Saturday, October 14, 2006

Last day in Cambodia

Well, this post is a little late and out of order, but here's my thoughts on the last day in Cambodia:


Cambodia goodbyes

Man, I don’t think my heart can take another day like this one anytime soon. After a relatively light morning and afternoon, we headed out to the orphans’ home to say our goodbyes. We were all a little misty-eyed and somber in anticipation of our parting. Nothing could have prepared us for the evening ahead.

When we arrived, the older kids had not yet returned from school, and we were greeted by Veasna, Breuch, Rosa, Dani and the home’s two yapping dogs. I noticed a man I didn’t recognize in the front room. As I entered to greet him, I also noticed two women and two young boys sitting on the bench along the far wall to the right. Narun approached me and said, “These women are distant relatives of these boys. The boys’ parents are both dead. They arrived here with this doctor who heard that we might be able to take the children and give them a home. But I told them that we are full, and cannot take another child.”

Everything inside of me wanted to say, “Yes. We’ll find room,” but we’re already cramped as it is, with two more kids than we had originally expected. The women looked at me expectantly, and they nudged the boys to behave and to force weak smiles. I told Narun that he had made the right decision, and I called Ted from the Foursquare Children of Promise organization. He gave Narun some information about an orphanage that might have a couple openings.

Thinking about it now, I’m reminded the protagonist in the last scene of Schindler’s List. Oscar Schindler finds himself evaluating his possessions and mourning his lack of willingness to make more of them available to save Jewish lives. “Why did I keep this pin? That could have been two lives. This car? 20 lives.” What have I kept from God that could have provided room for these two precious little boys? God, I don’t know. Too difficult to contemplate tonight. Maybe later…

Before the boys and their caretakers left, the rest of the children returned home. We were greeted warmly with hugs and kisses and tickles and earnest pleas for us to pick them up and swing them in our arms. We played with the kids for about a half hour when Narun came to me and said, “We have a problem.” Krissna translated the rest for me: “One of the children – the one in the pink shirt has HIV. Their new test results came in today. We cannot care for him.”

No, God! Not Pay. That sweet little girl who had just arrived and had taken such a liking to Mindi. Poor, poor thing. We all immediately started to cry. When I told Mindi, she had to leave the room, sobbing uncontrollably. After a minute or two of discussion, they brought over Lin Da, a little boy who had arrived only days before and said, “He will go tomorrow.” What? Lin Da? Not Pay? “No,” said Krissna. The child in the other pink shirt.

Our hearts rose again sharply and then crashed. We all felt a sense of relief for Pay’s sake, and an equally strong sense of nearly unbearable agony for Lin Da’s. “Does he know?” someone asked. “No, not yet. He will find out later. It is a good orphanage, a Christian one,” said Narun.

We wept and prayed as the kids ate dinner. After the tables had been cleared, all the kids gathered in the front room, and I spoke to them with Krissna translating. “We love you all very much. Tonight is our last night in Cambodia. Our team is very sad because we will miss you, but we are also very happy because we know that you have a very happy home with a good mother and father. We will look at your pictures every day and pray for you. There are many people in our church who care about you and pray for you every day. When I return, I will bring more friends from my church to meet you and play with you.”

As I spoke, the children began to cry and crawl as close to our team members as they could possibly get; at least 5 children to a lap. I told the kids to study hard and to obey their parents, and I prayed a blessing on them, the staff and their home. I said, “We will stay with you for another few minutes. Until them, we can play.” I sat down, but no one wanted to play. Immediately, Khai, Sokthoun, Ly, Vilaiy and Sokthoul scrambled into my lap. Vilaiy buried his head in my chest to hide his tears, and the others cried openly. There was literally not a dry eye in the house.

Before long, it was clear that we needed to cut our already long good-byes short for the kids’ sake, and we made our way slowly to the truck, peeling crying kids off ourselves as we went along.

I kissed Lin Da on the head and prayed a blessing on him. As we left, our team begged God to heal this little boy, who will most likely die from TB or some other opportunistic disease.

Dang, this was hard. The kids really fell in love with us. I worry, frankly, that they may have become too attached. But they have good parents who have directed orphanages for years. They will make sufficiently strong primary bonds to Narun and Sophal in time. But today was difficult. My eyes hurt, my head hurts and I’m a wee bit depressed. I need to get some sleep. Tomorrow, we rise early to fly to Chiang Mai. I’ll post this from there, and hopefully get some pics up.

Strong love and strange peace.


Becky said...

Wow I did it myself a real comment. Just chillin in Dallas and thinking of all of you! Give everyone my love! I pray for you much over the next week.

erica said...

Oh, John, how hard!
I've been thinking of this and praying about it a lot.

On the other hand, it is very ,VERY good to have visits from fun Aunts and Uncles from across the ocean. I have very fond memories of when my uncles, aunts, grandparents, even some singers from a group from my dad's alma mater came and stayed with us in our house in Brussels. It made me feel uniquely special and loved, and certainly didn't interrupt my bond with my parents and teachers. Our kids will learn the kinds of relationships we can offer them, and they will treasure them, and it will be good. Hard, at times, but good.

Thank you for going for me.
I've got dinner ready for your family for Monday night, ginger chicken and rice. mmmmmmmm. Oh, and fudge sauce over ... something, I don't yet know what.

mosiacmind said...

John....WOW I find myself in tears again....much intense feelings watching the new Bono started Red campaigne for Africa and with reading your sharing about your and the others trip...I find myself asking God please God how can I for now I am cranking up some worship music and praying and worshiping thanks for sharing about your trip...the pictures of the sweet children also bring tears to my face and my heart....and I found myself asking myself do I really need this or that....God PLEASE show me what I am to do and God THANK YOU GOD for those who do so much like John and the others at CV bless them and their works..............Liz