Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Back From Cambodia

I know it has been a few days since I posted. After Indonesia I headed towards Cambodia and there isn't a whole lot of internet access over there. Now I'm home and thought I'd post some pictures from my time there.

Cambodians love Americans but not for the reasons you might think. Cambodians are predominately Buddhist (about 95% of them). Because of this they have an interesting view of Americans. They believe Americans are wealthy and blessed and in the context of their Buddhist worldview, that must mean we are good people. On our path towards enlightenment we must have been good people in our past life because we are now being rewarded in this life (the reward being wealth, life in America, freedom to travel, etc.).

This is a common form of transportation in Cambodia

The kids in Cambodia are just like the kids I've met in Romania, Indonesia and South Africa. They are joyful and full of love. We as adults, while good intentioned, tend to look past them as human beings loved by God and instead focus on their level of poverty. In my experience children don't see it quite that way. They don't care about the color of your skin or what your salary is. They just love to play and have fun with you.

While in Cambodia I had an opportunity to visit Tuol Sleng. This photo is a picture of thousands of mugshots of the victims lined up throughout the grounds. Here is an excerpt from my journal about my time there...

"Tuol Sleng is the Cambodian version of Auschwitz. It used to be a high school before the Khmer Rouge took it over and turned it into a place to torture people them and then kill them. The people they brought here weren’t criminals. They were priests, teachers, artists, professors; people of skills. The Khmer Rouge wanted to remove these people from society to start afresh. It was so horrible that my eyes tear up just writing this. Historians kept the prison as they found it in order to preserve it as a historical monument so the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge would never be forgotten. As such there are still instruments of torture lying around, blood stains on the ground, and a wall of skulls belonging to victims. A sign at Tuol Sleng told us that of the 20,000 people imprisoned here, only 7 survived. Only 7! Touring Tuol Sleng there are hundreds of “mug shots” of the prisoners who were there. Many of them were children. As I walked up and down the walls of photos I wondered how many children died without ever having had a chance to hear the gospel? Walking throughout the place I tried to tune into my discernment of spirits gift. I felt the place to be a giant vacuum. Completely empty. To have this much evil is beyond human ability alone. There is no doubt demons were involved. Now that their work is done here I feel they have completely left this place, like a soul leaves its corpse behind."

This is part of the wall of skulls.

Tom and I went on a home visit to spend time with this family. Two of the members of this family have AIDS. They live in a squatter home (a makeshift home made of spare parts lying around) behind a shopping area. We took some photos of them and then went to a one hour photo store to have them developed. Here you see Tom presenting those photos as a gift to the family. This family had no photographs of any of their family members. It was a blessing to be able to provide them this small gift.

In Cambodia a common belief is “wives are for childbearing, prostitutes are for pleasure.” This plays out in that often a man will visit a prostitute, get AIDS, then come home and give it to his wife. Most often the man will die first leaving the woman behind to care for the family. After the man dies the woman must support her family so she often turns to prostitution herself, continuing the cycle.

This little boy, Chantol is 7 years old and he has AIDS. His father died from the disease. His mother is infected. He lives in the house in a squatter community on the Mekong, in the interior of Cambodia.

Some of the staff with the organization I work for, run a place where women with AIDS can come to make crafts to earn an income instead of turning to prostitution. Here we are praying with some of these women.

This is a photograph of the Cambodian nationals who work day and night to minister to those dying of AIDS. Some work inside of the building behind us which is used as a hospice while others go out into the community and make house visits. The sacrifice these individuals make in order to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to learn about Jesus, is incredible.

Part of my time in Cambodia was spent eating ethnic food such as this tarantula. Whoever said a life of serving God was boring???

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