February 2018 Update!

Yeah!  It’s February and I’m celebrating a new month and a new year.  I want to apologize for not sending an update in January.  But I need to be honest, January was a tough month for me.  I cried 24 of the 31 days in January.  (It was that bad that I was keeping track and celebrating the days I didn’t sob my eyes out).  Thanks to everyone who reached out, prayed, sent encouraging words, and listened to my struggles this past month. Your support did not go unnoticed.

Bullet exploring his new neighborhood.

I’m kicking off February in a new home!  Yes, I’ve moved twice now since coming to Cambodia, but I’m confident that this will be Bullet and my home for a long while.  For starters, it has real beds!  (I’ve been sleeping on floor mat for the past three months.)  A kitchen – with a stove AND fridge.  (Yes, my last place didn’t have a kitchen, which made hosting – and my budget crazy.)  I’ve got an awesome new neighbor across the hall from my new church and have had more people over in the past weekend then I ever had visit me in my old place combine.  All these things make it such a joyful home.  Not to mention it’s half the cost of my previous rent and I still have a guest room for those who want to come visit me!

Bullet’s new balcony.

I just finished a five week intensive language class.  This class has been a real joy to participate in.  Not only have I made an awesome friend who lives in my area and is involved in rescuing girls as well, but the amount of language I’m learning is really amazing.  It has also opened more doors for me at Daughters, since I come from language class right at lunch time and sit down with some of the Khmer staff and go over the new vocabulary I’ve learned – like pointing out all the colors or describing what someone is wearing. Even though I’m still using a translator (Lino) for my Sponsorship project at Daughters, I’m getting to practice my Khmer with the girls we do interviews with.  I can now ask their name, age, and about their family on my own.  Lino has been a huge source of encouragement in this process and always has me repeat what the girls have said and then clarifies anything I might have missed.  There is definitely a lot of laughter involved both in class and with the girls.  I found out early this morning I passed Level One.  I’m looking forward to a five week break before jumping into Level Two.  I’m praying the funding to continue my language education will arrive in the next five weeks.

My study buddy.

I’ve got a new boss at Daughters, his name is Martin, he’s German, has been working at Daughters for two and half years and has the same business focused mind I do.  We are kicking off our overseas sales project together with some pilot shipments.  If anyone is interested in joining the pilot program and getting some cute Daughters products.  Please let me know.  Also, if you have any connections to shops in the USA who might be interested in selling our products, please let me know.

Daughter’s Valentine’s Day products.

I also had a friend come to visit from Portland, Oregon in January.  It was fun to show someone around my new home town and give them a break from rainy / cold Portland.  I definitely learned a lot about hosting international guests and how to be prepared for cultural differences.

Bullet’s buddy from the PNW, Adrian showed up!

Hugs from Cambo,

Bullet and I tuktuking around Cambodia.

How is 2017 almost over?! (December 2017 Update)

How is 2017 almost over?!  I’ve been spending a lot of time on reflecting on how hard (job changes, saying good bye to friends, and the political environment back home) and how good (arriving in Cambodia, awesome good bye adventures, and sweet moments of joy) 2017 has been to me and those close to me.  How was 2017 for you?

Bullet is adjusting well to his new live here in Cambodia.  (Which basically means he’s in the process of shedding his Portland winter coat.  I think he should be naked by now, but it’s still coming off of him in handfuls).  He’s been on mission to the neighborhood.  Most Asians are a little scared of dogs (especially big ones), but a few brave kids have enjoyed petting him and getting him to give them high fives.  I’m glad my title of “Bullet’s Mom” still holds true here in Cambodia!

I’m been so blessed to share my life here with Beckie, who visited for nine days.  She got the chance to relax after wrapping up the Thorns season and explore her first Asian country.  We even made the trek up to Angkor Wat for a little holiday outside of Phnom Penh.  I’ve got another friend coming to visit in January, so if anyone would like to send belated Christmas cards or order some Daughters products please let me know and I can facilitate the transfer.  (Also, if anyone wants to come visit in 2018, please let me know.  I’d love to have more visitors!)

I’m looking forward to the Advent season, which I know is almost over.  It’s a little tricky to get into the Christmas mood when you live in a Buddhist country that celebrates the consumeristic version of the holiday while wearing flip flops and t-shirts.  How was I ever such a big skier?!

Work at Daughters has been good.  I’m continuing to work on the sponsorship program.  We’ve conducted five of the 13 interviews so far, these moments are some of the best parts of my job at Daughters.  My exercise class continues to be a source of laughter with the women who attend.  We continue to talk about healthy body image and I attempt to practice my counting in Khmer during our work out sessions.  (Side note – I start formal Khmer language class in January 2018!)  I’ve also taken on another project around the Operations Centre – painting!  We’ve been able to secure the building for another 10 years, which is pretty unheard of in Cambodian culture, so I’m leading the charge with a Khmer male staff team of organizing and communicating the new paint colors, room-by-room.  So far we’ve tackled the Training Room and Day Care Center.  It’s amazing how much clean paint can improve the feeling of a room.

Shameless plug, as 2017 wraps up, if you are looking to make a  last minute tax-deductible donation, please consider supporting my self and my work via Oaks Parish (PDX home church) or Daughters directly.  Respond to this email and I can send you additional information on either option.

Below are some prayer requests.  Again, I really love hearing from everyone back home.  I hope you have some peaceful and relaxing moments both with Christ and with your family and friends this holiday season.  Please send me an email and let me know the highlights (and lows) of 2017 for you.

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

  1. A new roommate / personal finances with the House of Healing.  My roommate decided to move back to the USA so I’m on the hunt for another one to help share the burden of renting.
  2. For more friends my own age / outside my work space.  I’m trying to find professional networking events to attend, reach out to other NGO groups, etc.  If you know anyone living in Cambo, please let me know.  I’d love to grab coffee with them.

Bullet Is Here!

After three months of being separated, Bullet and I are finally back together.  Bullet Is Here!  This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my amazing friend, Beckie, who signed up to watch him for 6 weeks and ended up having him for three months.  Long story short, I made a last minute decision to fly home and grab Beckie and Bullet.  I spent 72 hours in PDX and 60 hours traveling/flying in less than a week.  BUT IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Our adventure included:

  • Personally meeting the Captain of a United flight from SFO to SIN.
  • A 17 hour flight where Bullet was a champ and just slept the whole time.
  • Being denied a 2 hour flight in Singapore because I “wasn’t blind”.
  • Four Singapore staff members + United online helping us get rebooked.
  • Another traveler coming to pray for us.
  • A few tears.
  • Lost luggage (we got it the next day).
  • Beckie and Bullet’s first tuk tuk ride.
  • Walking through “Nothing to Declare” in Cambodia without being stopped with a 70 pound dog.  Literally the easiest part of the entire trip.

I had the chance to “surprise” speak at my church, Oaks Parish, on Sunday on the topic of “Comfort and Joy” where I shared how being a missionary you are called to be uncomfortable – the heat, the language barrier, the safety, etc.  Yet God gives you so much joy in the midst of the uncomfortable.  Having Bullet here snuggling with me, doing our prayer walks again, just seeing his smug face and having my best friend here for the past 48 hours has filled me with such joy.

Thank you to everyone who prayed, checked in and asked questions.

How are you doing?  Let me know what’s going on in your life.

Thanksgiving 2017


I spent most of Thursday morning in our office, hugging my fellow staff members and explaining the significance of the day.  Why it is so important for Americans.  “Today is a national holiday in America.  It’s a day where you spend time telling people you love how thankful you are to have them in your life.  I am thankful for you.”  Then answered a lot of questions about turkey and Black Friday.  I’m a little sad that American consumerism is a bigger deal here than spending a day being thankful.  It was also my first Thanksgiving not watching any sports and having to work – granted only a half day.

My roommate/co-worker posted this on her Facebook wall:

With the time zone difference today is Thanksgiving in Cambodia. Walking to breakfast this morning I was about to turn onto a side road when I heard someone yell “Happy Thanksgiving!” I turned around to find Jenna the only other American on staff walking towards me to give me a hug. I stopped and realized how rare that greeting is today. I said, “Happy Thanksgiving!” We hugged and just stood there for a moment.

Speaking of work, most of my Thanksgiving morning was spent interviewing two girls to collect their testimony of their life before and after coming to Daughters.  There were a lot of tears – from the girls, myself, and our translator.  It really set the tone of how good God is to each and every one of us and how He is working in the lives of so many here in Cambodia.  Definitely one of those moments where you go into the meeting thinking you are helping someone else out and you end up leaving the meeting feeling like instead they poured into your own soul.

I was blessed to get to celebrate TWO Thanksgivings this year.  The first one was with a group of missionaries who I was connected with via Oaks Parish / Imago Dei back in Portland.

Pre-Meal Moto Muscle. Thanks, Jong for hiding my small muscles with your big guns.
Mid-meal smiles with the American crew.

On actual Thanksgiving, Ruth, the Founder of Daughters / my next door neighbor, who is British, hosted her first Thanksgiving (and second ever Thanksgiving) for a bunch of Americans.  I was so blessed to eat even more turkey.  This turkey was extra special to me since I bought it frozen at a local super market and then road it down the streets of Phnom Penh, a little worried it would fall out of my front basket and what the protocol would be for rescuing it from the ground!  Additional fun fact: Turkeys defrost WAY faster in Cambodia.

Clearly I didn’t get the memo to look up in time…
Talking about Thanksgiving foods and teaching American cooking with a Khmer friend.

I think the thing about being an expat is learning about your new home culture.  I’m not going to lie, it was fun to flip that learning session for a day and share about my own culture to those who wanted to learn more.

“It’s a day where you spend time telling people you love how thankful you are to have them in your life.  I am thankful for you.”

I am thankful for you.

Wishing you a (belated) blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends.  How did you celebrate this year?

First Full Month Update! (November 2017)

Hello from the Kingdom of Cambodia!  I am so thankful to have you as a supporter of my work here.  After a month and a half here, I think I have finally found my groove.  Here is an update on what is happening in my world.

I’m really enjoying my work at Daughters.  We’ve submitted two grants proposals already, a grant update, and are gearing up for the holiday season.  I’m working on a really interesting sponsorship program, where myself and a translator interview individual girls on their stories.  While I don’t have much of a handle on the Khmer language, it’s beautiful to see the girls go from looking down at their hands while talking about their past life to looking up and maintaining eye contact when talking with pride about their job at Daughters.  They sit up a little straighter, smile, and even laugh.  The physical change very striking.  This has been a great time for me to get to know the girls on an individual (and very personal) level.  I feel honored that they trust me with their stories.  It also gives me a chance to interact more with the women during work breaks.  I can say “hello” and interact with their children at the Daycare Center.

The girls and I working out together.

Another way I get to interact with the girls is through a work out class I’m now teaching once a week.  It’s focused on healthy activities – drinking clean water, why it’s important to work out, and how to do so safely.  It’s a lot of acting out on my part.  Showing bad posture versus good posture, for example.  I get a lot of laughs this way.  Again, this is a way for me to build friendships and trust with the women.  I’m no longer the “new white girl in the administration office”.

Other updates:

Roommate, Stephanie, celebrating getting the keys to House of Healing.

My health has improved dramatically.  My asthma is under control and I’m back to 100% health (and my spunky attitude).  To quote my office mate, “Jenna, you are so much prettier and white.”  (The Khmer culture is very focused on fair skin.  Where I’m trying to get a tan, they are putting whitening ingredients on their skin to get pale).  Personally, I think I’m less red in the face since I’m not struggling so hard to breath every day.  One of the big reasons for my health improvement is due to the fact that I’ve moved into a new Khmer house.  I’m actually next door neighbors with my boss and her family.  Her son, Toby, comes over to go do homework and talk about Star Wars, almost every day.  There are currently three women living in my house, one from Indonesia, one from Seattle, and myself.  We named the house, “The House of Healing” and hope it will be a place of rest and community for fellow expats and short term missionaries.  I’ll be honest, it’s a little out of my budget and I’m working hard to make it a home.  If you are interested in learning more about this project, please shoot me an email and I’ll send you some details.  Also, if you want to come visit, please let me know!

Cascade and I.

I’ve been able to secure a moto.  I’ve fondly named her “Cascade” as a little homage to my Portland roots.  Through my home church, Oaks Parish, I was able to connect with missionaries who have been here for 23 years.  The husband, Dave, has a moto ministry, where he and a group of Khmer men ride around the various providences praying and encouraging other pastors.  Dave helped me find the moto and introduced me to some Khmer men who can help me if I have any moto issues.  I’ve been so blessed to have them as friends.

View of Bon Om Touk.

I’m still working on making more friends here, but I was able to safely check out Bon Om Touk, a big water festival here in Cambodia.  And attended the last, national soccer game against Jordan.  (We lost 0-1, but my friends were super excited because typically we loose 0-7…  I really enjoy the Cambodian optimism in life.)

Watching Cambodia vs. Jordan in Football (Soccer).

Again, I really love hearing from everyone back home.  Please send me an email and let me know how life is.

Is this real life? I made it!

This is it!  I made it!  I mean, I guess the journey is really just beginning.  BUT I AM HERE!  In Cambodia, working, making friends, and learning a ton!

I landed in Cambodia on Friday evening, spent the weekend in a dazed, meeting new people, trying to figure out connections, trying not to get lost, etc.

First Day of Work!

Then on Monday, I went to work for the first day.  The first couple of hours were pretty typical, trying to remember people’s names, roles, where the bathroom is, etc.  Then we had church.

Daughters offers church on Monday mornings for the Clients (the term we use for women leaving the sex industry).  I walked in with the Staff team and a few minutes later, all the Clients came in and I realized it, “These are my people. This is why I’m here.”  The entire service was in Khmer so I pretty much just spent the hour glowing, sneaking glances at these women, the Staff, and thanking God for this calling.  I’m still in awe of that moment.

Khmer / English Church at House of Prayer.

Since my first Monday, I’ve managed to get lost a few times going to work.  (Trust me I’m a lot better now.)  I’ve managed to get WIFI at my apartment, which is insanely helpful when you are trying to learn a new location, language, and keep in contact with family and friends.  I’ve made a close group of friends, which really embody the “froommate” vibe.  They are constantly inviting me over to hang out and eat with them.  For that, I’m extremely thankful.  I think I’m really settling into life here.

Sea Fish Lunch!

Work is going well.  I’m working on three grant proposals, a photoshoot, reviving our Instagram channel, and marketing to local hotels.  Plus, I’ve managed to make a few friends at work and enjoying eating Khmer lunch with them most days.

Thorns won! I need a new shirt with an extra star! (And I’m at Wat Phnom)

Below are some life updates and prayer requests.  Thanks again for being part of my amazing team.  Please write me back and share what is happening in your life.  As much as I love being in Cambodia, I do get homesick and I do crave knowing what is happening in your lives back home.  I would also love to answer any questions you might have about Cambodia, Daughters, life here, etc.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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

  1. Health / Housing – I’ve been “sick” since I landed in Cambodia.  I think it’s a combination of all the dust and the fact that my apartment doesn’t have A/C, so my little asthmatic lungs are working so hard even when I’m sleeping.  I’m praying about finding a new place to live.
  2. Bullet / Beckie – Looks like they will be coming out for Thanksgiving!  Anyone else want to come and help Bullet move in?  I’m still waiting on my work visa to come in so I can finalize plans.  I miss him so much!  Beckie has been great at sending me updates and I go back and forth being really happy how happy he is, really jealous of Beckie, and really nervous about him living here.
  3. Friends / Moto – I’m hoping to expand my friendship circle to more than just co-workers.  I believe I need to get a moto (think scooter) to get some more independence and easier travel.  It’s dangerous to walk at night so I need to take a tuk tuk which is also risky.  If I have a moto, I can just scoot to where I need to go to meet up with people.