BC Juniors Global

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Today we spent time at S21–a one-time high school turned Khmer Rouge detention center (think WW2 concentration camp)–and Choeung Ek Genocide Center, aka “The Killing Fields.” 

These indentations are excavated mass graves. Over 20,000 people were killed at this site.

I had already heard about the Khmer genocide under Pol Pot, and had just finished Tears of My Soul, a survivor’s account of the genocide, but even then my understanding was academic and without emotional context. Our experience today changed that. 

When the communist Khmer regime came to power, they wanted to begin a new self-sustaining Cambodia, resetting the country to Year 0. The party recruited poor rural people, young men, mostly, to fuel it’s rise to power. These groups of people were the first to be “liberated” by the Khmer as they moved from the jungles to the cities. The Khmer Party, or Angkar, regarded intellectuals as suspicious, more likely to resist the revolution and support the old regime. Indeed, those who wore glasses, had soft hands, and lived in the cities were among the most heavily targeted for detention and execution. These groups were liberated last, we’re labeled “New Liberated” people, and were often ridiculed by the “Old Liberated.”

Detention building at S21, a one-time high school.

Under the Khmer Rouge, all social structures were torn apart in an effort to eliminate class destinction: banks destroyed (finance/economics), temples and Buddha statues smashed (religion), schools closed or turned into prisons and warehouses (education), cinemas shuttered and movie stars killed (entertainment and the arts), and families separated. 

At the killing fields, there was a tree labeled simply, “Killing Tree” with a shallow pit a few feet away. Here, soldiers (Cadres) snatched babies from their mothers and killed them by swinging them by their ankles against the tree and then tossing them into the pit. Babies and young children were often targeted so that they did not come back to seek revenge.

There is a monument on site dedicated to the victims. There are several tiers in the monument, many of which hold these skulls excavated from the graves.

Here’s how I started to process all of this: I teared up thinking of my own children. But I also thought about my family growing up. The Khmer Rouge took power in 1975 and ruled for 3+ years before falling apart and being overthrown by Vietnam. At this time, my dad, halfway around the world, was finishing his PhD. My mom had a bachelor’s degree. They were teachers. They both worked extremely hard, but I’d bet their hands were relatively soft. My siblings were born at this time. My parents were active in their local church. The reality is that had God seen fit to put us in Cambodia instead of the US, we’d be exactly the kind of people targeted for execution. My sister or brothers could have been smashed against that tree. 
My parents just celebrated 50 years of marriage, and the turnout for the celebration is a testament to their legacy. My siblings have beautiful families, have crafted meaningful, impactful lives. I can’t imagine a world without them. 3 million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge; countless children. The thought of so much promise snuffed out before being fulfilled is heartbreaking. What impact could those children have had on the world?

I want to be careful not to appropriate someone else’s story or colonize someone else’s grief, but putting the genocide and what I saw today in the above context helps me realize just how senseless and tragic this was, and is a good reminder of how broken our world is. It’s a good reminder that I must respond to God’s great love for me and Jesus’s great sacrifice by bringing light into darkness and by doing what I can to usher in His kingdom here in earth. 

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Seeing the country!

The first thing that comes to mind on what to write about on this trip, was “travel”. On the way here to Kaimosi, Kenya, we spent about 30 hours altogether travel time. The first two airplanes, culture didn’t seem to change much. By the last flight from Switzerland to Nairobi, Kenya however, there was a realization between Shawn, Katy and I that we were all of a sudden the minority. English had gone from the first spoken language to the 3rd or 4th. And that is when the charismatic attempts to get people to understand you and you them, began. As we arrived in Kenya, and began our travel to Kaimosi and within the surrounding “towns” and cities, life we had seen in America drastically became but a memory! Looking around as we weave in and out of different “lanes”(there’s actually no lines) to pass slower vehicles, the sides of the roads were crammed with small hut like structures for selling produce and merchandise. Early in the morning and then coming back to where we stay in Kaimosi, we often see the same people in the same spot selling the same things. I asked myself to “imagine sitting in the hot sun all day only to get a fraction of what you have worked so hard to feed/provide for your family.”

The sight of a “mzungu” or a white person, brings big smiles and waves especially if we wave back. Kids often yell “Mzungu!!! How are you!?!?!?” In which Kevin then yells back, “I am fine!!” We are easily the center of attention a lot because again, we are the minority. Kenya is such a beautiful country, and the people are just as beautiful! They love Americans! As we travel also, they love to teach us their language which has been amazing and really interesting at the same time because there are 43 tribes who all speak different dialects. Fortunately for us Mzungu’s, Swahili is a commonly understood language here so knowing the basics like “hi, how are you?” of “What’s your name?” “My name is…” and “thank you”, has helped a lot. They find it very funny when we speak their language which is just one more way to make them smile. This experience in Kenya has been eye opening and has allowed me to eat up every bit of culture I can, which is so beautiful. Overall our travel time has been quite long, every mile we traveled has been well worth it<3


P.s. We were gifted another Chicken!!! We named this one “Maria” and three hours into our drive back to  our temporary home, it she pooped on Katy.

Katy and Maria

Katy and Maria Sleeping on the way back home:)

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Who is The Greatest?

Greetings from Kenya!

A lot has happened this past weekand a half, Lots of traveling, eating, seeing animals, learning and experiencing a different culture. One thing that we have done practically everyday (and sometimes a couple times a day) is visiting widow groups. The widow groups are always located on the outskirts of the community and they are always ostracized and overlooked by the community. It is believed that these women are now cursed by their recently deceased husband or other bad spirits. These women are very poor and don’t have jobs, they often are living with AIDs and are learning to live “positively” with the disease while raising children. Their children are considered orphans and often cannot go to school because there mother cannot afford to send them and/or they are needed to work to help support the family.

Friends Bring Hope and Rural Service Programme have a field officer stationed in different areas of western Kenya. They identify widow groups that are most in need and report back to the home office to give us assignments to visit, bring gifts and blessings, and the resources to build a home for a single widow they find who is most in need. When we go to help “mutope” or mud a house, we are greeted by the widow group singing and dancing around our vehicle. To have American “muzungus” come to your home is a great honor and one that will elevate their status in the community and will lift the curse off of them and their home.

Because these women have literally less in their home than I can pack in my suitcase, the greatest gift they can muster to bless us back is sharing a meal. To American standards it is a humble snack, but to them it is a feast, a thanksgiving dinner. It is important for us to accept their gift(s) because according to the culture you shouldn’t let anyone enter your home without treating them hospitably, also if you are given a gift the standard of reciprocity is strongly upheld. If we are lucky we might also be given a chicken (Paco Paulita will forever be remembered in our hearts) or have a tinsel garland placed around our necks. These may seem like small gifts but to these women, and to us, they are worth their weight in gold

Another important aspect of meeting the widow groups along side giving and receiving gifts and helping mud the new house is introductions. This entails us all (visitors and widows) to say our name title and where we are from. For me this looks like, “Merembe! (shalom) My name is Katy Vanderploeg I am a nongraduating senior at Barclay college and I study Elementary Education. I live in Haviland Kansas with my husband but my parents are missionaries in Belize Central America.” Listening to the widows share is very meaningful and a personal way that expresses that they are people worthy of an American “muzungo” coming to their home and listening to them. This not only honors them as humans and peers to us, whom we and God loves and sees, but also elevates them within their community as a human again worthy of friendship and respect.

Visiting with these widows and orphans and showing them love and respect and empowering them to be self reliant, strong, and to feel human again is really teaching me how much more God knows and loves me. How much He wants me to grow in faith and maturity. These widow have also taught me, when we go to visit them, how much more God celebrates us and welcomes us into presence and community with Him.

When I go to these widows and orphans in their place of suffering and destitute I see Christ. When I am welcomed into their communities and homes and lavished upon so generously I see Christ. When my spirit weeps for the unfair treatment of women and children Christ weeps with me. When I look into the wondering and amazed eyes of an orphan child I see the wondrous love and innocence of Christ. When I see the faithfulness of the old mamas to her grandchildren and children I see the faithfulness of Christ.

I pray that my eyes will continue to be open and willing to see God at work and in Kenya. I pray that my heart will be soft and moldable for god to continue His work in me. And I pray that God will ever bless the people and ministries here in Kenya and around the world.

Mungu Abarete Wote.


Our dear chicken friend Paulita

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Tomorrow we will be leaving Myanamar for good. Thinking about that makes me sad because we are leaving and I don’t know when I will be back. I am excited to go back to Thailand and even more excited for Cambodia. I’m going to miss all the families we have met here in Myanamar, I’m thankful that we got to hang out and meet so many people here. I’m also going to miss our friend Pa Kep. He has been so awesome and he is always there to make us all smile and laugh. He is a joy to be around. He translated for us while we have been in Myanmar. He has ordered our food at restaurants and he has translated everything we wanted to communicate to the kids for our program. I’m glad I got to meet such a fun, God loving guy. I’m happy to call him my friend. Its not a stretch to say that our ministry or time in Myanmar wouldn’t have been possible without Pa Kep’s willingness to help. 
Constantly being around new people, new sights, new foods, new smells, and new surroundings is challenging in many ways. I am challenged to see these new things as different instead of wrong. Everything around me is not wrong just different. It has honestly been difficult to see it that way. When we see things that we are not used to we automatically think that it is wrong. That’s not the case, it is not wrong just different. It is easier said than done to think like this, and it has been quite the challenge for me. I am thankful that God called me out of my comfort zone to see these things that are so different because it has helped me in my own life. 

When we experience new and different things it is our tendency to automatically judge someone or something for being different. It is not our place to judge, we are all called to love. 1 John 4:11 says “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” It is so amazing the amount of love we receive from God. I am guilty of judging someone instead of loving them even when I’m back in the States. I have realized though that while being here I am judging people because what I see is wrong. It is not wrong just different and I should love them. I could pray for them or even offer a nice smile. It is hard to do this being in a new environment, but I am working on it and I am hoping that I will learn to love more and judge less when I’m back in the States. 

Thank you all for your prayers and encouraging messages. Continue to pray for our travels and health and also the kids that we reaching at these houses. Some of their stories are hard to believe because they are so tramautizing, yet they love life and are some of the happiest kids. 

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The Greatest of these is “Love” By: Shawn Richardson

“The only sound being heard is a loud pounding as the rain hits the ground producing puddles, and turning the clay like dirt into a muddy swamp. In the middle of the muddy mess is a house made from the substance that it is standing on, torn grass roof, half the house flooding with rain, and reflecting a hundred year old forsaken house that was lit on fire and was hit by a bulldozer. Walking closer and closer to the house you can start to hear a faint noise, and the noise gets harder and harder to bear. In one corner on the shivering mud floor of the house is a widowed mama hugging tightly her two crying kids, sheltering them from the rain, using her own body heat to warm her kids for the night.”

This was the first widowed mama’s circumstance when we built our first mud house for the start of the trip. Her living circumstances where so hard to bear that the mama and the kids were starting to have physiological problems. Building her new mud house (which wasn’t much), and seeing other widowed mamas helping her, seeing them all smile, shout and dance with joy, gave me a greater understanding of loving the forgotten and the neglected. I can’t even comprehend what that mother was going through, and the daily fight that these widowed mothers and orphaned children go through every day.

What does it mean to love and what does it look like? But what does it mean to love through the eyes of Jesus Christ? When you see a mother with her kids, fighting daily for another day, how do you show and reflect the love of Christ to them? This is when you start to see love as not as an emotion or feeling but it is an action as well. Going through these couple of weeks and seeing the daily life of these mamas and orphaned children has given me a new understanding of being the feet and hand of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 13 it talks about love, and as a believer we are called to love. That everything else will start to cease or end but love will not. When walking in love with the eyes of Jesus, will reflect God to them through you, planting seeds in the person’s life, and letting God take control.

        13:“And now abide faith, hope and love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.”


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Such Joy

Being here for almost 2 weeks, there have been many, so many sights. One could say that I haven’t seen enough; and they would be correct. There isn’t enough time to really see everything, example I know I haven’t seen everything back home in the States and I lived there my whole life.


The sights I want to talk about is the things I’ve taken notice from the kids here. The past few have touched my heart in many ways, granted all of them have, but the past three the most thus far. Though we’ve done the same things for each, just something more came out of it for me at least. As I been hearing some background stories for each kid, my heart has been shattering. But looking at them now, you wouldn’t begin to tell what they have seen and lived through.


These kids have faced their own special kind of Hell that no child, or teen, should ever experience anywhere in the world. But interacting with them and you will find just utter pure, unadulterated, joy flowing from their hearts, their little giggles, and look them in the eyes and you will find hope overflowing. Today two took a liking to me, where ever I sat so did they. One was talking to me in their language and couldn’t help but keep laughing as they knew I had no idea what they said; but it still worked we had fun. Then seeing these kids eat, man could they eat. It isn’t everyday where they can eat a buffett style lunch till they are full, but now they can thanks to the ministry that takes care of them. Most of them had to find food, or never got enough, but knowing they can in these families makes me joyous! Their joy is extremely addictive!


If you say there is no God, come see these kids and explain to me how in the world they have so much hope in the world around them; and it isn’t because the homes took them in, because anyone can take care of a child to give them love, shelter and food. No, this, this here is different, ya know? Seeing them, you see something more, something that words cannot express. You can just tell there has surely got to be a God who is good, and just. The sovereignty of God and his love is lavished on such ways that it is remarkably, and unmistakably present here.


In Christ,


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Arrival at Tachileik, Myanmar

We arrived at Tachileik, Myanmar, today (May 26) and checked into our hotel. Before leaving on the plane for Tachileik from Lashio, I decided to leave the hotel and walk around some of the local shops close by. While browsing through one of the stores, one of the workers came up to me and we chatted for awhile. He asked me where I was from, what brought me to Myanmar, etc. I told him that we were Christians and were on a mission trip. He told me that he was a Buddhist, but was interested in Christianity. I told him alitte bit about it, and than we had to leave to catch our flight. Hopefully a seed of faith was planted.

Today is mostly a rest day for the team. I think it is good to have it, as we all have gotten alittle bit tired sometimes from traveling. I think it is also good to have time to reflect back on our trip so far. I am very thankful for being able to have gone on this trip, and also for everyone who has supported me and are praying for me. I am truly blessed to have so many people who care about me. I am  thankful for everyone on my team. God brought us all together for a reason, and since being on the trip, we have all been able to share our stories and get to know each other better. I am also very grateful for Seth Van Tifflin (our trusted friend who has been traveling with us and been showing us many of the amazing places that we have visited.

I am also blessed for all the amazing people that I have met so far on this trip, and to be able to hear their stories of how God has worked in their lives. Many of them have been in what seemed like impossible situations, but God has always worked the bad into good and made things work out. I can even attest to that in my own life.

Tomorrow (Sunday) we will be doing our VBS program again with the kids here in Tachileik. Please continue to pray for our safe travel and continued ability to reach those with the Gospel who need to hear it. Also pray for Monday when we fly to Cambodia and visit the last of the kids homes we are scheduled to visit.

Thank you to everyone. Will update again soon!

Until He comes again,