Cambodia Discovery Trip

2018 01 16 cambodia discovery trip 06To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ's sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3).

From 16th until 28th January this year, a team of staff associated with PHCS visited Cambodia on a 'Discovery Trip'. The trip is designed as a family mission experience and is an ideal way for staff and students to catch a glimpse of what it means to serve and put faith into action. The trip was designed and facilitated by Samaritan's Purse, an organisation that conducts Christian ministry projects.

Paul McConnell led the team which consisted of teachers Craig Chappell, Cathy Dearden, Cheryl Hard, David & Julie Heap, sister figure Tess Butler to students William Yi, Riley Behlevanas Jessica and Felicity Heap, Darcy Dearden and Gabrielle Donkin. Samaritans Purse Staff Abby McPhalin and Emma Wynn-Jones were also on board, as well as two ground Samaritans Purse staff Sophoin and Sopheak.

The group travelled from Phnom Penh to Siam Reap for just under two weeks. The journey begun with a visit to the S21 Toul Sleng torture camp and the killing fields where millions of lives were lost at the hands of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. The ramifications of Pol Pot's reign are still felt in the community today, especially the barriers Pol Pot placed on education, which meant eradicating all educated citizens including teachers.

Despite this confronting introduction of the country's turbulent history, the team were also able to see God at work through Samaritans Purse. They could see first-hand projects like new classrooms being built, segregating latrines, cleaning bio-aid water filters and educational initiatives such as introducing teaching resources and training programs. They also got to build simple sand filters, providing communities and schools with safe drinking water.

Simple changes have had a huge ripple effect on the local community, helping to improve levels of learning, and student retention levels post primary school. It has also opened doors to introducing the Christian faith, which is often not exposed to a country when 95% of the population is Buddhist.

One of Samaritan Purses main projects is Operation Christmas Child, which involves giving gifts to children in developing countries, many of whom have never gotten a Christmas present. The team were lucky enough to deliver presents full of items such as something to wear, something to play with, something special, something for personal hygiene, something to love and something for school.

The whole team enjoyed serving in a number of schools, providing a range of sport, music and craft activities that focused on improving literacy skills and English. Darcy Dearden took school photographs for the students and staff at each school, other team members helped bring Bible stories to life through art and craft activities while Tess and Gabbie entertained the children with Christian songs and choruses that included actions which had them all smiling and laughing. Riley and William entertained the troops with games and sporting activities despite the incredible heat and humidity.

For Cheryl Hard, it was a surprise to even be on the trip.
"As I sat in church many weeks ago now, I was considering whether or not to go on this trip. We were singing the worship song which has the words - 'if the wind goes where you send it - so will I"…. I've never thought I was good at hearing that still quiet voice of God, but on this particular morning I really felt a prompting and decided to put my hand up without thinking about it too much more".

Cheryl got to help prepare a healthy nutritional meal for children under 2 years of age to help them grow stronger and flourish.

Samaritan's Purse has also addressed maternal health and mortality rates of babies. Together with local villagers, SP selects several women from a community who are taught about the things that would have been learned from generations past. They are given the option of having their babies in a clinic with a care team rather than at home. They are also given guidance in nutrition and parenting skills. Cheryl got to see this training being put into practice as she visited new mums who had just given birth in a safe clinic with professionals on hand; rather than at home.

For the team, the highlight was sharing in fellowship together and debriefing at the end of everyday. For Paul McConnell, the experience was incredibly rewarding. "I had the privilege of leading this incredible group of young and not so young ambassadors of Christ. The team worked together brilliantly, displaying a variety of gifts and talents that were inspired by love and a desire to put their faith in action".

The group look forward to partnering and continuing in fellowship with Samaritan's Purse.

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