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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Our Engagement Ceremony

One month ago yesterday -- December 28, 2010 -- Titus and I were officially engaged the traditional Cambodian way. It was an incredibly beautifully ceremony. I was told the ceremony would be "simple," and I was amazed (almost speechless) when I walked down the stairs to see 49 of our closest friends, and a room that was beautifully transformed to host a very special ceremony.

The front of the room during the ceremony -- The back of the room after the ceremony, while we were eating

There were pink and yellow fabrics draped on the walls, royal red carpets laying across the tile floors, colorful fruits on gold and silver platters lining the front, and a beautiful backdrop with a large glittering heart, rings, and our names printed in gold. We sang khmer hymns and Pastor Kimsua played the guitar, Rev. Kimsan played the Cambodian drum, and a sound system ensured that even the neighbors gathered outside could hear clearly. Pastor Sopheak did a great job leading the ceremony. Pastor Greg gave a sort of pre-marital message and he and his five-year-old daughter, Aleeyah, sang a beautiful song called "From Here to Eternity." Only Pastor Greg's message and special song were in English.

My handsome fiancé and beautiful future mother-in-law -- Giving the ring

"Parents" exchanging fruit - I do not know what the significance is, but it is a Cambodian custom - and Titus and I presenting fruit to Mom

Pastor Sopheak and Rev. Kimsan leading the ceremony - Pastor Greg and Aleeyah singing

Friends and American missionaries, Tim and Tiffany Gallant, sat beside me as my parents. Titus' beautiful mom and two of his five brothers were able to attend. I was so incredibly overwhelmed in love - in love with this incredible man who will soon be my husband, and overwhelmed by the love of those who did so much to make it a beautiful day, and of those who came to celebrate with us.

A few pictures with dear friends:

A truly unforgettable day...

Love love love, Jewel
the future Mrs. Romdenh Chamnol

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Engagement Story

On December 26, 2010, Titus and I got engaged. The night before, I woke up in the middle of the night with horrible stomach aches; I woke up feeling only a little better, but I refused to allow myself to spend the afternoon in bed. Two hours after a quick breakfast and stopping numerous times for directions, we finally arrived at Koulen Mountain Resort. Vandy and Tess are Titus' and my closest friends, and I was excited to spend the day as "us four." While I got the dreamy private proposal I wanted, it was nice to join Vandy and Tess soon after to share the moment with them, and to celebrate together.
You may notice in the first picture how appropriately I am dressed for such a beautifully memorable day. Tess and I traveled in our swimming clothes; Titus, knowing the significance of the occasion, chose to wear a black pin stripe dress shirt and black dress pants. Before breakfast, I asked him why he was wearing his wedding clothes to go swimming in a river; he laughed, and I was satisfied.

We soon found a short waterfall that was crowded by foreigners; thinking it was the resort's main attraction, we all became inwardly disappointed - though no one expressed it until later. Continuing down the trail, we found a long set of wooden stairs that led us to a much taller, louder, and more beautiful waterfall.

I cannot dream of a more beautiful place to get engaged.

The four of us found a dry, comfortable place to sit and we spent some time together simply watching the waterfall. I grabbed Titus' hand and lead against him. I couldn't say anything; I was in awe of the beautiful falls, the beautiful moment, and the beautiful man I was with. Finally, Titus broke the silence and asked me to swim with him. I was surprised. Titus had announced earlier that the water was too cold to swim, and although I was thinking the same thing, I knew he was willing to swim in freezing cold water for me, and I wasn't going to deny the opportunity.
With our teeth chattering, we entered the water and Titus promptly began splashing me. Jerk! I splashed him back. We laughed. We laugh a lot actually; it was one of the first things that attracted me to him. Eventually, Titus pointed to a secluded rock and asked if I wanted to sit and talk. I like it when he wants to talk, so I started racing to him to the rock.
A few minutes later, I suggested that we move to a rock in the sun, where it would be a little warmer. On that rock, Titus and I talked about our past, present, and future lives together. He asked me if I remembered all the details of our few previous dates, and he stated that he would never forget this date. Next, he calmly and confidently asked me to marry him. I was surprised breath-taken!

I was surprised that I was surprised! The previous afternoon during lunch, our mutual friend, Arun, passed me the rice and encouraged me to "eat more and build up [my] strength for Tuesday." I asked him what was special about Tuesday, he turned to Titus and asked, "Is your engagement party on Tuesday or Wednesday?" So I figured if that was Saturday, and our
engagement party was on Tuesday, Titus would have to actually propose on Sunday or Monday. (Mental note, don't share your secrets with Arun!) Everything was so absolutely perfect on Sunday that I was so caught-up in enjoying the moment and basking in our love, that I had completely forgotten to even anticipate his proposal!

I could feel my eyes grow big and my jaw drop. My first words were, "Are you kidding me??" Breath-taken. After a good 45 seconds, I finally moved my eyes from his eyes and to the ring between his fingers. Another 30 seconds later -- probably the longest minute-and-a-half of his life! -- I asked, "You kept my ring in your pocket while we were swimming???!!" He knew I would notice a bulging box in his pocket, so he kept my precious ring between his precious fingers... in his pocket... in the rushing river waters. I don't remember ever saying yes, but somehow Titus was assured that "YES! YES! YES!," I want to marry him.

We're getting married!!!

Love love love, Jewel
the future Mrs. Romdenh Chamnol

Monday, January 24, 2011

Urgent Prayers for Lily

I ask for your urgent prayers for two-year-old Lily, the daughter of Pastor Rotha and Elizabeth. A week ago, Lily was admitted into the hospital due to breathing complications. After only two days, the doctors saw improvement in her condition, she could breath on her own and was stronger; however, an underlying cause had not been found.

On Sunday, the results of Lily's blood test brought bad news. The results showed that her white blood cells are attacking her red blood cells, a possible diagnosis of anemia or another autoimmune disease. This is quite possibly the underlying cause of her original symptoms, and the doctors fear that the prognosis could be fatal.

Please pray that God...
...provides wisdom to the doctors at the hospital to give the proper treatment.
...would place His hand upon Lily, performing a special miracle of healing.
...brings strength and hope to Pastor Rotha and Elizabeth to endure this difficult and heart-wrenching time of waiting.
...allows the Body of Christ in Cambodia to minister and be a blessing to Lily and her family.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Christmas in Siem Reap

Breakfast on Christmas morning:

Titus and I, and our best friends, Vandy and Tess, a Cambodian man married to a filipina woman.

Unlike the service in Takao, the service in Siem Reap took place inside the church. The sanctuary was decorated beautifully with balloons, large oragami stars, running and flashing lights, a tree covered in colorful garland, and a large Christmas banner.

The order of service included much singing and dancing; the men sang, the women sang, the men and women sang together, the children sang, the pastor's grandchildren sang, the youth sang, the youth danced... it was all wonderful! There was even a guest appearance of Santa Claus himself, dressed in a velvet coat, hat, pants, a fake white beard, and nike sneakers.

Missionary Tim Gallant concluded the service with a powerful Christmas message. He shared a story of a king who fell in love with a village girl; knowing the village girl would never have the confidence to love the king, he humbled himself and moved into the village, where he worked as a peasant and earned the love of the girl. The illustration was a powerful depiction that put the story of Christ's humbling birth in a context that was more understandable in the Cambodian culture, and I know many hearts were touched.

Following the service, everyone gathered outside the church at beautiful tables under a colorful tent, and we enjoyed a delicioius three-course meal and wonderful fellowship.

After a restful afternoon -- ie. watching National Geographic Underwater in the hotel -- we returned to the church and joined Pastors Banyen and Malachi for delicious goat and rice, and the pastors took advantage of the opportunity to share with us about their joys and struggles of serving and pastoring in Siem Reap.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the six of us traveled to the nearby mall (Siem Reap is a tourist city) and had Christmas sundaes in celebration of Jesus' birth.

It was a beautiful day with wonderful people, and I will certainly never forget my first memorable Christmas in Cambodia. By the way, my next post will feature our full engagement story, including pictures. :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Christmas Eve in Cambodia

Having only returned last Thursday, it's difficult to know where to start in briefing you about my last trip to Cambodia, but I'm going to start on Christmas - Christmas Day and all the Christmas celebrations.

I arrived on the 23rd, and attended my first Christmas service on Christmas Eve. Pastor Poleak is one of my favorite pastors, and I am so glad that I was able to attend his service in Takao. The service was not in his church, but at a nearby property that was larger and could accomodate a much larger-than-usual attendance. It was my first experience celebrating Christmas away from home; it was an emotional day, but the joy of the people made me glad to be there.

What was a simple property was beautifully transformed by a colorful tent, balloons, flowers, and a large banner. Simple plastic chairs were covered with gorgeous slip covers, making them suitable for a wedding or a Christmas service.

The service -- almost four hours long -- consisted of hymns, carols, children singing, dances, a long Christmas-story skit, testimonies, and a message. It was dramatic, colorful, loud, and worth the extreme heat and time committment. Following the service, we shared a meal of spicy Cambodian curry, bread, and cokes.

I had a great time meeting and getting to know Bernie and Nan Dykhouse, visitors from N.C., and of course, being in Cambodia to celebrate Christmas with my new fiance!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I'm engaged!

I arrived home from Cambodia on Thursday afternoon and jet lag has been kicking my butt since, so I don't have a post full of funny stories or insight from my trip, but I am officially announcing here that I am engaged, and I will post our official Cambodian engagement pictures. Another day soon, I'll tell our engagement story and so much more...

Picture FAQs:
Did you get married? Why are you wearing a white dress?
No, we did not get married; the white is cultural.

Is the color purple significant?
We picked purple because it's my favorite color.

Is that your real hair?
All the curls behind my head is a bun, not my own hair.

Is that your dress?
All the clothing and accessories were provided by the shop where we had our pictures taken.

Was it expensive?
No; it was really cheap. The entire session cost $22 I think, and we printed pictures at normal print cost (something like $.15/picture). For $25, we also printed and framed a poster-sized picture #2.

Is he taller than you?
No, he isn't.

What are you holding in the first picture?
It's a chain - simply an accessory.

What are you holding in the second picture?
It's not an urn, it's a pot that is used during wedding ceremonies.

Where were your pictures taken?
In a simple shop; the background was a green screen.

How long did it take?
Hair, make-up, and getting dressed took between 2 and 2.5 hours; taking the pictures took about 3 minutes. The photographer only shot 8 pictures.