In January of 2017, I was asked to be a part of the SEA 17 team to travel to Southeast Asia on a medical mission. I gladly accepted and then began physical training and obtaining required vaccinations for this part of the world.
June 2nd, we departed Kansas City International airport. Thirty hours and 4,600 miles later we arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
On our first full day in Cambodia, we visited the memorial and museum about the atrocities committed against the Cambodian people by the Pol Pot regime. It was very sobering and saddening to read about how 9,000 men, women, and children were tortured, murdered, thrown into pits and covered with a poisonous chemical to cover the odor of death, as well as make sure there was no chance of survivors.
Our second day we went to a resettlement village outside of Phnom Penh to one of the villager’s home. This home was 15’ x 15’ and serves as a children’s school, church, and on this day a medical clinic, evangelistic center, and dining hall.
We kept most of the children busy with soccer and volleyball. Inside, adults and children were assessed and given medications. Health education was provided, patients were prayed over and all had the opportunity to hear the Good News.
On day 3, our mobile medical clinic traveled in heavy traffic to Prek Pnov, Cambodia to a fishing village. We began registration then took height, weight, BMI, Vital signs, and blood glucose levels. Their final stop was at the pharmacy table where over 50 medications were dispensed by 3 people counting and packaging the medicines.
I’ve never been so nervous. I was the one packaging the medicines and providing the usage information in a foreign language!
On the fourth day, we headed to Trauey Slah in Sang Cambodia to visit the Por Leu Primary School. We were greeted by 90 very energetic children, but they were also very respectful. After setting up the clinic, we took height and weight measurements, calculated BMI and then performed oral exams. Children waiting to be seen were with our translators outside the school singing songs that taught them about good oral hygiene.
At the end of this day, we headed for Pochentong Airport for our departure flight to Seam Reap, Cambodia.
Day 5 was considered “tourist day” and our destination was Ankor Wat, the largest religious structure in the World. At the main temple, we hired a tourist guide named Sun and he showed us around and explained some of the history of the main temple and other structures.
After lunch, we visited 2 more temples on the Ankor Wat complex. Both locations were much more untouched by renovation, and we really felt like Jungle explorers happening upon ancient ruins. We saw wild monkeys and actually came within 15’ of them at one point.
At the end of the day we flew back to Phnom Penh and prepared for our departure for Hanoi Vietnam.
On day 6 we toured the Russian market, ate at a restaurant called the Jars of Clay, and visited a shop that supported the White Lotus Project, which helps local women get out of the sex trade and provides housing and education.
At the end of the day we made our way to the Phnom Penh airport and flew out to Hanoi Vietnam.
On day 7 we awoke in Hanoi and used the day to strategically pack and head up in the Northern Mountains along the China border for three days of trekking.
On day 8 we traveled 5 hours by transport van into the Northern mountains and stayed in a Homestay in the Hmong village. We slept under mosquito nets and ate from their kitchen. Again, we had a small medical clinic and then toured through the beautiful rice fields.
On day 9 we left the Hmong village and headed for the Tay Homestay in the Tay and Nung Village. We walked around the village and visited with the people and shopped in their markets. We made final preparations for our mountain trek to a remote tribe in the mountains tomorrow.
On day 10 we took a van to the base of the mountains to a trail head that would lead us to the tribe that we have been supporting for years. We started off on a major hike, and after hours of going straight up hill and we arrived at the village leaders home. With our translators, we began catching up on how his family and other families are doing. We shared some gifts of medicines, a soccer ball and some other assorted items for his family.
On day 11 we went from the mountains to main street! This was a travel day. We left the mountains of tribal groups and arrived in the vibrant Asian city of Hanoi.
Day 12 & 13
On day 12 & 13 we toured through Hanoi and visited many shops. We also toured through the Hanoi Hilton where POWs were held back in the Vietnam War. These days were days of reflections, observations, and of looking forward.
On day 14 we traveled to the airport and began the thirty hour journey home. It felt like we must have done some time traveling. We left and returned on the same day… but 30 hours had gone by!
In closing, I will say that I was thankful to be home. I’m humbled by how we live in the West compared to the poverty I saw in the Eastern part of the world. We must be thankful every day in America for what we have. Most people will never truly get this perspective unless they visit a third world country to see for themselves. If you are presented the opportunity to go on a mission trip, I strongly encourage you to go. It’s a life changing experience!