January 10, 2015
Hello from the other side of the world in Cambodia! What a journey this has been! The time has been but a mere breath thus far. Today is our day of rest to hopefully process our experiences and savor the moments. The following are some of the thoughts and experiences our team and I have had the privilege to witness.
Cambodia is a beautiful country with lush green plantation, delicious tropical fruit I have never heard or tasted, rolling hills, and marshes. The beauty of the natural landscape is greatly contrasted to the horrific poverty people here live in and the brothels that represent the evil and sin that oppress our world today. Sin manifests itself differently here but is the same sin that exists in America, just more subtle I suppose depending on where you live.
One of our medical clinics two days ago was out in a rural, beautiful tropical countryside. The poverty however was strickening. One of my conversations with a missionary was how animals in America were treated more kindly and are in better living conditions than the people here. Houses not suitable for any living creature, medical care that does not even compare to ours in the U.S. and yet, the people would only smile at us patiently as we took about an hour for a lunch break and they waited for the clinic to open. People would travel quite far to come see us. Many had teeth that needed to be removed, wanted some glasses to see better, or perhaps a simple Tylenol and antibiotic tablet to help with pain or a fever. As a nurse working in the ER, it was quite hard for me to not want to become bitter against some of my patients in Fresno who start yelling when someone is treated first because their acuity of sickness is more urgent than their toothache or a person who supports the hospital financially is considered a "VIP" and thus deserves a private room and although we would never say it but the majority do on a sub conscious level give better care to those with money; I have seen and heard it from others and shamefully myself. For me, I was able to care for people in the context of just caring and doing what God created me to do versus being worried in making sure I document everything so that I or my colleagues do not get sued by some patient or family. Is one necessarily better than the other? Perhaps there are advantages and disadvantages to both medical cultures. They are just incredibly different.
A thought occurred to me regarding the Christians here in Cambodia. There are advantages and disadvantages to every culture. No culture is superior to another and the purpose of culture is how we as humans perceive life, truth, meaning, and for Christians, how we understand the LORD's working in our lives and Him being glorified in and through our cultures. With that being said, an advantage to living in extreme poverty is being able to rely on the LORD more for our everyday basic needs and not cling to wealth or objects as idols. Not that those in poverty do not have idols of their own or struggle with desiring "more" for it is not that which is outside the body that defiles but that which comes from within the sinful nature and heart (Mark 7:20-23). Our team was discussing this about the Fleenors and their willingness to sacrifice the comforts of their prior lives in the States and trust in the Lord for His provision and Will to be done. It is one thing to always have lived in poverty because you know what you only know. But to have experienced the daily freedoms of life and then to lay them at His throne is another realm that I cannot help but think how the Lord will reward those who did so like the Fleenors in His Name in Eternity on the Day of Judgment when all the works of Christians shall be tested by fire and rewarded accordingly with crowns!
Our first day in Cambodia, we were walking the streets of Phom Pehn- A pretty impoverished city in comparison to the U.S. but not as severe as the more rural areas of Cambodia. As we were looking around, all of a sudden there was a rather nice looking cafe on a corner street with what appeared to be a group of very rich Caucasian men dressed in suits. They were drinking coffee, laughing, and had their apple tablets opened. It was such an odd contrast to the rest of the city and was so out of place!! I could not help to ponder that based on the documentaries I have seen on human trafficking that these men were not here with their families on a vacation or missions trip. Need I say more?
I am amazed at the loving, welcoming people we have encountered thus far both from the Cambodian natives and the Fleenor family. People are quick to open their homes and lives to us. Time is quite different here. Time centers on people, not tasks or efficiency which has been a definite learning experience and challenge. I am always in awe when I travel to another country and being in Cambodia has reminded me of this very thing: How insanely crazy, out of this world, incomprehensible our LORD is!!! Christians here in Cambodia worshipping the same God in their language but in the same Spirit!
Lastly, being here has also been a challenge for me food wise and depending on where we are, the toilet situation. Eating animal organs is a part of the Cambodian diet which unless you were raised in a similar culture, can be quite the experience. :) The challenge comes when you are tired and hungry and would just really want to use an automatic toilet or eat that In- in- Out burger with fries. Comfort and security can unfortunately be a temptation in my own little Clovis world which can limit God's work in and through me and thus limit my impact on others. I have to remind myself to be a God pleaser and not a people pleaser or be afraid to "offend." When I love the LORD first above anyone or anything in my life, I am actually loving those around me much more than I could in my own strength or understanding. God does the work, not me. He gets the glory, not me, although sadly I admit, I can tend to steal from Him in my own sinful nature when I am not walking by the Spirit but by the flesh. But I am encouraged that His mercies are new every morning! As Peter exhibited and had to learn in John 21, my passion and love for Him He desires, but it must come from His strength, not mine. Although I have denied Him many times by being silent, He gives me and us abundant opportunities to say "Yes" to Him with all obedience.
Thank you all for your prayers! I am reminded of the verse in James: "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." Those living righteously in Christ can accomplish much more through prayer than any of us could combined in our own strength! A cool concept eh? :)
Looking forward to returning home soon to share more January 23rd at Clovis Christian Church! Love to all!
At His Cross,