Jeremiah’s thoughts

I’m so thankful I was created with the notion to write down my thoughts while processing. Some people talk to themselves, others pray, I write. This allows me to remember exactly how I’m feeling in each moment.
I’m currently at a too-crowded wat (Cambodian temple) in Phnom Penh and it’s here that I am seeing families walking together, university students studying, and strangers enjoying lunch on a shady bench. This seems so American. I feel as if I’m in my past experiences, perhaps Central Park in New York City or Potsdam just outside of Berlin.

Sweet Surrender Downtown Wat 1

But there’s a significant difference in this moment. While I feel at home in the center of this park, I am heavy. My body is literally heavy under the presence of these demons and spiritual warfare. Here in the middle of this beautiful city, I’m finding myself at home, yet spiritually depressed.

You see, whether while teaching at school, shopping at a night market, or visiting cultural sights with my group, I am constantly reminded by small spirit houses and meditating monks that my faith is a minority here, nearly nonexistent actually.

Sweet Surrender Downtown Wat 2

I see so many dedicating their life to their gods. Some people are giving their literal last meal to their spirit houses while they and their children go hungry. A nation that is stricken with poverty is giving its greatest resources to building exquisite temples. It’s beautiful, yet equally heartbreaking.

Sweet Surrender Downtown Wat 3

I’m heartbroken because my thought is this: if I was as dedicated to reading Scripture, praying to my Father, giving to others and the church, sharing the Gospel, and simply living out my faith daily, what change could I make? I see a society giving all they have to their gods in vain. Yet here I am, not giving enough simply because my God, the true God, doesn’t require it of me.

Sweet Surrender Downtown Wat 4
Not technically this wat I’m discussing but here’s just a glimpse of the Royal Palace

He knows my failures and mistakes, yet he continues to love me. I don’t have to build a temple or give my last meal to appease Him. All He asks is that I love and pursue Him. In a nation so opposed to this, I’m reminded each moment how good my Father is.


Always in my heart

To be honest with you all, I truly never wanted to go to Asia. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Europe has always been my dream continent to work full-term in. The culture of Western nations always fascinated me, but the culture of Eastern nations quickly stole my heart.

Upon arriving in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, our group made a quick turn around to Siem Reap in the north. My attitude about this was not good initially. Having just flown literally 40+ hours, I was ready to be home and in bed, not on a six hour bus ride. Boy, did my mind change quickly.

Sweet Surrender Siem Reap Bridge

Siem Reap stole my heart. Each day, another charming local reached out to me, showing me that I was important. In American culture, so often you walk unnoticed. Not here. Sometimes as a foreigner you are swarmed by market vendors, Tuk-Tuk drivers (essentially Cambodia taxis), and even children of need. While this was definitely stressful initially, learning “Ate Akhun” or “No thank you,” and “Akhun sheran!” or “Thank you so much,” helped simple communication become easy.

What I’m trying to say is this, I never imagined finding a home in Cambodia. Thankfully, the locals make it impossible to not find charm in the smallest of things.

Our team spent our first few days getting to know each other and this new city. This was done through language courses, culture orientation, and intentional walks. An overload of information is a good way to describe my first few days in Siem Reap, as well as culture shock.

Sweet Surrender Siem Reap Night Market

Feeling overwhelmed from the new culture, language, food, and friends, I quickly began wondering why I am here. I found myself questioning my abilities and doubting my skills. Thankfully, I was comforted in so many ways.

First, there was our hotel staff. These individuals made a strange land home in one day and for that, I am forever thankful. Second, our team is made up of individuals that complete each other so well. We all have a role and that helps so much.

Sweet Surrender Siem Reap Pub Street

Next, we had the opportunity to visit a school for the deaf and blind of Siem Reap. I was completely humbled when being lead through a dark room by a blind girl more joyful that I have ever been, despite her circumstances. We were also able to see more of the culture by visiting the Floating Village, a local silk farm, and finally Angkor Wat.

Sweet Surrender Floating Vilalge

Sweet Surrender Angkor Watcropped-cambodia1.jpg

Sweet Surrender Angkor Wat 3

Most exciting, I was placed on a team of teachers that taught young women who were recently rescued from a life of prostitution trade skills. We also taught the property staff English, something I found myself extremely passionate about.

All in all, Siem Reap quickly became my home away from home. Our group arrived in Phnom Penh for the next two weeks and while I’m excited to be in the classroom more, I will always long for the streets of Siem Reap (call me crazy, I know.)

Please pray for my team as my of us, including myself, are bogged down by intense sickness. I have a bacterial infection that has me bed-ridden and I’m hoping to be better before we dive into the classroom again.

Thank you for following along! I wish you all could see this place in person, as my words will never do Cambodia justice. This land is like no other.

Welcome home

Cambodia, the Kingdom of Wonder, definitely doesn’t disappoint. After traveling who knows how long (literally I don’t know what day it is), it’s amazing to see where I can call home for the next month or so.

Sweet Surrender Personal Photo

A lot of crazy things are happening in Phnom Penh, so our group is headed six hours north to Siem Reap in order to prepare for teaching in peace and safety.

This journey has taught me several things already, one of which is the beauty found in the life of Cambodia. Neighbors are seen bartering, a tire full of air for a tank of gas, as roosters and rat dogs scurry about their feet.

The Lord has blessed this land with a cool spell, along with rain outside of the monsoon season. I have hope that this trend will continue as this “cool” day is beyond warm and humid.

It’s hard to believe I’m actually here. Hearing just a small portion of what we will be doing here, from teaching girls who recently escaped a life of prostitution trade skills to showing children why their culture, and ours, is important, great things are going to happen here.

The beauty of the landscape is much different from what I expected. I’ve always been a Europe person, to be honest; Asia has always been distant in my mind, but boy was I wrong. Sprawling fields house water buffalo and palm trees as far as the eye can see. Drizzling rain is falling, making me feel a little cozier that I probably should being so far from all that I know.

It’s day one and these teammates have already brought me so much joy. I’ve realized how I can find friends anywhere, at any time. The only downfall is the brevity of this tour, but I know these friendships are meant to last.

So here’s to Cambodia, Hong Kong, and Laos. Follow along if you want to hear the way these students change and develop us, while hopefully we do the same to their English skills (mainly because I have no idea what they’re saying with their accents.)


Jeremiah Halbert