I am quite certain there will never be another Kilday Thanksgiving quite like this one. A regular work day and a regular school day. A day when Thais leaves at 6 am for cross-country travel to meet with survivors of modern-day slavery. A day when we find a Phnom Penh eating establishment that serves both American-style Thanksgiving dinner and pizza. A day when our post-dinner tuk tuk ride home takes us across the open sewer canal that runs through the heart of the city. A day when our driver warns us on the way home about the known robber-on-a-moto straight ahead, so please secure your phone and personal items. And a day when at least one of us will be up late baking cookies in our tiny five-cookies-per-pan microwave/convection oven for Naeda's school formal fundraiser.
Not your typical Thanksgiving Day.
Every day here has been filled with wonders and surprises we never could have imagined. And we are so very thankful to be here. The list of all that makes us thankful is endless, but below are a few items that immediately come to mind on this Thanksgiving but not really Thanksgiving Day:
1. Our IJM-Cambodia legal team has a 100% success rate through eight trials this year, with 18 convictions against those involved in human trafficking. Praise God!
2. Now that we are just a month away from our departure, we can say with confidence that our living expenses for our year here are covered and, indeed, are more than 100% funded. (Wow! Praise God again, and thank you!) We now have the "problem" we hoped to have. When we return home, Covenant Presbyterian Church will be holding unspent funds in the "IJM Fellowship" account. Covenant's Mission Committee will ultimately decide how those funds will be spent, but we hope this will become seed money for the next IJM fellow(s) from our church. If any of you Covenant folks have a background in law, social work, law enforcement, grant writing, non-profit management, or administration, and you are interested in pursuing an experience of a lifetime, please let us know. We will be proud to support you. (And if anyone reading this is or was considering making a contribution to support our ongoing work, we encourage you to make a donation instead directly to International Justice Mission at this link.)
3. We are thankful for the heroes we have met at IJM and the transformational work they are doing to end modern-day slavery. It has been such a privilege to be a small part of this group that is working to change a broken part of a broken world.
4. We are grateful for friends we have missed all year long and we will soon see. And we are grateful for new friends we will treasure always, that we will soon miss.
5. We have been blessed to host friends and family from the U.S. throughout the year, which has been a great source of joy and encouragement. Recent visitors have included Audrey Doak (late September); Ashley Ellison, Jennifer Maham, and Meredith Weatherby (early/mid October); and my parents, Bill and Genie Kilday (late October through mid-November). Thanks so much to all of you for coming!
6. We are grateful that Cambodian mangoes -- one of our favorite treats of the whole year -- are back.
7. We now have a massive and loud construction project right outside our apartment window, ten stories down. While we are most assuredly not thankful for the near constant noise, we are thankful that they waited until October before starting. We are also enjoying the daily live entertainment. There's nothing quite like watching a high-rise building being built by men wearing hardhats and flip-flops.
8. We are thankful for noise ordinances back home. Oh, and also for weekends, especially of the quiet variety. The grinding and clanging of heavy machinery right outside our window starts at 6:00 am, and it usually continues well past midnight. Seven days a week -- yikes!
9. We are thankful that the Houston Astros won the World Series. But why do we call it the "World" Series? We have learned here that much of the world laughs at Major League Baseball's presumptuous and curious choice of nomenclature.
10. We are thankful for Hope International School, and the good and kind people our kids have met there. What a great collection of students -- from 30 different countries! -- and nurturing teachers. We were so lucky to find this place.
11. We are grateful for the rain. We love way it cools and cleans this sweltering city while also bringing life and nourishment to the whole region and its food supply. The rain is good.
12. We are thankful for tuk tuks. They are fun, easy, affordable, and readily available. They make it easy to navigate the city. And they have allowed Naeda to have more freedom here than she will likely have once we return to Austin. (Until she is driving. And that is frighteningly soon for our now-15-year-old.)
13. We are grateful for books, and time to read and enjoy them. I've probably read more books this year than in the prior five years combined.
14. We are thankful for the many things we have taken for granted. There are the obvious conveniences that we've missed having this year -- the dishwasher, an oven and a grill, the clothes dryer, a car. Then there are the things we didn't even realize we were taking for granted, such as clean air, electricity that consistently stays on, drinkable tap water, and a toothbrush we're not sharing with ants. But it cuts much deeper. We knew the numbers from IJM before we came -- 46 million people living in slavery, and four billion living outside the protection of the law. But now we better understand what that means. The numbers have become people. We have looked them in the eye. We have shared meals with them. We have heard their stories. We have fought for their rights. And it is all so much more real.
15. There is much work to be done. We are thankful that we serve a God "who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20.) Because we are asking for a whole lot. And we will keep on asking. Please join us.
We wish all of you and your families a blessed and joyous Thanksgiving.