Before Christmas, several things happened that have made me consider this train of thought. Our program staff encountered a little boy with malignant tumors all over his face. Bunthen, at age 8, is a terminal cancer patient. At the time, his illness had progressed too far for treatment, and his body too weak for chemotherapy. His parents are too poor to treat him. I tagged along as we visited the hospital to help tell Bunthen’s story and glimpse firsthand Cambodia’s medical system.
We waited as Bunthen and his mother met with the doctor. Later, I was told that because of the severity of the cancer, the doctor recommended euthanizing the boy. There is no hospice care here, and chemotherapy costs $60 per session. The doctor’s consultation cost $10, with another $2 for flat fees and $2 more for medication. In order for him to receive two much-needed pints of blood, we had to make a donation—part of a barter system because the blood bank is not stocked, and having to pay for a pint would be around $50. With a father who works as a bricklayer, this is far beyond what the family can afford. On the day we visited Bunthen, the funds were provided through a staff offering. Lately, some other money has been collected, and Bunthen has received some chemo treatments, but will not be able to continue enough to go into remission. Though the tumors on his face have been somewhat reduced, he is still weak, and still terminal.
Sitting there, in a dirty hospital cancer ward, I saw appalling things. I watched a woman sob over her breast cancer, from her fear that she would be unable to work any longer. I saw dirty beds, unclean floors. I thought about the beautiful hospital wards in the US, with their sterile conditions and efficient care. I thought about insurance and counseling services and Ronald McDonald houses for kids. I thought about how unfair it is for this little boy, who should be playing soccer or doing homework, to be sitting, sobbing in this dirty place that should be making him better. I thought about all the other patients, if they would be able to pay for their care, if they would recover.
I thought about the crowds around Jesus, seeking healing, just a touch, and how much that must have meant to the poor and the helpless. I thought that if Christ were here, now, that this heartache playing out around me might be different. And I thought, for the first time, how much I long for that day when He does return.