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Simple hope.

Thursday we were given the opportunity to pair with a church called New Life and minister to kids that live in the slums of Phnom Penh. I have talked many times before about entering slums, the emotions that they brought, the dirt, the trash and the joy of the people. But this surprised me even a little bit more in how different this part of town was from the rest.  As we walked passed salons, clothing boutiques, a mall that we frequently visit for air conditioning, and restaurants that had edible, clean food, we abruptly stopped at a little alleyway. Although these aren’t abnormal to come across, I figured we were simply waiting for our ministry contact to pick us up, drive to the riverside twenty minutes away and show us the people we would be working with for the afternoon. About five minutes later, their tuk tuks pulled up, and the New Life staff piled out.  As I peered down an alley about eight feet wide, I was shocked to realize that the slums we were ministering to for the afternoon were in an area of town that we see every day. That every time I drive to the mall, I overlook alleys similar to these, assuming they are dead ends and not that families and entire communities live there every day. As we began to walk deeper into the alleyway, the faces of the people began to light up, children ran to us, and many reached their hands to us because they knew we offered not only hope, but prayer and love as well.       

The first lady we saw was an elderly lady. She sat on a little straw matt on her wood floor; she smiled a toothless grin and slowly started pointing to areas on her body that caused her pain. Her hips brought so much pain that she could not walk unless it was to the bathroom. All day long, she sits on her wood floor because there is nothing else she can do. As we gathered around her and offered her prayer, she bowed her head and couldn’t seem but to stop glowing. She thanked us endlessly. She knows that her hope comes from the Lord and it was evident in every part of her body language.

As the kids continued to flock to us, many were treated with first aide, some played games, others just held onto your legs. Many of them were scattered with rashes from the hot sun and dirty living conditions, some had no clothes, some had no teeth, and yet, they all had joy seeping out of then. The ground was matted down trash, the homes had many holes, no walls, or leaking roves. The people of this village did not for a second reflect their conditions. The people came with humbled hearts, joyful faces and an eagerness to learn about Jesus that seemed almost unnatural.

As the New Life staff taught them about Jesus, played games with them and asked them questions, I couldn’t help but to be amazed that such activities go on in this place on a regular basis. These people are able to learn about Jesus, probably the only thing that can bring them HOPE from what is amongst them.  Putting myself in their shoes was almost painful and unimaginable. I complained, and still do on occasion, about my mosquito net, my bucket shower, or the fact that we sleep on top of each other, but the people of this area do not have one of those things, yet they didn’t complain or even appear to be bothered by where they lived. The people were filled with a hope I have hardly ever seen. As everyone else, they had a joy far greater than even my own and they had a passion for Jesus that seems crazy in such a Buddhist culture.

When it came time for us to leave, I found myself completely humbled and almost in tears when about sixty little hands shot up in the air, praying for us and blessing us as we parted ways. Sixty little children were praying for US and thanking US for seeing them and ministering to them. But, I found myself again thinking about how thankful I was for each little person that was there and how much I learned FROM THEM. It is funny, the poorest of the poor have brought me more contagious hope than I could even imagine bringing someone. God really does work in such mysterious ways.