July 2, 2016
In a perfect antidote to our morning spent in darkness, last night we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Asia’s Hope Prek Eng 2 home. The kids had taken time during the day to decorate the home, and we were greeted by a photo collage in the shape of a giant “10” surrounded by post-it notes, each of which bore a name – including the names of all the children living in the home and of every person who has visited as part of a Central Vineyard team throughout the past ten years, including ours. Beneath the photos was a touching declaration that we are all one family – a reminder of how our lives are intertwined, forever woven together in love though we live on opposite sides of the globe.
Last night, it was evident that the family-style orphan care model at Asia’s Hope truly works. These were not lost, forgotten or neglected orphan children living in an institution. These were brothers and sisters, sharing and reminiscing about their childhoods spent growing up together. One feature of the night was a slideshow of photos from the past ten years. The first photos were those taken the day these kids moved into their home on July 1, 2006. As each photo flashed on the screen in a reminder of what was then, the child pictured stood up in a vivid display of what is now. The tiny, sometimes malnourished, often sad and shy looking children in the photos had been transformed into vibrant, joyful, intelligent and loving teenagers and young adults.
But perhaps the best part of the slideshow was watching their faces as each new photo was displayed. Their easy camaraderie and genuine fondness for one another were readily apparent, their laughter was contagious, and their joy was heartwarming. It was incredible to see them relive shared memories – the type of memories that come only from long-term care in a stable and loving home environment.
The kids treated us to a traditional Khmer dance performance, mesmerizing us with their beauty and grace. Narun, the house dad, and some of the older kids shared a few words and invited us to do the same. We feasted on an amazing home cooked Cambodian meal and enjoyed treats of cake, ice cream and Coca-cola. For the rest of the evening, we had a dance party, filling the home with music, laughter and exuberant joy.
My friends who have previously visited Asia’s Hope homes in Cambodia tried to explain to me what it was like. I fell in love with this place and with these children through their experiences. So I thought I knew what to expect. But, as Jeremy often says, no matter how much you hear about it, you simply cannot fully grasp what it feels like to be here without experiencing it yourself. It has been everything I thought it would be… but somehow more. More joyful. More loving. More hopeful. I have to agree with Jeremy’s assessment that this place is a little piece of heaven on earth. There is a light here that has, over the past couple of years, restored my faith in both humanity and in God. How wonderful it was to bask in that light as this important milestone in the lives of these children was celebrated.
Happy Birthday, PE2!