nyc or (cbus or) bust!

Hello, friends. Fun story ahead. WITH NO CLIFF-HANGER. (pinky promise with cherries on top!)

Speaking of cliff-hangers, I mentioned in Part 4 of our BIG NEWS series that we had big hopes for making a trip back to the U.S. next summer (2016) but didn’t exactly have money for plane tickets.


Guess what.

(First, let me back up.)

airplaneIn 2011, our family of five had to save up $ for a loooong time to buy plane tickets to Cambodia and back, because they cost $8025 altogether (average of $1605–and I think 2 of our girls got a “kid” price).

We came this time (January 2015) on one-way tickets that cost $4300 (average: $860), and God provided those in a pretty crazy-amazing way.

Which brings us to now.

I’ve been looking up tickets for next May, hoping to find some for under $1600. Like waaaay under, if possible. Our monthly “salary” at the moment is $1500 which we supplement with writing/editing/photography and occasional personal one-time gifts from friends. No way to save up for plane tickets. We don’t even have health insurance.

The beautiful news about our finances is that we have ZERO debt. And, even though we don’t buy a lot of extras, we have enough money for everything we NEED. Except plane tickets.

I’ve been praying for quite a few months about it (kind of ever since we moved here actually). And recently, I asked God if we should ask people to help.

I sensed him saying, “wait.”

Then. I was online and found round-trip tickets to Columbus and back for $1200. Just $6000 total. GREAT DEAL. One small problem. It was $6000 more than we had. I asked God if we should ask people to help (because what if the price goes up??).

I sensed him saying, “wait.”


After hearing stories from friends who live in places that are much closer to Cambodia (like California) tell me about their plane tickets being so much cheaper than ours, I had a thought.

Is there some city in the U.S. we could fly directly to from Asia, saving us that extra flight? Then we could just land there and drive to Ohio and save money? (preferably not California, though–we’ve made that 33-hour drive, and I’d rather not do it while jet-lagged–or EVER)

And then I hit the jackpot.

Round-trip tickets from Cambodia to JFK in NYC?

$800. Times 5? $4000.

WHAT IF… we fly into JFK and rent a van and drive the 9 hours to Columbus?? FOR A SAVINGS OF $2000 (minus van rental).

So what if it’s an airline (China Eastern) I’ve heard not-so-happy things about? So what if we’d have a 16-hour layover (gulp) in the Shanghai airport?

TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS. (we can do sooooo much with that here)

I decided to talk to our friends, Pam and Britt, to see how they felt about a little road trip to NYC to pick us up. Necessary? No. We remember how to drive (probably). But our fam took a little last-minute road trip to NYC a year ago October (Pam & Britt flew) to celebrate my birthday and watch Pam KICK BUTT in the NYC Marathon. I LOVE THINGS THAT COME FULL CIRCLE (even if I have to stretch the definition of full circle).

I put a little bug in their ear (via text message), and they were all over it. Because they are AWESOME.

“Okay, God, time to ask for some money, right?”

Nope. Wait.

Just kept praying.

And then, out of the blue, WHAM, God provided HALF of what we needed. WHAT?!?!?!?

So. We need $2000. A lot, yes, BUT SO MUCH LESS THAN $6000. Or $8000. Or 20 million.

We know that giving toward our plane tickets isn’t for everyone. But we’re pretty confident that God knows just who he’d like to bring on board (pun!) to fly us to the States.

Here’s why we’re going:

1.) To spend quality time with friends and family we love and miss (and meet new babies).

2.) To rest (I don’t know how much of this will actually happen).

3.) To share the vision of the new Hard Places Community center in Siem Reap that our family has been put in charge of getting off the ground. And to raise $ for setting up/running the center (and for our personal expenses).

4.) To bring back suitcases STUFFED with quality games, books, toys, art supplies, musical instruments, etc. for the center.

From here on out, we’ll most likely come back every other summer. 2018. 2020. 2022. (Don’t even get me started on how old our children will be when those years come.)

You can make a tax-deductible donation of any size to IOM, our missions organization. And, as soon as we get enough money, we can request an advance and order the tickets!

We’re also looking for about $1000 more in monthly support if God lays it on your heart to give on a regular basis.


Okay, here’s the scoop, friends. Everything you’ve read so far (right up to the word “basis”) was written on the morning of Thursday, November 19. And, ironically, as I wrote, I STILL wasn’t feeling complete peace about posting it.

Fast forward almost 24 hours. Gabe is awake at 5:00am (four hours ago), couldn’t go back to sleep, and was checking his phone. He woke me up. Someone gave us $1000.

What in the what what what what what?!?

So, now. Our need: $1000. That’s it. GLORY HALLELUJAH.

But my dilemma. Keep praying and see what happens with the rest? Or publish this post and ask people to get involved?

I tell the older two girls the amazing news this morning. They are very happy. Until I start talking about this whole flying-into-NYC-and-road-tripping thing. They sigh and moan and say how hard that will be. 16 hours in an airport in China!! Plus 18 hours in the air!! Plus 9 hours on the road!! WE WILL BE MISERABLE.

And what about the joy & blessing of having people welcome us at the Columbus airport??, they say. And send us off again at the end?? They feel ROBBED.

I’m completely taken aback. What on earth? I remind them of the TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS. These are the same children who balk when I want to eat at a noodle place for $3.50/plate because the little vendor on the corner sells noodles for 4500 Riel ($1.12). “THAT’S OVER TWO DOLLARS’ DIFFERENCE, MOM.”

And they can’t sit in airports and ride in vans for 24 little hours for TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS?? (Okay, so I realize, we’d be SAVING $2000, not GETTING it. Minor details.)

So. I prayed for wisdom this morning, talked to Gabe, and as of right this minute, have decided to let this simmer a couple more days (we’re going away this weekend to a dear friend’s engagement ceremony out in the province), and possibly post it on Sunday morning.

I promised no cliff-hanger (because it was settled in my mind that we were doing NYC and asking for help with $2000–that has changed–maybe).

(I just looked up tickets from Siem Reap to Columbus and found some for $1081 each, $5405 total. Our $2000 in savings just went down to $1405. Maybe it will keep falling.)

Maybe by the time I post, this will have a beautiful ending that I can report with joy. Or maybe I will end it by asking you for your prayers and brilliant advice. Who knows??

Oooh!! This is like a mini-cliff-hanger! For ME! A taste of my own medicine!

Sunday morning in Cambodia, Saturday night in America Update:

I just polled the girls individually to hear their thoughts (after simmering) about flying into NYC vs. flying into Cbus. They have each softened to the idea of NYC and “know it’s a good idea not to spend as much money” but each of them feels like it will be “really hard” and “so much less peaceful” to go the NYC route. One girl was close to tears. One said, “Maybe it will just be easier if we don’t go to America at all.”


So, here’s where I’m leaving it:

Our default is NYC. We need $1000 to make that happen. If ticket prices to Cbus should go down OR enough $ is donated to make it make sense OR some other option (that we haven’t even thought of) comes to mind (yours or ours), we will consider flying into Columbus.

What we would love from you:



Financial help if God prompts you.

And we still need TWENTY-ONE KIDDOS sponsored for a day of Christmas fun. Would LOVE to knock that out before the plane tickets. (EDIT: ALL 300 KIDDOS SPONSORED!! THANK YOU!!!!!!)

We love you, friends. Thanks for letting us be real, vulnerable, and not really very perfect. You’re the BEST.

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