When our yellow bus pulled up to the Phnom Dey Methodist Church, it was immediately inundated with children. We’d been told to expect about 100 children for this, our final day of VBS in Kampong Spue province, but at least twice that number was waiting for us – eager to meet the Americans who had traveled all that distance to see them!
Needless to say we were initially overwhelmed, but then began to garner our resources, and re-think how best to reach the children. That we succeeded was due in no small part to our teenaged helpers, who have been with us for the past three days!
We first met Nov Kim Tha, Seang Mey Mey, Ny Lida and Borey Monita at breakfast Monday morning, and learned that they’d been recruited by their local pastors to work with our UMVIM team while we were doing VBS in the province. They told us that they’d been excused from three days of school to accompany us – and that they were happy to be working with children and teaching them about God.
“I’m really happy to be here doing this,” said Tha (16). A “new” Christian, she met God through a friend. “He is good for me,” she said. Although she’s only been in the church for a year, this is the fourth time she has helped with VBS and, not surprisingly, she hopes to become a teacher.
Mey (14) was excited when her pastor asked her to help with the younger children. “I wanted experience teaching and working with kids,” said this poised young lady, who hopes to teach Chinese.
The girls were a great help with the children – including some not much older than themselves! They kept them in orderly lines, helped them write their names on art projects, gave instructions for games that they happily joined in, and helped distribute everything from art supplies to snacks.
Monita (16) said she loved children and wanted to be an English teacher. This was her first time helping with a VBS, but she said she would enjoy doing it again. A Christian for the past three years, she was happy to say “yes” to her pastor’s request for her assistance.
Lida (14) was only one of the four girls whose parents are Christian, and who grew up in the church; the others all found God as children – mostly through friends. A talented artist, Lida’s ambition is to design clothes for a pop star.
When “off duty,” the girls helped with other tasks to keep the classes running smoothly. They helped Sophany, the vivacious young pastor assigned as our translator, run errands, assembled “gift packs” of noodles and cookies for all the VBS students (totaling well over 500 to date!) and carried supplies to and from the bus at the beginning and end of each day.
We all shared meals at the While Elephant restaurant (the only restaurant in Kapong Spue that was deemed “appropriate” for us!) and we all slept at the Kapong Spue Hotel, where we are certain that the girls giggled far into the night, reverting from responsible young ladies to true teenagers!
We truly thanked God for the presence of these young women – not only for the very real help they provided as we performed the work that we were sent to do, but also because it is through them – and others like them – that the younger people in Cambodia are turning to the church and finding the love of God that we already know.