Hot season has arrived in Cambodia like a distant relative arrives into your house and hugs you for a little too long. You can’t escape their grasp or their cheek pinches. Hot season is no different, sweat hugs your body and even riding a moto around town offers no breeze as relief. Things naturally slow down here, rolling power outages seem to be prevalent. We are currently being told to prepare for rolling power outages for the next three months in five hour blocks. I’m finding solace in coffee shops that have generators for air conditioning and Bullet is enjoying all the frozen “pupsicles” I make him. His favorite flavors seem to be sweet potato and “meat juice”. Since I typically boil his meat for his food, the meaty water then gets frozen for treats at a later date.
For me, February was a month of stepping into vulnerability with boldness. It started with two amazing motorcycle rides. One to Kampot and the second being the all over the northern part of Cambodia. I had my own anxiety of being the “weakest” link on the team and holding others back. This “imposter syndrome” feeling thankful disappeared behind me as soon as my motorcycle kicked into second gear. The more I reflect back on the Prayer Circle Cambodia rides, the more I feel emboldened to expectancy on God. That He will provide, heal, and protect all those involved.
Next was being vulnerable in admitting I wasn’t healing from my heat rash at the speed I WANTED to be healing and that I needed help – from medical advice to walking Bullet. My friends, both here – and abroad – sent prayers, encouragements, food, drugs and doggie play dates. While I spent three days in wet yoga pants and t-shirts letting my skin heal and over a week on steroids. It was not fun admitting I needed help, that I was a little scared and the guilt I carried feeling like I was letting people down. Thankfully, the “wet” suit, prayers and drugs helped. Now my new baby skin on my shins are getting tougher to the harsh Cambodian heat and dust.
One of those women I felt like I was letting down was Sharron, MRO’s newest Advisor who I had agreed to help onboard – both at work and in life. I completely missed her first week in Cambodia and felt horrible for letting her and the MRO team down. I was able to redeem myself in her second week – helping her find an amazing apartment, taking her shopping and introducing her to all “my ladies” at the local market and helping her with her visa application. After her second week in Cambodia, Bullet and I took her to Silk Island – our local get away with clean water to swim in. Bullet was long overdue for a fun adventure since he had spent nearly two weeks trapped in my room with the AC on and yet not allowed to snuggle with me. (Even though I’m not allergic to dogs, the doctor warned me that almost any allergen could upset my sick skin.) While we were swimming, I confessed to Sharron how horrible I felt about letting her down her first week and how helping her in her second week was stirring up some emotions about my own landing here in Cambodia. Feelings I thought I had dealt with yet some weird jealousy on my side was yet another example of boldly stepping into vulnerability. The Bible speaks of God refining us like silver. I think this is a good example of this. Being aware of our emotions and feelings – owning them and reflecting on them and coming out on the other side a better, more Christ-like version of ourselves.
Towards the end of February, my family and I received word that my Uncle Clay had been diagnosed with Level 4 Glioblastoma (brain cancer) and the survival rate is pretty low. My heart (and my body) dropped to the floor. I spent a considerable amount of time on the ground – weeping, praying, re-reading my aunt’s text message. I finally picked myself up, washed my face and headed to my Khmer tutoring session. As soon as my teacher saw me, he asked what was wrong. I explained in Khmer that I had just found out that my uncle was sick with brain cancer. (Yeah Community Health class vocabulary!) The conversation continued in Khmer:
Teacher: I’m sorry, sister. Does your uncle love Jesus?
Teacher: This is good. He will go to Heaven. But still very sad.
(By this point, I’m crying again.)
Teacher: What is your Uncle’s name? Is he married? Does he have kids?
Me: Yes, his name is Clay. His wife’s name is Kirstie. His daughter’s name is Brianna and his son’s name is Jimmie.
Teacher: My wife and I will pray for them tonight. I’m sorry, sister. Would you like me to read to you?
He then spent our hour of tutoring reading slowly to me from my children’s book about not speeding in a car and looking out for elephants on the road. Here we are, sitting in a local coffee shop, a married, Khmer man reading to children’s book out loud in Khmer to a silently weeping foreign woman. I had to admit this act of love and compassion still makes me tear up. I told the story to my mentor and she wisely pointed out, “You’ve reached that sweet spot where you are getting loved on by your Khmer friends.” I couldn’t agree more.
That being said, my Uncle is committed to fighting this thing and it’s such an honor to walk, prayerfully beside him and his immediate family through this. Again, this theme of being bold yet vulnerable comes up daily in my prayers for him. I’m super thankful that I’ll be able to spend time with him while I’m home this summer and celebrate his daughter getting married!
Other things that happened in February: I said goodbye to my roommate of five months, Amanda, and welcomed a new roommate, Laura, into my home. Laura is here for two months investigating if she wants to become a full-time missionary. I also had the honor of helping my dear friend, Nika, who is blind, build a Facebook page for her new organization geared towards helping other blind Cambodians with resources and trainings. She is so kind to me. Always reminding me that we are sisters. When she found out I had heat rash on the Prayer Circle ride, she called Manoj and asked to speak to me. Just to make sure I was okay and to tell me she was praying for me! The Phnom Penh Post did a write up about her work. You can read about it here. I’m so proud of Nika and happy to call her “sister.”
I’ve spent a lot of time researching and praying about sending agencies and am pretty excited about this opportunity. This also means I’ve started planning my home visit to the United States. If you want to see me, have questions about my home visit, have me speak at your church or small group – please let me know! It looks like I’ll be stateside July through mid September.
How have you been doing? I look forward to hearing from you! As always prayer requests are below.
Hugs from Cambo,
ជេនណា / Jenna (and Bullet)
P.S. In February, I finished reading “Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out” about the history of Craft Beer in America. I also downloaded 13 hours worth of Hans Christian Andersen “Fairy Tales” to fall asleep to on the Prayer Circle Rides. Both were great books. If only I could stop falling sleeping before chapter 4 on the “Fairy Tales” book!
I would really appreciate you joining me in prayer in the following ways:
1. For my uncle, Clay, his wife, Kirstie, and their children – Brianna and Jimmie as my uncle battles cancer..
2. For my house in Portland. That good tenants will be interested in living there soon.
3. For wisdom and logistics as I start gearing up for my trip home this summer.