Latest News from Joni and We Love Kids
Back to Cambodia at Last!
My recent trip to Cambodia went incredibly well, thanks to the prayers of many of you! My main concern was getting the proper Co-vid tests, which had to be done within about 12 hours of leaving the country so that the results are still considered valid upon arrival. There is only a 72 hour window! When I attempted to go in January, I was actually turned back at the ticket counter due to a snowstorm that blanketed Kansas City. My flight was delayed for two days, and the test expired. Testing was required both going and coming home, but thank goodness, all went well, and I was able to both enter Cambodia and return with no difficulties, though there was lots of delays in many airports. Fortunately, the Stieng areas was not impacted, either by controls or by many people contacting Co-vid. None of the Christians in our churches got Co-vid!
The most wonderful part of the 2 months was that I was able to connect with the Anglican-led work on the ground in Cambodia. Two Cambodian pastors on staff also quickly jumped in to help out in the Stieng area. Another missionary with Anglican Frontier Missions working on-site was a wonderful help in many capacities, not the least of which was giving me a place to stay while I was in Phnom Penh. She is also volunteering to offer consultation for our high school students. The Cambodian pastors came out to Stieng area and we travelled with them to many of the six Stieng church plants to build friendships. The Cambodian children’s pastor was wonderful in helping bring the kids together, teaching new material, and giving each church a simple literacy program, which the church planters have already started to implement in their Sunday schools. I am both delighted and excited to see more pastoral help for the Stieng churches. It gives a new meaning to the verse, “bear one another’s burdens”! I have felt a great concern that the Stieng churches weren’t getting enough pastoral help in the Khmer (Cambodian) language. It was also wonderful to be a part of a baptism for 16 people, (see below) who have been faithful in their walk with the Lord. Many of them are teenagers.
Introducing our New WLK Coordinator…
My long-time WLK coordinator, Trang, has finally been re-united with her husband in San Diego, California, after waiting for 4 years! This is a huge blessing, since her husband, Tai, has been struggling with colon cancer, and has had several surgeries. Many thanks to our faithful prayer partners who continued to lift up Tai during his battle with cancer, without his wife, Trang at his side. Trang and Tai had only been together a total of 2 months during their 4 year marriage, due to immigration slow-down because of Co-vid. Even more exciting is the fact that her daughter (below) Du (“you”) has taken her mom’s place! She is doing great work for We Love Kids, especially working on placing our WLK Stieng young people in vo-tech training and getting placement in high schools outside their villages.
One of the biggest obstacles for WLK scholars is that public high schools in Cambodia are expensive, and usually far from rural villages. In most cases, rural students drop out and simply stay in the villages, following their parents and farm in small plots, while continuing the cycle of endemic poverty. Our goal is to help these WLK scholars to either finish high school, or get vo-tech training which will enable them to move into some kind of career such as mechanics, hairdressing, or hotel work. Du will be doing much to place our students in the proper programs. Not one Christian Stieng student has graduated from high school yet!
Rejoice with Us!
As some of you may have heard, I am getting married! My fiancee, Gary, asked me to marry him 3 days after I returned from Cambodia. On the next trip, Gary and I will go together! We met in late October, and sensed right away that it was God’s plan for us to unite our lives and serve Him together. Gary has not been in full-time missions, but after several months of prayer, he became convinced that the Lord was calling him, and we will work together, overseeing We Love Kids, as well as taking trips overseas once or twice a year to Vietnam and Cambodia. Psalm 16:11 says, "You have made known to me the path of life…” God has joined our paths as we journey through this life!