Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goobye 2009, Hello 2010.

10:51 AM
Since I am blogging this year, I thought it would be a good place to be reflective. 2009 was an interesting year to say the least! I think it was the first full year that I lived on my own, which is exciting. I had the same job for the whole year, which is unique as well. I started out living with dear friends who moved away early in 2009, which left me without a home and sad. But my new place worked out well and my new roommate was great. As the pop culture aficionado that I claim to be, I read a whole lot of new books [Harry Potter...finally!], watched a crazy amount of TV [still reeling from seasons of Mad Men and Dexter], and even more crazy amount of movies. I decided to count all the movies I watched in 2009, and the grand total was....98! [My top 3 films in case you care: Up, 500 Days of Summer, and Sherlock Holmes.] I got much more involved in my church and have really started to find some deep & meaningful relationships there. Biggest purchase of 2009 would be a tie between the iPod touch and my Kindle. Best concert of the year would hands down be Ray Lamontagne. I have loved him for years now, and to finally see him exciting! Another unique 2009 experience was the film festivals I was part of. I volunteered with the Gasparilla FilmFestival, which is one of Tampa's larger film festivals. And then I was on the board for Motion Film Festival, which was a brand new festival featuring short films from around the country. I really enjoyed that experience. I even got to create some art and display it at a local art show! I was able to witness weddings & births, and love, both new and old. Probably the most exciting part of 2009 was Cambodia. I remember at Christmas 2008, I was talking with a good friend about our lives and the direction they were headed. He reminded me about my dreams of Cambodia and what I wanted to do there. So it was then that I researching the trip. Wasn't long before I found it, and even sooner that I was there. I knew it would change my life, and it did. It has altered 2010 and the rest of my life. The majority of 2010 will be spent saving money, fundraising more money, living with my parents, and saying goodbye to friends. I will begin training in 2010 and once again, travel overseas. So as I say goodbye to 2009, I am grateful for the experiences, but am really excited for 2010. A few read 50 books this year, to pay off my credit card, to pay off my car, to finally get in shape, and to continue to grow in my relationship with God. I can't wait to see what happens!!



Friday, December 25, 2009

Salvation is Created

3:00 AM
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them: Luke 2


Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the Night Before

3:00 AM
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Letters, Love & Prayers Vol. 1

2:06 PM
Dear Family & Friends:

Happy holiday! I hope that you are sharing this time with the ones you love most. As one year ends, and a new is about to begin, I wanted to share with you what 2010 holds for me. In the summer of 2009, I traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia in Southeast Asia to work with girls leaving the sex trade. Needless to say, it was a life-changing experience. While there, God really captured my heart and has opened doors for me to return there for full-time position in the coming months. I will be working with as a YWAM [Youth With a Mission] Prostitute Recovery Staff at the White Doves base in Siem Reap. At the home, the girls receive counseling, healing, education, and discipleship. Before I go, I will be completing a 6 month training period with YWAM. This Compassion & Justice focused school & training will focus on the unique experiences and challenges future missionaries will encounter while serving in this capacity of ministry. The first 3 months will be in their Orlando base and the final 3 months will be overseas. The location is still being determined. I will begin this training in September 2010 and finish in February 2011. After this training is complete, I will be returning back to Cambodia as YWAM staff. I am so excited for this opportunity! The issue of human trafficking and modern-day slavery has been an issue pressed upon my heart for years now, and I am humbled to be working towards putting an end to this injustice.

For this Christmas, I ask for your prayers as I prepare for this coming journey. I know the enemy does not want me to go and do God's work, and so I'm praying against spiritual attacks of any kind. I'm also asking for your financial support. This entire position is support-based. I'm finding myself in a place of complete reliance of God. The training school amount I would need to raise is between $5900 - $6800. The final cost depends on the location of the outreach. This amount would be needed in full by November 2010. I know God has prepared this opportunity in advance for me, and I hope and pray that you can be part of this journey with me. Thank you in advance for your support.

Ruined for the ordinary,

Joy Engdahl

Make checks payable to Youth With A Mission.
Mail to: Joy Engdahl, 3961 Appletree Drive, Valrico, FL 33594
Give online through PayPal at my blog:


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

10:58 AM

So my first batch of fundraising support letters are going out this week, with the merriment of Christmas cards! And for some reason I’m nervous about sending them out. Maybe because it’s making everything real. I’ve been talking about going back to Cambodia since September, and now I’m taking the first real and tangible steps to get back there. It’s no longer just something I talk about, but now it’s something I’m doing. And I always get nervous asking people for money. And I know that raising support is about more than just money, it’s about building a support and prayer team, which are just as important. I just wish the money could be provided without me having to ask for it! Haha, that is wishful thinking. So, I’ve written my letters, signed my cards, addressed the envelopes and soon they will be delivered to many, many homes across the country. Because stamps are rather pricy, I won’t be doing mailings every time I have updates. Most of the time it will be done right here through my blog or on Facebook [JOY in Cambodia]. So stayed tuned, as in the coming months you will be seeing more and more updates on the support process, fundraising events, and just my general news. If you prefer snail mail for updates, email me your address and I’ll be sure to add you to my list! If you are content being green, be sure to follow my blog to keep up with all my latest posts!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Festive Films!

2:44 AM
I am admittedly a movie snob. I think there are a lot of great films out there which allow me not to have to sit through a bad movie. And I feel the exact same way about Christmas movies! I feel compelled to share with you The Top 4 Christmas Movies According to Joy [and why]. So enjoy!

1. White Christmas
This movie is a classic. Singing! Dancing! Bing Crosby! Snow! My mom and I watch it every year, and the past few years, we've been going down the Tampa Theatre to catch their showing of it. It's even better on the big screen. In case you've lived under a hole for 50 years, and somehow missed this gem, here's a recap. It stars army buddies/entertaining duo Wallace & Davis [Bing Crosby & Danny Kaye] who are taking their act on the road. It's on the road they meet the ever-so-lovely showstopping Haynes sisters [Vera Ellen & Rosemary Clooney]. Smitten, Davis convinces Wallace to follow the girls to Vermont for some fun in the snow. To their dismay, Vermont is a bit greener than they had hoped, but determined to make the best of a bad situation, they check into the gorgeous mountain inn the Haynes sisters were booked to perform. It happens to be ran by none other than Wallace & Davis' former Army General, a man they had great respect for. Seeing him in a state of retirement, the guys decide to give him one heck of a retirement party! Cue the singing and dancing! There's love and romance, and toe-tapping fun!

2. Elf
I know, it's Will Ferrell. I'm even shocked I love this one! But Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf makes for one great holiday movie experience! Buddy, a human, was raised by elves, and soon(ish) realizes he's not like the other elves. Like a man on a mission, Buddy sets off for the magical land of New York City to find his long lost dad. But things in the Big Apple aren't quite like the North Pole, and Buddy finds himself in some laugh out loud situations. His cheery disposition doesn't sit well with everyone, but he does finally find his family and a girl of his own. It's funny, it's touching, it' of the greatest things I've ever seen

3. Love Actually
This British holiday love story weaves the lives of 16 different characters in the weeks leading up until Christmas. Some are finding love, some are losing love. Some don't want love, some are trying desperately to find it. As fading rocker Billy Mack tries so hard to have the number 1 Christmas single, this beautiful story unfolds and we discover that love actually is all around.

4. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Dysfunctional families? Check. Dead pets? Check. Unwanted Rodents? Check. Kidnapping? Check. The most memorable Christmas movie ever? Check. In yet another tale of Clark Griswold's hopes to create the perfect family memories, things go disastrously wrong. Uninvited relatives, a scrooge of a boss, and Christmas lights galore come together to make a memorable and quotable movie experience.

So there ya have it! The Top 4 Christmas Movies According to Joy. Some honorable mentions: It's A Wonderful Life, Home Alone, and Serendipity (in my head it's a Christmas movie!).

What are your favorites?


Monday, December 7, 2009

Postcards 4 Sale

12:14 PM
Hey all! Here's the postcards I recently designed and sold at the Canvas 5 art show. I have plenty left and would love to continue selling them to raise funds for my upcoming missions work! Each postcard is 4x6 and printed on a white cardstock and is $1! Use the PayPal link on the left for the easiest way to purchase. If you don't have PayPal, just email me and we'll figure it out! Enjoy the postcards (which make excellent stocking stuffers....wink wink)


Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Spa-Riffic Night!

4:40 PM
I love to experience new things. Whether it's a new restaurant, a new band, a new city or a new country, I just love it. There's just a rush about trying something for the first time. Well, I had a new experience this week as well. I was invited by my friend Becca out to Sharmaine Salon & Day Spa on Clearwater Beach for a night of manicures, pedicures, and the brand new PitiCure, a beauty treatment for your armpits. Sounds crazy, right? Well, it's not! Dove beauty products along with Dr. Debra Luftman have put together this new procedure specifically for underarms that you could get done at a spa or right at home. Take a look at this video to see how it's done.

I was sold after the video, and my experience was even better. Relaxing and soothing, the PitiCure was a dream. Then we topped the night off with the manicures and pedicures, which is never a bad night in my book! And can't forget the swag bag! We left with coupons for the spa, a Dove spa wrap, a manicure kit, Dr. Debra Luftman;s book, and a stash of Dove deodorant. The staff at Sharmaine's was fantastic, and I can't wait to go back and enjoy sometime on the beach and in the spa. If you're out that way, be sure to check them, and book your own Dove PitiCure!


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cue Up Those Christmas Carols!

2:48 PM
Tis the season for lights, hot chocolate, gifts, and...cheesy Christmas music. I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas music. There have been a few Christmases where I refused to listen to any. Then some years I embrace the joyful holiday musical spirit. But lately I've been compiling my version of good Christmas tunes. Some festive, some mellow, some merry, and some thoughtful. So I thought I'd share!

First of all, it's just not Christmas without Harry Connick, Jr. He has released 3 stellar Christmas albums that are a playlist must. Also, Sufjan Stevens has a compilation of 5 Christmas CD's that have some great tracks – both Christmasy and not! I found some great hymns on there too! Last year, I fell in love with “The Hotel Cafe presents Winter Songs” album. With artists like Brandi Carlile, Sara Bareilles, KT Tunstall, and Colbie Callait, it's hard to go wrong! Some other favorite tracks include “My Grown Up Christmas List” by Kelly Clarkson, “Joy to the World” by Whitney Houston, “O Holy Night” by Mariah Carey, “Baby, It's Cold Outside” by Doris Day & Bing Crosby, “All I Want For Christmas is You” from the Love Actually Soundtrack, "Go Tell It On the Mountain" by Needtobreathe and “Happy Christmas” by John Lennon.

Some new discoveries this year have been A Fine Frenzy's “Oh, Blue Christmas” EP. The track “Red Ribbon Foxes” is by far the best, with great lyrics such as “Love doesn't come in boxes, or truth in a crowded shop”, I've had it on repeat for days. Also found “Carol of the Bells” by the Bird and the Bee! So lovely! So that's just a few of my musical holiday treats for this season.

What are some your classics? Any new finds this season?


Friday, November 27, 2009

Day of Thankfulness

3:37 PM
Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Another day of consuming ungodly amounts of turkey, watching football, and sleeping. For me, Thanksgiving has never been a favorite holiday. Maybe it's because I've lived within 10 minutes of the majority of my family for almost my whole life, and really Thanksgiving dinner feels like a regular Sunday afternoon with the fam. Or maybe it's because I don't really like turkey (or the usual Thanksgiving foods). Or maybe it's because I don't like football. All of these elements could contribute to why Thanksgiving is just not my favorite of the holidays. I realize as a believer the concept of being thankful has significance on this holiday as well. But for me, I was always under the assumption I was to be thankful to God everyday of my life, not just on days I get turkey. So Thursday came and went this week. I was thankful to be with my family, and have them all healthy and happy together. I was thankful to have a job I enjoy. I was thankful to be planning for a future on the mission field next year. And I then I was thankful the day of forced thanks was over. I did give it a good send-out though, by watching some of my favorite “Friends” Thanksgiving episodes. Here are a few of the best quotes from the 10 seasons that entertained me this past holiday...

Ross: It tastes like feet! TOW Ross Got High [Season 6]

Phoebe: Oh yeah! Happy needless-turkey-murder day. TOW the Late Thanksgiving [Season 10]

Chandler: An 80-foot inflatable dog loose over the city? How often does that happen?
Phoebe: Almost never. TOW Underdog Gets Away [Season 1]

Will (Brad Pitt): Look at her standing there with those yams. My two worst enemies, Ross: Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates. TOW the Rumor [Season 8]

Ross: Done! With time to spare.
Chandler: This might be a new world record.
Ross: You know I hate to lecture you guys but it's kind of disgraceful that a group of well-educated adults and Joey can't name all the states. Have you ever seen a map or one of those round colorful things called a globe?
Chandler: Uh Magellan, you have 46 states.
Ross: What?! That's impossible.
Joey: 46. Well who's educated now, Mr. I-forgot-ten-states? TOW Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs [Season 7]

Monica: Fine! Judge all you want to, but... (Points to Ross) Married a lesbian. (Points to Rachel) Left a man at the altar. (Points to Phoebe) Fell in love with a gay ice dancer. (Points to Joey) Threw a girl's wooden leg in a fire. (Points to the box Chandler's in) Lives in a box! TOW Chandler in a Box [Season 4]

Rachel: You're not going to tell the whole story about how your parents got divorced again, are you?
Joey: Oh come on, I want to hear it! It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Chandler bumming us out! TOW All the Thanksgivings [Season 5]


Monday, November 9, 2009

A Story Worth Telling (& Living)

3:35 PM
I love a good book. One that is so good, that I feel compelled to read it at a stop light, a drive-thru, and basically any other free second I may have. I just finished a book that was this good. It was the new Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I have been a Miller fan for quite awhile, having read 4 out of his now 5 titles. His easy-going, laid-back writing style has captured audiences as he tells stories about spirituality, God, politics, love, church, and faith. The first book that introduced me (and many others) to Donald Miller was Blue Like Jazz. It was a simple story about his own journey of faith & spirituality, marked with his successes and failures, highs and lows. He wrote with such conviction that the book became a bestseller that would soon be transformed into a movie. The story that unfolds through A Million Miles... is Don's journey through editing his own life [Blue Like Jazz] for the movie, and the lessons he learned through it all.

Miller explains how our lives are a story. And some of us are living better stories than others. He tells about a friend who's daughter was living a bad story. Dating a troublesome boy, and making bad decisions. Her dad (Don's friend) decided to change his family's story. He decided to build an orphanage in Mexico, with his family. Together they raised the funds, visited the location, and made it happen. And their story changed. And the wayward daughter became excited about that story. And she in turn changed her own story. So many of our stories are lived through TV, movies, and even books. But those aren't real life. Instead of watching Oscar-worthy films, we should go out and live awe-inspiring lives. God has given each of us a story to live, and we can either be part of it, and listen to the great Narrator, or try and write our own, with our own human, limited scope of vision. Part of me imagined Will Ferrell's character in Stranger than Fiction while reading this book as well. In the movie, Will Ferrell learns he is a character in someone's fiction, and there is a voice narrating his actions as well. Then the voice tells him he is going to die. And the character didn't like that too much. And begins to change things and make things happen. I have always believed that life is bigger than ourselves. And so Donald Miller's concept of living out our story made complete sense to me. I loved reading about his bike ride across America for clean water in Africa. I envied his hike through the Andes to Macchu Piccu. I hurt for him when he met his dad for the first time. I laughed at his own missteps, knowing I've made the same ones. But mostly, it challenged me to think about the story I'm living. When I get to heaven, and God asks me about my life, what am I going to remember? It's easy to forget the day to day moments, and to only remember the extraordinary. So am I living a life of extraordinary moments? What kind of legacy do I want to leave for those behind me? Is it possible to leave this world a little better than how I found it? I hope so, because that's my story.


Monday, October 26, 2009

God & Vampires

10:52 PM
This is a little cornier than I like to blog, but I just had to write it. Sometimes it really doesn't take much to entertain me. For example, I've recently been reading the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. It's great...vampires, telepaths, werewolves, fairies and more. I'm all into it. And the pivotal character love triangle is Sookie (the telepath) and Bill (the vampire) and Eric (the vampire). After 9 books, there's still a triangle! I'm personally Team Eric, but I'm sure that's up for debate among fans.

I was reminded of these characters in church this past Sunday. I know, odd place to be thinking of vampires, but go with me. Ryan was sharing in prayer time from Ezekiel 16 about the marriage vow, and God's commitment to us as believers. It shows how God time after time had told Israel that “you are mine” (v.8). And it got me thinking...

In the books, both Bill and Eric have claimed Sookie. “She is mine” they would say to other vampires who wanted to use her or harm her. But because she is spoken for, she is off-limits. It goes even further, when they form a blood bond to her. She is protected by them and they can always sense where she is. And I was struck by the parallel to my own life. Christ and I also have a blood bond that is unbreakable. And He has declared to Satan and all the world “She is mine”. He has claimed me for his own, and no one take that away from me. Jesus is always watching over me, and coming to my rescue time and time again. So as I'm almost laughing out loud in church on Sunday, I realized I don't need a vampire, I have a Savior.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tall, Skinny, Half-Caff, No Foam, and Sugar-Free Please

11:30 PM
I recently re-entered the java-induced barista workforce again. This is my second coffeeshop gig, the first being Port City Java [R.I.P.] about 2 years ago. My new place of employment is Borders Cafe. I'm not gonna lie, I've wanted to work at a bookstore since I turned 18 and was eligible to be hired. I love love love reading books, recommending books, and selling books. So when I saw that Borders was hiring, I immediately put in my application. Books AND coffee...sign me up! Now maybe you're thinking, doesn't she already have a full-time job? And yes, I do. And I love that job too. I decided to look for additional work when I decided that would be going into full-time missions. Part of my support raising process includes paying off the small debts I've occurred and whatnot. So all this is is me being proactive about my financial situation. Or so I thought.

I've been at Borders 3 weeks now, and I realized I'd almost forgotten this kind of work. Not coffee work, that's like riding a bike, but work that wasn't a faith-based organization. I'd been spoiled by staff prayer meetings and conversations about God's will in our jobs. I'm back in the thick of it, no doubt. And I love it. My co-workers are starting to get to know me, and when they find out I have a full-time job they ask why in the world I'm working another. So I get to tell them about the missions work I've done in the past and the future work I hope to do and how extra money helps. Then when anyone mentions traveling, my ears perk up and I'm anxious to hear their travel experiences and share mine. Needless to say my list of destinations raises a few eyebrows [India...New Zealand...Cambodia...]. So again, I get to share about my passion and heart for mission work. I was telling 2 co-workers just tonight about my Cambodia trip, and my sweet & spunky coworker says “So you're a missionary?” And I pause and say “Yes.” And she responds, “Girl, you got a mission field right here!” And it stopped me. Because she's dead right. In the back of my head I knew this could be an outreach opportunity, but it wasn't my sole purpose in this new job. But when someone else pointed it out, someone doing the same work in the same environment. Someone who I don't even know if they have a faith background. That's a big moment. So here I am...Joy Engdahl, missionary to Borders, hoping to be serving coffee and God's love nightly.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Art + Love

2:50 PM
Where art and love meet, great things will happen. Last night was Canvas 5, a local art show. Canvas itself has a been a labor of love, out the hearts of Bobby Triplett and Mike Deserio. Years ago they had a dream to create a place where the artists of this city could come together and display their creativity. Each Canvas has a been a huge success, with with 20+ artists and crowds nearing 1,000. I've attended the last couple art shows and am always impressed with the amount of great art in my community. Last night was specifically personal for me though, because it was where I began my fundraising for Cambodia. I had the idea awhile back to create art to sell that would help with my support. And Canvas came at the perfect time to launch this. I created 6 different postcards themed with travel, Cambodia or slavery. I had no idea what to expect, who would talk to me, and who would buy any. But as usual, God exceeds my expectations. I can't even count how many stopped by my table and I shared my story with. My throat was sore at the end of the night! Not only did dear friends come and support me, but total strangers! My pastor and our worship band played the opening set last night and they were kind enough to give me a shout-out, which brought even more people my way. It was a long night for sure, and at times overwhelming. But it was so reassuring to have shared my passion with people and to hear their response. And leaving with $100 didn't hurt either. Fundraising begun!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Art for Freedom

2:28 PM
Fundraising has begun! This Friday night I will begin putting my cause and trip out there for the world with hopes to bring in some cash. What is this Friday night? I'm glad you asked! It's Canvas 5! A local FREE art show that exists to bridge the art community with the faith community. I will be one of the lucky artists selling some handmade goodness. I've designed travel/Cambodia themed postcards to help get word out about my trip. I'm hoping that not only will people want to buy them for the design, but also for the chance to invest in this ministry. This is just one of many opportunities I will have in the coming year to put myself out and hope for a financial return. It's scary and exciting, just like all support raising! If you are in the Tampa area, be sure to check out Canvas and support some local art, any myself!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Applying Myself

11:35 PM
So many of you have been wondering what's next in my preparation for Cambodia. Well, right now, I'm filling out applications! DTS Battambang (as with any missions program) has an extensive application and screening process to ensure they chose the best applicants that fit best with their ministry.

So I hope that's me! I really want to do the Battambang DTS because it starts sooner, and it's Khmer and English, and I can start adjusting to the life and the language, and I'm really anxious to get started in this new journey! But only if it's what God wants. The last thing I want to do is rush into something this big. So if October in Phnom Penh is where I need to my DTS, then so be it. Or maybe even a totally different one! There's one in Orlando that has a Compassion/Justice focus. So I know that God has the perfect DTS with the perfect fit. And side note, praise the Lord, my job funds have been renewed and I have a job until next September!

So that's where I am. Filling out paperwork, finding my immunization records, tracking down references. I know I'll get there...eventually and in His timing.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

And the Decision Is...

9:23 PM
I've agonized over this for quite awhile. I prayed about it for weeks. It's been on my mind since before I left. Will I move back to Cambodia and do long term ministry? Or will I stay in Tampa for something here? Where the heck is God calling me? Oh, the unrest and sleepless nights [part jet-lag, part indecision] drove me nuts. I finally just stopped. Stopped thinking about it, praying about it and agonizing over it. And then peace came. Not in the form of lightning or flashing neon signs [never does], but in the gentle realization that God has already called me there. He had already placed the broken women of Cambodia on my heart. I was getting in my own way. My own fears, my own hangups, was holding me back. And by putting those aside, I saw the answer. I'm going back.

With YWAM, any staff position requires a DTS [Discipleship Training School]. I've chosen the one in Battambang, which is two and a half hours south of where Siem Reap [where I visited]. I chose this one particularly because it's ran by Americans [yay English!] but it will give me the chance to start picking up Khmer. It's a 6month training school which is part missions lecture/training and part outreach. The next session begins March 2010, which is what I'm applying for. The cost will be around $3,000, which after I'm accepted to the school, I can begin raising. My position with White Doves would be support raised also, so me and God are about to start the faith adventure of relying on other for my livelihood. It's exciting, stressful, stressful and encouraging.

So that's where I am now. Getting my paperwork together to apply for DTS Battambang and get myself back there! Thanks for your prayers and encouragement and beginning this crazy ride with me! More to come...

Check out this song by Sara Groves called “I Saw What I Saw” which I could not stop listening to in Cambodia, and that really guided my decision-making process.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

One Girl, Big Difference

9:59 AM
I ran across this powerful video about how just changing one life can make a difference in our world. Whether its in Cambodia, Africa, or our own backyard. Watch, and enjoy!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Moving in Slow-Motion in a Fast-Paced World

2:21 PM
Well, I'm home from Cambodia. Saturday at midnight to be exact. It was quite an adventure returning home. I left Siem Reap Friday evening for Bangkok. Because it was a separate flight than my one to the States, I had to go through immigration and customs to get my baggage (negative: hassle / positive: extra passport stamp). And since my flight to the States wasn't until Saturday, I couldn't check my bags and get to the other side of the airport. I felt like the Israelites unable to enter the promised land. On the other side I knew there was Western food, and cozy Starbucks chairs to sleep on. On my side, there was Thai restaurants and metal benches. So the night wasn't the greatest. But I slept a bit, and woke up early to check my bags and prepare for my endless day of flying. Flight left Bangkok at 8am, and landed in Tokyo at 3:45pm. Next flight left Tokyo at 5pm and 12 hours later landed in Chicago at 4pm. Yeah, I traveled back in time. Not as fun as it sounds. And of course, I had to go through immigrations/customs again in the States. Not a speedy process, but I made it through and ate a delicious Chicago-style pizza. After killing time in the Chicago airport, moving gates (not an eask in the giant airport), and running into a coworker (random!), I was finally Tampa-bound. I had never been so happy to stop flying in my life. My dad picked me up, and as we loaded up into his car, I realized I hadn't been in a car in 2 weeks. Weird! So the past few days have been a blur of sleep, not sleeping, catching up with friends, and fervently praying. One of my dear Facebook friends described this time as “When you step off the plane on US soil, it's like stepping onto one of the moving walkways at the airport. Pretty soon you're just swept up in it.” I went back to work Monday, and discovered life sure hasn't stopped. In fact, it's moving faster than when I left. So as I readjust to life in America, I'm faced with a a pretty big decision. Do I go back to the country that I just fell in love with? Or do I continue with life as I know it? I don't have an answer yet, but I will. I hope.


Sunday, August 30, 2009


Friday, August 28, 2009


1:24 AM

So it's Thursday night and I leave tomorrow. I didn't know how I wanted to spend my last night in Cambodia, but I knew I wanted it to be special. The day had already been great, from Kid's Club in the slum (I spent 20 minutes painting little ones fingernails) to meeting some American YWAMer's from Battambang (2 ½ south of Siem Reap) to visiting Common Grounds coffeehouse, an American coffeehouse in the city (free wifi and air con..yes please!). So really it was already a pretty great last day. But the girls surprised me with a special evening. They made dinner specifically for me...sandwiches! Khmer rarely eat bread and sandwiches, so it was not a typical dinner for them. Granted the sandwiches were filled with fried pork and oyster sauce (common cooking ingredient here), so it wasn't a typical sandwich for me either! But I appreciated their effort to make sure I enjoyed the meal. Then we played games together. A banana eating contest, a scarf tying game, an animal version of heads up seven up, and my American favorite, the numbers game. I even counted in Khmer, which was impressive for me! Then they all prayed for me and my journey home. And then each girl shared words of encouragement or thanks to me. I can't believe just a week ago I blogged about figuring how to build relationships with these girls and how to do ministry with them, and then tonight they are telling me they loved me. They hope I can come back and stay longer, so they can know me more. They apologized for not speaking enough English (talk about a different mentality from the States, where we get annoyed when people don't speak OUR language!). And on and on they went. Tears were shed, and we laughed a lot too. God definitely showed up in the midst of language barriers and cultural differences, as He always does. These two weeks have forever changed me and shaped my future. The rest is in God's hands and I am anxiously waiting. So I say goodbye Cambodia, but hopefully not for forever.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Day Worth Celebrating

4:21 AM
Today [Tuesday] was a unique day. Not only because it started at 7am (usually we start at 8:30!). Not only because we used a new mode of transportation (the flat bed truck). And not only because we got to go to a lake. Today was unique because today the 10 White Doves girls were baptized. About 50 of us from the church caravaned out to the nearby lake this morning to celebrate the baptism of the church family's new believers and to share some lunch and community. (How completely cool and random that 50 people could just pick up on a Tuesday morning and spend the morning at a lake!) It wasn't too different than beach baptisms in America. True, all 50 of us came in TWO flatbed trucks, so that's a little different. But we started the morning with worship, and the pastor shared some verses about what Jesus had to say about baptism. Then we walked down to the water and one by one people were baptized. Martin baptized the White Dove girls. It was a beautiful sight to behold. (The Cambodian church both sprinkles & dunks, best of both worlds I suppose!) I was witnessing living, breathing miracles! These girls have literally walked from death to life, and not looked back. They've run to Jesus with open arms, and He has not disappointed them. Martin described today as “pay day”. He said all the long nights, the good days and the bad days, were all worth it, today. I videoed each girl's baptism so Martin can put together a photo and video memory for them, and his supporters back home. I was honored to be a part.

After the baptisms, everyone swam and swam. The lake isn't all that close, so it was a special treat for everyone to get a break from the heat with some water. (I opted against swimming after Martin's comment about wanting to take a bacteria sample of the water...yikes!) After swim time, we shared lunch. The girls were up late last night preparing and there was enough for all. Rice and barbeque chicken! Now that's a Cambodian meal I can get on board with! True, I ate it off a banana leaf from our backyard, but still! It was one good meal. Then, my favorite part of the day, nap time! The huts were lined with hammocks, so I cozied up and fell asleep to the sound of Khmer singing, kids laughing and water splashing. I would like to hope I can request a hammock in my mansion in heaven, because I could spend an eternity in one! After waking up with a “mild” sunburn (I have new degrees of measuring a sunburn since my recent scalding), we loaded up our truck and headed back to the Center. All 20 of us in the back of our truck (sorry Mom!) were having a great time. Funny thing happened on the way back, we were cutting through the Angkor Wat temples (I LOVE that that is a shortcut we can take here!) and we got stopped by the police. NOT because there were 20+ people in this truck, but because Martin and I are foreigners, and we couldn't be in there without buying a pass! They didn't believe we were just taking a shortcut. So we had to take the long route. But still a good time. I know that today was incredibly special for the girls, and I was thrilled to be along for the ride!



4:20 AM
So my journey here is half over, which I can not believe. And I'm sure some of you are wondering what God has been telling me regarding my future here and moving back. And the truth is, I still don't know! I knew that I had to come here to really get a feel for the ministry and the people and the country before making a decision like this, but I thought once I got here I would know. And I still don't. Part of me loves the idea of uprooting my life, moving across the world, learning a new language, and mastering the motorbike. But part of me misses the comforts and community of home. Could I really live like this for a year (or more)?? It's been really hard to gauge the ministry, because of the language barrier. But if I were to come back, I'd be sure to learn enough to fluent (or at least conversational). So that barrier wouldn't exist. Plus, there's a flexibility to bring my giftedness to the ministry. Such as teaching consistent English classes, or dance classes, or sewing techniques. And I'm sure there's some bigger picture stuff I could help with, such as fundraising or graphics/newsletter stuff. I know Martin & Dary are desperate for reinforcements! It's so laid back and easy going, and it fits me well. Yeah it's really hot here, but the Khmer shower like 3 times a day, which I would be in favor of! And don't forget about daily nap time. And I'm still not a fan of the food, but there's enough Western food at the Lucky Supermarket that I could easily add things I liked to my diet (I just would actually have to cook...I haven't seen a single microwave here!). Dude, there's even TimTams here (my favorite New Zealand chocolate cookie snack...come ON America!). And there's another American girl moving here in the next few months to stay “indefinitely” which is encouraging, because her & I could probably get our own apartment in town. And did I mention I could own a motorbike?!?! My dream of owning a Vespa could be reality here in Cambodia. I could see a Angkor Wat sunset everyday. I was 50/50 before I left, and halfway through...I'm still 50/50. I really need to hear a direct answer from God. I don't feel I can move forward without Him directing me one way or the other. Part of me feels like this will be the best time in my life to make this leap, because I'm single, no kids, and no major attachments holding me to the States, and know it would be amazing. But part of me likes the normal, day to day life in America, and could be happy with the husband, 2 kids and a picket fence. I just don't know. I'm at a crux of indecision.


Wat Up!

4:04 AM
OK, I've been waiting a week to use that blog title. Finally got to visit the temples of Angkor Wat today [Sunday]! I had no idea the size of that place. Angkor Wat is just one temple, and there are actually several spread out over several kilometers. Angkor Wat is the world's largest religious monument. The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 – c. 1150), Dedicated to Vishnu, it was built as the king's state temple and capital city. In the late 13th century Angkor Wat was converted from Hindu to Theravada Buddhist use, which continues to the present day. The temple has become a symbol of Cambodia, and is a source of great national pride. A depiction of Angkor Wat has been a part of Cambodian national flags since the introduction of the first version circa 1863. I toured the big ones: Angor Wat (the famous one), Banyon Temple at Angkor Thom (the one with all the faces) and Ta Phrom (the underground tree one), and even a few smaller ones by the road. I'm not going to really say much about these ancient wonders, but instead let the pictures speak for themselves. Once you see the pictures, you'll see why no words could ever sum up what I experienced there today.

I have more photos, but the internet was not cooperating...come back soon!!


Cambodian Culture

3:45 AM
On Saturday myself and girls from White Doves went on an outing, to the Cambodian Cultural Village. It's another big tourist attraction in Siem Reap, which is basically exhibits and shows that display Cambodia's culture and it's influences from Asia. The Village is free for Khmer, Cambodians, and $11 for a me, a foreigner (Angkor Wat is free for Khmer and $20 for foreigners....I'm noticing a pattern). But it was well worth the cost. We started out with the exhibits which highlighted Cambodia's history. It was so different seeing another country's history unfold. About halfway through I realized the absence of God, and when one looks at America's history, God is evident. Not so with Cambodia. We took our time walking through and taking lots of pictures. For some of the mothers, these would be their photographs with their children. What a thrill! The girls were eager to take photos with me as well. My favorite exhibit was the one that showed the building of the Angor Wat temples. Complete with elephants, horses and really big men, it really conveyed the sheer magnitude of those ancient ruins. The entire Village was set in a garden. There were beautiful scenic plants and flowers around every corner. I got a little shutter happy to say the least! The first show we saw was a love story, about a young girl who had fallen in love with a handsome boy. But, as with Khmer culture, her parent's had already arranged her marriage to another. Through what I saw as a sad display of society's norms, the Asian crowd laughed along with the bride being bought, and forced to this other man, and then hit when she ran from him. Through a series of well choreographed dance routines, the girl did get her man, and all lived happily ever after. We hope. After the show we discovered the floating village, which I could only compare to (pardon my geekiness here) the computer game Myst, the world with all those &*@! pipes. It was a breathtaking sight, complete with a giant stone waterfall. We then saw a show about Chinese dance which was pretty impressive. Some crazy flexible people those Chinese! Then we saw a peacock dance show, sadly not where actual peacocks dance, but where men in peacock dance wear perform. Entertaining nonetheless! There was also some unique animals on display, a monkey, a hedgehog, river deer, and a red crane! We paused for dinner, which I've pretty much just given up on trying anymore, and then continued on our way. Our final stop was this exquisite garden with miniature replicas of buildings and monuments in Khmer history. As the sun began to set, my pictures could not be more beautiful. Then as 7 of us crammed into a tuk-tuk, we journeyed home, complete with new memories and a lot of photos, and one great day.

Me and the White Doves girls at the Cambodia Cultural Village!



3:26 AM
Today [Friday] as I walked through Siem Reap, looking for new things discovered, I walked by many, many shops. Crammed one right after another, selling souvenir crap that no one back home actually wants from their traveling friends. But one store jumped out to me today and I had to go in. It was called Poetry. Immediately the stainless steel shelf d├ęcor and grunge font signage caught my eye. A sign said everything in the store was made from recyclable materials, from jewelry to books to postcards to bags. I walked through, wanting to by everything I saw. But today I only bought 2 things, a “sketchbook” with a silver silkscreen imprint of the Angkor Wat temples and the text “Kingdom of Wonders” and a postcard.

I bought the sketchbook to use as a memory book. I've really moved away from the art of a scrapbooking (much to my mother's chagrin), and am all about digital pictures. But there is just something about holding tangible memories from a trip that is just so meaningful. So my intentions are to print out some pictures from the trip and mount them in the book, record some thoughts or verses from the trip, and even have some of the girls write in it, because the Khmer written language is just beautiful. I liked that the cover said “Kingdom of Wonder” because this whole trip has been a wonder. Not only do I “wonder” if I could be moving back here, but I'm in “wonder” of how these people live day to day, and I'm in “wonder” at how big our God is. So I thought it was appropriate, so I picked it up! I was about to pay my 5 American dollars (btw almost all shops use both American dollars and Cambodian riel, so it's quite common to get change back in both currencies. I have 3 different countries currencies in my wallet right now too!), when I saw a stack of sharply designed postcards with catchy sayings. One that grabbed me read “JOURNEYS are nothing more than a pile of plane tickets, bus stubs, restaurant bills, unused anti-diarrhea tablets, dirty laundry and a roll of undeveloped film still awaiting recollection of still memories to remind us that we are all strangers all yearning for a CONNECTION”. Oh what truth! On a $1 postcard! Every city, country and continent across our globe is filled with people searching for a connection. With a person or a place or a higher power, there is a yearning that remains unfulfilled. I consider myself extremely blessed to know that my yearning for connection can only be met my the Most High, and nothing short of eternity with Him will fill that void. So as I travel, across the world and back, I connect with people and places and hope in one way or another I am pointing back to where true connections are found.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Fast Times

5:49 AM
Every Friday the girls at White Doves fast. From morning until 5pm. Now it may seem like something that would become routine after awhile. Get up Friday morning, go through the day without food, pig out at night. I know in America religious traditions can quickly become routine. So I was skeptical of the idea at first. But I participated nonetheless (I'm barely eating anyway, not eating at all is hardly a stretch). I must admit I was definitely wrong about the monotony of it all. The morning was the same as usual, get up, have devotions (the kids don't fast btw) and go about morning chores and activities. But then instead of lunch time (which is the only real group meal of the day), we gathered around our tables (realized today that there are no chairs in our odd!) and we listened to worship music and spent several minutes in the Word, asking God for a verse to share with the group to encourage each other. After a few minutes, girls began to share. Not just one or two, but all ten! Each girl had a verse God had given them, which they read aloud and then encouraged the group with it. It's quite obvious that these girls have a personal relationship with Jesus. I often get caught up in the theology and forget how easy it is to have a relationship with Him. Childlike faith indeed. After we shared our verses, we stood in a circle and prayed. Next month starts a new term, which means 12 new girls are going to join the house, and the current girls are going into the karaoke bars, guest houses and massage parlors to outreach to the working girls and encourage them to leave and join White Doves. These same girls that were living that life until recently. Paul's words about a new creation have never been more alive to me than right now. We prayed for the new girls and the new term. We prayed for the slum ministry. We prayed for the leadership. We sang in worship. I didn't even realize we skipped lunch. I wasn't even hungry. It was a great experience to share with them.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Life or Something Like It

8:34 AM
So the past two days I've just continued adjusted to the routine or lack there of here at the White Doves house. I'm going to bed pretty early and waking up pretty early too. We begin everyday with devotions, which I like (especially when I know the songs!). Yesterday and today I taught English classes for the girls. It was really fun, and challenging. They know some basic stuff, but really want to learn conversational phrases. But its hard to teach conversation with out knowing vocab! So I've done basic phonics, vocab, counting, and time. I need to look up more online... I've enjoyed having a specific role though! Since I'm just “visiting” and not staff, I don't feel like I have ownership in the ministry, so its been nice to get slices of it :) Every Thursday the girls and staff go out to the slums for Kids Club, where hundreds of kids from the slum come and sit and sing, and play games, get snacks and vitamins and clean water, and get their wounds treated. I got to teach English there too! Angelina Jolie definitely had the right idea about adopting from Cambodia, these kids are beautiful!! I couldn't help be moved to tears as I watched the White Doves girls dancing and singing songs about Jesus to these impoverished kids. To imagine where these girls were only 6 months ago, and to see them now, doing ministry, it's amazing. I'm honored to be a part. I haven't been taking too many pictures, because Martin & Dary have asked me not to take any of the girls at the home, as not to further their exploitation. A lot of times missionaries mean well, sending pictures of the awful conditions to friends and family back home to raise money. But these girls have been used enough. So my pictures of them will be few and fleeting, but their faces are forever with me. They have started teaching me a little Khmer as well. It is NOT an easy language! But I have most of their names (finally) and hello, goodbye, and 1 – 5. I had to write them all phonetically. Ironically, Joy is hard for the to say, so my name here is Jumpai, after a beautiful flower, which I just saw for the first time today. They picked me one! Today I also helped with some cooking, and made some delicious spring rolls. One of the first things I've enjoyed. Then tonight me and a few of the girls walked over to the Siem Reap Mall again so I could get dinner and the girls could shop. Bonus...caramel frapp and free wifi!! I'm pretty sure that I will be in much better shape by the time I leave here, we are walking and biking EVERYWHERE! Tomorrow evening, I'm biking over to the Angkor Wat Temples (free after 5pm!) with a YWAM guy volunteer visiting from Phnom Penh. Can't wait to see them, especially at sunset. So that's all! Coming soon...laundry!


This Ain't a Scene

8:06 AM
I'm slowly getting acclimated to the (Christian) culture of Siem Reap. I haven't done anything with YWAM before this, but I knew they are very reputable as far as short term missions goes and on the charismatic side of things. But that's all. One thing I've observed is that the ministry programming doesn't overpower the culture. This is a very laid back city, country and culture. Therefor the ministry here is very laid back. An hour of small group and prayer in the morning, and prayer before meals is really the only organized ministry time. But that's definitely not to say ministry isn't happening. For hours the girls knit these crazy detailed bags, that they will sell for money for the ministry. And Dary keeps music playing throughout the house, some Khmer, some English, but all “Jesus music”. So today I've found myself rocking out to MaryMary, God's Property, Carmen, and Avalon. Clearly not my style of choice. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The girls are learning a dance to “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” for the slum kids tomorrow, and I got to sing it for them (until the CD is found), and it was fun! A little one, Net, comes up to me to dance with her to a hiphop version of “Awesome God”. And for worship this morning we sang “Shout to the Lord” and “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”! Coming out of my hipster generation, and too cool Christianity with its emergent vs. emerging debates, this couldn't be farther from that. I know I've mocked the outdated Christian culture that still thrives in America with the best of them. My worship playlists consist of Derek Webb, Jason Upton, Jon Foreman and of course Preson ;) I even stopped listening to a lot of Hillsong because it was so “overdone”. But absolutely none of that matters here. All that matters is God. Not whose guitar chords are the best, or the lyrics the most profound or poetic. And it's refreshing. And it's not just the Christian culture, nothing about these people are fashionable or trendy. It's so freeing. The girls told me I looked pretty when I was wearing my black skirt and this silly purple Woodstock tee after sweating through my khaki capris from earlier that day. Pretty was not what I felt. But I felt that I looked like one of them. Just comfortable in my own skin, sweat, and dirt.


Cambodia Dating Scene

8:02 AM
Relationships and dating are an area interest for me, ironically, being single and all. Probably because of my job, where I actually teach students how to have a healthy relationship, and future marriage. So I thought I would take some time to learn and talk about the current Cambodian dating culture. Well, there isn't one. Cambodians do not date. At all. If a girl and boy are seen together alone somewhere it is assumed they are already engaged or married. So how do Cambodian marriages actually happen? Many are still arranged marriages, where neither party has a choice in who they are marrying. But others it's your typical boy-meets-girl scenario, with a twist. Boy sees girl, she catches his fancy, but doesn't dare approach her. Instead he asks people about her. Who is she? Is she single? Where is she from? What is her family like? After he feels like he has a good idea of who she is and where she comes from, and if he likes what he hears, he approaches her parents. Father and prospective suitor meet, discuss future marriage, and negotiate a price for his daughter, either monetary or goods. At this point, the couple is engaged and now may get to know each other a little. The wedding arrives and its a rich celebration steeped in tradition and family honor. And the couple lives happily ever after?What happens to these couples after the “I do”?

Well, women are taught since birth to respect men and honor and obey them. So a wife has a strong allegiance to her husband. Men are not taught this principle. Men disrespecting their wives (and women in general) is common and expected. Husbands are abusive and unfaithful, and wives are supposed to take it. It's no wonder so many in this culture are in bondage!

I know dating isn't the best invention of the modern Western world, but how else does one discover compatibility with a partner? Do these cultures even want marriages to last? For a country that is so focused on the family, they sure have a warped view of marriage.

I write about this because I think it plays into the issue of sex trafficking here in Cambodia. Men who are unhappy at home with wives they married without knowing, go searching for the physical comforts of a woman. Or men who are too poor to afford a bride, looking to meet some needs, hire one of these bar girls for the night. And women, never taught to stand up for themselves, or value themselves, or realize they are more than a man's object, are caught in this industry to provide for family. How heartbreaking, how devastating, and how overwhelming.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Slice of Cambodian Life

4:17 AM
Well I made it to Cambodia. I am now living a city where bicycles and motorbikes outnumber cars 10 to 1. Where everyone takes nap after lunch (get with it America!). Where people take their shoes off before entering any building. And where tourist-y city also means 2nd poorest city in the country. I don't really know what expectations I had of Cambodia, but I'm pretty sure its different than I was expecting. I got off the plane and felt I like I was in a movie. It was very surreal. Martin & Dary, the White Doves directors, met me there with smiles and I immediately felt welcomed. I rode in a tuk-tuk from the airport, which is a motorbike pulling a cart with a shade on top. Found out that most drivers in Cambodia don't have a license, just paid a fee and got a “license”. And when you watch them drive, you can tell.

The YWAM base and White Doves center is located in a suburb of Siem Reap and it's even poorer than the city. Huts line the poorly paved streets where owners are offering a service (restaurant, hair salon, internet, book shop) or just living. I (and Martin) am one of the few white people in this area. I'm sure I stick out like a sore thumb! I got to the YWAM base Monday morning and was able to take a short nap before my first trip to the White Doves center, which is about a 5 minute bike ride away. I joined the girls for lunch (rice & undistinguishable greens and beef....still adjusting to the cuisine to say the least!) and got to meet each of them. There's only about 11 girls there right now, many have moved on. And out of this bunch, all of them have been at the center for over 6 months, so they are very adjusted to the way of life there and even have a relationship with God now. Their English isn't too great, and so most of the time Martin and Dary were translating for me. The girls introduced themselves to me (in English) and I found out that they range in ages from 30 – 16. Now that they are more stable, Martin and Dary have begun reconnecting the girls with the children. About half of them have kids, and there's about 6 living at the center. Beautiful little things with huge brown eyes. Two precious little girls have latched onto me for life! After lunch I was able to go with Dary to take a few of the girls to start their “internships”. One girl is working at a hair salon, learning to do hair, makeup, nails, etc... And two other girls will be learning dressmaking. It's exciting to see how far along these girls are in their recovery, to the point of learning such crafts and soon to be employed. The girls who aren't interning simply played with their children, did chores or did some knitting to make some bags they sell. I found out that these girls actually earn money while staying there, $55 a month! So it's incentive to leave the brothel life, and start anew.

I was so jet lagged yesterday that I went to bed at 4pm and slept until 6am the next morning. Dary had picked up some groceries for me (probably after my reaction to lunch!) and I was pleasantly surprised to find bread, jam, Coke, and yogurt (aka Western food). This morning I began mastering the art of bike riding, and joined the girls at the center for devotions and prayer. It was exciting to know that even though I can't understand them, our God can, and how big He is! Martin, Dary and I went out for breakfast (I got iced coffee – delicious!) and I got to hear how they met (he's Norwegian and she's's quite a story!) and how the ministry came to be. Love those stories! Had lunch with the girls (a little better...still weird) and we celebrated 3 girls birthdays. I found out that not a lot of them know their actual birthday, because their parents never kept paperwork on them, so some of it was just guesswork. It was the most emotional birthday party I've ever been to because 2 of the girls, had never celebrated their birthday before. Mum, turning 24, and Sari, turning 17, had not once had someone ever celebrate their birth or their existence. We sang, ate cake and gave presents. It was beautiful.

I am now in downtown Siem Reap, where tourists and white people are a plenty, sipping a papaya-orange smoothie and enjoying some free wifi. Gotta love it. Some prayer & adjustment (jet lag is still wearing on me), and ministry opportunities...I know that sounds odd, but I have found it quite hard to do relational ministry, when I can't speak their language. I would love for God to help me see how to serve these girls. I think I'm moving into White Doves either tonight or tomorrow, so I'm hoping for more chances with the girls. So until next time....good bye!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Travelogue

2:29 PM
So my journey began at 6:30am, Saturday, when I left for the Tampa airport. I have flown out of that airport numerous, but I have taken so many of its luxuries for wifi for example. So I board my first leg to Dallas and we're off! I was little nervous because I was sitting with a kid and his mom, but he has remarkably well behaved. Way to go parenting. In Dallas, I got to use the nifty new SkyTrain to get to my next destination. With only an hour to kill, the time flew by and soon I was on my way to Tokyo, Japan.

It was a 13 hour flight, no stops. Something I don't American Airlines ever considered when building their aircrafts. True I had a lucky window seat, and with the 2 seats-aisle-5 seats-aisle-2 seats set up, I only to crawl over one other passenger. That was good. But the rows are so crammed together that while in my seat I could barely move. That was bad. One thing I enjoy about international flights is in-flight entertainment, and here AA did not disappoint. With my very own viewing screen, I spent the bulk of my flight watching “X-Men: Wolverine”, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”, “Star Trek”, and “27 Dresses”. And by the time I began to tire of my iPod games (lifesaver, btw), my trail mix and Elizabeth Bennet slaying zombies (plane book: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), we were preparing our decent into Tokyo.

On Sunday afternoon. Yeah, we crossed that sneaky International Date Line, so I “time traveled” if you will, to an entire different day on my 13 hour flight. But I find my way out of the gate and things get a little tricky. I didn't have a boarding pass for this next leg, but the original ticket counter said it would be no problem in Tokyo, so I hoped she was right. I located the gate for my flight, and I hiked the loooong hallways of Naritu Airport, got my boarding pass, no sweat. So Sunday evening, I board a Thai International flight to Bangkok. And let me tell you what, I would fly the remainder of my flights on Thai International. They really do it right! It was a HUGE plane, double decker, and the 3 seats-aisle-5 seats-aisle-3 seats set up. Their airline colors are bright pink, purple and gold. The flight attendants were on top of everything, hustling about. And I got free headphones and an eye mask! So if one can judge a country by their airlines, I would venture to say that Thailand is about comfort, luxury, and beauty. And America is about the money, cramming as many seats into a plane as (barely) possible in order to sell the most tickets. But, I digress. Sadly, as beautiful as the Thai airline was, it was my least favorite leg. When I boarded I realized it was a SIX hour flight from Tokyo to Bangkok (so like half of the flight I just finished), and its like midnight Florida time, and I was on the aisle. So I did my very best to sleep on and off, but it just left me groggy.

But we finally landed in Bangkok, at like 9pm and another problem presented. My flight to Cambodia is on a completely separate ticket, and I can't get to the baggage claim without a visa to Thailand. Which I don't have. Now, I didn't JUST realize this (I'm not a idiot..usually), and the lady at the ticket counter in Tokyo set it up for my baggage to go through to Siem Reap, I just had to verify it in Bangkok. But I couldn't verify it because the ticket counter wasn't open! So after multiple conversations with airport staff, the only thing for me to do, was to go back and just wait for the ticket counter to open at 5am.

So now, I'm in a foreign airport in the middle of the night, hoping my bags are going where I'm going and trying to figure out how to get some more sleep! Thankfully, the Bangkok airport is huge, and beautiful, so I wander and find an internet cafe (not free) and then an airport lounge that let me crash on their couch for a few hours (with free internet, ugh), but they closed at 12:30am and kicked me out. So as I wandered the shops of the Bangkok, an oasis beckons me from afar. I blink twice to make I'm not seeing things. I'm not, it's true...I've found Starbucks. I run up to the counter, and realize they are still open (24 hours actually) and order an iced vanilla chai (almost tastes the same), sit down in a big padded comfy chair (which will double as my bed in a few), plug in my laptop and write this blog. Not a bad ending to a long weekend. So, tomorrow I tackle Cambodia. And after today, I'm ready to be DONE traveling and just starting LIVING. Until then, from across the globe, good night.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The "Week Of" Thoughts

3:30 PM
This is the week I leave for Cambodia. I can't believe it's finally here. I feel like I should be stressed more and packed more, but I am not. I am spending this week closing the chapter on summer jobs, saying goodbye to friends leaving for college, reconnecting with close friends and just living. I've been thinking things like "Am I bringing enough clothes?" and "Am I gonna like the food?" and "Should I bring my own toilet paper?" and "I hope I don't get lost in the airports!" I'm just really excited to get there and see what the country, the people and the ministry is like . I'm anxious to see if it is in fact where God is calling me long term. There are so many unknowns and possibilities, it's a bit overwhelming! At my last Watermark service this past Sunday, Tommy shared these words from Ephesians 4: “In light of all this, here's what I want you to do. While I'm locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel.” That's really all I can do at this point, is just run down the road God has called me down. And pray that my life is worthy of that calling.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Visual Journey

4:00 PM
Check out this video I put together for my upcoming trip to Cambodia...


Monday, July 27, 2009

Late Blooming Education

10:31 PM
I've recently discovered that I am not well read. Which is odd, because I LOVE to read. So I've decided to change that. Starting with a few of the classics. Here's my reading list, and I may have got a bit ambitious.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Emma by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Ulysses by James Joyce
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Lookingglass by Lewis Carroll
Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain
Oliver Twist by David Copperfield
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Confessions by St. Augustine
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare
Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Sherlock Holmes by Athur Conan Doyle
Faust by Goethe
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by R. L. Stevenson
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
1984 by George Orwell
The Prince by Machiavelli
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Brave New World by Aldus Huxley
Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I'm quite excited, but ask me in a year how this list is coming!