Thursday, February 26, 2004

I'm sitting in a nicely air-conditioned booth at an internet shop in Siem Reap. We just finished dinner. I had a seafood curry with shrimp, fish and octopus. It was somewhat spicy, and served in a traditional clay pot. It was delicious.

We spent the first 6 hours of our day on the road in our bus from Battambang. The first hour or so was fine -- the roads were paved, and bad by American standards, but not bad for Cambodia. The next few hours were awful. Dusty dirt roads, rickety wooden bridges, bump-bump-bump all the way. I rarely get motion sickness, but this trip left even me a little nauseated. Perhaps I haven't recovered fully from my earlier sickness.

After we arrived in Siem Reap, we ate lunch and visited a New Life Church. Then we headed to Angkor, the ancient city which once served as capital for the Khmer empire, which once held sway over most of Southeast Asia. First, we visited Angkor Thom, and saw the massive limestone faces of the Bayon. We walked around in the 95 degree heat for about an hour, took hundreds of photos and headed back to the bus.

Next, we drove to the famed Angkor Wat, the pinnacle of classical Khmer temple architecture, one of the largest religious complexes anywhere in the world, and one of Asia's greatest archeaological treasures. I've seen it before, but I was still stunned by its majesty as I walked over the moat, through the outer entrance and then through the massive inner gate.

Angkor Wat's soaring towers must have made quite an impression on an ancient pilgrim, traveller, or supplicant to the court of the Khmer god-kings (as they fancied themselves). A few thoughts crossed my mind as I wandered around and inspected the massive towers, the dizzying stairs and the intricate bas reliefs. I thought about how many people must have lost their lives in slave labor to build this amazing place some 800 years ago. I thought about the hubris of empires who think themselves eternal and unconquerable. I thought about the vain beauty and worthless faith of the millions of people who followed Satan's lies then and now.

I also thought about how WE as believers are God's masterpiece, his eternal temple made of living stones that will never be brought to ruin. As I walked past the old, old Buddhas with their missing heads and limbs, I thought about the absurdity of burning incense for luck and praying to stone idols, who, even if they had mouths left, could not speak a word of wisdom.

Truly our God is an awesome God. To be a stone in his temple is honor enough. To be a joint heir, a loved son, vested in the family business is almost too much to bear.

Well, tomorrow morning at 5:30, we leave via fast boat to Phnom Penh. I'll try to post pictures then.


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