I the last few days I have driven from far northern Cambodia until the southern most part; well over 700 kilometers one way. I have just returned minutes ago and taken the car to the shop to replace the brakes. The mechanic is usually the first stop after each week’s trip. I am always aware of the constant poverty in Cambodia, and on this trip, covering some 8 provinces on the western side of Cambodia I found myself unable to help people time and time again. The site of poverty is all around us. Some think there is poverty in America, some would say there is poverty in places like the Philippines and Indonesia, and I am sure there is, yet here in Cambodia I come across people in almost hopeless situations every single day which I rarely see in other countries. Starvation is still a realization for many millions every day here.
- In one province, last week, I had to turn a girl down from coming to our center because she was simply too old (16 years old). All she wanted to do was go to High School. She had gone to live in a church in the city, but then she got raped by the pastor. I wasn’t able to help her. She may never finished high school because I could not help her.
- In another town I met two boys walking on the street collecting bottles and other potential recyclable materials. I started up a conversation as I gave them some coke and water and found out they do not know where their parents are and they live alone (all under 10 years old) and just collect people garbage to try and sell for food. They only eat once a day, on a good day. They downed a whole coke in seconds. I couldn’t help them, but to offer then a coke and water.
- I met two street kids while swimming in a swimming pool. I am not sure how they got in to the hotel but they just wanted to chat with my son and me. One said, she dreamed about being able to ride on the hotel’s elevator. Before you knew it the security knew they were in the hotel and ran them out. I couldn’t give them their dream of riding on an elevator, nor get them off the street.
- I met many staff working in resturants and cleaning hotels. Many get sexually abused, but these are almost the “lucky ones” because at least the have some income, even though it is only enough to provide food and some basic clothes.
- I passed a factory which is now running smooth and making millions of dollars selling sugar. More than 500 people lost their homes and farmland to the factory and the wife was even allegedly guilty of murder and no one ever charged her because of their status. The people who lost their homes and land just live in grass huts along the road. I could not help them.
I have been studying the Old Testament lately in an effort to discover more clearly for myself what God’s plan is for a country like Cambodia in which sin, greed and poverty abound. In the law of God it says, “ 4 However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you. 7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.” (Deuteronomy 15:4-8) The solution for poverty is to give. We give Jesus, but we also give opportunities to as many people as we can, especially the orphans and widows, because they don’t have anyone to help them.
The one thing that gives me comfort while living among such poverty is that I was able to help about 100 kids this week have an opportunity to get education, eat good food, and have opportunities that all the other people I met could probably never even imagine. This week we enrolled 8 more kids into school and gave them a new home, beyond their wildest dreams. I sure wish I could help more people. As we start this near year in 2010 my resolution is to help as many people as I can come to Jesus Christ and through his love for them receive opportunities which are beyond their wildest dreams. The more I can give to the poor of Cambodia, to help them in their daily struggles and give them a better life, the faster Cambodia will break the curse of poverty and become a righteous nation.