Rats. Garbage, rotting. Motos (motorcycles). Millions of motos. Babies on motos. Sleeping children being held by the drivers of the motos. “Foreign” writing. Stray dogs. Chickens. Roosters. Green coconuts. Tuk-tuks loaded with Asian vegetables. Rotting meat. Dilapidated shacks that are family businesses and homes and restaurants, all rolled into one. Spirit houses. Statues of Buddha. Statues of nagas (seven-headed serpent demons). Buddhist Wats (temples). Fruit stands selling exotic fruits. Vegetable stands selling strange vegetables. Fish stands. Dried fish. Frogs to eat. Dogs to eat. Buddhist monks. Chin-chas in my house (lizards). Beautiful butterflies. Mosquitoes. Naked children, playing next to insane traffic.
A “massage” brothel, on every street. Gasoline in glass coke bottles. A palace. Carts pushing snails. Snails to eat. Snakes to eat. Orchids. Bamboo scaffolding outside of construction projects. People living in abandoned construction projects. Motos carrying loose eggs, so full, they walk along aside, pushing the moto. It’s 90 something degrees, and people are eating hot soup and noodles. Surprising things: There are also luxury apartments, cellphones, a mall, Rolls Royce cars driving government officials by chauffeurs, Starbucks, Kentucky Fried Chicken(???), and a slow-growing middle class. But we haven’t seen any elephants.
And then, faces. Beautifully dark skinned, Cambodian faces. As we drive around this capital city called Phnom Penh, there are thousands and thousands of motos, pressing against the car. People who don’t know about Jesus. Children who don’t know Jesus. Everywhere. Driving to language school, we saw a tuk-tuk with five kids and a lady in it. Most don’t smile unless you smile first. So, of course I, Bekah, smiled. And their precious faces slowly smiled back. It had been a sweltering, challenging day already, and we were trying to sort through a million little pieces. But it hit like a freight train: The Holy Spirit showing us why, stopping us in the middle of traffic and chaos. I started to choke up. “Brett, we came to tell them. They are why we came.” We were silenced.
We have been preaching and sharing about Cambodia for so long, and so many times in the States it has felt like we might as well have been talking about Narnia, a fantastical, made-up storybook of a place. But now we are really here, living in a crazy city, in a developing country. This is a real place. These are real people. We aren’t going “home.” This isn’t a vacation. This is our new home. We keep getting lost in the city (chronically). But we came to tell them. We will learn to speak and write and read the Khmer language so we can tell them. These people who have been forgotten and exploited and devastated…they need to hear of hope.
Please understand, this is a very dark place. Every house, store, restaurant has a spirit house. Our neighbors are leaving offerings for the trees directly in front of our house. There are a lot of evil strongholds here. Satan has been in control here for a very long time. The consequences of sin and brokenness are so obvious, everywhere. These are sinful people, just like us, whom Jesus died for. We came to tell them about Jesus Christ, our Savior, who died on a cross, for them and rose again. Jesus loves them and wants to forgive their sins and doesn’t want them to be afraid.
“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”– and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.” I Timothy 1:15-16
We aren’t brave. We aren’t amazing. We aren’t special. Please don’t say we are. We are a sinful and imperfect family, trying to obey our loving Heavenly Father and share the hope that His Son gives. I, we, spy so many new, strange, heartbreaking, beautiful, and incomprehensible things. It would be easy to be distracted by all of it. But we came to help tell the Cambodian people about Jesus’ love. I spy hope.
“I remain confident of this: I WILL SEE (emphasis mine) the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14
A word from the kids…
Cambodia is so interesting, much more than America. Everything is so cool! The little carts with snacks. (Nom means snack in Khmer). Dogs walk around almost everywhere you look; some are puppies and are very cute. And the butterflies are beautiful. There’s black with white and orange, and white ones with yellow and orange. Also there’s lots of things to do here, I wish you could see, too! Cambodian facts:
- They love babies and kids
- Workers follow you around at stores
- People open car doors for you
- They help you park your car and get on the street
- Almost everybody has a little moto
- Lots of taxis and tuk-tuks
The sad things about Cambodia are that it’s very poor, there are slums, and people drink dirty water and that makes them sick and that is upsetting. God wants me to tell others about Him. He’s taught me how to love Him, and He’s helping me here in Cambodia. And God’s helping you, too!
Question: Josiah, what do you like about Cambodia?
“I am thankful for my house! Butterflies, and nice snakes, probably.”