This is the second entry for Day 2. You can go back and read Day 2, Part 1 here.
Sunday, August 25th, 2013
For lunch we found a nice restaurant near the church that had great food there. Today we had some great dishes. Again Sooyeon ordered some fried rice with shrimp, Paula got some vegetables (as usual), Audrey got some noodles, Bekah ordered sweet and sour chicken, P. Mo and I ordered this fried rice with beef steak. I find that I am actually excited for every meal we have, they’ve all been so good. I kind of thought that there was a chance I would be fasting for 10 days while we were here. Funny how that turned out.
After lunch we went back to church and waited for Pastor Vimean to go to the dump. He told us his testimony and how he came to be at New Life Fellowship. Again, God just created this story, this wonderful story from nothing into something. A man who had nothing much, brought him in through the English program at the church, and set him up to not only become a light in the darkness by giving his life to ministry. More importantly he runs all of the dump and slum ministries. He has devoted his life to the betterment of these harsh communities and the renewal and transformation of them through the power of the word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. They have first row seats to the Good News of the gospel because of his work with his team in these areas that others don’t want to work in.
We have heard story after story of incredible and wonderful grace. God coming into peoples lives and transforming them and making them new. The story of Gods’ faithfulness is so prevalent here. With Pastor Vimean we left for the dump. We stopped at this slum along the way, but really, we could have stopped at any number of slums along the way. There were quite a few on the way to the dump and in the dump. We spent the largest amount of time walking through the area in and around the dump. It was quite interesting to me to see all the pieces that make up the dumps and the slums. Two things probably stood out the most to me.
1. That the people in those areas seemed quite accustomed to having people walk through their “neighborhoods” and in fact almost their houses. I asked if it was rude, or if it was impolite for us to be walking through. Pastor Vimean pointed out a few things. He said that they were indeed quite accustomed to people popping in and out of the area looking at them. And that hey were also quite accustomed to people coming in and setting up resources.
2. That land is so expensive that people actually choose to buy land and build their houses in the dump because they can have a much nicer house by building in the cheaper area. There is this difference compared to American culture as where you live is just as important as how nice your house is. The more important thing here is how good your house is compared where exactly you live. In fact, all over Cambodia we found there were these nice houses right in the middle of this questionable neighborhoods.
But, let me get back to the day here.
The first slum we encountered was filled with “houses” made of boards, metal, and other various pieces the could find or buy to make it better. The men on average seem tired, unhappy, and drained of life. Generally speaking the women seemed to be smiley, open, and kind. The children are beautiful and full of life, both vibrant and wonderful. They are quite inquisitive, ready with a jolly hello and a cheerful smile.
We went to learn about many of the NGO’s that have education centers set up for the children in those areas and what kind of things New Life Fellowship does to reach out to the families and especially the children in those areas. They raise money to bring the children an education in computers, English, and Jesus. Much like their adult English class they use education as a means to increase the lives of the children as well as show them Jesus.
We took a walk through to the end of the dump where the actual area where garbage was once piled up sat. We stood there trying as we could, to take in all that we were witness to. It’s hard. It’s hard to think that THIS IS LIFE. It’s hard to think that the government allows this to take place. It’s hard, because if we’re being honest in some ways we just wanted to run. To run away, to go back to the church and the previous areas that we had been in where it was nice, and where we weren’t faced with such a big challenge of confronting the reality that is their life.
***Even as I sit here typing this out, two months later, staring at the brand new city streets that lay before me I wonder how this could be. I stare at brand new apartment complexes that could easily, each and every one, relieve each persons born into the slums of their complicated position. And, it is complicated, because I can’t explain why they ended up there, why it is they had to be subjected to that life. We all so often take for granted the pleasures and the place that we sit in our lives. What if we all, each and every one of us understood this, and acted out of kindness for one another. It really puts into perspective that passage in Acts where the people gave all that they had for the sake of others. It seems weird in our modern positions because most of what we position ourselves for is excess. It’s not basics. But the people in Acts were battling to provide the needs of the people. When one had a need, the others gave. I pray that God would position our hearts… my heart, to do the same.***
They, New Life Fellowship, have seen a significant amount of success teaching English to Cambodians as a starting point in interaction and communication of the gospel. The Dumps are showing me that Jesus works anywhere and everywhere in order to bring the Good News of the gospel to the people that need to hear it. He’s not afraid of getting His hands dirty, and He’s not afraid of us getting our hands dirty.
The slums may be the lowest point in Cambodia, but low is always a great position to be in as you stand before Jesus.