you how in the world I think we can take what we know now and infuse it with our lives.  This is one of those times I'm super glad I'm married to a guy that doesn't make decisions based on his emotions because I'd be going home with 9 more children if I could.

The boys and their new friends....the Taviano their tuk tuk.  

We arrived at the Boy's Center where the kids were waiting outside for the doors
to open.  The Center has been in operation for only a few months and provides
a safe place for boys that have been sold into the sex trade industry by
their parents or are at risk for being sold.  They get to be kids and play, learn English 
so they can someday earn money without being abused, and they have Bible club were 
they learn about true love.  We've been asked to not show any faces
of these boys online, but believe me when I say that I have a ton...and they
are smiling and happy because they are safe and loved there.

While there are many places for young girls and teens that are immersed in
the sex trafficking business, this is the only center in Cambodia specifically for
the boys.  

We got to be a part of the Christmas party......
the younger boys made these hats and they looked adorable in them!

Every single boy got a Christmas goody bag stuffed mostly with things
we and the Tavianos brought with us.  Thank you very much to those
of you that were involved in helping us give them some really cool stuff!

Working with the Boy's Center staff to fill bags!

Meet Yvonne and Steph.....they are real life angels.  Both of them are in 
their 20's and have devoted their lives to these boys.  They currently run
the Boy's Center with a Cambodian staff (who make less than $200 a month each) 
and are financed entirely by individual donors.  They love and fight for these boys 
and are incredibly humble and selfless......they are two of the most beautiful women
I have ever met. 

Steph loving on "baby P" who is 4 years old.  He had been coming to the 
center for a while before a series of events alerted the staff to the fact
that he and his older brother and sister had been sold by their parents to
a foreigner for sex.  It is absolutely horrific and devastatingly sad, but
so good that he is loved and in counseling and has people investing
in his sweet young life.  

I think this shirt says it all.....

We have also been to an orphanage sponsored by Asia's Hope.  This particular orphanage is supported by the Taviano's church back in Ohio.  There was a difference in the kids at the orphanage as compared to the Boy's Center.  They are more confident and secure and are getting an education...they are safe and loved.  The kids there eagerly await the Taviano's arrival and we got to be a part of that.  We drove up in our tuk tuks to the sounds of kids yelling their hello's and were welcomed with hugs from everyone.  

The boys have been wonderful with the kids this entire trip.  They have 
jumped right in and handled all of it very well.  

Garrett and his new friend Sophan getting ready to play a game that 
required everyone to pair up.  

And then it was silly string time.  We had brought quite a few 
cans with us and the kids LOVED it!!  

This is Sothourn with my friend Marla who is responsible for us being here.  
She is incredible and has a huge heart for Cambodia.

After some discussion we went ahead and let Garrett bring his
guitar with him to Cambodia.  I'm really glad we did....he loved
hanging out with some of the older boys playing their guitars.

Scot has been a kid magnet...especially to the younger kids.  That little boy
in the striped shirt?  He's the cutie from my previous post that had the
enormous smile and pipe cleaner glasses.  He's even more adorable
in real life!!

He was very popular when he started throwing kids in the air.  I love all the
hands raised from the kids wanting to be next!!

While I spent more time taking pictures than anything else, I did sit at the orphanage
long enough for this sweet girl to climb into my lap.  She eventually turned around
to give me a big hug that I desperately needed.  That and a good shampoo to 
get all the silly string out of my hair.

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