The little lady spoke English well, as we stopped by her booth in the middle of the Russian Market. “Can I help you with something? What are you looking for?” We were on a quest for an adorable stuffed elephant- a gift for a baby- and she had just what we needed. We entered the bartering game easily and soon had agreed on a price. “What else do you need?” I watched Em’s face and she was doing the exact same as I knew that I was- her face was expressionless, as she focused on looking at the merchandise in front of her. Barely making eye contact with the store opener. You see, the store owner’s face was blown off. Her nose was mostly missing and horrid scarring covered her entire face. It was impossible to look at her and not stare. My mind raced at what had caused those scars (Cambodia is one of the top countries for active land mines) I wanted to cry over the amount of courage that it must take this lady to head out the door every morning… As we finished up our business, her parting words were “God bless you” and I thought of the tree.
The beautiful young girl moved with grace and confidence across the room to where I was seated, enjoying the luxury of a glass of cold ice water. She sat down on the floor in front of me and proceeded to give me the best foot massage ever. We chatted some, but the ever present language barrier made the conversation brief. I watched her gifted hands work, again I wanted to cry. We were visiting Open Arms which is a vocational training center for rescued women. (The night before the team at DNI had taken us on a brief drive and we happened through the redlight district. 100s and 100s and 100s of beautiful young girls. My heart broke as I wondered what each story was.) So here we were, doing the only thing that we could to combat the problem, in the week we were there: supporting the system that was already in place and successful, and treating ourselves. This hardly seemed fair. Impulsively, I wished that I could be the one serving her, and then I laughed to myself at the thought of me attempting to covey that request… And I thought of the tree.
Approximately 400 years ago, a little Spung tree shot out its first leaves on a hot day in Ankor, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia. The tree was surprised out how good the view was so soon. You see, it had chosen to grow up on the Ta Prohm temple wall. This fact totally changed the life of the tree. As the sun beat down on the little tree, some-days, it was so thirsty, it wasn’t sure it was going to survive. But then the rains would come and it would drink and drink… One day, life changed again, for our little friend. Just like that, it’s feet hit solid ground and made their way into the cool moist earth where endless water supply was available. And although the cool smooth stones that shaped the trees existence in the past were still a reality, the tree was able to move past the wall, and make some choices of it’s own.
Today, there it stands. Unashamedly, lifting up ginormous wooden arms 70 feet in the air. The lacy root system rushing over any obstacle in it’s path. Whispering gentle reminders of courage, strength, and overcoming.
Yes, there are lots of people who remind me of the tree. Because they chose not to let difficult things in their life paralyze them. Because they move past the pain and embrace the Giver of Grace. Because they can fully claim 1 Peter 2:4 “chosen by God, and precious to Him…”
Our short visit to Jody and Siem Reap was wonderful. They are with ALAM from OH and also work with CAM’s well drilling project in Cambodia. We shadowed the team as they taught English out in the village and were impressed with how the children were learning.
Exploring the countryside and 1000 questions about agriculture in Cambodia was another high point.
And Ankor Wat 🙂 We visited at sunrise- Em, I and our tuk-tuk driver, along with half of the country. Em said she had “no idea there were so many motivated people” and I had to agree. Anyhow, we waded into the crowds in time to watch the sun begin its daily trek across the sky.
Ankor Wat is a temple complex, that was constructed in the 12th century. It is also the largest religious monument in the world. There are over 100 temples in the area, but we only had a few hours to explore. (As it was, we walked 6 miles by 8 am, small wonder I needed a foot massage)
And one last pic (since I don’t have photo document of Jody, Em and I tearing through the darkness on one moto- destination- night market and souvenir shopping) This little farmer boy wanted me to take his pic, so I happily obliged while Em helped his mama catch 2 piglets that were out.🙉
What a wonderful 24 hours! Thanks again, Jody, for everything!