Each year, Providence students explore another country as a part of the Avodah program. This year, Dr. Steve Kortenhoeven accompanied six students to Cambodia for 11 days. The purpose of these trips is to be fully immersed in the culture of a different culture. The students spent most of their time in the capital city of Phnom Penh, but also made visits to the rural provinces of Kampot and Siem Reap. This was the first Providence trip to Southeast Asia and a wonderful learning experience for the team.
Dr. Steve Kortenhoeven wrote this reflection upon returning.
“This is Cambodia” (or TIC ) is an expression the team used a lot during the trip to Cambodia this past May. Some of the missionaries use this phrase to describe the unexpected things that happen in Cambodia, and a need for visiting Westerners to stay flexible. Upon our arrival in the capital city of Phnom Penh, our hosts met us at the airport. But we soon learned that the driver who dropped them off at the airport had gone home, thinking this was a drop-off rather than a pick-up…welcome to Cambodia! Even this miscommunication turned out to be a blessing and a cultural learning experience as we got our first opportunity to ride in a Tuk-Tuk (motorcycle-powered open-air taxis), a truly Cambodian style of transportation. The Providence team embraced “TIC” and kept an open, learning perspective throughout the trip.
The trip was truly a cross-cultural immersion and ministry exploration trip, and every day was packed with activities to fulfill both of those objectives. The team learned about Cambodian history, both ancient and modern. The ancient historical learning was enhanced by visiting Angkor Wat, a complex of Buddhist temples built in the 12th century. The modern historical learning was equally powerful as the team visited historical sites connected to the Khmer Rouge regime, led by Pol Pot, in the 1970s, such as the Killing Fields Genocide Museum.
In addition to learning about the culture, another objective of this trip was for the students to consider how God is calling them in cross-cultural ministry or missions. To that end, the students were introduced to a number of different missionaries and ministry organizations. The trip was structured around helping missionaries from Missions to the World (MTW) conduct English language classes to factory workers, university students, and neighborhood children. The first English class began at 5:30 AM before the factory workers and university students began their workday, and then the day ended with teaching English to neighborhood children. The team spent the rest of the time visiting with ministries and missionaries to learn about their experiences on the mission field. The ministry organizations visited on this trip were MTW, Daughters of Cambodia, Hagar ministries, Logos Christian School, Gateway Café, Hope International School, and Jars of Clay restaurant. Each of these organizations has a different ministry focus, but all of them strive to serve the people of Cambodia by showing them the love of Christ and sharing the gospel.
Each member of the team experienced some unique Cambodian things, such as Tuk-Tuk rides, eating tarantula and dog, riding on elephants, and taking a boat ride down the Mekong River. However, most importantly, they each returned with a new perspective on God’s work in Southeast Asia and the mission field in Cambodia.