Note: This experience happened awhile back, before both the Night of the Epi-Pen and also the possible attempted break-in. But because what happened in this story is significant to my life and ministry in Cambodia, I’m still going to share it, even if it’s a little late.
I love my neighbors. Yes, the ones that might move. (Insert frowny face here.) I cherish a special affection for two ladies in particular. They always welcome me to sit down and talk with them while they cook. My communication with them is rather stop-and-start, but they never seem impatient with me.
A couple weeks ago, as my kids were playing outside, I walked up to these two ladies and made small talk. Small talk about babies. My friend just had twins; I asked about the word for twin. Small talk about pregnancy. The neighbor is pregnant; I shared stories from my pregnancies. Small talk about cooking. They asked about mine; I told them it’s not great. Small talk about the weather, about wet season and dry season. About how different it is from America, that for six months, it almost never rains, and then during the next six months, barely a day goes by that it doesn’t rain.
I make small talk because studying 2 hours a day for 6 months just cannot produce a fluent speaker. That amount of study enables me to navigate life in this city . . . and to make small talk.
They offered me vegetable soup; it smelled wonderful. I sat down to eat it with them; it tasted as good as it smelled. While we were eating together, one of the ladies asked me to tell her about myself. Jonathan had told her I was a scientist, and she wanted to know about my education. So I started to tell her.
I told her I liked studying math when I was younger. I liked studying science when I was younger. Then I decided to go to university to study more math and science.
I realized, though, as I was telling my education story, that it’s not just an education story. It’s a testimony. A testimony to the Creator’s work, and to my love for that Creator.
I still remember Mr. Fox’s 9th grade geometry class, where I first learned about right angle trigonometry and was struck with the realization that God invented those mesmerizing SOH CAH TOA relationships. I used to talk about how I really “found God” in Scientific American magazine. The universe God created, from the tiniest quark to the largest galactic supercluster, and every element of my beloved Periodic Table in between, amazes me. God amazes me.
I wanted to tell her that.
But I couldn’t.
The closest I could get was, “The God that is above everything, the God that created everything, I am amazed by the stuff He made. So I like to study it.”
I once heard another missionary mom say she was on the “20 year plan” to learning Khmer. I liked that phrase so much that I’ve incorporated in into my own personal vernacular. Being on the 20-year plan means I plan to study Khmer, summer after homeschool summer, until I’m no longer homeschooling my children. I thought I would just review my first 6 months of study and practice basic conversation this summer. I didn’t think I’d get to spiritual conversations until, oh, about year 8 or so. I certainly didn’t expect it to happen in year 2.
But my neighbors taught me something that night. Something important. They taught me that when people ask me, the foreigner, “What do you do? Why are you here?” I have this amazing opportunity to inject my testimony, my faith in God, into their lives.
Even if I am on the 20 year plan.
So I have a new goal for my summer study: I can learn how to say my testimony. I can memorize my story. And I can plant tiny seeds of faith while answering the most basic of questions: What on earth are you doing in Cambodia?
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15