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)