Author Archive for Vista

From David Henry

As I have just returned from my second mission trip to Cambodia, I reflect on a number of things, including the questions from family and friends. One question I’m asked is, ” Was it fun? Did you have a lot of fun?” I’m never sure how to answer that. The word fun by definition means to engage in joyous play and amusement. That is just not my experience.

My first trip to Cambodia last year did not go as I thought it would. I was expecting hardship and pain. There was virtually none. Even the weather cooperated, as the warnings of monsoons and oppressive heat did not occur. This year, as I struggled with jet lag, lack of sleep, illness, dehydration, and a general sense of malaise, my thought was, “this is the REAL mission trip.”

But the grace of God is a miraculous gift. Through Him, I was not only able to survive, but thrive as well. To watch the teenagers and young adults of the Youth Camp come to Christ, to pray over them as they in turn prayed over us. To feel the unconditional love from our kids at Prek Eng. These are privileges that for me make it all worthwhile. Unforgettable, life changing experiences that would never occur if I traveled somewhere to just “have fun.”

In closing, I want to thank everyone who prayed for us and supported us during our journey. May God bless.

~ David Henry

From Beth Conti

What a gift yesterday was! And the day before that, and the day before that, and . . . You get the idea. Every time I visit Cambodia, I feel compelled to bring the country home with me, as if I could fit it in my pocket and sneak it past customs. Unfortunately, I’m not that smooth. Nor do I think Cambodia would very much appreciate taking a nap and then waking up smack dab in the mid-west of the U.S.A. So while I’m still trying to figure out how to encapsulate my experiences here and bring them home with me, I have come up with a short list of ways to experience Cambodia in my life at home. In the Cambodian spirit of generosity, I want to share this with you.

How to get a little bit of Cambodia in your own home:

  1. Buy mango juice and drink it every morning. The Cambodian juice game is strong.
  2. Once a month, have a slow, purposeful breakfast with your friends or your family. Breakfast has been our time to connect with each other and to thank God for the experiences we have had here.
  3. Smile at everyone you see and say “thank you” profusely. The people I have come into contact with each time I have been here have been so polite and kind. It makes an outsider feel welcomed and loved.
  4. Look at lots of pictures of Cambodia. Let’s be honest, Ohio ain’t got nothing on the expansive rice fields, the city sparkling with colored lights and blinking tuk tuk carts as they weave in and out of traffic, or the lush jungle robed in shades of green you didn’t even know existed.
  5. Sit on the floor more. It sounds strange, but we spent a lot of time sitting on floors, supported by God’s earth below us and God’s people next to us. I love the idea of eliminating the middle man and just making a connection with the earth. It’s especially wonderful when you are seated next to beautiful sisters or brothers in Christ, playing a game or making bracelets. Creativity, laughter, earth, God’s love—what an amazing support system. Who needs a chair?
  6. Buy local. The Cambodian city streets are crowded with food carts. The markets are bustling and fragrant. Our guide, Abby, knows exactly which cart or market stall to visit. The shop owners know her and greet us as friends, too. Can you imagine the connections we could make if we bought our soap from the same person every time? Their business would grow and so would the bonds of our local communities.
  7. Trust the young people. An unbelievable amount of pressure is on the shoulders of the youth in Cambodia. In my lifetime, thanks to conditions created by the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge decimated this country. People under forty are the backbone of this country. People under twenty are its future. It is not a job they take lightly. In Chbar Mon, we saw church leaders as young as 13 years old! In Phnom Penh, New Life Fellowship is managed by many people half my age. At Prek Eng, our kids help around the house with cooking, cleaning, caring for the neighbors and each other. Some of our kids are already teaching English to other Cambodians. Like, HOW COOL IS THAT? Maybe, if we gave our teens a little more responsibility, a little more faith, a little more trust, and a lot more supportive prayer, we could see them grow and lead in our communities and nation, too!
  8. Don’t know what to say? Try a hug. So. Many. Hugs. Here. Well-timed, firmly delivered, heart-felt hugs can do a lot when language fails. And let me assure you, it has failed us many times here. Even for people who may not be touchy-feely, a pat on the shoulder can go miles for making someone feel heard and seen.
  9. Refrain from criticism. I love this country. I love the people. But not everything is pretty. In fact, some of it is downright ugly. Poverty is next to every sparkling high-rise building. Trash is piled along the sides of every street and the odor from it can stick to your clothes. On more than one occasion, I have wanted to yell, “Where are the trash cans?! Just throw the trash in a trash can!” There are different foods. Different smells. Different customs. I think, though, that instead of trying to criticize methods or customs that are different, we just lean in and love. Especially as outsiders to a culture, we often think we have a better way. But by butting in and trying to fix everything we see “wrong,” we are depriving a people from finding their own way and doing things how they see best. What I learned about the trash piles later was that they have trash collection in the evening, and the collectors go along the streets to grab the trash from the edges of the sidewalk. This is infrastructure that was not here five years ago when I was here! How great is that?!
  10. Love, love, and love some more. How a people so oppressed, so beaten down can rise up with open hearts is nothing short of miraculous. Our own country seems to be in a state of conflict. We have poverty, crime, drug epidemics, political corruption, and brokenness. Can we rise up with open hearts? Can we love a little harder when what we really want to do is fight or give up? Can be a little more Jesus and a little less “us”?

I am sure this is not what the team had in mind when they asked me to blog, but I’m the one with the computer right now, and thus the power! MUHAHAHA! I jest. In all honesty, this blog was my heartfelt attempt to share with you what we learned and to thank you for your prayerful support of our mission trip here. What a blessing. What a responsibility. What a gift.

~ Beth Conti

From Brian Webb

We’ve been on the ground in Cambodia for one week today. Throughout this trip, God has drawn me specifically to 1 John 4:11-12. It reads: Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

As I think about the many challenges and questions we’ve faced during our first week, I think about this verse.  At the end of the day, that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to love. We’re here to encourage. We don’t come as saviors.  We don’t come as westerners who have all the answers. We come as brothers & sisters in Jesus with a desire to love because He first loved us. This is a simple statement. This is a powerful prayer. This is God’s redemptive plan.

Church, you’d be so encouraged and proud of this amazing team!  Despite sickness, exhaustion, uncertainty and spiritual opposition, they’ve poured themselves out completely. To say I’m inspired by them is an understatement!

  • They’ve loved and encouraged each other through some very difficult moments.
  • They’ve loved and encouraged 50 teens at the youth camp … many who took steps towards Jesus.
  • They’ve loved and encouraged Pastor Sary and his leadership team in Chbar Mon.
  • They’ve loved and encouraged our kids at the orphanage.
  •  They’ve loved and encouraged our driver, our translator, tuk-tuk drivers, coffee shop employees, hotel desk attendees … everyone!

The beautiful part of all of this is that we’ve been loved in return! From the teens in Chbar Mon to our kids at the orphanage, we’ve been loved! There’s a miraculous yet unexplainable thing that happens when God’s people unconditionally love each other.  Hearts are restored. Hearts are healed. Faith becomes clearer. Heaven comes to earth.

Vista, thank you. Thank you for giving, praying and reaching further. Thank you for loving those you’ve never met.  I hope we can carry back the love they’ve given us for you in return.

With love,

BWebb

From Heather Eschbach

Today I write this blog on a needed few hours of rest.  We have just returned from a 3 day youth camp in the beach area of Sihanoukville, Cambodia.  While we were excited for this camp and our opportunity to connect with the youth there, the trip itself seemed fraught with trouble.  Sickness, exhaustion and a general sense of heaviness seemed to follow us.  We prayed hard through it, both for the camp and our own health and hearts.

As always, God is faithful, and he showed up in spaces we didn’t expect.  It allowed us opportunities as a team where we could care for and support each other, pray expectantly and witness God’s hand through a community of strangers.

Our partner church, New Life Fellowship, invited 50 kids from the village of Chbar Mon to attend this youth camp.  The camp was an opportunity to bring kids to a fun place (the beach), play games, make friends and introduce them to Jesus. On the first day, we saw many kids were tentative and hanging back.  The games helped to break the ice, laugh and make connections with others.  Interspersed in the games were meals, times for worship and teaching. Our team had the opportunity to jump into those spaces, meet kids and connect.

What I saw transpire over the course of those few days was special. To watch them engage with each other, the message, prayer and small group was inspiring. Some of the questions we heard were challenging, raw and heartbreaking.  Kids seeking a sense of family and meaning, questioning the reality of our God, questioning how they could be made clean and righteous in spite of their selves, their lives. We were witness to 18 kids coming to Christ over the course of the weekend.  What a blessing to be a part of it!

The goal of the church was to introduce these kids to Jesus, the One who gives hope and restoration. What I was most encouraged with during our time with these kids was the way God wove a spirit of hope together, connecting them to each other, breaking down walls and cultivating a sense of belonging.  As God’s children, we care called to love each other. We are called to reach out and to welcome all.  The outcast, the stranger, the fatherless, the weary.  When I saw the sense of love and family that was shared between these kids on that last day, I know that is of nothing but God. He welcomes us in every time.  As His children, we must also love and care for each other in the way only a community in Christ can.  I pray that these kids find a sense of purpose, value and hope in this new community – and through it’s very unique reflection, I pray that they begin to see just how much Jesus loves them.

Ephesians 5:2

1 John 3:1

-Heather E

The Lost and Almost Forgotten Children of Phnom Penh

First a Little Food for Thought!!!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Matthew 28:19 NASB

Why should we be actively doing and supporting mission work?  Well, through mission work we bring the Gospel to the Dead of this world. Scripture tells us that mission work is an important subject which must be taken seriously. As Christians we need to live with an eternal world perspective, not one that revolves around ourselves. We need to daily seek ways in which to lay our lives down for the Kingdom of God.

For those of us who have accepted Christ as our Redeemer, we have felt God’s Grace and Merciful hands at work in our lives. It’s a feeling that we will never forget. Don’t we want everyone in the World to experience God’s presence in their lives???

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in the riches for all who call on him. For “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved”. How will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Romans 10: 12-15 NASB

If we had the cure for cancer wouldn’t we want to share it with the whole world??? Well we have something even better and that is the cure for Death which is found through Jesus Christ’s Death and Resurrection.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation”. Mark 16:15 NASB

As many of you know Prek Eng 3 is a home for about 20 children. From the moment I met them I was blown away by their open Love and affection. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is, but it’s different than anything I have ever experienced from a group of children in that it never turns off. I have experienced this some with younger children such as my grandkids, but not with kids as old as 22. God is definitely hard at work here in a mighty way.

During my stay I was able to spend sometime getting to know the three young men who are in college. Each one has had more than his fair share of trials, some of which were pretty horrific. When asked, they will tell you that Jesus is the reason they have been able to deal with the harsh trials this world has put them through. You can tell by their words and actions that their relationship with Christ is healing them and opening their eyes to a brighter future. They really are just normal guys with normal problems, only they lack some support and resources to solve some of them. This is where Vista Community Church has stepped up with some support and provided these children with a lifeline.  The orphanage Vista sponsors gives them a safe haven to feel love and get their basic needs of housing, food and education met. They also learn about Salvation through Jesus, Grace, Mercy and the Soul Healing that God wants to wash them with.

My experience with the people in Cambodia was a positive one. I found them to be a loving, generous and hardworking people. At our hotel I met a young man of 22 who grew up very poor with his mother. They often didn’t know where their next meal was going to come from. He said he was unexpectedly sponsored by a man who helped his family out and also paid for him to go to college. With this opportunity he graduated and has since started a hotel cleaning business which is doing quite well. He returns the favor of his good fortune by employing very poor people from his area. He told me that the man’s generosity had changed his family’s future from being grim to unbelievably bright. At the same hotel I made friends with the daytime security man who told me that he lost all of his family during the Khmer Rouge killing fields. With tears in his eyes he told me there was not a day that went by where he didn’t remember watching his family being murdered.  He has been blessed with a wife and five kids now and says he has had to start his family over from nothing. Cambodia has had a tragic history and as a result is full of broken people. An example of this is how mothers can sell their daughters into the sex trade. Another is while I was at the orphanage I held a small girl of maybe 2 in my arms just as cute as anything and so loving. She and her older sister where found abandoned on the street only a month earlier. My heart ached at the thought of how these things could possibly be happening in this day and age.

Religions in Cambodia (Est)
Buddhist       95%
Christianity    2%
Islam               2%
Other              1%

Cambodia is a country just full of people that are desperate for the Good News of Salvation through Jesus Christ. This is why I believe the Lord has brought Vista to Cambodia. These kids that you are sponsoring are the future of this country. They will be the ones to become educated, get good jobs, spread their Faith and help bring their country to know the Lord.  I urge everyone who reads this to stop and think about how blessed we are and think hard about supporting missions. Your contributions are going to a good place, one that I know God is blessing abundantly.

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy other, and sent them in pairs ahead of him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Luke 10:1-2 NASB

This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 NASB

~ Dave Heilman

Gracious Gifts Keep on Giving

Isaiah 40:31
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Monday mid afternoon after treacherous downpour rains and extremely busy traffic, we finally made it to Chbar Mon over an hour late. The clouds started breaking and the sun was trying to shine  and there stood waiting with loving arms and big smiles the New Life Fellowship team. I had worked with their team last year in summer of 2017 for many days. Seeing them all again standing there was just like seeming them yesterday. Pastor Sary Chea and his lovely wife Sophea are truly shining God’s light. They are so genuine and kind. From where they began to what they have accomplished and continue to grow is just amazing. They started in a little home church room in the bottom of his brother’s house. Now they have an absolutely beautiful church right in the middle of town on the busiest street. They are so gracious and thankful to all of us at Vista for making their dreams come true. They glorify God each step of the way.

Besides starting the year with over 30 new baptisms, they now have music classes twice a week with over 17 students. They teach over 40 kids English classes each day from 5-6:00pm. They have also planted 3 home churches as a result of this new location. The people and youth in the area love to just come and meet at New Life to gather around and visit. They feel safe and feel God’s love all around. We all were so glad we were able to visit them, see the new church, and to meet everyone on their team. We gathered together in a big circle and worshiped and Pastor Sary, Justin, and Tod all spoke lifting up their team, blessing their church and praising the Lord. We all prayed together and then at the end of our fellowship, they sat us all in the middle of the circle and prayed over us. It was very powerful listening to them chanting and praising our Lord in Khmer. Is one of the most uplifting feelings seeing God’s work being done on the other side of the world.

2 Corinthians 9:11
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Through our mission trip, we have visited Daughters of Cambodia and 3 Strands (part of Agape International Mission), which are two phenomenal organizations that help change the lives of men and women victims of human trafficking. They teach and empower those who have been trapped in the sex industry in Cambodia to walk free with God and start a new life with healing, dignity, and the means to prosper and grow.

We continue to shine God’s light here in Cambodia.

Love and Blessings,

Melissa K. Baz 

Hard Places

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)
Yesterday morning, we had the indescribable privilege of getting to serve with the best people I know at Hard Places Community (HPC). HPC is an organization who serves and advocates for children living on the streets that are being exploited economically and sexually. The Vista teams I have been a part of have always gone to HPC, so I was really excited to go back again this year. Angie and I got to plan a lesson on the parable of the lost sheep with a skit, games, and crafts for their morning kids program. We had a blast working together leading up to the trip and implementing it too. It was really neat to see the whole team dig in and love like Jesus. We are there for such a brief time that it can feel like we really aren’t doing that much, but we are encouraging the Khmer staff by giving them a break but also by demonstrating we believe they have great worth, and we value what they’re doing on the other side of the world at Vista.

We got to sit with Panha before we were with the kids where he shared with us that Vista is one of only 5 groups that they allow to come in and work with them. What they do is highly sensitive, so it is truly an honor to have the history of trust and relationship we do with them. Panha shared HPC’s current caseload, their successes, and their struggles with complete transparency. The weight he carries is heavy, and he bears it with a grace and humility beyond his years. I can’t say enough good things about him; I could sit and listen to him talk for hours! I was deeply struck by everything he was saying and even though I have been there four times now and heard similar stories each time, I deeply felt every situation he related to us whether good or evil and wept for the people in each story.

Panha, Sineat, and the rest of the Khmer staff are shining the light of Christ into the darkest corners of this world and being able to come alongside them and help in any way I can has been the most fulfilling and rewarding experience of my life. They are in the trenches day-in-and-day-out, but the work they do is changing the lives of children who have been exploited. I am a better person because I know them.
~ Jenna

From Justin Bradshaw

Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple in Angkor, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara. It is one of the more popular Buddhist temples to visit in Siem Reap because it has giant trees that have grown over and around the stone walls and buildings.

This was our last stop yesterday afternoon before dinner and it was a fascinating site to behold. Apparently, since last year, a number of sections of the temple and its walls have collapsed and there are large signs displaying the restoration process. Not a bad run considering the stones were put in place over 700 years ago. However, it was thrilling reminder to me that the Word of the Lord remains true.

Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Acts 17: 24-27, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

All of creation was made to reflect the character of the Creator. This is what it means to worship God with our lives. And out of all the things that God created, humans have done the worst job of consistently worshiping Him. We have gone astray and sought to worship other things; other gods, even building places for the them to live and for us to go in order to worship them. It was with misguided but well-intentioned plans that these temples were built. But, praise God that when humanity has gone wrong, the rest of creation reflects his glory.

The reason this temple site is such a big attraction is not the temple. It is the trees! It is the beauty and magnificence of God’s character-reflecting creation that is on display and literally overwhelming the place that was built to worship something other than Him. It is tearing down the walls of stone that were assembled and dedicated to another. God is actively taking back what has always belonged to Him.

Pray that this reality would not only be true of this physical structure, but of the thousands of people that walk through it each day; that in the shadow of the trees people would realize that the God that created them is not far from each one of us and that they would seek Him as Lord of their lives.

This is what God is doing in Cambodia. As we have spent the past two and a half days with our college kids, we have not just been tourists. We have seen a glimpse of how God is taking back this country for Himself. He is growing these kids, like trees, that will be firmly planted in business and tourism and architecture and government and the marketplace, and because they know Him, they will reflect the character of God in those places.

It has been good to be with them; sharing time and smiles and stories and experiences and encouragement. It has been better to be reminded of the purposes of God and that He will prevail in this place and in the place we will return to in a few days. Praise be to God!

P.S. Dinosaurs were real!

(Stegosaurus carved into the temple wall)

Love, Destruction, and Redemption 

We landed in Phnom Penh after over 24 hours of travel. As we walked out of the airport it was after 10 pm Cambodia time and about 20 people were there to greet us. I’ve never been here before, but within seconds I felt the incredible love that they were giving me. It was both humbling and a call to action of how we should be greeting people who are new. They were showing me that we are a family, so I was immediately loved because I am in that family.
The next morning we went to Toul Sleng to learn the history and grasp a better understanding of this country. Toul Sleng was a school that was transformed into a prison that tortured many people and is now a museum. As a teacher, it broke my heart to walk through rooms that had once been used for education but were turned into a space of evil. Pictures of the victims line the walls so we won’t forget them; the museum exists so we never forget the destruction to human life that happened at this place. It was a sobering experience to walk through Toul Sleng, but one that is necessary to understand Cambodia.
We spent the rest of the day with the kids at Prek Eng 3. It is at PE3 that I am reminded that Jesus redeems it all. While with these kids we played games, got to know each other, and sang worship songs. This place is full of love and joy. The children never cease to give hugs and smiles. They joke and play with ease. It is a true picture of a family and they let our team into that space so easily because they love with the love of Christ so well.
~ Angie

From Tod Heath

After travelling together from Friday afternoon on and visiting the Angkor Wat complex that is the great symbol of Cambodian history and culture, we have found our friends to be wonderfully warm and outgoing, and really funny.  Savong (Prek Eng 3 House Parent) is quieter, watching all and helping all the time.  We have sung worship songs and talked about the studies and hopes for these college students.  But this morning (Sunday the 24th) was a much deeper experience for those of us on the team, as we worshiped and listened to Justin’s message and then shared prayer requests.  The Spirit of the Lord is at work for us, and we were struck greatly by the openness and honesty of our brothers and sisters.

To be blunt, college is very hard, and as an Asian culture the pressure in Cambodia is high.  There can be no failure for a Cambodian student anyway, but these folks have the added weight of pleasing us, too.  They are under a lot of monetary pressure, but their natural inclination is to be sure their siblings have enough first.  They forego and they give away.  Seldom have I seen Christ in people more clearly.
So, we mourned with them and they with us, and the Lord is honoring that.  Our time driving back from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh was light and our parting was sweet. In a couple days we will be back at Prek Eng 3, and some of the older kids will be able to come from their university student center, others we will see again on the next trip.

I Love the Culture in Cambodia

As I reflect on our time spent in Cambodia, I consider the mixture of hardship and blessings the people here experience. We all know the old sayings, “money can’t buy happiness,” and “the best things in life are free.” It was so inspirational for me to witness people who have nothing to not only live life with a positive attitude, without complaining and to share what little they do have with myself and others.

I love the culture in Cambodia. Life in the streets is vibrant. The people are real. They are connected.

Here in the U.S., we tend to isolate ourselves. Even when driving on a busy highway surrounded by cars, we are still alone. Those other cars (to some of us) are just things in the way, not other people like us trying to live life. Driving in Cambodia is organized chaos at best, but the attitude is that we are all in this together, and as a result, it works!

I knew that Buddhists were the majority in Cambodia, but I was still surprised to learn that the country is only 3% Christian.The missionaries living there have their work cut out for them, and I am amazed and humbled by their courage and determination.

I feel so blessed to have been a part of this mission trip. It was a privilege to be among the people living in Prek Eng and Chbar Mon. It was truly life changing and will not be forgotten.

~ David Mateskella

The Ripple Effect

I have been trying to process my trip long before we left Cambodia.  How does one find the right words to share with others, words that express the depth and whirlwind of emotions experienced and shared?  God’s hand was and is touching, molding, pushing, healing and leading lives on the opposite side of the world all at the same time.  The amazing part is He brings these lives to cross paths to do even more for His Glory.  Sometimes it is with your own unmet neighbors from home, sometimes it may be across the world. The fact that we are able to travel across the world and to places we have never been and still feel like family is only a thing of Christ! 

I was amazed when we first stopped at Prek Eng 3 of Asia’s Hope, our Children’s home.   This amazement grew each day we spent time with them, along with a deep, deep respect for Pisey and Savong, the house parents.  We traveled to love on and encourage each of them.  However, I truly feel it was the other way around….we experienced 28 hours each way of travel time so WE could be loved on and encouraged!  From day one, we were embraced with such intense loving hugs and smiles as though we had returned home from a long trip.  To the family, it was just that….their Vista family was returning.  Having never met them myself, the experience was quite humbling.  As our days with them continued, I found myself stepping back and realizing such respect for Pisey and Savong.  We get so exhausted and gray haired bringing up our own children, though we love them dearly and would do anything for them.  Pisey and Savong had parented 21 children, teaching them the love of Christ, teaching them they are worth the time and love, teachings about life, discipline, the value of education, manners, respect, personal care, values and SO much more. This is love! Their hearts amaze me and it shows in the lives of the children, how deeply the love and the incredible joy. TRULY God’s grace and mercy is in action daily!

Our new family with New Life in Chbar Mon, wow!  Talk about a battlefield and a deeply loving community.  The best way I can describe the heart Pastor Sary Chea and his wife Sophea have for the Chbar Mon community is truly having the love of Christ. It is incredibly deep and bold.  They draw the youth in by offering English and music classes. Smart! These kids love their music. By doing so, they hear of Jesus.  In a country that is led by fear and constant concern as to what ‘type of spirit’ they are contending with, to accept Christ is incredible freedom.  The passion and joy these kids and the church have is contagious when you are with them.  I am going to limit myself in sharing more now because this is an area that truly hit my heart and I am still trying to process.  God has placed Chbar Mon heavily in my prayers.

This experience has opened my eyes to my need in letting go, stepping outside of my comfort zone, to stop focusing on my inadequacies and letting God be God. It is so easy to let day to day life take over and put too many expectations on equipping myself for every purpose. I do not want to lose what has been experienced, nor do I want to just hold on to it. How do I make it grow?  My prayer is to love in the real sense of the word, and not just in comfortable terms.  It is with painful realization at times that I accept that God has always been ready to equip me, yet I take my own path.  I need His mercy, grace, forgiveness and equipping daily!

When I try to sum up the trip I am drawn to “the ripple effect” and generational change.  Cambodia has such a dark and painful history with incredible spiritual warfare.  Though not limited to Vista, but using as an example….. Vista’s investment into PrekEng 3 and Chbar Mon is that of a stone tossed into a lake.  The ripples continue to grow and spread.  This is what is happening, especially with the youth. Changing the lives of the youth brings on generational change. Powerful!  Though Cambodia is currently only 3% Christian, I am excited to see the changes in 10 and 20 years. Truly transformative!

On a lighter note…. I have come to greatly appreciate my washer versus having my clothes stone or board washed, and appreciate seeing the bones on the top of my feet rather than the swelling and 4 ankles on each foot

Love Boldly

Cambodia has been a whirlwind of moments filled with big emotions and new relationships.  God-filled spaces that we were blessed to walk in, to lean in and engage. When I think of what this trip has meant and how it has impacted me, I keep coming back to these words – reach out in faith and love boldly.  I have seen that in action this week, powerful, beautiful and heart-wrenching. I am so thankful that God has given these examples to me, allowing me to step away from my daily life and immerse myself fully here. It has fed my soul and inspired me to pray for a heart to love differently, more openly, pushing away personal insecurity and walls for the sake of knowing another deeply. I have seen children and adults alike in Cambodia model that this week – embracing new faces and friends, providing comfort and encouragement to each other across languages, ages, and cultures.

There are two clear examples that I pray stay in my heart forever. The love and passion of the youth of Cambodia – modeled by our children at Prek Eng 3 and our new family at Chbar Mon (New Life Fellowship).  We were blessed to be able to worship and play with these beautiful children at both sites, and were in awe of their boldness. They love deeply. You are met with a warm embrace and a smile almost immediately and treated as family.  Warm hugs and the words of “May God Bless You” ring in my ears.  Holding hands with people I just met. Placing hands on shoulders and praying together.  Singing and worshiping our God together.  The beauty in these moments is amazing. Serving as a reminder of His love and our calling to love each other as He loved us. John 13: 34-35.

The second example that sticks out in my mind is that of walking along a dirt road in Chbar Mon and stopping by a woman’s house. She was the first adult Christian woman in the village and the oldest member of that New Life Church plant.  We found her in a tree, picking fruit, which she offered to us. We sat down and were translated a story of faith pushing past fear.  She asked for prayer for her home, the ground it was built on, and her neighbors which practiced witchcraft. I saw a group of people gather in a circle, hold hands, and pray over her and her property. I saw intention, boldness and love gather round between people who had just met.  When we were finished, some tears fell and we exchanged hugs. There was praise and hope in her front yard that day, prayer to a God that always pushes out darkness.  Upon leaving, we saw some of the NLF youth that we had met the day prior running down the road in their school uniforms. They had heard we were back in town and had run through the village to meet us. Their fierce pursuit of relationship brings me to my knees. I pray that I can grow to love like that – fiercely, boldly, and with purpose.

I can’t even put into words what God showed me this week. I do know that He placed me here purposely for a few lessons and clear examples of His gracious and merciful love.  Among the bustling and darkness that is present in certain elements of Cambodia, I saw His light there. I saw the bold movement of people stepping out faithfully to embrace His love and share His hope. I witnessed gratitude and love that I sometimes miss seeing at home. I am hopeful for the future of christianity in Cambodia, and thankful to embrace these people as family, all of us children of the one true King.

~Heather Eschbach

Light and Salt

I sit here and reflect on everything that has happened.  How God is always showing us His pathway.  All the many souls who we continue to meet on this journey and mission.  Missionaries sitting next to us on a plane, meeting our friends from Asia’s Hope to find out they are my neighbors in Columbus, to meeting a lovely group of people here in our hotel that live in Marysville, Ohio.  All this plus so much more in the first few days…

Wherever we are on earth, being completely on the other side of the world, God is always at work… God never rests…  Each day I have gained so much.  It is a fulfillment of knowledge, hope, determination, but most of all, Love…

Opening my eyes, seeing the things that I need to change, in myself, in loving others, and in loving myself.  Learning to lift others up, but the biggest part I became aware of was to keep our loved ones lifted up continually.  The more you speak it, think it, change your thought pattern, the higher you are lifted to lift others and shine God’s light. The Godly walk with integrity, Blessed are their children who follow… Proverbs 20:7

Life is such a domino effect.  I pray daily for God to keep my heart soft.  To use me for His will.  I always feel I have so much love to give, but I have never felt the love as I feel when you are at PrekEng 3.  It truly is a family kind of love and bond like no other.  The love and respect that they all have for each other is just amazing.  I noticed no clammer or small talk amongst the kids.  They all just want to love and help each other, let alone us.  They are some of the most beautiful souls I have ever met in my whole life.  You truly fall in love with each and everyone of them that live there.  On our visit Sunday, I just stopped out of no where and listened to our Lord who continues to always tell me, Be Still… I absorbed the calmness, peace, and love that overwhelmed the atmosphere.  There is no furniture, big screen TV, electronic games, etc.  But everyone was enjoying each other so much.  Doing a few different crafts, all together, as a family.  Laughing, singing and worshipping God.  It was such a beautiful moment and time.  Its such a missing factor in our culture, family ways and life, just remembering what is truly important.  More is not always better…

Coming to Cambodia, meeting our brothers and sisters here is life changing.  The love that everyone has for each other is truly amazing.  To start making changes in the world, it begins with us…  With God as our guide and teaching our youth the way of the Lord.  They are our future, at home and across the world.  Lets continue to Shine God’s light and glorify Him through this fabulous journey…

Love and Blessings,Melissa Baz

God is Good, All the Time

As I sit trying to think how Im going to explain what we are seeing, feeling, and experiencing, I am not sure how to even put it into words.  Being here has challenged my faith and pushed me beyond my comfort zone.  I partly expected that when I got here all of my insecurities would drop off and I would embrace everything but naturally they followed me here.  It was a process for me to gain comfort here.  The first day going out of the orphanage I felt such a powerful love but I didn’t quite know how to connect with our kids because of the language barrier.  We were all in a bit of a haze just adjusting to the time change but I just couldn’t get myself out of this funk.  Upon reflecting on the day I felt the need to ask God to equip me.  But at the same time I realized that I also need to allow him to.  Then I came down to meet with the team and that is exactly what Adam was talking to us about.  Allowing God to show us his strength by leaning on him to provide us just enough energy to play one more game with our kids, or just enough strength to process all that we are seeing.  It hit home and I was already feeling transformed.

Spending time the past few days a PrekEng 3 has been such a rewarding experience.  Getting to really know ours kids on a deeper level that I want to explain to everyone when we return.  I truly feel like they are my children now that I know them.  Of course at the surface I felt that way from home but it is a whole new level of connection when you spend time worshipping with them, eating at the table like a family with them, playing games and singing with them.  Their home is now my home.  I don’t even want to begin to imagine what it will feel like to leave and not bring them with me.

Chbar Mon has been an awakening experience as well.  We have spent time in the village with Pastor Sary and his church which is still very young.  The ride out there was hilarious because traffic patterns here are drastically different than ours at home.  The rules are not rules but more suggestions so people just drive wherever they want.  Plus the country side offers a whole new view of the country such as herds of cows just walking in the road and people using a pick axe to break concrete off a broken road sign.  Once we got there though, we were welcomed almost as warmly as at PrekEng.  Some experiences there I will never forget are: praying over the new church building, helping the children with english class, the squatty potty (don’t ask…), and the youth program.

The youth program especially felt like home for me because I was thrown back to what it felt like to be in Young Life Club nights but across the world in a different language.  The most incredible part, was being told at the last minute that they wanted someone on our team to share their testimony, and naturally because I am the youngest they thought mine might be the most powerful to connect to their kids.  So being thrown into that space without warning was scary, but I just went back to my prayers the day before about allowing God to equip me, and he did.  Hearing my story in their language was such an amazing experience and I could see the kids connecting.  Then when I was done I didn’t even remember what I had said but I was overwhelmed with emotion.  The words I spoke weren’t mine, they were God’s.  Mike stopped me to let me know that I did great and he was proud of me, I just broke down.  I didn’t know where the tears were coming from but I wanted to embrace them.  So I went outside to cry my tears and Sophea (Pastor Sary’s wife who has broken english) gave me a “Tammy” hug and spoke the only english words I needed to hear in that moment, “God is Good, He changes us.”  Upon reflection later, I think Mikes words carried so much weight because I felt like they were a reflection of God saying “I am proud of you in your growing faith and trust in me.”

Now I have just unloaded a lot, and I could probably stop there but I want to continue to help others see and feel how I am while I am here so I have one more day to reflect on if you can stick with me just a little longer.  You with me?

Sunday, the day of Worship.  Talk about a powerful day.  We started by going to church with our kids at PrekEng.  They prepared a song and dance for the church which was absolutely beautiful.  Again I don’t even have words to explain the blessing it is to sing worship with them.  The same song but they sang in their language and we in ours.  I tried to capture the moment but just to be in the space you could feel the spirit of God moving in every heart.  Adam did a great job teaching on how God’s garden is still growing and restoring our hearts.  However, I was sitting next to Timothy (Tim-oh-tay) one of our kiddos and he was so distracted by my phone and my notes.  At one point, I told him as I would tell my child, “give me the phone, you need to listen” haha it was so surreal.  But the other part that was so impactful about this morning at church was when Adam said in english at the end of his sermon “God is Good” and before it was even translated the church responded “All the Time.”  How amazing is that!! Literally across the world and they worship and praise God just the same as us.  Truly a transforming experience.

Alright that is it from me for now but I hope you are enjoying our blogs and you will hear from another team member tomorrow.

God bless you, Morgan Gallatin

Hello! We’re Here!

It’s impossible to capture in words the sights, smells, sounds and feelings experienced while serving in global missions. Our team has been in Cambodia for only a few days and we’ve already accomplished so much. We’ve had the opportunity to invest time in our kids at Prek Eng 3 playing games, talking, singing and sharing a meal together. But more important than anything else, we’ve had the opportunity to encourage the kids and their house parents, Savong and Pisey. Everyone at Prek Eng 3 expresses their love without reservation and it’s been our joy to do the same. We’re looking forward to sharing more time with them in the coming days.

We’ve also had the opportunity to connect with the leadership of New Life Fellowship both in Phnom Penh and in Chbar Mon, which is the town where they’ve recently planted a church led by Pastor Sary Chea. While in Phnom Penh we attended an orientation class explaining their vision and discipleship practices. Perhaps what was most inspiring is how intentional New Life is at engaging the Cambodia culture through seven distinct spaces… religion, relationships, education, business, government, arts and technology. In each of the spaces they are training up and releasing leaders and disciple makers. It’s a privilege to be partnered with a Cambodian church that is on the forefront of transforming the Cambodian nation for Christ.

We have spent the past two evenings with Pastor Chea and his community. It’s wonderful to be able to serve these charming and passionate people. Whether it was english conversation class or an outreach gathering with the youth, sharing in an equipping space with the core leaders, or simply walking around the neighborhood with Pastor Chea praying for his neighbors, we’re overjoyed to be worshipping Jesus together.

A quick word to the wise. If you’re going to be ambitious about expanding your Cambodian vocabulary try to do your best to make certain you know what you’re saying before you run around saying strange things to the people around you. For example, try not to be person that gives a thumbs up to people and exclaims “underwear!”, rather than saying “good job!”. The Cambodian people are so polite… they’ll let you put your sandaled foot in your mouth over and over again…

We have several more days ahead of us and plenty of opportunities to serve and love the kids at Prek Eng and the people of New Life Fellowship. Pray for us and pray for the people of Cambodia. The Lord is doing amazing things in this country.

~ Chris Kelley

Catch Court

CATCH Court: Fighting Human Trafficking

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Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Paul Herbert has become a leader in fighting human trafficking since 2009, when he founded CATCH Court — Changing Actions to Change Habits. Through the two-year CATCH Court, women are sent to residential rehabilitation programs to detox and receive intensive therapy. You can learn more about Judge Paul and Catch Court here.