A couple weeks ago I jumped on that train to Cambodia really needing to see God. Not because I was going to be on my own for a few days before my friends arrived (I felt confident in His care), but rather because I had been feeling overwhelmed by all the lives around me that seemed to be forgotten by Him. I had so many questions, yet was challenged all the same to keep trusting, continue hoping, expecting God to move. But that is much easier to tell myself than to actually do, especially when I am looking at some really difficult situations, realizing I only see a fraction of the real picture. My time in Cambodia showed me even more need for God's work, but He also affirmed His presence even in the midst of all the darkness and pain.
It all started off with a day of transit, catching a taxi, a train, my feet, a truck, a stranger’s personal vehicle, and a motorcycle to reach my destination in Siem Reap. And though I got locked out of my hotel room right before I had to race out to pick up my Half Marathon registration packet from some posh hotel across town, EVERYTHING worked out that day. God blessed my interactions with people: 1) from making some friends on the train by telling a joke in Thai (friends who proceeded to share green mango and fried worm/grub? with me), 2) to giving me a new Austrian friend to navigate the border crossing with, 3) to giving me a kind woman in Poipet to end my fruitless wanderings in search of a bus (she had a friend going to Siem Reap that night who was willing to take me along and drop me at my hostel), 4) to making a new friend over street dinner at 9pm who agreed to meet at 4:50am to bring me on his motorcycle to the race the following morning. God told me going into that trip that I wouldn’t be traveling alone, and He made good on His word in ways that I never could have predicted! The following morning He even provided me with a running buddy for about a third of the race, answering my prayers for a running buddy.
|The sunrise over Angkor Wat|
God directed me to the following verse at the start of the trip, reminding me of His presence and love even in the darkest situations:
“On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.”-Is. 25:7-8
|Beautiful countryside and MOUNTAINS!|
Many blessings came through connections one of my friends has with local believers (my friends joined me the night of race day). I was not expecting to get to attend a Christmas outreach celebration hosted by a church group, teach English at a school they started in a small town (I found out we were teaching literally 1 or 2 minutes before I was standing in front of my new class of students), or get to worship with Cambodian brothers and sisters in their church. Turns out that the group of believing university students that we spent some time with in Phnom Penh loves to play Settlers of Catan, and the pastor we stayed with (from the USA) was willing to bring us with him to a traditional Khmer-Christian fusion wedding and share his 17-years-in-Cambodia-wisdom with us as we went, stopping by the ocean and a few villages along the way. I saw mountains for the first time since coming to Thailand (Bangkok is fresh outta mountains this time of year!), and we enjoyed drinking from a coconut as we walked down the beach. We also saw the village women who prostitute lounging in front of every shop along a specific street along our drive. We were warned against climbing a certain mountain because of dangerous men and probably land mines. We heard of extortion, of racism, of abuse. Of complicated situations in which girls are sold for their virginity, then used to gain benefits for being raped. Of good-willed organizations that perpetuate cycles of child neglect by trying to be the savior. And yet, the whole trip God was reminding me that He is indeed at work. That He does indeed see His creation and He cares deeply for it. He KNOWS where Cambodia's (and Thailand's) scars and present open wounds come from. I am reminded of Habakkuk’s prayer at the end of his book. Though there is no sign of God’s rescue in challenging situations, “YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” God is at work, whether we see it or not. Trusting His word, remembering how we ourselves are changed by His grace, and knowing that His ways are not our ways give us the ability to carry on in faith even in situations where He seems distant.
|Mid-ride selfie: biking 30+ kilometers around Angkor Wat|
|Hitching a ride with Cambodian believers to the Christmas celebration.|