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Friday, September 14, 2007

10-year-old moves family to undertake mission trip to Cambodia

By Christie Campbell
Staff writer

Harry and Miranda Ankrom never hesitated when it came to taking their two children with them on a mission trip to Cambodia.

In fact, it was their 10-year-old daughter, Emily, who inspired her parents to make the trip. She returned from camp telling them she felt God calling her to mission work.

The Washington family left July 1, and it took them 30 hours and four separate flights to get to Cambodia. Their two-week experience was so profound and rewarding that Miranda and Emily plan to return next month.

"God has given us a burden for that land and those people," Miranda said. "Cambodia is now something I feel very passionate about."

Their mission was at an orphanage for 25 children in Siem Reap run by People for Care and Learning. The Christian charity is based in Cleveland, Tenn.

The Ankroms were allowed to take two suitcases apiece. Because they planned to take as much clothing as they could for the orphans as well as material to build a play gym, they managed to pack all their family items into two suitcases. That left them with six suitcases to stuff full of other items for Cambodia, including two swings, small ladders, rope and a canopy.

They packed so much clothing that the orphans, who only had one suitable outfit to wear, all owned at least three nice changes of clothing and a pair of flip flops when the Ankroms left.

"It didn't matter what color they were," Miranda's 11-year-old brother Isaac said of the sandals. "If they were pink the boys would still take them."

The family was surprised to learn that Cambodia had been a civilized and thriving country for years until the 1970s, when Pol Pot came to power. His Khmer Rouge decimated the country, forcing educated urban residents to rural areas to live as peasants. An estimated 2 million people were murdered and family units were torn apart. There would be civil unrest in Cambodia until 2002.

Now, said the Ankroms, the adult population is largely uneducated, but children are starting to learn as schools are being established.

But there is much poverty and homelessness in Cambodia. They witnessed people bathing and drinking from the same streams where livestock drink. Some people live in garbage dumps so foul that toxic smoke can be seen rising from the refuse. Other areas are posted with signs warning of land mines, and it is not unusual to see people with missing limbs. Children as young as 4 years old are sold into prostitution.

One thing the family was not permitted to do on the trip was evangelize. The country is 90 percent Buddhist, and only missionaries who offer humanitarian aid are permitted to enter.

Harry Ankrom is associate pastor of the Christian Church of North America in Washington. He and his wife wanted their children not only to have the experience of a mission trip, but also thought it would benefit the orphans to have other youngsters with whom to play.

Isaac and Emily acclimated very quickly and made friends easily despite the language barrier.

The trip made a lasting impression on Emily. She already has informed her parents of her plans to become a missionary.

"She said when she turns 18, she's moving to Cambodia," her mother said.

The Ankroms are available to speak to groups about their trip and can be reached at

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