Thursday, March 13, 2008


From my journal March 10th, 2008:
“The lessons just continued coming. She could hardly keep up. Every piece, element, instance, experience, step, and scene of her life was destined to teach her something, if she would just be willing to learn it. Sometimes it was all very overwhelming and she didn’t feel like she could possibly absorb much more. And other times she didn’t want anymore. Feeling was so painful at times it seemed easier to avoid it by turning the other way, distracting herself, or just crying to forget. But even so, she realized there was purpose in the pain. Ms.Bo wasn’t some fictional character she had read about in a book. This was real. So she kept breathing, it was all she could do. She couldn’t promise much more than existence. But with time, like a wobbly toddler learning to walk, she did too. Walking isn’t the last lesson a child learns, it is the first of many. And the lessons just kept coming. But isn’t that what she had asked for, “Use me God. I’m yours”? So why was she so surprised? She had no idea what life had in store. She thought her God to be as small as she was and she was wrong. So there came a day when comfort was found and needed as desperately as a cool drink of water. The setting had not changed, but this new perspective brought hope with it. The portrait she had had of herself for so long just may have been wrong. Was anything as it seemed anymore? Was the truth she had believed her whole life dead wrong? Amidst the chaos of a typical day at school she caught herself humming a hymn. It was at this very anti-climactic moment on another ordinary day that she realized, she did not have to become all that surrounded her. Life became more so a series of choices than at any other time in her life. She was not the trash on the ground. She was not the yelling, screaming children. She was not the dishonesty, disrespect, or disregard. She was not the bad attitude, bad behavior, or the bad hygiene either. She was only that which she had taken oath to at birth: human. And as another citizen of planet earth she realized that she could absorb some lessons and simply observe others. Life is more about choices than circumstances. And the lessons keep coming.”
Cambodia in a word? Chaos. Through and through, absolute chaos. There are few laws, rules, and definitely no justice. Two 11 year old girls were raped and murdered last week in Phnom Penh. There will be no investigations, no detectives, and no policemen on the job. Life goes on, apparently. Moto accidents are common. Robberies are expected. The people seek to humiliate foreigners and even nationals. They can be very cruel.
All of this creates an environment of fear. There is safety no where. This afternoon I sat at a new women’s bible study that I am choosing to say God placed in my life. Polly came in looking a bit flustered. Upon riding her bike to the bible study, she was hit by a moto and drug awhile. At least the driver stopped, which is rare. She got cut up pretty bad, bonked her head, and was obviously still in shock. During prayer requests I told the group about my questions about God and my lack of love for this culture. It felt good to know I was not alone. I talked about how after I got groped by a boy on my morning walk 2 months ago, it took a long time to feel safe going outside again and being around Khmer people. Safety and comfort are stripped away the second you land here. Everyone has 15 foot gates around their homes with guards if they can afford it.
I read this morning that, “Satan, who is ever ready to destroy, will, in the absence of love and forgiveness, quickly bring bitterness and division.” Well, hook, line and sinker. Way to go Satan! You got me. Yes, I feel absolute resentment and bitterness towards the Khmer people, but mostly Khmer men. Well, that makes it awful hard to love them eh? Impossible. It is impossible to love them if I resent them. But loving them hadn’t honestly entered my mind until this morning. I figured I was loving them just by tolerating them and not attacking them at random with my pepper spray. This morning another boy approached me, but instead he just kept walking uncomfortably close. I was ready to spray him at first. How awful is that? I feel so defenseless I was going to spray a 9 year old boy. As I continued journaling I wrote the following: “The Khmers can’t make me hate them. Hate is a choice I am struggling not to make. Especially when it seems that the whole country is working so hard at it.” Thinking about it today, the devil is working so hard at it. It is just one culture clashing with another.
So on my bicycle ride to school as I passed Khmers, I muttered through clenched teeth, “God loves that person, and that person, and that person…” Turns out God loves a lot of people! I don’t suddenly love all Khmers, but I feel humbled in knowing that first of all God loves them just as much as me and secondly, I am not alone in this.
I am still not exactly sure how to go about loving those who persecute me…oh wait, wait, that sounds like a bible text!? Yeah, so. It’s in the bible that I should love those who persecute me. But how? Where is the “6-step plan” for loving creepy men who I am horribly afraid of and showing compassion to children who humiliate and mock me on the street?
Jesus never got justice either, so I realize that may be out of the question. And complaining gets me no where. But I am not God and I just want to learn how to love them.
After bible study, the leader came up to me and said she would pray that I do not leave Cambodia in bitterness. She is praying the same thing for herself. I suppose all of us are praying similar prayers: “God help us to love those who seem unlovable. Because we were unlovable first.”