Monday, May 19, 2008

Number 12: Cambodia

I've officially visited a dozen countries...
I'm in Cambodia!
I am thankful for your prayers and am thankful to be part of such a neat team of students from Northwest Christian.

I'll blog some of my journal entries upon my return.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

May 17th

I am so appreciative of the affirmation I've been receiving. Thank you, Lord, for knowing exactly what I need when I need it! A comment about another day well-led, and a comment about what a great day someone had.

There are so many details to organize and such a need for excellent communication. It's a scary task and I have a greater appreciation for those who have led my overseas experiences.

In all the traveling I've done, some things are universal: horrendous traffic, poverty, oppression, darkness, etc.. When visiting the Genocide Museum (located at a former S-21 Torture Prison), I kept asking "why, God?" and pleading for justice for those who were murdered, in addition to forgiveness for the murderers.

Side note: Must some wretched things happen SO THAT other good things result? I do not know. Romans 3 refers to people who participate in unrighteous acts because it makes God's righteousness shine that much brighter. What a sick, twisted standard to live by. "Do evil SO THAT God's goodness appears better." - recent thoughts from June 10th.

We browsed through the Russian Market and made mental notes about souvenirs we'll buy before we leave, took pictures of monkeys freely roaming near a temple, and took a tour of the famous "Killing Fields" where hundreds of thousands of people were killed and thrown into mass graves. A memorial building stands tall, holding 17 stories of bones and skulls that were collected from the killing site. Our tour guide kept referring to "that crazy Pol Pot" who destroyed Cambodia and murdered her people. He spoke with such passion and pain as he recounted his near-death experience and relived its nightmares.

It reminded me of my visit to Rwanda; a severe genocide that wiped out an entire people group under one man's control. It happened to the Jews, the Rwandans. It's happening in Darfur, etc..

(Movies like "The Killing Fields" and "Hotel Rwanda" are worth watching.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Genocide and God's Goodness

It's day 2. I slept from 8pm - 5:30am and am enjoying the quiet while the rest of my team is waking up.

We had a country-orientation yesterday upon our arrival and enjoyed a delicious meal of authentic Thai food and green tea. We learned about Cambodia's culture, history, and religion. Our team became overcome with jet lag as heads bobbed and eyes fluttered shut.

I am really enjoying the group so far and am quickly learning how each one will offer something different to the team.

As I anticipate the City Tour later today, I'm wondering what kind of a devotion to share before we hit the road. We'll visit the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields where hundreds of thousands of bodies were dumped after extreme starvation and torture.

(I had each person make a list of adjectives to describe who God is to each of them. I thought it was important to "call out" what we know to be true about God's nature, as to reconcile the dissonance of an all-powerful God in a broken, evil world. We spent powerful time in prayer, naming God, claiming His sovereignty in the midst of a recovering country.)

Before we left, we explored various theodicies...
and so I ask: What is your personal theodicy?

a.k.a.: How do you integrate a good, gracious, loving God with terrible genocides, natural disasters, etc.?

My prayer for the day:
Heavenly Father - I ask for confidence and boldness. For creativity and sensitivity during our team times. For a divine sense of where each person is at. For compassion, patience, and joy. For quality time with each person here. For the ability to ask good questions and listen well. For safety and health for my friend at home. For focus, as I think of people who aren't with me and comforts I do not have. For vulnerability during our team times. For encouraging team dynamics. Flexibility. Safe travels. For eye-opening experiences and conversations. For the desire to be changed.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Leaving, on a jet plane

I just remembered I forgot to bring everyone's medical forms. You know, the ones listing blood types, immunizations, surgical history, current medications, contact information, etc.. Yikes!

I'm on the first leg of the trip, heading to San Francisco, then Hong Kong, then finally Cambodia. Portland has already disappeared into the clouds.

It's a smooth flight; the sun is streaming in through the windows. Sheer exhaustion (after months of preparation and a few restless nights) had set in I was about to doze off when I came to the important (and embarrassing) realization that I forgot the forms. And my flashlight.

Insecurities are running rampant as I process the preceding 11 hours. A decision to remove a student from the Israel team due to behavioral issues that finally came to light during finals week. I was the one that brought it forward, and now she's been 'kicked off' the team. Also, news of my boss's job prospect in Michigan really threw me for a loop. I congratulated her on being in the final round and tried not to think about all the changes that could ensue in my 3 week absence from the office.

As I said my goodbyes in the office -- to my boss/mentor and to my dear friend who should have been on the trip with me, a zillion "what ifs?" and fears became the framework for a fountain of tears. I cried so hard. The rest of my team was already piling into the van and everything was loaded up. I hated that I had to face my team as their "fearless leader" with red eyes and tear-stained cheeks. I felt so incompetent, facing parents who were entrusting me with the safety of their children. And I'm crying, having a hard time saying goodbye...

I am exhausted and the trip is just beginning. I'm in need of refreshment. My heart breaks for my friend who must stay at home. I need to process and rest. If only my mind would slow down... I am trying so hard not to fret about the medical forms.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

the Backseat

Is this how it's going to be?
Sleepless nights, tossing and turning
I hardly slept last night
And now tonight
Wondering about your safety
Startled awake by my phone
Drifting asleep
Awakened by "what ifs"
And "to do" lists
And the pool ball that keeps hitting the floor in the hall
Celebratory shouts of students in the quad
Classes are over
Their last weekend together
And then there is the drunken stupor of those outside
Stumbling from the bar across the street
Slamming car doors shut
Leaving Miller High Life cans on my back doorstep
For maintenance to clean up in the morning

My covers kicked off
My Mary Chair beckoned to me
With a blanket and two pillows
I prayed
I cried out for trust
And surrendered
And apologized for sitting in the driver's seat
Now I sit
Try to sit
Do my best to sit
In the backseat
Without a steering wheel
Seatbelt fastened
Asking if we're there yet.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The DMV & The Dentist

As I drove away from the DMV yesterday, I couldn't help but think about how blog-worthy my afternoon was.

I am quite thankful that I do not have to frequent the DMV. However, it would have been nice to have updated my driver's license photo within minutes of receiving it in the mail. I was wearing a dark green work polo from my waitressing days at the River Rock Cafe, my hair was pulled back, and I was definitely showing the Freshman Twenty.

Even acquiring the necessary materials for a license renewal proved to be challenging. The forms needed for a proof of residence were particularly difficult to obtain considering I live and work at the same place and have zero housing bills to pay. (Bills are one of the few accepted proofs of residency.)

The man at the help desk was less than helpful and much too quick to usher me on my way, even though there was no waiting in line behind me. I took a number, sat down, and observed.

One of the women behind the counter wore thick, plastic, bright red reading glasses. Her poofed-out permed hair passed her shoulders and she smacked on chewing gum as she typed loudly. A young girl with long, blonde hair broke the news to her friends that she failed her driver's test. Her red, puffy eyes told me she'd been crying.

My number was approaching so I made one last review of the necessary documents and realized I did not have my checkbook or cash on me.; of course they do not accept credit cards. So, I threw my number away, drove to the closest ATM, and then promptly returned to the DMV. I pulled another number, waited another 10 minutes, convinced the woman behind the counter of my current residency, agreed to being an organ donor, paid my cash fee, registered to vote, signed an electronic screen, took an updated picture, and walked away with my interim driver's license. Phew!

I much prefer visiting the dentist, especially when they rave about my clean, straight teeth. My hygienist was thrilled to take a break to inspect my mouth because the elderly gentlemen in the chair next door did not have a clean bill of health like me. Poor hygienist and poor old man.

As a high school senior, I was named "Student of the Month" through a community organization. On the award application, I had to write down my accomplishments and honors. As a joke, I included my membership in the "No Cavity Club" through my dental office, which recognized patients with clean teeth. When I stood up to receive my award, the announcer read off some of my accomplishments and proceeded to tell everyone about what I had written, saying "I bet you didn't think we'd read everything!" It was quite comical. :)

It still feels good to be part of the Club today.