The Least of These
We’ll probably never know if the little girl we met at the Killing Fields was parent-less. We didn’t have an interpreter with us to talk to her about her life. However, the likelihood is high. She was barefoot, out begging with a group of children in the middle of a school day, and selling all she had for money: her small body. Combine the context with the UNICEF fact that 153 million children in the world are orphans and you’ve got a tragic but safe bet. The children most likely to be sold into sex trafficking, child labor, and child sex tourism are those who live on the streets and those without parents to care for them: the orphans.
Not Without Hope
To combat the harsh reality, Global Reach has built 3 Hope Centers (orphanages) in Cambodia. These centers take in at-risk and orphaned children and get them off the streets. Here, they get to go to school, learn about God, and have some semblance of a family. We financially support them year-round. We go back and visit each year to see our kids growing up, begin whatever construction or upkeep needs to be done on the building (expanding usually!) and throw a massive birthday party to celebrate the kids. We pave pathways, move dirt, sand walls, remove mold, repaint, plant flowers, and paint fences. We play insanely long soccer games, paper-scissors-rock, dodgeball, chicken&hawk, and we catch tiny geckos. We strengthen our distant relationship as best we can. And then we cry as hard as the kids when we leave. We are there a few short days out of an entire year. The money, the building, support…that’s what we’ve given. What about the rest of the year? Who helps them get ready for school, cares for them, feeds them, guides them, offers comfort, shows love, and attempts to meet nearly every emotional, physical, and spiritual need that only a parent or similar figure can provide? These things are given by the pastor, his wife, and the aunties from the church.
I have witnessed a woman remember the names, ages, shoe sizes, clothing sizes, and favorite colors of over 30 children…and she didn’t need a list. I’ve seen her thoughtfully and carefully sort through outfits and place each one with the right child. I’ve been greeted at the airport by a pastor who drives 4 hours just to see us when we arrive, then returns to the Hope Center to wait until we make our way to their small village. I’ve watched his eyes light up with genuine joy and glowing pride as the sweet kids sing Jesus songs and play games with us. They care for each child as they do their own. They run a church in the front of the building and have the Hope Center and their own room in the back. And I’ve watched this same couple humbly thank us for supporting them and the kids. These amazing people who provide life and give perpetual hope to children, who would otherwise be forgotten, thank us with tears in their eyes. As I said, we give a building and money. They give life. We don’t deserve such praise. They do. It is through them I have witnessed what the Bible describes. I have seen true religion lived out in a very real way. I have yet to see anything as beautiful.