Friday, June 16, 2017

Our Cambodian Family

Many of you have asked about Titus' family - Where do they live?  What do they do?  Etc.  Here, we introduce you to Titus' parents, five younger brothers, sisters-in-law, and nephews - our beautiful family in Cambodia, who we miss very much and pray for daily.

Dad's name is Romdenh Chamnan (in Cambodian culture, the family name is before the given name).  Pak (Dad) is a hard-working man who is currently working as a foreman in a rural province more than five hours from the rest of our family in Phnom Penh.  He has skills in architectural engineering, but it became difficult for him to find work in Phnom Penh when computers began to replace hand-drawings.  Earlier this week, Pak was very, very sick and we were afraid we wouldn't see him again.  While there is still risk of complications and a reoccurrence of his sickness, he is now recovering at home and we have hope that he will greet us when we return to Cambodia soon!  "Ta" is the Cambodian name for Grandpa, and Sophear loves her Ta!  Pak's family is Catholic.

 Mak on left; Aunt on right
Mom's name is Hem Sokly (in Cambodian culture, women do not take their husband's name).  Mak (Mom) has always been a stay-at-home mom, raising six sons and caring for our home.  Mak's family is Buddhist.

Chamraun is 33-years-old and drives a motorcycle taxi (called a moto dop).  When we visited Cambodia with Sophear in October/November 2015, Pou (Uncle) Raun was Sophear's favorite uncle because he gave her the most/best attention.  When we went to Angkor Wat for family vacation, Sophear spent most of the 7-hour drive on Chamraun's lap, and when we were touring the temples in very hot weather, I was very grateful for Pou Raun and all the uncles who had fun carrying her!

Chamnieng is 31-years-old and is married to Bopha and has two sons, Chamroat and Reaksmey.  Chamroat is maybe 13-years-old and Reaksmey (pictured) maybe 9-years-old.  Chamnieng washes dishes at a restaurant and Bopha is a garment worker (makes clothes in a factory).  They want to have a daughter one day!

Chamrong is 30-years-old and is married to Chantharet.  Chamnong and Chantharet have a little boy, Sovannareth, who is just 9 months younger than Sophear.  Chamnong and Chantharet also hope to have a daughter one day.

Chamnong is 27-years-old and is a very hard worker.  He was recently awarded "Employee of the Month" at V Hotel Phnom Penh, where he is working as bellman.

Titus' youngest brother, Chamnob, is 20-years-old and was born on Titus' 14th birthday.

Titus' family lives in Cambodia's capital city, Phnom Penh.  Although Titus spent some years living in a rural province, at least three generations of his family have called Phnom Penh their home.  When we move to Cambodia, we will also live in Phnom Penh.  Phnom Penh is 262 mi2 and is home to more than 1.5 million people.  We're not sure how close we'll live to our family, but we're excited to share life with them again!

As you can see, it is a family of BOYS!  Titus parents have six sons, four grandsons, and SOPHEAR!  She's a pretty special girl!

Please pray for our family - Pak and Mak, Chamraun, Chamnieng and Bopha, Chamrong and Chantharet, Chamnong, and Chamnob - because they are not Christians.  We pray that God will use Sophear, Chamnab, Titus, and I to open their hearts to Christ.

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

You're the God of this city

You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city

God has called us to ministry in Cambodia's capital city, Phnom Penh.  Watch this testimonial from Titus' May trip.

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Cambodian Buddhist Tradition of the Dead Body

Cambodia is a Buddhist country. In Buddhist culture, it is tradition to cremate the dead body. After death, the body is kept in the home in a closed coffin for two to four days. Lucky paper is burnt at the foot of the coffin. When the monks visit the body for a chanting ritual, the coffin is opened so the spirit can listen, but the face remains covered with a white cloth. After 2-4 days, the body is taken to the Buddhist temple (pagoda) for cremation. At the pagoda, the body is exposed for a farewell look, but the face remains covered. The body is cremated at the pagoda, the ashes are placed in an urn, and the urn is placed in a stupa on the pagoda’s property or sometimes at home. A white flag is displayed outside the family’s house for one week, and children of the deceased shave their heads and dress in white.

Phirum's stuppa

On Sunday, May 7th, after preaching at a fast-growing church plant in Phnom Penh city, my aunt (Phirum’s mother) and I rode in a taxi to Kompong Som province (140 miles, 4 hours drive) where Phirum’s wife and son live. We spent Monday morning at Phirum’s stuppa. Phirum’s wife asked me to burn incense - a gesture of paying one’s highest respects to Buddha or as an offering to Buddha for His blessing. I told her that I am a Christian, so she lit the incense on my behalf and placed the sticks in an incense pot. Phirum’s mother cried throughout our entire visit. She was quiet except for talking to the picture of her son displayed behind his urn.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 
John 11:25-26 

This is one of the reasons why we go back to Cambodia, we want the Cambodian people, who are living in the darkness of Satan's deceptions, to know and understand that religious belief cannot save them from their sins. God's grace alone can save them from their sins.

We are grateful to be called sons and daughters of the Living God! We know that one day we will see Him face to face.

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Thoughts on concluding a very eventful year

2016 was the most eventful year of our marriage, perhaps even of our individuals lives.

How God is growing our family:

As 2016 began, our sister, brother-in-law, and nephew were stuck in the Philippines for an extra two weeks due to complications regarding Aldean's Green Card. Finally, they returned to Indiana and we announced our pregnancy. I had horrible 24/7 morning sickness for almost six weeks. January 18-21, we attended Champion Migration Strategy orientation at WGM headquarters – a training that would launch us into support-raising. That same week, I started my online studies towards a master’s degree in Applied Biblical Studies with Moody Bible Institute. That same week, Titus and I both got a terrible case of the flu, which last five days and seven days respectively. While January 18-21 was definitely our craziest week, all 52 weeks required a high level of balancing demanding responsibilities – marriage, parenting, support-raising, working, studies, taking care of our home, our walks with the Lord, etc.
On February 4th, Sophear turned two-years-old and on March 16th, she had surgery to close a hole in her heart. It was a very scary time for us, but we felt so supported! There were people all around the world praying for Sophear and for us! During the days and weeks leading up to and following Sophear’s surgery, we were reminded in a very real way two important truths: 1) God is a big God and 2) He loves our precious daughter, His precious daughter. I’m reminded of the lyrical line “I'm no longer a slave to fear, for I am a child of God!!” It is with confidence in this truth that I am able to go to Cambodia.

In July, we attended Family Camp – a traditional church camp-meeting for all ages. It was our last week as a family of three (Chamnab was born Tuesday after camp), and we shared some special times together as a family living in a small cabin and staying up too late. We also enjoyed the time away from technology and other distractions, which allowed us to reconnect in fellowship with those around us. God gave us many opportunities that week to advocate for the unreached in Cambodia and we’re grateful for how our support team grew that week!

On August 2nd, our son, Chamnab Harvey, was born. As I’m writing this, I CANNOT believe that our Baby Bear (affectionately called Chamnabby as dubbed by Sophear) is five-months-old. We were so busy and the months flew too quickly… and yet, he’s thriving! He’s rolling, he’s sitting unassisted for short periods, he’s laughing, he’s playing… but HOW is he five-months-old?! Over the weekend, I built a blanket fort for Sophear and put Chamnab in the fort (per her request). I sat a few feet away, listening, smiling, burning into my memory what I was seeing and hearing. Sophear was making silly noises and waving toys and Chamnab was laughing until he fell over. Things won’t always be easy in Cambodia, but they will always have each other! We wake up and go to bed thanking God for our fun and beautiful duo!
On October 29th, we celebrated 5 years of marriage. I’m so grateful to go through life TOGETHER. The last five years have been full of adventure! We’ve pursued dreams of a driver’s license, citizenship, educational pursuits, extensive travels, and raising support for our ministry in Cambodia.

How God is growing our support team:

In April, we became connected to a small community of Cambodian Christians in Columbus, Ohio. We have been able to visit both churches on three visits, including Cambodia’s most celebrated holiday – Khmer New Year. It was a real blessing and encouragement to connect with some Cambodian families and to feel so welcomed by them. Our time with this Cambodian-American Christian community grew even stronger our desire to take the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ to reach the unreached in Cambodia. We believe that God allowed us to cross paths with these people for a great purpose!

On May 1, we spoke at our first church, located in Coleman, Michigan. I believe we will always remember the first pastor who had enough faith in us to offer our first speaking invitation! Our first invitation came from a former classmate who sat in front of me in Homiletics my senior year in college (Fall 2010). While some relationships have fizzled in 2016, it has been a blessing (and fun!) to reconnect with old friends and classmates as well as to build new relationships! As we have traveled, we have met some wonderful people –people that we wish we could have spent more time chatting with and people that we hope are not just a one-time-meeting!

In June, we traveled by faith to a small church nine hours away in North Carolina. This was our first time visiting a place that we had never been, where we knew no one (and staying in the home of people we had just met). Along with taking Sophear, I was already well-advanced in my pregnancy. We questioned, ‘Is God calling us to go?’ and ‘Are we sacrificing too much at the expense of our children?’ God was good to bless our obedience to accept His call to North Carolina. Three families/individuals from the little NC church started supporting us and one of the families has been especially loving towards us, even advocating for us!

In September, we began a very busy travel schedule which took us to 18 speaking engagements in 18 weeks. Our travels took us to Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, and North Carolina. Raising support has not been easy; in fact, it has been very hard, but God has been good to us! Very good! As I wrote earlier, we have met many wonderful people and we have also been blessed with opportunities to reconnect with friends from our past! We consider it a privilege to be sent out to advocate for the Great Commission, to advocate for Cambodia’s unreached, and to finally return to Cambodia and commit our days, our mouths, and our hands to winning souls!

To those of you who have “followed” our journey and to those of you who have not forgotten us, although we’ve been away, THANK YOU. Thank you Lord for being us every day, on every mile, and at every podium! We faced some challenges in 2016, but God was with us every step and every decision! We trust that God will be faithful to walk beside us as we continue our support-raising and eventually move our family to Cambodia in 2017!

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Love Story

Our story seems normal to us (nonetheless very special!), but perhaps it isn't so normal to most.  Some couples meet at school, others meet at parties, others meet at the special olympics, are introduced by mutual friends, or meet at church.  No two love stories are the same, but perhaps ours is more unique than most.

Titus and I met in May 2008, the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. I went on a team with five other girls from Indiana Wesleyan University, and we traveled throughout Cambodia, teaching English and doing children's ministry. At the time, Titus was co-pastoring The Way to Life Wesleyan Church in the province of Kratie, and teaching English at the School of Hope, a small English and computer school that shared the same property as the church.  During my short time in Kratie, I was assigned to teach an intermediate level English class.  Titus was first my translator, but he quickly became my friend. Meeting Titus, I quickly realized that he was the funniest guy I knew and I am still sure that he is the funniest guy I know. We had an instant connection because Titus and I owned very similar cameras - his was pink, mine was blue; he wanted to trade, but I refused.

Engagement picture
After our time in Kratie, Titus and his best friend (Vandy) traveled with our team to another province.  In Siem Reap, our team spent a day being tourists - exploring ancient temple ruins and other cultural sights.  This provided us a day full of chatting, laughing and making memories.  He convinced me to eat a stuffed frog; in exchange, he agreed to stay up all night playing Uno.  Still, at the end of my time in Cambodia in May 2008, neither one of us thought much of the friendship that we had developed during the short, albeit memorable, time that we had spent together.  I hadn't fallen in love with Titus, but I had fallen in love with the Cambodian people.

Before I went to Cambodia in May 2008, I had already been asked to lead a short-term missions trip to the Dominican Republic in May 2009.  I returned home from Cambodia with such mixed emotions.  I still vividly remember the hours that I spent praying that God would lead my heart to make the right decision.  At the end of the Summer, the director of the university's missions department contacted me and asked me if I would like to return to Cambodia instead.  I never asked Dr. Pettis what prompted him to ask me this, but I do think that it is how God answered my prayers for wisdom and Titus' prayers for a wife and helpmate.

A double date at the mall with our best friends, Vandy & Tess
I returned to Cambodia in May 2009.  As we spent more time together - chatting, laughing, and doing ministry - we could both sense something deeper happening.  I was thinking, "How can I have a boyfriend 12 time zones away?" and Titus was asking, "Is she going to come back for me??"

We went on one date in 2009.  It was probably the most wonderful date that I have ever been on!  The pizza and ice cream were okay, but what was so wonderful was the one-hour open taxi ride around the city at night.  The air was cool, the city was beautifully lit, and we spent the hour asking each other dozens of questions about the past, present, and future.  We decided then that we would commit the next year to 1) praying that God would lead us in the right direction and 2) not to date anyone else.  A few days after our first date, I returned home to Indiana.

As the next 1.5 years passed, we communicated weekly through e-mails, Skype, and very expensive phone calls.  In December 2010, I arrived alone in Cambodia a few days before Christmas.  I knew that Titus was planning to propose during my short two-week stay in Cambodia as we had already begun making plans.  On December 26, 2010, Titus and I were swimming under a waterfall at Koulen Mountain Resort in Siem Reap when he asked me to be his wife.

Two days later, we had a beautiful, traditional engagement ceremony with 49 of our closest friends.  The engagement ceremony took place at our friends' home.  When we arrived to get ready, I couldn't believe how the room had been beautifully transformed.  I was so humbled to see friends who had traveled so far to attend.  After the ceremony, we began focusing on the fiance visa application - a 10-month-process that would involve many papers, signatures, appointments, dollars, and patience!  Titus finally arrived in America on October 15, 2011 - just two weeks before our wedding day.

We recently celebrated our five year wedding anniversary.  Titus is a citizen of the United States and he has obtained a Business Management degree from IWU.  We have two beautiful children and we're raising support to return to Cambodia as career missionaries!  I can remember the exact hour that we met and I cannot believe the wonderful story that God has written for us!

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

Friday, October 7, 2016

Happy five year anniversary of my life in America!

Standing in front of a beautiful tree with my beautiful fiance a few days after I arrived in America - I had never seen leaves like this before!
Happy five year anniversary of my life in America!

Time has flown so fast. It’s been a great five years. Five years ago, I left my family, friends, best friends, foods, church, church members and country, got on the plane, holding a very important document package from the US Embassy and traveled across the Pacific Ocean for 36 hours to the greatest country in the world, The United States of America.  Traveling alone to a very different, very far away place, I was filled with emotions and I had my questions.  But I knew God was leading me and had opened this door for Jewel and I to get married and live together in Indiana.

My friends threw me a "going away party" once I passed the interview at the US Embassy
I often told people that ‘It’s like I was born again’ when I first came to this country. I had to learn and relearn almost everything from the very beginning.  I did not know the traffic rules.  I did not know how to order food.  I did not know where any stores were or where to find what I needed.  I did not know how to interact with people and I did not understand many customs in this culture. 

Members at the last church I pastored in Cambodia.  I still miss doing ministry to my people!
The first two years in this country were very hard because everything was new and strange, but God has been so so faithful in my life! When He said, “He’ll never leave us alone” at the end of chapter 28 in the book of Matthew, He respects His Word!  I am very thankful for His faithfulness to me.

I have had so many experiences here.  Jewel and I have traveled together to Daytona Beach and Orlando, western New York and New York City, Chicago, Lake Michigan, Hilton Head Island, Georgia, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Lake Tahoe in Nevada, Kentucky, North Carolina, many parts of Ohio, and throughout Indiana.  My daughter was born in February 2014, I became a U.S. citizen in July 2015, and my son was born in August 2016.  I’ve also had other experiences like:
  • Walking from our apartment to the local K-Mart store in the snow, but getting lost for three hours.
  • Being spoken to in Spanish many times, usually by waitresses.
  • Accidentally ordering off the diet menu many times.
  • Taking the written driving test 5 or 6 times before finally passing.
Winter is very cold!!!!!!!!!!!!
I could not say thank you enough for all the support from my wife, the family-in-law, church leaders, pastors and friends for these past five years. Without them, I would probably have become a frozen ice statue my first winter here, but they warmed my heart with their love and the love of God.  Gas City, Indiana has become a home to me.  My family-in-law has become my family.  Jewel’s friends have become my friends and I have made my own friends.

America is blessed.  My life is blessed.

Here are pictures taken at the airport as I was leaving Cambodia on October 7, 2011.
Missionary friends
Mom and three of my brothers
Fellow pastors
My students


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The stories and people that affirmed my call to Cambodia

My time in Cambodia in May 2008 was wonderful (except for the first few days of terrrrible culture shock - click HERE to read my first blog from Cambodia) but it was my extended stay in May-June 2009 that affirmed my calling to Cambodia.

Over the course of the year that passed between my first and second trips to Cambodia, I read multiple memoirs written by survivors of the Khmer Rouge - "When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge" and "The Tears of My Soul: The Story of a Boy Who Survived the Cambodian Killing Fields" and "First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers" and others.  Upon reading these stories, I could not look at the Cambodian people (especially the older generations) the same, even if I tried.  In my eyes, I saw pain and hopelessness.

Many have not recovered from the devastating effects of the five-year genocide from 1975-1979.  More than three million Cambodians (one-third of the country's population) were murdered or died of starvation and disease.  Children watched their parents be killed.  Parents watched their children suffer.  Siblings were separated and often never reunited.  These years of pain and suffering have left very deep scars on both the hearts and the skin of the Khmer Rouge survivors.  Since my first exposure to Cambodian history, the Lord has laid Isaiah 61:1-3 on my heart:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor."

Titus' Mom
Traveling through Cambodia reveals a vibrant palette of color. Rural rice fields shimmer like emeralds; Buddhist monks’ saffron robes glow in the sunlight.  Khmer food is as stunning in color as it is in flavor, mixing green cucumbers, red chili peppers, yellow mangos, and white rice to create recipes that [usually] gratify even this particular American girl. But the people of Cambodia, their warmth and beautiful smiles, bring the most color of all.

Despite not knowing if and when I would ever return to Cambodia, I built warm, unguarded relationships with many I met in 2007 and 2008.  Because of the Lord's call and favor, many of those relationships continue today!  My favorite Cambodian memories are with these people - doing Bible studies on the floor, praying and fasting together, hearing their stories, visiting their families, teaching new English worship songs and learning Khmer worship songs, playing games, and being vulnerable.  Jesus has been in the thick of many of those moments - opening my eyes, growing my love, and drawing me back.

It's what I'll continue to do when we go back.  My ministry will be in our home - to Titus, to Sophear and Chamnab, our unsaved family members, neighbors, area university students... all who enter our home through the front gate.  My desire is to create a space in our home where old friends and new friends can gather - a place to share the joys and struggles of life and to share with them the Hope of Jesus Christ.

With the girls at the Wesleyan Bible Institute
Teacher Chetra and I with my friends and English students in Kratie

Teacher Tess and I with my friends and English students in Kratie