2011 is off to a crazy start – just the way I like it… I spent two weeks in Cambodia, today is Australia Day, and next week is Chinese New Year. The line 15 subway opened at the very end of December and it is also a new best friend – travel time to Shunyi is 45 minutes from my door to wherever I’m going (rather than 20-40 depending on traffic) at a price of 12-17 RMB (including taxi) instead of 60 RMB. Our third flatmate, Laurie, is also preparing to move home to South Africa so we’re looking for a new flatmate again. The room is 1,800 RMB/month plus bills – let me know if you know anyone looking for a place in Beijing! We have to pay 4 months’ rent in February so hoping to find someone who can help with that.
The other exciting news is that the Youth in Asia blog is up and running! This is part of a bigger vision several youth worker friends and I have been talking about for years. For the moment we’re posting three times a week talking about TCKs, life as expats, and youth resources. I would LOVE for you guys to check it out and leave your comments. You can even sign up to receive the posts by email. If nothing else, it will give you a better picture of what it is I actually DO as a youth worker focussed on TCKs. (If you don’t know what TCK means, we explain it on the blog!)
My trip to Cambodia was wonderful! A grant from my church and two USD donations toward the trip meant my expenses were covered before I left – such a blessing! I spent 3 days at Sihanoukville leading worship and just generally helping out at a high school retreat. In the following week I ran trainings on leading worship/singing, spoke at middle and high school youth groups, re-ran the trainings for youth, recorded some of the youth singing a section of a song for my next album, ran a band practise and lead worship at two international church services, and finally took a one-day retreat with Christina. It was somewhat busy.
The trip was soooo encouraging for me! I was in my sweet spot, ministry-wise – using my gifts/skills to build up the church. The worship training drew 30 people from at least four churches (two international, two khmer). We had a wonderful conversation about serving a congregation by leading them emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, into a place of true worship. Everyone contributed, asking questions and sharing experiences. It was great! Several people offered to join me leading that Sunday, so we ended up with a full team – guitar, congas, bass, singers, and me singing/playing piano. A few of the youth were even involved, which was wonderful. The church I led at (which hosted my trainings) usually has only a piano and some singers for their worship services, so it was something special. I really enjoyed it!
Working with the TCKs in Cambodia always expands my vision for the Youth in Asia network. The youth groups I helped out with are very diverse. The numbers were low since it was the first week back from winter break, but in 20 high schoolers were kids from Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, Nigeria, Switzerland, Finland, Korea and Cambodia. They’re wonderful kids and I had a great time meeting them and talking about terrible youtube clips with them ;) 15 kids came to the worship/singing trainings I ran, and we had a great practical discussion about how to write a song list.
Christina and I had planned in advance to have a retreat day – stay in a hotel with AC and hot water, eat some nice food, and do manicures or something else like that. I’d even budgeted some money for it. The church in Phnom Penh surprised me at the end of my stay with a financial gift – so lovely! I would feel guilty making money on a ministry trip paid for through donations so instead we made our retreat day something REALLY special! We checked into the big suite at Villa Langka, sipped fruit cocktails and ate dessert by the beautiful palm-surrounded pool, and slept in a huge 4-poster king size bed. In the morning was the complimentary breakfast buffet, reading on our private balcony, fancy lunch with more yummy fruit juice blends (again by the pool). Then we chose couches and lounged around for a few hours. Eventually we left and got manicures and wonderful massages – best massage I’ve ever had, I think! It was great to have time and space to unwind, process things we’d been thinking through, and just hang out with one of my best friends in the whole world.
The retreat day meant that I left Christina relaxed (despite all the organising and arranging she did for me all week) and that I was refreshed upon my return to Beijing. That was a good thing, because I kicked straight into high-gear! I was out almost all day the first two days I was back, with meetings and youth groups. Was great to see my kids again – I always miss them when I’m away.
I guess that’s all for now. My plan is to write more STORIES this year, instead of updates about what I’m doing. So stay tuned for stories about chair skating and sitting on the Cambodian beach….