Saturday, February 28, 2004

It's Sunday. Church went well this morning. I sang with Keith and Adam, and I also taught from Esther in the college-age sunday school class.

Yesterday was a relatively relaxing day, but God started messin' with me right around 4pm. We all pitched in some money to take the students out to Lucky Burger. God made two or three appointments for me there that I wasn't expecting. I'll probably blog more about those later, but I'm running short on time.

After we were finished, I decided to walk instead of taking a moto. Strange decision, since it was very hot, my feet hurt, and I was kind of tired. But I was just restless. Seth decided to come with me. When we were about half way through our five mile hike, I heard a voice, "Hi, John!"

It was Alex. Alex from Mexico. We had met him during our fog delay in the Taipei airport. Keith and I shared the Message with him, and exchanged e-mail addresses. Later in the week, he e-mailed me, and wanted to get together for dinner. Unfortunately, we were heading to Battambang the next day, and I couldn't break away. I figured I'd never see him again.

Alex was supposed to be in Mexico by now, but his business appointments in Cambodia had gone poorly, and he needed to stay longer. We talked for a few moments, he mentioned how bored and lonely he was, and we said goodbye. At that time, I KNEW that I should invite him to dinner. But I was tired, in a hurry, and I really didn't feel like it. So I walked on. Before long, I felt a deep sense of regret, and I told Seth that I knew I had missed an opportunity. I resolved in my heart to send Alex an e-mail some time.

Later that evening, I felt restles again. I asked Keith, Adam and Seth if they wanted to walk by the riverfront. We all hired motodops and took the 15 minute drive to the river. We wandered for a while before settling on a restaurant. We thought about staying on the first floor. I suggested we go up one more. We got to the top of the stairs and I heard a voice, "Hello, John!" Holy cow. It was Alex.

This time I knew I had to ask him to join us. I did. He did. We spent about two hours chatting, again sharing about our love for Jesus and His plan for our lives. Alex was receptive, but made no commitment. Still, we now have the basis for a legitimate friendship -- no more ships just passing in the night.

God worked miracles to bring us together. Two "chance" encounters on totally different sides of town within 3 hours. Amazing. Kind of like Jonah. Or Esther. Maybe our fog delay and the frustration associated with it was specially engineered by God 'for such a time as this.' Praise God.

I also had a lot of trouble yesterday dealing with the poverty. I had a chance to hang out for a few minutes with some of the street kids living near our guest house. They play at the dump nearby and scrounge for food or for plastic to sell to recyclers. These bright-eyed yet filthy little scamps we all over me. Unlike some of the beggars, they didn't ask for money, they just wanted a hug, they just wanted to play. I walked away broken hearted.

I know all of the theological answers, but I couldn't resolve in my heart why God doesn't just fix all of this right now. Why do kids have to suffer, to die of hunger or HIV, to live life rejected and thrown out. Why?

Earlier, at Lucky Burger, I saw two boys. I knew I recognized one of them. They were with a Frenchman and a Khmer guy. I asked one of the students to see if the boys were from Kompong Speu. They weren't. Where did I recognize them from? One of the students said, "Oh, they're from Kien Klaing," and orphanage we've visited many times.

Then I realized why I hadn't connected the dots. One of the boys, the shy one, had a severe problem with his left eye. The lid was drooping, and the eye itself was totally occluded, grey, like he had gotten poked by a stick, or like he had suffered a bad infection. Completely blind in that eye, I'm certain.

My stomach dropped as I recalled him clearly. This boy had been completely healthy last year, one of the spunkiest, most magnetic of any of the boys. Almost didn't seem like an orphan, handsome as all get out. I have a picture of him from last year. He was carrying a watercan. Maybe you saw it.

Now he was marred, marked and disabled. Cowering, ashamed, he didn't want to make any contact with his one good eye.

My God. What is wrong with this world? I see kids all of the time over here with severe physical problems, but this is the first time I've seen a perfectly healthy child made unwhole.

After we had dinner with Alex, as we walked the streets, we were approached by beggar after beggar. Many of them mothers with young children. I thought of Kori. What if she was on the street with Chien and Pak at 10pm, begging for enough money to buy them a bite to eat? I've gotten used to looking the other way and saying, "No," but last night it all caught up with me. As I got to my taxi, I handed the last two girls I saw a couple of hundred riel.

How long must we wait, Oh, Lord? When are you going to make this right? What more can we do? Ugh. More groaning in my spirit that words can't articulate. Help us all.

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