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What the spirit of Christmas is about

Kati Benz is shown at a Cambodian orphanage 

after handing out provisions.

In case you have forgotten what the spirit of Christmas is all about, let Kati Benz be a reminder … if not an inspiration.

Benz, daughter of former Carthage residents Mark and Rhonda Benz, will
soon be leaving with four of her college classmates for Christmas in
Cambodia. However, it’s no vacation.

Although Christmas breaks for college students are a time of joy and
relaxation, a time to rest, put up their feet and get away from the
classroom routine, that will not be the case for Benz and four other
College of the Ozarks students, Matthew Tegg, Linda Fry, Nan Hutcheson
and Maria Williams.

The 21-year-old Benz, who went with her parents to Cambodia six years
ago, will return Dec. 19 and lead her college contingent in aiding her
parents in their missionary work, specifically Bykota House, a home for
orphans that is one of the primary mission outreaches of Bykota
Ministries of Carthage.

“I was 15 years old when we moved to Cambodia and I personally felt a
God-given call to Cambodian missions on my life,” she said.

Before moving to the country, Benz said she worked hard on grasping an
understanding of the Khmer language and Cambodian culture.

“Our first year in country I perfected my Khmer and worked as an office
assistant for a local church,” she said. “I was able to help my parents
as a translator and office assistant due to the training I had
received. My mom always referred to me as her right hand and I was
considered as much a part of the ministry as my parents.”
A year after starting High Tower Ministries, her parents opened Bykota House in Phnom Penh.

“The Bykota House has been such a blessing to the Cambodian kids and I was so happy to be a part of it,” Benz said.

The orphanage has 24 occupants, ranging in age from 1 to 20, with 40 percent having special medical needs.

“While all of the children came to us abused and broken, through God’s
loving kindness, we have been able to bring restoration to their lives
and give them the experience of living in a loving family setting,” she

High Tower Ministries has three other branches in addition to Bykota
House. They are Cambodian Orphan Aid, which provides aid to other
orphanages in and around Phnom Penh; Shepherd’s Crook, an outreach to
at-risk individuals; and School of the Nations, an English-speaking
Christian school for Bykota House children as well as dependents of
staff members.

Although Benz and her classmates will spend the majority of their time
helping with Bykota House before their return on Jan. 7, there will be
other duties demanding their attention.

“We will also be doing a larger task as we gut, renovate and reorganize
the main storage room for High Tower Ministries,” said Benz, a C of O
sophomore who is pursuing a nursing degree and hopefully a master’s
with thoughts of continuing her Cambodian ministry upon graduation.
“This task is very needful and will make life much easier for my
parents and the volunteers that come to work once it is organized.”

As if orphans don’t have a tough time as is, Christmas can make it even tougher, Benz said.

“I can’t help but share my passion for the Cambodian people, this
country and these children that He (God) has woven into the very fibers
of my soul,” she said. “This constant sharing of Cambodia has been used
by the Holy Spirit of God to plant a seed in the heart of several
students on my college campus. These students and their families are so
excited that they are committed to giving up their Christmas holiday
break to come with me to Cambodia.”

Anyone wishing to help defray costs of  the mission trip may send
donations to Cambodia Missions, P.O. Box 268, Point Lookout, Mo. 65726,
or to make a donation to Bykota House mail to High Tower Ministries,
P.O. Box 535, Carthage, Mo. 64836.

Categories: Local News
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