Hitting the reset button! (September 2018 Update!)

Hi!  How are you?  I miss you so.  What has wrapping up summertime looked like for you?  It’s fun watching everyone’s Facebook and Instagram posts turn from summertime camping adventures to fall activities.  Here it is always summer, the high today is 33C (91F).  September was a month of “resetting” for me.  My last day at Daughters was August 31.  My amazing new roommate, Amanda, moved in on September 1.  And I found myself feeling really “run down” the first week of September, I thought it was a cold.

(Attempting to flush out all the grossness.)

My roommate thought it was my body reacting to the stress.  My mentors and teachers thought I should go to the hospital.  I’ll be totally honest with you, hospitals terrify me.  It took a few delusional days (including one moment where I introduced myself to my friend’s dog as “Aunt Nancy” – my mom’s name) and one of the Prayer Circle rider’s telling me she was taking me to the hospital for me to agree to go.  A few hours later, I found myself in a Cambodian Clinic, with a sweet Khmer doctor, telling me I had a sinus infection.  Shout out to my amazing roommate for keeping the house stocked in orange juice.  I think I single handedly keep the pho place in business with the amount of soup I ate.  Plus the penicillin and benadryl combo the doctor prescribed me.

(My back to school photo.)

Just in the nick of time, I got a clean bill of health right before I started Level 3 Khmer at my language school.  I’m doing this level full time, which means for five weeks, I go to school Monday through Friday from 8AM to noon.  Then I have homework to complete before the next day.  It’s a fun class, for the first two hours, where we learn new vocabulary and additional grammar rules, there are eight students, hailing from Korea, El Salvador, Brazil and Finland.  One other student and I are the only native English speakers.  For the last hour, there is only three of us learning the alphabet and sight words.  There are 74 letters in the Khmer alphabet.  That is three times the amount in the English alphabet!  When I was younger, I really struggled with learning how to read.  I was always mixing up my “L” and “J” and “p” “d” and “b”.  So I’m constantly reminding myself of that as I learn my ក គ and ច ឆ ត.  Sometimes I find myself saying, “the ka sound with the Bart Simpson hair, not the co sound with the Trump hair ជ.”  You need a little laugh to make it through the day.  Another great way to laugh about language learning is to check out this funny video about the English language.  (Warning: Some swearing.)

(World’s oldest teenager, Stu, Tina, and I in Vietnam.)

On top of school, I had the chance to fly to Vietnam to see my dad, Stu, on his “Retirement Tour – SE Asia.”  It was great to hang out with him and some of his co-workers who I’ve known for well over a decade.  Hear how retirement has been treating him and what his dreams of this new chapter in his life will look like.

(Peck, On, Stefanie and I at the Enduro Race.)

The following weekend, I got to ride my Honda Degree to Kampot (my favorite town) three hours away from Phnom Penh to help with a motorcycle race.  The highlight of the ride was right outside of Phnom Penh, when we were on this dirt dyke road.  There were hundreds of dragonflies, we slowed down to make way for a duck farmer and his hundreds of ducks crossing the road, a shepard and his cows, and watched little naked Khmer boys run and do coconuts (cannonballs) into the the river.  I was almost moved to tears thinking, “How lucky am I, that you called me here, Jesus.  Thank you.”  I could hear Him whisper back, “I love this place too.”  I recently learned of the Christian term, thin space, where the space between you and God is so thin you can truly feel the Holy Spirit.  That is how I think that road was, a thin place, where you catch a glimpse of Heaven.

(Towing Stefanie around Kampot.)

The rest of the motorcycle weekend was a complete blast.  On top of seeing all my old friends from the last race in Kirirom.  My friend, Stefanie, joined me to help out at the race.  There was even ONE girls team.  A Khmer national and a French woman competed.  Although they didn’t complete the race they were definitely an inspiration.  Stefanie and I agreed that we want to enter the final race for this year with the goal of inspiring more girls to race AND to just complete the course.  Let me know if you want to come visit and cheer us on!

(Bullet and I on our weekly run with the Running Bongs – an expat and Khmer running club in Phnom Penh.)

Finally, my prayer journal has become more of a pro/con list as I meet with people and explore different employment opportunities to start (hopefully) next month.  I’ve been looking into doing freelancing helping NGOs update their websites, thinking about brand strategy and email marketing.  Applying for jobs at social businesses and nonprofits alike.  I even seriously considered investing in a community bar with a few friends from the homebrewing community here in Cambodia.  While I don’t have anything truly definite for next month.  I can see how God is leading me in terms of connections, meetings and through journaling.

(I also committed to leading the Craft Corner at church once a month – this month we did a coloring sheet on Psalm 139.)

As always, below are some prayer requests. I really love hearing from everyone back home. You can reply to this email and share what is happening in your life, and how I can be praying for you. I’m also available to chat via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, feel free to message me that way. You can do this by sending me a friend request on Facebook (if we aren’t friends already) or adding my USA phone number to WhatsApp. I look forward to hearing from you!

Hugs from Cambo,
Jenna (and Bullet)

I would really appreciate you joining me in prayer in the following ways:

  1. Future employment opportunities.
  2. My continued Khmer language studies.
  3. Health and safety as always.

Moves and Changes! (August 2018 Update!)

I think if there was one word to summarize August, it would be “move.” I left the USA on August 1st and arrived in Cambodia on August 3rd. After 30+ hours of travel time, my luggage didn’t make it for a couple more days.  Despite that, I’m so thankful for the friends who picked me up at the airport at 11PM and made sure I had a burrito and fresh drinking water at my place when I crashed out. After a shower and quick power nap, another friend showed up at 5:30AM to help me move into my new apartment! Since I don’t own much / have become a pro at moving, it only took a few hours and I crashed out for a couple of hours before picking Bullet up.

(I then spent the next couple of hours getting loved on by my pup).

The next week was a little bit of a blur, between jet lag, exhaustion from my two week trip home, living in a new place, and Bullet having some stomach issues (I’ll spare you the details). The week was filled with napping at random hours, unpacking, investigating new shops in the new neighborhood, meeting my new neighbors and introducing everyone to Bullet.

The last one came in handy when I accidentally walked through a funeral being set up on my street. It’s hard to tell if it’s a funeral or a wedding being set up until the colors are displayed. White/black for funerals or white/literally any other color for weddings. The giveaway, I realized, was the corpse laying out that Bullet and I casually walked passed. My neighbor laughed at me as I held my hands up in prayer above my forehead and whispered “Soum touk” (I’m sorry) as she showed me the way out.

On the brighter side, I’ve now got a running joke with some of my neighbors that Bullet’s nickname is “Song-ha” (handsome). One of my neighbors was telling me Bullet is a good-looking dog, strong and beautiful. Then I corrected her: “he’s not beautiful, he’s handsome, because he’s a boy!” She got a kick out of my joke and now always greets us with, “hello, handsome!”

(Me, Dennis, Sharon and their daughter, Srey Pov).

I also went on three more practice rides in August. One with my coach, Dennis, and his family, one with my dear friend, Dave, and I even got to lead one with my buddy, Stefanie. My motorcycle got a slight upgrade, better handlebars that protect the clutch and break from snapping off if I drop my bike and I was able to purchase my extra supplies to carry when I go on rides – stuff like tire tubes and the like. There are 25 provinces in Cambodia, I wrote them all out by name in my journal in August. I’ve been to nine so far. I’m hoping to cross them all off my list on my upcoming motorcycle rides.

(Dave and my bike on a ferry to Prey Veng province).
(Stef and I doing practice rides in a quarry about an hour outside of Phnom Penh).

I wasn’t alone for long in my new apartment before Lisa and Dave Everitt came to crash with me for two weeks. They are back in Phnom Penh saying goodbye to their life here for the past 24 years, before moving back to Portland, Oregon and continuing their role in leadership with their agency as well as a new role of Grandma and Grandpa! Bullet and I were super spoiled to have them in our home for a couple of weeks and getting a good tour of the neighborhood – where the wet market is, the non-sketchy massage parlors, etc. I think Bullet misses having another guy around the apartment to lounge with…

(Mermaid birthday cake!)

I also turned 32 years old in August.  I had a running joke with my Khmer staff at Daughters, “don’t call me ‘bong’ (big sister) anymore, call me ‘ming’ (auntie).” All jokes aside, I was moved to tears at my birthday party, when I was sitting around a massive table with a group of people who I didn’t even know existed at my 31st birthday party. When I reflect back on how hard landing in Cambodia was and how lonely I felt to be sitting down with 20 people who I have a huge amount of love for and whom I felt a lot of love from- it’s really, truly overwhelming. I’ve traveled with, cried in front of, and laughed to the point of nearly peeing myself with many of these people. They have become more than friends, but truly family and I’m so thankful for that. I think birthday parties (or if I’m honest – any day) in Heaven will be just like this. A group of people, who love each other more than words can express, sitting down over a simple meal of mermaid birthday cake and good craft beer and sharing the highlights of life together. I’m so excited for that and hopefully a few of you back home will get the chance to come meet my friends here in Cambodia – before we all get to Heaven.

Finally, August marked the end of my time at Daughters of Cambodia. This was definitely an interesting chapter to navigate.  Overall, I know I left well, including staying up most of the night before my last day, making cards for the staff I worked with on a daily basis, sharing a favorite moment with them, and a Bible verse of encouragement. Again, another tearful (in a good way) night. I spent the last day handing out cards, making sure what I had wrote was communicated clearly to those who couldn’t read English. There was a lot of hugs and a lot of reminding my friends that I wasn’t leaving Cambodia, just focusing on language, so I was available to hang out, watch soccer matches, and Lord knows I’d need some help with my Khmer homework! To top it off, Martin, my boss and his family had me over for dinner after my last day, “because we are now just friends, I’m no longer your boss,” to quote Martin. It was definitely a fun way to celebrate the end of a chapter.

(I’ve joined a running team, The Running Bongs, in my new neighborhood).

So here is to the next chapter!  What God has planned for my life here in Cambodia: to more growth, challenges, laughter, and joy.

Below are some prayer requests. I really love hearing from everyone back home. You can reply to this email and share what is happening in your life, and how I can be praying for you. I’m also available to chat via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, feel free to message me that way.   I look forward to hearing from you!

Hugs from Cambo,
Jenna (and Bullet)

I would really appreciate you joining me in prayer in the following ways:

  1. That I will continue to listen to God’s calling on my life here in Cambodia and faithfully follow Him.
  2. My continued Khmer language studies.
  3. Safety and health as always.  I’m currently fighting my first sinus infection.

Recap: Home Visit and More! (July 2018 Update!)

Wow!  July literally flew by…or maybe it was the 78 hours of travel time going to/from the USA.  But let me tell you – it was totally worth it!  I got to see so many family and friends.  Plus, my baby brother got married and I got an awesome sister-in-law!  Seriously, how cute are they?

(Bride and Groom, on their wedding day.)

And as promised, photographic proof that I did wear a dress:

(Me – in a dress, with Dane and Christine.)

The wedding was such a blast, filled with laughter, love and so many family and friends.  It was great to have most of our family come out from the East Coast, especially since I didn’t get a chance to travel back to New England during this trip.

Other than the wedding, most of my home visit was a blur.  Between catching up with friends, buying last minute things for life in Cambodia, adulting (aka going to the dentist and checking in on my house) – my father also retired and my parents moved back to the East Coast.  There was a lot of scrambling around for the family.  To quote my mom, “These two weeks were a major season of change for our family.  We need to be gentle with one another.”  While it was an exhausting week, I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to walk through this transition with my parents.

(Being able to “roast” my father, at his retirement party.)

Thank you to everyone who made time to meet with me, ask questions about Cambodia, gave me hugs and offered to drive me around.  I really appreciated each conversation and hope to continue to stay in contact even while I’m abroad.  It was fun speaking at my church, Oaks Parish.  As promised, here is the prayer I shared:

អរគុណ ព្រះយេស៊ូវ
Akun Preahyasu.
Thank you, Jesus.

(Oaks Parish at the Portland Pickles game.)

Also, to everyone who came to my gathering – thank you!  Way more people showed up that I anticipated and I was super overwhelmed (in a good way) by the love and support.  I didn’t get to speak to everyone and definitely didn’t get to chat as in detail as much as I wanted too.  I really do hope you’ll forgive me and send me an email letting me know what is happening in your life and how I can be praying for you.  Also, if you have any interest in seeing the slide show I had prepared for the night – send me an email and I can send you the link.

(Photo from my gathering.)

Before heading back to the USA, I was able to purchase my “big” motorcycle for upcoming prayer rides here in Cambodia.  For months, I have been training to join Prayer Circle Cambodia and also praying for the perfect bike for me and peace with making a huge financial decision.  With the help of some amazing friends, I was able to purchase this beautiful bike.  I have few feelings to compare this moment too – maybe like trying on my prom dress for the first time.  I got a text from one of the leaders of Prayer Circle Cambodia saying the guys at the motorcycle shop found a bike that “might” work and that I should hurry down and check it out.  When I got there, the group of Khmer guys who were looking for a bike for me rolled out this beautiful teal bike!  They were smiling and laughing and I was near tears.  It was such an awesome moment.  I’ve already got two confirmed rides and two tentative rides planned.  Please keep the team and I in your prayers – for safety and wisdom in serving.

(My new bike and I!)

Another thing that happened before I flew back to Portland was a conversation with Daughters about wrapping up my time with the organization.  While I have no doubts that I’m supposed to be in Cambodia and working with vulnerable populations here.  I do believe Daughters was the door to get me to Cambodia and for that I’m thankful.  I’m planning on taking some time to focus on language while listening to God direct my path.  If you have any questions about this, please email me and we can set up a call.

I really love hearing from everyone back home.  You can email me and share what is happening in your life, how I can be praying for you.  I’m also available to chat via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, fell free to message me that way.  You can do this by sending me a friend request on Facebook (if we aren’t friends already) or adding my USA phone number to WhatsApp.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Hugs from Cambo,
Jenna (and Bullet)

(Bullet and I right before I dropped him off to stay at Animal Mama while I was on home leave.)

The month of good-byes (June 2018 Update!)

Happy (belated) 4th of July from Cambodia! I hope all of you have an excellent day of BBQs, family, friends, craft beer and fireworks. I was able to secure some decently made hot dogs here in Cambodia and ALMOST felt like I was home. Words can’t express how excited I am to be flying home TODAY to catch up with most of you. I’m also finally getting that sister I’ve always wanted. (Just think next update will have photos of me in a fancy dress with my new sister! How cool is that?)

(Women’s retreat to Silk Island – various girlfriends from various anti-human trafficking NGOs).

Well June has come and gone. This wave of faith continues to grow and pick up momentum. I recently heard (an English) sermon on 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The pastor spoke about how everyone focuses on the “love” part, but he wanted to speak on how important faith and hope are. That they are intertwined. That you need faith for hope to grow and you need hope for your faith to be strengthened. I feel like I’m really pressing into that balance of faith and hope in this season of change.

I want to personally thank each and every one of you who reached out after my last update. If I’m honest, I was pretty anxious about leaving my sending agency and then sharing why with people. I felt like I had really let a lot of people down (as well as myself), but the words of encouragement and support were more than I could have asked for or imagined. I found myself near tears as emails and Facebook messages came in. It reminded me how faithful God is and how before I even came to Cambodia, He told me, “I’m not sending you there alone, I’m sending you with friends.” This burden was much too heavy for me to carry and I feel so thankful to have this weight off my shoulders. I also have received pledges of $1,200 / month in support for the upcoming year. My goal is $1,500 a month to cover living costs, health insurance, annual home leave, self care and more. If you are interested in supporting me or want to learn more about it, please send me a note and we can talk more about it. To those who have already committed support. You are the true heroes here in Cambodia. Your blessings are more than I can count.

(Mango catching at Martin’s house).

My housing situation has changed yet again since my last update. At this point I’m a pro at moving via tuk-tuk and I’m so thankful that Bullet is such an easy going pup. I’ve been house siting for my boss, Martin. While Bullet and I have been gone from our apartment, thieves broke in, stole my flatmate’s motorcycle, bicycle, and a couple of washing machines (these are kept on balconies in Cambodia). On top of that, the helper was attacked. I am so thankful the helper is okay, that my flatmate is okay, that nothing of real value (passports, laptops, etc) was stolen. But at this point, my sweet landlord doesn’t believe it’s safe for us to live in the apartment and is looking to sell it. Danielle, my flat mate made the decision to move out and I quickly followed her lead. I found a great pet-friendly service apartment in a new area of town, where some of my friends live with their two dogs.

(Esther and one of the puppies).

The best thing about housesitting for Martin and Valerie was getting to spend time with Esther during her last few weeks in Cambodia. Esther is an 18 year old woman doing a gap year from Germany volunteering at Daughters of Cambodia. On top of all the laughter she brought to our home, it was fun to help her process some of her feelings about returning back to her country after a year in Cambodia and we had some really great deeper conversations that I will cherish for a long time.

(Jeanie, Katrine, Johanne, Esther and I in Kampot).

After Esther left, the other two young women from Denmark serving at Daughters also flew home. Spending time with Johanne and Katrine, have been some of the highlights of working at Daughters: sitting in worship together, translating words together, grabbing coffee and their hugs. The deep conversations from Esther’s leaving continued to flow into their last two weeks in Cambodia as well.

(If only I could sleep that well).

A big surprise of moving into Martin’s house has been one of their dogs had PUPPIES! That is right, we went from a household of three dogs to seven in one night. Rocky (mama dog) has been a wonderful mother and has done much of the work making my life of cleaning towels and mopping up “accidents” pretty easy. I’m so thankful all four survived and continue to grow. Their eyes have opened, they are beginning to walk and I’m a little thankful I get to head to the States before their cuteness is overrun with pure energy once they figure out how their legs really work…

(Bullet after going to the vet with a sting).

On top of the puppies, June was a month of recovery for Bullet. At the end of May, Bullet got an eye infection which required a week of eye drops. Which he hated, but put up with. Followed by getting stung in the face by a scorpion, which required our second and third trips to the vet in one month. Luckily, after medicine three times a day for three weeks, he got a clean bill of health and his shave is finally starting to grow in. While I’m stateside, he will be staying at the boarding place associated with this vet, so I’m so thankful he will be in good hands. After the scorpion sting, we were at the vet and they put a muzzle on him (standard for Bullet even in the States) and I watched this young Khmer guy scratch his ears and speak so calmly to Bullet while the vet looked at his face and while Bullet was trying to give kisses to the Khmer assistant made me tear up. In a country that is terrified of dogs, let alone big dogs, seeing how close Bullet was to this one young man he’s know from daycare made my heart fill with peace.

(One week later, Bullet’s check up).

Things have been a little different at Daughters this month. I haven’t been able to go into the office, which is making some projects difficult to continue working on. Ultimately, it has been a blessing between, helping Esther leave well, the puppies, Bullet’s recovery, moving and my Level 2 Khmer final having more freedom in my day to help out and serve others has been really helpful.

(This is what a typical Khmer language class looks like. Asking, “What size shoe do you wear?”)

Speaking of Level 2 Khmer, thank you so much for your prayers. I didn’t fail Level 2, but I also didn’t pass Level 2. Basically, I did great at comprehension and terrible at speaking. To make up for this, I’m working with a tutor on speaking. In Khmer culture, there is this thing called “saving face” so it’s hard culturally for people to point out when you make mistakes, because it can cause shame. Having a tutor point out your mistakes is a great way to work on formal speaking and it’s really helping me understand the structure of the language so much better. I’m wicked excited to start Level 3 in September, where I’ll start learning writing!

(Wendy and I out riding).

Prayer training rides continued in June. I went on an awesome half day ride to Oudong, the old capital of Cambodia with my friend and female rider, Wendy, and our coach, Yong. I had a blast! Conquering my fears of cows, eating a custard apple for the first time, walking up to the top of the Oudong temple and so much more. I also made a conscious decision to start riding my moto back and forth to my job at the bar past the two streets that are known for sex for expats praying blessings over the women, conviction for the men and protection over the children there. I’m looking forward to my first ride in August and helping out at another race in September! Check out this cool video of me riding in the floods in my neighborhood. (I hit a floating tree limb at the end – don’t worry. I’m okay.)

I’ll be back in Portland, Oregon July 15 – August 1! (AKA TODAY!) I would really love to meet with you. So please send me an email or Facebook message so we can set something up.

Scarves for School – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

One week from today, I’ll by heading home for a much anticipated life event.  I’M GETTING A SISTER!  My little brother is getting married and I’m finally getting that little sister I always wanted.  Words can not describe how excited I am for this.

In anticipation of heading home, my friend, Panhaha, from Cows for the Kingdom reached out and asked me if I would be willing to help him sell some scarves made by women from his village.  These scarves help provide additional income that allows mothers to send their children to school here in Cambodia.  Of course I said, YES!

I’m flying home with 15 of these beautifully hand-made scarves.

Purple, green, and pink.
Red and white.
Pink and green.
On a prayer ride, rocking a krama head scarf.

This is a style is a traditional krama (ក្រមា).  It’s a sturdy traditional Khmer garment, with many, many, many uses include: scarf, bandana, towel, swim suit, belt, mat, decoration, hammock, etc.  I typically wear them on prayer rides, to keep my neck covered from the sun and then as a hair wrap while visiting temples and eating.  It is worn by men, women and children here in Cambodia.  Traditionally it comes in either red or blue, the Cambodian national colors.

I’ll be selling these kramas for $20 each during my time in Portland.  I’ll be selling them after church at Oaks Parish on Sunday July 15th and at my party at Hopworks.  If you are interested in buying one ahead of time.  Just shoot me an email and I’ll save you one.  Also, if you live outside of Portland, let me know and I’ll ship you one while I’m stateside.

Cows for the Kingdom – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Did you know in rural Cambodia, most children don’t have access to quality education?   Cows for the Kingdom is trying to change that!

I just wanted to send a little update on a side project I have been working on with some friends here in Cambodia.  My boss, Martin, at Daughters has a huge passion for a lot of different things, one of them is helping more children in Cambodia go to school.  I have been working with him to build a website for his passion project, Cows for the Kingdom.

To have a qualified teacher come to your village (or “phoumi” in Khmer – Cambodian national language) and teach your children – especially in English language – villagers need to raise minimum $100 per month.

Education is essential to the thriving and success of children all over Cambodia.  Those without a 9th grade certificate, can hardly even access factory jobs.  Leaving them with little options.

Most of them come to Phnom Penh, looking for jobs and find themselves in a large city, with no money, no family, and no where to live.  A lot end up in sex work, either willingly or unwillingly, and have to be rescued by e.g. Daughters of Cambodia.

It is always exciting what God can do with spontaneous ideas.
God opens doors … to solve the problem, before it becomes a problem.  By enabling local villagers to come up with the means to hire a teacher.

The Solution:


An international gathering, along with a few of their friends, both Khmer and foreign nationals, invested in a few cows.  Over the course of several months, these farmers learned animal husbandry skills and were able to sell their cows for a profit.

Through mentoring and financial coaches, the farmers will be able to invest their profits into hiring a teacher for the first time in their village.  There are now children going to English classes, right in their own town.

We are praying to replicate this small success story all over Cambodia.

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” – Matthew 13:31-32

Need more convincing?  Check out our “Goals” page.

Interested in helping send more Khmer children to school?  Email me or leave a comment below and I’ll follow up with you directly.

May Mission Month – Oaks Parish

There are few moments when the time zone world collide and things work out just right.  For example, 7PM in Portland, Oregon, the perfect time for wine and fellowship, happens to be 9AM for me the next morning, perfect time to be wide awake and visit with my church family back in Portland.  Earlier this week, I got the chance to “call in” to my church back home during their/our May Mission Month.  It was such a blessing to see you all!  I’m so encouraged that Oaks Parish is participating in May Missions Month.  Pastor Bryan asked me to answer a few questions before our chat.  We didn’t get time to get through them all so I figured I would answer them here.  Again, it was so great to see you all.  And for those of you who sent Easter cards – I just got them!  My dad brought them over on a business trip and they were so appreciated.  Thank you!  Ya’ll sure know how to make a girl feel loved!

  • Why did you feel led to life and work in Cambodia?

I’ve had a lifelong dream of traveling to Cambodia, I think it’s because I read in a Zoobook that they have fresh water dolphins and that was enough to sell me on this magical country. In 2014, my parents and I made this dream a reality and spent two weeks traveling around Cambodia. Ever since then, God has been calling me back.

I’m actually spending this weekend traveling to Kratie (about five hours north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia) with a few girlfriends in hopes of seeing these endangered dolphins for the first time!

  • Tell us more about the culture of Cambodia and your work with Daughters.

One thing I love about Cambodia culture is when it comes to food, you share it!  I’ve learned if I’m going on any type of trip to pack twice as many snacks as I need, just so I have the opportunity to share it with people – friends, strangers, kids on the street.  You name it (or in my case: point) – you share it.  I love that food is a very easy to way to bond with people.  At my office, the girls are always sharing snacks with me.  I trust that they won’t give me anything that will make me sick and so far, I’ve tried a lot of really different foods – frog, fermented duck eggs, something I call “fish floss”, and a bunch of other street foods for like $0.30!  I love it.  Just this week, one of my co-workers shared jicama with me!  That was an interesting language opportunity:

Jenna: Oh, jicama!  Khnom nam srok Americ dockinier!  (Broken Khmer for “I eat in America – the same!”)

Bong:  Hicama?  Spell it.

Jenna:  J-I-C-A-M-A.  But the “j”  is a “h” sound.

Bong:  Why?

Jenna:  Well it’s actually a Spanish word.  And in Spanish, “j” is a “h” sound.

Bong:  So no Americ word?

Jenna:  Not really, we just use the Spanish word in America.  But that is okay, because Khmer doesn’t have a “j” sound anyways.

Bong:  Proceeds to “jicama” randomly for the next couple of minutes.

Jenna:  A-ah-nah!  (Khmer: Very good!)

I seriously have no idea how to pronounce “jicama” in Khmer.  But I did learn it is considered a fruit (ply chur) and not a vegetable (bon-lie).

Work at Daughters is going well.  Since I just hit my seven months of being in Cambodia, I’m doing six month updates for Client Update Interviews.  Daughters does this every six months with the girls who are in our Sponsorship program.  It’s really cool to be here for six months and sit down with the same girls who I interviewed during my first month, when I was absolutely clueless, and hear directly from them how their lives have changed.  For example, they have moved into better houses, there kids are in school and doing well, how God is answering their prayers, what they did for Khmer New Year, etc.  It’s really great.  Most of them participate in my weekly work out class so I always ask them what is one thing they have learned in my work out class.  Which always gets a chuckle out of the girls, since this is the main time I really get to hang out with them.  I’m working hard to get all the updates done before July, since I’ll be home for most of that month.

  • How does the gospel meet unique spiritual needs in Cambodia?

In the work I do at Daughters, the gospel provides so much encouragement and fact.

God loves you.

He has wiped away your sins.

There is nothing you can do to make God love you less.

He sets captives free.

He hears you and listens to your prayers.

When you call out to Him, He will rescue you.

He breaks chains.

There is nothing to big/messy,/complicated, etc. for God.

Every day at work, I get the opportunity to speak these words over girls.  Everyday I get the reminder that those truths are also just as true in my life as they are in the girls’ lives.  And for that I’m extremely thankful and blessed.

The spiritual needs for Cambodia are great.  It’s an entire nation recovering from genocide.  There are orphans, fatherless, widows, addicts, abusers, abused, broken people, doing the best they can to survive.  While it’s messy, confusing and a little overwhelming.  There is so much hope, potential and opportunity here.  Generational sin, abuse, addiction and fear are slowly being broken – one person at a time.  Working and serving here is like getting a front row seats to watching people take the first, third and hundredth step forward.  It’s truly a honor to be so close to the action, when you know you didn’t even buy the nosebleed seats.  Being able to cheer people on is definitely the best part, even if it is just in silent prayer walking Bullet around the block.

  • What can the church in Cambodia teach us?

I go to two churches here in Cambodia, one is in English and serves primarily ex-patriots and the other is in Khmer (Cambodian national language).  The number one thing I’m learning from the Khmer church is that God loves worship – not matter what.  No matter if you understand the sermon, the song, the prayer, you can still worship God.  I’m getting more confident in singing a few worship songs in Khmer and if you are focused on the right words and understanding the translation – it doesn’t matter how your voice sounds.  Plus, it’s fun to be encouraged by your Cambodian friends.

On the flip side, I believe the Cambodian church is learning a lot about unity and being in unity with one another as the body of Christ.  This is something I would love to see continue to be strengthened within my Khmer church.  That you can love one another even in the midst of being broken.  None of us are perfect and none of us have all the answers or even the right answers, but we are trying to do life together in community and to do that we need to be in unity with one another, supporting and encouraging one another.

When it comes to my English church, they are so focused on community care.  They love on each other well.  My Bible Study spends one hour just hanging out doing community and one hour on the actual study.  I love the group because we are all doing different things here in Cambodia, some of us are studying malaria, some of us work in human trafficking, counseling, teaching or emergency response and radios!  It’s such a cool bunch of people doing very different things.  It gives me a lot of exposure to what to be praying about for my group throughout the week.

  • What challenges are you facing personally and how can we pray for you?

I’d really love continued prayer for safety and protection.  I’m a single woman living in a third world country so I’m not naive to the fact that what I’m doing is a little risky.  I recently joined a motorcycle group called “Prayer Circle Cambodia” which has historically been a group of guys riding into rural Cambodia to teach about Jesus.  They recently opened up the group to four women and I’m extremely honored to be one of them.  The entire team could use this prayer, but since I’m a noobie, I could use some extra prayer.  (Especially when it comes to cows.)

There is a lot of stuff happening around Cambodia as well.  I would strongly encourage you do some research on your own to what that entails and pray for peace within the country of Cambodia.  We are entering into an interesting time within the nation and prayers for safety and protection could also be applied here.

Have any other questions about life in Cambodia or how you can support the work I am doing?  Leave a comment or send me an email!  I would love to hear from you!  (Also, friendly reminder, I’ll be back in the States July 15 – August 1.)  Please send me an email if you’d like to meet up.

Happy New Year! (April 2018 Update)

April a month of celebration in Cambodia!  The main event is Khmer New Year, which is the emotional equivalent of Christmas.  Everyone goes home to their provinces and spends time with family.  Phnom Penh becomes a ghost town.  Daughters like most of the NGOs and companies here in Cambodia shut down for a week of celebrations.  Before we closed our gates, we had a huge celebration party, which included games, dancing, throwing of baby powder and a massive water fight.  It was definitely my favorite day at work so far.

(Staff water fight for Khmer New Year)

I also celebrated six months of living in Cambodia in April.  Time really does fly here.  I can’t believe how much my life has changed in the past six months and what God is doing in my life.  Every time I reflect on that I’m just in awe of what God is doing to heal this nation and how honored I am to be a part of that story.  It has truly been an amazing time and I know this is just the start and things are only going to get better.

(My confused face over Khmer New Year baby powder fight)

Other exciting news:  I booked my plane ticket home for my brother’s wedding this July.  The current plan is that I will be in Portland July 15 through August 1.  I say “current” because there are some things happening in Cambodia that might change my current travel plans.  I would ask that you continue to pray for the nation of Cambodia, it’s leadership and for peace.  That being said,

I want to see you!

Please, pretty, please, send me an email and let me know when you are free to meet up.  I’d love to catch up, celebrate birthdays, babies, friendships, you name it I want to hear about all of it.  I will give special preferences to friends and family that want to grab craft beer and/or sushi – two things I miss the most living here in Cambodia.  (Okay, I’m joking a little bit about that…or am I?)  So mark your calendars, email me and let’s hang out!

(Me thinking about seeing YOU!)

In celebration of Khmer New Year and hitting my six month mark, I was super blessed to have a sponsor send me enough cash to head to Kampot with Bullet for a few nights of rest and relaxation.  It was my first vacation since arriving in Cambodia and it couldn’t have been at a better time.  Bullet and I spent four days doing almost nothing but swimming and resting.  I finished reading two books (Present over Perfect and Jurassic Park) and started two new books (Option B and Everybody Always).  It was nice to get away from the city and have Bullet off leash being a normal dog again.  You can see him swimming in the river on my Instagram here and in the ocean with a bunch of curious kids here.

(One happy beach boy)

Things at Daughters are chugging along.  I’ve really enjoyed teaching my weekly work out class (hatpran in Khmer).  It’s given me the opportunity to really get to know the girls and build relationships with them.  We dance, hug, and laugh enough to be a work out in itself.  It’s great to see them be encouraging and learning more about how powerful their own bodies are.  It’s also fun to see them encouraging one another.  I’m still working on the sponsorship programs, grants and wholesale orders.  I’m working hard to complete all the sponsorship updates before my home leave and continue to learn more about wholesale shipping.

(Bullet, Samy (Designer), myself, Pey (Stock Manager/Translator) and Mouysim (HR Manager) at a soccer game cheering on Tre (Men’s Leader) from Daughters)

The biggest change in my life for April has been joining the Prayer Circle Cambodia group.  I feel like I have finally found my people here in Cambodia and it has really opened some amazing doors.  Prayer Circle Cambodia is a motorcycle group that Lisa and Dave Everitt connected me too.  For the past 20+ years, a group of men – both expats and Khmer nationals have – have been riding around Cambodia and praying into the darkness.  Recently, I was asked to join the team.  Things are changing here in Cambodia and now is the time for female voices to be seen riding motorcycles, praying and loving on people.  I’m extremely honored to be asked to join and I am working hard to be prepared for what will come along with those expectations.  I’ve been going on practice rides with a trusted friend, Dennis.  You can see a video of one of those rides here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQ8x6N8izQE  While I’m fairly confident rider, there are some things I still need to work on.  Like what to do when a cow charges you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AUK6IKWoNI  I need to be a strong enough rider that I can do what Dennis did for me – instead of the other way around.  I’m working on securing funds to make this a reality.  The majority of that would be buying my own motorcycle.  I can’t ride my “chicken chaser” of a commute scooter on five day rides into no man’s land Cambodia.  I’m looking into used bikes for about $2,000.  I’ll need to get the seat shaved down so I can touch the ground.  (Yeah short girl problems.)  And then some gear when I’m back home in the States in July.

(Practice ride with my instructor, Dennis)

Again, I’ll be back in Portland, Oregon July 15 – August 1.  I would really love to meet with you.  So please send me an email or Facebook message so we can set something up.  Below are some prayer requests.  I really love hearing from everyone back home.  Share what is happening in your life, how I can be praying for you and if you want to meet up in Portland in July!

I would really appreciate you joining me in prayer in the following ways:

  1. My trip back home to the States.  That it will be a great time with family and friends.  For my brother, Kirk and soon-to-be sister-in-law, Kelsey, wedding and marriage.  That things will continue to remain safe and the government will continue to be respected here in Cambodia.
  2. I’m in the process of ending my relationship with my sending agency, ISM, please join me in prayer that this will be a smooth transition as well as healing from the pain and frustration of working with them.
  3. Finally, that I will continue to listen to God’s calling on my life here in Cambodia and faithfully follow Him.

HAPPY EASTER! (March 2018 Update!)


Palm Sunday motorcycle adventures.

HAPPY EASTER!  (រីករាយ​ថ្ងៃបុណ្យ​អេ​ស្ទ័​រ!)  While Holy Week is a celebrated differently throughout the world, it was fun to see how the international church community celebrates Christ resurrection here in Cambodia.  Last week, for Palm Sunday we were given an entire bunch of palm fronds to wave around in celebration – the perks of living in a tropical country.  On Good Friday, we watched The Passion of the Christ in Khmer at Daughters of Cambodia.  I remember the first time I watch The Passion of Christ – it was senior year of high school. My youth group went to see it in the movie theater. I sat between my high school boyfriend and my high school best friend. I remember feeling really uncomfortable with the cries around me. Even in Khmer I still sat with the same uncomfortable feeling amidst the sound of tears around me. But I’ve realize this is what God calls us to – to be uncomfortable and to love even when it hurts. After the movie, these girls circled up and prayed and loved on one another. I think Jesus sat with them too.

Some of the girls at Daughters praying after watching Passion of the Christ.

Since Cambodia has such a small expat community and even smaller Christian community various churches take on the role of hosting Holy Week celebrations.  I went to an Anglican Church for a Good Friday service, where we were encouraged the carry not only our personal sins, but those of our family and missionary works to the cross as representations of more than just ourselves.  I rather enjoyed thinking of Good Friday in those terms and think I will keep that tradition going forward next year.  On Saturday night, I attended a three hour Easter Vigil.  Which included various different creative displays telling the story from Creation to Jesus’ resurrection.  Finally, I attended an Easter morning service at dawn – which included a simple breakfast and fellowship.

How are you and your family / friends celebrating Easter this year? 

Daughters 2018 Wholesale Jewelry Catalog

Things at Daughters are chugging along.  We recently launched our 2018 Wholesale Jewelry Catalog for our international supporters.  The catalog was one of the first projects I started working on in October when I landed in Cambodia.  I got to work closely with our Graphic Design team, showing them examples of good product photography and good catalog layout and design.  It was also a huge lesson in patience.  Something I’m constantly learning and practicing here in Cambodia.  If anyone is interested in seeing the catalog.

Please let me know and I’ll send you a copy.

Tomorrow, I start Level 2 Khmer!  This time, I’m doing language school part-time, meaning I’m only studying Monday and Wednesday afternoons.  This will take 10 weeks instead of five like Level 1.  I’m looking forward to getting back into classroom and expanding my vocabulary even more.  In other educational news, I recently applied and got accepted into Northeastern’s Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management program!  It has been 10 years since I graduated from university, so I feel like now is the time to gain some more education, especially when it comes to non-profit work.  It’s an online program, so I’ll be working on this part-time while living in Cambodia for the next two to four years.  My goal is to attend this program for free – meaning help from financial aid and scholarships.

So if anyone knows of any scholarships, please send them my way!

Outside of work and play, God has been opening some pretty amazing doors.  I’ve recently joined the local home brewing community here in Cambodia and plan on starting home brewing after the Khmer New Year.  Cambodia comes with some interesting challenges that I’ve never had to deal with home brewing back in Portland.  For example, temperature control.  I’ve never brewed beer where the outside temperature is naturally warmer then what you need to keep beer at during the fermentation process.  When I joined the community, one of the members pointed out, “We’ve never had a Christian in the group before.”  I just chuckled and went, “well my church back home makes hard cider together as a community.”  It was a fun way to open the eyes to some non-Christian expats here in Cambodia.  I thought it was interesting that they pointed out that I was Christian and not the more obvious things like – female and younger-ish.  But it is a great group of guys, if anyone wants a beer tour – come visit!  Or you have follow my beer blog, which I’m still trying to maintain.

Martin, Pangha, and one of the Cows for the Kingdom.

Another door that has been opened, involved cows here in Cambodia.  My boss at Daughters, is helping a group of men in rural village better support their families and send their kids to school by investing in their local economy using cows.  Think of it like a mini Heifer International.  In Cambodia, you need to pay for your children to attend school.  So many rural villages don’t have a teacher, since the village can’t afford one.  It is critical for children to gain an education and be issued a 9th grade certificate – think of an American GED but for 8th grade skill level.  This is needed for anyone wanting a non-farming job in Cambodia.  I’ve been helping them build a website and capture the story online in hopes of getting more people involved.  We’ve been calling the program, Cows for the Kingdom.  (Once the website is finalized – I’ll be sure to send a link!)  Right now, we have 15 cows supporting a few families and sending a lot more children to school.  This is key in preventing young girls from ending up like the women we see at Daughters of Cambodia.  (Personally, I think it’s adorable – some of Martin’s friends back home in Germany have invested cows in their wive’s name – so we have a few cows with very English sounding names, like Maureen, for example.  If anyone is interested in buying a cow for their wife/girlfriend, or just because, please let me know).

Dave and the Moto Prayer Group.

Finally, I’ve been asked to join the Moto Prayer Circle, that my mentor, Dave, has been leading.  Dave and his wife, Lisa, have been huge in encouraging and loving me since I landed in Cambodia.  They have ties to Portland, Oregon and Imago Dei Church.  Dave and his friends, have been riding motorcycles all over Cambodia for 24 YEARS, praying and asking God to open hearts in Cambodia.  They also encourage local pastors and provide emergency relief when needed.  Dave recently asked me if I would be interested in joining the group riding.  Up until I was asked, I thought it was a “boys-only” sort of group.  But myself and one other lady were asked to join the next ride most likely happening in May.  I’m not sure what the plan is, but I feel so honored to be asked.  It will definitely be a huge step in my prayer life and a new way to see Cambodia.

Bullet and I saying good bye to Susan.

Being part of an international expat community means saying good bye comes often. This month, Bullet and I said our first good bye. This is Susan, she was such an answer to prayer when I was at my rock bottom this January. She lived in my neighborhood, went to my church, was in my Bible study and loved Bullet well. She was here serving an Irish NGO, Care for Cambodia, working with rural schools all over Cambodia. I’ve been so blessed to have her in my life.

Happy Bullet at a Doggie Meet Up!

Bullet is doing great here in Cambodia.  We started checking out doggie play dates, similar to the States, people getting together to let their dogs run around.  We’ve been to two meet ups so far and one doggie day care.  Bullet is still trying to learn the difference between “street” dogs and “expat” dogs.  Most Khmer are scared of dogs, so they get beaten and thus are very aggressive.  It’s also common to eat dog here.  So I’m learning to keep an eye on him while we are out for runs and he’s learning which dogs are friendly and which dogs are sneaky biters!

Below are some prayer requests.

Again, I really love hearing from everyone back home.

Hugs from Cambo,

I would really appreciate you joining me in prayer in the following ways:

  1. Travel during Khmer New Years.  Yes, Cambodia celebrates three news years – December 31, Lunar New Years, and Khmer New Years.  I have the week off and am planning to travel to Kampot for some much needs relaxation.  I had a friend coming to join me from the States, however, some things came up and he’s no longer coming.  Please pray for safety for Bullet and I on this solo journey.
  2. I’m starting Khmer Level 2 language tomorrow.  Pray that I can handle the increased vocabulary and my “old” brain and keep up with everything expected of me.
  3. Finally, that I will continue to listen to God’s calling on my life here in Cambodia and faithfully follow Him.

Hello Hot Season – February 2018 Update

Hello from Jenna (and Bullet) in Cambodia! February was such a huge success in so many ways. For starters, I only teared up a few times. Other successes include: completion of the Sponsorship Updates, passing my Khmer Language 1 Final, making new friends, strengthening relationships at Daughters, and a retreat to Kampot!

Meet (most of) the Staff of Daughters of Cambodia! Countries represented: Cambodia, Germany, France, England, Denmark, America, Indonesia, and Philippines.

Lino and I have finally wrapped up all the catch up Sponsorship Interviews! It feels good to finish up this project well and get into a normal routine of updates. It is truly an honor to hear these ladies stories and be able to speak into their lives. For example, one of the ladies we interviewed kept apologizing for doing sex work. Her story is a common one. She lived in a rural providence and her father was very ill. Her family didn’t have money to pay for his hospital bill so she came to Phnom Penh to get a factory job. In order to get a factory job, you need to have a certificate of education. (Think of a GED but for 8th grade education.) Since she didn’t have access to school growing up, she didn’t know about the paperwork and therefore couldn’t get a factory job. Desperate she turned to sex work to provide medical care to her father. During her interview, she kept saying she was sorry and that she knew it was wrong and that she was doing better. Because of the intimacy that Daughters has built over the years, Lino and I were able to pause the interview and speak to her about forgiveness. I explained that wanting to provide for your family and caring for your father was a honorable thing to do. That no one at Daughters, myself, Lino, her teammates or her sponsor hold that she did sex work against her. That God has already forgiven her and she doesn’t need forgiveness from anyone else. We were able to pray with her and strongly encourage her to forgive herself. Lino and I were able to point out all the good things going on in her life now. That she isn’t doing sex work anymore and can provide for her family back home and her children here in Phnom Penh. God is moving in her life and blessing her for being faithful. It’s these small shifts in mindset that are truly freeing to the women and a joy to witness. If you (or your church / friends) would be interested in learning more about our Sponsorship program. Please let me know!

Lino and I enjoying some relaxing time on our River Cruise in Kampot during the Staff Retreat.

Thank you for your prayers. I was able to pass my Khmer Language 1 Final. Here is a photo of the group of other seh (students) I was with for five weeks every morning. It was truly a blessing to be able to learn with them and take the words I learned back to Daughters and put them to practice right away. At the retreat, I was able to tell some Khmer Staff “In fifteen minutes we are going to the beach.” Every time I communicate something in Khmer I feel like a child, so proud of myself and think “I’m kicking butt at this language thing!” It’s super rewarding. (Don’t worry, I mess up all the time. A few days ago, a waiter asked if I wanted steamed rice and just stared at him blankly like he had grown a third eye right in front of me.)

My Khmer Language 1 Fellow Students at School

Another blessing of Khmer language class was meeting Stefani. The woman in black next to me. She has quickly became one of my closest friends here in Cambodia. During our first week of language class, I mentioned that I was thinking about getting up at 4AM to ride my motorcycle to a sports bar to watch the Super Bowl and she just looked at me and said “I’ll go with you.” Not only that, but three other ladies agreed to ride with us. This was a huge blessing for safety. While we were on our motorcycles, I almost started crying. If God would have told me in January that one person would get up at the crack of dawn to ride their motorcycle to watch a sports event with me. I wouldn’t have believed Him, yet a few weeks later THREE girls joined me. This group of ladies has been such an answer to prayer.

Stefanie, me, and Danielle, my flat mate at the Super Bowl party.
Worship and prayer time during our Staff Retreat.

It has been such a blast to relax in Kampot with the Staff at Daughters and be able to really strengthen friendships through prayer and playing.   We were able to pray for one another in various languages, Khmer, English, German, French, Danish and Indonesian. I feel like I got to see a slice of Heaven during those times of multi-language prayer. On the bus ride home, one of the women pulled me to her side so I could fall asleep on her lap. The barriers we see daily – language, personal space, job title – seem to fall away when you are part of a team looking to make a change for vulnerable people.

A friend passing through Cambo!

Finally, I had a friend of a friend swing by Phnom Penh. It was great to have an American friend to show around Phnom Penh, answer questions and show off my new apartment. Plus, Bullet had a blast with another snuggle buddy (not that you can tell by this photo). Word on the street is I’ll be having another American visitor coming shortly so if anyone wants to send anything / order anything from Daughters – please let me know. Below are some prayer requests. Again, I really love hearing from everyone back home.

Bullet and the Grand Palace.

Hugs from Cambo,

One final shot of our Staff Retreat in Kampot. I’m in a kayak with Phally, the Head of Daughters Social Work Team. Lino, who is Head of Medical and my faithful translator for Sponsorship, is right next to me. Malory behind her helps in Social Work. The next boat is Sokon, who helps in Finance, Sokun, our Tuk Tuk Driver, and Samy, who is in Graphic Design. Finally, Lin, the Visitor Centre Manager and Pastor Ambrose. Just a few friendly faces, I’m blessed to work with!

I would really appreciate you joining me in prayer in the following ways:

  1. Thank you so much for praying for my language final.  I really appreciated all the prayers, checkins and digital celebrations I received.  I’m starting Level 2 in April.  I’m doing this session part-time to make it easy for my work / language / life balance.
  2. Please continue to pray for the relationship between my sending agency and myself.  Things are strained and I’m really struggling with feeling hurt by their actions.  I’m praying for a smoother process and hopefully that things with my finances will be less stressful in the upcoming months.  I also need to release this grudge I’ve got against them.  It’s not helping me at all.
  3. Finally, that I will continue to seek and hear God’s voice on my time here in Cambodia.  Now that I’m settled, how do I enjoy this new found freedom?  What does He want to teach / lead me to next?