The phone rings. It is a pastor I do not know who received my number through friends. He needs our help. He said: “There is a lady who showed up in our village who was raped in Thailand. She recently had a baby and does not want it and is trying to give it away. Can you take the baby?”
It may be tough for you to believe, but this is a fairly regular kind of call that my wife and I receive. It sounds simple. Take the baby, and one day that baby becomes Prime Minister of Cambodia and writes a book thanking Steve and Noit for saying “Yes”.
Ah, but then there is reality.
It’s not an easy decision. We can’t help everyone and not everyone is help-able. There are always multiples issues which come up. There is always a backstory. If I just did an American style Rambo and showed up in the village in my black Toyota Land Cruiser and take the baby off into the sunset I could easily be charged with human trafficking. I need to contact the local authorities. I need to verify the story. I need to try and find the mother who is giving away the baby and find out why. Then there is a bigger issue. How much care does a baby need? Am I, my wife and I, willing to commit to this baby’s life until adulthood? Gulp. An 18 year commitment! It’s hard to sleep with such decisions on my mind. My wife and I don’t spend huge amount of time in prayer. We know God’s answer is to love this baby. God has instigated the connection, so we know we don’t need to pray about whether or not we SHOULD take the baby. The right answer is “yes”. But my wife and I needed to talk and pray about our commitment. We pray that God would lead us to the best solution.
In only a few hours after receiving the call, we pulled into Kob village. It took us only one minute to locate the abandoned baby. But there was a surprise; the pastor had found the mother. We sat under a mango tree as a light rain fell. The baby, a cute little boy had big brown eyes and was staring at us. We asked the mother what her story was:
Stoically, the mother told us about her life: She was born and orphaned quickly, both her mother and father died. She was adopted by another family. Yet, soon after she was adopted her new mother also died. He adopted father abused and raped her. (Practically, in most cases I have seen in Cambodia adoption is little more than child slavery. It is a cheap way to get someone to wash the dishes and clothes around the house, but adopted children are never considered a “real” son or daughter.) At a very young age she was on her own, leaving her abusive adopted father. She went to Thailand, illegally, to find a job. There in Thailand she was raped by another Cambodian worker who was a drug addict. He then said that he loved her and continued to be with her and rape her constantly. She had no choice; nowhere to run to, and no family to help her. She was trapped. Then she got pregnant. The drug addict then took off. Devastated and alone, she came back to Cambodia. She stopped 20 km away from the Thailand border in Cambodia because she was very pregnant and she saw a health clinic. They offered her an abortion, but she couldn’t afford the late-term abortion (also illegal in Cambodia). When the baby was born she tried to nurse the baby and beg for food from people, but she had no way to work while nursing a baby. Finally, she decided she would give the baby away to anyone in Kob village who would take it. That’s when my phone rang.
So, you see, my decision is not so easy. Then my wife and I did what we have to do many times. With a heavy heart we walked away. We knew in our hearts that we needed a solution for the mother and baby, for the family, not just to take a baby. Now we prayed more. We prayed that God would reveal to us a solution.
The next morning we called the pastor to talk to the mother again. We told her we have some options for her:
1) We can take your baby and care for him until he graduates from high school as an adult.
2) We can offer you a job to cook in our center (we have no idea if she can cook) and you can care for your baby there.
3) You can come for several months to our center to care for your baby and then you can choose to stay or leave to find another job in the future and come visit your child anytime.
Within an hour she was at our center in Poipet with a giant smile on her face. …And we have a new cook. We have a new member of our family.
I forgot to tell you the baby boy’s name: Hallelujah! (The baby cried a lot, but when the pastor would say, “Hallelujah” the baby would quit crying, so the name stuck.)
I wish I could say that was the happy ending, but in fact, it is the happy beginning. Tomorrow, the hard work starts.
Let me share with you how you can pray for Hallelujah and her mother, “Sokchia”. The mother’s name literally means peaceful and healthy, but she is a tormented and broken woman. Her life has been hell. She has lived in survival mode her whole life. She does not have a life. She had a deep since of mistrust of everyone and a low self-image. She needs healing; deep healing. She needs to know someone really loves her and most importantly that Jesus really loves her.
The child, sadly, seems to have developmental issues. The child is now four months old, but doesn’t respond to anything. He just stares, usually with his head to the ground or slumped to the side. I’ve taken many children in the past with developmental issues and I find that many are healed with a loving environment, good nutrition, and time. I hope Hallelujah comes around. Regardless, my wife and I have made an 18 year commitment to them. We said “Yes”.