4/4/2013 10:45:00 AM Cambodian mission trip enlightens workers
by Sue Sullivan
Four people from Life Church in Cannon Falls joined eight people from Christian Life Church, Farmington, to go on a construction mission trip in Cambodia from February 18 to March 1.
The people from Cannon Falls were Pastor Marc Kelliher, Jan Peters, and Lisa Hawthorne, along with Jessica Hoffer from Dennison. Each member of the team was responsible for raising their own funds for the trip.
They worked with Dareth Ly, a missionary from St. Paul, who is a native of Cambodia and survivor of the Khemer Rouge Killing Fields. Ly was born in Cambodia, grew up in St. Paul and now lives in Cambodia as the director for three schools the team worked at in the Siem Reap province.
"When we heard about how Dareth is helping to better the future for not only a few thousand children, but entire communities, we knew we wanted to be part of that," stated Kelliher. "Our goal in everything we do at Life Church is to make Jesus famous in hearts and homes... and part of that is showing people the radical love of Christ by meeting the needs of others, regardless of whether they choose to follow Him or not."
At Ampil Primary School, which provides education for 950 children in grades 1-6, the team focused on placing footings and constructing a new swing set, using materials donated by the two-church team. Because Cambodia is a developing country, and the school has a limited budget, much of the work which would be done by machine in the U.S. had to be done by hand in Cambodia. Tasks included digging the footings and mixing cement, all during a heat index of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
For many children life beyond survival is unimaginable, according to school director Ly. The hope of the New Dream Center, the second school visited, is to give children the tools and resources needed to not only learn to dream, but to achieve a better future for themselves and the nation of Cambodia.
The team spent two days prepping and painting three classrooms in the New Dream Center, with supplies once again provided by the missionary team. The school currently serves 500 students. The New Dream Center also provides free housing and food for children from outlying villages who are seeking to further their education.
Explained Hawthorne, "Poverty in America can be very different than the poverty we saw in Cambodia. Some children didn't have a primary school in their neighborhood to attend until recently, much less a high school or vocational training."
During breaks, team members taught some of the students the game of hockey, leaving a full set of floor hockey equipment and balls with them. Quipped Kelliher, "Who knows, maybe there will be a Cambodian hockey team in the winter Olympics one day."
Stepping back in time, according to Kelliher, the team visited their third school, Mechrey Floating School. Located on Lake Tonle Sap, the 20-30 villages float on the combined lake and river. Fed by the Mekong river, water is pushed up annually to the lake, which is usually 2,700 square kilometers, swelling its area to 14,000 square kilometers.
The 200,000 people living on the Tonle Sap are too impoverished to own or rent land. So they float with their pig pens and rice patties. Their main transportation is canoe.
The team spent three days painting classrooms and exterior walls with materials they provided, but the impact the school is making in its village made the school the most special to the team.
About 10 years ago, Mission of Mercy, a child sponsorship organization, helped build the Mechrey Floating School, which now provides an excellent education for 250 children in grades 1-6. Up to that point, education was not valued and children at about third grade were pulled out of school to help fish and earn money for the family. With the addition of The New Dream Center, parents are allowing their children to complete elementary school and go on to the high school. They now see that their children can get good jobs and support the family even better with an education.
Said Kelliher, "The poverty we encountered was extreme, to be sure, however there was a certain sense of contentment, and even joy the people had.I've come to realize that people have the same basic needs no matter where they live or their specific culture... I've come to realize we are all very much the same."
Added Peters, "Throughout the world there is suffering and it's pretty much the same kind of suffering no matter where you go."
Kelliher concluded, "Over all, our team was incredibly privileged to work among such loving and hospitable people and it was exciting to be a small part of making a difference in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I realized we all have a lot to be thankful for."
"We sweat buckets, worked our hands and knees sore, and loved every minute of it."