Monday, February 09, 2004

Well, it's almost midnight. In five days, I'll be leaving for Cambodia.

With my wife and kids asleep in bed, I took a long, hot bath and re-read a book by Vek Huong Taing, called "Ordeal In Cambodia."

In the book, Vek Huong retells in matter-of-fact, unadorned prose, his story of survival in the Killing Fields of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. As one of only a handful of Christian leaders to survive Cambodia's genocide, Vek Huong's mere existence today is miraculous.

Time after time, God showed mercy to Vek Huong, his wife Samouen and son Wiphousana. They were robbed, oppressed, starved and sentenced to death, but God brought them out of Cambodia, to Thailand and then to America. Still, their hearts longed to return to their homeland and continue the work God had given them before He took everything away from them, including their home, family and country.

As I prepare for my long-awaited reunion with my dear friends Vek Huong and Samouen Taing, I can't help feel that my life of comfort is an abberration -- some sort of weird blessing, mixed with a real risk that I'll forget how exceptional our wealth, health and comfort really is.

My kids are safe and warm, I have two cars that run well, our pantry is filled with food, and I have a medicine for every conceivable discomfort. In light of the experience of so many of my brothers and sisters around the globe, my packing list for Cambodia is absolutely absurd. A new package of tube socks. A $40 pair of sandals. My laptop. An iPod. Two sticks of deodorant. A digital camera. Cash for souvenirs.

Vek Huong slept, half-starved, under the stars in the giant concentration camp called 1975 Cambodia. I'm sitting here fat and happy in my Calvin Klein undershirt worrying about whether the guest house in Phnom Penh will have cold enough air conditioning and hot enough water, wishing I could somehow be bumped up to business class for the journey there and back.

Not that I'm complaining. But I wonder what all of this wealth is for. I didn't earn it. I did nothing to be born at the top of the heap -- a white, land owning, college educated, white collar American male -- it just 'happened' to me.

(Quick digression: Any American Christian who claims to be a victim of persecution because his boss asks him to take down his Prayer of Jabez figurine or hide his Bible in his desk ought to be ashamed for disgracing the memories of those who actually have taken up their crosses to follow Christ. Come to Cambodia with me, David Limbaugh, or visit the Sudan, and I'll show you what persecution looks like.)

I praise God for expanding my horizons by sending me to Asia, and I praise him for blessing me with friends like Vek Huong and Samouen, Preiyo, Saran, Narin, Quenie, Savorn, Vottey, Pheakday and countless others who are by any standards much, much, MUCH better than me. I pray that our team can serve them and encourage them by our presence.

I praise God for the ministry of Asia's Hope -- it's given me something to live for, something to save for, something to teach my kids.

I praise God that he is good, and that his love endures for ever, and that his mercy extends to all nations, all ethnicities, and is new every morning.

I praise God for his opposition of the proud and exaltation of the meek.

I praise God for the beauty of his present Kingdom, and the glory of his Kingdom to come.

I thank God for my beautiful children and loving wife who let me go to Cambodia to hang out with kids who don't have a dad to give them hugs and kisses.

I praise God for the talents and willing spirits of my co-workers who pick up the slack while I'm off traveling the world.

I praise God for the money he's given me and my friends, and the power that that money has to meet the needs of my brothers and sisters in Cambodia.

I thank God that he has not given my family a boring life, and that he has granted us restless spirits that will not settle for anything less than the abundant life he's promised us, even if that abundance brings us discomfort, or even death.

I praise God for choosing to gather the weak and the strong, the loved and the lost, the first and the last to his table.

Amen, amen, hallelujah.

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