cambodia or bust! (!!!!!)

It’s no secret that our family loves Cambodia. And that ever since we got back from our last trip (January 12, 2012), we’ve been aching to go back. In fact, we (Gabe in particular) felt God clearly calling us to move there.

But with Gabe’s health issues (heart attack, then anxiety/panic/depression) and subsequent debt, it’s been a no-go.

We (the girls and I) have had a pretty hard time with it. And we’ve been through all the stages of grief over it. Anger, sadness, bitterness, disbelief, pouting, raging, crying, crying some more, did I mention bitterness? (Okay, so those probably aren’t the official stages of grief, but whatever.)

And then, at the beginning of January of this year, God gave me the strength to move to the best stage. Acceptance. More specifically, SURRENDER. <–(that post was so hard for me to write, but it’s one of my favorites.)

I knew I had to really, REALLY trust God, even if that meant things weren’t going to turn out like I hoped. I knew I had to love my husband, not just with feelings but with actions, and put him before my dreams.

I knew I had to give up Cambodia and trust that God would give it back in his timing. (*A sweet friend just messaged me privately and was concerned people might think I’m saying that if you give God something, he’ll always give it back, which isn’t true. Some things you give up for good. But, in this case, we clearly heard God tell us he wanted us back in Cambodia, so we’re banking on that promise from God. We think that’s different. No pressure to agree with us.)

Well. January was better than December, but it was still hard. We brought in very little money, but guess what. We got surprise financial gifts from five different people (two anonymous), and we made it through.

Then February. Gabe slowly started working again, and each new day has been a little better and a little better and a little better. He still struggles with anxiety (as recently as late last night), but he’s able to work through it before he spirals down into a pit like before.

He’s been meeting with clients and designing logos and starting new projects and putting in hours of work at a time.

I can’t even tell you.

And a couple weeks ago, our family had a little Cambodia talk. For the longest time, it has been so hard for Gabe to even talk about Cambodia, because he feels like all of us want to go (but him) and he’s the only thing holding us back (which is true but not his fault). And when you’re convinced you’re going to die any day now, when you don’t have the strength to even look ahead five minutes or work on a project for more than 10 minutes, how on earth can you find it in your brain/heart to plan a crazy trip to Cambodia??

But he gave us his reluctant blessing. “I just can’t make any promises,” he said.

We don’t need promises, we said. Just your blessing.

Last week, I took the girls on a date one by one to Panera, and we sipped drinks while we brainstormed and scribbled things in notebooks and got all giddy with excitement.

And we decided to GO FOR IT. To take a leap of faith and start saving for our trip, with no promises or guarantees that it will actually happen. But we’re 100% believing that IT WILL. That God will take us back to the place we love and the people we love. And sooner rather than later.


I’ll share more details later, but here are the basics.

We want to keep giving to Cambodia WHILE we’re saving for our trip. We’ve been so blessed to be able to raise a ton of money for Cambodia right here from our living room. And the girls have started The Dancing Elephant to make it more “official.”

Starting today, 50% of The Dancing Elephant‘s proceeds will go to Cambodia, and the other 50% will go toward our trip. And because we don’t want to cut our donations in half, we’re going to try to double our sales instead. Whew.

We’re starting to save BEFORE we’re out of debt and BEFORE Gabe is completely healed. Why? Because, frankly, we feel God has given us the green light to do that. And, frankly, we need a goal to move toward. We can’t just sit and twiddle our thumbs while we wait for Gabe to be completely restored to full health.

(I apologize for not making this debt thing clear. A concerned reader is afraid we’re ignoring our debt and going on this trip anyway. Not true. We’re paying it off bit by bit–including putting our tax return toward it like we did last year–and plan to have it paid in full by the time the plane leaves the ground. We’re just doing it simultaneously. Gabe’s income and most of mine will go toward bills/debt. The Dancing Elephant/fundraisers/side jobs will pay for the Cambodia trip.)

We’re trusting God to continue to work in Gabe. We’re trusting him to help Gabe bring in enough money to provide for our bills and debt.

And when Gabe IS all better and rarin’ to go to Cambodia, we won’t have to wait ANOTHER WHOLE YEAR+ before it can happen. Our girls are getting so stinking big already.

We’ve made a trade-off. The $ we’re saving in one year on rent/mortgage by moving from a 1400 sq. ft. house to a 797 sq ft apartment is enough for 5 plane tickets to Cambodia. CRAZY, RIGHT??

In my perfect world, my husband is completely healed, we completely pay off our debt, and we take advantage of our down-sized lifestyle to travel every year or so. To Cambodia. To visit our growing list of friends/missionaries in Africa. Honduras. India. Haiti.

Or maybe we’ll get to Cambodia and hear God say (again), “I want you here for good.”

girlscambodiaWe need to hug some people’s necks. We are so, so, so thankful for all we’ve gotten to be a part of from right here. We pray for our friends in Cambodia, Skype with them, send them letters, raise awareness and $, encourage them via Facebook, etc.

But nothing can take the place of BEING WITH THEM. Hugging them, talking to them face-to-face, laughing with them, learning more about their life and culture, seeing with our own eyes what God is doing in that country.

Our tentative departure date/length of stay: January 2015. Two months.

This is super-up-in-the-air, but this is what we’re saying right now. It seems so far away yet SO CLOSE when we think of how much money we need to save by then.

And our friend Pam is going with us for the first week! (Saying it on my blog makes it uber-official, and she can’t back out now.) We are super-pumped about that. She’s been one of our hugest encouragers all these many days, weeks, months, and years when we wanted to be there and couldn’t be.


1. Buy stuff from The Dancing Elephant. I’ll be posting things on my blog too, but in the meantime, go like their Facebook page!

2. Buy my e-book, We Dream of Cambodia.

3. Pray for us.

4. Give us fundraising ideas.

5. Hire us for jobs. (the girls are a teensy bit burnt out on babysitting at the moment, but maybe soon)

6. Join The Cambodia Club. (This will probably start once we’ve bought our plane tickets. We’ll have people give us $10 or $20 or whatever to buy them something fun–scarf, bag, t-shirt, wooden elephant–in Cambodia, and we’ll use part of the money for that and part for blessing people while we’re there.)

Any questions?? Thanks for sharing in our excitement!

17 thoughts on “cambodia or bust! (!!!!!)

  1. Pingback: one-way tickets | Marla Taviano

  2. Pingback: cambodia trip: an update | Marla Taviano

  3. Pammie Mae

    I sent a message on The Dancing Elephant facebook page about a fundraiser. Free for you other than a little bit of time!

  4. Pingback: the dancing elephant! | Marla Taviano

  5. Pingback: on second thought | Marla Taviano

  6. Kelly S

    Yay! How exciting! God is good in leading your family to follow Him!!
    I read Notes from a Blue Bike last week – so fun to see your family mentioned. Can’t wait to hear about your trip! We’re in the US till June 1 finishing up training so we’ll try to support as we can until then! 🙂

  7. Sarah

    I love this! You inspire me…truly. Sometimes I get all caught up in what’s “acceptable” to the masses. One should save for Cambodia when one is debt free and blah, blah, and blah. Says who? Who says when it’s time to save for Cambodia? GOD…that’s who. So, you inspire me to stop taking polls about what’s best for me instead of leaning into the one who made me. Yes! Love you:)

    1. Marla Taviano

      Love you right back! Yes, I look at these as two different spheres. Gabe and I are gonna hustle and work our butts off at our “regular” jobs to pay down the debt, but this gives our sweet, dying-for-Cambodia girls an outlet, a way to work toward a dream WHILE their parents are doing the boring work of paying hospital bills. xoxoxo

  8. Gina

    This is why I often don’t support mission trips. How do you think the small business owners you owe, and yes even some doctors are small business owners. feel about not being paid? But it is okay to owe people because God called you to this trip? I feel it is a selfish desire that called you to this. As a small business owner it is people like you that make it hard on us. Really shocked by this and if Gabe wants to send me another of his good Christian messages, then I am ready. But I implore you to think of those you owe before going halfway around the world because “you want to”

    1. mtaviano Post author

      Hi again, Gina. We know how you feel about our Cambodia trips. Not sure what you mean about the people we owe though. If you’re talking about our doctor/hospital bills, we’ve slowly been chipping away at the debt and have every intention of paying it all back in full. In fact, our entire tax return last year went to 2 hospitals. The same will happen this year. Thanks for your concern.

  9. Sharon

    I think the actual “planning” is part of the fun of it all. Truly. I’m so glad to hear about this plan. I’ll be keeping my eye out for any items to buy on your blog from “The Dancing Elephants.” (I’m not on fb).

  10. valerie (in TX)

    WOW!!! So, so, so, so (did I say SO?) excited for you guys!!! Even if it’s unofficial, or up-in-the-air, or tentative, or whatever, it is so exciting to have a plan to work toward!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *