This is a final journal entry as part of the OCC Volunteer Discovery Trip. Unlike all other posts, this one is not planned, based on the program/journal guide provided. It is intentionally written such that there has been a slight break between all other posts/journal entries – written in real-time over the weekend of 27-28 February.
The other articles available for this series are:
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #1: Introduction
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #2: God First
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #3: 7 Days Before You Depart
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #4: 6 Days Before You Go
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #5: 5 Days and Counting
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #6: 4 Days – Not Long Now
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #7: 3 Days Left
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #8: Less Than 48 Hours!
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #9: What Will Happen When You Return?
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #10: Today Is the Day
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #11: Day 2
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #12: Day 3
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #13: Day 4
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #14: Day 5
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #15: Day 6
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #16: Day 7
- Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #17: The Aftermath? [this article]
Reflection Questions & Guide
- What did I learn about myself?
- What did I learn about God?
- What did I learn about the people, the church, the Christian community in the country I visited (Cambodia)?
- What did I learn about how culture impacts the way people live and understand the gospel?
- What did I learn about justice, economics, poverty, and politics during my Discovery Trip?
- As a follower of Christ, what did I learn that can help me be a more fully devoted disciple?
- How might my faith be different if I had grown up where I visited, as opposed to my home community (Melbourne/Australia)?
- What did I learn or experience that will change the way I live and represent Jesus in my home community (Melbourne) and church (Clayton Church of Christ)?
- What have I learned about my own Christian calling?
- How can I continue to support the ongoing work of Samaritan’s Purse?
The following write-up is my general response to the above questions. It was written as a reflection first, and I did so without reference to the questions above. In part, I think it addresses most if not all of the questions but specific answers will also be provided after.
Upon returning home, our fearless leader shared some initial thoughts highlighting that the transition back home would not always be easy and that it would be an important time to continue to support one another… some of us would have an easier time of it than others. The feeling/emotion of flatness was totally understandable given the “high” that we had just experienced. We were left with the final note that in the meantime, unpack, sleep, be patient with ourselves AND KNOW THAT OUR LIVES WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!
Within the first 24-48 hours of returning, I capitalised on the extra day annual leave to quickly assemble two videos:
- Operation Christmas Child – Distribution #1, Wednesday 3 February morning
- Operation Christmas Child – Distribution #2, Wednesday 3 February afternoon
Since then, I have not had a solid block of time to dedicate to editing more videos. Partly, the next video required is a 5-minute overview of the entire trip – something which is time-consuming primarily because I have ~130 videos to review as part of the source footage…
The following was shared by our Melbourne/Tasmania small group leader. Simon Guillebaud, a radical disciple of Christ doing Kingdom Work in Burundi with his wife and 3 kids has lately given me much food for thought in one of his books. He talks about “calling” vs “career”. We often confuse calling as something full-time ministers or missionaries do. Simon suggests everything we engage in every area of society should be our “calling”. The biggest difference is that we can retire from our careers but we are never “uncalled”, even during times of unemployment. I quote a short prayer of his:
Lord count me in! I don’t know what my life will look like, but I trust YOU as the Caller. Amen!
I totally agree and subscribe to this teaching since, in part, through my journal, I hope I have demonstrated my approach and attitude to the Discovery Trip experience – that God was already moving and working in my life in the month leading up to the trip. I hope the consistency and long-term view that God has install within me has permeated all that I have written up here – for both my personal benefit and reflection as well as any inspiration it has brought you – the reader.
In quickly browsing through the various hard-copy material that forms my Samaritan’s Purse Cambodia Discovery Trip experience, my attention was drawn to a flyer that could be used to elicit donations specifically for the water projects. The marketing appeal was cleverly applied such that filling a bottle with $2 coins would amount to the purchase of 4~5 bio-sand water filters. For some reason, God allowed me to connect the dots – on my coffee table was one pile from this most recent trip, and another pile of mementos from the earlier December family cruise trip, including one water bottle. This was not just any water bottle – it had been included in the package of photos as one of the items thrown in because of the total value spent – and the design was that of a photo water bottle. I opened up the water bottle unit, removed the template insert and add in the flyer – thus a new mechanism for fundraising was birthed from the combination of my two trips. Commencing on Friday 19 February at work, within the short space of that day, and a partial drive, I was able to quickly raise ~$170. A week later, having left the bottle lying dormant at work until that following Friday, I was able to conduct a second partial drive and increase the total collection to ~$270!
In that image above, each one of those five coin bars is 25 coins or $50! Unfortunately, my initial thought that storing $2 coins in that format would be the most efficient was proven wrong – the bottle circumference was too small to accommodate five of them… My objective will be to fill the bottle completely, and donate the entire bottle of proceeds to the Samaritan’s Purse project – only time will tell to see how long it takes me to achieve this goal.
This recent campaign was also my way of hooking into, and speaking about my trip. It enabled me to focus the message on the water projects as an example of other work Samaritan’s Purse does in developing nations such as Cambodia. Instead of limiting people to specific $2 coin donations, I opened the door to ANY donation amount. I would then take the non-$2 donations to the bank which was how I ended up with the second photo above. The $250 amount in $2 coins was the result of three bank visits.
In the first photo, you may notice the familiar sight of an Operation Christmas Child shoebox along with a slinky. This slinky was spotted in one of the workplace kitchen areas where it was advertised as a free gift – I took full and immediate advantage of its availability since it reminded me of one of the interactions we had with the kids in Cambodia – they had received a slinky and in order to help them learn and appreciate it, members of our team helped to line up our spare shoe-boxes into a step-ladder view. In this way, the kids were totally delighted to see the slinky in action.
These little signs have been useful to me as small but important acknowledgements from God that He is working here in Melbourne and in my life, just as much as He is in Cambodia. I strongly believe that my calling remains alive and relevant for the local mission field in my workplace as well as wherever I go. I have learnt to appreciate God and the various ways in which He works and manifests himself – God will use me to build His kingdom and spread His love to all. A number of other recent events all combine to reinforce this point in my life so stay tuned for my other blog posts.
I spent an evening with my life-group sharing with them about Cambodia – showing them ~25% of my video footage and photos still took over two-hours! As a result, this has provided some guidance on just how much harder editing the footage down to a total of 5-minutes! However, as of this weekend, our church ministry has now requested a report and presentation in readiness for Sunday 6 March! Fortunately, with my dad returning tomorrow from his overseas trip, that should help me free up time to complete this task.
Specific Question – Answer Responses
Q1: What did I learn about myself?
There are so many ways to address this question and focus the answer. I learnt that my experience as a traveller helps me cope with visiting new countries. I went on this Discovery Trip knowing a fair amount of what to expect – partly this was intentional and partly this reflected my already existing interest in Cambodia as a target mission field. My workplace ability and requirement to be flexible, adapting to whatever changes positions me well to go on trips like this, to handling anything that God and life throws at me. My easy-going personality allowed me to share freely and openly about my identity in Christ, my family background which helped to build trust and relationships with people.
On a fun note, I have not learned to cope without my phone or the internet since I had both with my throughout the trip. Did this become a hurdle to my engagement throughout the trip? No, I believe that I was careful not to overdo the technology lifestyle – I was consciously engaging with people, talking to them, being present. Whilst I filmed and took photos during the OCC shoe-box distributions, we also shared the responsibility such that I had plenty of time playing and bonding with the kids. Some of the show-case photos demonstrate this!
Q2: What did I learn about God?
Similar to everything shared and journaled to-date, I felt that given where I have been in my connection and closeness to God, there was no epiphany-type moment where I made any huge realisation. The experience and journey I have been on, with my church and life-group family in terms of hearing from God, meant that whilst I put the teaching into practice, I had no major spiritual encounters. Did I experience any spiritual attacks? Yes – but even in the month+ leading up to the Discovery Trip, I was completely mindful and proactive in expecting it to come. When they did come, I was suitably equipped to press into God and ward off the attacks. During the trip, even at the Angkor Wat, the main concern and debate over the intentional exposure to spiritual attack – at least for me – was all talk and no actual attack transpired. Even now, two weeks after returning to Melbourne, God has been a huge part of everything that has happened since and He continues to reveal Himself to me.
Q3: What did I learn about the people, the church, the Christian community in the country I visited (Cambodia)?
Cambodia as an officially Buddhist nation is a country where God is clearly working and moving. Although we only got a glimpse of the work of Samaritan’s Purse, and that sense may have filtered our overall experience, I could see the bigger picture/Kingdom of God at work. The nature of Samaritan’s Purse and the way they operate and interweave into the existing church network and deliver their various programs helped us truly appreciate God at work. The people of Cambodia have nothing, relative to the material wealth that I grow up and live in here in Melbourne, but in spite of this, they have the joy of the Lord. The joy of the Lord was really obvious to me in the churches and Christian community we saw.
Q4: What did I learn about how culture impacts the way people live and understand the gospel?
I truly appreciated the intentional itinerary/program that Samaritan’s Purse has developed. For Cambodia, understanding the spiritual aspects to their history and culture, in the snake tug-of-war symbols that their past religious/spiritual paradigm, helps us be more effective in witnessing and connecting with the people. The underlying brokenness and pain from the events of the 1970s and the total destruction of the Cambodian nation makes my heart cry for the people, but seeing them individually pick themselves up and get to the point of progress of now (2016), gives me hope that Christ is moving and changing hearts. As hard and painful that visits to S21/Genocide Museum and the Tuol Sleng/Killing Fields was, that God loves and died for all these sins makes me just praise God and surrender to His truly indescribable love for us all.
Q5: What did I learn about justice, economics, poverty, and politics during my Discovery Trip?
Justice can be viewed in worldly terms or God’s terms. The injustice of the Pol Pot regime is totally washed away by God’s grace, forgiveness, love and thus His heavenly eternal justice for the people of Cambodia. Justice in terms of the government leadership in the country is tempered by the varying level of corruption. Although this was material only discussed during the various bus trips, justice, economics, poverty and politics is all interwoven together in Cambodia. The position NGOs like Samaritan’s Purse have to adopt in standing up for justice, developing economically sound and sustainable programs, addressing poverty at its root, and navigating the political environment are all things they have accomplished with a lot of hard work. Resisting the corruption and bribes but then facing several months wait while the OCC shoe-boxes remained locked up in customs demonstrates SP have a team of God-fearing leaders.
Q6: As a follower of Christ, what did I learn that can help me be a more fully devoted disciple?
The biggest change is from the trip itself. Now that I can personalise the message, it makes my ability now to communicate the Gospel and need to take action in whatever shape or form, is that much easier. Just as going on the trip was an act of obedience, and I got the tangible opportunity to apply the Gospel and Word of God, remembering the kids, their faces and the tangible outcomes and impact of Samaritan’s Purse makes me know it is definitely worth the effort.
Q7: How might my faith be different if I had grown up where I visited, as opposed to my home community (Melbourne/Australia)?
This question is not new or specific necessarily to the recent Cambodia Discovery Trip since it has been discussed locally here in Melbourne. When I think of my position in this world given my upbringing, education, skills, jobs and network, I have so much material possession. However, I have grown in faith over the years to not be too attached to things of this world – as much as I love certain things in this world (Lego, Star Wars, Apple products) – they pale in comparison to the love and relationship I have with God.
I have often wondered if I would be as passionate and close to God had I not lost my mum when I was little. It is however, just like the question, speculative in nature. I thank God for giving me everything I have and I embrace the fact that the New Testament teaching for tithing is really 100% – everything and all of ourselves as believers – to be hot and not cold or lukewarm. In terms of my personal responsibility, I make myself available to God daily that He may guide me and show me who He wants to love and the different ways in which that love can be expressed.
Q8: What did I learn or experience that will change the way I live and represent Jesus in my home community (Melbourne) and church (Clayton Church of Christ)?
Answered via the other questions above; the fact that I can personalise the message/Gospel and show via the videos and photos of how God is moving in Cambodia are all tools that equip me and the team to be ambassadors for Samaritan’s Purse, Clayton Church and ultimately the Gospel/God. How this influences the ministry of SP/OCC at Clayton in 2016 will be a demonstration of the answer to this question.
Q9: What have I learned about my own Christian calling?
Discussed in the general section as well, my calling from God remains the same – to be His witness in serving at Clayton, the community and the overall Kingdom of God. Nothing has changed overall but the clarity and fruits that I help to be a part of all show and give glory to God – more of you oh Lord, and less of me!
Q10: How can I continue to support the ongoing work of Samaritan’s Purse?
As part of the first gathering of the Melbourne/Clayton Church team since our trip, the answer to this question has so much to it that everything that is about to happen is a part of the answer here – in stepping up to assist the Clayton local team, but also connect into the wider Samaritan’s Purse network and organisation is part of the answer. My current effort in fundraising for the water projects is also just one manifestation of the next steps.