Richard, a fine young man with so much to offer. His over dramatic personality easily catches onto others. He has been to Cambodia several times and the local friends he has made here have fond memories of his jovial and robust attitude. Richard’s decision to join STORM was quite a last minute one. He had just started a part time job and saved up just enough money to buy his flight ticket to Cambodia. He also rallied friends to support his trip. Richard took leave from his part time job, spent 3 weeks here and the day after his return back to Malaysia, he resumed work at the office. Hardworking, passionate and teachable – we thoroughly enjoyed our time here with him. Richard shares lessons learnt in Cambodia:
When I first decided that I was going for STORM, I thought it would be like all the other mission trips I have been to. Boy was I wrong. Not that it was 360° difference, but there where things that I did that I never thought I would have to do.
One thing that was a really big difference for me was the independence given to me on this trip. Everywhere I went, whether to the town or to the school, I usually went without an escort. Most of the time I went alone or with the company of a friend. Besides that were all the chores we had to do. Having to go out and buy your dinner from the morning market and coming back and cooking it was a ‘wow’ moment for me. To actually be able to go to Cambodia and really experience the culture, not just going from one destination to another by van unable to experience everything in the middle, was a peerless joy for me.
The STORM program is run in such a way that it plays on your strengths as well as builds on your weaknesses. Such became apparent to me when I realised that if a certain STORMer was gifted or more experienced in a certain field than another, that person would be given special tasks better suited to their capabilities. Ergo, that particular task would be completed with better efficiency and accuracy. Not to say that you would be stuck with mundane task just because you didn’t have anything extra to contribute. No. Each STORMer is tasked with teaching, construction work, planning events, cataloging books, chores, marketing etc. No one is excluded or overlooked.
One of my major tasks during my STORM period was teaching English to 3 classes throughout the week at the LADO LOHI English School. At first I was surprised when I was given such a job to do alone. Not only to teach but to also prepare materials, lessons and tests as well. It started off bumpy, but as I got the hang of it, I realised if you were a person who had prior experience in teaching, and who was a person who was willing to learn, it wasn’t much of a problem. If I was ever unsure of something, the organisers were only a shout away, always at the ready to help and guide me in any way possible.
My students were one of my greatest joys on this trip. Each one as unique as the next. It always astounded me that most, if not all, were there by their own free will. So willing to learn English in hopes that it would aid them towards a better and brighter future.
I recollect a day, in one of my classes, I had asked them, just for a change, if they would want to play a game rather than study. Although the majority of students shouted with elation “PLAY GAMES!”, there were a few of my students who gave me looks of disappointment and disapproval as if to say they were appalled at the thought that their teacher would belittle them into doing something so mundane as play a game when they had so many better things to do. I still break into a smile every time I think of the look on their faces.
When the time came, it was so agonizingly grim for me to say good bye to all of them. It was as if God had forcibly stopped the planet Richard from rotating around the Sun, which were these kids, only to move it to a completely different solar system far away from the LOHI English School galaxy.
Such heartache it was.
Another one of my major tasks was to hold Sunday school at a few of the rural villagers that were located on the outskirts of Battambang. I was accompanied by a local teacher who acted as my translator, my guide, as well as my motorbike driver. We taught them English though bible stories, played games that would leave me physically drained yet shaking with mirth, shared testimonies and in the long run, hopefully, impacted lives.
One thing that stuck out to me was the timespan I was there, and how it affected the work as well as the connection between the people and I. Although I’ve been to Cambodia numerous times before, it was always for a week and never more. In one week, although we form a connection with the people, it was more of an acquaintanceship rather than a friendship. However in the almost one month I was there, I shared life stories, hurts, angers, regrets, and also joys, laughter and love.
How much more could I have accomplished if I was there longer? To become a welcomed colleague among the staff, a respected and loved teacher among the students, and a trusted friend among the community. In spite the fact I wish it otherwise, I am still pleased with what I accomplished there, and hope in the future, to do much more.
I was quite confounded when I learnt that all the STORMers would be having mission lessons that would be led by our organisers every day at dawn for the extent of my trip. But over the course of my stay, I grew to appreciate and even look forward to the classes. It taught me to equip and better understand myself and the reason I was there. It also taught me the what, why, when and how of missions. Because of these classes combined with all the exposure that I experienced there, I feel that I as a whole have grown as an individual. For that, I shall be forever grateful to my organisers and to the community there.
I have drawn many conclusions from my trip, many of them learnt from mistakes and gained from experiences. What I have learned to discern is when missionaries or people in general go to countries like Cambodia with the mindset that the people there have to be saved. That they’re clueless to the world and they have come to ‘better’ them by spreading what they think is right and forcing their culture among the people.
What I deprecate most is that we often think ourselves saviours of these less unfortunate folk and disparage them as lower beings. All the while unaware that because of such notions, we spread our malign influence over the ones whose lives we originally intended to mitigate. Such arrogance and ignorance we drape around ourselves. And the most extraordinary part of it all is that, most of the time, we are utterly unaware of the malicious destruction left in our wake.
Why are you going? What do you think is your purpose? How are you going to go about it?
Motive and means. Two powerful aspects which if wielded correctly, can bring about great change. A change for the better.
Firstly and lastly, I want to thank God. For without whom, nothing could be possible. He kept me safe, kept me going. The whole reason I went on this trip was to share the love of God to the people there. With Him watching and guiding me every step of the way, I hope ultimately, that that is what I accomplished on this trip. All Glory to God.
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