Thursday, July 16, 2009
Saying 'So Long' but not 'Goodbye'.
I've been home almost a week, but I can't forget the last morning we spent with the kids. I was excited because we were going to tell them an amazing story of King Solomon and his bride. The purpose of the story was to show them what true love looks like. When we love someone, we do everything we can to protect them, provide for them, and sacrifice for them. God chose King Solomon to write Song of Songs to describe what true marital love should look like, and to describe God's love for us. I asked Dustin and Robi to tell the story because I wanted married men who love their wives to tell the children of God's plan for marital love. You see, in this culture, men don't protect their wives or young girls, they exploit them, beat them, and abuse them...and in this village, sell them for sex.
Dustin and Robi had a chance to tell the girls how special they were and that God intended they should be loved, protected and honored. They also had a chance to teach the boys to honor their sisters, mothers, girlfriends and future wives. To protect them from harm, to guard their virginity, and honor them by not hurting them, using them or selling them.
After the story, we all had a chance to give the children a special message of love and blessing...and a chance to say 'so long', not goodbye. Tiffany captured tears streaming down the face of one young girl as we said our goodbyes...genuine tears that spoke volumes...she would miss us. We'd made a difference in her life. Her single tear winding through the smudges and sweat on her face made everything worth it. The heat, dirt, garbage, sickness, exhaustion, lack of sleep...yes it was all worth it to capture the depth of meaning behind that single tear.
I had a few tears of my own that day. It started right away, the moment we arrived at Rahab's House. Robi shared at breakfast an idea to get alone with one or more of the children who'd become special to us and through a translator speak a special blessing into their lives. My moment came almost immediately when I saw my little Peoa girl. Through the translator I told her how much I loved her; how special she was; how I'd never forget her and would always be praying for her. I hadn't gotten two words out when the tears began, and my voice cracked. I tried hard to stay composed because I knew from earlier in the week when one of our girls got emotional, that the children thought we were angry when we cried. We had to assure them that our tears meant we were sad...sad to be leaving them. Sad because we loved them so much.
When I was done and my translator had conveyed my emotional sentiments, little Peoa grabbed me with both hands around my neck and gave me the biggest kiss. The memory still causes tears to well up unwanted, without permission. I'll never forget that little girl, and I shall pray for her always, along with the other little girls in that village. I'm asking you to pray too...pray that God will rescue them, that He'll bring more Christians to love them and teach them and that the hearts of the parents will change as they give their lives to God. And as they change, the village will change, and the lives of the children will change too.
There is hope. Pastor Shantey and his wife have been in the village for only 8 weeks and already his church has grown to 160 people. That's rapid growth for anyone's standards. So although we said so long...its not goodbye. Because the God who invited us to come to Cambodia, remains. And the love and hope that we shared will continue through those He's put in place and through others He calls to come.
I said so long because I plan to go back to Cambodia one day...if God allows me that privilege. I shall hold those children again one day and kiss their smiling faces and tell them I love them once more. That's my prayer. But for now...its not goodbye, only so long.