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An unexpected reward

BY KEN AND ALLY THOMPSON
Ken and Ally were CMS missionaries in Cambodia from 2004 – 2016

Ken and Ally Thompson run a flower farm in the Yarra Ranges, Victoria

Ken and Ally Thompson run a flower farm in the Yarra Ranges, Victoria

Many people who are on the winding path to overseas mission worry about what life will be like when they get home.

‘Will I undermine my career if I go long-term? What about my friends and family? Will God look after me?’

At one time we shared similar fears, and our road overseas was not a straightforward one. But in the end, you can judge for yourself whether the Lord was faithful to us or not.

For those of you who befriended and supported us between 2004 and 2016 – greetings! We’ve been meaning to send you an update for a while now, but we haven’t found the time. It has taken all this time to get the farm back to good working order, so we pray this article will serve as that update.

Speaking of the days when we were weighing the risks of going cross-culturally, the farm and our family played a huge part in our lives. Ken’s family are farmers, and have been in the area where we live for a long time, and it was always Ken’s parent’s hope that he and his siblings would continue in that work. But when we chose mission, some family felt that we were making a mistake; even more than that, possibly leaving them was a personal rejection.

Of course, nothing could be further from our intention, as we simply felt we were following God’s call for this season of our lives.

But there was a cost to relationships, and our regular prayer point at the time was to ask the Lord to mend hearts.

We served in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia, in a very remote and then underdeveloped area that rests in the mountains on the Vietnam border. Our ministry focused on food security and the Ntuk Nti Centre: a central meeting place for the Bunong churches and a student dorm designed to host school students from remote communities.

It was slow work building relationships and our older children missed having close friends but there was plenty of adventure to entertain them — elephant rides, waterfalls to jump off and motorbike riding. Eventually the struggle to be the parents, teachers and spiritual guiders without support meant we chose to send the kids to boarding school.

That was another cost we had to endure.

But we still felt God’s call to stay and, even when it felt difficult to achieve our work goals, our relationships blossomed for our younger children and us.

Some invaluable wisdom that Ken learned was: don’t focus on the task, focus on the relationships.

It would have been too discouraging to focus on the task as so often our plans were thwarted by bad weather, difficult roads to negotiate, mould eating our books or apathy from the villagers. We lived in the ‘land of possibilities’. We tried to have fun and remember it was about the journey not the outcome.

One of our proverbs was ‘Possibilities not Plans.’

Ally learned about laughing in the face of trials. She learned joy and perseverance when things went wrong.

These were profound lessons that we have taken back to Australia. In the west, there seems to be a sense of achieving perfectionism… ‘things just shouldn’t go wrong’. Or ‘somebody must be terribly at fault’ if something doesn’t go to plan. We joke about it now, and we try to pass that on to the people around us. I don’t think the Lord meant for such seriousness when the small things fail. I think He laughs a lot!

On the other side, there were also moments of great sorrow, sadness and powerlessness. There were days that we felt like we had done something wrong, or we were isolated, or we just felt like giving up. We often felt that what we were doing was not appreciated.

But when we finally said goodbye to Ntuk Nti, our church and friends put on a huge party, and people came from miles around and filled the hall. They spoke for hours on everything we had done and how much they appreciated it, and we were very surprised! In Bunong culture, gratitude is expressed differently.

When we returned to Australia we realized how much we had been blessed during our time in Cambodia. Having our family in two then three different countries was a trial, but looking back we appreciate how much our children have been blessed by wonderful Christians from all over the world who have had profound input in their lives.

We still miss our friends, work, and life in Cambodia very much and are very involved with Ntuk Nti, in a mentoring and financial support role. Whenever they need something we are blessed to be able to support them.

We feel that the lessons we learned and the friendships we made were riches beyond compare, no matter how hard they were to learn.

We are back home on the farm thanks to a friend who kept the business running. Our flower farm and home produce gardens keep us very busy. In addition to the farm, we are in contact with a lot of people who need work experience, and passing on some of what we know to those who are willing to learn is rewarding. Now we have the joy in more regular interaction with our children, family and friends in Australia.

The Lord has indeed been faithful.


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