Tuesday, March 02, 2004

It's Tuesday night in Phnom Penh. I'm with John Campbell and Tim Secrist at an internet shop on Mao Tse Tong Boulevard, using a keyboard with a very bad shift key.

It's been a hot and busy day. Seth and I spent a good portion of the day out at our different projects taking video and still photos.

please forgive me. i'm switching to all lowercase. this keyboard really stinks.

anyway, we spent most of the morning and early afternoon catching motos around the city. we stopped at both student centers, at the church and at the school. i think we got some good stuff. i really want to be able to document what god is doing here -- he is very good.

this evening, we crossed the mekong river to a popular restaurant for an outreach event. dave and i sang, and dave gave his testimony. vek huong shared the message in khmer, and fielded a number of questions that were sumbitted via comment cards. i couldn't understand a word he said, but he's obviously very, very good. lots of heads nodding in understanding.

yesterday, we went out to the killing fields. the killing fields, are, well, fields. they're about 15 miles from phnom penh, and they are where thousands of the khmer rouge regime's enemies were killed after they were tortured and interrogated at tuol sleng prison.

it was truly a moving experience. as we entered the complex, officially known as the 'cheong ek genocide center,' we walked to a tall, narrow pagoda, which was filled from floor to ceiling with human skulls, all discovered in the mass graves at cheong ek.

as we strolled past the shallow pits, we read captions on wooden signs: "mass grave where 450 babies were found," and "tree upon which executioners smashed the heads of small children." as i got down on my knees to examine the ground, i was able to see pieces of victims'clothing that had washed up in the last rain. i also could identify and touch with my own hands pieces of human bones that had not yet been disinterred.

i tried to imagine the smells, the sights, the sounds as men, women and children were killed one after another; some were killed with axes, some with clubs, some with hoes, and others by crushing their skulls against trees or rocks. i tried to imagine mother watching their babies murdered, knowing that they would soon follow them into the pit of warm bodies lying in front of them.

i tried to imagine the special place in hell that god has prepared for the perpetrators of this massacre. i also remembered a quote attributed to holocaust survivor elie wiesel: ''anything you say you believe about god, you must be able to say over a pit of dead babies.''

i think that means that all of the pat answers and platitudes evaporate quickly in the face of true evil and rank injustice.

adam and i sang rich mullins'song ''i will sing for the meek,'' and i sang ''orphans of god.''

i will rise from my bed
with the questions again
as i work to inherit the restless wind
the view from my window is cold and obscene
and i want to touch what my eyes haven't seen

they have captured our siblings
and rendered them mute
disputed our lineage
and poisoned our roots
we have bought from the brokers
who have broken their oaths
and we're out on the street
with a lump in our throats

we are soot covered urchins
running wild and unshod
and we'll always be remembered
as the orphans of god
they will dig up these ruins
and make flutes of our bones
and blow a hymn to the memory
of the orphans of god

heavy stuff. my glass gets real 'darkly' when i try to fully apprehend the problem of evil in this world. i understand the theology, but everything in my body and heart reacts very viscerally to the notion that this is where we've found ourselves in this world. lord have mercy.

at any rate, tomorrow promises to be a very busy day. we have to pack up, get all of our last minute shopping done, and visit the school for a party. tomorrow is one year from the day we opened the school's doors. we're also going to formally initiate the 'birthday box' program that was pioneered by the students at worthington christian elementary school. very cool.

then it's back in the air for another 40 hours of travel. it will be very, very good to be home, but i'm already sad about leaving my friends and family here. all of my friends in cambodia are so sweet. and they all love my fu manchu-style mustache.

well, it's very late, and we have a long walk home through the dark streets of phnom penh. i know. not safe. but sometimes you just have to live a little.


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