From guest to host

IVEP alumnus insight

A man and two women stand with three children
Phally Sok (IVEP 2007-2008) from Cambodia is currently hosting a current SALT participant, Sabrina Gilmore. L to R: (back) Phally Sok, Sara Soum, Susana Sok, Sabrina Gilmore, (front) Santana Sok, Salina Sok. Photo/Sary Luka

My name is Phally Sok from Cambodia. I was an IVEPer year 2007-2008. I was born in a peasant family in the countryside about 100 kilometers from the city. I grew up in a similar way as other children in the village: growing rice, taking care of our animals and helping with a lot of housework. Planting was my favorite and was what I was proud of because it helped feed myself and my family. After spending 16 years in my village with my parents, I moved out to the city to further my education. Life changed from being around everyone I knew to something totally different and new.  I had to adapt to everything from traffic to food and even the way of life.

After graduating from high school in mid-2007, I was selected to join an exchange program with MCC called IVEP where I spent one year at Heartland Farm in Kansas. Once again everything was completely new. I had to learn a lot, there were new people, languages, seasons, and cultures. Participating in IVEP was not just an opportunity to learn about life in the U.S., but also a great opportunity to meet volunteers in the same program from many different countries and continents. After meeting each other a few times during the program, we had to return to our home countries.  We are still friends, stay in touch and remind each other of our sweet memories and experience during our IVEP year.

Although many years have passed, the experience is still there and fresh. I always miss and think of my time serving with MCC and look for the opportunity to get involved with various programs of MCC such as hosting SALT participants. The Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program provides an 11-month service opportunity to citizens of the United States and Canada to live and serve in another country. In 2017, I got a chance to host a SALTer from Manitoba, Canada, and this year to host another SALTer from Colorado. It is not just me alone, but my wife and my kids are also part of this. We are having a great time hosting different volunteers.

We thank God for the opportunity prepared for us to meet these wonderful young people from different countries, to have them stay with us at our house and share with us their life stories and experiences. Thanks to MCC for allowing me to be in their program 15 years ago.

We will continue to pray for all the people who already served or are serving with MCC’s programs and that wherever they go they are a light for their neighbors, friends, and families.