He was sitting next to me. The plane was headed to San Diego. It was the middle of December, and I felt so exhausted I chose not to introduce myself—just close my eyes and rest. And then the storm came. It was the worst storm that month for San Diego. The wind knocked our plane around like a cat batting at a toy. I thought I was going to be sick. The pilot came on the intercom and said he couldn’t see the run way until he was right in front of it. He said he was going to try to land, but if he found himself to far up the run away he was going to pull up as fast as possible.
He tried this FIVE times, and I thought I was going to die every time. People were crying in the rows across from me. What types of things do you think in this kind of moment? I was so thankful Brian and I had checked in with our life insurance that week—but the timing of this alone made me wonder if my life was going to end. I thought about Brian and the kids, and I found myself thankful that if something did go wrong, there were hundreds of images that I would leave behind. Images that show the kids, I saw them. Their mama saw who they were. And then the pilot gave up (thank GOD!) and flew us to LA. When we landed he gave us the option of getting off the plane and taking taxis to San Diego. But when the storm passed he was going to try it again. I turned and looked at the man next to me. That was the first time we talked. His name was Randy.
Randy said he was going to stay and wait out the storm. I got my stuff and got off the plane, standing on the ramp for 30 minutes as another pilot told me things were much better than they seemed. I called Brian and cried my eyes out. And in the end, I decided to get back on the plane, IF I could sit in First Class.
We arrived in San Diego, and as I got my suitcase I spotted Randy. He didn’t know I had moved up to First Class. We joked about how crazy the flight was. I remember him saying he was coming from Cambodia. I asked him more about this. It turned out he runs an orphanage in Cambodia’s capitol, Phnom Penh. He had a home for little ones and an Art Center/Home for teen boys. I was so taken by the five minutes we talked that I asked if we could come see him and the kids someday. We exchanged info and that was it until…a few weeks ago.
Brian and I decided to find this orphanage. Remember how Brian realized our flight to Thailand was leaving at midnight and not noon the next day? We had six hours to get everything together, so I ran to the stores to finish shopping for things that we could bring to the children. My girlfriend, Jill Hansen, owns her own dentist practice and at last minute drove out to her office and got toothbrushes and toothpaste for all the kids. Brian got a duffel bag from Costco dedicated to the things for the orphanage, and we dragged it all over Thailand; over ferries, into long tail boats, almost losing it in the water at one point, and then into small propeller planes until we arrived in Phnom Penh.
That was last week. We had left Koh Phi Phi and decided to find the orphanage in Cambodia. But we showed up, in a third world country, without having made a hotel reservation and no idea where Randy was. Randy had not answered my email in a few days. We didn’t know at the time that he was returning from Vietnam. So we rented this random hotel room, exhausted from the travelling and stifling heat, and collapsed on the bed. But first we shooed the spider out the window that was BIGGER than life. Have your husband put his two hands together, fingers outstretched, that’s how big that sucker was. Ugh, it gives me chills just remembering it now.
After we were safe from the spider, I looked at Brian, and I said, “You are the BEST husband in the world. You’ve carried this 50 lb. duffel bag all over everywhere. You agreed to come to Cambodia. And when you think about it, I only talked to this man for five minutes in Baggage Claim at the San Diego airport. I’m not even sure that we’ll find him. I have no idea what to do if he doesn’t email back.” Brian looked at me and smiled, “It will all work out Me Ra.” He is an amazing husband.
And then the next morning, Randy answered his phone. He was back from Vietnam and so excited that we had made it! So we all bagged up 80 gift bags for the kids.
The kids were more excited about this part of our journey than anything else.
We heaved the duffel bag into a Tuk-Tuk and made our way through the city.
We had no idea what to expect, or how we could help. We felt like we should hold off on booking our flight to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and just see where this experience took us. We hoped we could give in some way to the children. We didn’t expect what was to come. We didn’t expect to be given to so powerfully, to be inspired and empowered like never before, to bond relationships that will last a lifetime, and to have more confidence because of what the staff and orphans gave us.
The children were so beautiful! Their sweet faces.
Their inquisitive eyes.
The joy they had when they opened up their gift bags.
All you wanted was to hug them, as many of children, as possible.
I feel so small, so very small—in a good way. The teens we worked with blew my mind and heart. By spending time with them, I felt so convicted of the doubts I’ve been struggling with. Their courage for life put my personal doubts for my own life to shame.
To think I doubt God’s call on my life—that I may be to damaged or broken from my past to fulfill the desires of my heart. To think I believe this at times, and then to be with these beautiful orphans for a week who have nothing—nothing, and yet live as if they have everything. To see these children overcome. To see them build their dreams. To see the joy in their smiles…to see my ability to hope expand and stretch and be changed from being with them.
I want to take the next couple days to share on the blog what happened during our stay at the orphanage in Cambodia. We taught a condensed version of our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshop to the teens, and I must-must-must share their images with you. Be prepared to be inspired friends by the images and stories of these young men and women.
And to think that it all started with a five minute conversation from a flight that almost crashed. We never know what conversations, no matter how short, are meant to change our lives. We never know what seeds they will plant. I must confess that I never had this BIG sense of “we need to go there.” It was more of a tickling on my brain, that settled into my heart. And it just seemed like something to try. I never knew what was really going to happen or meant to be. And I am stunned at how important it is to give those little ticklings on the brain and heart some attention. Instead of waiting for the sky to part and the answer to come as the voice of God, what about the subtle nudge that really and truly almost goes unnoticed.
Does this make sense?