-During the 4 year rule of the Khmer Rouge, one-fifth of Cambodia’s population was killed. They were mostly educated people, priests, and monks.
-Half of Cambodia’s current population is younger than 15 years old.
-Traditionally, birthdays are not celebrated in Cambodia. Older people might not even know their birthdays.
-The Cambodia flag is the only national flag that as an image of a building— the Angkor Wat.
-In recent times, the country’s biggest source of income has been the textile industry. The second largest source of Cambodia income is tourism.
Learning more about Cambodia’s history and actually seeing the Killing Fields and S21 was a shock to me. Khmer people in Cambodia and around the world are struggling to heal the painful scars from one of the worst genocides in modern times. So many people died within the 4 year reign of the Khmer Rouge, which decimated the Cambodia population and trapping the people left in terror. With a predominantly Buddhist culture, Cambodians struggle with the understanding of hope for the future. Many have never heard of grace. They have never felt forgiveness. They were left in the dark.
As many of the students and leaders mentioned on the trip, it is difficult for us to imagine a life without hope. Even though we live in China, all of our lives have been influenced by the Western world and perspectives. Many of us grew up with money, a home, an education, and a bright future. Because of the inconceivable poverty, the Cambodians turn desperate and turn to the only resource they think they have left: their bodies and/or children. Money traps trick women and girls in prostitution, where many parents often sell their young daughters for meager sums of money. The Cambodian boys and girls are traded as commodities and used to satisfy the twisted and sick desires of others. Many of them will never be to see the amount of money we have spent to even come to Cambodia. It was hard for me to see the young street kids already working their first “job” on the streets selling souvenirs and temple relics at ages 4-teens. Whereas I didn’t get my first job until I was a teenager.
Even with this darkness glooming over the beautiful country of Cambodia, our team was able to work with some church groups and Christian NGOs to share with the Cambodian people there is a new hope through the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. We taught the at-risk street kids that every single life is precious by sharing the Gospel, singing worship songs, reciting Bible verses, and making art.
The song of the trip that basically became our theme song was “Jump Into The Light” by Jana Alayra. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvrPkXWQIus) It is a catchy and uplifting tune with exciting hand motions that the kids of all ages loved learning in English. We sang it everywhere as a team. During classes, in the van, walking down the streets to dinner, etc. Kids would come up to us all the time singing it to us. Instead of the traditional “Hello” greeting at the door, the kids would greet us loudly with their new favorite song. The song has brought instant smiles for us as a team and for them. I’ve been teaching this song to my Kindergarteners for 2 years and I never imagined how much impact this one little song could have on me as I left Cambodia. This song will continue to give my heart an extra beat as I fond over this special memory of the worship song.
This bible verse has been stuck in my mind before, during, and after the trip.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
This verse I aspire to live my life by. To be the kind of woman, wife, and mother of God I want and strive to be. Jesus loves me. He loves you. He loves the high school students and staff who went on this trip. He loves the Khmer children and people. Sharing what I know about Cambodia and its people will help educate others what is really happening in this country. I promised my newly made friends I wouldn’t forget them when I left. How could I ever forget them when I learned how many of them still love God and strive to love him deeply every day even through their hardships.
As I have been reflecting on my time in Cambodia, I was realizing WE were the LIGHT for the Christians who live and work in Cambodia every day. We were not only serving the unbelievers but the believers who dedicated their whole life to help the Cambodians who are still lost in the darkness.