When Kristin and I first arrived in Cambodia, every day held new adventures. Each trip to the market was a treasure hunt, each time we crossed the street we took our lives into our own hands, each day we learned new words and got to apply them. Then those things sort of became ordinary and routine.
Here are a couple stories of the ordinary parts of our lives that really are fun adventures if I hold them up to the light in just the right way.
For the last 10 months we have been studying at two different schools. One is a more structured one-on-one or one-on-two time with a tutor. I love this school for a number of reasons- it is literally a 60 second walk from our apartment, our teachers are believers and have been such an encouragement through the process, and they find different ways to help us apply our new vocabulary.
Our other school is focused completely on comprehension. The students mostly just listen to two teachers who talk about different topics and provide help with new vocabulary words. This has really helped our ability to understand and I think pushed our overall language study forward.
At the beginning of March we decided to take advantage of a new option at this second school. For two weeks we could meet three times each week with a different teacher. The goal was not to learn anything new, but really to just practice talking. Some people are naturals at this, but I need all the help I can get!
During the two week course, not only was I able to just talk and try to say as much as possible without stopping for correction or to ask about a word (I do think my tongue loosened up just a little bit), but doors kept opening for spiritual conversations. One day we met with a teacher that has always been a bit intimidating to me. He is a model and an actor here in Cambodia, so he is used to performing and being the center of attention. 🙂 But when Kristin and I sat down with him he said, “Tell me the story of how you came to believe in Jesus”. So for the 50 minute session we all shared about cool things God has done in our lives and prayers He has answered.
During another session, we got to share the story of Creation with a teacher who does not know Christ. The story was a bit familiar to her because she had seen it on TV and later she told us, “I want to know what comes next!”
We headed to Bangkok last weekend for a retreat with the ladies who work in Southeast Asia from my organization. Phnom Penh is a tiny town compared to Bangkok, which has large malls and a subway system and taxis and lots of other things we don’t have. I knew our time would be short, though, so I tried to keep my expecations low.
The one thing that sounded lovely was a visit to Starbucks. Kristin and I checked out the map of the area around our guesthouse and spotted one but it seemed like it might be a bit of a trek to get there. “It is okay, really”, I said to myself. It is not like we don’t have coffee here.
On Saturday after lunch everyone split up to have some free time. I was a bit worn out, but several of the ladies were going to one of the malls that had an IKEA and that sounded fun to me. We split up a bit once we got there, and a couple of us walked around window shopping and just enjoying the variety of people and the air conditioning. We talked about finding some ice cream or a smoothie place, but decided we better go meet up with the rest of our group. Then one of the ladies that has been to the mall before pointed outside- “There’s a Starbucks too,” she said. “Really?!” I’m pretty sure Kristin and I said this in unison.
I didn’t go to Starbucks that often in America. We didn’t have one in my home town until I was in college, or maybe even after that. It was a bit too expensive for my missionary budget when I lived in Texas, so it was a rare treat (unless I had a gift card from dear friends). But, I have some really precious memories of sitting in Starbucks with the strong scent of coffee beans and the hum of conversation around me, my Bible and journal open as I asked God what was next, poured out my heart when things were confusing, or celebrated something special. As my friend and I stood in line in the Starbucks in Bangkok, I smiled and thanked the God who delights to give us little gifts.
“Is there anything else you want to do here?” someone asked before we left the mall. “All of this has already been a bonus,” I said. (And then there happened to be a Starbucks in the airport too. Two in one weekend!)
Sometimes when things become routine we miss the Father’s hand in work. My walk to the market might be the same path I have walked several times a week for the last 10 months, but maybe God has something different He wants to put before me today. When we only see the ordinary, we might miss the bonuses, the sweet moments, the doors that God might want to open for a new adventure.