Thursday, February 16, 2012

So great to be back in Thailand!

     While our hearts are still in Cambodia, we are just as attached to the children here.  When we left this orphanage last year, I would never have dreamed we would be back this soon!  We are truly blessed.   We came to the orphanage before the children were out of school so we immediately jumped right into our work projects!
      This first picture is of the new restaurant that they have built.  It has taken a year, but it will open for the first time when we are here!  It has been so neat to be a part of getting it ready because we had many conversations last year about how Root and Rosa wanted to build a restaurant in addition to the bakery they have to be a more self-sufficient orphanage.  They were able to build it because of one amazing man.  He is from Holland and he has dedicated his retirement years to helping this orphanage.  He does fund raisers and networking and has even used his retirement money to build this for them.  I tell you what, he has a first class ticket straight to heaven.  
      Matt and Doug are in charge of building the walking ramp up to the restaurant.  Both of their dad's gave them experiences in construction and taught them to WORK HARD.  I have always been so grateful to my father-in-law for all the skills and experiences he gave to my husband.  Matt and Doug are machines.  They figure it out even with different tools and a language barrier.   
      Matt's dad would tell his brothers and him to do something out in the yard.  He would give them some money and explain what he wanted done.  They were then left to figure out what to do.  Todd, Matt and Jared would often look at each other and have no idea what to do.   But, what their dad was trying to teach them was, "figure out a way and make it happen."  He wanted them to use critical thinking and gain confidence in themselves.  They would rent jackhammers and other large tools and eventually were always able to succeed.   A key point in this story is that his dad never expected perfection.  He made sure it was done to the best of the ability of a couple of kids, not what a hired professional with years of experience could do.  It was brilliant of him.  Now Matt is helping our boys do the same thing-love it.


Battle wounds from nails sticking out of old wood

The kids all helped clear the dirt of old tile, wood, and concrete

collection of the "stuff"

Cleared all the old wood out

This little 3 year old is right in the middle of all the projects-she is one hard worker!

     One of my favorite parts about this trip is that everyone is involved.  There is a job for every ability and age group.  One thing that we noticed last year as well is that Root (the one who started the orphanage) is not concerned about perfection.  He is all about having everyone involved and being a part of it.  It has made me think of my own home...what do I do myself instead of letting my children learn a new skill?  I am pretty good about having my children help, simple because I really can not do it all on my own, but I am a laundry hoarder.  I always do it.  I want to get the stains out, I want to make sure the right colors are together etc.  So, as a result my kids do not know how to work our washing machine.  They fold it and put it all away, but learning how to do laundry is a skill my kids need to have.   I have decided when I get home, a couple of stained shirts are worth the casualty if my kids can gain a new skill and receive confidence in one more little area of their life.
     What is it for you?  Is it not letting your kids mow the lawn because the lines need to be perfect?  Is it not letting them do the dishes because you want them scrubbed right before they go in the dishwasher?  Is it not letting the children help clean the house because it is just easier to do it yourself?  Is it not helping your child through a tough homework question because it is easier to just give them the answer?  It also could be disguised in a different way.  Do we not ask our children's opinion on things because they are "too young?"  Do we involve the children in family decisions so they learn how to weigh out circumstances?  Do we let them make their own choices or do we make them for them so they will not mess up?  Anyway, some questions to think about...Root and Rosa have taught me that it is more important to have them involved than to be on the periphery.  Who cares if it is not done right or if a mistake is made.  It is worth it for what the children are learning and for what it will do for their self-esteem to know they contributed and were an important part of the job.
    Jillian wanted to be in charge of the new garden and sitting area.  This picture is of Root going over Jillian's architectural drawings and ideas with her.  He never said that she was too young or that he already had it figured out.  It has been so fantastic to see her work with her Dad and Root figuring out all the details.  And let me tell you, she is owning it.  She is always there directing and working.  She is also a positive motivator to the little kids which makes them smile from ear to ear and keep working harder.   These boys are the recipients of her fantastic compliments.
We are moving lots of dirt so that we can plant flowers and make a patio area for people to eat. 
When I think about this trip, the timing of everything has been so perfect.  We definitely felt guided as to where we should go when-- after lots of planning, it finally all just fit together like a puzzle.  Home and Life is planning on opening in 10 days and there is a lot to be done before that.  We will stay here day and night if we have to, but we will get it all done!!
     I will say this over and over again.  I absolutely believe that when people give up their whole lives to serve others in need God will not let them fail.  It might not be perfect, but He will direct whatever needs to be done to help.  Whether it is time, money, helpers, food, manual labor or a new idea, God will make it happen. He is in this orphanage and He loves these kids.

ps-I would love to hear your ideas on how you get your kids to feel like they are an important and contributing part of the family.
pps-Miss Sarah T. if you are reading this, I tried to change our picture so it is more recent, but it is HUGE as you can tell and I don't know how to shrink it.  I am begging for help yet again :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our goodbye to Cambodia

            Saying goodbye to our new extended family in Cambodia was harder than I thought.  The orphans wanted to come with us to the airport so they picked us up at Botevy's house in their school bus. It was so great to be with all of them.  It was a tender moment as they walked through the door to help us load the luggage.  A huge lump formed in my throat as I looked at all of them amidst all the noise and hustle and bustle.  I watched them all instinctively hug and help.  They were laughing and playing and I wanted so much to pack them up and bring them all with us.
             We gathered together for one last prayer and some words of gratitude.  It was a neat experience for all of us.  We got loaded in the bus and I couldn't hold the tears back any more.  I just wanted to stop time somehow, or rewind time.  Our time with the children went so quickly and I wasn't ready to leave yet.  There were so many more things we wanted to do with them.  I remembered so clearly the first few days we were there and how I kept getting all of their names mixed up.  I had to ask them over and over again what their names were and then I would slaughter any attempt to pronounce them correctly. But now, even though we could not have long conversations together, I know them all.  I know their little personalities.  I know who likes to tease, who likes their hair done which way, and who likes hugs every couple minutes throughout the day.  I know who is artistic, who is a hard worker, and who is quick as a whip in school.  I know who likes to make bracelets and who loves soccer.  I know who is quiet and who can dance really well.  I know who is funny and who likes to work with their hands.  Each one of them is so precious to me. 
            Last week we had a Family Home Evening together.  In our church every Monday night we get together as a families.  We try to pause from sports, homework, and other activities to have time just as our family.  We teach them a value or something from the scriptures, play a game or do an activity,  and then close with a yummy dessert.  We did this with the orphans as well.  When we were out shopping that day I asked Botevy what the children would like for a treat.  She said they would love an apple.  I know I had a funny look on my face because fruit is not considered a treat at our house, it should be, but it's not.  Ice-cream, Coconut Cake, Magic Layer Bar Brownies, etc...that is what I call dessert :) Here apples are a delicacy because they are imported.  So we bought some apples.
            The night was one to remember.  Botevy gave the children a chance to stand up and share their feelings about the last few weeks while we were there, their feelings about God, and about being able to visit Angkor Wat (something she said they prayed for every night for years.)  It was so neat to be there, all of us sitting in a large circle under the moonlight, and hearing their tender feelings.  Botevy translated for us and it was wonderful to be able to hear the feelings in their heart.  These are some incredible children.
             All of them expressed their gratitude to Botevy and Vanneth to be able to live there.  They shared their love for them and for their 30 brothers and sisters.  Our family learned so much from watching how they treated each other.  There was NEVER a moment of selfishness.  Infact, my children always commented on how if one child was given something, they immediately wanted the other children to have it as well.  If there was not enough, they would give up what they were given and give it to the other child.  They were always more concerned for the other person's happiness than for their own.  This is fascinating to me because they had so little.  You would think that they would hoard anything new or maybe even gloat about it to the others.  You know the old "Look what I have and you don't."  Just last night at the orphanage in Thailand Kate made us the most wonderful dinner.  She made little pieces of fried chicken just for our 2 families. (She is the most amazing cook. Lucky are we.) She knows that is something we Americans are known for.  It was so sweet of her.  We felt uncomfortable eating it ourselves, but they will not even think of eating until we are done.  They are the most giving people.    Sam was sitting with all the orphans and he had one piece left over so he handed it to Pat, about 12 years old.  Pat then looked at the other children and they all passed it around and each had a bite.  It really impacted Sam.  He shared that experience with us last night and said, "You know, I don't know if I would have done that.  If it was something that I really liked and I never got it, I don't know that I would have instantly turned and given it to someone else."  That my friends, is why we are here.  They are learning things that can not be taught.  Examples are everything.
             Back to our Family Home Evening night.  I was so touched by their simplicity.  They have so much gratitude for a home, food, and family.  They know what it is like not to have it, and they do not take it for granted.  The feeling at that orphanage is how I want my home to feel.  They all pitch in and help each other.  There is no entitlement.  They are loyal and look after each other.  They entertain themselves.  They have a great time with a worn out soccer ball and a couple of bamboo sticks to sword fight with.  They are happy with a new coloring book and crayons.   Having less frees you from wanting more.  It frees you from always looking for the newest thing.  The latest iphone, the newest Xbox, the latest brand.  I have a brother in law who always makes his kids wait for a year after everybody else has whatever the latest and greatest is until he gives it to his children.  Some might say that that is mean, others will think it is brilliant.
I've got to go, but I have a lot more to write so I'll end with "to be continued."  Here are a few pictures of our goodbye... :(

           WE LOVE YOU CICFO!!