I am living in my personal paradise. It has been almost two months since I arrived at the Pnong Project, and I am still amazed at how inherently warm and friendly people are here. As an introvert, making first contact with strangers is not my strong suit, but people here make interaction so easy it is almost impossible to be reserved.
A few days ago, I walked through the market, looking around the different shops. When I awkwardly locked eyes with a teenage girl behind a glass door, a surge of panic ran through me—the kind you get when you accidentally lock eyes with the driver next to you at a red light. But as I started to look away, a beautiful, friendly smile crossed her face. Before my introverted self could react, I found myself instinctively smiling right back behind my mask. Then, I realized she couldn’t see it (thanks, COVID-19), so I smiled even harder in hopes she could see it in my eyes. All of this happened in a split second. As I continued walking down the street, I thought about how awkward this moment would have been for me back home—but she changed the whole interaction with a simple smile.
I thank God every day for bringing me here. I can be me, yet feel comfortable doing things out of my comfort zone, like smiling at a stranger. I am here to serve the people, but they are doing so much for me. I am glad that, in return, I can share the wonderful news of Jesus and His love for us—the best gift of all.