Main Content

Impromptu moment with Cambodian girls leads to gift of connection for ACU volleyball player


ACU journalism major and volleyball player Londyn Gray taught English at a Cambodian school this summer.
ACU journalism major and volleyball player Londyn Gray taught English at a Cambodian school this summer on a trip through ACU’s WorldWide Witness program.

While some students took time off this summer to relax with their families, many Wildcats spent their summer serving and learning.

Londyn Gray, a senior journalism major and ACU volleyball player from Weatherford, Texas, traveled to Cambodia on a trip organized through ACU’s WorldWide Witness program. There, she worked with Cambodia Christian Ministries, teaching English to their Bible students and in a nearby school. On the weekends, she went with the students to spread the good news of Jesus.

“The trip connected me with brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, and allowed me to live on God’s mission with them,” she said.

Below, she describes how a simple interaction with a group of Cambodian girls created a deep connection that has stayed with her since.

By Londyn Gray

Mass exodus to the dirt volleyball court began at five o’clock. After hours of physical labor, the men of Cambodia Christian Ministries wanted nothing more than to expel their remaining energy on messy competition. The court’s bounds were lined with wire. The torn net was held by rusted poles. The players’ skill was sub-par (though I am perhaps too harsh a judge). Nonetheless, the women, elderly and little girls on campus happily gathered to watch the match.

Most days I would join the game – barefoot, oversized and ready to win – but that day I decided to watch. The court was backlit by the early-setting sun. Streaks of orange and pink were reflected in the neighboring pond. Chickens clucked, frogs groaned, lizards squeaked, and the little girls laughed.

The game had commenced amidst this beauty when one of the girl’s laughter turned to a cry.


Londyn Gray poses with a group of Cambodian girls she met this summer.
Londyn Gray poses with a group of Cambodian girls she met this summer.

The little girls are the daughters of the cooks and field hands. Two are sisters. The oldest is 10 and the youngest is 3. I always ran into them roaming around campus. They calmly explore, play with rope made of rubber bands and hike their mountain – a small rock pile next to the volleyball court.

While they were undertaking Everest, an unfamiliar sound was heard: their cry.

No one playing volleyball was concerned, though the crying did not settle. I knew these girls were incredibly tough, but I wanted to make sure she was all right. To the confusion of many of the men, including her father, I stepped away from watching the game to check on her.

I walked up to their little group, sitting in their little circle. The other girls blankly stared at the one crying. I crouched down and put my arm around her. She was the younger sister of the eldest and sported bangs, a blackened baby tooth and long, full eyelashes.

At first, it was awkward as they didn’t know how to react. They probably weren’t used to being comforted by a giant white woman whom they’ve only seen a couple of times. Not to mention, by someone that doesn’t speak their language.

“Shhh, shhh, it’s okay.”

I looked at her eye, which was swollen shut. I rubbed her arm and tried to talk to the others. Her breath was short, but tears had stopped. They began saying random numbers in Khmer which I had learned the week before. They were telling me their ages.

I pointed to myself. “Mapei.” Twenty.

Fully recovered, the crying girl and her friends hopped up and began playing their quiet little games again. When they stood, I noticed that one of the other girls had gaping wounds down her shin- she didn’t seem to notice. I waved goodbye and left them to watch the match again.

I don’t know if our interaction was an interference to their grit, but I’m glad I had it. They previously kept their distance from me, watching me with caution from afar. After our contact, they always greeted me with a happy “hi-low!” and looked for me to join their little explorations whenever we crossed paths. We would collect flowers, lie in bushes and sometimes even sit in silent company.

One afternoon about a week later, my outdoor reading was interrupted by the pattering of six little feet. The girls slid into the open benches around the table, swinging their legs and contentedly smiling at me.

I smiled back at the eldest. She was tall for her age and had prominent ears, and big, beautiful eyes. To her right was Hannah, the youngest and most adventurous. Her latest venture was undertaking a flower delivery service. I was her No. 1 customer. The other two girls were her best employees.

My Bible slowly became covered by vibrant flowers of orange and pink, and the little girls were laughing again. This time, I was laughing with them.

Our simple relationship began that evening by the volleyball courts through comfort without words and connection without understanding. I am forever grateful for the little moment that opened up many more with those little girls of Cambodia.

Read about other ways students spent their summer serving and learning

Learn more about the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication

SHARE: [Sassy_Social_Share type="standard"]