“You’re going where?!” my family and friends exclaimed via text—an exclamation point following the question mark, certainly.
“Cambodia,” I replied. It appears I’d forgotten to tell them.
I’m fairly certain I forgot to tell you as well.
But here I am, finishing off this whirlwind summer with a week in Cambodia on a bloggers trip with World Vision.
Yes, my mind is exhausted, and my clothes are all rumpled, and my ankles haven’t gone back down to their normal size after becoming certified cankles on the plane ride over (if you’ve traveled overseas, you totally know what I’m talking about), but my heart is so full.
I’m here as a storyteller for World Vision, checking out what they’re doing, learning what they’re all about, and celebrating as they finish up 15 years of work in a community here. (I’m feeling like I won the lottery this week, absolutely!)
So over the next few days (and few weeks probably), you can expect more blog posts from me than usual, stories from Cambodia, of what God is doing, and how He’s using World Vision to make His world a better place.
At the end of each blog post, I’m going to include a link for how you can get involved in what they’re doing. They do child sponsorships all over the world, and I would love for us to make a dent together in the Cambodian kiddos that are still waiting for a sponsor.
But that’s not all we’re going to be talking about. God has been showing me so much already, teaching me better ways to live, and I can’t wait to share them with you!
To start out on a somber note, I have to say that yesterday was a really tough day. It was a day full of hard stories, and despair as we visited a village World Vision hasn’t started working in yet.
We got to hear the stories of two different women who are both at the end of their rope. They have 12 kids between them, and one of them is 6 months pregnant bringing their total to an unbelievable 13.
For both families, they’re the primary breadwinners. They’re also responsible for raising their flock, figuring out how to feed them when there’s no food to speak of, and taking care of the home.
They’re single mothers almost completely, despite the fact they’re both married.
One woman’s husband was in an accident, rendering him weak and unable to work. The other woman’s husband moved to Thailand, presumably to earn money for the family. But he hasn’t sent back a dollar yet.
They’re both at the end of their rope. Neither of them have hope for their future, or the future of their kids. “I just can’t wait for them to grow up so they can help me,” one said about her little ones.
Exhaustion was scrawled all over her face. She needed something, help, hope, something.
I wish this story had an unbelievable ending. I wish I could have emptied my bank account into her hands, solving her problems forever and ever amen. I wish I could give you a link to their child sponsor pages, allowing all of us to come alongside them, easing their burden together.
But unfortunately today, that’s not a possibility.
While World Vision is moving into their area, they aren’t there yet. They’re still assessing the need, figuring out the best way to help, setting up the infrastructure to make long-term impact instead of giving a handout that will last for a day.
You might be thinking, “Steph, this is depressing. Why are you telling me this?” We hate stories without happy endings, stories with loose ends, without a bow on top. I know I do.
But there’s a beautiful bit to this story, and it’s the piece I’ve been holding onto ever since.
If you’ve ever been in a tough spot — if you’ve ever had your heart broken, or suffered the loss of a family member, or a job, or something you truly loved, you know how isolating it can be. You know how easy it is to feel alone.
Part of it is the nature of the thing. Pain, loss, and fear are naturally isolating emotions. But they’re only made worse by the fact that we back away from each other when we don’t know how to help.
A friend of mine’s dad was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and she never knew how to tell people. She didn’t want to bring down the mood, there never seemed to be a good time to bring it up. And even when people did know, they never seemed to know what to say. The thing they said most often was nothing.
We back away when someone’s in pain because we don’t want to make it worse. We don’t know what to say, or how to act, or how to help. So we don’t. We back away and hope they know we care.
That’s not what we did yesterday.
Yesterday we showed up. We sat with them, asked them questions, asked follow up questions, listened to their answers. We sympathized, encouraged, and played with their kiddos to give them a much needed break.
And even though we weren’t able to solve every problem, I know our showing up was significant.
When we’re going through something terrible, yes we need financial help, or a miracle, or a new job to replace the one we lost.
But often, we just need someone to listen to us, to sit with us, and to not leave even when the stories we tell them don’t yet have a happy ending.
When Carl and I lost our jobs, my very best friends sat with me on the phone for weeks listening to me tell the same story again and again, processing the hurt out loud, them making the perfect cooing, sympathetic noises on the other end of the line.
And even though they didn’t get us our jobs back, or tell us what to do next, they were there. That’s exactly what I needed.
So today, that’s what I hope we do for each other. I hope we show up, bring food, sit with each other, and just listen. I hope we ask follow up questions, pay attention to the answers, and let each other talk for as long as we need to.
We may not be able to solve every problem in the world, or even in our own backyards, but we can show up. And sometimes, that’s enough.
Over the next few days, I’ll share more about what World Vision is doing, and the work they’re going to start doing in this community soon. But for now, if you want to jump in and tangibly help the people here in Cambodia, you can find out more by clicking right here.
Talk to you soon sweet friends, and if you want to keep up with my trip (and see lots of fun photos from our journey), pop on over to Instagram!