After two days of travel, Cambodia finally came into view as we descended through the clouds toward the tarmac at Siem Reap’s small airport. Once again, I am traveling with a team of women to work with our friend and partner Steve Hyde. Over the next week the eight of us will conduct a Vacation Bible School for the kids at the Imparting Smiles orphanage and the kids from the surrounding slum neighborhoods. Last year we had an attendance of almost one-thousand and expect as many this year. In addition to our VBS lessons, we have prepared a special lesson to teach the kids how to protect themselves from those who traffic in human beings. This is an important lesson because Poipet is one of the most dangerous places in the world for kids. Those who traffic in humans find plenty of low-hanging fruit in the slums here and they do not hesitate to pick it.
I am happy to be traveling again with a team of women. As the only man on the team, I do more listening than talking. I can generally hold my own in conversation but I am out of my league on this trip. Earlier today when they all got into a spirited discussion about how they buy and loan clothes to one another, I … just … stared. Girls really do that? Guys buy clothes but they don’t loan their clothes to other guys. I just can’t imagine one guy saying to another, “Hey there, Dude. I think that my Colombia fishing shirt would look really great on you. Wanna’ borrow it for your fishing trip this weekend?” When there was a two-second lull in that conversation all I could awkwardly contribute was, “I loaned Doyle my extra palm sander.” They … just … stared! I need to learn to keep my mouth shut when I am in the big-leagues of girl talk and just be a silent observer. Lesson learned.
The really great thing about traveling again with a team of women is that they take their responsibility very seriously. All but one of the team members are moms but all of them are absolutely dialed-in to what we are here to do. They have worked hard to prepare their lessons and have also spent considerable time in discussion about what why they chose to come on this particular trip. They care about the welfare of kids who don’t have parents or who are impoverished and live in desperate situations. As with the team last year, they are also prepared to give away countless hugs and kisses to kids, something that comes naturally to moms. I think it’s cool that those who are returning for the second time still remember names of kids who attended last year. More than once I have heard, “I can’t wait to see … and give her/him a big hug” I love that!
So, the peeps (as I affectionately like to call my team of women) have landed and are prepared for the huge task of loving, teaching, and demonstrating God’s love to lots of kids this week. It’s the rainy season here but the rains will do nothing to dampen our determination to make this a meaningful and memorable week for the kids who live at the Imparting Smiles orphanage and in the slums of Poipet.