Survivor Cambodia

The DOVE Phnom Penh Onyx students, staff and volunteers headed to a retreat on an island off the coast of Cambodia, Koh Rong. It was the location for two seasons of the “reality” show, Survivor. As we approached the coast, it started raining. Tropical Storm Pabuk was in the Gulf of Thailand and authorities warned boats to expect high waves. On the bus ride, I wondered if we were going to make a new episode of Survivor. The staff monitored and prayed about the storm.
An Onyx lesson asks students to imagine that they are a boat, first undergoing repairs in dry dock and then setting sail to test seaworthiness. Lay, the DOVE Phnom Penh Coordinator, thought it fitting to end the year departing from a real port to sail on the ocean. When I heard they were going to Koh Rong, I was afraid I would get seasick crossing in a fishing boat. When Lay said they would take the 50-seat express ferry which is smoother and only takes 45 minutes, I decided to go. Despite Pabuk, the ferry was still running so we took off. I recalled that Jesus is Lord over the wind and waves.

Overall, the only significant effect of Pabuk was that we got seasick. When unloading another group of passengers at an island, waves near shore were so strong they couldn’t step onto the dock. Being tossed up and down, everyone started to look green.  I took off my life jacket and stood near the front deck where there was a breeze. We waited while a smaller boat was sent to transport the others ashore. We continued to Koh Rong and were able to step out on the dock. Friday night, the high surf washed up lots of trash and flotsam onto the beach, but it cleaned up quickly.

Making a scrapbook for the ensuing year, students spent Saturday morning reflecting on what they learned about God, themselves and relationships with others. They also made 2-3 year plans to fulfill or discern God’s vision for their life. That night, they took turns sharing and then prayed blessings for each other to fulfill those visions.

Because of the waves on Saturday, the ferry wasn’t running. The ferry ran again on but arrived late with oversold seats. After some discussion, they let everyone board. Lay and some other passengers wound up standing or sitting on luggage. I noticed two staff members, Serey and Virak, put on life jackets. I followed their lead! The ride back was a lot rougher, so I was grateful to dock back on the mainland. The one thing that approached a Survivor episode was Serey killing a 2-inch centipede crawling next to me on my bed. I carefully shook out all my clothes before and after packing at home.

The real survivors at Koh Rong were the Onyx students persevering the past year to finish the program. Instead of forming alliances against each other to become the sole survivor, they became a family where people share honestly.  Moreover, they’ve shown they have the heart to serve others.  Two students, Ngechsor and Pheakday, travel back to their province on Saturdays after class to share the Onyx lessons with the local church youth. Also, another small group planned and carried out a children’s outreach at a resettlement village near Phnom Penh, where one of them lives. As these students set sail after Onyx, we look forward to hearing further adventures of how God works through them to bless their communities.