the tavianos are going to school!! (gulp)

The unschooler in me is twitching and cringing just the littlest bit. And the perfectionist in me is a little bit scared of doing something I may not be good at. But mostly what I feel about starting school three weeks from tomorrow?


On February 13, Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and the Three Little Bears are heading off to LANGUAGE SCHOOL. Five days a week, 3.5 hours a day, for 5 weeks.

Times 8.

That’s a lot of school.

Where? Why? How? Let me give you the run-down.

Where? It’s a new school geared toward missionaries who want to learn Khmer and learn it well. It’s called G2K (Gateway to Khmer). It’s a quick tuk-tuk ride from our house. It’s a 1-year program (8 modules of 5 weeks each spread out over 52 weeks because of breaks & holidays) with the option of taking electives a second year.

We’ll learn to speak Khmer in Modules 1 & 2 and add in reading/writing (eek) while still learning to speak in Modules 3-8.

Why? Honestly? We can get by in this country without learning the language of its people. We can find what we want using English and hand motions and pointing to maps on our phone. There’s always someone around who knows both languages and can translate for us. We can buy groceries and rent apartments and get internet and all that.

But what we can’t do without learning the language?

Is connect with the people heart-to-heart.

We’ve long had a sense that we are supposed to learn Khmer, learn it quickly (relatively-speaking), and learn it well. We each have a deep, deep desire to be able to connect with the people in their native tongue. We don’t want to stick out like sore thumbs; we don’t want stuff handed to us; we don’t want barriers between us and the people here.

We want to be one of them.

We know we can’t ever reeeeally be one of them, but we know that learning the language is HUGE.

When we got here, we had no idea how we’d go about this. Most of our friends have tutors who come to their house 1-2 times/week. We felt like that wasn’t enough for us. And everyone we met? Told us the same thing. “If I had it to do all over again, I’d learn the language first.”

God hasn’t made our exact mission clear yet, so we don’t have to dive headfirst into a specific ministry. We have the luxury of time. Time to get a firm grasp of the language.

We were in Psar Toul Tom Poung (the Russian Market) our first week in Cambodia, and our friend Britt struck up a conversation with a sweet older couple. They were here visiting their daughter who had started a new language school for missionaries called G2K.

Later that evening (or the next day?), we were sitting in a restaurant and saw a card for G2K on the counter. I sent them a fb message asking for more information. The next day, we ran into the director (and her parents) at a restaurant and talked to them for a bit.

We took all of this as a sign from God.

How? We started e-mailing back and forth and found out quickly that G2K isn’t designed for kiddos (yet). Right now they’re focusing on adults with a plan to start teaching kids later this year or next. We had a face-to-face meeting with the director (I blogged the details here) and then waited to hear back from her on the board’s decision.

And yesterday I got an email. WE’RE IN!!

They’ve accepted me, Gabe, Livi, and Ava as students, and Nina is allowed to audit the class (I love that my 9yo is auditing a class). She gets all the benefits of the instruction and homework but DOESN’T HAVE TO PAY. (Thank you, Jesus!!)

And they worked out a discount plan for the rest of us. Gabe pays full price ($450/module), and we each pay on a decreasing scale.

The bottom line: $1500 every five weeks. $12,000 for the year.

At first glance, that figure FREAKS ME OUT. That is a lot lot lot of money. We JUST paid off Gabe’s college bill. And all we’ve ever done for our children is FREE public school and FREE home/unschooling.

But God is giving me peace. And reminding me that this is an investment in people’s hearts, lives, and souls. We’ll be able to talk to our next-door neighbors. We’ll be able to talk to our landlord & lady. We’ll be able to talk to the sweet kiddos at the Boys & Girls Centers. We’ll be able to talk to people at the markets. We’ll be able to talk to our tuk-tuk drivers. We’ll be able to talk to the people God leads us to do ministry with.

About their day. About life. About why we’re in Cambodia. About Jesus.

We opted out of expensive missionary training ($12,000+ for about 3-4 weeks) before we came to Cambodia because we sensed God saying, “Just GO.” (and we didn’t have that kind of $ anyway)

And now we feel him saying GO AHEAD.

But we can’t do this on our own.

Here’s Where We Ask You For Help:

We’re asking God to specifically lay our language learning adventure on some people’s hearts (maybe yours?). We’ll need to pay for each module upfront, so $1500 at a time. We need the first $1500 next week.

You could give $5, $50, $250, or $17.84. Whatever God prompts you to give. And you can give directly to our PayPal account with no fee. (We have a PayPal card that we can use at the ATM here, and there is a small fee for that. You put $ in, we take it out, and we pay our tuition in cash.)

Just go to, click “send $ to family or friends,” and use our PayPal email: (you don’t even need a PayPal account–you can use a credit card) In the memo, write “G2K” or “school” or “Khmer learning” or “whatever the heck you want” so we can designate the $ for that. I will post updates here to let you know how much we have/need.

There is also the option of giving through our missions agency, IOM, to our general support. We haven’t received any of that money yet, but we’ll be setting up a small salary through them soon (that will get bigger as we gain more supporters). Right now we’re living off of 1.) the $ we brought with us (pretty much gone now), 2.) gifts from people, and 3.) money Gabe is earning by designing websites in the afternoons in cafes with free wi-fi (as of today, we have internet here at home!).

Donations through IOM are tax-deductible for you (they take out 8%), and you can find giving details here.

So, there you go. We’re going back to school. We’re gonna learn some (a lot of) Khmer. We need your help.

And we are sooooooo grateful to God (and YOU!) for this amazing opportunity. Pray for us?? We’ve heard this is pretty intense.

Bring it.

(Questions? Concerns? Ask away!!)

UPDATE: (9:19pm Friday, Cambodia Time/9:19am Friday EST) Oh, GOODNESS. Module #1 is PAID IN FULL. (with some left over for Module #2) Wow to the za. THANK YOU, JESUS!! Thank you, FRIENDS!!!

25 thoughts on “the tavianos are going to school!! (gulp)

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  5. Myriam

    wow – good for you. Have been reading about your trip but not posted. I will make a little donation and will do so again next month.
    Just curious – does Gabe have a website for his work? Wondering about setting up a website soon.
    God bless you brave soul.

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  7. Chris

    So cool that they opened it up for you all to go! The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps! Looks like this was his plan all along. Super excited to hear you speaking Khmer!

  8. valerie (in TX)

    I wish I could find the words to tell you how much I love reading about your everyday everyday-ness. 🙂 I love hearing about the markets and your apartment and pineapple drumsticks and $10 for five meals at a restaurant and new friends across the street and going to language school. Love. I’m living vicariously through you. 😉 (although in my head I’m living in a different country – not Cambodia). Thank you for sharing your lives with us! Much love.

  9. Sharon

    Yay for language school!

    “We want to be one of them.
    We know we can’t ever reeeeally be one of them, but we know that learning the language is HUGE.”

    My Sister-in-Law (born/raised in Taiwan, but now lives in the US) was telling me a story just last week about an American man who is a missionary in Taiwan and how he just so gets the culture etc. it is literally like he is Taiwanese. It’s just amazing.

    Anyways, just wanted to share that story and I hope it’s an encouragement to you. I’m confident God will be using you all mightily, and in fact, I’m sure he already is. All around the world, truly, when you think of those of us following your family’s journey.

  10. Jennifer

    awesome news! God allowed us to send something yesterday. Did it through IOM, so hope you get it soon! Praying for you!!

  11. Mallory

    Yay for you all! I agree about learning language first. That’s so great that you have the time and ability to focus on it at first. And that all five of you can go! That’s huge! I know we’re not learning the same language, but they do have similarities. Don’t freak out about writing, it’s fun! Personally, I find spelling much harder than reading. But no matter your learning style, He will equip you! Keep us posted!

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