With everything going on we weren't able post an update covering February, so we will briefly cover both February and March in this update.
Grace Filled Days
I heard a pastor (Derrick Fleck) once say, "there are no good or bad days, only grace filled days." The last two months have definitely given us opportunity to lean into God's grace and rethink how we define our days. This has been a trying time for people around the world. It is up to each of us to choose into God's abundant grace for today. Although we have had a lot of choices to make the last couple weeks about staying/going, health, safety, finances, etc. Currently we are safe and feel blessed to be on this journey. We are trusting what God has for us here and now.
In January's update I (Aaron) mentioned some exciting news related to future ministry opportunities but wasn't able to share details yet. My heart for being in Cambodia is love and disciple HPC's 60+ Khmer staff. My long-term dream has been to start a mentor-ship based discipleship program, but I feel strongly about focusing on relationships and letting whatever else I do come out of that. In December I started dreaming about the possibility of having a Khmer ministry partner to journey together. Without knowing that; HPC's director, Alli, thought Chhoengka would be a great ministry partner for me and assigned us to start working together. Chhoengka has been on staff at HPC for over seven years. He was the director of the kids center in Siem Riep for four years and he recently moved back to Phnom Penh to develop a new role. He will be working with the other staff and be a liaison with other organizaitons. However, this new role is only part time. Besides needing other things to do, Chhoengka has a pastors heart and calling on his life. He is a humble and respected leader. His heart calling and experience make him a great partner for me and I am excited to work with him in the future. He and I started meeting and he was helping me learn Khmer until we went into self-quarantine.
I (Aaron) did level 2 full-time which went through late February. The transition from part-time to full-time made me feel pretty behind. I wasn't able to understand as much or keep up with everyone else in my class who had done full-time the term before. I spent extra time to catch up and I progressed well. However, at the end of the term I was still not understanding or speaking as clearly as I needed to in order to move on to level three. I got recommendations from teachers and opted not to move on directly to level three. Instead, I started reviewing vocab from the first two levels on my own. I also was working with a tutor from the school once a week. Additionally I was meeting with Chhoengka to practice Khmer and shadow him at the centers a few times a week.
Early in February I (Aaron) had the opportunity to lead a men's retreat. I was invited by a friend to lead a weekend long "deeper life" retreat for an international men's group. The goal was to invite the guys to create space and posture our hearts towards Father God. I have lead retreats before, but this was the first one since we moved back to Cambodia, and the first one I led without any of my friends back home. The retreat included 6 other men from four different countries. I was humbled and blessed by all the guys who went for it and had some powerful encounters with God.
March Started Normal
Ember's 4th birthday was March 2nd. We had a birthday part with school friends to celebrate her. They played lots of games, had cupcakes, opened presents, and the usual four year old shenanigans. She has grown so much this year; really going from still acting like a toddler to being a full on little girl. She continues to amaze me with her energy and joy for life. She is 200%-in with everything she does, whether she is happy or sad, she is all in. She keeps us emotionally grounded and we enjoy her so much!
The weekend after her party I got away with a buddy to Keri Rom National Park in west Cambodia. Keri Rom has the only Pine wood forest in all of southeast Asia (that I know of). You get out there and it smells like home. The largest city I have ever lived in before P.P. was 90,000 people, and the outdoors has always been a big part of my life. After living in the middle of 2.2 million people, it was so good for my soul to get out to nature. We also have been missing home, so it was amazing to smell pine trees again! We got rained out and had to leave after one night, but had an amazing time while it lasted. We will definitely be going back with the whole family.
The day after I got back from Keri Rom, Megan went to the hospital. She was having trouble breathing, but she did not have a temperature or a cough, so we were not concerned about it being CV. However at the hospital they ran many different tests and couldn't figure out what what going on. On that Thursday she went to Bangkok in Thailand to meet with more doctors. Many more tests were run; there were a few that were a little high, but most came back normal. Ultimately it was determined her body was healthy, but was suggested she may be experiencing physical manifestations of stress. Many people we talk to here have had similar situations where they experienced physical symptoms from what ended up being diagnosed as stress or anxiety. Although Megan wasn't feeling anxious, there are many normal stress-ers that go along with moving to another country, particularly a developing nation. With that said, Megan has been handling it all very well. We are leaning on God through this time and also really appreciate every ones prayers and encouraging words.
On the 14th of March it was announced that all schools in Cambodia would be required to close until at least mid April. I had to stop studying Khmer and have been homeschooling the girls since. The first week was tough for me to adjust emotionally. Megan had been in the hospital the week before. We were praying and processing through staying or going home. On top of all that I had to wrap my head around teaching the girls and be with them all day long while Megan worked.
I think it was mostly a challenge because I was so tired and overwhelmed. However, after the first week, we have gotten into a pretty good groove. There are days where one or all of us feel stir crazy, but overall I'm enjoying my time with the girls and we are doing good. Harper has really stepped up during this time. She is mostly very studious with her homework, she is learning to read and doing great. She also occasionally gets the urge to do chores around the house like laundry, dishes, sweeping, mopping, etc. We really appreciate her!
After students weren't allowed to go to school, Megan continued going to work. It was down to a very small admin team and they practiced social distancing, but she is working from home starting today. We think she will continue to have a job at least through this school year. However, after this school year, we don't know what will happen or if Megan will have work. Please be praying for continued provision.
In conjunction with the rest of our HPC team, we started self quarantine that same week the girls stopped school. We also felt confirmation from the Lord to stay. We feel the Lord leading us to be present and engaged with what he is doing here in Cambodia, and to go through this time with the people here. That could change any day, and we continue to ask Him and are willing to leave if that is what He has for us. At one point we were leaning towards leaving. After praying about it more though, we felt the Lord told us that was out of fear. For right now, we feel He has told us to stay and be prepared for whatever is to come. He has come through for us every time we have needed Him in the past, so we will continue to trust Him and be faithful to what he has for us each day. Please continue to pray with us for Cambodia and the people here as we journey through the coming months.
Prayer Request Highlights
Thank you to all who have been so amazingly generous with our family. We are so blessed to be here with the backing of your prayers and financial support. Right now we are stable financially as Megan is still working. However, things could change quickly if Megan does lose her job due to budget cuts.
We also understand that this global health crisis will have economic consequences that could or may already have affected some of you. We are praying for all of you as we go through this together! Although we hope none of you face financial hardships, we understand if you need to change your monthly support to us.
If you have been giving monthly but find yourself no longer able to give, or if you need to temporarily postpone monthly giving, or may need to do either in the future, please email us at your earliest convenience at email@example.com. Advanced notice will help us plan accordingly, and also let us know how we can be praying for you and your families. We love you all and appreciate your partnership.
If you would like to give, we could use an increased savings and emergency fund in case our financial situation dramatically changes or we have to leave the country on short notice.
To partner with our family go to: www.holmeslove.com/donate
All donations are tax deductible and directly support the Holmes Family in Cambodia.
Thank you for partnering with us!
Megan, Aaron, Harper, and Ember Holmes
If you'd like to write us a post-card or send us physical gifts, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org; we would be happy to send you our address and instructions.
We no longer have our old phone numbers. If you would like to contact us please email hardplacesaaron@gmailcom, or use any of our other social media listed on our website to connect with us (social media can be found at www.holmeslove.com/contact.
If you would like to find out more about our family and what we are doing in Cambodia please visit our website: www.holmeslove.com.