the impact of Short-term Missions in Cambodia
Short-term missions became a phrase in my vocabulary at a very young age.
Having grown up on the mission field, I could not tell you how many short term participants I have seen roll through Cambodia. However, what I could tell you, is that there is a significant change in the local church and mission field because of them. A positive change. The change that can be seen in the local church, the congregation, the leaders, the youth, and the children. The change that can also be seen in the International workers themselves.
My father, Bill Lobbezoo, has been running English camps since before I can remember them. Every summer, since 2003, groups ranging from 10 to 60 people would travel to Cambodia and spend about 10 days participating in English Camp. English camp gives the locals a chance to learn and practice their English, but the real purpose of English Camp is to foster relationships. Relationships that cross language barriers and open doors to share Christ. I believe that relationships are a key part in our life as Christians, as we are meant to spread the love of God through our love for one another.
Although it may not be as visible within the 10 day parameters of a short-term trip, God’s hands have worked through these STM-local relationships in amazing ways. Locals have given their lives to Christ, they’ve been baptised, they’ve been encouraged in their faith, they’ve brought their friends, their friends have brought friends. But most importantly, they’ve began to understand this love that their Heavenly Father has for them.
I would be telling a lie if I said that I remembered every single short-term participant that has come by to work with my parents, but I can say without a doubt that every single one of them is remembered by somebody in Cambodia. The participants in these short-term trips have made tremendous effects on the hearts of the locals.
At the end of the camp, when the goodbyes are said, the hugs and the tears are truly genuine.
Many former short-term participants have returned for English Camp a number of times, and have been able to continue to build relationships with the locals over the years. A number of former short-termers have even returned on 2-4-month long internships throughout the summer. Not only do short-term missions make changes in the hearts of the locals, they start fires in the hearts of their own participants. Sometimes that means a change of career path, a new sense of clarity, or maybe a new lifestyle. I have seen at least 3 people that I know personally go from slightly scared participants on a short-term trip, to full-time career International Workers in Cambodia.
This summer, the first ever Language Exchange camps took place. The Language Exchange camps are similar to the English camps that took place for fourteen years, but the difference is an added section of curriculum in which the Cambodian students teach the short-termers how to speak Khmer. It breaks down language barriers and helps foster conversation and relationships. I’m happy to say that God worked in great ways through the first few camps that took place this summer, and I am excited to see (or hear about) the ways in which God works through the short-term teams and these camps in the future.
Although the short-term participants may travel back home and continue with their life just as it was before, feeling like they may have not accomplished much on their trip, the hearts of many of the locals have been changed forever because of them. The locals continue to talk about the short-term participants that became their dear friends, and all of the things they learned from them. They talk about how they were encouraged, and how much they miss them. The short-term teams that have traveled to Cambodia to take part in the English camps have special places deep in the hearts of the locals, and I would say that the feeling is mutual.
I see all that these International workers do now for the local church and mission field in Cambodia, and I can not help but think that if those short-term trips had not happened, things might not have turned out this way. I don’t think it is acknowledged enough just how much the short-term teams and interns encourage the International workers themselves. Without them, these relationships could not have been formed, and these changes could not have been made in the hearts of the locals, and of the short-term participants themselves.
Kimberly Lobbezoo is the daughter of Bill and Ilana Lobbezoo serving in Cambodia. She is 19 years old and is studying theater arts and mission and ministry. She has a heart for the nations, and hopes to continue to learn and serve in the future.