From the banks of the rushing, frigid rivers near Mt. Rainier to the shores of the lazy but powerful Mekong River, our scenery changed drastically during our move to Cambodia exactly one year ago when we followed God’s call to reach the Great River people. We miss the snow and the rugged mountain trails, and we have faced challenges and heartaches, but we have no doubt that God is in control. We wouldn’t change a thing.
To my great surprise, after one year in the mission field, it now feels quite like home. Despite the challenges, we have learned to live happily in a tiny riverside village. We have learned to shop for food in the local market. It’s hot, so Carly wears a wet scarf to keep her neck and head cool. We have no shopping carts, so I get some exercise carrying 20-to-30-pound baskets in each hand filled with delicious fruits, veggies, potatoes, and the occasional pumpkin or watermelon. The market is along dusty roads, and flies are bountiful. The meat sellers set out their wares on dirty wooden platforms in the open air. When we get home, we spend a few hours washing and sanitizing all our produce in large basins. We eat very well, and so far, we haven’t gotten sick. We wouldn’t change a thing.
Sometimes unpredictable events take up the whole day. One day, an engine hose blew up. Another day, the fuel tank sprang a leak. One day, we killed a bunch of scorpions, huge spiders and rats in our house. Another day, the above-ground water pipes burst after cows stepped on them while grazing in our yard. Electricity or water might be shut off on laundry day, so we make our clothes last a little longer. But the utilities are on most of the time. We wouldn’t change a thing.
We spend time with patients almost daily. We sometimes take them to doctor’s appointments or give them advice or medicine. We are happy to be here for them. We have somehow gotten used to the four-hour drive to the capital city where we get medical and household supplies we can’t find in the village. Some days it’s not easy, but we wouldn’t change a thing.
I never imagined I would be saying this, but I am now learning my third language. God loves pushing us to our limit and expanding our reach. At first, the Khmer language sounded like charming gibberish to me, but I am now able to have basic conversations. Carly has become quite advanced in her conversational Khmer. I don’t think I will ever catch up, but it’s a blessing that Carly is able to communicate so well already. Part of Carly’s family are also Khmer-speaking, and many don’t yet know Jesus. As we learn the language to reach the Great River people, we are also better able to reach our unreached family members. We wouldn’t change a thing.
We owe a lot to our language tutors. We know that God led them to us. For many hours each day they teach us Khmer and spend time with us. My tutor, Azim, now regularly comes to our church group and has even brought guests. He has become my closest friend in the village, and it’s so beautiful to see him maturing in his knowledge of God. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I fractured both feet this year and had to wear bright-blue casts for the first few months we lived in the village. But even that brought blessings in disguise. It was challenging to shower without getting the casts wet, and the constant crawling was hard on my kneecaps. But this mandatory slowdown helped us reevaluate what really mattered to our family and our mission. It helped us weed out unnecessary things and gain a clear focus on the work ahead. Even in this, we wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Our mission has given us new perspectives on God’s Word. Passages that were familiar now take on entirely new meaning. My interactions with people provide endless subject matter for prayer. Five times a day, the Qur’an recitations echoing from the nearby mosques remind us to pray for the Holy Spirit to bring down the strongholds of the enemy.
God has already won. He has all power and authority. He daily opens doors to meaningful spiritual conversations with our tutors and friends, which often lead to deeper Bible study. The people come on their own to worship and learn about Christ in our home every Sabbath. The work of the Holy Spirit is visible, and the presence of God is palpable. We are well aware that we are being prayed for. There is no better life than this. To top it off, we are now expecting a baby boy. God is changing our life entirely, and in case you were wondering, we wouldn’t change a thing.