I love going to weddings. I really do. I do NOT love when wedding parties are unfathomably loud. Tonight, there is yet another one right outside the window as well as one in our own hotel. Double the noise, double the headache. Tonight, it sounds like there are a ton of people running around with car horns, honking every chance they get. Anyways, as Rob would say, “I digress.”
This morning, we went to one of the slum areas of Phnom Penh. I’ll be honest, it was kind of gross. There were trash and flies everywhere and mud on much of the ground. All the kids were dirty and most didn’t have any shoes. Yet, as soon as we arrived, all the kids had big smiles on their faces and ran up to greet us, some of them even longed for hugs right off the bat. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy (if you haven’t, you need to), but there is a scene in the beginning of the first movie (Fellowship of the Ring) when Gandalf arrives on his little stagecoach wagon and all the kids in the neighborhood excitedly run after it. That’s pretty similar to how we were greeted before we even got out of our carts (more on those another day). While we were there, we gave out a lot of shoes and clothes for the kids, gave them some ice cream, and just hung out and played. Antonia (our YWAM contact – whose name I did not mention before because I wasn’t sure how to spell it) is also a nurse and she brought medication for many of the people there. So while some of us played with the children, she and the rest of the team talked to the mothers, gave out medicine, and prayed for their needs.
(this is the only actual house in the slums. the rest of the “houses” are basically wooden huts that are held up on just a couple posts that keep them from flooding during the rainy season. Trevan and Richard will share their great pictures with you when they get back home)
Minutes after we gave out the clothes, the kids all ran back with their new clothes on and were excited to show us what they got. It was a tiring morning, but actually pretty fun. While there were a lot of difficult things to see (anything that had to do with their living conditions. I don’t even know how to explain how bad they are), it was so great to see how much joy these children had and how thankful they were for their new clothes. They clung to us (some literally) from the moment we arrived until we left and were about 200 yards away and had to send them back home. I’m pretty sure I threw different kids into the air so many times that I don’t think I could’ve caught any more without my arms falling off. I don’t know if any of them had ever been thrown in the air like that. It was a simple joy, yet they never wanted it to stop. It’s so mutually rewarding to be able to provide for the needs of others in a way I can’t really explain. I’ve been able to provide different things for different people back in the States, but when it comes down to it, it really wasn’t a need. In fact, being in the slum this morning really put into perspective what a need actually is. I think it’s difficult for us to really understand it in America because a lot would have to happen in order for me not to have a job, a house to sleep in, or clothes to wear.
As I’m typing this, I’m reminded of the early church in the book of Acts. On two separate occasions, we read of them providing for the needs of others. Some would even sell everything they had to supply for the poorest among them. There wasn’t ever a need in the body because they provided for each other. Well, the church has grown a lot larger now, but things are still the same. There are still those who are poor and today we got to play a part in working towards the solution.
After this, we went to the red light district and provided gifts for those who were in prostitution and gave them tracks that talked about Jesus. We were there just before sunset so we didn’t see the Vegas aspect of it, but as we were leaving, the girls were just starting to get ready for the night. We could see them doing their hair and makeup, getting ready to sit out on the street and attract customers. While we were handing out gifts, I noticed that there were a lot of lights on each of the buildlings. Sissel and Candi told me that at night the whole street is lit up on both sides and hundreds of girls sit outside, waiting for their chance to work. It’s unreal how big and how prevelant this is, but the sad reality is that, in the same day, we saw the alternative.
(each of those little driveway areas on both sides of the streets are full of prostitutes. literally hundreds)
Most of these girls are caught in the tension of the slums and the sex industry. It’s easy for us to think about prostitution in such a shameful light, but at the same time, I could see how that might be a better alternative for some of these girls than having to live in the slums. They are able to work, they get food, they get showers, and they get clothes. I’m not in any way condoning the participation of those in prostitution (some girls, unfortunately, don’t get to make that choice for themselves). I’m just trying to draw attention to the depravity of their lives. This is why it is so important to have organizations like Daughters of Cambodia who can provide a better way of living for those who are trapped but want to get out of the sex industry.
For dinner, we were able to take the missionaries who are a part of YWAM Cambodia out to dinner. Let’s be real: missionaries hardly make any money whatsoever. They leave their homes, move to foreign countries, and spread the gospel of Jesus. I was glad that we were able to be a blessing towards those whose lives are so humble and sacrificial.
If you would, please pray that God’s light will continue to shine brighter and brighter in these dark places. God is moving in this country and people are very open to the Gospel. Pray that they receive it. Also, please pray for Kara. She got some type of a bug today (not a literal bug… I hope) and hasn’t been feeling good. Though, I’m sure that if there is any breath in her whatsoever, she would still be at the front, serving everyone we come into contact with. A couple others on the team have been fighting some little physical annoyances, too. It would be great if you can please continue to pray for the general health of the team.
Well, that’s it for me today. Now, I’m going to try to sleep with all these conflicting music beats going on outside my window. I hope you all have a fantastic start to your weekend. Someone eat some Red Robin for me (bottomless fries and campfire sauce!).