Sunday, March 28, 2010
Today was full of extremes – extreme joy and extreme despair. The day began early, 6:00 a.m., with a Skype call to our families and friends at Cambodia Night at our church in Cambridge, Ontario. It was wonderful to hear the voices of our loved ones and to share a few moments with them – the wonders of technology! Then it was a quick breakfast and into the van to get to church in Svay Pak by 7:45 a.m. As we turned down the road leading into Svay Pak, the street was full of activity. It was wonderful to hear from Beth that many of the people we saw were walking to church! As the van came to a stop in front of Rahab’s House, I saw a cock fight directly across the street with men crowded around to watch and probably place their bets. Then to turn around and look into Rahab’s House to see that long narrow building full of people gathered for worship. What a wonderful service it was! To look into the faces of the people as they listened to the music, shared communion, and heard the Word of God preached by Pastor Chantah was a great blessing...extreme joy!
After lunch we visited Tuol Sleng Prison where the Khmer Rouge imprisoned and tortured thousands of Cambodians. In preparing for our trip to Cambodia, each member of our team was given a topic to research and mine included Tuol Sleng Prison. In doing the research I had seen many photographs of Tuol Sleng and read in some detail of the atrocities that took place there and I think was somewhat prepared for what we were about to see. What I was not prepared for was our tour guide. He was very quiet and soft-spoken as he shared with us details of the horrific events that happened there. It wasn’t long before he shared his story. He was a young boy of 15 when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975 and within hours began the evacuation of the city. As he told us about those imprisoned and tortured within the walls of this place, he also spoke of those “imprisoned” outside the walls. He spoke of how, as a teenager, he was enslaved and forced to work in the extreme heat with no water and basically no food; how he survived by squirreling away bugs and small lizards that he would eat when no guards were watching.
What was most heartbreaking was the loss suffered by this 49-year-old man. As he spoke of the tyranny of Pol Pot from 1975 to 1979 and the subsequent civil war which ended in 1998, he said several times, “That has been my whole life.” When he was young he wanted to study to be a medical doctor and “now that is all gone—now I am just a tour guide here in this place.” This man suffered the loss of not only family and friends, but the loss of his dreams, his “life” and he struggles to try to understand it all. This man been unable to find any peace...he is still enslaved to those events of his youth – extreme despair.
This morning we witnessed first-hand the hope and joy that only Jesus can bring and this afternoon, the hurt and despair that only Jesus can heal.