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).
AND IT WOULD BE FREE FOR US THE FIRST SIX MONTHS.
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.
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.
Is this REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN?!?!?
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…”