Reflections from Abroad: Ryan Berkas

Date posted: Wednesday 06 January 2016

Ryan Berkas is serving a year in Cambodia. Berkas names his faith homes as Roseville Lutheran, Roseville and Voyageurs Lutheran Ministries, Cook, MN.


My toothpaste is on its last few squeezes, I am running low on toilet paper, my shampoo is getting more difficult to squeeze out of the bottle and my deodorant is almost used up. To many this is a sign that I practice poor hygiene or maybe need to go shopping, to me I see it as more than that… It is a sign that I have truly settled in. When I go out and purchase a new set of all these things it will be me committing to another set time of this year abroad. It is a statement to myself that I am here to stay. It is a good feeling.


Over the last four months I have been thrown into a culture so loving, gentle and warm (both meteorologically and personally) that the transition hasn’t had to feel like the most difficult thing I have ever done. Thank God for that… Actually though, I take time to thank God for what he has given me. A community that recognizes, respects and cares about me. (They call me teacher and brother. Two words that carry a lot of weight in this country.) A loving and supporting sending community back home that have taken it upon themselves to send me notes and reminders that the people I know and love have not forgotten about me. Work that inspires me and makes me feel fulfilled and utilized in the communities that I serve. My work mainly focuses on teaching English. Something that is craved by the people of this country so much so that I find myself teaching outside the classroom as often as inside of it. I am thankful, so very thankful for all this.


One of the most important things I have learned about life here in Cambodia is about their attitude of acceptance. As a YAGM I am asked to take on a simple life. I have much to learn about it and I don’t think I could be taught by anyone better. The average Cambodian gets a salary of about 150 U.S. dollars per month. They use this money to pay rent, buy food, and anything else they need to spend money on. Even though the cost of living is lower than it is in the states, this still is not very much money. Although they do want material things they aren’t burdened by them. In the States I think we are so connected to our expenses that our happiness has become tied to it. We tend to measure what we have in direct relation to our happiness. In Cambodia there is simple joy in conversation and being present with each other. Relationships are the currency of happiness in this country, and everyone is rich. They know how to maximize time with each other and spend a lot of time being happy, smiling and laughing. It is truly beautiful... Thank you God for the comfort, teaching and learning that has been provided thus far and will continue to be provided in the next half of my year.