I wish I could tell a hundredth part of what we are experiencing here. I don’t want to forget the things that are changing us here. It is so interesting how when you step into somebody else’s world for a moment, you realize all the blessings you have. I have learned that what we consider to be “hard” most of the time is just temporary. We have hope that the trial will end in a reasonable amount of time. The things we worry about are not the things that will decide if we can feed our children or not. We do not have to decide if we should give our children to an orphanage or not simply because we can not provide for them. I can’t imagine being faced with a decision like that. It is the ultimate sacrifice of a mother to give their child up so they can have a better life.
As a mother I can tell you that when one of my children is hurting, sick, sad, or just having a hard day my heart hurts for them. Everything else seems to fade into the background and in that moment the only thing I care about is helping that child.
I had an experience last week when we were touring the ancient temples of Angkor Wat with the orphans. We had 55 people that we were keeping track of-47 of which were children. Mom, if you are reading this, just skip the paragraph J We were at the last temple of the day and the children were playing tag wondering around the ruins. We had Tyler, Ashton, and Charlotte right by us, but I let the older children run around with the older orphans. At this particular temple we exited a different way than where we entered. None of us knew that.
After we finished exploring around, we all loaded up in the vans and counted heads. Much to my panic, Brandon (12), Jocelyn (18), and Marcus (5) were not there. It was getting dark. I knew that Jocelyn and Marcus were together because only a little while before she was holding his hand going to find their dad, but I did not know if Brandon was with them. The orphans that Brandon had been running around with were all in the vans. My heart sank and momma bear kicked in. Some set off on foot to find them, I ran over to a Tuk Tuk and begged the man to take me to the front of the temple, thinking he probably would go there if he got lost. In his broken English he said he was waiting for clients, but I think he saw the fear in my eyes and he took me. On that Tuk Tuk ride as dust was blowing in my face I said one of those prayers that you only offer a couple times in your life. It was one of the most heartfelt prayers I have ever said in my life. It was earnest. It was full of faith. There was pleading and promising. It was given with complete humility and total dependence on my Father in Heaven. I knew He was capable of my request for us finding Brandon and the Cleggs safely.
We arrived at the front of the temple and they were not there. My heart was racing as the sun was setting . The driver said he would report it to the police and that is when the tears started flowing. They were closing and the guard would not let me back in to look for them, but once again that momma bear came out and I looked him straight in the eye and told him I was going in to find my kids. Now, people in Cambodia speak VERY little English. The Tuk Tuk driver was so sweet and he must have explained something to the man while I was running away. He called after me and said, “2 boy, 1 girl?” When I heard those words shouted back at me, I felt peace. I ran back with tears in my eyes and asked him if he saw them. He said yes and that they had walked the other way out the temple with somebody. They had been found!. I was so filled with gratitude for a God that hears our prayers and cares just as much as we do, if not more, for a lost child. I know that the feelings I felt that day for Brandon are multiplied by our Father in Heaven for all of His children who are hurting, or lost, or hungry, or suffering. He cares about all of us more perfectly than we care for our own children. It is hard to imagine that, but I know it is true. I am grateful for the power that comes from prayer. I am grateful for a listening Father in Heaven who answered a scared little mother’s prayer. He is so aware of our day to day doings and He is interested and present.
Though I have seen much poverty here and it truly hurts my heart, there are so many things this culture can teach us. They live simply. A lot of that is forced upon them, but all they want is basic human needs. One of the ladies who volunteered at the orphanage for years asked the children what they wanted for Christmas. She said they did not even know how to answer the question because they don’t have wants.
They gather. I love coming home from the orphanage and looking out at the streets and whole families-kids, parents, grandparents are out eating together. They share bowls of food on a simple raised floor made out of woven reeds. The city is alive with friends and family outside enjoying one another’s company. They are not in a hurry to eat and get on to the next thing, because there is no next thing. I LOVE seeing that.
They are so giving. Sweet little Chenna is 5 years old and she had on a little CTR rubber bracelet. I pointed to it and told her it was beautiful and she took it right off and put it on my wrist. Hard as I tried she would not let me give it back. The other bracelet she had on was a piece of string. They give everything so freely. They are happy about it. That is the light of Christ to me. When people give and it makes them so happy to give it. These people give when they really have nothing to give at all. Doing anything for us is an “honor.” I can’t tell you how many times we hear that. They are so humble, the salt of the earth.
They are happy amidst hardship. They emanate joy. They don’t care that they are shoeless, or that they are 15 years old wearing a bathing suit from the movie Cars as shorts, or that they went to church in a pair of pants instead of a skirt. They are okay sleeping on a tile floor with 15 other people per room and preparing their food over hot coals and a fire. Such great people. When the time comes and I am back home cooking on my 4 burner range and putting my laundry in a dryer and food down a disposal and dishes in a dishwasher and I feel like complaining because there is always so much to be done…I will stop myself and remember. I will remember that I have food to feed my children, a fridge that will hold more than one day’s food in it, a bed to sleep in and that my husband has a job. I will remember that I won’t have to think once that day about having to give my children up to an orphanage because I can’t provide for them. I will remember the blessings.
Well ,on to what we have been doing. We cleared out the ground and leveled it so we could pour the concrete for the chicken coop. Botevy wanted another layer down on top of the bricks so the boys took a bunch of old bricks and crushed them up with sledgehammers for a base. They worked side by side with the older orphans and had a good time, although I am sure they are all very soar like our family was! The girls were also a big help as they carried the buckets away filled with dirt, rocks, and roots. We got half the cement poured and all the orphans were able to put their handprints in it. So fun.
We will finish the cement in the morning and start assembling the chicken coops. We have never built one before, but I’m pretty sure Matt and Doug can build anything. Remember, they are Idaho boys :)
We are also helping them with their mushroom planting. They grow a type of mushroom I have never seen before and sell them at the market. They are soft and white and almost look like a flower. They brought some home and dipped them in batter and fried them up for us. They were scrumptious. It is a very different way of growing them. They grow them indoors in a bag with sawdust and rice powder and something else that I don’t know the name of. Their mushrooms are not growing well because they are depleted of minerals, so we helped them purchase the items needed to start all over again so they can yield much more. I am excited to learn how to do that.
We have been brainstorming on ideas of how we can help Botevy with the children after we leave. Doug came up with the idea of doing a life-sketch on each child and putting it on their website. We would interview them and find out what they want to study and do when they graduate. We could set up a system where families in the USA could sponsor them and help pay for their education here, or school supplies needed or a white shirt etc. School is not free in Cambodia. You have to pay for your teachers. Many of the children here need bikes to get to school. There are things like that that would be so neat to have people sponsor. Just a thought, I’d like to know what you think! The children here are so bright and love to learn English. If they have the right tools they will be able to get an education and help their families.
Time for bed, love to you all!
|The clearing for the chicken coops!|
|Never passes up a chance to get dirty!|
ps-We were invited to a wedding today of one of Botevy’s friends. It was so wonderful to see a true Cambodian ceremony. It is a 2 day celebration with lots of food and music and rituals. One of the rituals is that the bride and groom cut their hair with golden scissors that are from heaven. After they do that their marriage will be blessed from heaven…so great for the children to see different cultures!