While shopping around the markets in Siem Reap, I came across a relatively young shop owner selling paintings of Angkor Wat, monks, and other pictures to display the Khmer life. As I looked around and bought something, she politely asked why I was in Cambodia. I shared that I was teaching English and her face lit up with delight. She quickly explained how much she loves school and how deeply she wants to better know English. Due to her family’s situation, she was working to keep her siblings in school and did not have the time or finances to continue going to school herself. Yet, she spoke of the hope that within the next few years it would be her turn to finish school.
This is the real picture of the Khmer life. I have never seen an entire people so hungry to know. Education is a privilege that many in Cambodia have to fight to obtain. There is a chasm between desire and ability when it comes to education, yet God’s heart is one that does not forget or look away.

“…Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. God saw the people of Israel and God knew.” Exodus 2: 23,25

The PCL Learning Center is bringing hope and building a bridge for all students in Siem Reap. Education is now more available and within reach. English classes are offered all day with multiple levels, but the deeper lesson is one of capability and worth. They are given the language skills to achieve higher positions, better wages, and more opportunities. If you could visit the Learning Center around 5 one evening, you would see over a hundred motos and bicycles parked in rows on the volleyball court. In 7 full classrooms, you would see students with their backpacks tucked neatly behind them, notebooks open, pens writing, and white out markers being passed around as they do education with pride. What you would really be seeing is lives being changed.

What you really see is hope.

By Michala Jenkins

I landed into Cambodia on May 9th, 2019 ready to start my summer internship working with PCL. My team and I got off the plane, breathed in the humid Cambodian air for the first time, and headed for the heart of Siem Reap to eat lunch at Common Grounds. On paper, my responsibilities this summer included teaching English at the learning center, leading devotions, and building relationships with the Khmer. However, I did not truly understand all that I signed up for until I arrived in country. Throughout my time I have gotten the privilege of seeing and participating in of all the different facets of ministry PCL participates in, and I have learned so much about ministry from the workers here.

From my first lunch in May to my last breakfast at the end of July, Common Grounds has been such a breath of fresh air to me. The way that the workers serve customers, prepare food, and offer a space for people to feel comfortable has been a much needed safe place to me throughout the summer. Every time I walk in, I feel confident I am about to eat delicious food, but more importantly I am giving to a restaurant that gives back 100% of their profit to the community. When you walk into the lobby of the restaurant you will see products from ministries and organizations all over Siem Reap that are giving back to those in need. Throughout the summer I have gotten to know the current and former staff of Common Grounds well. The job that they work has given them more than just money in their pocket, but a place to propel them further in their life. For a lot of them, it has opened doors for them to get on their feet financially so they could get their education or begin working for PCL full time.

Common Grounds is one of the oldest cafes of its kind in downtown Siem Reap. Since its opening over a decade ago dozens of coffee shops and restaurants have opened up to compete for the attention from the influx of tourists coming to see Angkor Wat. Despite the increase of competition, Common Grounds has stayed afloat as a steady and consistent cafe that feeds the community physically and spiritually. One of the most amazing aspects to me was that many missionaries from all different organizations in Siem Reap gather there for food and fellowship regularly. When you walk in, you will see missionaries taking a minute to rest and refuel in the comforting space that Common Grounds offers. I fully believe in the ministry of PCL and see so much fruit from every facet that it pours out into the community. Getting to serve this ministry this summer was a privilege in so many ways and I miss it every day. If you are thinking about a ministry to be a part of in any way, I highly recommend this one.

By Sarah Hayes

PCL Mission

I am sitting in a cubicle in an office building in Manhattan as I write this – and what I notice around me are walls. Walls around me with an intention to separate me from my neighbors. Walls around the building to block employees off from passing pedestrians.

It becomes almost surreal to describe the world we were in just last month because it is juxtaposed from where I am now. At PCL we saw a community without walls, an organization without borders, a love without restriction. An organization appropriately named so: People for Care and Learning.

Our team comes from the Bridge Church: located in a suburban neighborhood in Queens, New York. Our church is communal, tight-knit, and cares deeply for one another. But our city is sprawling: population alone is about 9 million people. When Pastor David presented the idea of a Cambodia short term mission trip to our congregation, I can say for myself at least that I was motivated and inspired to see God working in a city and a country that is so different from where we are.

We started our trip departing from New York on a Monday evening and arrived in Cambodia Wednesday evening. Our weary selves after two days of travel were uplifted once we were greeted by a few members of the PCL staff. We were met with the kindest welcome and quickly felt not so strange in a strange land.

The differences in culture and environment were apparent as we started living out each day in Cambodia. For example, being grateful for better than expected weather: balmy low 90s every day without any sudden downpours. Another: learning the Khmer way of greeting by putting our hands together in front of our face instead of shaking hands. Third: us silly Americans trying to stay cool in T-shirts and shorts (which we learned while visiting Angkor Wat it was not proper etiquette to show the knees) while the locals seamlessly wore collared shirts and long pants.

Despite all the differences, there is no greater way to experience how universal God’s love is than to go to such a different environment and feel it for yourself. We call ourselves brothers and sisters but I felt it when we praised with the Khmer staff and students at PMI and sang “I could sing of your love forever.” We sang in two languages, but it felt like one voice. I felt it when we heard testimonies of how the local Khmer villagers found God in their life and PCL built them up to be the warriors they are now. I felt it when the House of Hope kids showered so much friendship and laughter upon us despite any language and cultural barriers. I also felt it when our team brutally lost a game of volleyball to the PCL members and had to run laps around the courtyard.

All joking aside, I am incredibly thankful for the people we have met and the connections we have made. Our team has been blessed with so much love and energy — we did not expect to come back with our souls this full in just one and a half weeks. We were fed literally with some of the tastiest food in all of Cambodia as well as some of the most enriching relationships. Additionally, we learned and saw with our own eyes the unique but parallel projects from the Takam farm to the Andong Village — all ways that PCL have blessed and built up the local community.

To the team of PCL: our team is so thankful to see how you’ve shown God’s love to your community and your neighbors. The way you serve your neighbors in Siem Reap is an example of how our team can serve our neighbors in New York. Continue to be the light in your city and we will bring the same unabashed love you have for God and His children back to ours.

Yes, sitting in my New York cubicle, I am aware of our walls: both physically and figuratively — but you, family of PCL, will be our inspiration to break them. We love you and we hope to see you again soon.

Written by Angela Wu (mission trip coordinator)

PCL Mission