Situated in the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia, Cambodia draws crowds of tourists enticed by the historical beauty of Angor Wat in Siem Riep and the French-influenced capital, Phnom Penh, once known as the “Pearl of Asia.”
The two significant Cambodian destinations recently attracted four Oklahoma Baptist University representatives, who were drawn by the opportunity to learn about the country's culture and to teach English to university students. The OBU team included students Gabby Garcia, Katherine Gilbert and Danielle Kimbrough, who were led by Gina Kraft, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology at OBU, during the May 31-July 1 trip.
Members of the OBU team discovered a great dichotomy that defines much of Cambodia's people: For a people overshadowed by decades of civil war and the resulting unrest, they extend a genuinely warm greeting to visiting tourists. The Cambodians' welcome opened doors for the team to forge new friendships and find opportunities to share both its language and its Christian faith.
“I think the biggest thing you see while in Cambodia is that the people are hurt and are still hurting ... but the people continue smiling,” said Gilbert, a sophomore digital media arts major from Sapulpa. “I feel like it reflects the country's state. There are beautiful places that match the beautiful people, but there are places that need help just like the people need the Gospel.”
The trip was organized through OBU's Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach. Each year, dozens of students, faculty and staff take Global Outreach Trips that enforce OBU's mission to transform lives by equipping students to pursue academic excellence, integrate faith with knowledge, engage a diverse world and live worthy of the high calling of God.
As the team's sponsor, Kraft said she watched the OBU students grow and develop as they learned to interact in a different culture and matured in their interactions with Cambodian university students.