An Open Letter to the Friends I Left Behind

Dear Expat Friend in Cambodia,

Over four months ago, we wrapped our arms around each other, said goodbye, and became separated by an ocean. And now, life has carried on for both of us.

You're still in Cambodia - sweating and serving, laughing and crying. I see photos of your moto trips into the village, your ceremonies with visiting leaders, your vacations on the beach in Thailand. I read your email updates, of people discovering the true God, and babies dying of curable causes. And every time I think of you, I am flooded with emotions of grief and guilt.

Surprisingly (or not), I'm actually pretty happy in America. I didn't realize how challenging life was in Cambodia, until I moved back and started living a "normal" life again. I can drive five minutes to Wal-Mart and get exactly what I need, while you have to wait for the next airplane or trip to Bangkok to get that one essential item Cambodia can't keep in stock.

I've been terrible at keeping you updated with what's going on in our lives. Neither of us have been great at that. We haven't emailed or Skyped, and we only exchange the occasional text message or social media comment.

I feel an enormous sense of loss at the daily connection we shared while living as expats. We held on tightly to one another, knowing that the hand we grasped could be the only thing to keep us from tipping over the edge of sanity in the face of cultural confusion. We may or may not have been friends in America. But Cambodia flung us together, and we learned to talk and ride motos and eat in entirely new ways - together.

Sometimes I think of you, and I feel guilty - guilty that my life is so easy now, while you still face grief and setbacks and frustrations that I know too well. The twinge of regret that dances at the edge of my thoughts sometimes makes me question whether my decision to leave was truly a God-driven one. I'm tempted to see my work here as "less-than", simply because of my change in geography and culture.

But the God I serve here in America is the same one I served in Cambodia. He hasn't changed his mind about my value as his child - nor about yours. And I haven't forgotten about you, even when I don't call.

One of the reasons I don't write is because I struggle to reconcile the life I had in Cambodia with the one I have here. They seem as if they should exist on different planets. And when I'm here in America, my three years in Cambodia feel like a dream - which almost makes you a figment of my imagination.

But I know you are real, and your friendship more real than many I ever had in America. You know me on a more visceral level than I care to admit - how I react when faced with unspeakable grief and bewildering cultural differences and frustrating setbacks.

We have faced the fire of cross-cultural life, and we have passed through it together.

I don't know if we'll ever be on the same continent at the same time again. But I want you to know this: you are remembered and loved by everyone who has passed through your life and shared Cambodia with you. I have not forgotten to be deeply thankful for the ways you loved me and encouraged me to be faithful every day.

And if you ever feel loneliness creeping into your heart, or if you fear no one will understand you when your feet touch the soil of home again, remember that I'm still here - just an email or a Skype call away.

Thanks for the memories,

Whitney

Clean Water and the Word of God - A Story from Cambodia

Clean Water and the Word of God - A Story from Cambodia

Today Andrew is sharing a story from his work with Samaritan's Purse Cambodia. The Water for Kids project provides clean water sources, toilets, and hygiene education to schools in rural Cambodia. You can read other posts by Andrew about Water for Kids by clicking here. - whitney

This month the Water for Kids project staff have had many opportunities to minister to the students while following up on the hygiene education training. During the visit to the schools they handed out gospel tracts and took time to teach the students about Jesus.
 
One student, nicknamed James, is 12 years old and in the sixth grade. He is a very bright student and is at the top of his class. As the students were taught the message of Jesus he listened very carefully, showing great interest in the Bible.

His family has had a difficult time making ends meet. Because of poverty his parents decided to leave Cambodia and go to work in Thailand in 2012, leaving him at home with his aunt. At first he refused to stay in Cambodia, but then at the last minute he changed his mind because he wanted to focus on his studies. 

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How Cambodia Taught Me to Love Real Food

How Cambodia Taught Me to Love Real Food

When we moved to Cambodia three years ago, I had no idea that I'd have to throw out everything I knew about food and cooking and grocery shopping, and start from scratch...pun absolutely intended.

Before Cambodia, I considered myself fairly proficient in the kitchen. My favorite dish to make was chicken piccata (the first meal I'd ever made my husband while we were dating), and I tried new recipes frequently. But I was not above grabbing the packaged dinner or (gasp) frozen Hot Pocket to take to work if I was short on time.

We shopped at the local farmer's market, but it was really more of a "let's do this on the weekend for something new and fun!" event, than a regular, conviction-fueled habit. I went through phases of shopping for organic or local, but it fizzled out after a week or two. One summer, we signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) share. And it became more of a pain than a pleasure because of all the vegetables we received that I'd never cooked in my life (eggplant, anyone?).

So there I was, an inconsistent home cook who had never cooked beans or eggplants in my life, and who wasn't above the MSG-laden packaged dinner. And then Cambodia happened.

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Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, Do Without

Today I'm over at A Harvest of Blessing, talking about how Cambodia taught me to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without - the mantra of simple living. Here's a quick excerpt from the post:

Living in Cambodia for three years has taught me countless lessons. One lesson is how to put the mantra of frugal living into practice: use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

If you’re not familiar with it, Cambodia is a developing country located in Southeast Asia between Thailand and Vietnam. Recovery from a four-year-long genocide in the 1970’s has taken decades, and most of the population still struggles along on a daily income of $1 in rural areas.

In the capital cities, Western food and conveniences are becoming more easily accessible, but they are mostly unheard of in rural towns, such as Poipet, where I live. Because of that lack of convenience, I have learned to live creatively within the restrictions of what’s locally available.

I hope that, by reading my story, you will also find ways to live creatively in the simple lifestyle you have chosen.