“When are you going to come back home?” That’s the question Moria asked me this morning, as I we rode to the airport together, and after a week of trying to hold it together, my eyes split open, and filled with tears. I’m going home today. That’s what my calendar says. But I’m also leaving home. Then in three weeks I have to leave home in Japan to go home to Wheaton. And four months later I’ll be moving on to a new home again. Leaving a place is never easy for me. I’m so excited to see my family and community, but I will miss Cambodia.
There are some things I won’t miss: Like the drunk karaoke bar neighbors, or mud flicking up from my bicycle, or the cars cutting me off on the road, or guys making kissy faces at me as I bike by. I won’t miss the cats on the roof, spiders on the toilet, rats on my dresser, or dogs snapping at my heels. I won’t miss the sour bony fish soup or the smell of durian mixed with urine on the streets. I won’t miss the headache from banging my head on the doorframe, or the perpetual itchiness. But I'm thankful for the bad with the good here.
I will miss family Bible study time, wrestling around with Yosue and Moria, and hearing Mala’s voice project across the neighborhood when she’s trying to get Moria to wash up. I’ll miss the crazy and kind-hearted World Relief staff, who love to goof off and who worship with such passion. I’ll miss fun times in the office with Nhaca and Cris. I’ll miss hanging out with Sineath, Chanthea, Seyha, and Kevin. I will miss the driver, Uncle Sovan, and his weird jokes that nobody gets. I’ll miss biking around the beautiful Phnom Penh or riding on a moto as the city whizzes past me. I’ll miss the neighborhood kids that always greet me, chase my bicycle, and play games with me when I come home from work, little Hang, who usually forgets his pants, but never forgets his smile. I’ll miss Khmer food and Khmer coffee and Laikin’s coffee stand. I will miss Bible study and all of the wonderful people in that group, and the fun fellowship we’ve had together. I’ll miss the Riverside and the church, and my home. I’ll miss speaking Khmer and worshipping with Khmer people. I’ll miss warmth, sunshine, amazing fruit, and the sound of pounding rain on a tin roof. I’ll miss hanging out with my family and my co-workers and my grandparents, and friends.
I hate to leave, but I love to move on to the next adventure. You know all about it—the plight of an international or “third-culture” kid. I like to call myself a Kanja: A warrior between lands--but right now I feel like the back bridge between cultures has torn an ab muscle or two. I planted a piece of my heart in the soil under the mango tree at home. I hope I can return to it some day, but even if I don’t, I will not regret planting it there, where it might make a few sprouts and call to me across the ocean every once in a while. I have learned so much here about the culture and language and people, and about poverty and simplicity and the God who is with us, and the kingdom of justice and peace. I want to see, (as I hope we all do), the world redeemed from problems of oppression, poverty, slavery, racism, under-representation, and apathy. That’s why I know we need to continue to try to be kanjas. We need to keep creating bridges between people and lands. When we open our eyes to another culture, we hold the world in our grasp. We can catch glimmers of hope for miscommunications and clashes to be eradicated. We can all be like TCKs, aliens, and warriors between cultures. All it requires is listening ears, open eyes, and arms that construct paths between differing perspectives. This isn’t just about hopping between continents. We all have to create some kind of communication-bridge to interact with each other, but we avoid building bridges to some people. Who are we neglecting around us? Why?
There is something programmed into all humans that makes us long for an unattainable sense of home. I know that my true home is not the land of the free and the home of the brave, but it is where the fear of God makes us brave and free. It is not the land of the rising sun, but the land of the Risen Son. It is not the Kingdom of Cambodia, but the Kingdom of Heaven. And it is that which captures my gaze through all of the uncertainty and turmoil.
My heart has been changed by this adventure and I hope to retain and apply this transformation for the rest of my life. But I know there are many more adventures to come. As I wave goodbye to my host-family, then turn to face the airplane, I am facing my next adventure, with memories of God’s faithfulness behind me, and with my damp eyes set on eternity.