Learning to Remember

God does such good work.  With only one more week in Cambodia, I am reflecting a lot on all the things that God has done and I am amazed.  I have seen healing, seen friendships develop and grow, lives have been restored, the word of God proclaimed, I have experienced personal growth, and I have seen love lived out in the most beautiful ways—life in Cambodia has been incredible.  And there is still more life to bring—but, God was faithful through all of this and I know He will be until it is finished. 
It’s challenging to concisely put into words everything I should share.  For now, I want to just share some the stories of those who’s lives give me reason to press on in the work that is before me—wherever and whatever that may be.  They are each amazing individuals with amazing stories to tell and their voices are not always heard.  I am going to share a little bit about them and I challenge you to really imagine life through their eyes—imagine what life looks like and feels like for each of them. 
Tidais twenty-two years old and works as a “bar girl” in an establishment in Phnom Penh.  She works every day of the week from 4:00 p.m. to after midnight and gets one day off every month.  She makes $60 every month and fifty of that Tida sends home to her family who all live in a different province of Cambodia.  Tida’s family depends on the money that she sends home every month to survive, so Tida says she is grateful for her job so she can provide for her family.  Tida didn’t get past primary school, which can be around sixth or seventh grade so that she could work.  She knows a lot of English from different jobs where her customers were mostly foreigners and spoke English. 
Tida’s dream is open her own clothing shop in Phnom Penh.  She says she is saving her money up but it is taking her a long time. Tida says her mother gets sick sometimes and she has to give the money she is saving to her family so they can pay for medicine.  Tida’s dreams feel far off for her.
Nitais fourteen years old and lives at an orphanage in Phnom Penh.  She is going to school and wants to become a translator when she is finished.  Nita comes home to the orphanage after school and gives her attention to one of the other children who has a disability that leaves her unable to talk, walk and care for herself.  Nita sees enough adults come and go through the orphanage, one would think she could care less about one more.  But Nita never let a day pass without making me feel like the most important person in her life.  She desperately wants to love and be loved by someone who will be steady in her life. 
Bophais in her late twenties and is a mother of—well, many!  Bopha grew up sexually and physically abused starting when she was eight years old.  The abuse she experienced came from family members and later on, others outside of her family too.  One particular relationship provided her with money to support her family.  She was repeatedly sexually abused and sometimes her abuser would rip the skin off her knuckles just to hurt her.  But Bopha could not leave—her family depended on her relationship with this man to survive.  Bopha currently has three children all who have different fathers.  She is not allowed to see one of her children because the father forbids her to.  Today, Bopha cares for her children, as well as her siblings’ children.  She has a strong desire to help women who work in karaoke clubs, bars and brothels who experience the same kind of abuse that she herself experienced. 
I asked you to imagine you had switched places with these individuals to imagine what life might look like and feel like for them.  But you and I are not them—why not?  Tida, Nita, and Bopha’s reality could have been my reality.  I know that I have what I have, and I am who I am, intentionally.  God didn’t bring me to Cambodia on accident, and you didn’t read this on accident—so what are we expected to do with this information?  What responsibility does having these experiences carry?  I know I have a responsibility with the stories Nita, Tida, and Bopha shared with me.  Most importantly, I believe it is important that I do not forget them.  I will share their stories in hopes that lives will be altered, I will pray for them, I will remember them as I fight for their lives and the lives of others through my career, through my every day interactions, through every choice I make.
Remembering and choosing not to forget can be harder than we think.  It’s easy to pretend that these stories are exaggerated or aren’t real, or to believe that we have enough on our plate with our own problems, or to think that we really have nothing to offer—so we block them out.  I know that we even intend to remember—but somehow we forget.  But, good intentions really aren’t good enough.  Fight to remember and never forget what God is intentionally showing you and I every day. 
I will be returning to the United States next week.  I have plenty to share! If you have any questions or would like to hear about what I learned and did in Cambodia, let me know! I would love to meet with you or email you to begin a conversation.  Thank you for all your prayers and support through the last few months—you made an impact beyond what you will ever know!
Praise God for His faithfulness and goodness!

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Week 5