Gardening bears fruit - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Lent 2021 newsletter


Hang Tran, Cambodia


Ontroy fills another youth’s watering can.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to practice physical distancing and isolation. But there are other kinds of isolation that exist independently of the current pandemic.

At our Home of Hope, there is a quiet boy named Ontroy, who usually sits by himself and stares into the far distance. Apparently he was rescued from the streets several years ago. He is living with developmental challenges. Ontroy hardly ever acts up or bothers anyone. At times it can look to others as if “there is no one home.”

Ontroy discovers the fun of spraying water.

I proposed to the Home of Hope folks that we have our differently abled youth create a community garden. They thought it was a good idea.

When I asked the youth whether they would be interested in growing vegetables, most of them were game. Ontroy? Not so much. It took several attempts to persuade him to come along. Even when we arrived at the plot for the garden, he just sat down quietly, keeping his head down and withdrawing.

We are currently in our dry season here. The ground was hard and full of weeds. I gave Ontroy the water hose to soften the ground. When the faucet was turned on and water was rushing out, Ontroy perked up. He became more cheerful and began to swing the water hose around. Ontroy smiled as he experimented with positioning his fingers at the nozzle of the hose to change the flow of water. He got wet and got people around him wet, too. Ontroy discovered the fun of spraying water!

Then the staff showed Ontroy how to aim his spray from up in the air down to the earth. When the ground was somewhat softened, we started to hoe the soil. He was a very attentive assistant and made sure there was plenty of water at the spot where I was digging. Ontroy was given some tree branches as a tool to help tilt the soil and break the big lumps into loosened particles.

Planting seeds with another one of our young people

Ontroy was not the only kid who discovered that they enjoyed working in the garden. He was able to fill the bucket for other kids to participate in the watering activities as well. A few children picked up very quickly how to make wet mud and spread it onto one another. Some kids gathered dried leaves as organic fertilizer for the soil. Others helped sowing various seeds. Everyone participated at their own pace and according to their unique abilities.

The ground that had been hard and full of weeds now has become soft and airy, and small new sprouts are already springing up. Ontroy’s demeanor also went through an amazing transformation. It seems like he has “come home,” however fleetingly.

To me, this experience shed new light on the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20): The conditions of the ground — birds, rocks, scorching sun, thorns — or even the yields of the crops do not seem to matter, but the recognition of these elements, as they are, seems to matter a great deal to the sowers like Ontroy.

Thank you and God bless,

Please consider supporting my ministry by clicking the donate button below.

Your generous donation will support both my ministry of caring for differently abled young people in Cambodia and the Missioner Sustenance Fund that helps to keep me and my fellow lay missioners in mission. Thank you!


Hang Tran
A Maryknoll lay missioner since 2013, Hang Tran works with young people living with disabilities at the Home of Hope in Chom Chao, Cambodia.