Monday, October 29, 2018

THREE YEARS

This week David and I hit our three-year anniversary of moving to Cambodia. Three years! The saying, "The days are long but the years are short," definitely rings true for me. As David and I celebrated over dinner, we talked about the highs and lows, accomplishments, and lessons learned in the last few years.


What really surprised me the most was thinking back to our first days and months here and how little we knew. We sometimes still feel like we know very little, until, of course, I compare myself to how I showed up three years ago.

Language, of course, has been a big change. We arrived only knowing two words of the language (hello and thank you), and we were unsure of how to correctly pronounce even just that. We dove right in, but it would be more than 6 months before I would even start to learn how to read and write in the world's longest alphabet. Then, after a year of full time, intense language study, we would still attend our Cambodian church each week and not understand more than a word or two of the songs, prayers or sermons. We didn't really even understand how the royal version of the Khmer language worked, much less what all the royal and religious words used at church meant.

Now, after three years, I am able to read the Khmer Bible out loud with a tutor for an hour and a half at a time. I can read the hymns at church and sing along. Even if it's not always grammatically perfect, I've found myself in conversations lately explaining how earthquakes work and thinking through the pros and cons of different political systems. I've given and received personal advice. I can even make people laugh from time to time (and not just at my mistakes!).

There are other areas where progress has slowly snuck up on me, too. After a lot of listening, asking questions, observing, researching, praying and listening some more, we feel like we have grasped enough to step into more active ministry roles without hurting more than we help in the long run. The same process has brought us closer to our partners and their work. Our knowledge of how and why they work has expanded a hundred-fold, and we are excited about the projects that are now in the works. Also, after months of paperwork and meetings, we were able to start referring pastors and people from our congregation to receive quality, low-cost healthcare at a local ministry clinic. While we often still crave deeper community ties, I have gone from not knowing another soul here besides David to having a small group of women whom I can count on. We've also been honored to help bring together a collaboration of missionaries from around the world who are also here to support our partners.

There are small things, too, that I often take for granted that I have learned or gotten used to. I can drive a hard bargain in the market and can inch the car through a crowded five-way intersection without a traffic light. I can identify and eat a dozen tropical fruits I never knew existed. I'm no longer bothered by a few floating ants in my drinks. I've even conquered the squatty potty.

Three years in, there are plenty of things I still have left to learn about this place, this work, and myself. There are things I'm still not adjusted to. I still read slowly, I've still not adjusted to the heat, and I still have no desire to eat crickets or spiders. (And, I'm not sure those things will ever change!)

Yet, I can look back and see in these and a hundred other ways that over the last three years, God has been faithful to show up in our lives. And, while the increments were small, God was faithful to bless our meager efforts to show up as well. I'm reminded afresh that daily persistence does add up over time. Houses are built brick by brick. Saved pennies add up to dollars. And obedience and faithfulness, however small, can be transformational.

So, for those of you who have followed our journey, who have prayed for or supported us, who have sent notes and encouragement our waythank you! We can't wait to see how far we have come and the ways God will show up in another three years.