What’s for Breakfast?

Svay Pak river houses

Tevvy squatted down at the front door, one hand shielding her eyes, and looked down the river. Swatting a mosquito from her arm, she squinted her eyes even tighter, as if that would improve her ability to see farther. No sign of him. He’s been gone since dawn, she thought. Maybe this will be his good luck day.

The air was thick and the smell of garbage lying in the road went unnoticed, as she stepped back into the shade of the sheet metal lean-to she called her home. A quick glance through the worn mosquito netting told her that her son and daughter continued to sleep on the thin mattress in the corner of the room. Light from a small crack in the patchwork wall threw a sliver of light on her daughter’s peaceful face. Why couldn’t she have been a boy?

She searched the shelf on the wall, as if by searching, something would appear that would pass for breakfast. The shelf was bare last night when she finally sank onto the dirty sheet of the family bed. It remained bare this morning. A rice sack sat in the corner on the dirt floor, next to the cooking pot. Its folds of burlap lay in soft folds, giving away what she already knew. She picked it up and gave it a good shake over the top of the pot, just in case. A few stray grains fell into the pot – not enough to feed a rat, let alone her four-year old son.

Boiled water it is. Again. She poured some water into the pot and stoked the fire. Dropping a few precious tea leaves into the pot, she quickly re-tied the little bag and stuffed it back in her pocket as if she feared a hungry neighbor might snatch it from her. As the breakfast tea simmered, she pondered what she would do next. The children had to eat. It had been three days since they had eaten any real food. And that was one scrawny fish that her husband managed to catch.

The fishing had been particularly bad this season. The men were not sure why. Each day, they would steer their boats a little further out to sea in the hopes of finding fish. But each day, they would return with a meager catch. Once it was divided by all the men on the boat, there was little to boast about.

Tevvy was becoming desperate. Weeks, if not months, had passed and there was no money. There was no way they were going to be able to pay their bills. Her husband needed to go to the doctor. The infection in his foot was becoming very painful. She knew that there would be no visit to the doctor. They couldn’t even afford gas for the broken down Moto that lay in the yard. Three of her teeth had fallen out within the last few months. If something didn’t happen soon, they would have to move to the brick factory and the whole family would have to go to work. Tevvy’s sister was there, with her grandmother, her niece and nephew. The scars on their hands and their tired, blood shot eyes told her all she needed to know. That would be the last resort.

Grunts and groans from the corner of the room told her that another day was about to begin. Her son would cry and beg for food and she would tell him that father would be home soon and they would eat. Tears mixed with the sweat on her cheeks and she wiped her face with the hem of her skirt.

“Hello! Anyone in there?” a voice called from outside. “Yes. Who is it?” Tevvy asked, as she walked towards the opening in the wall, bright with the new day’s sun. “Does Jasmine live here? This is your good luck day! I have come to offer your daughter a great job in the city. I will give you $300 now. There will be more money later.”

Jasmine called from the bed, “What’s for breakfast mother?”

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Soft Pillow to Lay Your Head

Marisa is a volunteer teacher with New Hope for Cambodian Children (NHCC)


A soft pillow to lay your head on at night
A soft voice to sing you a lullaby
Soft brown eyes that always met mine
Speaking through our minds
A soft smile when walking outside
Cradled in my arms
Under sunlight
Butterflies passing by
Teaching you to say sok-sa-bai
Miss. Butterfly
A soft sigh to tell me it’s nap time
Soft whimpers in dream life
Watching you sleep was my delight
Soft hands to rub your back
To burp you with a rag around my neck
Soft cries before shot time
You always knew I hated it deep down inside
To watch you scream as you looked into my eyes
Saying softly..
It’s almost over baby..
I thought about it every night
It made me cry
I still question why an angel so small
That couldn’t even crawl
Had to endure everything I saw
Pain and all
Soft tears that rolled down my face
On the morning I received the news
Your soul took flight and flew
To Heaven where your wings grew
I had a hard time
Accepting now was your time
Heartbreak came that day
And again in a few days
When he let me go..
Was God trying to test me
Losing two people I loved so greatly
Both unexpectedly
Soft tears beautifully told me
How open my heart was to love unconditionally
One through sickness
One through health
Both I held in the depths
Of my heart
A soft spot for love
Healing I called upon from the angels above
Heal my heart
Heal my scars
So soft is what I remain in this hard hard world
To always feel everything that’s real
If it doesn’t make me feel..
It must not be real
So I am thankful for both love and pain
The two feelings I’ve artistically embraced
The two feelings that cause soft tears to wash my face
Traced back to my soft heart
The place where the door is never closed
Always open to hold your soul

Marisa Eve's photo.
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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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