big news, part 3

(Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2.)

So, the girls and I meet with Alli at a coffee shop to talk about this possible new adventure in a new city. (Gabe had a photography thing and trusted me to take good notes.)

Ava was back on board. That made five of us. I felt soooo nervous and excited to hear more.


In no particular order, here are the things Alli could tell us:

The house and center are on the same property. Like 20 feet apart. It’s in a rural area off a dirt road. There are cows (and also snakes, but we’re choosing to focus on the cows). It’s a 5-10 minute moto ride from the city (Siem Reap) and a 5-minute ride to Angkor Wat. There’s a big cement area outside, and a little bit away is a big field where kids play.

The house is 2 stories, 4 bedrooms. It’s $400/month (we pay $450 now).


Note about our finances: Our current salary is $1500/month. This money comes to us from our generous, beautiful supporters by way of IOM, the missions organization we’re under. This also “happens” to be the same missions organization the Hard Places Community is under.


We need anywhere from $2400-$3000/a month for our living/ministry expenses (not including plane tickets), depending on the month (I’ll break this down in a coming post ). We bring in the difference between our salary and our need by writing/editing for other people (me), selling e-books (me) and selling photos (Gabe).

Because our current apartment came furnished and the house won’t, this free rent thing for a bit WILL BE HUGE.

HPC interviewed five potential Khmer staff in Siem Reap a couple weeks ago and hope to hire two very soon. These two (one guy, one girl) would come to Phnom Penh for a couple months and train with the staff here. Our fam would also spend all kinds of time at Punlok Thmey (the HPC boys’ center) here in Phnom Penh learning how the staff does their thing.

In the beginning at least, the center will be for both girls and boys. It would start with Kids’ Club (kind of like a 5-day club/Bible school thing in the afternoons), and we (our fam) would teach it at first.

We would spend lots of time exploring, meeting kids, finding out information (what their lives are like, whether or not they go to school, if they’ve been trafficked or approached by pedophiles, etc). We’d talk to parents and ask them if they’d let their kids come to the center. We’d let them come check it out themselves.

Eventually, we’d teach English, computers, possibly art, soccer, read books, make crafts, WHATEVER WE FEEL LED TO DO.

We would slowly hire more Khmer staff as the center grows, and we would be responsible for all the administration (payroll, etc, and I say “etc” because administration? foreign language to me).

And we would live RIGHT THERE in the SMACK DAB MIDDLE of it all.

You might recall my over-and-over-and-over-again prayer. “God, please give us an ABBEY LANE here in CAMBODIA.”

But I couldn’t see it, couldn’t picture it, had no idea how it would happen or how long it would take.

Two very, very strong (and conflicting) emotions are swirling in my head at this point. 1.) THIS IS OUR ABBEY LANE. and 2.) I AM SCARED TO DEATH TO DO THIS.

Alli did a quick “verbal reference letter” thing before our meeting, asking several people who have seen us with kids before what we’re like, and they all said we have such a deep love for kids and pour ourselves out for them.

She said “That’s all you need. The rest you can learn.”

WE SPEAK KHMER (well, I mean, kind of, we can get by. Livi, on the other hand, reeeally speaks Khmer). Which is HUGE. We couldn’t have moved straight from America and done this.

(deep breath)

Alli and Panha went to Siem Reap almost at the exact same time we arrived in Cambodia (last January) and rented this house & center. We knew they had been in Siem Reap. We had no idea why. Until 9 months later.

I can’t even believe this. I don’t even know what to think.

Alli says she’s going to talk to her staff and then the board of HPC. We’d have to fill out applications and be approved. She tells us to think about it, talk about it, pray about it as a family.

We tell her that we will, that we have been, that we already know we really really REALLY want to do this.

If we’re approved, and we do this thing, we would officially become part of The Hard Places Community family. Not paid staff (only the Khmer staff is paid; all the Western staff raises support as missionaries).

I can hardly even stand this. I feel like I’m on a cloud. I feel like we’ve just been handed the moon.

THANK YOU, JESUS. I don’t even know what to say.

We decide, on a whim, to take a little trip to Siem Reap the following week while Livi’s on break from school.

We’ll talk, we’ll see, we’ll pray. Hopefully we can get a look at the house/center/neighborhood.


And then I remember something. We had really hoped to take a trip back to the States to visit friends and family next summer. My parents had already reserved a cabin for a mini-vacation for us, my siblings, and all our kids in June.

How could we get a kids’ center up and running and then say, “Hey, see ya! If you need us, we’ll be in America for a couple months?”

I didn’t want to ask Alli what she thought about it. It seemed tacky, presumptuous, impractical, selfish.

But I knew I had to. I took a deep breath.

“So, I have a question…”

8 thoughts on “big news, part 3

  1. Donna

    Love this. And will be praying. And we know some people to connect you with. Who are working with the Vietnamese in Siem Reap. Just added you to my prayer list. These are hard but beautiful decisions.

  2. Gretchen

    Wow, Marla. This is amazing. Your faithfulness, the Lord’s faithfulness. Your honesty and courage, the Lord’s steadfastness and plan for you all. I’m so encouraged, amazed, delighted, praising God and eager with you for this to work out for the best! Hugs!

  3. Keri

    I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited for you guys. This is perfect!! Absolute, positively perfect. It took me a while to figure out what the picture of the pool was that you sent to me and it finally dawned on me it was the guest house in Siem Reap. Remember how you felt about Siem Reap when we went?? I love that God has been giving you a love for that city and the people there. I am so incredibly excited for you guys!

    Yvonne is working on a tattoo for me. I am having her (and Veasna) translate the word “saved” into Khmer. I miss that place and working with those people…..I feel like my experience in Cambodia saved me as much as the kids they worked with. So excited for your whole family!!

  4. Ruth C

    “That’s all you need. The rest you can learn.” <– LOVE this! Isn't it so true? God is so good and he'll walk you through it all. I'm so excited for you!!

  5. Sharon

    Hooray! Love all of this. Can’t wait to hear how the asking about leaving for a while to come to the US went. I’m gonna guess it somehow works perfectly for timing for some reason or another. Just because of the way God has worked the other details out. But, suppose I’ll have to wait until part 4 to know for sure.

  6. Martha

    Marla Marla Marla,

    I’m nearly glad I’ve been out of commission to read your BIG NEWS in installments. But got to read all 3 at one time. And as usual my faith is GREATLY encouraged by what GOD is doing in your lives. WOW WOW WOW

    I can’t even say much more- Speechless
    Just gonna pray
    And Thank God

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