Cambodia Changed my Heart

Director’s Note: Reya Martinez will be serving as a Kingdom Families intern in summer 2017. One of the things that compelled us to bring her on was her experience and insight regarding global orphan care which she learned on the World Race. We asked her to share a little about that today on the blog. If you’d like to learn more about Reya and support her upcoming internship in Moshi, please click here.

For the past year of my life, I was on the World Race Gap Year, a nine month mission trip around the world serving countries very in need of God and his love. On this trip, I had the opportunity to go to four countries, one of those being Cambodia. I want to share specifically, a little about Cambodia and my experience there because of how it changed my outlook for global orphan care.

Cambodia is an incredible country, home to the most beautiful people with kind hearts and warm smiles. But it is also a country filled with a lot of poverty, both physical and spiritual. During my time in Cambodia, my team and I lived at an orphanage in the middle of nowhere with only dirt roads and rice fields surrounding us. Going into our month there, I was very excited to love on these kids and to share Jesus with them through our words and actions. I went into Cambodia thinking, as I believe many people do, that all of the children we would be loving on and getting to know were your stereotypical orphan. I pictured a child who had been abandoned by their parents either due to death or unfortunate circumstances causing them to believe they could no longer take care of this child they brought into the world. But oh how the Lord wanted to prove to me that I was wrong and change my heart. Within days of being at the orphanage, we began to hear some of these children’s stories and they were most certainly not the cookie cutter story I had assumed they would all have. We learned that many, if not most, of the children at our orphanage had living parents in one of the nearby villages however they felt they could not fully take care of them so they sent them to stay in the closest orphanage. Some would visit regularly a few times a month, others hardly at all acting as if they had never had the child. It was really heartbreaking to see these kids trapped in a terrible situation they never asked for and my heart began to ache for them.

While being sent to live in an orphanage gave these precious kids a chance to go to school and a little bit of food for their stomachs, they still are orphans because they no longer have a family to call their own. They had little source of love in their lives aside from what the young Cambodian couple running the orphanage and the teams like mine that pass through could offer. Hearing story after story of these kids that were slowly becoming my new Cambodia brothers and sisters, my heartbroke. It longed to find each child a home, one full of love and grace and acceptance.  For the first time in my life, I realized that orphanages were not the solution to the problem. Every child deserves a family, one that can love them and pour into them and support them. Each child of God deserves to be fully known and fully loved. We cannot continue to teach that orphanages are the solution to the worldwide problem of fatherless children. We must realize that children don’t belong in institutions, they belong in loving homes. Whether that be their biological families or families waiting with open arms for whoever God wishes to bring to them through fostering or adoption.

As hard as it was to learn of the real situation of orphans not only in Cambodia, but all over the world,  I am so thankful that God opened my eyes to what I feel He is calling me to do to help the problem. He used Cambodia to show me the great injustice of orphan care that my heart longs to fight for and has now placed Kingdom Families into my life as a way for me to live out that calling. It is such a crazy and beautiful thing when you see the way God uses every piece of your story and somehow fits it all together. The Lord knew I needed Cambodia and He knows I need Tanzania and to be working with Kingdom Families this summer.

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I am a lover of Jesus, the outdoors, and Africa! I am from Austin, Texas and am currently attending Texas A&M University.

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