Experiencing Their Reality
The doctor came in with the results of my blood work…elevated eosinophils in combination with recent travel to a third world country= parasites.
We were told we wouldn’t be going to the slum at the dump that day. It had rained too much. Now, rain in Cambodia during rainy season is as common as travelling in professional basketball. However, this slum is located at the bottom of this enormous mountain of trash, waste, and filth. The rainwater that ran down the mountain had flooded the slum. We were going to be doing this ministry with a group called Joy Club from New Life Fellowship (NLF) Church in Phnom Penh. Joy Club is made up of the volunteers that are over the children’s and slum ministries. They made a decision to go. There are kids who call that trash heap home. We could risk it to bring food, shoes, and share Jesus.
At the street, we are loaded up on an flat bed truck so as to not walk through the murky brown water. We get off at the mostly dry entrance. Then an Australian woman from NLF told us to stay out of the water because it was filled with microscopic worms that bore through the skin. She said if we got near it to scrub our feet, and whatever else the water may have touched, when we returned. Seemed simple enough. Then our team got split up into two groups. One stayed put with the older kids and the other had to walk down the block to the other location for the younger kids. Guess which group I was in… That’s right: the second.
I’m not a particularly tall woman (5′ 1.5″) and the water we literally waded through was up to my calves in parts. We were being lead by a fellow from the Joy Club who wasn’t saying much. He got to the deepest parts first. We were trying to be brave and keep straight faces. I ended up giggling. That’s my response to uncomfortable situations.
As I was doing this, I couldn’t help but think that the little ones who live here, do this every single day. I stopped instantly. Until I saw it. A ray of hope in what feels like a futile situation. A little girl is walking by me carrying who I assumed was her little sister on her back. It’s no rarity to see kids taking care of kids whether related or not. As this girl is walking beside me, I notice her grin. I have no idea if she was humored by the goofy foreigners trying to tip toe or if she was just excited about going to church. Whatever it was, it was the most joyful smile I had ever seen. In the midst of her situation, she was glowing like the sun peaking through dense clouds. It was disturbingly beautiful.
When I’m in Cambodia, I sometimes get discouraged. It feels like we are just not making an impact. What can I do to keep her from contracting parasites? From living in the pile of garbage? It doesn’t feel like enough. God used her sweet smile to remind me that sometimes, just being there makes an impact. Caring makes an impact. It’s not an instant or seemingly practical one, but it’s an impact all the same. If that little girl can smile and be excited to learn about Jesus while walking barefoot through worm-infested water, then there IS hope for that country.
In the doctor’s office…
I had gotten parasites that day. It took 3 months for a doctor to figure out what was wrong. I have never experienced pain like that in my life. I feel like I have been given just a glimpse of what far too many people, especially children, face in countries like Cambodia. Many succumb to it. It fills them and they waste away painfully unable to eat anything without being in incredible pain. I was able to get medicine to rid my body of these harmful creatures. How many of them do? We have to do more.