Tul works with our Hope program, in the main office, and is doing some work interpreting for one of the aforementioned volunteers right now. He’s a funny guy, a “crazy” driver, and got lost while taking me on the short drive from the office to the house (where he’s been before). Though some would be embarrassed, Tul just laughed it off and managed to endure our good-natured teasing (and dish out some of his own). When we got lost, people along the side of the road stopped to stare as we passed by—our laughter at what had happened echoing behind us. Tul is fun.
Tul is the one being "stung" by the mosquito-- they were practicing for a day of Dengue Fever prevention.
However, like most Cambodians, he has a story to share. Growing up in a Buddhist family, his parents wanted him to be a monk. Tul didn’t want to shave his head, and ran away from the pagoda. He moved to Phnom Penh to supplement his family’s farm income. Yet, without many skills, Tul said he felt “heartbroken” over the state of his life. He enrolled in English classes at the local church, and as the body of Christ welcomed them into their family, and embraced him with open arms, Tul began to learn about Jesus and faith. Despite ridicule from his family, Tul became a Christian in 2005 and we visited his church a few weeks ago. He had to leave dinner in order to be on time to the Bible study he leads in the dorm where he lives. According to Tul, the biggest change in his life was that he felt hope. With a new beginning in Christ, he believed that God had a purpose for his life, a place for him to be, and work for him to do. Tul said he believed that he had a future.
Sitting across the table, those words hit me like a ton of bricks. Work is quite hectic right now, welcoming groups of volunteers, taking responsibility for their health, safety, and living conditions. In the midst of all of the trips to the airport, coordination of meals, transportation, materials, and budgeting, I started to wonder if I was in over my head. But then I sat and listened to the three volunteers who are here. They have different stories, but each has a desire to serve. Three unique individuals, here for only a few weeks, and a need to encounter something powerful in Cambodia.
Like Tul, God has a purpose for my life, a place for me to be, and work for me to do. Right now, that purpose is to get out of the way, as God moves in the lives of our staff and volunteers. The place is here, in Phnom Penh, at the dinner table, or on the other end of the phone, whenever our visitors need to be reassured, to find answers to their questions. The work is to arrange the details, to take care of the “life stuff” that so often impedes our ability to stop and experience the way that God works in the vicissitudes of daily activity.
I stopped this morning for a cup of coffee at a little café. As I watched the rain falling, the busyness and fatigue of the weekend culminated in a cry to God for help, for endurance. Sitting there, staring into the rainy day, and the responsibility ahead, only one thought came to me: “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” I began to feel hope again. No matter the frustrations that arise (and there have been a few), no matter the problems to be solved, and despite the poverty, the need, and the heartache, I am here, doing precisely what I should be. And so these verses read like a promise to me: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:1-5)
I am not sure how many people check in here, to read my thoughts and journey with me. I truly treasure your comments and thoughts about what I put here, and am thankful to share with you as we sojourn together. As Paul prayed for his friends in Rome, whom he longed to see, I will be praying for all of you: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).