And back again...

When I got back from Cambodia last summer, I wrote the post “Once in a Lifetime?” as I reflected on my experience. At the time, I knew I wanted to get more deeply involved in Asia’s Hope. The issue of global orphan care, and specifically the work of Asia’s Hope, has burrowed its way into the depths of my heart, taken up residence there, and created a lasting sense of purpose unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I quite honestly still don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to do, but if ever I’ve felt a calling, this is it. Every child deserves a chance, and it’s incredible to see the transformation that occurs in these young lives as they grow up in stable, loving homes, rescued from the abandonment, neglect and abuse that defined their early years.

I knew that last summer was not a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, as so many were quick to label it. These kids are a permanent part of my life now, and I was certain I would visit my family on the other side of the world again someday. But I never could have dreamed how soon that someday would arrive. I’m amazed to be where I am – cruising 30,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, headed back to Cambodia after just six months – and I am incredibly grateful to those who have made this possible.

On the surface, this trip is much like the last one, but it will no doubt offer an entirely different experience, and I can’t wait to see what is in store. I’ve actively tried to set aside any preconceived notions I have about how the next two weeks will unfold. Instead, I am trying to go into this with a completely open mind – a blank page waiting to be filled with new notes and inspirations. I don’t know yet what I am meant to see, hear and learn this time, and I don’t want to miss it by trying to relive last summer’s journey.

The other members of my group – five adults and three children – are all visiting for the first time, and I look forward to watching their reactions as they experience what I hope will be some measure of the joy I discovered on my first visit. While they’ve heard and read all about Asia’s Hope, I know from my own experience that you can’t truly understand what it’s like until you visit firsthand. I’m especially excited to see this through the eyes of the children, as they learn to interact and form relationships with new brothers and sisters from a different culture, their eyes, and hopefully their hearts, opened to a new world outside of our U.S. borders.

I’m also eager to learn more about my fellow travelers and how they all came to be a part of this group. When like-minded people share an experience like this – getting outside of their comfort zones, traveling to unknown parts of the world, expanding their horizons, and opening their hearts to care for others – it seems inevitable that deep bonds will form. I deeply treasure the friendships that grew out of my last trip, and I hope to add to those this time.

Most of all, though, I’m looking forward to seeing the kids. The heart of what makes the Asia’s Hope model so effective is the ability to form genuine, long-term relationships between the children and their supporters. This is more than just another great cause. Here, there is an opportunity to make it personal. The kids in the home I’m visiting have been living together as a family for just over one year, so it’s like we’re all starting together at the beginning of this, and I’m so grateful I get to be some small part of their story.

I recently had coffee with a long-time Asia’s Hope supporter who, years ago, was one of the first visitors to the home his church supports. When he left after that first visit with the newly-rescued kids, he told them he’d be back to see them again. But he got the feeling that some of them didn’t believe him. And really, why should they have? All they had known in their young lives was neglect and abandonment, so the idea of a permanent family of people who truly cared must have been incomprehensible to some of them. But over the next several years, as he returned time and time again, their relationships have grown and blossomed. I hadn’t thought about it, but his story showed me another difference between this trip and my last – instead of meeting these kids for the first time, I also now have a chance to show them that when I said I’d be back to visit them again, I meant it.

It's been so fun to watch the interactive in-flight map as this plane carries us to the other side of the world. I'll see you soon, Cambodia.