A Goofy Grin

Annalisa's April 2013 Update

After a busy Saturday afternoon of lesson planning at school, I was relieved to hear that the rain had stopped and headed toward home on my trusty Mary Poppins style bicycle. What a pleasant surprise to look up and see a large and vivid rainbow gracing the sky – the spectrum of colors crystal-clear. I could barely bicycle straight as I grinned goofily, staring at the sky and admiring the rainbow. At one point I stopped to take one of my typical badly composed photos. (Those of you who know me well will be impressed that I even had my camera and made an attempt…haha. I usually leave the picture taking up to people who have an eye for that kind of thing!) I got some really funny looks from tuk tuk and motorbike drivers passing by… think they wondered if my bicycle was broken. The strangest thing was that no one seemed to notice the breathtaking rainbow. Everyone was just driving on. I wished I knew how to say, “Hey, look!” in Khmer. I thought about at least saying, “Beautiful!’’ since that is one of the maybe 10 words I know so far. For some reason in that moment, it seemed very important to share the beauty of the rainbow with my neighbors. But they didn’t notice. In fact, they seemed to notice my goofy grin far more than they noticed what I was grinning at. I wanted to shout, “Don’t look at the grinning white girl! Look at the rainbow!’’

As I continued to pedal home, I got to thinking. This is quite a bit like how we feel as believers in a dark world. We have seen something most beautiful – we behold the gospel and the goodness and beauty of God – and we want to share it. We want others to notice it, but they won’t even look. They’re just going right by and ignoring what is so beautiful to us. It’s tragic! And maybe they can’t even see it. Here in Cambodia, I don’t have the words to share the gospel message with my neighbors. I can’t even say, “Hey, look!’’ Perhaps the only thing my neighbors can notice is my goofy grin. And perhaps that’s the only thing your neighbors and coworkers are prepared to notice – your ‘’goofy grin’’ as you see the beauty of God and are transformed by Him.

It has been a while since I’ve written. I feel like things are much the same… just carrying on with very full days at school. I really enjoy my students, and I’m glad to see them doing a little better relationally. I am thankful to parents for helping lead some small group times as well as our use of the Young Peacemakers curriculum we have engaged in during our class's Bible studies. I pray God will continue to use this in their lives to give them better tools for navigating relationship issues. It’s crazy to think that we have less than 15 school days left! Energetic as they are, I’m really going to miss this group of students!

One blessing this semester came in the form of an eventful holiday; since Thailand and Cambodia share a holiday in April, a few of my friends from when I worked in Thailand were able to come and spend a week with me. We visited Siem Reap, home of the famous Angkor Wat, and spent some time seeing historical sites in Phnom Penh as well. It was lovely to reconnect with those ladies and explore Cambodia a little more.

Please pray that:

· I would show God’s love and patience with my students as we all experience end-of-the-year weariness.

· Some remaining details will be figured out about living situations and roommates for next year. I’m really glad it looks like I’ll get to keep many of the same roommates I have now!

· I will have wisdom to make good decisions about what activities and involvements to add for next year – I would love to take Khmer language lessons, help out in more ways around school, and get more involved outside of the four walls of my classroom, but I’m not sure what that looks like at this point.

I’m thankful that:

· Though I was sick with a really long-lasting fever and took a while to recover in March, it turned out to be nothing serious.

· I’ll be able to visit my family in Ohio this summer. Being with them is always refreshing.

Thank you for your friendship and prayers. I'd love to know more about what you're up to these days and how I can be praying for you.


Annalisa Benner

teaching fifth grade at Logos International School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Karla asks, "Where's the water?!" Angkor Wat is not at its most pictureque this time of year.