Team Bonding …

Team Bonding – Border Crossing

This is Professor Pruim  blogging from Siem Reap. Since we hope that most of you have our information handout and prayer calendar to keep up on our daily schedule, I will focus in my entries less on the what and when of our trips and more on the why, how and wow. And since the calendar told you to pray for our border crossing on January 7 from Thailand into Cambodia, I am happy to report that we are all safely in Cambodia, in our first Cambodian city Siem Reap, and settled into the New Riverside Hotel.

On journeys and in life, there are days we don’t remember and then there are those experiences that were just harrowing enough to stick in memory but not so bad that any real scars were left. Yes, that was our border crossing experience.

As many of you know, we left Grand Rapids transporting along with us 11 boxes of medical and school supplies for worthy organizations here in Cambodia. When I packed those boxes, I didn’t really think about how they would become the test of “Can you be a cheerful servant?”. Already while still on campus, students and even some spunky parents helped transfer those boxes from cars to bus. Later those boxes of course went from bus to check in. That was the easy part. In Bangkok, students built a chain as good as the UPS to get all our checked bags and supply boxes from carousel to carts to bus to hotel to hotel rooms. We reversed things again on January 7 when we loaded our charter bus for the trip to the border town of Poipet. That’s when the challenge began.

Our bus left us at the drop spot where a group of eager men offered to expedite our Visa processing for an extra fee AND roll all our boxes to the border on a wooden cart designed to be pushed and pulled not by oxen but by people. The students breathed a sigh of relief as the boxes were loaded up. However, after consulting with our national (native) informants via cell phone, we decided to save the extra money and get ourselves through the Visa processing. When the locals heard this, suddenly the price for transporting the boxes doubled. After deciding that this was not a model for “good development,” we decided to carry our own boxes of donations across the border.

So, I don’t know what border crossings you might have experienced, but the border crossing at Poipet is a collection of buildings and streets and people that are arranged to challenge the foreigner, especially ones on foot with lots of baggage (and who regrettably do not speak Thai!). Consequently, the entire team took a collective deep breath and proceeded to lift, lug, push and pull our 31 pieces of checked baggage, our29 carry-ons AND our 400 pounds of donated supplies. That’s when I realized that we are blessed with a team of cheerful servants. We had a few … okay several wrong turns, a bit … okay, three times of back tracking and a couple long waits in the sun to get to the correct Thai exit lines, the right building for Visa applications, and the proper lines for entering Cambodia. Have I mentioned it was the middle of the day, blazing sun, tropical climate … and we had an extra 400 pounds of supplies? And yet, I saw a good amount of smiles and laughter, despite the grunting and sweating and huffing and puffing.

Needless to say, we were all relieved once we passed the last check point and were greeted by Amanda Hayes and Kyung Lee our NIBC contacts in Siem Reap. Having checked “cross-training” off the list for the day, we readily settled into our very nice hotel just outside the main downtown area.

True to my previous experiences, it’s these types of experiences that helps bring the team together. And it’s the prayers of friends and family that get us through. So, thank you so much and keep praying.

Quote:  “So, I was sitting in the bus with a bunch of people, we didn’t really know each other. And we were talking about God’s will for our lives and how we know what that is. And I couldn’t believe it, because we were having this really deep conversation with people I just met. It was awesome.”








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