Sunday, February 27, 2011


"You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. 'For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.' And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." ~ 2 Corinthians 9:7-8
I had a conversation recently with someone about how I wish I was able to give more. I wish that I had more money to give away. I wish I had more time to give away. I wish I could help people more. The person with whom I was talking seemed surprised by this because she replied with "but you give more than anyone else I know."
I thought about this. I knew she meant that I gave up so much in order to come to Cambodia, to love the people here, to live among them. And, sure, I guess I did have to give things up to move here, but most of that seems pretty miniscule to me. I knew she also mean that I gave my life, but I feel like that is not dependent upon where we are. God asks us to yield our lives to Him, there is no physical location mentioned. So, I don't think it should matter whether I am in Cambodia or Indiana or any other place on the globe. I am required to surrender my life to Him just the same.
I simply want to give to people. I want to meet needs. I want to bless people. I want to be able to take a friend out to dinner and be able to pay for their meal without thinking that doing so may be a real strain on my budget. I want to be able to buy fruit for kids I know who only ever eat rice porridge. I want to be able to give more to the local church so that they can increase their outreach--because their outreach is 10 times (minimum) more effective than mine. And, it isn't that I haven't or don't do these things, but I want to do them MORE!
God has challenged me to evaluate how I am living and how I am giving. I encourage you to do the same because the truth is that you can't out-give God, but I might like to try...

Friday, February 25, 2011

what are you looking at?

Khmer people stare. They just do. They stare more than any other people I have encountered.
By nature I am a people watcher. I am an observer. I love watching people and analyzing situations. I like making up stories for people I pass in the market, for the man who changes my flat tire, for the woman I see at the gym every morning. But, I try not to stare. Why? Because I have been told since I was small that it is rude to stare. So, I continue to do the natural American thing of quickly glancing away when someone catches me watching them, or maybe I try the awkward smile approach.
Those rules do not apply in Cambodia. People stare. They sit on the side of the road and turn their head as they watch you walk by. No shame. They stand 3 feet away from the table at which you are eating and watch you chew every bite. No shame. They follow you around the store with their eyes glued to you as if you might magically disappear if they turned away. No shame. They turn their heads at stoplights (if they choose to stop) and look at you until the light turns green. No shame.
It used to bother me that people constantly followed me around stores like a tail, or that every person along the street watched me. But, in many ways I have become immune. I often don't think about the fact that I am being stared at until someone else mentions it.
The truth, though, is that I wonder what kind of stories are being created about me. I wonder what these people think of me when they see me. I wonder if they try to determine my nationality, or if they are admiring my white skin or pointed nose. I wonder if they see the joy of Jesus in me. I hope so...

"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words." ~ St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, February 24, 2011

slow fade

Is it a slow fade or a steep cliff? That is one of the questions that has been running through my mind over the past several days.

Last week I read an article in the newspaper here about an American man who had been arrested on charges of sexually abusing three Khmer boys that he claimed he had "adopted." The boys ranged in age from 10 to 15. Apparently the man had invited these boys to live with him, and he was supporting their families in various ways as well as paying for the boys to attend school.

The American man came to Cambodia in 2009. He came to volunteer. He came to volunteer at a children's hospital. He came to volunteer at a children's hospital because he is a pediatrician.

During his first several months here in 2009, this man kept a blog. And, I may have stumbled upon it last week after reading the article in the newspaper. I read his posts about navigating Phnom Penh, about eating spiders, about making friends, about visiting villages, about eating rice, about seeing patients with tropical diseases he had only seen in books previously.

And, I wondered. Was it a slow fade or a steep cliff? Was it a series of events or a single rash decision? How did he (or anyone) find himself in a state that rationalized being able to abuse children? My hunch is that no one wakes up one morning and suddenly decides to steal the innocence of children. My hunch is that it is a slow fade, that it sneaks up on them, that evil comes in through the cracks like smoke until everything inside suffocates. My hunch is that after awhile the senses get dulled to the wickedness, to the prowling lions.

"Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." ~ 1 Peter 5:8

Monday, February 21, 2011


“It is better to bleed than cry,” or so the saying goes. But, sometimes bloodshed is simply not enough to make the pain go away. I learned this many years ago as I tried to make the pain within me lessen by increasing the pain on the outside. I carved into my flesh. I watched the blood spill out. But, the pain didn’t even compare with the hurt I still felt inside. When I look into his eyes spilling over with tears and his face contorted with frustration, I can vividly recall the feelings of pain and confusion and the inability to express it. Sometimes I watch from a distance. Sometimes I hold his hand and I am certain that he transfers more feelings to me than just the gritty filth that coats his palms. Sometimes I see his rotting teeth when he belly laughs. Sometimes I wonder how he made it out of the house without any pants (or underwear), but then I remember that he doesn’t have a house to leave. Sometimes I witness his impressive ability to use his big brown eyes, matted hair, and general filthiness to gain both the pity and the leftover food of passersby. But, never do I question the crocodile tears that leave streaks on his sunken cheeks. Sometimes the tears begin because he gets pushed off the swing. Sometimes the tears begin because he wants a ball he can’t have. Sometimes he cries over normal four-year-old things. But, sometimes the tears go beyond that. Sometimes tears are the only way he knows to express the pain he lives each day. The tears come, but doubtfully could he tell you why as this is all he has ever known. Never has he known a warm bath and a full tummy before snuggling with a teddy bear in a cozy bed. Go ahead and cry, buddy. Sometimes crying expresses the feelings bleeding can’t…

Friday, February 18, 2011


This is my 100th blog post. A lot has changed both around me and within me over the last 100 posts. My perspectives have changed. My opinions have changed. My life looks different. My heart looks different. I am not sure that I can articulate what exactly has taken place in me over the last couple years. This is may not be what I thought my life would look like. This may not be according the plans I had made for myself. But, I am so thankful for my life, for my experiences, for the faithfulness of my God. I know that my journey is really just beginning. There are so many things that I know will still change within me and around me, and I know there are many changes that I haven't even realized. Sometimes, though, I catch myself...

I catch myself substituting the Khmer word for an English word when speaking with an American or other native English speaker. I have to consciously think about using the words "maybe" or "thank you" because the Khmer words are my default.

I catch myself raising my eyebrows as a way of saying "hey, how are you?" to a friend and pointing at things using my lips...both of which would probably communicate the wrong idea in America but are completely normal here.

I catch myself wandering through markets with raw meat swinging by my head and stepping over bowls of chicken blood without a second thought.

I catch myself driving aggressively and putting myself out in the middle of traffic, running red lights, driving down the wrong side of the road, and noticing the corners where the traffic police usually park themselves (in order to avoid getting stopped for "making mistake").

I catch myself realizing that I live in Cambodia.

I catch myself daily knowing that I cannot do anything that I do without the grace of the Lord.

There is so much more that I want to say. There are so many things that I love. There are so many things that are still changing within me. But, right now, I just don't have the words...maybe I will find them in the next 100 posts...

"i'm not who i was when i took my first step, and i'm clinging to the promise You're not through with me yet..." ~ ginny owens

Monday, February 14, 2011

super bowl!

Last Monday, my alarm started buzzing at 5am. After hitting the snooze once, I hauled myself out of bed and into the shower. Threw on some clothes and headed out the door. Why, you ask? Because the Super Bowl was on, my friends.
I do not claim to be the most knowledgeable about the game, but I do really enjoy watching it. And, after not having seen a game for well over a year, I jumped at the opportunity to join some friends to watch the big game.
So, my friends, Steph and Jen, and I got up early and headed to a sports bar that was opening up extra early just for the crazy Americans who wanted to watch the game.
So, here I sat drinking my latte and eating my omelet in a bar filled with Americans watching the Packers battle the Steelers. It seemed strange not to have chips and salsa or chili or snack mixes to munch while watching, and we definitely missed out on all of the classic Super Bowl commercials. But, it was definitely worth the early morning!
Now, if I can just find some place to watch all the March Madness...

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I got new running shoes yesterday. New running shoes are one of those silly, simple things that makes my heart incredibly happy. I love lacing up a new pair of shoes and heading out for a run. I started running about three and a half years ago. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I do, but it has become one of my greatest sources of stress relief. It is processing time for me. If I am unable to run for a few days (or a few weeks), I notice a marked difference in my attitude and my overall well-being. I love being able to run outside and breathe in fresh air, but here I settle for a treadmill in front of a window with the stale smell of sweaty bodies. And, the truth is that running 3.5 miles on a treadmill in the morning changes everything for me because I get to spend those thirty minutes with Jesus, talking with Him, worshipping Him.

Anyway, my running shoes were pretty well thrashed after running a half marathon in December, but good quality shoes are pretty sparse here. And, if you can find them, they are at least twice as much as what I would pay in the States. So, when I found out that a friend from America would be coming to Cambodia in February, my first question to her was whether or not she would bring me new shoes. Even before I got her confirmation, I started looking online for a good deal and a good pair. The problem with shoes is that it is really hard to know if you will like them or if they will fit well without being able to try them on, and this was going to be a exchanges or refunds. So, I looked. I read comments. I prayed they would fit. And, I ordered.
Yesterday, I pulled them out of their box, discarded the tissue paper, and slipped them on. Awesome.
But, I have a belief about running shoes. I don't believe that they are really broken in until there is blood on them. No pain, no gain. So, this morning I headed to the gym, laced up my shoes, and ran. As you may notice in the above picture, my shoes are bloody. That is not a shadow on the heel of my right shoe. It is blood. It soaked completely through my shoe. I knew after 5 minutes there was a blister. I didn't care. I ran anyway. I didn't even look. I pushed through, and I loved every minute of it. Despite what you may think based on this, these are good shoes, and they do fit well. This is normal. I am used to it. And, I will put a band-aid over the blister and run in them again tomorrow. Trust me, a little bloodstain never hurt anyone.

In fact, a bloodstain saved my life. A bloodstain changed my life. A bloodstain helps me overcome every single day.

"And they overcame (conquered) him by the means of the blood of the Lamb and by the utterance of their testimony, for they did not love and cling to life even when faced with death [holding their lives cheap till they had to die for their witnessing]." ~ Revelation 12:11

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

i saw what i saw

i saw what i saw and i can't forget it
i heard what i heard and i can't go back
i know what i know and i can't deny it
something on the road cut me to the soul

There are things that I see regularly, even daily, that I don't always stop to think about. But, whether or not I acknowledge it at the time, the things I have seen have forever changed me. Even if I wanted to forget (and I often do), I couldn't. There are times when I would like to put life in reverse for a bit in order to erase what I have heard, but I can't. And, the truth is that, knowing what I know, I can't deny what I have seen, heard, and experienced.

I have seen tiny babies take naps on straw mats on the side of a busy street and lying inside styrofoam coolers (without the lid, thankfully!). I have seen 2-year-olds play naked in a park. I have seen teenage girls sell their bodies for just a few dollars. I have held the hands of a teenage sex worker who is HIV+. I have seen six-year-old little girls tote around infants with soiled pants. I have seen the bruises on the face of a woman whose husband gets drunk and beats her. i have seen all of this in the last 48 hours...

your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what i'm afraid of
and what i know of God

we've done what we've done and we can't erase it
we are what we are and it's more than enough
we have what we have but it's no substitution
something on the road cut me to the soul

your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what i'm afraid of
and what i know of God

i say what i say with no hesitation
i have what i have but i'm giving it up
i do what i do with deep conviction
something on the road cut me to the soul

your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what i'm afraid of
and what i know of God

your courage asks me what i'm afraid of
your courage asks me what i am made of
your courage asks me what i'm afraid of
and what i know of love
and what i know of God

~"i saw what i saw" sara groves~