Our good friend Trent Culver just got back from a life-changing trip to Cambodia. Enjoy!
“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Matthew 19:30
The most defining experience of my life; sweating alongside orphan children and my brothers and sisters in Christ. We worked in sweltering heat and overwhelming downpours, in the dirt and mud of a rural Cambodian orphanage. I may never see these Cambodian brothers and sisters again in this life but I am certain we will meet again when we reach our eternal home.
Even better, Jesus will have removed the language barrier.
What a privilege to meet these kids. They live at the absolute bottom of the food chain. They are the stray dogs at the bottom of the heap in the poorest country in Asia. What can we bring? Why should we go? Their dominant religions attribute them no value. They live on the streets or in the wilderness. They live off the meager scraps from the only slightly better off families in a nearby village or town. They forage an existence of bananas and bugs in the wilderness. Prostitution and trafficking is everywhere and dignity is stolen. Massive genocide under an evil, psychotic dictator followed by uncontrolled HIV and Aids has left an entire country full of young people and a LOT of orphans. Jesus gives them value. He tells them that they are as important as anybody. Buddhism and Hinduism provide them nothing but discouragement. Religions that teach karma tell these beautiful children that they are flawed and full of bad luck, or karma. As a result, they are kicked to the side.
To the orphan child, and even more the community in which he lives, Christian ministry creates one question. A question that their religions can't answer. What are these rich, white Americans doing here helping the dirty little orphans? Don't they know that these kids possess bad karma? The Americans, the most privileged people on the planet are sweating in Cambodian mud? Don't they know they're doing the worst work in Cambodia and for whom are they doing it? The stray dogs? Of course these white giants have good Karma, they live in America where everybody is a movie star, athlete or master of business.
Cambodia is a country ripe for Jesus Christ. Whole towns receive Jesus and God performs miracles. Their hand-to-mouth existence makes them more aware of the supernatural. They simply know there is something bigger than themselves. So often Americans have to hit rock bottom to look up. When you believe you're at the top, rock bottom is a long fall. Cambodians, especially its orphans, live at rock bottom. They have nowhere to look but up.
I just recently completed a two week trip to Cambodia. It included four and a half days of the hardest work I've ever done. I helped build a chain link fence that totaled over a half mile in length. In addition to removing the old, dirty, termite and fire ant infested fence and posts and clearing heavy rainforest vegetation, my team carried and set approximately 45 tons of concrete fence posts. Shouldering each post I imagined Jesus carrying His cross to take the weight of my sin. I carried many of these posts with a small 13 year old orphan with a work ethic only exceeded by an enormous spirit. He never stopped to rest and he never stopped smiling. These are incredible people. Our work tells both the kids, and their community, that these kids are valued to a group of Christian Americans. A few consider, who is this Jesus Christ that gives grace instead of condemnation? The orphans gain respect and lives are both temporally and eternally changed. Jesus gives the stray dogs value and confidence. The fence more firmly establishes property boundaries. It is a daily visible reminder to the community of the value inherent in these kids. I could work the rest of my daily career and not find a significance comparable to what I realized in 4 and a half days of work at the bottom of the heap in the poorest country in Asia.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25: 37-40
Christ is the hope for Cambodia. What a revealing and awesome experience.