Monday, July 11, 2011


I apologize for the huge gap in our blogging. Originally it was my intention to spotlight certain people and tell their stories so that you could better understand these amazingly beautiful people we have come to love so very much. But after actually learning all of their stories, I can no longer slap them up on the Internet where anyone could read them. I know that most of you who read this are very close to us, but the reason for having a blog in the first place was not only to inform those we know well, but also to reach out to others who might happen upon this page and come to hear about Jesus in a way that may not have otherwise happened. Add to this the real-life drama of our friends’ stories, people that we have come to see as our brothers and sisters here, and the private nature of the Khmer people and I just can’t post such important words on a screen for anyone to read.

This may seem strange, but I think that ten weeks in a country changes you. I find myself taking less and less pictures of strangers we pass by because my snapshots are their life. It occurred to me that if tourists walked around our home towns with cameras and took pictures of our children, our modes of transportation, our everyday life…well I actually think there might be some legal action taken, ha ha ha. Yet this is what we do here. While part of this city is completely built for tourism, so much of it is the home of people who may never leave this city. So much of what we have come to know here is the real life of people who don’t have shoes, who strap pigs to their motos because it is their only form of transportation and way of income, people who smile and wave at the foreign white people because they are told we are rich and more attractive than they are, and people who really do live down dirt roads in grass huts. Suddenly my camera feels so invasive and my words more powerful than ever before as I put words in someone else’s mouth and blast someone else’s feelings out into the world.

I want you to know the stories that we know because they have changed us and I believe they will change you too if you let them. Here we have friends who were forced to be child soldiers for the Khmer Rouge, forced to do terrible things. We have friends who were beaten as children by alcoholic fathers and live a different life now due to bold determination and the oh-so amazing, all-powerful grace of our loving Father. There are children here who watched one parent kill another and yet are resilient enough to open up their hearts to us and to love. I can tell you every one of the 27 stories of the kids at the children’s home, where they have come from and what they have overcome through the transformative love of Christ. And we will be thrilled to be able to share with any of you once we are home and can give these stories to those who will cherish them and keep them safe. But we cannot do that from across the world and I actually think that it would deeply hurt our relationships here if they ever found out that we put their lives online.

So please be patient and know that God has done SO MUCH, and that we will have so much to tell you when we get home. For now accept our apology for being lousy bloggers and know that we have been working hard, experiencing so much and trying to take it all in before we leave. Its hard to blog in the midst of life…well hard for us anyway :-).

To anyone who is reading this, thank you for traveling with us in heart. And thank you for taking the time to open yourself up to a different world and for supporting us as we walk this out across the world. We really do love you all and say THANK YOU for everything. Please pray for us as we come to the end of our 10 weeks here…it is not going to be easy to leave.

<3 MattNCatie

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tonle Sap

Catie and I are sorry it has been several weeks since the last post. Sometimes it is hard to put thoughts into the written word. Since the last post, I was able to spend a couple of nights on the Tonle Sap Lake, which is the largest lake in Cambodia. This lake isn't any lake Burton, or even Allatoona lake. No, about the only way to describe the Tonle Sap is to picture one of the great lakes and imagine all of the water is brown. Now this lake changes size from 2,700 sq. Km in the dry season to 16,000 sq. Km in the wet season. Water depth goes from 9 feet to 27 feet deep. All this is to say that people do not desire to live on the lake like in the states but instead, many people live on floating shacks that have either empty gasoline barrels or wooden boats under their shacks in order to keep their lives floating. When the water levels rise, their shacks begin to float with the shifting of the waters making it very hard to have any sort of permanence in their lives. Sometimes they will be near a floating school for their children, but sometimes they will not be close enough. Everyone fishes. Some people fish at night, some in the day time. Everyone who lives on the lake eats, drinks, bathes, washes, and survives from this lake. Unfortunately, they lake has become very polluted with trash and body waste that many diseases are spread through this water.

PCL, the organization we are working with, has a houseboat on the lake and has setup a durable and productive water purification system that they give to the people who desire fresh drinking water. During my time on the boat, I sat down with several older men who needed this water in order to survive because of the damage the lake water does to their bodies. PCL is also able to teach the children near their boat English, Khmer (Cambodian written and spoken language), and Bible classes.

It was a surreal several days talking and sharing life with people who have never touched a white man's hair or skin. There are many many people who have never heard of Jesus, and he is opening doors for more people to come to know about his grace and forgiveness. Continue praying for strong Cambodian Leadership from PCL on the lake. Here are some photos.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How Great is Our God

Last Tuesday our team was driving out to the children's home village but it was raining and we were driving on dirt roads so we had to take a different route than we normally take. On our way we thought we left an item back at Common Grounds and turned around to go back and get it. As soon as we turned around we realized it was in the car with us, but we spent the next 15 minutes trying to get back on route for the children's home (because of mud and flooded roads). Once we were back on track we decided to take a back road to get there because the main dirt road would be too muddy to get through. We were driving in PCL's 13 passenger van (tank) and we made a wrong turn. As we were turning around one of the girls on our team mistakenly thought we were about to back into a ditch and told the driver to put the van into drive. This successfully launched the front two tires into about 6 inches of very, very soft mud and we were stuck. As we tried to put palm branches underneath the tires and push the van, some bystanders began to help. We didn't have to ask, but in this place of community this was a normal response. Before we knew it a moto (a 125cc motorcycle) had attached the trailer that he was pulling to the front of our van and was trying to help pull us out. Between the five or so Khmer that were helping with palm branches and pushing, the girls sitting in the trunk of the van to weigh it down and the man on the moto we eventually got un-stuck and were able to move on our way. Soon we would realize just how significant all of these little events were.

The next thing we know we see a man dragging a woman through the grass of someone's yard and beating her. Isaac immediately stopped the van and he and Matt quickly asked Julie if it was ok to get out and help. The woman was crying out for help in English. We all poured out of the van as fast as we could and Matt and Isaac tried to calm this man down so that he would move away from this woman. Some people that we know from this village tried to explain to us as best they could what they knew of this couple and we learned that he did not speak much English and that he and this woman were some sort of couple. The woman continued to cry out in English, afraid for her life...just as we were. However the man would not let go her and continued to say to us, "no, its ok" as he motioned for us to leave. Soon the man began to drag this woman down the road and Matt and Isaac walked with them still trying to calm the man down and help this woman. Julie told some of our team to run to the children's home to get some help and someone to translate. A few minutes later several men (there was a visiting team visiting from the states already at the children's home) came running down the road. We waited for a few minutes hoping to see some resolution but we learned that all of the men and this couple had gone into a house, so the rest of us went back to the children's home.

A big event was going on at the children's home involving the visiting team, so the girls from our team went into an office and we prayed and prayed and prayed. About 45 minutes later our men came back with the woman on the back of a police moto. They made sure that this woman could get to Phnom Penn with her child and gave her a way to contact them. We were glad for the immediate, but potentially temporary, solution. This was a difficult situation because so much of what we did is not easily accepted in Khmer culture and there were some very nasty rumors about this man and who he was. Fear erupted in regards to what measures might be taken by this man. Julie, as the director of PCL in Siem Reap, immediately stepped into action. The men had continued talking and discussing this event in relation to their differing cultures and the Bible. At the end of the night Julie sat down with everyone, kids, interns and PCL staff and explained that the actions that were taken were Biblical, and that sometimes we have to do what is right even if it is not easy, puts us at risk, or is not accepted by those around us. Our team went back that night and had a prayer meeting to cover this couple, their future, their salvation, the children's home and everyone involved in this in prayer.

The director of the children's home, they call him Papa Matt, decided that he needed to go to this man with a peace offering so as to restore dignity to this man that we had so publicly shamed. Even though his actions were entirely wrong, it was important to try to build a relationship with him and Papa Matt thought this would be the first step. Papa Matt sought this man out the next day unsuccessfully. However, a day or two later this man came to the children's home to talk. He and Papa Matt spent several hours together. Papa Matt let this man fix his moto and was able to share the Gospel with this man. He came to church at the children's home on Sunday.

Had all of those mishaps not occurred, we would not have passed this couple at exactly the right time...exactly the right time. Had we been a minute or two earlier or later we would not have seen them. Had the Lord not allowed us to see them, I do not know what would have happened to that woman. Now there is an open door where it was previously shut. The potential here is limitless. Please pray that this man would come to know the Lord, that if there is an issue of substance abuse that he would encounter Jesus and be victorious over these things. Please pray for safety and wisdom in the life of his girlfriend as we are unsure of some of her previous decisions. Pray that the Lord would redeem and restore these people, that this whole village would come to know the saving power of Jesus. Our God can do these things and more because this is who our God is, this is what He does. He is the redeemer, restorer, peacemaker. Pray with us and expect great things with us.

How great is our God.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


We drove 9 hours to take the older kids from the children's home to youth camp to focus on discipleship. Here are some of the highlights:

The sermon the first night explaining the theme of the camp, "Reflect." Based in 1 John 4:19 we used the weekend to discuss how we are meant to be a reflection of Christ because He first loved us.

The Siem Reap worship team - such beautiful hearts!

Clearly the camp was gorgeous, here was our finish line for the "western games." Our team was in charge of the games this day and Matt and Isaac spent most of the day setting this up, we all had a blast.

Testimonies were shared during big group time and then we would discuss them in small groups later. This young man was from Phnom Penn and has an amazing story. He grew up in a violent home, not knowing the Lord. His mother greatly sacrificed to make sure that he could go to school. Because of her sacrifice he made it to Phnom Penn to finish his education and this is where he came to know Christ. Because of the change in his life, his mother has come to know the Lord as well. Please pray for this family and strength in their walk with Him.

Our small groups competed in different things every night. Friday night was the drama competition. This is Matt's group acting out Jesus Calms the Storm. Matt is under the blue sheet as a wave and yes, Jesus is wearing massive sunglasses.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

D is for Darkness

(The light you see is from the camera's flash.) How do you ride a bike down a dirt road in the dark during rainy season in Cambodia? Don't sit down and don't stop pedaling.

I have actually become quite fond of riding our bikes here. This is on the way to the children's home for devotions.

Monday, June 6, 2011


One of our teammates decided to look up some of the symptoms that we have had since being in Cambodia. The results were humorous, here is the comparison:

Living in Cambodia
- fatigue
- muscle aches
- joint pain
- headaches
- skin rash
- nausea
- dark urine
- diarrhea

Hepatitis B
- Fatigue
- muscle aches
- joint pain
- headaches
- skin rash
- nausea
- dark urine
- diarrhea

We're all fine and loving it here, but our bodies are definitely going through adjustments and we thought this was funny :-)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ministry Update

(A game/movie night with some of the Common Grounds staff. Common Grounds is a non-profit cafe that is owned by PCL and funds some of their projects and employs local people. This is where we spend much of our time and eat most of our meals.)

Our team has been here a little over 3 full weeks, and it has honestly gone by fairly quickly to me (Matt). I think this may partly be because of the new environment, and a set schedule that we have begun to live by.

I wanted to write you to give you an idea of the ministry that God is doing in Cambodia and that we have been able to join alongside. Catie and I, along with our team, have had many opportunities to do some fantastic forms of relational ministry to Cambodians in Siem Reap.

First, we have been able to disciple, encourage, and pray for the Cambodian Christians in the least evangelized part of Cambodia. Most of our Christian brothers and sisters are around our age or younger and it has been exciting share the Word of God through many devotions, Sunday worship services, and through our daily conversations. God has been faithful to give our team specific illustrations in which we can connect the life of Jesus to their own lives in specific and impactful ways.

Second, each week we have many times where we are sharing the truth of Jesus with Cambodians who have never heard of their heavenly father who is in love with them. In all our conversations, we are sharing the truth in their lives and continually praying that God would stir their hearts for their deep need for forgiveness from their Creator and Heavenly Father. With children, our approach is to share stories that depict the Character of Jesus one at a time, and with our lives live out the truths that we share with them. Piece by piece those who used to know nothing of Jesus will be drawn to their Heavenly Father’s love.

Thank you again for your prayers and supporting God’s heart for His Children.