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

-Titus

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



Thursday, September 1, 2016

And now there's four!

It's been too long since I've written and so much has happened.  The really big news is that, four weeks ago our son was born!  The week before Chamnab was born, we attended Family Camp with the Crossroads District of the Wesleyan Church.  We were scheduled to speak on Tuesday night and we asked many people to pray that Chamnab would hang in there until after we spoke.  God was kind to us and exceeded our expectations, delaying Chamnab's arrival until after camp and allowing us to spend the entire week at camp.

On Tuesday, August 2 at 8:44am, Chamnab Harvey Romdenh was born weighing 8lbs 12.2oz and 20" long.

Titus' uncle Chamnab died during the Khmer Rouge (a genocide that killed 1/3 of Cambodia's population in four years).  Harvey was my maternal granddad, a missionary in Africa, and a person who had an immense lasting impact on my life and call to missions.

Chamnab Harvey means skillful warrior and we trust that he will be a solider in the Lord's Army!  Thank you for praying with us for Chamnab's obedience to God's call in his life!


On Sunday, August 14, we dedicated Chamnab to the Lord.  Our sweet Chamnab is a gift from God.  Psalm 127:3 proclaims that "Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him."  But we recognize... He is God's.  We don't know what the future holds for our precious ten-pound boy joy, but we trust that God will lead and strengthen us to guide Chamnab according to His ways.


"Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on their children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)


My love tank is filled as I watch our family, friends, and church community pour love into Sophear.  I trust that Chamnab will be loved with the same deep affection and care.  By investing in and loving Sophear and Chamnab, you are edifying our whole family!  We're grateful that we have friends and family on both sides of the world - in the States and in Cambodia - that love our children deeply.

 

Chamnab is healthy and strong, eating and sleeping well!  Sophear loves him very much and has been exhibiting no signs of jealousy!  We are all enjoying the extra family time provided by Jewel's 10-week maternity leave.  We have quite a bit of traveling to do in the next three months - thus will begin our family adventures!





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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What a journey!

What a journey! I (Titus) have been working with missionaries since I first became a Christian and went to the Wesleyan Bible Institute in 2000. The missionaries told me their stories of how they travelled hundreds and hundreds of miles away from home to churches to raise their own support. They told stories that many times they had to sleep in a tent in front of peoples’ houses, eating at McDonald’s almost every meal (just to save money), packing a lot of snacks and drinks (just to save money), and even staying in homes with people that they never knew or met before.    

We are on that journey now! The journey of an adventure and trust with the ALMIGHTY GOD.

Oh how I now understand that adventure! For the past couple months since we started raising our own support to go back to Cambodia as missionaries to start a new field for World Gospel Mission, we have been travelling quite a lot; and of course, we experienced some of the things that I mentioned above.  
Honestly, sometimes I wandered if I would wake up STILL ALIVE and BREATHING (don’t let our hosts know this) at a strange place in a stranger’s house. Or what if I have an accident on the road?  What if the car breaks down while I am driving?  What if the food that the hosts serve us has poison in it?  What if I have to go the bathroom (#2) immediately while I am driving, but the next exit is still 11 miles away?  What if Jewel goes into labor?  Those are the feelings and fears that frequently occurred from the moment we left the house to travel.

While driving and looking through the car window and seeing the view of mountains, hills, lakes, rivers, trees, skies, storms, rain, sunshine, stop lights, stop signs, deer….etc. These things have reminded me the beauty of God’s creatures and that He is still around me. He is in the car with me. He is in the storm with me. He is in the strange homes and places with me. He is simply with us everywhere we go.

The Lord has been so gracious to us! He has proven Himself trustworthy and a God who provides. We are a young couple, unexperienced in fund-raising, unprofessional in contacting people, but the God that we believe often chooses these kind of people to shine His Glory and to prove to the world that He could mold the ugly brown clay into the most beautiful vase.

Many of the people and churches that we speak at do not know where Cambodia is but once I mention that it borders with Vietnam, they all open their big eyes and stare at me……
(To be continued)

 For the Spirit of God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7


To see Christ glorified in Cambodia,
Titus, Jewel, Sophear, & Little Man