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My Time in Cambodia

20160322 LindaKhi

I spent the week at the Kindergarten in Don Bosco School in Tuol Kork with Bernie, 12 teenagers & 2 artists (Sabrina & Edmund). The other ACT members from Singapore taught the vocational girls in the building next to ours and we joined them there for lunch every day.

In his ACTS Advent message, Dr John wrote: What is the impact of the Advent Missions to Cambodia and Myanmar?  The answer came from Sr. Maria. She replied: "I was reflecting that our Buddhist students when they graduate and leave the school, what memories they would bring with them? One of that will be the experience of Christmas, living and celebrating with you ACTS yearly and by this experience, they themselves would repeat acts of kindness towards others.”

For me too, the experience of Christmas, of Christ living among us, became concrete that week In Cambodia. I also want to repeat these acts of kindness that I have received from the nuns, Cambodian teachers and students, and from all of you while we were there that week.

  • I felt loved when the children ran up to me to hug and held my hands.
  • I experienced the power of music when the children smiled and sang the songs we taught them.
  • I felt joy when I responded to each moment and was creative in the way I chose to teach & interact with the people around me.
  • I experienced contentment when I was painting the mural on the school walls.
  • I felt humbled that I gave so little yet I received so much.
  • I felt grateful when the Cambodian teachers shared their stories about their families and dreams.
  • I am thankful for the sisters who work tirelessly and cheerfully to host us each year & to BE with God's poor.
  • Most of all, I felt privileged that each day, Jesus gives us Himself at Mass, nourish us, & feed us before we go out to share & be with His people.

After Myanmar's election last year, I was singing Isaiah's prophecy almost daily: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. SO, before the trip to Cambodia, I thought and prayed: Well... since Cambodia has also gone through a period of darkness in her history, I will go and be a light to the people there. As I reflect on the trip these past few weeks, I realise how much MORE light I have received from them instead. They have shared with me Jesus' love, gentleness, patience, wisdom, generosity, and LIGHT! Here in Singapore, we have so much yet so little. They have so little yet so much!

Before our flight home on Saturday afternoon, I went for a haircut next to the hotel. I knew I would not have time once I got home. The guy who cut my hair was from China; he worked 7 days a week to support his parents back home. He was puzzled why Singaporeans would go every year to 'help the poor.' He asked me why did I go? He was shocked that I did not get paid to do this, and that I even had to fork out money for the airfare, accommodation & food. In my broken Chinese, I told him, it makes me happy, it makes the children we teach happy. I did not know how to tell Him about being Jesus' light to others. I hope some of you will go and cut your hair there next year, and share Jesus' light with the people of China too:)

Before signing up for this trip, I did ask myself: Why go with ACTS to Cambodia? Do I not already have enough to do in Singapore? I do not even have time to comb my hair in the morning, read the newspapers nor watch TV, nor play Candy Crush on my phone.  So why go to Cambodia despite my busy-ness?

I found the answer in the week's Gospel Reading: In Mark 1:29-39, we see how busy Jesus was yet something kept Him going.

29As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.32That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons, and he would not permit the demons to speak because they knew him.

35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Jesus WAS busy! He went about doing good by caring for others and sharing God's love. His prayer life and intimate relationship with God sustained Him.

In Cambodia too, I believe we used our 86,400 seconds each day fully. We spent our time, energy and talents for our Cambodian friends there. I enjoyed and cherished every moment of my time there. I want to thank the ACTS organising team for this trip. So much sacrifice, sweat, time, laughter, energy, resources and love went into the planning and executing this wonderful week. Now that I am back home in Singapore, I am inspired to spend my 86,400 seconds a day like what we did in Cambodia: to use my time, energy and creativity to do more good and to share Jesus' light with my family and those around me.

Linda Khi
ACTS Mission Phnom Penh 2015