We went on our exodus today. In Phnom Penh, streets were crowded, traffic bustling everywhere. Cars passed where there was no lane. Mopeds darted in and out through gaps not much wider than the grips on the handlebars. Street signs and traffic signals were ignored as the chaos spread through the city on the busy thoroughfare. It was scary.
Life is like that when we follow no plan but our own. We are the master of our own destiny. It doesn’t matter who gets cut off or who I force to stop. I need to get to my destination ASAP. We put our faith in our driver as he weaves through the heavy traffic on roads of varying quality. Without a captain, we may be fine in the calm seas far from the rocks but add foul weather or conflict and our ship will definitely run aground and even sink. Alone, we could have never gotten out of Phnom Penh. Alone, we are hopelessly lost. We put our trust in a qualified leader not unlike putting our trust in God. Without Him, we cannot navigate life’s roads, but with him we can rest assured that he will lead us to our destination. We work our way through the variety of trucks, cars, tuk tuks, mopeds, bicycles, and automobiles. We are a variety of beings all created in God’s image. Sin puts our life in a relentless conflict and our very being wears to a frazzle. But we are not without hope. We have a brother in Christ Jesus who promised that He will be with us to the end of the age. He will lead us home.
Buying VBS supplies was like stepping into the pages of a school supply catalog. Boxes stacked high on crammed shelves--a school kid’s dream for the first day of school complete with a Hello Kitty backpack. 25 boxes of crayons should be enough for 200 children—that comes out to 4 crayons each. Imagine if you’ve never seen a crayon and now you have 4 of them! What a treasure!
I spoke with a young girl who worked in the store. She and her brother had moved to Phnom Penh two years earlier. She was eager to practice her English having studied in the university while working part-time in the store. She had moved from far away by bus. It took a long time to travel from her farm up north. She had never ridden in a car before coming to Phnom Penh. She found it hard to believe that someone could shop in the store who had ridden in an airplane. She had seen them flying overhead but could not imagine flying like a bird.
Back in the van to ride back to the hotel for a fabulous lunch in the pool dining room where water trickled over the plate glass windows and we were served by the ever-smiling Cambodian staff. The people here seem to have such a love of life around them. They are always cheerful and smile politely each time we meet them. We let Jesse eat the fish head. He says it is the best part. How do you politely say Ew-w-w in Khmer?
Back in the van again, it seems like we still have plenty of room for us and our belongings. The next stop is to pick up water treatment systems. The engineer in me mulls through some intricate possibilities of how to treat bacteria-laden drinking water. Ann met us on our arrival. She was from Oklahoma and was a nurse-practitioner working to provide clean drinking water to villagers who die every day from diarrhea caused by the parasites and impurities in something we take for granted. A tour of the facility detailed the manufacturing process. Our guide was very informative and had a variety of talents. He shared the process, showed us their “high-tech” quality control measures taking great care in explaining how the people needed to pay for these clay-pot filters in order to have some measure of ownership in their own health. The young tour guide told of his own projects and was eager to show his photography and told us of his ultimate frizbee plans and how he may compete in Thailand and maybe even in Dubai. It was interesting to see someone from the area with a broader world-view. He still remained grounded in Cambodia and felt the need to help his own people. He proudly explained that he was a Christian and that nearly everyone on the project believed in Christ. As Jesus said, “even as you do unto the least of these, my children, you do it unto me.” My eyes are opening wider to the mission.
Back in the van again settling in for the long drive to Sihanoukville. This was not I-70 and the trucks seemed even more ominous as our driver dodged trucks, buses, tuk tuks, mopeds, and nearly any kind of imaginable vehicle. I knew we were leaving the city when cattle could be seen grazing on the side of the road. This is a major highway for Cambodia and construction is continually underway. Pigs on the backs of small trucks or being pulled on tiny trailers powered by 50cc motor cycles seemed awkwardly out of place and miraculously in place as I grow more accustomed to this Land of Wonder. Water buffalo strained at their ropes while some roamed free. I wondered if these captive water buffalo knew what it felt like to be free or if they had done something wrong in the past to warrant their incarceration. We saw some oxcarts which are becoming a thing of the past with motorization taking over. Was it Elisha that slayed the enemy with the oxgoad? Could he have done it with a Briggs and Stratten engine? God could! When he was done he made a fire out the oxgoad and shared the oxen sacrifice with the Israelites. If you look around, you can see evidence of God even in rural Cambodia. Isn’t it a wonderful land? Don’t we have a wonderful God? Can we share Him with these wonderful people?
We finally arrived in Sihanoukville right on time. On-time? What does that mean? David called Jesse several times in transit wondering where his dad was at that moment. Time is such a concept with a variety of translations. Rather than go into an expose on the time concept, I will close saying it’s time to stop this Epistle.