“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Hope. We heard this word used so many times today as we toured places significant to the people of Cambodia and the ministry of PCL (People for Care and Learning). Hope is powerful. If we have hope, we are motivated to live a life that is full, a life that is generous, a life that is joyful. If we lose hope, we lose strength and purpose, life is reduced to merely existing.

We started the day with breakfast and a FaceTime call to our kids!! Technology amazes me. I am so grateful that even from the other side of the planet, I can see my kids, talk to them and share some of what we are experiencing.

First stop, Angdong Village and PCL’s Build a City project. This is an area where thousands of impoverished people were displaced to several years ago. Forced to move from an area near the waterfront because the land was wanted to build 5 star resorts, these people were taken to the middle of nowhere. PCL has been working for several years to help build housing, put in drainage systems and pave roadways. They also built a medical clinic so the people could have access to healthcare, a market area to provide jobs as well as make food available, and buildings that are now housing schools in which the children are being taught English as part of their education. They tell us that in Cambodia, learning to speak English is in essence, a ticket out of poverty, in essence a “future and a hope”.

Next stop, PMI (People For Care and Learning Management Institute) This is PCL’s school for teaching english to young adults. It was beautiful to hear testimonies of PMI employees who began as students at the school. The school offers a two year program, which, when completed, the students achieve an Associates Degree and are well prepared to move on to University level. Several students shared testimony that when they took the exams for entrance to Universities, they excelled in the testing because of the quality standard of education they had received at PMI. They also gave testimony of coming to know Jesus through their time with the staff and family of PMI!

While we were there the Medical missions team was operating a clinic on the bottom floor. They saw 300 patients today! Wow!

Third stop, S-21. If you do not know the history of Khmer Rouge, I encourage you to look it up. This atrocity is part of the fabric of the people here. Isaac told us that there is not one family in this country that was not touched by the evils that were perpetrated. When you walk through the cells in which men, women and children were not only held captive, but tortured, the sense of defeat is almost overwhelming. Seeing this place unpacks many layers of who the precious people of this nation are.

Last stop of the day, House of Hope children’s home. When we walked out from seeing the rooms of the kids, and the hope in their eyes one thought permeated our minds: That’s what true religion looks like.

My thoughts today, so many times, came back to the amazing idea that the Christmas trees we sold, brought a sense of hope to our homes during the holidays. And though we took them down them out weeks ago, they are still providing hope for orphaned children and for others in the nation of Cambodia. Buy A Tree. Change A Life.