It was 7:15, still another twenty minutes until our tuk tuk would arrive.
My belly was stuffed beyond contentment with chips and salsa. Yes, Mexican food in Cambodia. Some of my teammates were anxious to get home for toilet’s sake. Others wanted to take advantage of the shopping opportunity the street vendors boasted. We crossed the busy street and strolled by the river.
My senses at full attention, I took in the city life, flashing lights, smells of food, trash, and everyday living. As Westerners, we were targeted by the children selling trinkets and souvenirs.
“Lady, lady, you buy book from me? Give you special price for scarf!”
I was annoyed and angry. Annoyed to deal with them when I was fully set on enjoying my tourist moment in peace without having to fend off hagglers. Angry that someone forced these children to spend their nights on the crowded streets of Phnom Penh.
“Just let them be children!” I screamed on the inside.
I knew buying something from them would be fueling the industry, but if I didn’t the children would suffer for it later, most likely through physical abuse. Lord, what do I do for the least of these?
Within seconds, I found myself in camp-counselor mode, asking names and ages, performing silly handshakes and high fives. We heard some music from a nearby bar. I couldn’t help but dance and the kiddos joined me. I taught them everything from the cabbage patch to the fist pump and even threw in some swing dancing just for kicks.
Their laughter made my heart flutter.
The dancing continued as sounds of Justin Bieber filled the air. Baby, baby, baby, ohhh! I realized I was having more fun in this moment than I have in awhile.
It is all too easy to brush these people off as pests getting in the way. These kids are God’s workmanship. We are called to serve the ‘least of these’, but we don’t have a time card to punch when we are on or off the clock. And it service doesn’t always require money, love will do.
While on his way to restore the life of a synagogue ruler’s daughter, Christ stopped to ask his disciples who touched his cloak. The disciples thought this a silly question considering the size of the crowd closing in around him. It is like walking through Times Square on New Year’s Eve and saying, “Hey, somebody touched my jacket!” Really, Jesus?
Christ took note of everything around him. While the death of the righteous ruler’s daughter seemed to be the top priority to everyone else, he stopped to heal a woman who had been told her sickness was incurable. Everyone had given up on her, everyone but Christ.
Until that night, I honestly didn’t care for Cambodia. I was there because it was the next country on the list, my heart still beating for Thailand, fast and strong. But each time I leave a country a piece of my heart stays there. The Lord continually fills me up with his love, restoring me, allowing me to give my heart again. As I pour out, he fills up. So my heart turns within me and I am ready to love Cambodia.
There’s nothin like finding gold between the rocks, hard and cold. So surprised to find more, always surprised to find more. –Kick Drum Heart, Avett Brothers