But a Seed Was Planted…

I never thought I would be called to this. I never imagined that I would travel halfway across the world to share the Lord with a tourist from Canada. I never thought I would befriend a bartender and go to her church. I knew the Lord had called me to something bigger than myself, but I didn’t know it would look like this. When I signed up to go to Cambodia for three months, I had very different expectations of what my stay here would look like. I thought I was going to be working with human trafficking and showing the women involved that there is hope and a way out. Instead, I live with 11 boys and I teach English. Definitely not my initial plan for this trip, but the Lord had something better in mind. My expectations were utterly demolished and it left me wondering why the Lord had called me here to do something so different than he initially showed me. But then I remembered; the Lord called me to Cambodia. He called me here. He didn’t specify what that was going to look like; a website did. (But as I’ve learned here, plans always change.) So I’ve been here, working at YDC Kampot; and loving every minute of it. It’s not what I initially wanted, but it’s everything I could have hoped for. But I thought that teaching English and ministering to the boys here was the only ministry type things that I was going to be doing. I was wrong.

We had our midpoint debrief this past weekend. We got four days off to just get away and get refreshed. We met together and processed our trip and talked about what we want to implement going forward. I delighted in the fact that we were getting away somewhere where I could really “take a break from ministry.” Because, I really need a break and to just not think about ministry for a few days, right? Wrong. The Lord is funny like that. He had a different idea of what he wanted debrief to look like in the realm of ministry. Once again, he tore down any expectations that I had and replaced them with something greater. The way he orchestrated the entire weekend with my team and the divine appointments he set up still amazes me.

We left on Wednesday evening and drove to Kampot city; which is where we were staying for our midpoint debrief. We were staying in a hostel called, The Mad Monkey. (I’ve never been to a hostel before, and I had no idea of what they were like going into it. The word, ‘hostel’ itself just sounds super sketchy; so I honestly thought this place was going to be a step down from where we were staying in our village.) But when we got there I was shocked at how nice the accommodations were! It felt like a hotel mixed with a college dormitory. When we got there we realized that there was a bar/restaurant connected to the lobby which sold pizza. Naturally, we immediately dropped off our things in our rooms and rushed down to get food. (Remember, all we really eat here is rice; so the pizza cravings are real.) So we each order our food and wait patiently for the cooks to prepare it for us. While we wait, we sit at the table family style and talk about the upcoming weekend. When we receive our food, (after what felt like hours) we all quieted down and bowed our heads to pray together before we eat. There wasn’t anything special about this instance except for the fact that *Jen was watching.

We finished our prayer and started digging into our pizza like never before. As we were eating, Jen walked up and asked us something. (Jen worked at the bar/restaurant in the Mad Monkey. She was used to seeing tourists come in and out so she knew English pretty well.) She came up to our table and asked, “Are you Christians?” We told her that we were, and she excitedly replied with, “I am a Christian too!” (Naturally, as a group of nine girls living in a nation where 2% of the population is Christian, we freaked out and got super excited and talked with her more.) Over the course of the weekend, I talked with her a lot and really got to know her. Every time I would go down to the lobby or the restaurant, I would stop by the bar where she was at and talk with her and her coworkers. I would sit at the bar and talk with them and sip on a coke in a glass bottle or a glass of water. I got to know their names and ages and learn a little about each one of them. I would tell them all the words/phrases that I know in Khmer and just tell them about my life and what I was doing here in Cambodia. Tons of tourists and people staying in the hostel would come up and order alcoholic drinks and be demanding with my new found friends, but I would patiently sit and smile until they left. I wasn’t a typical tourist staying here; I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t partying like the majority of the people who stayed at this hostel. They saw that. They knew that there was something different about me—about our group.

Thursday afternoon, we got to walk around and explore the city before we met together that evening for dinner. Marylou, Emily and myself all teamed together to explore town and find all the fun places to go. As we were walking, multiple tuk tuk drivers would call out to us and ask if we needed a ride. We were content with just walking and talking together so we would politely tell them, “No thank you.” and keep walking. But for some reason, one particular tuk tuk driver stood out among the rest. His name was *Phea. He called out to us if we wanted a ride and this time we responded in Khmer. He was intrigued that three white girls could speak a little Khmer so he called us over and asked how we knew Khmer and offered to let me drive his tuk tuk. (I’m not totally positive if he was being serious, but lets just go with that he was.)We shared with him that we had been in Cambodia for about six weeks and told him about our ministry and what we have been doing here. We told him that we had been teaching English and he shared with us the need for more English teachers on the other side of Kampot. He offered to take our team to the schools on one of the few days we were there and told us if we ever needed a ride that he would drive us, free of charge. Phea reminds me of our contact here, Vuthy at YDC Kampot. Vuthy started out as a tuk tuk driver and came to know the Lord through missionaries who he gave a ride to. And he has completely surrendered his life to the Lord and built up this ministry with his blood, sweat and tears. Like Vuthy, there is something different about Phea. He wasn’t a Christian, and when we asked to pray for him after our thirty minute conversation on the side of the road, he politely declined and told us that he didn’t want any of that. We respected his wishes and went on our way with his number in case we ever needed a ride. But his passion for the schools here and his desire for the children to know English was different than the average man. We ended up running into him a few more times throughout the weekend but he never let us pray for him. He was so full of joy and happiness but yet he didn’t know the Lord. I still don’t quite understand it all. There was something different about him; I pray that he comes to know Christ and that our conversations with him stuck out to him like the way they did to me and that the Lord does a work in his heart. I don’t know what that will look like, or when, but I know a seed was planted.

Later that afternoon, we went back to the hotel and hung out by the pool. I drank my coke in a glass bottle and talked with Jen and her coworkers and laughed with them. Then as I was sitting by the poolside, a group of people who were also staying in the hostel called me over to “show me a magic trick.” They showed me a card trick and we laughed together and I found out that they were also teaching English here in Cambodia. Not for missionary work or to share the gospel, but for an internship. They all were originally from different parts of England and all took an online class and this was their “hands on” portion. They were all very kind. We shared our stories from teaching and the funny times and the struggles. It was nice to know that we weren’t the only ones who struggle teaching classes to kids with a ten year age gap and to know we weren’t alone in it. Marylou and I got to talk to them multiple times throughout our stay at the hostel but this first time was the coolest. Some of them walked away but there were a few from the group that stayed and talked longer with us. We told them that we were missionaries and that we were teaching English but also teaching about God and sharing the good news. There was one guy in particular who was really intrigued. His name was *Dom. He asked me and Marylou the hard questions. He mentioned that he had never met missionaries, but he had always wanted to. He asked us about what we believed and the good news! He asked us what it was and why it was important. We got to lay out the gospel to him plain and simple. We told him all that we could; and he didn’t want to act on it, but he listened. He told us, “That is great for you. If what you believe helps you in your life, the more power to you. But for me, I know there is a higher power; but that’s all I really believe.” So no, Dom didn’t get down on his knees and repent and ask the Lord to take over his life then and there. He didn’t burst out in tears in realization that he was a sinner and that he didn’t know where he was going when he died. He didn’t cry out to the Lord in thanksgiving for sending his son down to die for him. He took what we said, and told us that it wasn’t for him and that was that. But the seed was planted. Who knows who else he will encounter on his future journeys. But the foundation was laid out for him plain and simple. He went his way, and we went ours. But the Lord was working in his life. I could see it. He was halfway across the world teaching English without the Lord being in it. Imagine the work he could do when he encounters the Lord. He could move mountains. I believe he’ll come to know the Lord. It will just take another interaction like the one he had with us. But overall, the seed was planted.

That evening, I talked more with the bartenders and Jen. I got to talk to one specific bartender for longer than usual that night. His name was *Won. He told me about his job and how he liked it. He told me about his family and filled up my water bottle for no charge. They were all so kind to me and had no real reason to be. They just knew that we all were different. As I was talking to him, Lacey came up and we ended up realizing that it was his last night working there during our stay. Our last time to talk; and our last time seeing him. We asked Won if we could pray for him. He happily said yes, and we prayed for him from across the bar countertop. Other tourists were there. They saw us laying our hands on him and praying. They knew something was different, too. When we finished we looked up at him and saw a huge smile on his face. He said thank you and we went on our way. Who knows what the Lord has planned for him. But the seed was planted.

Friday afternoon, we met together multiple times as a team but had the morning to explore and use the wifi in the hostel to talk to family. I was skyping my parents and sitting on a couch in the lobby area. I was telling them about how some of our team wasn’t feeling well and just catching them up on what we had been doing the past month and a half. While I was sitting there, two guys came up and sat down on the couch beside me. Their names were *Cole and *Karlson. They were talking and I overheard them talking about how they were sick and had just gotten medicine at the pharmacy and they were trying to read the directions. I got off of skype and was putting my things away and asked them if they were sick. I told them that a bunch of our team also wasn’t feeling well and just talked with them a little bit about what to do to help them feel better. As I was talking, Marylou came up and joined in on the conversation. As we were about to leave to go to our rooms, we asked if we could pray for them for healing. Karlson was a little unsure, but Cole was all for it. We laid our hands on them and prayed over them in the lobby of the hostel. We told them to get rest and said that we would try to see them again before we left on Sunday. A seed was planted.

Friday evening rolls around and as usual I get a coke in a glass bottle and hang out by the bar with my new friends that work there. This time, Jen told me her testimony and how she came to know the Lord. She told me about her family and her boyfriend and how there is conflict between them because her family is Christian and his is not. She told me that it was because of her family that she came to know Jesus three years ago. Jen was so full of joy. Any time you would look at her, you couldn’t help but to smile. The essence of the Lord just poured out of her. It was her last night working during our stay so we asked if we could pray for her. She was so delighted and came over to our table and sat down for us to pray. Lacey, Casey, Haley and myself all laid our hands on her and prayed over her. When we finished she looked up at us with a face of pure joy. She said thank you time and time again. I hugged her and she told me about the church that she goes to. She gave me her phone number and told me to call her so we could go on Sunday before we headed back home. I knew I had to do everything I could to get to that church on Sunday. I needed to go.

Saturday was more of a lazy day for us. We went to the beach and got to relax and hang out by the ocean. It was a great day to just get away and enjoy the town. When Sunday morning came, the majority of us were in the process of gathering our things together to leave. I still needed to call Jen and figure out how to get to her church. I felt like the time had passed and that we weren’t going to be able to get the tuk tuks ready and be able to get there. I thought the plans had fallen through and that I would never see Jen again. I went down to get breakfast and to try to figure things out. None of my friends were working. They were all off Sundays and there were other employees working. It was strange. These people that I had only gotten to know for a few days had somehow captured a bit of my heart. I sat down at a table anyway and figured out what I was going to eat for breakfast. As I did, I saw our team leader talking with Cole! They had happened to sit near one another for breakfast and got to talking. They had never spoken before. And neither of them knew that we had already met a few days prior. All of it was starting to connect together. I went over to Cole and asked how he was feeling; he said that he was doing much better and he thanked me and Marylou for praying for him. We talked with him a while longer and then I remembered I needed to call Jen! I was calling with the full expectation of our plan of our team going to her church that morning not happening. Plans always change in Cambodia and it’s just what I was expecting because it was all so last minute. I called her, and she told me what time her church was at. We had an hour and a half to get there. I handed the phone to a worker at the hostel so they could figure things out in Khmer and get the tuk tuks set up. They talked for about two minutes on the phone and next thing I knew, the tuk tuks were going to be ready for us in an hour and were going to take us there. It was actually going to happen. We talked together with our team and a few who weren’t feeling well decided to stay back. We had extra room in our tuk tuk so we decided to just throw it out there and invite Cole to come with us. He barely knew us, and we had only really talked two times, but we just felt like we should ask him anyway. And to be honest, I thought for sure that he would politely decline the invite. But he didn’t. He came with us! He piled into a tuk tuk and went to a strange Cambodian church with 6 six girls that he had only talked to twice. How crazy is that?

We talk with Cole on the way there and tell him more about what we have been doing here in Cambodia and learn more about his story. Then, we finally arrive at Jen’s church. We made it. We walk in, and the entire congregation was enthralled at the fact that we were there. Tourists don’t generally visit there. Jen showed up a little while after and sat with us. She was so excited that we came. We all worshipped together and they preached the word. During this time, Lacey got to share her testimony with Cole and got to show him verses in the Bible. I was sitting behind them, and you could just tell from his body language and posture that he was really interested in all that she was showing him. He had never really been to church before. But he had so much respect and was so kind for the entire time we were there. He was playing with some little girl that was there and was listening to the message intently. He was different. You could just tell that the Lord was working in him the entire time.

It came time where half of us had to leave because Cole needed to get back to his friend so Lacey, Haley and myself all left with him. I had written a letter for Jen and I slipped it into her hand and hugged her goodbye. I’ll never forget her. She was such a pure example of Christ and his love. While we were in the tuk tuk on the way back, Haley shared a word that the Lord had shown her for Cole. He took it so graciously and was so curious about all that we were saying. Lacey asked if he had a Bible and he said no. (She already knew the answer. The Lord had told her during the church service to give her Bible to him.) She took all of the papers out of her Bible and handed her Bible over to him. She had already written Cole a note in the front cover. He was speechless. He didn’t want to accept it at first. She told him that her Bible was her life. It was super important to her and all of the notes and highlights in it were really important and that he needed to put it to good use. He took it from her hand and said thank you many, many times. He said he would read all the highlighted verses and more. And he meant it. You could see in his face how thankful he was. It was such a selfless act on Lacey’s behalf. (If you don’t already know, Lacey is driven by the word. She is in her Bible what seems like all the time. She knows it forward and backwards. She has so many verses highlighted and her Bible is a treasure to her. So for her to give it away to a stranger from Canada that we had only known for two days was a very big deal.) When we got back to the hostel, we gathered in the lobby and prayed over him. He was so thankful and gave us all a huge hug and wished us the best for our next six weeks here. And he went on his way. The Lord is going to use him. Maybe not right now. Maybe not tomorrow. But the Lord will use Cole. The seed was planted.

Divine appointments are all around us. I had no idea that the Lord was going to use me on my “time off” in the way that he did. All the connections, all the divine appointments. The Lords timing is always perfect. I thought I was going to the city to get away from ministry. Not get even more involved in it. But the Lords plans are always greater. I got to share the Lord with so many people. And no, I didn’t see anyone miraculously come to Christ, but I saw a lot of seed planted in the hearts of people. I saw the Lord moving in ways I’ve never seen him move before. I felt the Lord moving me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’ll never forget these people. These faces. These hearts. The Lord has forever marked them in my soul. (The way the Lord orchestrated the entire weekend to fit together perfectly still blows my mind.)

So my plan to come to Cambodia to fight sex trafficking may have not turned out the way I wanted. My expectations are never going to turn out the way I plan. But that’s okay. Because the Lord’s plans are far better and far greater. His timing is perfect. Sometimes you just have to let go of the reins and let the Lord guide you; and I promise you, it will turn out much better than you could ever have hoped for. It has for me.

**Names changed to protect identity



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