Tuesday, March 06, 2007

From ashes to beauty

Honestly, I don't even know where to start. Each day has been so full, it seems like it's been a week since I last posted. And unfortunately, I don't have nearly enough time right now to give an adequate overview. But here goes nothing.

Yesterday I took the team to Tuol Sleng prison, once a torture and interrogation facility, now a genocide museum. The halls are filled with the grisly artifacts of the Khmer Rouge regime. Most distressing are the thousands of photos -- mugshots of the victims taken upon admittance to this hell on earth some have called the Asian Auschweitz. Men, women, boys, girls -- even babies -- were brutally tortured. Those who survived were taken outside the city to the "killing fields" and clubbed, hacked or shot to death.

To call Tuol Sleng horrific is inadequate. In fact, words escape me. Do a search and you'll find others who have described it better. Perhaps I've even got a post or two about it if you search this blog.

At any rate, we all left Tuol Sleng feeling sad and angry and confused. All of our tidy theological equations that factor in "evil" and "free will" don't seem so satisfying when you've walked on the horrid, hallowed ground of a place like that. Our visit reminded us that evil is real, and that Satan hates mankind and revels in its destruction. Truly Satan succeeded in making a hell on earth.

After lunch, a trip to the market and a short rest, we got to visit heaven. After, that is, an hour in purgatory -- I got lost taking a 'short cut' Dave Atkins recommended and then our car broke down. Lovely.

Okay. Back to heaven.

When we finally arrived at the orphan home, the kids were ecstatic. They mobbed our car and lavished us with the most joyous greetings imaginable. When I opened the back of the truck and pulled out two suitcases, they began to chatter to each other excitedly. They guessed it -- gifts!

I took the suitcases in to the office and revealed the contents to Narun. "Too much for one day," he wisely suggested. We chose one toy for each child and put them in a box, which we carried out to the foyer. I asked the kids to line up -- boys on one side, girls on the other. They scrambled to their places, arranging themselves from youngest to oldest.

Each child received a ball, a doll or a stuffed animal. Each child was thrilled. Just wait til you see the pictures! (It'll be a few days...sorry) It was like Christmas morning, only with less whining.

We played for what seemed like hours, until it was time for the younger kids to get ready for bed. Jeff and Jordan somehow translated Rock-Scissors-Paper into Khmer, and the kids quickly became experts, besting me almost every time.

As we packed our bags and pulled away from the orphan home, I felt like I had just gotten a preview of heaven, God's Kingdom come on earth. Guys, I can't even begin to express my gratitude for all of you -- what a privilege to represent you to these kids. And what a contrast from our morning at Tuol Sleng.

The darkness is truly dark. But the light is coming, it's breaking through, and it's spreading. And the epicenter is a little townhouse on Street 95 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.


This morning, we drove about 6 hours to Siem Reap. We stopped along the way and bought some local produce and a pair of sunglasses which Jeff promptly lost. Tomorrow we're going to see the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. I think it's important for the team to see some of the grandeur of Cambodia, not just the poverty and sadness. We are having a great time.

Oh! I almost forgot! We passed a church along the way, and decided to turn back and see if we could meet the pastor and pray for the congregation. On closer examination, we discovered it was also an orphanage run by our friends, Foursquare Children of Promise. We pulled up to the gate, and I asked one of the children in Khmer if anyone spoke a little English. Puzzled and a little concerned, the director and his wife came out to meet us.

We introduced ourselves and identified ourselves as Christians. We asked if we could pray blessing upon the children and staff. Before we left, we handed the director a $100 bill. We left them slightly astonished and drove away. Dang, it's fun being an ambassador of God's generosity. Pray that God multiplies the effectiveness of our little gift, and pray for those kids and for the 4Square guys. They're doing an amazing job.

Well, we really need to grab a bite to eat and get to bed. Tomorrow will be exhausting -- lots of hiking and climbing.

I love you all. Especially my wife and kids -- I miss them terribly.


Tim said...

I just took a peek online: Cambodia's per capita GDP is about $2,600. $100 will go a long way for that orphanage, and they never expected it. Yea!

Good on you for following God's lead, dropping in, and giving them that gift. We may never know, but I'm hoping that director had been praying for the meeting of some pressing need ... and God delivered in the form of you all wandering in to pray.

Safe travels, guys. Keep the updates coming.

Beth said...

God bless, John.

We're praying and praying.

And when you get back -- we're going to talk about assembling your blog posts and pictures for a book. You have a unique gift for communicating God -- I pray for an increase in the influence of that gift. I want to see MANY more American Christians share the vision of Asia's Hope

Anonymous said...

Joy and life, sin and sorrow....

Thanks for the touch of heaven on earth/into my day, John.

Hey, Allison........


erica said...

He heeee! That must have been fun swooping in on that orphan's home and dumping down unexpected prayer and financial blessing. tee hee! What fun!

Enjoy Ankor Wat. yum. I could spend a week there just wandering aimlessly and painting. sigh.

Mindi Lannon said...

Hey team/ ambassadors.......I cannot believe what you are fitting into 1 week. God Bless you.....let me say it again....God Bless......I pray God continues to bless your journey with tid bits of blessings and opportunities! I cannot wait for more pics!!!!!

I'm still jealous!

Mindi Lannon said...

p.s. John....love the title of this blog!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

hey, for those of you reading this and/or Jeff's blog in regards to the current asia’s hope trip and would like another perspective from someone on the trip, my blog is at

another good blog john!

- Jordan

Mimo said...

Light is definitely coming into the darkness!! God Bless!

Anonymous said...

I tried to respond to your entry at the site, Jordan, but it wouldn't take my comments....

Likely, I didn't do it right.

I did enjoy another perspective, it was a good read.....

Hope......is good, isn't it.