Love Those Who Persecute You

As I rub the coconut oil into her hands, my fingers trace her callused skin, and I wonder about her life and what might have formed these visible signs of living. Viesna’s mom is sprawled across the wooden frame beneath her stilted house. Emily, Haley, and I surround her, each focusing on a different area of her body. The smell of aromatic oils fills the air, and I smile, taking this picture in. This Cambodian woman whom I met yesterday has quickly become an important piece of our story here, so let us start from the beginning.

It was Monday night. Bible study was supposed to start at 7:30, but as usual, the plans changed. Sophea got a call from Veasna, who recently left for DTS (Discipleship Training School). Apparently, Veasna’s mother fell down the steps and hurt herself. At the time, that was all the information we knew. Again, as usual, the details were scarce. So instead of bible study, 20 of us ventured down the dark road, through the village to Veasna’s house to pray for his mom. It was slightly awkward at first, as we each sat around the wooden frame and introduced ourselves. (A little background, Veasna is one of the boys that live with us but his house is right down the road. However, his mom lives and works in Phnom Penh, so we had never met her before.) Through a series of questions and translations, we found out she fell down the stairs days ago and injured her back and legs. The first few days, she couldn’t even walk. Inevitably, we asked “Sooo… can we pray for you?” but to our surprise, she said no. Though our prayer wasn’t desired, medicine was; Kayla felt her back and said it was inflamed and suggested that she take ibuprofen and put some ice on it. Lacey offered to walk back to get the medicine and ice.

We continued to ask questions and get to know Thida, and there came a point where we all prayed separately and discreetly. I started to feel the urge to tell her to just stand up and walk, but I didn’t feel like it was the right time. Finally, God put it on my heart to ask if we could come back and walk with her. She said yes! She used to wake up to walk and exercise but hasn’t been able to because of her back. I made plans to come back the next morning with a couple of the girls. 

After returning from getting ibuprofen and ice, Lacey urged Petra to ask her one more time if we could pray for her. Petra laughed, understanding how hardened Thida was, but to all of our surprise, she said yes! We were able to visibly see the Lord soften her heart throughout our time there, and I was more than excited to come back the next morning. 

The next day, minutes before 6 A.M., we made our way up the dirt road and through the field to Viesna’s mom’s house. I walked up, and when she noticed us, her face lit up into a smile. She tried to communicate in Khmer and we couldn’t understand, but thankfully Vuthy was trailing behind us. She had been up since 4 A.M., walking around! It normally takes her a long time to get up and get going, but that morning, she woke up with ease. Her pain had lightened, her heart had softened, and I could sense the joy of the Lord. Emily shouted preang la ah, (God is good) and she said ja, ja! (Yes yes!) (A little more background: Petra later told me that Thida was never open to the gospel before and greatly persecuted those that believed in Jesus. A little reminder, when we first asked to pray for her, she was completely closed off. Now this woman was rejoicing with us, exclaiming that God is good.) 


Since she’d already walked around for a couple hours, we asked if there was anything else we could do. Sure enough, she said if would help if we came back that night and massaged her back. Totally normal, right?

And that’s how I ended up back at this woman’s house, massaging her with my sisters, talking about God and life and the beautiful adventures and mysteries He allows us to uncover. There was one moment when Haley sort of burst into a giggle. “You know when you go to get your nails done and all the ladies are talking in a language you can’t understand? That’s us right now! We’re the ladies talking in a different language.” She was SO right. And even though we each laughed, we also realized in that moment that this was what the will of God looks like. There is no way to predict moments such as the ones we experienced with Thida, no way I could have predicted I would be in Cambodia, in some remote village, with two girls I met two months ago, massaging virtually a stranger. His will is far from boring and far from anything this world can ever offer.

We continued to visit Thida the next couple nights and one night before we headed to her house, Sophea announced, rather nonchalantly that she texted him earlier in the day saying that she believed God healed her and put her trust in Jesus. Okay, stop. Hold up. Did I hear that correctly? 

A woman who has spent her life worshipping Buddha and persecuting Christians confessed that she believes in the healing powers of the Lord and now believes in Him? What. Is. Life. And why did Phea wait until then to so casually tell us? We grabbed one of the Khmer bibles and joyfully skipped our way to Thida, rejoicing as Sophea started rambling in prayer and belting out some spontaneous song. We spent the rest of the night telling her more about Jesus and what it means to follow Him.

The fact that God welcomed another daughter into His Kingdom is awesome enough, but this also confirms that the Lord is preparing this nation for a revival, starting in our little village that we call home. 



(Thida returned to Phnom Penh before we were able to say goodbye BUTTTTT we just found out she is back for Khmer New Year and we are planning to go see her today!!! God is good.) Also, I probably totally spelled her name wrong. Oops.

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