One Child at a Time

Last year, I joined a mission team that went to Cambodia to work with children who had been rescued from sex trafficking, or were at-risk children. We learned that this work took time – that everything moves at a slower pace there – even saving children. We soon learned that our lofty goals must be tailored back a bit – to one child at a time. This was a good lesson for all of us. We soon realized that to save one child certainly made it all worthwhile, and not to give up hope if we couldn’t save them all, now!

So, I found it interesting today — I co-led a one-day summer camp for children who are living in a low-income housing project. I prepared for at least a week, buying supplies and practicing crafts to make sure that I knew what I was doing before the big day. Today, the big day, one little boy showed up at camp. That’s it. I stared over the huge pile of craft-making goodies at this tiny little guy staring up at me and my heart smiled. I secretly thanked God for the lesson I had learned some months ago.

Too often, I think, we let our goal-oriented minds get the best of us — how many kids can we save? How much money can we make? How many hot dogs can you make in an hour? When, in fact, the real trophy is staring us in the face.

His name was Nick. The two of us had the most awesome day. We didn’t finish 1/2 the crafts I had planned. We didn’t have time to eat all our lunch because we were having so much fun. And, for a few hours, all the troubles of the world dissolved away – for both of us.

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Another Reason to Go

CoffinsDeath is grief as much to a Cambodian as to a Westerner. However, many Cambodians are Buddhists who do not view death as the end of one’s life but rather as the end of a life cycle. It is a passage from one stage of the cycle to the next. In Buddhism, there is belief that all life evolves in a successive cycle of birth, sickness, old age, death and rebirth/reincarnation.

In Cambodia, when a person dies, the care of the body is undertaken by the family. The body would be brought home, washed, dressed, and placed into a coffin. The body is not to be dissected and organs are not to be removed because it is believed that would affect one’s rebirth. The body is not embalmed. Traditionally, the body is kept in the house for seven days or longer before cremation. Today, it is common that the body is kept for only three days. Monks come to the home and recite sermons every evening by the body. On the third or the seventh day, a funeral procession is organized to carry the body to the temple for cremation. The crematorium is usually on or near the temple grounds.

And so it is, that I had a special moment this morning, that I wish to share. I decided to get my toes done in preparation for a business trip. I greeted the manicurist in the Khmer way, as I had learned in the past that her home is in Phenom Penh and she has been in the states for only eight years. She smiled and we talked. She mentioned she was going home in October and I mentioned that I was returning to Cambodia in January. She asked me to remind her what it was that I would be doing, and I explained that along with a team of about ten people, we will once again be working with children who have been rescued from sex trafficking, or those who are at risk. Her eyes welled up with tears as she looked into mine, and she thanked me for our work.

And then she said: “You know, there are many things people can do to help the poor in Cambodia.” I nodded. She said, “My mother, who is 92 now, has gone back to Cambodia every year since we came to the U.S. She buys wood and takes it to the monks to give away to the poor people who cannot afford to buy a coffin for their loved one.”

JASMINE FLOWERThink about that. I am so blessed to have had this conversation. This is not meant to be grim, although I realize it is. But for me, this is enlightening. It helps me to further understand the depth of poverty for those people that I will serve at the restoration center, at the brick factories and in the community. Now, when I look into the eyes of the elderly at church in the small town of Svay Pak, and they raise their hands in thanks for our work, I will understand even more clearly their amazing strength. And once again, I am so humbled.

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What Does Freedom Mean?

The following was written by Marisa Eve, when asked “What does freedom mean?” Marisa has given her life to working with orphaned children in Cambodia. The language is strong. It’s the truth.

“Being free means”
Free you see isn’t something I feel I can be
If I were free it would be so easy to leave
To ascend as a multidimensional being
To a higher state of consciousness
To return home
The realm where my soul was born
Wrapped in angelic arms
Before incarnating here
As a volunteer
This isn’t a vacation for me
I know my mission is to bring divine healing
To be the shift this world needs
The change society so desperately seeks
How lovely it would be
If love were the reason for everything
I’m dreamy
Dreaming of being free
Free from violence
Free from hate
If I were free I wouldn’t have to see
The world revolving around these two things
If I were free I wouldn’t have to be
Subjected to negativity
The degrading of innocent lives
Trafficked across border lines
To sacrifice their innocence in life
For some pedophile to fulfill a sexual fantasy
Children as slaves
Every single day
But this isn’t a problem the government sees
Just keep dropping bombs on innocent beings
Meanwhile modern day slavery is just down the street
We’re a sick society
Obsessed with followers and likes
All while a child of slavery’s life
Is spent looking into strangers eyes
Paying a cheap price to abuse them for life
Never knowing comfort and care
Night after night nightmares
Maybe they’re praying for someone like me
To crack down on society
To save them eventually
Prevent more victims from suffering
Oh how i’d love
To grab the government by the balls
Make them my bitch
So they know how it feels
To be forced to do something against their will
Get on your knees and surrender to me
Mouth taped shut unable to speak
Unable to scream
Unable to leave
Unable to be free
Let’s be the shift this world needs
Let’s stop making excuses for not doing
Where the hell are we all really going
When all is said and done
So freedom you see is different for me
I’ll never be free
Never truly see my dreams become reality
Because my dreams are seeing every innocent soul set free from slavery
Set free from wrongful convictions
Set free from persecution
So land of the free is a facade to me
And if the land of the free were home of the brave
We’d all be brave enough to be the change

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A Rainbow for Peggy

rainbow for peggyIn memory of, and in honor of, my dear sister Peggy, who lived with injustice and inequality from the day she found the courage to speak her truth.

Congratulations to all for this transcendent moment in our history!

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I’m A Lousy Christian

EASTER SUNSETI don’t understand. Each day, God gives us the most beautiful canvas on which to paint a new day. Each day, an opportunity to do His works. Yet over, and over again, someone paints it red.

I can’t forgive. I simply cannot forgive a man that walks into a church; sits down with brothers and sisters in Christ to share in a Bible study. And then methodically stands up, pulls out a gun, and kills nine of them. In their church. Beautiful, wonderful people trying to do what is right. And he kills them because of what? Because of the color of their skin.

I’m sick of mumbling among ourselves that parents are spending less and less time teaching their children about loving their neighbor and more time making sure they get enrolled in the Sunday soccer camp.

I’m tired of sitting in front of the television listening to our President admonish us once again for the lack of gun control. What the hell more needs to happen before we get off our lazy duffs and do something about it. We cannot go on assuming that someone else will take care of this. Why? Why won’t we wise up?

An elderly man, a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, was heard to say “I don’t want to see the day when we will have to install metal detectors at the church door.” Well, if we continue on the path we’re following, I’d say get the tool box out now!

Some days, it is so hard to keep my faith. I want to be strong. I want to understand. I want to forgive.  But I simply don’t understand how there can be so much evil in this world and how complacent we, as a society, can be.

My prayer, and yes, I’m still praying to my God — will be that parents will stop and take some time to talk to their children about this. Let their children know that this is wrong. This is not the norm. I pray that we as a nation will step forward, speak up, and do something about gun control. I pray that we will all try harder. I pray for peace.

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I Lost All Track of Time

I recently took an online writing course called Awareness to Creativity, offered by my daughter, Laura. She asked me to take the BETA version of the course, to get feedback and fine tune it for future students. One of the interesting components of the course involves a five-minute writing exercise. A question is posed and you have five minutes to answer it, pen and writing journal in hand. I thought I would hate this. I write appraisals for a living. My hands will fall off. I was wrong. Being “loyal to the timer”, I found the process fascinating. Please understand that in these exercises, we are to ignore all rules regarding grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. We are just to write what comes from our soul.

The prompt: What do you love so much that you lose all track of time when doing it?

childs feetMy five-minute response: The clock stood still on that first day at Kids Club in Cambodia as I sat on the edge of the stage waiting for the kids to arrive, nervously wiping sweat from my face. Suddenly, I heard some yelling and laughing three floors below me and then running feet; dozens of them, clamoring up the stairs.

I looked around at my team members and they were all smiling, watching the doorway. And there they were – 100 kids running into the room, searching for love, for hope, for escape from a life I could not imagine.

They ran up to us, grabbing our legs, hugging our waists, love pouring out from their little souls. They knew that the people here were good people. They were safe here. My heart broke as I stared into the eyes of a little one who was seeking my gaze, her eyes filled with a knowledge I could not fathom.

We sat them all down on the dusty floor and I started to speak. Forcing tears back, I smiled at them all and said, “Good morning! My name is Susan and we are so very happy to be here! These are my good friends and I named each one. We are so happy to get to know you this week! Let’s dance!”

(Five minutes are up. Put your pen down.)

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A Story for the Children of Cambodia – #2

Road_in_CambodiaRatanak had walked down that road 1,000 times before. It always looked the same. He kicked an empty can with his bare foot as he walked along, making dust fly with each kick. A rooster jumped out of his way but clucked at his feet as he passed by.

“Dumb rooster! Stupid road! I don’t like this road!” Ratanak thought. “Mama says this road makes her sad. Well, it makes me sad, too!” he mumbled to himself.

He gave the can a really good kick. It flew up in the air and landed with a thud, right on top of a big pile of garbage. “Ouch!” cried a little voice from somewhere deep in the pile. Ratanak jumped back and stared at the pile of junk. Suddenly, the pile started to move and out popped a little brown monkey! He was rubbing a big bump on his head where the can had landed on him!

MONKEY“What did you do that for?” he said, looking up at Ratanak. Ratanak bent down so he could see the monkey better. “I don’t like this road. It makes me sad”, he said.

“Why don’t you like this road?” the monkey asked, following behind Ratanak. “It never changes. It’s dusty and there are holes in it and the roosters cluck at me when I go by. It’s always the same.”

“Hmmm” thought the monkey. “Well, you need to change it then”, he said. “How do I do that?” Ratanak asked. “I can’t change the road! It’s always the same.”

“Sure you can!” said the monkey. “Look up! All you ever do is look down. Look up!”

Ratanak slowly lifted his head. Instead of dust and an old rusty can, he saw blue sky. Ratanak had been so busy looking down, he had never noticed how the sunlight made the leaves sparkle in the trees and how the trees shaded him from the hot sun as he walked home each day. He looked further down the road and there was his house and he could see his sister, Jasmine, waiting for him. This road was the way home.

“How do you feel about this road now, Ratanak?” asked the monkey.

“I feel better!” he said. He picked up the monkey and set him on his shoulder and he continued to walk down the road. “You see”, the monkey said, “You can change how you feel about things in your heart simply by thinking about them differently.”

Ratanak knew that from now on, that road would never make him sad again. The little monkey jumped off Ratanak’s shoulder and waved as he ran back down the road to his favorite pile of trash. Ratanak smiled and waved and then ran the rest of the way home, yelling at Jasmine: “Wait until you hear what happened on the way home!”


Note: Ratanak is a popular boy’s name in Cambodia. It means “Treasure”.

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