Love Story: Chapter 21

At the end of September, my team and I packed up shop, and along with four other teams, we traveled from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. We met up with the rest of our group there and continued on to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

By the time we made it to our hostel, I was so exhausted. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that my room had a bathtub! A big group of Racers were making plans to tour Angkor Wat, and I opted out. I told my friends I was taking my book, my apple and my bottle of water and hitting the tub. 

At this point of the Race, I was more interested in rest than adventure.

Starting October 1st, my team was assigned to work with the Bykota House in Phnom Penh, a home for at-risk and orphaned children and youth. Fortunately, there was a decent amount of structure and routine to our workdays. Monday thru Friday, we split up into teams and taught preschool, kindergarten, middle school and high school, and we sometimes had housekeeping duties on the weekends.

Today as I read emails and text histories from last October, my communication with Tony seemed to resemble our ministry schedule. Consistent and steady. We emailed less and texted more, which meant less deep conversations and more surface-level chatter. (Side note: If you’re in a long distance relationship and want a surefire way to get to know one another on a more intimate level, fast all forms of communication except email. It’s an amazing way to learn more about your mate’s inner self.)

The texting was fine, though. Tony and I were able to touch base with each other everyday, and I think we were both tired—ready to begin the next season. Being present on the Race was a struggle for me, like being at the mine was for him.

Like the trees, we move in and out of seasons. For the rest of our days, people and places and things will be moving in and out of our lives. That’s a lesson I’ve fought hard against learning—being “in my life” despite the transitions looming ahead. Any by the time I was in Cambodia, Tony and I were just ready to be together, in the same place. We were done with emails, done with distance. I knew I’d be in the States on December 7th, him on the 19th, and I had to wage war against the temptation to push the big red countdown button.

I was reading The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller at the time. As much as the book challenged and prepared me in regard to Tony, it challenged me just as much in regard to my community that month. I don't think I was the only one who was over it, but as the leader of my team, I felt seriously convicted about my attitude. 

One morning during my quiet time, I read a part of the book, and it went something like this: "As a Christian, you're called to love everyone—not just the ones you're emotionally drawn to. Anybody can show love to people he likes. But you're called to a higher standard than that."

That was the great challenge standing before me—loving my team. And as much as I wanted to be with Tony, God had me in Cambodia with six other people for a reason. 

It was decided. Tony and I were going to see one another in December, and we'd tie the knot sometime in June. Like my best friend told me while I was in Asia, Tony was such an answer to prayer. So were my teammates... even though I often lost sight of the fact.

Now that I'm a married woman and my time in Southeast Asia is long-gone, when I remember Cambodia, I'm reminded to love. All people—where they are and for who they are. And there's only one way to do that. 

You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.
— Timothy Keller

To read our full story, please visit our Love Story page.

 Melanie and me having tea with some of our Bykota House friends

Melanie and me having tea with some of our Bykota House friends