First, the relief. It is good to be here. It is good to have all of those onerous tasks that comprise leaving completed. Once I arrived, I realized that there was simply no way to finish up the unfinished. No way to pay the Blockbuster fine I forgot to clear up. No way to call one more person to say goodbye. And being finished with the process of saying goodbye was, I will admit, a relief. Leaving was emotional, it was scary, and it was overwhelming. Arriving was exciting, exhilarating, and terrifying.
I don’t get to post a “first impression” of Cambodia, because I’ve been here before, and I knew a little of what to expect. I was interested, as I told someone before I left, to compare the Cambodia I left last summer to the one I anticipated. I was also interested in how the true Cambodia would compare to my reflections and hopes. Arriving was the meeting point for all these thoughts. Several things were the same; moto traffic on the roads was crazy. The humidity was immediately sweat-inducing. Even the road into Phnom Penh was littered with little things that seemed the same. Yet, there were differences too. For one, I was alone. No team to chat with, no one who could exclaim over differences with me. I was welcomed into a home, and this is where the permanence set in.
I’ve told myself that I will be honest here, so I will share that the first three days were some of the hardest of my life. On top of jet lag, settling in to a new routine, and trying to understand a new country, my emotions went crazy. At some point on Tuesday, it finally dawned on me that I’m not leaving Cambodia. I have no home in the US any longer. All that I own is with me, and there’s nothing left behind. After living in LA for so many years, it’s now strange to be gone. Particularly since I am not going back anytime soon.
Two years is stretching out before me like an endless road. There are benefits to this. I think about how the partnership can grow, the things that can be accomplished, the friendships I can make. I also think about how long that seems, how separate I feel right now from everything I know and love. That separation will grow more profound in two years. Ties will be cut, friends lost. I will not be intimately involved in my friends’ lives anymore. How is that possible? To suddenly be in a new place, starting over. Despite all my anticipating and preparing, I never really thought about it this way.
At some point, it struck me that to miss home for two years wasn’t why I left in the first place. And while God can use those feelings, He also wants me to be here, in Cambodia, doing the work I feel called to do. I was reminded of these verses in Hebrews: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart…Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” For me, to fix my eyes on Jesus here, is to walk with purpose in this new life. I have endeavored to be present here in Cambodia, shaking off feelings of homesickness to embrace this new place. I have realized that I must persevere through the emotions that have swept over me, for the joy set before me. I do believe that joy is coming. I do believe that God desires not just for me to endure Cambodia, but to love it.
Upon reflection, it was only after the plane touched down, I unpacked my bags, surveyed my surroundings and cried my tears that I think I fully arrived here. In the words of Barry Manilow… “looks like we made it.” Indeed.