Hi! My name is Megan Sarian and I serve as Content Manager on the OMF (U.S.) Communications team. As a writer, I’m passionate about capturing stories that deepen people’s understanding of God’s work in East Asia. After years of developing this content from my office in Littleton, Colorado, I have the opportunity to go to Cambodia to see and hear stories firsthand. I’ll be chronicling my journey in this blog post series. Thanks for joining me!
To read part 1 of this series, click here.
When I prepared to go on my first short-term mission trip to Southeast Asia eight years ago, an OMF staff person told my team the story of a short-term worker who had a breakdown on her trip because she just couldn’t handle the curtains in her room. I don’t recall why the curtains devastated her (it’s likely there wasn’t a logical reason), but this real-life incident illustrated the unexpected emotional challenges we might face in a culture we’ve never been to before. I thought the example was helpful, but also unnerving.
Would going overseas transform me into a person I couldn’t recognize? I’ve never felt much affected by curtains one way or another but would they suddenly make or break my sanity? Would any sense of strength or maturity I had worked hard to develop in the States just evaporate in the face of new food, surroundings and people?
What I found out when I finally stepped foot in Asia for my first Serve Asia opportunity was that I didn’t suddenly have an issue with curtains, but struggles I had had in America remained, only they became more difficult to confront and manage.
I had always struggled to lead confidently, but now I carried responsibility for a group of people who all had more experience with Asia and missions than me. I had always struggled to make quick decisions, but now my decisions had a foreign context surrounding them, and my choices would impact my whole team, not just myself.
So I faced internal struggles, but, of course, my new environment required some adjustments as well. I wasn’t used to wearing long sleeves and long skirts in 90-degree weather with stifling humidity. I also wasn’t used to the prevalence of coconut milk in my diet, or navigating a public transportation anywhere, much less in a foreign country.
Despite these necessary modifications, both internally and externally, memories of the hard stuff or the challenging transitions don’t dominate my memory. My prominent recollections are of the palpable sense of Jesus’ presence I felt in the slums. I remember the hospitality of the strangers we met. I recall the woman who welcomed us into her small one-room home and laid out a spread of fruits she had just picked up at the market that morning. Imprinted on my memory are the questions we asked our new Muslim friends about God and how they said they followed him, but couldn’t be sure he had ever truly forgiven them.
I’ve changed a lot since that trip. Additionally, the purpose of my travels are different this time around. But I’m still curious about the things that will be hard, and the things that will feel more familiar and comforting than I anticipate.
What will my “curtain crisis” look like in Cambodia—a place I have never visited before? Will I even have one? Will it come in the beginning of my trip when everything is new, or will it come toward the end, when the repetition of certain discomforts or unfamiliarity break me down at an unexpected moment?
And in what ways will I see God at work here? In what moments will his presence break through? What kinds of scenes will unveil the Lord’s desires for this place or stir in me a longing for God’s kingdom to come?
In the next post, Megan explores the expectations she had going into her trip to Cambodia and how they’ve measured up to reality.
Megan has been working in communications for almost 10 years. Currently serving as Content Manager for OMF (U.S.) she enjoys writing, editing and over-thinking everything word-related. When not in the office, Megan spends her spare time cycling, thrift shopping, exploring her city and drinking coffee with (or without) friends.
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