Saturday, February 05, 2005

Today, I spent another few hours at the orphanage. I asked Pastor Buntheoun to translate while I asked the kids some questions about their lives. We're putting together sponsorship packages, and it's important to get as much information about the kids as possible.

I asked Kosal, a ten year old boy* to sit next to me and tell me about his life. He told me that he wants to be a doctor when he grows up, and that his favorite color is red. Like many kids in Cambodia, his favorite sport is football (soccer). I then asked him about his life before the orphanage.

As soon as Buntheoun translated, I regretted asking the question. Kosal took off his hat and covered his face. I could see his lip quiver and his eyes turn red and fill with tears. I said, "Oh, Kosal, I'm sorry. Please don't answer if it will make you sad." But it was too late. Buntheoun spoke gently to him in Khmer, and then Kosal answered. Buntheoun nodded and said, "Kosal's mother was a widow. His father died of hypertension. He was one of nine children. One day, his oldest sister took him and two of his siblings to an orphanage in town. They lived their for four years, until our orphanage opened. His sister had attended my church, and asked if we would take Kosal and his siblings. He then came to live here. His mother is still alive, but he does not see her. He remembers her and is sad."

I hugged Kosal, and we both cried.

I then asked Buntheoun to tell me about Preuch, who had already told me that she, too, wants to be a doctor, that her favorite food is Khmer soup, and that she loves to jump rope. I said, "Please, if you know her story, tell me in English. I don't want to make her sad."

Buntheoun said that Preuch and her siblings' father was an alcoholic. One day he became drunk and beat their mother badly. After a few weeks, she died of her injuries. Because it is not illegal for a husband to beat his wife, and because she did not die immediately, he was neither arrested nor prosecuted. He brought the children to the orphanage. Preuch, at age 8, remembers the incident, but her younger siblings do not.

I looked over at Preuch. She closed her eyes and looked away sadly; she could not understand exactly what we were saying, but she knew we were talking about her past. I looked over at her younger sister Ratha, nicknamed Seapov (Cupcake), who was playing quietly on the floor completely oblivious to the awful conversation we were having.

Two stories, and I'd had enough. But our orphanages are full of stories like Preuch's and Kosals. Praise God for Buntheoun and the orphanage staff who provide a loving, stable family for these kids who have been through so much in their short lives.

Before long, the tears had dried, and I had the kids laughing again. And before I knew it, it was dinnertime -- our cue to leave for the evening. As we walked toward our truck, the kids all greeted us one at a time in English and Khmer, "Chum reab lear, John! Good bye! See you tomorrow!" Sy and Rida, two of the girls ran up and gave me some handmade cards. One of them read, "Hello, John. I am Sy. I love you very much." I said goodbye to each of them and gave Kosal a big hug. His eyes misted up again, and I just about lost it.

This place is so strange. So much happiness, so much sorrow.

There are so many kids like these all over Cambodia and beyond who will never know the joy of a safe, loving home. They'll never know that Jesus loves them.

I am blessed beyond measure to be able to be a part of their lives.

I appreciate so greatly those of you who have partnered with us with prayer and finances. I hope you feel blessed when you read these stories. I hope you know that every dollar you send to Asia's Hope helps to rebuild Cambodia one small life at a time.

God bless you.

*Check out my photo blog (there's a link in the post below). I just added pictures of Kosal and Preuch.


Jeff Cannell said...

Man, I dunno what to say about stories like that. Jesus make it right.

We miss you John.

Your family stayed over with us and I played ps2 with the kids until midnight.

John McCollum said...


No doubt. I've had so many occasions over the past two weeks when I've just had to shake my head and say, "Jesus, fix this place."

When I pass the Wats and see the young men giving their lives to the pursuit of a false religion, when I see the young girls all tarted up to go out on a 'date' with ugly, fat, old Western men or Khmer generals, when I see the naked street kids begging for a few cents, when I see the haggard old women, limbs twisted from war or disease, pleading for a bite to eat:

"Why? Jesus, why?"

"Let your kingdom come."

"What can I do, Jesus?"

These have been my prayers of recent days. Very few flowery sermons-in-disguise. Lots of groanings.

Fear and trembling, indeed.