Home Sweet Home!

SharonAfter our 38 hour return trip, we were so very happy to get back to Nashville around 9AM this morning. All of our flights were on time (except one which was 30 minutes late because someone had forgotten to turn on the air conditioning), all of our luggage arrived with us, and family and friends greeted us at the airport as we arrived. Thank you for all your prayers. We saw evidence of answered prayers every day of our stay in Cambodia. I want to say a hearty “thank you” to all the awesome students– for your positive, “just do it” attitudes and willingness to move out of your comfort zones as you served the people of Cambodia in so many ways!
Susan, Chas, Tyler, and Zane, we wish you Godspeed as you travel back all together as a family.

Goodbye, Cambodia

Well, it’s our last night in Cambodia. How can we even begin to recap what we’ve experienced here and what this trip has meant to us? We should have plenty of time to reflect and compose our thoughts tomorrow during the numerous flights, so I’ll just give you a brief update for now. We’ve stayed very busy during our time here, and these last two days have been no exception.
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After spending the weekend in the village, we returned to our “luxury” accommodations at the hotel for a restful night’s sleep. Sunday morning we headed to church and then spent the afternoon at an orphanage in the city. Words in a blog can’t accurately describe what it was like to be there with those children; it was an absolutely joyous event. As the van pulled through the gates to the orphanage, children started running toward us, and they proceeded to mob us with smiles and hugs. I felt like I had just made fifty best friends. They surrounded each one of us, wanting to show us their artwork, sing songs for us, and play games together. We came to the orphanage to contribute through our donations, but in the end I think we all felt like our contributions were small compared to the blessing we received by being with them.

Early this morning, our group took a walk down the riverfront as a final goodbye to the city. Like every other morning at 5:30 AM, there are crowds of people walking, doing aerobics, and playing games. We of course joined in the fun by participating in some Cambodian dancing. We took a walk to Wat Phnom, where we saw some monkeys and the elephant. After our early morning walk, we went to the hospital to say our final goodbyes. It seems strange to be saying goodbye to the staff there after having only just met them. We’ve been impacted in many ways through our experiences at the hospital, but we will always remember the remarkable kindness and hospitality of the people at Sihanouk.

DianeThe remainder of the day was filled with last-minute trips to the Russian market and other errands, as well as a final meal together. As we make our journey home, please continue to pray for us.

Thank you so much for all the encouragement and support you’ve given us. See you all soon!

Worlds Apart–From one extreme to the other

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This past weekend, we experienced extremes–from extreme poverty to extreme wealth, from eating soup made with “skin from the pig” and chicken “with skin and bones” to fresh passion fruit and lavish desserts, from a Cambodian village-style bathroom (see picture – click to enlarge) to matching bathrooms with sauna and jacuzzi, from loud speakers and karioke to elegant ambiance. But in both extremes, we found people who invited us in with open arms.

unloading_bikes_sm.jpg afternoon_school_sm.jpgOn Friday morning, we traveled to the village that we discovered through one of our class readings, “Bones That Float.” In the book, Kari Grossman, the author, talks about adopting a Cambodian boy and, in the process, adopting the country as well. She and her husband, George, in searching for their son’s birth family, had discovered a village in the Kampong Spue Province. Over 6 years, they have been working with the village, helping them grow the Grady Grossman School, dedicated in honor of their son. They have also helped the village produce sustainable income to pay the teachers by making and selling briquets made from trash. We contacted Kari and she asked us to visit the village and assess the nutritional status of the children, do some health teaching, and provide bicycles to all students who had completed the 6th grade so that they could ride to the next village to continue their schooling. We worked with her Cambodian contact, Yeong(?), to make the arrangements.
After a 3 hour van ride over some BUMPY roads, we arrived at the school where we were to stay in the teachers’ quarters and to do the nutritional assessments. Our accommodations were worlds apart from our comfort zones. See the pictures of our bedrooms–complete with mats on wooden frames with mosquito netting–which also served as our pharmacy. My roommate was Phalla, one of the nurse educators from Sihanouk Hospital, who was invaluable as a health translator and as a roomie. She showed me how to take a “bath” Cambodian-village style. Imagine donning a saroung and going behind the house to wash in the rainwater caught in large clay pots.
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who_house_sm.jpgWe left on Saturday in time to get back to Phnom Penh by dark and in time to attend a barbecue to which we had been invited. Susan and Chas are friends with the director of the World Health Organization in Cambodia, so we were all included in the invitation. So after our culture shock in the village, we had to adapt back to a different way of living. We met people from Belgium, Hungary,and even Atlanta! And our hosts were wonderful people.

SharonFrom one world to another we travelled this weekend. People are the same everywhere, and we all have needs. Hopefully, we met some needs this weekend. Our needs were surely met!
Thanks for your many prayers as we ventured into another world.

Out of Touch for a Few Days

If you have been following along with the blog posts and the Cambodia team’s itinerary, you may have noticed some odd references to dates that don’t seem to match up with the calendar here in the states. As I write this post early Frrday evening (6:00PM) here in Nashville, it is already Saturday morning (6:00AM) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Just imagine posting a story from Cambodia knowing that it will be seen in the states yesterday….it can be a little confusing. All that to say: The team will spend the next couple of days in a village that probably does not have internet access…and without that access, there will be no stories posted here on the blog.


During their absence from being connected electronically, I would ask that you look into the faces of these six women and (continue to) pray for this team…their health, their safety, their attitudes, and their impact on those who they minister physically and spiritually. So many of you have already supported this team financially, prayerfully, and publicly (including your comments here). Thank you for that. When the team returns, I assure you they will read your comments and understand even better just how much support from family and friends means to their Cambodia experience.

I Thessalonians: 16-18
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


Another Day in Paradise….I mean Cambodia

bikes_sm.jpgThere is a saying among some of the expats I have worked with in Cambodia…it is TICB (this is Cambodia Baby). Today, I had to say that alot. Stephanie and I headed out to the Ouressey (sp?) market with our new Cambodian friend, Yoen. He is helping us to get to the village tomorrow. We had bikes to buy, helmets to size up and many other supplies to take to the village. This particular market is mainly used by the local Khmer people. Stephanie got an eyefull and a nose full. The sites and smells are very different from the trip to the market in America as there are tons of dried fish, fermented fish paste, shrimps (dried), cockroaches, grub worms and numerous other interesting edibles hanging around almost everywhere you turn. It is always an experience bargaining and buying in the market. At times, it can be draining as you wonder if you are getting a fair deal.
My mind, body and heart were reminded of the difficulties we face in trying to provide help in a country that is still corrupt and has been raised on foreign aid. We were able to go to church again last evening. My family has joined us here and my husband was able to lead a song and the prayer. Ceszar Lopez did the lesson so it was in English. The electricity went out again and remained out during most of the lesson, but that did not slow him down. The bat flew through, but we did not see the rat, but of course, it was dark. So, we had church by candle light. The lesson was very impactful and focused on relationships and what destroys them. Selfishness tears down relationships and selflessness builds them strong. We are all praying for a selfless heart. For me personally, it gets harder as I become tired after almost three weeks. I was very grateful to have scriptures and the lesson to remind me of Jesus’ character. I am also constantly thinking of the scriptures that focus on healing and the power we have through Christ. All things are possible through Christ….Just ask for anything in my name and you shall have it…..
er-friends_sm.jpgToday at the hospital was a different experience for us all. Anson had a full day helping patients. She has done such a wonderful job and has impressed all of us and others around her. The rest of us monitored the nursing check offs. We were split up for lunch and the students ended up in a Khmer restruant with wait staff who understand little English which was an adventurous experience for them. Sharon and I were joined by the nursing leadership and we were reminded of the deep friendships and family we have developed over the years. We both certainly felt well loved and appreciated. It has been amazing to see such change in some of the nursing staff.
I must take a moment to just lift up this group of students. I have been so impressed with their hearts and eagerness to work at anything we have put before them. The attitudes have remained positive, helpful and encouraging. This has certainly been a life changing experience for all of us. I never cease to be changed in some way when I come to my second home.
SusanTomorrow’s trip should be full of new and exciting adventures. Remember we may not be able to post again until Sunday or Monday. We will be sure to take lots of pictures. Please continue to pray for our hearts, minds, bodies…that we may always have the compassion of Christ, the love of Christ, the wisdom of Christ and the strength of Christ. We have so many donated items and will be providing so much because of the generosity of many. I want to thank you all. You have been amazing in your support with money, comments and prayers. We love you and will see you soon.

Some Thoughts

everyone_sm.jpgWe spent today at the hospital as our last official day of work, as tomorrow we go to help with nursing check-offs and to get ready for our trip to the village on Friday. We have all gotten to see and do so much at the hospital here and its been really interesting to compare it with healthcare in the US. After the hospital, we went to church with Susan’s family who flew in on Monday. It’s been great getting to know Susan’s husband Chas and her two sons. They have made such deep connections with the people here, its really nice to see them reunite with their friends. After church we went to great dinner and discussed our thoughts and feelings about the trip thus far. It’s crazy to think it’s almost over. We have all learned so much from this trip, its unbelievable. All the things we’ve seen and people we’ve met have impacted us and changed us in a way that I can’t describe. Cambodia is such a beautiful country and all the people we have met have been so nice and warm and caring.
It is absolutely incomprehensible to think about the state of this country only 30 years ago. Seeing Toul Sleng and the Killing Fields and the horror of torture and genocide and then going to back to work with the same people who lived through all that… I don’t even know what to say. I am constantly filled with so many emotions. I feel so lucky to be here and see the country and Angkor Wat and all the beauty, but I hate that such good, hard working, strong people are still suffering and starving because of the war. The resilience of the human spirit is amazing. Absolutely, utterly amazing. Cambodia has come so far so quickly and we are trying to do our part to help, but after meeting the people here I have no doubt in my mind that soon this country will be thriving like it used to.
JuliaI just want to say thank you so much for all your support. My family especially, thank you for being there for me and giving me everything I could ever want or need. I am so grateful to be able to be here and I appreciate your love and prayers more than I could ever say.

Busy Days at the Hospital

AnsonAfter returning from Siem Reap on Sunday, we geared up for another busy week at the hospital. Since I am in the physiotherapy department, I will share a bit from my experience. We see both outpatient and inpatient. Inpatient has been mostly strokes, severe broken bones, and brain injuries. Outpatient has been moto bike fractures and dislocations. Unlike the US, many of these fractures and dislocations are never properly healed, leading to deformity and prohibiting return to prior function. I have been teaching the 2 physiotherapist more than I expected (making me very thankful for my neuroanatomy and orthopedic classes).
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I will share an exceptional story that happened today. There is a 19 year old paraplegic who has been confined to his bed for 12 years. His hips and knees are bent at a 90 degree angle (contractures). He has scoliosis so severly that he has problems sitting. He has 3 pressure ulcers so big and deep that several inches of bone is exposed. He also has no family to take care of him. Today, we went to see him. We did some bed mobility, range of motion, sitting balance. At the end, I was doing some arm exercises (PNF), and he thought it was a wonderful game. He was working so hard, but smiling and laughing the whole time. The other physical therapist translated for me, and told me that the boy really enjoyed the treatment and having someone spend that much time with him. It was a very fun, rewarding experience.
The group is also preparing for our weekend trip to the village where we will be doing nutritional assessments on a school with 400 students. We have a supply of general antibiotics and vitamins for the entire community. We met with the Cambodian man who will be guiding us to the village. He gave us some helpful hints about what to bring, and warned us that people from neighboring villages have heard that we are coming and will be traveling to see us. There is no health care in the area and no health care professional has ever visited. We were rather overwhelmed by the news, but can only promise to treat everyone we have time for and would benefit from our care. We have been reading and researching about health problems in the area. Your thoughts/prayers would be appreciated in preparation for this weekend.
killing_fields_sm.jpgAnd the last thing to write about, our afternoon trip to the Killing Fields. The Killing Field is the place where the Khmer Rouge would take people who were too weak to do manual labor or they suspected of crimes against the government. (Please see my last entry for a brief history of the Khmer Rouge.) The people were forced to dig their own graves, and then brutally killed. In 1980, they discovered piles of thousands of dead bodies in the field. It was powerful to see the tower of skulls, piles of clothing, and deep holes where the bodies were disposed.
Overall, we have been staying super busy by learning a ton about the Cambodian culture and teaching small things to help the hospital run more efficiently and provide a higher level of care. Be sure to check out the next blog for a nursing student’s perspective of the hospital….

First Day in Siem Reap

DianeHi, everyone! Let me give you all a quick update on our day. We left Phnom Penh this morning for a six-hour, uncomfortably warm bus ride through the Cambodian countryside to Siem Reap. Siem Reap is famous for it’s ancient temples, most notably Angkor Wat. After arriving at our hotel this afternoon, we rode the tuk-tuks to one of the temples to see the sunset. It was beautiful, and we were blessed by a nice breeze as we watched the clouds from atop the temple.
Our plans for tomorrow include several hours out at the temples to experience the 3-D history lesson. In the evening we will go to a performance of traditional Cambodian dance. It should be an exciting day, and I’m sure we will have lots to report on!
Thanks to all for staying in touch!