Thursday, May 17, 2018

This one isn't just a draft!

I have drafted six blogs since my last entry in December. I've drafted blog entries about:
   ---> My daily routine
   ---> An encounter in which purchasing a plant erupted deep and unrecognized feelings of culture shock
   ---> My experiences learning a new language
   ---> Cultural observations from my walk to the market
   ---> Our friends downstairs
   ---> Khmer New Year

Sophear & Chamnab with twins
Peter and Paul and their sister Priscilla.
Friends in Takeo!
The truth is that feeling like I owe you an update on our lives and ministry is often too much pressure. Where do the topics "what I want to share with you" and "what you want to know" meet? I do not know. And what do you want to know? Even that I do not know. When friends from home have reached out to us, the most asked question is, "How's it going?" But no one really wants to read an entire blog post about "how it's going" - or do you?

Some days it's going really well and we are encouraged!

Sophear and her friends doing puzzles at church
After a children's lesson that I felt wasn't well received, another mom shared with me that my lesson inspired her to begin teaching her children at home! I felt like this was a huge victory and it continues to motivate me when I'm preparing my lessons each week. I do not expect to see that my 3-5 minute Bible lessons produce any visible fruit in my little ones at church; but I pray that, later in life, their encounters with Jesus and with Scripture are richer because these stories and truths are becoming familiar to them.

Other days are more discouraging.

Some days Sophear is so overwhelmed with frustration that she isn't being understood by non-English speakers. I try to help her, but inwardly I find myself justifying her frustrations because I get it! It's no fun living in a world where you have no idea what happened, what is happening, or what will happen because you simply cannot understand what people are saying. I never imagined how physically and emotionally exhausting it could be to exert all of one's energy in striving to listen and translate conversations. All so that I can feel like I'm a part of the conversations even if I'm not acknowledged and do not speak a word.

Sophear turned four-years-old on February 4th!
And the plant story: Shortly after we arrived, Titus began talking about a flower that he wanted to grow on our balcony. A few months later, I was in the last week of Level 1 at G2K (language school) and I began working to build my confidence and vocabulary to surprise Titus and buy the flower. I learned and practiced all the words I needed to ask Ravuth (my driver) to take me to a plant store and to make the purchase. …But it wasn't that easy. The plants weren't potted, dirt was sold separately, and the vender was persistent in trying to sell me some unlabeled bag that I could only assume was a plant food or chemical that I didn't want. Finally, Ravuth intervened and negotiated on my behalf. I had failed to do something on my own, but I did have the flower!!! I arrived home late to surprise Titus with the flower and was met with: "What? Is? That?" Defeat. It turns out that I was sold the wrong flower (I didn't know) even though I knew all the right words. I hated that plant for a long time. I would sit on the couch and from the corner of my eye, I could see the plant taunting me, haunting me, reminding me of my failure, reminding me of everything I couldn't do.

Then one day, from the same seat where the flower used to taunt me, I read the story of Hagar, Abraham's wife's maidservant. Hagar fled from her problems and God met her (twice!) in the desert - God heard her misery; God saw her. The flower still taunts me, but it reminds me that God sees me, hears me, and cares about my frustrations. In the end, that makes the hard days less harder!

So that's how it's going... from Jewel's perspective. :) Titus has a different perspective, of course, but I suspect he would say that there are encouraging days and there are discouraging days. (I asked him and he said 'Yes.')

If you have any questions about our life, our family, our ministry... please ask us!

Teaching the children at an outreach in the province in January

A market near my language school where I buy fruits and vegetables

Rodney and Tina used to babysit me when I was a little girl.
Now they're missionaries in Cambodia too!

Sophear and Chamnab love going downstairs to ride bikes, play with the bunnies, and play with friends!

Titus with a police officer in the village

From Cambodia,
(and Titus, Sophear, and Chamnab)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Two months in Cambodia!

When I checked last, my “Sophear’s Christmas” blog had 586 views! My goodness, people!! I better keep writing! I thought it would be fun to write a post about what we’ve been doing or what’s been keeping us busy and what life looks like in Cambodia. Although since no one has asked that question (HA!) so I’ll start with two FAQs:

How are the kids?

Kids are great! Sophear has been a champ trying new foods. She never complains about the heat. She’s initially shy, but loves her “uncles” and every kid that’s smaller than her is immediately her new friend! She’s quite a bit bigger than Cambodian kids her age (which raises people’s expectations of her!); however, even when they think she’s five, they all find her vocabulary to be most impressive! She loves going out, having company, crafting of any sort, playing, and watching. A few weeks ago, we bought her a little desk for her room and she’s LOVING being able to close the door and color or “study” in the cool, quiet.

Bible shopping with Sophear!  (Girl loves shopping!) 

Sophear with Tino (building staff) learning how to ride a scooter! (Girl loves Tino!)  She has been asking for a rainbow bike with a bell for Christmas.

Chamnab has grown 5 teeth (4 molars and 1 incisor) since we arrived just two short months ago. On the days that he wasn’t super cranky from teething (and super cranky from refusing to eat because he’s teething), he has also been great! His personality is really blossoming. He’s just 16-months-old, but he works really hard to “keep up” with Sophear and her friends. He loves books, cars, books, finger puppets, going out, books, cars, and peek-a-boo! Also, before we left Indiana, he had graduated to just one nap/day. Between the heat and the new normal wake-up time of 5:30-5:45am, he’s back to two naps/day!

Chamnab is not quite as outgoing as Sophear, but he's getting braver!  He enjoyed "going to school" on Araykhsat Island this week.  He was just playing with the colored pencils and crayons until a child left their picture behind and went to play, then he claimed the paper as his own and began "scribble scrabbling" as Sophear says.

This picture was on one of our rougher and needier days.  Also, he definitely has more than enough clothes in Cambodia considering he only wears them when we leave the house!

Are you settled?

We moved into our apartment on October 21 and we’ve been attending Phnom Penh Church since October 22. We both have working phones, WiFi at home, and all the necessary furniture and tableware. I am comfortable walking alone two blocks to the nearest supermarket and buying the essentials. I have a general idea of what is nearby - including coffee shops, restaurants, and stores - but have zero confidence in getting myself there safely without Titus’ help. Actually, with the one exception of buying groceries at the nearby Super Duper, I have zero capability (or confidence anyways) in doing anything without a significant amount of my husband’s generous assistance. As I push myself, I know the capability and confidence will come, but I’m comfortable “following” for now. The hardest challenge continues to be cooking at home. (There really aren’t enough variations of stir-fried vegetables and meat).

Now, onto what we’ve been doing and what life looks like in Cambodia.

Chamnab and Jewel with new friends and a visiting team eating a delicious lunch prepared by Pastor Chanla and Sister Toni's brother on Araykhsat Island.  It gets pretty warm, but I'm so thankful for a baby carrier which allows me to be mobile and do ministry while allowing Chamnab to sleep safely in my arms!

Much of what we’ve been doing looks like people sitting around a table, around a mat on the floor, or on the side of the street. And when it’s not people gathered together, it’s sitting at a computer - writing sermons, writing children’s lessons, making lists, getting inspiration from Pinterest - or playing on the floor with our kids.

Hosting our friends Pastor Vandy, Tess, and David for lunch before taking the kids to the mall play place.  To receive "it's good!" from Vandy was a very high compliment for my cooking!

We’ve enjoyed reunions with friends with whom we have kept in touch, as well as with friends that even Titus hadn’t seen in many years. And we have made new friends! We have enjoyed meeting the three families of three Cambodian friends from America! I was SO excited to learn that there is a Christian couple from NJ in our building AND they have the cutest little boy only two months older than Chamnab (I’ll admit, I didn’t expect God would grant this request of mine!) and I am so excited to have a play date!!

At a breakfast meeting with our friend, Bunnath, who co-directs an NGO (Fountain of Hope).  In January, I (Jewel) am going to explore the opportunity to volunteer with his organization.

After talking with other missionaries and NGO leaders, I’ve been working on a missions audit to identify the “ministry scene” in Cambodia - what others are doing, what needs are unmet, what are potential partnership opportunities. As a result of some of these conversations and others, we have been asked to do/help with a lot. Please pray that God will give us discernment and we would have confidence in the way He is directing us, that we may know where He wants us to expend our time, energy, and resources!

Titus and Pastor Kimsan enjoy a snack at Brown Coffee after Bible shopping.  Pastor Kimsan is one of the leaders of the Wesleyan Church in Cambodia.  It has been great to reunite with his family!

A few days ago, our apartment lost power (again) at lunch time, which forced us into the street. (No electricity means we can’t cook, have no air, and shouldn’t open the fridge.) Although I was relieved I didn’t have to cook (especially since I had just discovered our chicken had spoiled (again)), I really just wanted to stay home. We descended 10 flights of stairs and into the street, then walked 400m to Barn Barn Restaurant. Long story short, we’ll be joining the owners for a children's Christmas program on Christmas Eve! I’m never happy when the power shuts off, but I’m grateful that God worked this out for good!

Here we are eating pizza for lunch after church with our university students.  At $2.99 per personal pan pizza AND buy 3 get 1 free, it was a great way for us to treat them!

We have some exciting Christmas services coming up and we’ll post a blog after our last one (December 30). Preparing for these services/outreaches/celebrations has been keeping us busy. Thanks to one generous sponsor and two giving churches, we have the funds to pass out some Bibles, hymnals and children’s Bibles this Christmas. The Cambodian Bible Society store is a one-hour drive one-way. Titus attempted to go on Monday and discovered they were closed. Here’s a sampling of what we have after three trips. I love looking through them! I just wish I could read them!! haha

So what fun and inspiring things have you guys been doing to celebrate baby Jesus?

I’ll have another fun post coming on or before December 26! Until then!

To see Christ glorified in Cambodia,
Titus, Jewel, Sophear, & Chamnab

Friday, December 8, 2017

Sophear's Christmas

I paid $.70 for that candy cane!
When we left Gas City, we left a huge community of people loving on and investing in my babies!  We left an incredible team of children’s ministry workers at Brookhaven Wesleyan Church.  God called Titus and I to Cambodia to reached the unreached, and we brought our babies.  After six weeks of sitting at the back of the church playing Barbies, filling a notebook with crayon drawings, and eating countless crackers and cookies, I realized that there’s ministry to be done at home.

Lord, help me to always be intentional!
Lord, help me to find time every day! 
Lord, inspire me with ways to creatively teach my creative girl!

Sophear spent three hours spread across two days making that mixed media Christmas tree!
Although it doesn’t look or feel like it, Christmas is quickly approaching.  Without the pressure of materializing Christmas, no Christmas cookies, holiday parties, or beautiful decorations, I find myself rightly and solely focused on the true reason for Christmas: celebrating the newborn king!  And while I miss those things, I am grateful for the experience.  I am grateful for the experience to teach Sophear that Christmas is about the baby who is Savior and King.  I have enjoyed the experience of imagining with her what it was like to be a shepherd, startled in the night by a chorus of angels!  And forever I hope to cherish the memory of Sophear looking at the moon, talking about the bright shining star which led the wisemen to Jesus!

Multiple times each day, Chamnab scatters the pieces from Sophear's nativity.  She always returns them to the same arrangement - everyone looking at the sweet baby Jesus!

During Chamnab’s last nap in November, Sophear and I cut these strips to make a paper chain.  On each strip, I wrote a Bible verse that will sequentially tell the Christmas story from Luke 1-2 and elsewhere.  She enjoys cutting one off each day, reading it and all the previous day’s verses, and taping them in the window next to the remaining hanging chain.

Your typical Cambodian Christmas tree is fashioned with colorful lights (sometimes flashing) and many strands of  metallic garland.  Ours is almost typical, but is short on garland with only two strands for our 4' tree.
After scouring YouTube, I found a video of the nativity story as told by The Beginner’s Bible.  While the angel Gabriel was talking to Mary, Sophear said “I know this story!!!” and ran to retrieve her Bible and follow along for the duration of the 25-minute movie.  And some nights, after Chamnab goes to sleep, I tell her the story again while she acts it out using the pieces from her nativity scene.

To see Christ glorified in Cambodia,
Titus, Jewel, Sophear, & Chamnab

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Home: Haktrana Apartment, Unit 503, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We’re here! Today is Day 11 in Cambodia.

Our family with Pastor Greg -- in our new apartment!!

Since arriving, we’ve really had one mission: to find an apartment and get settled. After four days and thirty apartments, we finally found the right one - an apartment that is suitable for our family, and is in a good location for ministry!

If you’re interested in a street view of our area, click this link a satellite view: Google Maps

 If that doesn’t work, search “17, St 480, Phnom Penh” on Google maps. Neither is exact, but it gives you an idea!

We are within 2-3 minutes walking distance of some great spots including a supermarket “Super Duper” where I can buy toiletries, produce, groceries, etc. Prices are higher than your traditional market, but the store offers convenience, security, and US brands! Everything is packaged in smaller sizes/quantities - wisely so because fridges, cupboards (if any), and portions are significantly smaller here than in the States.

We are also very close to Tous Les Jours - a bakery and coffee shop with a wide (and delicious!) selection of breads, pastries, and drinks. I visited yesterday and bought two varieties of sausage croissant, a cheese and basil baguette for myself, and two sugar donuts for our dessert. There are two nearby pizza places, one with a kids play place, which also delivers, and many other Khmer (and other) restaurants, coffee shops, and businesses.

There are children frequently playing in the street just 30' beyond our front gate.  Right across the street, there's a family selling drinks and snacks in front of their home, and two more down the street. On the corner, tuk-tuk drivers are always waiting for passengers.  Two blocks away, sits a large yellow landmark: the Australian Centre for Education (ACE) - "a leader in the provision of English Language Teaching services in Cambodia and in the South East Asia region."

I look forward to becoming more familiar and learning more about what and who is around us!

A view of our apartment from a nearby hotel balcony

Our apartment is on the fifth floor of a new building - Haktrana Apartments - and we’re only the second to move in! There are eight floors - each floor has one two-bedroom unit, and two one-bedroom units. As the view grows broader, the price increases on each floor. In other apartment buildings without elevators, the opposite is true as the lower units are more appealing.

On Sunday morning, the landlord’s young son was playing with a soccer ball on the lower level (think “parking garage”) and he was very excited to learn that we had moved in the day before. The landlord told Titus he is very “particular” about the tenants in this building. We’re praying that despite the landlord’s choosing, that God would send us both Christian neighbors and neighbors who will be ready (even if slowly!) to hear the Gospel Message! Please pray that God would give us wisdom and boldness as we step out to build relationships with those around us!

And now, more pictures of our apartment:

Laundry drying on our balcony

Looking at the street from the ground level (parking garage)

Ratana shoe racks by the front door

Looking into the parking garage (elevator on the left)

A view of Phnom Penh from the 8th floor (we live on the 4th)

Clean water, little fridge, and rice bucket (which has since been moved to the cabinet under the sink because Chamnab won't leave it alone)

To see Christ glorified in Cambodia,
Titus, Jewel, Sophear, & Chamnab

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


On August 6, we moved to Union Mills, North Carolina to attend a four-week “Equipping for Cross-Cultural Life and Ministry” training with Center for Intercultural Training.

If you have ever given to support our family and our ministry in Cambodia, then our time of growth and learning at CIT has been a gift afforded by you. Thank you for this gift! By no effort of our own, other than showing up with an open heart and mind, CIT has already proven to be a powerful experience of significant learning and growth - learning and growth that we believe will enhance our ministry and better our family, especially in our transition.

It has been a great experience to learn and to live in community with others who have also received this missionary call. We’ve made friends here from across the US - friends who are preparing to move to many, many corners of the world. Sophear has sang and swam, painted, performed, and played in the mud with new friends heading to England and to Ecuador. Chamnab is learning to walk with Hannah, a friend he made at WGM Orientation Camp a few weeks ago. We’re being taught by veteran missionaries who have decades of experience - from suffering to success. They’ve become vulnerable before us, investing themselves in our family and in our ministry.

We’ve talked about transitions, effective teams, mindstyles, culture and tools for cultural awareness, spiritual warfare, marriage and singleness, cross-cultural communication, worldviews, contextualization, and more. In our small groups - “Heart of the Missionary” - we’re equipping the heart and mind to be servants, dependent on the righteousness of God, stripping away our own self-righteousness.

As we live in community, we’re learning to be intentional about building relationships and practicing hospitality as we invite people into our home to share life stories. We’re practicing here and now because once we land and settle in Cambodia, hospitality will be a ministry to our neighbors.

On Friday afternoon, two of Sophear’s friends stayed with us so their parents could attend a worship service relative to their host culture.

On Saturday, we drove an hour away to Spartanburg, South Carolina to visit a Cambodian Buddhist temple. This was to fulfill a requirement for CIT. One of our classmates (Alyssa), a missionary to Thailand, met us there. Titus, Sophear, and Alyssa spent some time inside interviewing one of the monks, while I kept Chamnab out of trouble outside (pagodas are very far from “baby proof”) and toured the beautiful 6-acre property. It was a neat experience for us to see and interact with Cambodian culture here in the States!

Below is a group picture from Monday during the solar eclipse. Most everyone on campus is included - staff, facilitators, children’s teachers, children, and us (the new missionaries!)  In front of me and between Titus and I (front left) are Sophear’s two teachers and Chamnab’s two teachers. We believe God was smiling on us when he gave Chamnab a Filipina teacher and a Vietnamese teacher! These four ladies have been wonderful with Sophear and Chamnab and we are so blessed that they are here investing in our children so that we can fully participate in our classes.

Sophear's first "report card"
We’ve been here 17 days and have 10 more days. Thank you for praying for us as we learn and grow, and as we seek to be intentional in building relationships - relationships that we hope will last well beyond September 1.  Thank you for praying for our new friends - Marina, the Goods, Patrick & Tressa, the Hocutts, Catie, Michael & Carrie, Drew, Ben & Lauren, Shelby, Victoria, Joel & Mallory, Launa, Azlyn, the Meyers, Joe & Ladaere, Alyssa, Seth & Kayla, Cory, Clark & Val, John & Charlene, Logan, Bill & Amy!

To see Christ glorified in Cambodia,
Titus, Jewel, Sophear, & Chamnab

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The reality of our transition is growing every day

Last week, we moved our family and a week's worth of stuff into a guest room at The Abbott Center, a building on the campus of World Gospel Mission Headquarters in Marion, Indiana.  Packing for a week away was a great opportunity for a "trial run" before we pack for a MONTH away in North Carolina next month.  We quickly realized that we need a better strategy for packing our things into  luggage (read: luggage not multiple small bags!) and then into the trunk and beneath Sophear and Chamnab's dangling feet.

I already miss Pam! (Seated on the floor beside me)
At the Abbott Center, we joined four other missionary units going to other WGM fields as well as various WGM leaders including the regional directors for Africa, North and Central America, South America, and Europe/Asia/the Pacific (that's us!)  Like us, the other four families were there because they have a team of awesome people behind them, championing their cause and their ministry on the American Indian Field, at Tenwek hospital in Kenya, and in Peru.  They've worked hard and long to raise support and, like us, they're ready to transition to their fields in September or October.

Chamnab and new friend, Hannah (MK to Kenya)
Titus and Jesus (Cambodian missionary to Cambodia and Peruvian missionary to Peru)
The week was called "Orientation Camp" and we attended more than 20 sessions on 20+ topics including WGM's history, policies and procedures, as well as family challenges, cultural adaptations, second language acquisition, child protection, safety, and more.  We are grateful for the knowledge and experiences shared with us by our regional directors, who combined have more than 100 years of experience in Bolivia, Honduras, Kenya, Japan, and their regions.

Lots of learning! (And lots of notes!)
We left on Friday afternoon feeling better prepared for the impending transition and challenges, empowered (despite being the only WGM missionaries in SE Asia), inspired by our veteran regional directors, supported by our WGM family, commissioned to serve, and simply blessed to spend a week with people who have faced or are facing what we're facing.

Sophear playing outside with the big boys!
We began our support-raising journey at WGM with a week-long orientation in January 2016 and now we are approaching 100% and the culmination of our support-raising and our big transition to Cambodia.  So much has happened since our first orientation.  God has taken us on an incredible journey of faith.  We have spoken at more than 40 churches and venues and met many wonderful people.  Many people have gotten us to this point - giving generously, praying over our family, hosting us, and advocating for our ministry.  Our team is growing and we are thankful for each one supporting our ministry in Cambodia!  Thank you for your partnership!  Thank you for sending us, for walking beside us, for going with us!

Sophear and Chamnab's "classroom"
The reality of our transition is growing every day.  Yesterday, as I was unhanging our wedding portrait and framed vows, I paused to reflect on the last 5.5 years of marriage.  When Titus proposed on December 26, 2010, we both knew God was calling us to return to Cambodia.  We're finally here - packing, preparing, and watching ticket prices.

We’re at 78%!  Would you prayerfully considering investing in us and in our ministry to Cambodia? We’re almost there, but we still need more help! Visit or click the button below.

Support us financially!

To see Christ glorified in Cambodia,
Titus, Jewel, Sophear, & Chamnab