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Local family returns from five-year mission trip in Cambodia

The Hatch family, including, front from left, daughter Christi, mother Grace, son Josiah, back from left, father Tim and son Daniel, recently returned from Cambodia, where they performed mission work for five years.

The Hatch family, including, front from left, daughter Christi, mother Grace, son Josiah, back from left, father Tim and son Daniel, recently returned from Cambodia, where they performed mission work for five years.

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A boat full of Cambodians smiles as a thank you for the aid they received from a Christian relief group, which included Tim Hatch, after flooding devastated the country.

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Tim Hatch pauses for a moment with a group of Cambodian children to whom he ministered.

The Hatch family spent five of the last six years living in Cambodia serving as missionaries. Parents Tim and Grace Hatch, and their children, Christi, 18, Daniel 16, and Josiah, 15, dealt with health problems during their time in the developing country and learned to live without creature comforts like hot water and regular electricity.

Still, Tim Hatch said furthering God's work in people's lives made every moment, good and bad, worth it.

"It wasn't easy but we had the help of many, many hands and prayers, and for that I am thankful," said Hatch.

In summer 2006, the Hatches sold their Rockdale house, gave away their cars and embarked on a journey to Cambodia where they felt called by God to minister to the people, the majority of whom are Buddhist.

Hatch said part of the reason they chose Cambodia is because the language, compared to that of neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, appeared easier to learn.

Cambodia, a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected prime minister, allows the open practice of religion, another factor which influenced the Hatches' choice.

The Hatches traveled to Cambodia via a Christian missionary program, Crossworld, which procured a house for them in Phnom Penh. Hatch said the home, a duplex with three bedrooms, provided a safe place to live, away from flooding, and offered some measure of security.

Mr. and Mrs. Hatch spent the first two years learning the language and acclimating to the culture, while home schooling their children. They got used to drinking bottled water, taking cold showers, the electricity going off periodically and hanging their clothes to dry.

While the Hatches adjusted to their new lifestyle, they also began to have health problems. Daniel suffered from allergies and developed a cyst on his throat which doctors removed through surgery. Grace also required an operation. Both mother and son traveled to Bangkok, Thailand for their medical procedures.

Tim Hatch developed a host of intestinal issues due to airborne and waterborne sicknesses and lost 40 pounds.

Though the family had received generous monetary gifts from the Rockdale community, as well as other donations like home school materials, they ran low on funds.

The Hatches returned home after two years in Cambodia to rest and regroup. Hatch said his two boys fit all their belongings into one suitcase.

"We learned the difference between living with what you want versus living with what you need," said Hatch.

The family returned to Cambodia after a year and both parents obtained jobs as teachers with Hope International School, a Christian private school, where their children attended. Tim Hatch worked as a fifth-grade teacher and Grace Hatch instructed students in English literature.

With some knowledge of the Cambodian language and culture, Tim Hatch spent his free time working for the Cambodia Bible Institute where he trained several pastors on how to create children's ministries.

"We aren't setting up organizations that are dependent upon us but they're empowering the people," said Hatch, who added that some Cambodians have been Christians for three generations.

Hatch also ministered to HIV-positive children at an orphanage and was instrumental in several baptisms.

Christi traveled with doctors aiding poor people in Cambodia and Laos.

The Hatches returned to the U.S. this month and are settling into the home of long-time friend Ruth Simmons. Grace and Tim Hatch are searching for employment, their sons are continuing with their schooling and Christi is researching colleges.

Christi said she misses her friends at the Hope International School and the friendly, open nature of the Cambodian people.

"I would like to go back there," said Christi.