My name is Ivan Yow Jit Vern, a final year medical student currently studying at the University of Manchester. I attended a medical mission trip to Cambodia on the summer of 2013.
How was it, you ask?
If I were to sum it up in one word, I would say it’s probably “LOVE”. I know it sounds cliché, but bear with me. Because, the truth is, I would rather illustrate my travels with a story rather than a formal essay. In fact, how else could I describe a mission that taught me about children? Or a time in which my very life was possibly in danger? Or perhaps even a rediscovering of God’s calling? So, where to begin…
I always had a longing to go to Cambodia, even before I went to medical school. I actually wrote the exact words “I had plan to go to Cambodia for a mission trip before medical school” on my UCAS form. However, due to circumstances with the timing, I DID NOT actually go. Was I lying on my UCAS form? It might seem that way, In fact, I was actually sad that I might have started my medical school with a false statement.
Four beautiful years later, I finally had the chance to go. And this time, I was determined. I grabbed the chance and grace God presented and went. This time, I am more knowledgeable, more skilled, and more capable. Or so I thought.
Boy was I wrong! On the very minute I got onto the mission field, I learnt the value of teamwork. A single person would not be able to efficiently treat all of the people there in a day. I had the privilege of seeing a few patients. But I would not have gotten anywhere without the consult and advice from the other doctors, dentist, and pharmacist.
But that was just the medical side. You have no idea how important it is to entertain the children, some of which were already gambling with real money. In fact, when they grow older, they move on to the adult table, all casually enjoying their only form of entertainment. Furthermore, try to imagine the lack of dental care in the rural villages. It is disturbing.
What if I’m not medically trained, you asked?
Not to worry! Even those who were not medically trained were able to be efficient assistants to the dentists, while co-ordinating the work needed to do. Very impressive indeed.
But even if we were the most co-ordinated and disciplined team, a supreme task force to do humanitarian work, one question lingers on my mind. How are we different from other humanitarian groups? Perhaps sometimes, it’s when things go wrong or become unpredictable that our souls and motivations are unveiled. Perhaps we really need to encourage and help each other to overcome the difficulties we face. Which brings me to the next part of my sharing...
“The Night of Terror!!”
It was a weary night after a long day of humanitarian work. What seems like a well-deserved dinner suddenly turned tremulous on the arrival of bad news. It appears that the Cambodian elections were heating up and the oppositions were winning. The WORST case scenario would be that there would civil unrest and fighting, all at our doorstep.
So what did we do?
A) We panicked and rushed our dinner
B) We made plans to return immediately
C) We carefully analysed the situation
If you answered all of them, good job. Because that was exactly what we did. The outcome was that some of us returned a day earlier, while some chose to remain to complete the rest of the mission. It was an emotional event, almost surreal. It turns out that the situation was stable and the ruling party had retained power. I stayed back, but in hindsight, I did seriously consider going home. However, the real issue wasn’t whether we would go back or stay. NO. Because instead of dividing the team, I hoped it did the very opposite. I believe we grew, to make the decisions, convicted by our faith, beliefs and our rationale. I believe we grew to support each other regardless of the decisions made, for “love” was not only showed to the people of Cambodia that night but equally to the members of the mission team.
If you want to know about this type of “love” I recommend you try hanging out at an orphanage. This was perhaps the most enjoyable part of this trip. These children were orphans adopted into a home and raised with love. The same metal bars that lined the torture houses during Khmer Rouge regime, now protects rather than capture, defending the wonderful children in the home from the evils outside before they are ready to set forth into the world. With the same love, this drives the motivations of other safe houses, such as “Daughters of Cambodia”, a safe house dedicated to help the welfare of prostitutes in Cambodia, in which we also visited and provided valuable dental services.
During the trip, I asked a friend how he was able to do so well with the children. His answer was simple yet profound:
“You love them, and they love you back!”
Towards the end of the trip, I was left reflecting on God’s calling on my life. I am sure of his calling in Luke 10:2, a verse depicting his command to send forth workers into the harvest field. I may not know at this moment where the harvest field is, but I do know one thing. If anything, I believe that his work of bringing forth his kingdom on earth would need lots of “love”, and this is what I intent to do.