Today was all about imparting smiles and lots of hugs to the kids at the Imparting Smiles orphanage. When we arrived at the Imparting Smiles campus on the outskirts of Poipet early this morning, the kids were waiting to greet us. I absolutely love returning to Cambodia just to see the kids I have come to know over the past three years. And, I enjoy bringing team members to serve these precious kids. Those returning for the second time could hardly wait to get out of the van to reconnect with the kids they had met last year. And, as soon as they did they did the hugging and cheers and tears started. The excitement and joy of reunion was intense and beautiful. However, our first-time team members were not about to be left out. They wasted no time in meeting and hugging the kids. There is no better way to start the day than by being surrounded by the laughter and smiles of kids who have been rescued from terrible circumstances and who now have a future and a hope.
Our first day of Vacation Bible School went well with approximately seven-hundred kids in attendance. Our team members did an exceptional job of leading in their respective areas of responsibility — music, Bible stories, crafts, and recreation. The kids at Imparting Smiles are fortunate to be in a place where they are learning about God and His love for them. However, the only opportunity to learn about God that the kids in the surrounding slum neighborhoods have is when teams like ours come to conduct a special event like VBS. In addition to Kingsland, Imparting Smiles founder Steve Hyde hosts teams from a couple of other churches who are willing to make the long trek to Cambodia to invest in kids. Through the daily work of Steve and his staff and visiting teams like ours, the kids in the area are learning that there is a God who loves and cares for them.
What teams like ours are doing is having an impact beyond the Imparting Smiles campus and beyond the muddy streets of the surrounding slum neighborhoods. Last year, the mayor of Poipet attended our closing VBS ceremony. This Buddhist man spoke to the kids and encouraged them to continue learning about Jesus. A representative from the governor’s office also attended and publicly said to Steve, “Your God is bringing hope to our region.” And then he turned to the kids and told them to keep coming to the Imparting Smiles campus any time they offer community events like this and encouraged them to learn more about this God who gives hope to all people. We do indeed serve and represent the God of all hope. We trust that the seeds we plant this week will grow and blossom to bring life and hope to those who live on the edge of despair in a place steeped in darkness, difficulty, and death. We are imparting more than smiles and hugs this week. We are also imparting hope.