The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
Jessica Moes is serving her YAGM year in Cambodia. Moes names her faith homes as St. Alizabeth Ann Seton (Hastings) and St. Olaf College (Northfield).
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. - 1 Corinthians 10:31
I’m a person who lives for the loud moments – once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that make my heart race. I’ve always struggled with the small moments and average days that pass without anything particularly special going on. Truthfully, that’s part of the reason I jumped at the opportunity to live in Cambodia for a year. How special! How challenging! How exciting!
During my time thus far in Kruos Village, where I’m working in the founding church of the Lutheran Church of Cambodia (which is only 5 years old), I’ve been blessed with many loud moments. My coworker invited me to her neighborhood’s Khatan (a three-day celebration where offerings are made to the local temple), and we ate boboa (Khmer porridge) and marched in circles around the pagoda. Cambodia YAGMs had our first fall retreat in the rainforests of Ratanakiri, where we swam in freshwater lakes and rode longboats to visit Khmer tribal communities. Four different mission groups from Australia and Singapore have passed through Kruos, bringing with them medical supplies, dinners at new restaurants, community baptisms, and plenty of laughter. The latest mission group was here for perhaps the ‘loudest’ moment I’ve had yet: Christmas in Cambodia, complete with traditional dances, a pageant (I was Herod’s Servant), Khmer Christmas Carols, and literal dancing ‘round the Christmas tree. There have been New Years snails, music concerts, elaborate weddings, family vacations to visit aunts and uncles, and lots & lots of karaoke.
But as I continue to settle into life in Cambodia, and as novelties of daily life here become increasingly ‘normal’, I’m reminded that another reason I chose to do YAGM is because days would become unexciting. While I work in a variety of capacities in the Kruos Community, my main job is to teach English, both at the church for village children and at a local government middle school. Most days are the same struggles with unfamiliar learning styles, confusing government standards, and translating grammar into an unfamiliar alphabet. Work carries with it a lot of routine and normalcy - things I think we all struggle with to some degree anywhere in the world. I watch members of my community struggle to make time for fun and joy in their schedules, when so much of the day is spent surviving: pumping water for cooking and washing and latrines, making the long treks to the market at the commune center, herding cows to and from the rice fields for grazing. And while it’s a challenge, I’m slowly learning to find the beauty of simplicity: taking walks through the village with my sisters, laughing at a joke my student makes, learning a new way to cook vegetables, harvesting rice again and again under the vast Khmer sky. As easy as it is to find God in the beautiful loud moments life offers us, I’m recognizing quickly that the divine sometimes speaks with more gusto in the subdued moments of relationship and reflection. In moments great and small, I’m finding goodness here.
The ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission has called six young adults from the Saint Paul Area Synod to serve a year abroad in a variety of countries, doing congregational ministry, human rights work, development projects, healthcare, education, and youth work. More about YAGM can be found at www.elca.org/yagm.