Sunday, September 24, 2017

Breaking New Ground

Wayne Hester, ministry team intern, blogs from our office in Cambodia about the staff’s participation in the Angkor Wat International Half-Marathon and 10K.

Attempting new things is not always easy—especially when the new thing is running a half-marathon or a 10K. But the men and women in our Cambodia office who are competing in their first race with Team Samaritan’s Purse all have a lifetime of experiences learning new things.

The staff has had to learn and introduce new concepts and ideas throughout the nation while helping their country recover from over two decades of war, including the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Much of the basic infrastructure of Cambodia was destroyed and an entire generation of leaders and parents murdered during the conflict. While helping their country recover, the SP Cambodia staff has learned, taught, and implemented new concepts like livestock and agriculture production, child nutrition, well drilling, and household hygiene and sanitation in villages across the country.

First-generation Christians have had to become leaders in their churches, helping bring others to new life in Christ. After the Khmer Rouge genocide, only an estimated 700 Christians survived. Today in Cambodia, less than two percent of the population is Christian.

My wife Tricia and I recognized the need for exercise after we had been in Cambodia for a month, but we didn’t have many alternatives. It is hot and humid here, and after a full day of work you don’t feel like getting out in the muggy climate to work out. I should also mention that quality exercise facilities are not readily available where we live.

I was looking for options to stay healthy, but was not prepared for what God had in mind.

One day I read an inspiring story of an SP staff member in Liberia who encouraged the staff in her country to run a marathon with Team Samaritan’s Purse. I was touched by the story and told our Country Director Patrick Seger about it. The next day he asked if I would organize a run for the Cambodia staff.

I have ministered to people in many different ways and have spent much of my time developing leaders, but had never inspired anyone to run in a half-marathon (13.1 miles) or 10K (6.2 miles)—especially myself.

The last time I ran a long distance (2 miles was a long distance for me) was on a dirt-road course in high school. My idea of maintaining my health in Cambodia had not included getting up at 5:30 every morning to run before work. It appears God had other ideas.

I took on the challenge, and our staff is going to run in the Angkor Wat International Half-Marathon and 10K in Siem Reap on December 4. We are running for the people of Cambodia and hope to raise funds for 10 of our projects. Cambodia programs address child nutrition, education, safe migration (anti-trafficking), clean water access, sanitation and hygiene, agriculture, HIV/AIDS, healthy families and poverty alleviation.

My initial expectation was that 20 to 25 people would participate. Cambodians are amazing people who work extremely hard, but distance running is not a common sport here. But as I talked to the staff, several themes began to emerge.

The staff saw this as an opportunity not only to get healthy, but also to show their unity and love for one another and for Cambodia. It was seen as a chance to have fun together, to be a witness to the love of Jesus Christ for the nation, and to tell the world Cambodia’s story and raise funds through Team Samaritan’s Purse for all the projects we are involved in.

I was blown away by the amazing response. On registration day, 44 people from every SP field office in Cambodia signed up to run.

Chris Nhem, one of our “Water For Kids” staff members running in the race, grew up in Poipet near the border with Thailand. Chris is the oldest of four children and was the first to become a Christian in his family while he was in high school.

Chris shared why he is competing. “You can learn a lot about life from running. When it is painful and when you are tired of running, you can put life lessons like ‘never give up’ into practice by keeping on going. I am running this race to help Cambodians by raising money for our projects, and also to help improve Cambodians through sports. Sometimes I’m not good at running and I get tired, but God’s Word will spur me on to keep going.”

Another runner, Phka Im, was born in the same year the Khmer Rouge regime fell and became an orphan at the age of 9. In the orphanage, he received the message of hope in Christ. Phka now serves with Samaritan’s Purse as a member of the Ministry Team, sharing the love of Christ with children and families involved in our projects.

“I am running so I will have good health and so our SP staff can have fun and grow in unity,” he said.

Earlier this year, Patrick challenged us to go to new remote places where few others are going to help. Preah Vihear is a province with the highest poverty rate in the nation. The staff has rallied around this new project as we are starting a child nutrition and vegetable garden project there in 2012. Running the Angkor Wat Race will be a continuation of the challenge to pursue new opportunities to aid the hurting and advance the Kingdom of God.

Once again I am reminded that God will call us to do the unexpected so He can do more through us than we could ever imagine!

The team at Samaritan’s Purse Cambodia has the opportunity to bring both physical and spiritual healing to this country. We are so thankful and blessed that God is working through Samaritan’s Purse to bring healing and salvation to the people of Cambodia.

All of us at SP Cambodia appreciate your prayers and support as we run!

You can donate to the cause of Team SP in Cambodia here.