Friday was the ten year anniversary of our bishop in Battambang. People filled the church grounds from all 26 of the parishes, from Phnom Penh, from Spain, from Canada and the US, from Ghana and the Philippines, from Korea and Indonesia, from Colombia and Italy. It was a day to celebrate our bishop, yes. Few people deserve as much celebration as him, for the amazing things he has done to transform so many communities, and for the fact that he has done it all through relationships. But it was a day to celebrate each other too. The old people kept talking about ten years ago. How the compound was abandoned buildings and only a few people lived there. How the landmine survivors did not have wheelchairs and much of the fertile fields were too dangerous to plant on. How the children did not have money to go to school. How there were few economic opportunities. How it took a full day to drive to Phnom Penh, and no one had cell phones, and everyone gave birth at home, and our bishop’s hair was not yet gray.
There was a procession and dancers, so many dancers, and strands of lights in the trees, and food vendors capitalizing on the desire to feast and celebrate, and music music music for hours and hours. I don’t usually look forward to events like this — I enjoy them, but I find them exhausting and draining. Friday was different though. Maybe it was because I had a friend visiting from Phnom Penh — to see our feasting from a outsider’s view again made me realize how special it was. Maybe it was because my Khmer has reached a tipping point in the last two weeks — speaking and listening doesn’t take as much effort anymore, so I could understand almost everything. Maybe it was the nature of the celebration, or the cool weather, or the happiness of remembering. But the day left me with energy — tired, but good tired, and oh so grateful that somehow I get to be a part of this.