This is the story of our trip to Cambodia. It’s a bit long, but it’s an easy read. Grab a cup of coffee first (I did). If you contributed money for “Christmas in Cambodia,” you’ll find a description of how it went with photos below.
On December 15 we left Tokyo headed for Bangkok and then Phnom Penh. I was anxious. I’d been to Cambodia six times but never with my family. Would they like it? Would they connect well with the people there? Phnom Penh is not a great place for tourists, especially families. How would they react? At least the kids were eagerly anticipating lots of animals: dogs, chickens, geckos, and monkeys.
We flew to Bangkok first using frequent flyer miles and took a cheap flight to Cambodia the next day. Gani, a Cambodian friend-of-a-friend, picked us up at the airport. Cool and appraising, he had a large bass speaker filling up most of his trunk. I’m glad to know him now. He took us to the apartment where we planned to stay for our first five days. It was in a giant concrete block of a building. We walked down a narrow passage, climbed several steep flights …
Jim Palmer is a former pastor who left organized Christian religion and began to discover the reality and fullness of his own faith. He has seen terrible injustices firsthand, including child slavery and forced prostitution. He directed a non-profit in Nashville serving abused and abandoned kids, and he has befriended many homeless and poor people in his community. His own childhood was a story of abuse and abandonment. He has always struck me as a person authentically journeying toward truth and love. I was very struck by something he wrote about compassion and justice awhile ago.
He begins saying, “Increasingly it seems that too often we (at best) are alleviating symptoms instead of initiating the cure, and (at worst) exacerbating the problem, despite our well-intentioned efforts…What follows are some of the things that I’ve been wrestling with. As you will see, I’m not even sure how these below points are all connected or if they are at all…”
With apologies to Jim, this a very long excerpt. Following are seven points that are worth reading and discussing more if you’d like:
1. Technology and the media makes our world a “global village.” Screens everywhere shows us the conditions and crises
Two weeks ago I visited Andong Village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Here is a brief story in pictures from that day. Keep in mind that you are only removed from these events by a few hours of travel. These lives and stories are ongoing, parallel to our own, in real time.
The well water in Andong Village is tainted with heavy metals. Long ago UNICEF provided large containers of water, but it was contaminated and people got sick. UNICEF left the barrels, and a private individual has been filling them with pond water and selling it. The water should be boiled, but fuel is expensive. Most village families have to take their chances.
Andong Village began in 2006. A slum in Phnom Penh (Sambok Chap) was emptied to make room for developers. More than 1000 families lost their homes and property (officially a much lower number). They were relocated to an empty field 24km outside the central city with no homes, no electricity, no sewage facilities of any kind, no drainage pipes to prevent flooding in the rainy season, no trash collection, no school, no hospital nearby, and the list could go on. Perhaps the worst part was …