In August 2011, I stepped off an airplane and the Khmer people of Cambodia stepped into my heart – personally. God had already placed them there, I just didn’t know them yet. People asked how long I would stay, so I said one year, but deep inside I knew my decision to go was for as long as God led me to stay. After three months, I knew a year was far too short. I decided to stay another year. But God sent me back to America to recover from amoebic dysentery and dengue fever – and to learn many lessons of surrender and willingness to follow wherever He called, not just where I wanted to go. The lessons were hard, but necessary. At the end of nine months, He called me back to Cambodia – mostly to show me that He had provided for the work on my heart, and that He had raised up capable people, including some of my former Khmer students, to fill my position. Finally, after another six months, I surrendered the care of my precious Cambodians back to Him, content knowing He loved them more than I ever could and He would not leave them lost in their current darkness. (You can find stories, pictures, and updates on the work in Cambodia here: www.reapinjoy.com.)
And then He called me to the jungles of Thailand. I was more than a little nervous. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was battling with post-dengue anxiety and depression. Also, I still hadn’t regained all the strength or weight I lost during my sickness and I had no idea if I would be able to endure the rigors of jungle life. But I knew God was calling me. My love for my Cambodians was so strong, I prayed that if God wanted me to stay in the jungle longer than three months, He would give me a love just as strong for my jungle students and their people. Once again, by the time three months passed, He had planted a deep love in my heart for my jungle people.
Life isn’t always easy. But God is good. I have learned that I cannot do the work for Him that I came to do. Rather God has a work to do in me. Then, when I am nothing and He is everything, He chooses to do His work through me. What an incredibly amazing, faithful, loving God!
Wherever I go, people ask me, “Do you miss it when you’re away?” My answer is: “Yes, wherever I go, I miss the places where I’m not. The people in each location are precious to me, but I can’t be everywhere at once. I can only be where God leads me at this time.” Sometimes I think God sends us different places to prepare our hearts for our eternal home where we’ll never have to say good-bye to those we love and labor for. Someday soon I hope my jungle family, my Cambodian family, and my family and friends from the other side of the globe will all meet there together.