By Miriam Cleough
Four months have passed since I was priviledged to go on a mission trip with Samaritan’s Purse to Cambodia. Our hodge podge team from across Canada met for the first time in the Vancouver Airport. I felt nervous, but I could overcome anything because I had my “baby sister” with me. She encouraged me to come along and promised she’d be there to support me, and that she did.
We experienced highs and lows, ups and downs. It was like being on an emotional roller coaster — but in an oven. On the highest broil setting.
Heat aside, I met some of the most welcoming, loving, humble and unassuming people in Cambodia. They had little, they expected nothing and they gave from the bottom of their hearts. Appreciation and gratitude flowed from their gestures and the smiles on their faces. Language no longer proved to be a barrier, we understood each other. We had connected and been brought together, because of a necessity of life…clean water.
So here I sit, four months later. I’m not cursing the Internet….much. I have the ability to plug my laptop into whichever outlet I want. The humidity is high, not nearly touching what it was in Cambodia, but I still decide to turn on the air conditioner.
When I thirst, I have my choice of cold running water, juice, milk, or whatever other treasure my fridge holds. I reflect on the men, women and children from the village and the lack of luxuries that I have just mentioned. Yet never once did I hear children whining at their parent’s ankles for a cold drink, a trip to the beach or a new toy. Their “lack of” didn’t seem to get the best of them.
I have always considered myself to be low maintenance. You know, one of those women who doesn’t need the biggest and the best, the newest and most improved. Yet, when I returned home, I looked around my home and for the first time thought, “I have alot of stuff.” Stuff that, when I think about it, would be considered luxuries to my Cambodian counterparts. This trip changed my attitude toward what I consider necessities. It will play a role in my decisions on what I consider to be needs.
I find my ability to deal with stress has improved since I’ve returned home. I was always a glass-half-full kinda girl and I consider myself to be positive and grateful for what I have. However, I like to have control of a situation. I learned very quickly in Cambodia, this was not going to happen. I was a follower there, out of my comfort zone for sure! A quick readjustment of my mindset allowed me to view this as an opportunity to become stronger, more resilient. I learned to rely on my teammates. I followed and learned.
If you asked me what is the most important thing I learned on this short term trip, I would have to say how refreshing it was to be with a team from different walks of life, different age groups and, most importantly, different religious backgrounds who all got along.
It was a loving group of people with faith, drawing together to achieve a goal. I let my “God Guard” down and realized that these were great people. As someone whose faith life has been chequered (including a long stint as a Jehovah’s Witness) I was happy to find that nobody was “forcing religion down my throat.” It didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth. It made me feel, for the first time in a long time, that there truly were people out there who practiced what they preached and lived their lives according to their faith. There were no hypocrites here. I have to say, it restored my belief that there is a God. It felt good.
I’m glad to be home. My bed has never felt so wonderful. It’s nice to sleep for more than a few hours at a time. It’s nice to have my puppy give me sloppy doggy kisses and it’s wonderful to be able to share my stories with my family and friends. They listen intently as I recount my adventures. I worry, somehow, that I’m not impressing upon them enough how amazing this trip was! I try to convince them they should do it too.
It’s all about taking a simple step, putting yourself out of your comfort zone, to make a small difference in someone else’s life.
Miriam Cleough lives in Tatamagouche, N.S. Her trip to Cambodia was her first experience on a mission trip. She is the sister of Faith Today‘s Karen Stiller. You can read about this trip, and ponder short-term mission trips in general, in Faith Today.