Every morning and evening, the calming buzz of crickets and insects regularly accompanies our retreat time. We’re shaded from the hot sun while we gather in our open air meeting area. This time of year we are gifted with a breeze that makes the humidity just a little bit more manageable. Cambodian soups, fish and rice are a regular part of our delicious meals together. There’s a view of the big tree-filled hills that seem to hem us in all around. All the while we know the seashore is not far from our view as well.
Our joyful friend Makara speaks over the microphone to gather us in for our regular sessions. He adds games and jokes to get us smiling before we worship and learn together. Those Tenth group members who are new to Cambodia are getting more comfortable with each of the participants, including participants’ children who play alongside us. Side conversations today were filled with meaningful moments of laughter, prayer, and sharing our lives with these dynamic leaders.
Pastor Ais spoke a couple of times today, using the story of Ruth & Naomi to explore God’s loving kindness, [“Hesed”,] at work in our life losses and longings. Ais also circled us all up for creative activities that helped us to play and be attentive to our session themes. Many Cambodian leaders shared in large groups and small groups about some of the deep things they carry in their hearts. Tear filled faces were a part of building trust and relationship. This was such an honor!
Pastor Ken continued to lead us in looking at the role that shame plays in making us feel small. Our Tenth team members and Cambodian partners were challenged to live more fully into our true self with the Spirit’s help. Ken shared about times he’s been tempted to live from his false self— overly seeking the approval or acceptance of others.
Ken’s evening topic on the necessity of confession poignantly spoke of the necessity to be transparent with am someone you trust. This prompted an impromptu open mic time with an incredible young leader who is also a husband and father.
This young leader stood up and explained how his own overcoming of past sin and secrecy was rooted in the power of confession. As he shared with the whole group, he honored his wife as an example of someone who did not judge him but faithfully made space for him when he dared to be authentic. This leader’s testimony will be a trip highlight!
Since the morning included a more weighty time of safe circles (confidential) sharing, the afternoon water course challenge was just the right thing for a playful balance. Teams built more trust with laughter, zip lines, and attempts to cross wooden beams. Some team members fell off the challenge course and made a splash!
Pastor Ken and Pastor Ais agree that the most prized part of our trip so far definitely includes hearing first hand the incredible resiliency within the life stories of these Cambodian leaders and their families. Their commitment to coming alongside marginalized youth and families, with so many obstacles and barriers of their own, is truly inspiring.
Contributed by Aisling Zweigle