Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Early days

It is so sad when a country evokes images, not of the glories of its civilization, but of the horrors of war, brutality and self mutiliation. Cambodia is not without its memories of a glorious past. Go to Siem Reap, walk around the magnificent temples of Angkor and you marvel at what the people and culture had been capable of. Yet today, the very mention of Cambodia triggers associations with poverty and pain, consequences of the self destructive lunacy of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. A brief moment of history was all it took. (I had just graduated from med school and relatively naive and unaware at that time.) A fraction of a second compared to the glory of the Angkorian period. Yet an estimated 1.7 million people were systematically tortured and murdered. A relative small number compared to the Jewish holocaust no doubt, but this was an estimated 25-30% of the population of Cambodia. Worse, those who were destroyed were mostly the educated, professionals, technicians, bespectacled, literate......

When I first entered Cambodia, it was soon after the final surrender of the remaining Khmer Rouge forces in 1998. I remember vividly the devastation, the poverty....and the sheer helplessness of a people so humiliated and ravaged by events so much out of their control.

We went in because we had heard about the street kids in the streets of Phnom Penh and we wanted to do something to help. But the enormity of the problem was overwhelming. Every stone we imagined we could turn uncovered 10 others that needed turning. But in the short period of time we were there, we met people who inspired with their strength and courage; missionaries who were so totally dedicated and sacrificial in their service and in their obedience to His leading.

I have to confess I was pretty humbled and broken by the experience. I had gone to Cambodia naive, in relative affluence and as an established academic and professional. I was sure I could help. Yet what I saw revealed to me my ignorance and utter helplessness. What I saw was God working through the lives of simple people who were prepared to be obedient. I think it was in those early days that I began gradually, to really understand those abstract ideas about the Kingdom of God.

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