Jared’s Story

This is the story Jared shared in worship at Antioch on September 25:

On my birthday, I went with my Dad to visit some Cambodian farmers.

Some farmers with their tractor. This gives "tractor" a whole new meaning!

I was at one of the CHAD sites in Kampong Speu Province, and Katherine mentioned to Pastor Hang that it was my birthday.

Well, we spent a while at the CHAD site, and it started raining, so Katherine went back to get the truck. When she got back, there were 11 fresh coconuts in the back of the truck! Katherine explained that Pastor Hang and the Church we were visiting wanted to give me these coconuts for a birthday treat to share with my friends.

Jared & Elisha sipping sweet coconut juice

The amazing part is that most Cambodians earn about $1 a day, for hard jobs like working in a garment factory.

We snapped this photo as we drove past one of the factories outside Phnom Penh

Tourists buy fresh coconuts on the street for $2-3 each, just to drink their cool, sweet juice. That means that a gift of 11 coconuts is worth about a month’s wage for the average Cambodian! My mom calls that “Extravagant Generosity!”

It was a very nice gift, and I felt proud and excited that I could give this treat to my teammates.

Jared right after he made his coconut presentation & realized he was a teenager

We all enjoyed our coconuts at the surprise birthday party Esther had planned for me later that night!

 

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Elisha’s Story

This is the story Elisha shared at Antioch on September 25:

I did not want to go to Cambodia. When I got onto the airplane 2 weeks ago, I was afraid. I didn’t know what it would be like in Cambodia. I didn’t know what I would have to eat, or how I would talk with people who speak a different language. I felt like my parents were making me do this thing, and they didn’t even care how I felt about it.

But when I got to Cambodia, God brought to me a special new friend, named Tola. Tola made me feel welcome in Cambodia. She made me feel like I was right at home there. Tola talked to me and told me about herself, and she listened to the stories I told her about myself. Tola was one of the translators who helped our team, and she helped me talk to other people who couldn’t speak English. She helped me know what foods to order in the restaurants we visited. She even helped me get up in front of 250 people and sing a solo at the Pastor-Spouse Retreat!

Elisha & Tola leading worship together at the Pastor-Spouse Retreat

We learned that Tola married her husband, Tara, on the day before my birthday. So every time I celebrate my birthday, I will remember Tola and Tara and wish them a Happy Anniversary.

 Tola and I spent a lot of time together while I was in Cambodia. I started to feel like she was the grown-up sister I never had. The team started to joke about how I never left Tola’s side, but Tola didn’t seem to mind. I think she enjoyed being with me as much as I enjoyed being with her.

Styling each other's hair was one of Elisha's favorite things to do with Tola

Tola is my friend, and I love her. It was really hard to tell her good-bye when it was time to come home, and I miss her very much. But we can stay in touch by e-mail, and I know someday we’ll see each other again.

 

Elisha & Tola at one of the Temples in Siem Reap

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Returning Home

We have been home two full days now, but in many ways I think we all feel as if we are still trying to return. Besides the physical impact of crossing the international date line… September 20, 2011, was a 37-hour-day for us, and we still find ourselves unable to sleep past 4 a.m. or stay awake past 8 p.m.! … there is the emotional work of processing all that we saw and experienced. There is also a work of grieving to be done, as we formed some very close friendships in our short time in Cambodia, and are missing those friends terribly. This is especially true for Elisha, who was literally inseparable from her new Cambodian friend Tola for those two weeks, and cried nearly all the way to Seoul on Tuesday.

So, for now I’m thinking that pictures may be the best way to share with you some of the memories that are on our minds in these days of returning home. Remember, too, that our family will be sharing stories of Cambodia during worship at Antioch UMC this Sunday (Sept. 25) at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to see you there!

Elisha & Tola

 

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Rumblies in our tumblies

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard much from the Meeks family in the past couple days, it’s because our tummies have begun to rebel against all the Khmer food we’ve been filling them with. Chad & I both began to feel ill on Tuesday evening, and have struggled with nausea and vomiting over the past couple days. He still managed to complete all of his training sessions with the Superintendants, and I have done all of my workshops, but have had to sit out of meals and plenary sessions. Yesterday I was to teach in the afternoon plenary, but was overcome by dry heaves just about the time I was to go onstage. Elisha escorted me back to our hotel in a Tuk-Tuk (not as much fun when one’s tumbly is rumbly), where I crashed into bed and didn’t move for the next 18 hours or so. I think we are on the uphill swing now, though, as we’ve both been able to keep down some toast and water today. I was pretty dehydrated and weak by the time I got up this morning. I feel a little stronger by the hour, but am still planning to spend this afternoon resting in order to preserve my energy for tonight’s Epic Telling.

We are just immensely grateful that Jared & Elisha seem to have escaped this. They went on to dinner and worship with the rest of the team, while Chad & I rested last night. Elisha helped lead 2 songs during worship, and I mourn the fact that Chad & I weren’t there to see her do it. She was so excited and proud! Jared came back from dinner last night ecstatic over the delicious Khmer grill they enjoyed ~ complete with squid! It wasn’t a story my tummy was ready to hear!

We welcome your prayers for continued recovery of appetite and energy, and for good health for all of our team on the remainder of this journey.

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Pictures from the Phnom Penh Orphanage

For some reason, I’m having trouble adding the rest of my pictures to the Gallery, so here they are:

This was the first dance performed by the children at the orphanage in the program they prepared for us. This is a dance used to express welcome and well wishes for honored guests. Dance is a central part of Cambodian culture, and is taught at the orphanage as a culturally relevant and marketable skill.

 

This was the second dance that the children at the orphanage performed for us. This one is a traditional Cambodian wedding dance.

 

This dude was rockin’! I absolutely loved the sound of this instrument, along with the drums that were also being played. The music to which the children danced was beautiful!

  

This is the kettle in which soup was about to be prepared over a wood flame for the children’s lunch. The kitchen/cafeteria was housed in a small shed-type building. A wall about 3-ft. high separated kitchen from dining area, and the dining area consisted of several long wooden tables with benches. The whole building sat atop a dirt floor.

   

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Awestruck

Last night I sat beside Jared as we drove through the midnight streets of Phnom Penh, taking in our first glimpses of Cambodia. My ordinarily boisterous 12-year-old grew increasingly hushed and somber. What had been irritable grumbling over the inconveniences of international travel at the airport moments earlier turned to an awed, just-beneath-the-breath whisper as he gazed out the bus window. I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying, so finally I asked, “What are you thinking, Jared?”

In a tone that can only be described as reverent, he replied, “I finally understand why people kept telling me this trip would change my life.”

Less than one day later, I’m aware that he didn’t “finally” understand that… he was only beginning to understand. I doubt we’ll ever be finished understanding the impact this trip will have on us. Being here is a gift.

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He took… he blessed… he broke… he gave…

On Thursday morning, I led the last of 3 Storylearning workshops I’ve held at the church I serve here in Trotwood. These workshops have been a way for me to test some of my ideas for the workshops I’ll be leading in Cambodia, and to “test the waters” for possibly developing a storytelling group at Antioch. The story we were learning today is from Mark 6:34-44 ~ the one where Jesus feeds a great crowd with just 5 loaves of bread and two fish.

That story has me reflecting on the way God still takes, blesses, breaks, and gives whatever meager gifts we offer in service to Christ our Lord. Let me tell you a story…

About the time that the membership and roles of our team began to solidify, we began to get requests from the Cambodian church to move up our dates. Instead of a January, 2012, trip, it was finally decided that we should travel in September, 2011! Meanwhile, excitement was growing throughout the countryside for our planned training event, and we were asked to provide funding for all — ALL — of the Cambodian Methodist pastors to come to Sihanoukville for retreat and training! And then we heard: “By the way, the pastors’ spouses … they’re in ministry, and they want this training too!” 

Here we were ~ a ragtag team of 12 (we’ve since gained 1 more, but I had to note the connection with Jesus’ earliest disciples here!) ~ facing what seemed an insurmountable task: Teach and Feed … and transport and shelter … a crowd of 240 Cambodian pastors and spouses! But just as Jesus took, and blessed, and broke, and gave his first disciples’ meager offering of bread and fish, so God took and blessed our humble efforts to raise the bread for this mission.

Not being a natural-born fundraising fiend, I confess how tentatively I asked the congregation I serve if they might be interested in getting involved. And, boy, were they ever! Antioch’s Easter Offering made a substantial contribution to our fundraising in the early days when we were feeling most overwhelmed by the need before us. We knew that if God could put that much bread in the basket through a “little ol'” church like Antioch, God could surely provide all that was needed. And, true to form, God went “over the top” to provide! The training event is now fully funded, with resources to share with other, ongoing ministries in Cambodia!

Antioch wasn’t content with putting a couple loaves in the bread basket, though. When some of our congregation heard that our team needed to provide small gifts for all of the Cambodians attending the training, they organized. So on Sunday, while commissioning our family for service in Cambodia, the Antioch congregation will also consecrate some 500 pocket prayer quilts that have been lovingly crafted just for this mission. All those whose fingers have labored over these prayer quilts have also devoted countless hours to prayer for Christ’s church in Cambodia, our team, and this mission. What is most awesome to me is the knowledge that nearly every household represented at Antioch has now participated tangibly in God’s work in Cambodia! When Chad, Jared, Elisha and I walk among the people of Cambodia and share the stories of Jesus with them, we know that we will be greeting them as ambassadors for this congregation. That is a humbling realization.

Almost as humbling as the realization that God is still taking, blessing, breaking, and giving in extravagant ways today! I wanted to tell you the story of Antioch’s participation in this mission, because it’s a story our “Supersize me” world needs to hear more often. You may not realize it, but Antioch isn’t exactly a megachurch… on most Sundays, somewhere between 50 and 75 people gather here to worship together. But Antioch is a people who, after 200 years, is still committed to God’s ministry. You see, in a land where bigger is almost always assumed to be better, Antioch stands as a reminder that God can do BIG things with a few little loaves and fish!

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