Before I went on my mission trip with Teen Mania http://www.globalexpeditions.com, a friend told me that I needed more compassion in my life. She encouraged me that I was strong in boldness and strong in passion, but it was time that I started really feeling for other people. I knew going on this trip that my heart would break for the people I met, but I didn’t know my heart could break for an entire nation.
I remember the first moment that it hit me that I was in
We started our trip just outside of Phnom Phen, at a place called the
Every morning we woke up in our little hotel room, got dressed, and walked a mile to the river. Then we road down the river in a Cambodian boat. I still remember the peaceful crash of the water against the boat; the children pointing and waving at us from the shore; and the talks with our funny boat driver. Down the river we would stop at a missionary doctor’s house to eat our cereal, much of which had been infiltrated by small brown ants. Then we set out for the villages.
In the villages there were usually 150-300 people waiting to greet us. We started our program with a funny skit, then we shared our message, and then did a serious drama. At the end of this we offered a vacation Bible school for the children and a medical clinic for whoever needed it. We did two of these a day. During our vbs we played lots of games with the kids. One of the favorites was duck, duck goose. We created massive circles and ran around until we were exhausted.
One of my favorite parts of the day was the late afternoon rain. We had to ride back down the river in the rain and then walk the mile back to our hotel in the rain. I loved it! The dirt roads by this time would be caked in slippery mud. It was hilarious trying to walk slipping and sliding down the road. We tried holding onto each other, but most of the time that just made all of us fall in one big pile. Even worse I’d forgotten one of my shoes in the van that dropped us off, so I was either stuck walking in my flip flops or bare foot. When we got back to the hotel we hung our clothes up, hoping the mud and rain would dry before the next morning.
The next two weeks of our trip we were based at the orphanage. Here I got to know and fell in love with the 17 orphans. Many of them were not really orphans- their parents were either just too sick(HIV) or too poor to take care of them. This was the case with the one I call my little boy Daniel- pronounced Danielle and his brother Dano. One of my best memories in
Throughout the next couple of weeks we worked around the orphanage building a waterslide, harvesting fish, teaching VBS, and playing with the children. We also spent a few days working with girls who had been victims of human trafficking. There I met a young girl named Na. She and I became friends, writing each other notes and sitting together. She didn’t speak and English and I didn’t speak Kamai, but we didn’t care. Her smile pierced my heart with love and compassion for her and for her people.
No religious rituals. No religious symbols.
No paying respect to elders.
No social status. No titles. No education. No training.
No school. No learning. No books. No library.
No science. No technology. No pens. No paper.
No currency. No bartering. No buying. No selling.
No human rights. No liberty…
No marrying. No divorcing.
No marital conflicts. No fighting.
No mercy. No forgiveness. No regret. No remorse.
No second chances. No excuses…
No holidays. No weekends.
No drawing. No painting. No pets. No pictures.
No electricity. No lamp oil. No clocks. No watches.
No hope. No life.
A third of the people didn’t survive.
The regime died.
How could I not feel compassion for a people so troubled? The regime is thankfully gone, but there is still so much damage done to the country as a result. One of the major issues is that the conscience of the nation has been seared. The adult generation was raised in the midst of this totalitarian reign. Therefore education in the nation is severly lacking and thus right and wrong is blurred. Human traficking- parents selling their children for labor and prostitution is only one symptom of Cambodia’s sleepy conscience. On one of our free days we visited an old school building that during the Khmer Rouge reign had been used as a concentration camp. There I saw the poem by Sarith Pou and there I finally began to understand what the Cambodian people had been through.
I could no longer judge a people who had been so hurt for their ignorance, but by loving them myself I could show them that there was good left in the world. My goal became to show them a love that had been lacking for many generations. As we left my heart hurt. I worried for the orphans- they didn’t have enough people taking care of them, especially mother figures. As we drove away I looked behind me and prayed that the Lord would send my orphans some one to love them. Only six months later my prayer was answered. The same friend who told me I needed compassion traveled to the same place in Cambodia and stayed with the orophans for three months. Knowing they were in trusted hands even for that short amount of time put my heart at rest. It made me realize that as much as I loved them God loved them even more.
I emptied my savings for this trip, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I lost a shoe, trekked through mud, and fell in love with 17 Cambodian orphans. I continue to pray that the hearts of the Cambodian’s would soften, that their conscience would awaken, that their minds would be renewed, and that they would overcome thier history with a glorious future.
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