Update from Chelsea

Christmas 2012

A light has dawned

It's my first Christmas in the US in four years, and I'm loving the pine, the snow dustings, the sugar cookies...and most importantly, being with my family! It's everything I've been nostalgic for the last few years.

Christmas in Cambodia is so different. A few businesses' windows have Christmas tree outlines, and a few private schools sing "Jingle Bells" on the 25th, but for most Cambodians, Christmas is just an ordinary day. Only the Christian 2% celebrate Christmas, and they don't have traditional decorations or foods since most became Christian in the last 20 years. Instead, many Khmer churches host an outreach for their communities, with free food, a Nativity play, and a Gospel presentation.

It reminds me of the first Christmas. The night Jesus was born seemed like just another night. Lights didn't brighten rooftops - there was only one star lighting the darkness, and most people missed it. You couldn't hear carols in the grocery store - only in a lonely field. It was up to the young, uneducated shepherds to run and tell everyone what had just amazed their eyes. Like Bethlehem's residents, most Cambodians are oblivious to the earth-shattering news that hope has come. Like in Bethlehem, Cambodia's pervasive darkness keeps the spotlight on Jesus.

"On those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Isaiah 9:2)

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What do I do when I'm not teaching?

Read on for some snapshots of my "after-school activities"...
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High School Service Trips

Thanks for praying for the 2-day service trips in late November! All eight trips went very well. My team and I were three hours away in Sre Ambil village, where one team member's relatives live. We did some outdoor labor, but a definite highlight was teaching hygiene and art at an elementary school (bottom right). Sophomore Timothy (bottom right, white shirt and gray shorts) spent hours on the computer creating five posters explaining key principles like "wear shoes," "wash your hands" (bottom left), and "use an outhouse." (Outhouses are a new thing in Sre Ambil and haven't quite caught on yet.) The team had fun acting out what to do and what not to do! A watermelon farmer, the village chief, and a Christian NGO worker met with us and gave us glimpses of the challenges and joys surrounding this village. For example, it's hoping for its first high school graduate next year. One Cambodian girl in my group was truly moved by what she saw, and had many questions for our hosts. In fact, students on every trip were inspired and made meaningful contacts with local residents. Please pray that these brief trips yield long-term positive impacts on students and on the communities we visited. I'm hoping we'll return to several of the sites in the spring.