JOURNEYS

The Aroma of Christ within a World filled with Incense (to Idols)

Sarah Hastings travels to the Buddhist nation of Cambodia to teach Jesus and be a light for the hurting

Cambodians boys posing for a quick pic. © Sarah Hastings  

Sarah Hastings (the author of this journey post) poses with disadvantaged Cambodian children after the school she is working with hosted the children and bathed them, then got to have some fun with them. © Courtesy of Sarah Hastings 2010

Scene from Cambodian street at night. © Sarah Hastings 2010

I wish I could have escaped the moment, but I couldn’t, at least not until the red light changed (which is exactly 75 seconds here). Because in that moment, I came into a cross section of utter despair…and could do nothing about it, at least from the vantage point I was in at the time. This is what I witnessed: A young Cambodian boy, maybe 8 or 9 came up to my tuk tuk, the motorcycle-like vehicle that functions like a taxi, holding a baby in a sling. The baby had some kind of head injury, due to the blood and huge bulge atop his scalp, and had whelps and bites all over him. His breathing was labored and it was clear to me that he was close to death. That boy just looked at me and whimpered out something in Khmer (his native language). He said it over and over again. I have no idea as to what he was saying but I knew he was begging for money. Though I desperately wanted to help, we've been asked not to give money because these children are “pimped” for money, where any money gathered usually goes to someone's drug habit or to feed older siblings or parents. It was one of the hardest things I've been through, to just sit there and not be able to do anything. Even sadder is that whoever sent this boy out, will beat him for not bringing back money. These feelings, of being between a rock and hard place within the world’s suffering, have made me cry out to the Lord in ways I never have before.

I came here to Phnom Penh, Cambodia with the organization TeachOverseas to share the Gospel with students at a Christian primary school for grades K-3 through 12 called Logos International School; the school is also providing its facilities so that we can provide English to kids in the neighborhood and in turn minister to them. It has been a blessing to be here, interacting with the children, but I never thought I’d be exposed to the oh-so-harsh reality of this world in the process.

Cambodia is dichotomous economically with extreme wealth and extreme poverty living on the same street. There really is no middle ground. There are Lexus' weaving in and out of motos and bicycles and the rich always have the right of way...seemingly in every circumstance. The people here are lovers of money evidenced by their detailed mansions, flashy cars, and their willing depravity to attain more. It's a sobering reminder of what evils people are capable of. Most of the people here are lovers of Buddha as well, though it is more cultural than religious here. There are idols and shrines in every store and almost every street corner. The air is filled with incense and it is commonplace to see a restaurant worker bowing and praying at the foot of monks in the street.

Many children, young women in the trafficking ring, and poor families believe that they are suffering now because of karma. They have done something in their past life to deserve being used, abused, starving, homeless, etc. They sacrifice themselves to receive the punishment they deserve hoping that the willing sacrifice will result in a better next life. What does this belief mean for the people who believe it? They will all be not only empty-handed but lost forever without hope if they don't learn and trust Jesus Christ before they die. This is my purpose here: to encourage people to worship the immortal, invisible God whom I serve.

Though some moments have been strenuous, I've found that Cambodians are very friendly and accommodating and love to talk and ask questions and just find out who you are. It’s a refreshing aspect of the culture here and makes me realize that in the end, we are all His creations.

In just the first week of ministering to children at Logos International, it has probably been the craziest week of my life. Between learning how to function as a team, seeing and feeling the sadness in people's faces, facing my own imperfections, and seeing people with God's eyes, I have seen, experienced, and been challenged more than any other time in my life.

Emotionally I've been in the deep and wide and in shallow mud puddles. Spiritually...it's been pretty prickling. I've had some great times with the Lord and also questioned Him on more than one occasion. However, my God has been so sweet to me and has given me every blessing I need right now.

Working at the Logos International School has been the sunshine to the conditions here, just being able to openly share Jesus. Some of the children are from missionary parents but some have never heard the Gospel. The Spirit's power is not partial to language, and I can tell He is working in hearts here. **Please pray that the kids would be saved or that a seed would be planted in their hearts.**

We have arranged to have neighborhood kids come to the school two times a week to receive free English language lessons. This is an awesome opportunity to live out the fruits of the Spirit to those who can't speak English. **Please be in prayer for these children. **

We are also going to be working at a Christian daycare for former dump children three days a week after school. The children here scavenge in the dump for recyclables they can sell. The dump is also a place for medical and biological waste - these kids have seen horrible things.

I know He is at work here, even within so much pain. I know when people see us, they may see us as tourists, just on vacation. But I pray that they see the Light within us, the light of Christ, and seeds are planted toward salvation.

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Sarah Hastings works as as a nanny and church pianist in Macon, Ga. She attends Christ United Methodist Church in Forsyth, Ga. She is currently serving with TeachOverseas, an organization that links people to schools throughout the world to teach about Christ and conduct outreach in those places. Sarah can be reached at sarah.cumc.youth@gmail.com. For more info on TeachOverseas, contact Serve@TeachOverseas.org or 1-800-895-7955.