Sunday, March 04, 2007

What a day

What an amazing day.

It’s Monday, 6:23 a.m. In America, it’s Sunday night. Our bodies don’t really know what time it is – we’re all a little jetlaggy.

After a series of very long plane rides, we arrived in Phnom Penh at about noon yesterday. Dave Atkins, joined by Narun and Sophal (our Phnom Penh orphanage directors) met us at the airport and drove us to our guest house on an unremarkable street in the middle of this entirely remarkable city.

We had barely enough time to shower when we were whisked away out of the city, past chickens and pigs and and giant buddhas to a dusty road about 5km past the mighty, muddy Mekong. At the end of this road, in the shadow of a large Buddhist monestary sits a large, but empty house which will soon be home to a couple dozen formerly-homeless children.

We were met at the gate by Sopang, who had been the director of the first Asia’s Hope orphanage in Phnom Penh. His beautiful wife and rascally, but adorable 4-year old son will now be caretakers of this new facility, which will be sponsored by the West Milton (Ohio) Community Church.

Sopang was hard at work, wearing khaki shorts four sizes too big, rolled up three times over at the waist, his head draped in a the traditional Khmer headscarf. He carried a large, bamboo broom, and his brow glistened with sweat.

The word came only yesterday that we would be hiring to lead this new orphan home, and he and his wife had already begun making preparations. Within minutes of our arrival, relatives of the landlord drove up and begun dismantling the Buddhist altars, statues, relics and spirit houses. When the pastors from West Milton showed up a few moments later, we officially cleansed the house with soaking prayer and jubilant worship.

Jeff, Jordan, Allison and I picked a mighty fine day to show up in Cambodia.

We returned to the guest house, changed into some slightly nice clothes and headed to our orphanage. The children were beside themselves with glee. “Daddy John! Daddy John! Hello! I love you!”

Every single child looked bigger, stronger, happier, healthier than I had left them. Pay and Nearng, who were scared, skitterish skeletons are bright and beautiful, their eyes dancing with joy. Their little brother Metha, looks terrific, not terrified. Dané is barely recognizable – her once matted hair is shiny and smooth. Lyn, who’s arm was badly broken is almost completely healed. Vilaiy seems to have grown three inches. What Satan has stolen from these precious children, God has given back in abundance. The Kingdom of God has truly come in power to the kingdom of Cambodia.

The children directed us to a row of chairs and commanded us to sit. They all sat down in rows facing us, smiling and giggling with anticipation. “Where are the rest?” I asked. Someone said, “I think this is all of them.” No way. I knew we were missing Srey Pa, Srey Poa, Srey Ka, Meerlia and Soriya. Someone else said, “I think they have a surprise.”

The children stood up and began singing and reciting Bible verses in Khmer and English. We applauded enthusiastically, as the children beamed with pride. When they were finished, the children sat down and glanced back toward the kitchen.

When Soriya emerged, dressed in her hand-made apsara costume, we all gasped. It was like seeing a stunning bride enter the chapel, only more so. She smiled, bowed and read in English from a paper marked in large black letters, ‘Thanksgiving.’ She said something like this:

“Thank you, Daddy Dave, Daddy John and Pastor Jeff. Thank you for providing food and clothing and shelter and medicine for us. We thank God for you and pray for you. God bless you and your church. We will always love you.”

Sophal put the music on the boombox, and out they came: all of the missing girls -- each one more beautiful than the next -- like jeweled butterflies, they danced to traditional Cambodian music. Throughout the performance, they balanced silver platters covered with jasmine blossoms, taking care not to spill a single petal. As the final song reached its crescendoed peak, the girls broke into broad smiles and tossed the petals at us, filling the air with their fragrant blooms. A performance fit for a king, performed in gratitude for the meager sacrifices offered up by our little church in Columbus, Ohio. I’m humbled and moved.

Oh, the greatness of our God. Oh the mercy he’s shown us. Thank you, God for allowing us to be a part of your work here. We don’t deserve any of this, but we’ll take it, and promise to do our best.


Jacob said...

We all read your blog and are extremely excited and glad for you all and thankful that you arrived safely. lotsa love!!! and prayers...

- the Brooks family

Beth said...

Oh guys! God is truly restoring what Satan tried to steal. We eagerly await your blog posts and pray for you lots and lots...

John...what a beautiful picture you have painted (and what beauty God provided you for that picture!). The Korunas weep with you at the glory of God and the beauty of these precious children.

Tim said...

Paul wrote that "[God] has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors ..." and, you know, sometimes ambassadors get invited to some pretty swanky get-togethers. Sounds like the kids put on quite a show. Let them know it was such a big deal that people are talking about it 12,000 miles away!

I count it a privilege to know you and John: I can think of no better ambassadors, for Christ or our little church, to these little kids. Send them our love.

Karen said...

this entry gave me chills and brought me to tears. you're writing these entries are like little gifts. i love hearing what god is doing in our orphan home. i love hearing about our kids. please give them hugs from me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, John.

Simply and extravagently -- BEAUTIFUL.

Anonymous said...

How exciting! We loved hearing about it! The pictures of the girls in costume were gorgeous! We continue to pray that God will keep you all healthy and safe. That He will grow you in Him and use you all mightily while you are there.

~Miss Burby's Class

KarlandBethany said...

incredibly beautiful...

erica said...

Oh my goodness I'm totally crying at work. What good, good news. And Srey Poa was dancing! I wish I could see her. We pray for her every night.

Thank you thank you thank you.
Thank you.

Mimo said...

It's wonderful to read about this, to hear how really truly lives are being changed and new things forming, and impacting more lives!! Soaking prayer and jubilant worship sounded quite nice too! God Bless you lot plentifully. What an awesome work you do.