Southeast Asia

Cambodia 2017 1
Makenna, Jenna, Kylie, Tia, Claudia, Erin, Rebecca, Katelyn, Susan, Jessica and Hannah

Task: Erin and Katelyn are leading a team to Southeast Asia to partner with Agape International Missions where they will work to assist in any way they can in the fight against the tragedy of the sex-trafficking industry. They will show the love of Christ to young women & children who have seen very little true love in their lives. The team is excited to partner again with AIM who, since 2005,  have been focused on ending the evil of child sexual slavery in Southeast Asia by providing transformational aftercare for victims and equipping the local church for prevention. An aftercare center, Agape Restoration Center, was opened in August of 2006, providing holistic long-term aftercare for rescued girls, where our team will be able to connect with the girls who are being cared for there.

Dates: May 22 – June 5

Team ArrivalWe made it! After several flight delays we finally arrived and so did all our luggage. While the delays were frustrating we did have a good time time laughing together and bonding in various airports. From sharing our favorite movies to an impromptu yoga session (see photo of us in Guangzhou, China), we have certainly filled our first 36 hours together. Please pray for strength and to power through jet lag as we start working tomorrow! Also, we were invited to a Christian Leadership Conference at which the Prime Minister will be speaking! Praise Him for this opportunity and please ask that it would encourage the hearts of the leaders here in Southeast Asia!

More to come soon!

Erin and the team

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Update #1: Tuesday, May 30

Greetings humans!

This is Hannah and Jess coming at you live from Southeast Asia!!

Sorry for the late post… we have been VERY busy!!! Thursday was a bit of a lighter day for our team. After seeing the Prime Minister speak all morning we headed over to AIM to for lunch and a tour/info session/getting the lowdown on the AIM program. We were all surprised to see the many different ministries going on there and how much AIM has positively impacted the community. They have provided jobs with many benefits for the community, including child care, kids club, discipleship programs, adult and young adult workshops, church, and much, much more! It’s crazy to see how they have taken buildings which were used for the evil of trafficking and pedophilia and turned them into places of light and beauty. While we walked through their community we got to experience a local snack: crickets… which most of us actually liked! (Check out the photo!) Hannah, Becca and Susan have yet to try one, but Hannah plans on eating one on Saturday. We are all eagerly waiting for this. That evening, we went to dinner at a restaurant called Khmer Surin, where we ate a traditional Khmer and Thai meal, complete with pretzel style seating on floor mats with a beautiful view of the city.

Tuk tuks have been the popular mode of transportation for the team, which consist of a moto (a cross between a street motorcycle and a moped) hooked to a cart that can hold up to 6 people.  The drivers seem to have no fear driving here, because in traffic, it seems to be that everyone/no-one has the right-of-way.  As hectic as seems, it’s quite invigorating.  People don’t honk because they’re mad at people constantly cutting them off, they honk to let other drivers or riders (most transportation is by moto) know they are behind them, and it seems to work in beautiful chaos.  Our van driver who takes us to and from AIM has been so incredible, he seems to always know when we need to be picked up or dropped off, and is always there when we need to be taken somewhere.

Friday and Saturday we began our building project in the community surrounding AIM and the brick factories. We were helping out the AIM disciples (people who are a part of AIM’s program) and the community members to build a home for a family in need. It was hot out there, but we enjoyed the chance to help out and the community was so welcoming and kind, bringing out many fruits to us. Some of the fruits we’ve tried include rambutan, fried bananas, longan, dragon fruit, local watermelon, and coconut. We’ve also had some delicious Cambodian coffees and teas which taste really good after a long day of hard labor! During the work project, we helped to demolish the old structure, and then helped to put in the foundation. We sanded wood planks with power tools that made sawdust the new tan line, and also helped to move ginormous concrete pillars with the guys. It only took 10 people to move each pillar! The Khmer people now have gone about calling us strong and flexing their muscles to joke about it. Women often don’t do that kind of labor, so they like to tease us!  We weren’t the only ones out at the project with the AIM disciples, though.  We seemed to have attracted a handful of kids who enjoyed having us in their neighborhood playing with them in between tasks on the build site.  Being able to lovingly swing them around and play with them shows that although there is a verbal language barrier between us, Christ’s love is universal and no words are needed to communicate that.

The weather has been slightly a bit more humid than back in the States, and when we say slightly we mean 1000% more humid.  With this humidity came storm cells that have rolled through the city every day since our arrival.  Thunderstorms are the new afternoon weather (see the video below), and torrential downpours have been really fun to experience, except when they keep us from taking a tuk tuk to dinner outside of the hotel (we had to eat in the hotel three times due to heavy rains, but thankfully the food is really good!) 😊  Although these thunderstorms seem to be inhibiting us from seeing various parts of the city, they have also been fascinating because it’s when we have seen only a fraction of God’s true, raw power.

Sunday was both a fun and somber day.  We started off the morning by attending church at Rahab’s House (AIM) and hearing Pastor speak.  Worship was incredible because even though we didn’t understand the lyrics that were being sung, we know we are all singing to and praising the same God; not the God of the United States or of California, but the God of Southeast Asia and the rest of Creation.  We all talked about how genuine the pastor is and how Gospel-centered the message was and all felt very encouraged.  After an exciting service, the mood quickly shifted when we visited the Tuol Seng Genocide museum, where the memories and emotions of the Khmer Rouge filled an elementary school-turned-torture camp-turned museum.  Walking through and seeing the photos of the faces of the victims of this horrific event tugged at all of our hearts, and gave us a deeper appreciation for the country we are serving.  This specific torture camp was called the S21 Unit, and was used to jail, torture and eventually murder thousands of Khmer people during the Genocide. It specifically targeted the educated in order to reeducate the people to the Khmer Rouge way of thinking. Over 95% of the educated people were slaughtered, and nearly half of the population as a whole was wiped out… over 2 million people.  All of this happened in just a few short years from 1975 to 1979.

Today (Monday) we started our first day of Kid’s Club, which is on location at AIM and working with the incredible staff who work there full time.  Watch out for the next update to hear all about how this week is going!

Love you all! More to come later!

Mom and Dad and the rest of my family and friends, I miss you all very much and I wanted to tell you I am doing more than okay here!  It’s been a bit of a struggle to adjust to not seeing you every day, but I am comforted by the 10 other strong women in my life that are here to build me up!  I miss you all and can’t wait to share everything once I get back! -Hannah

Love you and miss you all, but I’m safe and growing a lot through this experience. I’m super encouraged by all God is doing here. See you soon!! -Jessica

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Update #2: Wednesday, May 31

Hello friends and family!

The past two days serving here in Southeast Asia have been filled with a lot of laughter, sweat, and all sorts of crafts. We spent our nights eating great meals and preparing bible studies and children’s bible stories for kid’s club. It has been very exhausting but very rewarding to see that the kids enjoy spending time with us (even though they are climbing us like trees to get a piggyback ride out of us).

Last night for dinner, we went to a Mexican Restaurant called Mexicano. Yes, you read that right. We had authentic Mexican food in the middle of Asia AND WE ENJOYED EVERY BITE! Not to say we aren’t enjoying the amazing Khmer dishes but we were missing some variety 😉 After our little taste of home, we decided to go to a nearby authentic Khmer bakery for dessert, which was huge! We each got to choose our own special treat and we enjoyed them very much (as you can tell by the picture). 

Many of us have been working hard on learning simple phrases and words in Khmer. Some of the words we have been learning and practicing are:

Orgoon—thank you

Dtay—no

Sok sopbai—how are you?

Bondtoop dteuk—bathroom

Tuesday after kids club, we played a game of soccer and volleyball with the disciples at AIM. They take soccer VERY seriously here. Some of the things they can do with a soccer ball would blow your mind (and most of them choose to play without shoes!). The volleyball game was played on an outdoor court with a very high net. Getting to interact with the disciples through shared love of sports was a great experience for the whole team.

Before arrival, each of us told AIM where we were gifted and they planned workshops for the disciples based on their needs and our responses. One of the workshops is specifically geared towards exploring Biblical topics with the young disciples who volunteer at AIM. Today was especially moving as we each re-wrote the Lord’s prayer in our own words and shared the results with the groups. It was so amazing to get to hear how each heart interpreted the Scriptures and how God speaks to us personally. We were able to take pictures of the end result and thought you would like to see the beautiful Khmer writing in the picture below.

During our free time we walked next door to get THE BEST iced coffee from the sweetest lady who owns the store front. It is even better because the price per drink is $.50 USD. We will definitely be missing that price tag when we come back to America!  For those of us who don’t like coffee there’s a nice variety of teas to choose from as well.

After we were done serving today, we drove down to the river front and went shopping at the 3 Strands shop. This shop is the storefront that sells ethically-sourced apparel made by survivors of sex trafficking that were rescued by AIM. In the store they had bags, wallets, t-shirts, scarves, and jewelry to name a few. It was the cutest shop! Each of us had a blast picking things out to bring home with us. If any of our readers are interested in this company, they have an online store with a nice selection of goods. Log onto 3strandsGlobal.com and get to shopping for a good cause!

Thank you for following our team on this amazing journey. We look forward to telling you all about it in further detail when we return!

Grace and Peace,

Makenna, Rebecca, & Katelyn 

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Update #3: Sunday, June 4

Sousidey from Siem Reap!

We just closed out an incredible day touring some breathtaking temples as part of our debrief here in Siem Reap! Included in the tour was the largest temple in the world – Angkor Wat! We took a crazy amount of pictures (as you can see below) and learned about the history from our informative tour guide. It was such an honor to explore this area and experience the culture in a new way!

One of the great moments that our team shared today occurred as we were driving up to the first temple. We were discussing how these temples were built in the honor of many different gods by people who were so hungry for something to pour themselves into, but that we worship the one true God. We played a worship song in our karaoke tour bus (yes, you read that right) and prayed for the people who still worship these different gods. We asked God for His light to be revealed to them.

It was so great to get to see the different architecture within these structures, as they each had unique elements. We even spent almost three hours at the top of the last temple that we visited waiting to watch the sunset. It was beautiful to see God’s creation from a view so high up! We managed to make some wonderful new friends while sitting and waiting as well!

This evening has been quite an emotional one as we shared our last meal together as a team. We said our goodbyes as some of us are moving on to another area of the country to do one more week of God’s work, some of us are heading back to the United States, and some of us are staying here to visit family.

Thank you all for your love and support! We cannot wait to share stories with you in person! See you soon,

Kunthea and Kylie

From Kylie: I just wanted to give a shoutout to my not-so-little-brother- Congratulations to Jake on graduating from high school this past weekend! I am sorry I wasn’t able be there with you to celebrate, but I am sending my love from across the world! I cannot wait to see you and give you the biggest hug ever! I love you and am so proud of you!

From Tia: I also like to say CONGRATULATIONS to my little brother, Josh, who is going to be a seventh grader.  I miss you so much, and I am so proud of you. I’ll see you soon.

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Team Return: (Half of) Team Southeast made it home safely! Thank you to everyone who prayed along with their ministry efforts and supported them through reading their blog updates! Those team members who are staying longer in country will continue to post updates as they serve for another week. Please check back to continue reading about their journey and to look for their return information, which will be posted closer to June 12!

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Update #4: Thursday, June 8

Hello friends and family!

This is Jenna and Claudia writing to you from Battambang…

Within our last few hours in Siem Reap a few of us got the opportunity to relax by the hotel pool (for all of ten minutes!) Then we packed up our things and the last five of us headed to Battambang! Greg, the director of Crossing Cambodia, was nice enough to pick us up in his pickup truck turned tuk tuk, and yes, that means we got to ride in the bed of the truck for 3 hours! It was exciting and fun at first but then our bottoms quickly became numb. We even got to experience a thunder storm while eating some interesting coconut sticky rice in a bamboo stick. (See the photos below.) When we arrived at our hotel in Battambang we were greeted by Greg’s family and then had the opportunity to eat dinner with them at a near-by café owned by YWAM, which is now our favorite local spot. 

Crossing Cambodia is a ministry that supports street children within the community. Every day the staff picks up the children one-by-one in the same truck we rode in. They then feed them breakfast and shower them before sending them off to school. After school, they provide lunch and tutoring. Street children in Cambodia are considered untouchables and basically go unnoticed, so Crossing Cambodia shows them the love of Christ through their actions and love for the children. You can learn more about their ministry at www.crossingcambodia.org

We have encountered many new experiences throughout our week of serving at Crossing Cambodia. We went to the open-air market to buy food for a week, and experienced quite a mixture of sights and smells! We have gotten to help out in the kitchen each day, which has consisted of washing dishes Cambodian style, along with seeing some interesting recipes. Wednesday’s meal prep involved a whole chicken, which once cut open held an egg still in the shell. All of which went into the soup, chicken feet and all.

The staff at Crossing Cambodia are kind and engaging. We have devotions each morning and get to experience worship with a mixture of Khmer and English language. They also offered our team a popular Cambodian fruit, durian. This fruit is not like typical fruits found in the U.S.; it is known for its strong unique aroma and peculiar texture. One of our team members could not have described it more perfectly when saying it tasted like mucus. Yes, mucus. To try not to be disrespectful to the Khmer people, we both kept smiling faces while we lightly jogged to the bathroom to privately gag. Check out our durian taste faces below!

We spend our days hanging out with the kids and showing them love they would not otherwise get without a ministry like Crossing Cambodia. Erin has been helping Greg evaluate the program. She has had interviews with all the staff, gotten feedback from the children, and is going on visits to meet and interview the parents. Tomorrow, Friday, will be our last day at the Crossing Cambodia Facility.

P.S. Hannah has been feeling a bit under the weather, but has been pushing through by the grace of God. We have been taking care of her by bringing her light food, such as rice, bread and plain noodles (definitely no durian for Hannah). Please pray for her health as we continue our time in Cambodia this week.

Grace and Peace,

Jenna & Claudia

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Update #5: Sunday, June 11

Hello again!

It’s our last night in Southeast Asia and we wanted to send one more quick update before we depart! We have had an amazing time seeing all God is doing in this part of the world. What a blessing to partner with AIM and Crossing Cambodia in their ministries. Please pray for us as we travel back to the US and reintegrate back into American culture. We will miss the our morning devotions together, random cows in the middle of the highways, geckos in our rooms to eat the mosquitoes, hot chili sauce at every meal, incredible sunsets, all our new Khmer friends and field workers, riding in tuk-tuks, seeing God in new ways, Cambodian hospitality, plus so much more!!

We are excited to share stories with you all in person and look forward to seeing you VERY soon! Thank you for your prayers and support!

Erin and the team 💗

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Team Return: Team Southeast Asia made it home safely! Thank you to everyone who prayed along with their ministry efforts and supported them through reading their blog updates! Check out stories from our other teams!