Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Brevity of Life!

IN 2000 on my first trip to Cambodia, the roads had very little traffic. In fact, there were few motor vehicles around. Having a pick up truck was more the exception than the norm. Around the city of Phnom Penh, cyclos, bicycles and motos were the more common forms of transportation but there were hardly any traffic jams. The roads seem so big, wide and empty.. Tuk Tuks where no where to be seen. Fast forward 13 years later and Phnom Penh roads are filled with endless SUVs and 4x4 pick up trucks and cars. Cyclos are more used to take tourists around but are hardly visible. Bicycles are still used by students but more and more there are tons of motorcycles and tuk tuks can be found everywhere. All of these modes of transportation have led to serious traffic bottlenecks but perhaps the more serious issue has been the rise in traffic accidents and fatalities. I read recently in one of the newspapers that traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death in Cambodia. Speeding and drunk driving are the main causes, and motorbikes are the most common vehicle involved in traffic accidents. The traffic laws in Cambodia are not regularly enforced, and if there is an accident, those involved usually settle payment with each other on the spot. 

Each week, as I have traveled along the roads in Phnom Pennh, I have seen at least one accident involving either cars or motos. Some of the uglier motocycle accidents have occurred because of young men who zip in and out of traffic with their motos. I have seen bodies scattered across a road and it looks like a scene right out of  a movie. Most often they are not wearing helmets, for hear in Cambodia, only the motor cycle driver is suppose to wear a helmet and most young people will often use side roads which allows them to avoid using helmets as well as being caught by the police. For those travelling to the province, many people take buses to the sea side cities of Sihnoukville and Kep but over the past year or so, there has been many fatalities and accidents with tourist buses.
Photo: Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post
This past week perhaps the road fatalities have been foremost in my mind as I heard about a Korean Missionary family who was serving here in Cambodia. Just a few days ago, they were heading to Siem Reap to set up a new ministry and I read in the paper that both parents and two of their four children died tragically in a car accident involving a bus. The oldest daughter and the youngest daughter have survived but are still critically injured. I have friends who know this family as they were part of a well established mission organization. I have never met them yet, a few days ago, I was eating at a local restaurant that many missionaries and NGO folks visit when I saw them. It was the night before they would travel to Siem Reap on that fatal trip.
Korean Missionary Family
As I read about their death, I couldn't help but wonder why? Like many of us who work here in Cambodia, no doubt they too have given up a life of comfort to serve the people of Cambodia, they chose to live a sacrificial life in order to bring the Good News to this land. Yet in one short instant, their lives are no more. Such deaths seem so senseless and yet we are reminded through Isaiah 55 that God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts! God is still sovereign over life and death.

Such deaths challenge us to live in such a way that we treasure and value what has been entrusted to us. Every minute counts for one never knows when their time is up. As I think of this family, it is the verses from John 12:24-25 that come to mind: 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Their kernel of wheat has fallen on this ground in a way that many who knew them and worked with them would not have expected. Yet, we are all left to reflect and ponder in faith that such deaths are not meaningless. That perhaps through their passing from the earthly to their heavenly home, that their deaths will lead to the production of many seeds in this land that would not have happened had they been alive. 

I think of the two surviving daughters who are in hospital and who will learn of the fate of the rest of their family members. I pray for them that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will walk with them through this valley of death and that through their grief and loss, they will encounter the arms of their heavenly Father ministering to their sorrow and His rod and staff comforting them in their time of need. Scripture says that the Lord is a Father to the Fatherless. How I pray that as the years pass by, they will encounter this truth through their relatives and others who have now been entrusted to care for them.

For those of us who follow Christ, we are left to ponder our own lives and the brevity of life and to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). We are left with many questions but in the midst of such grief and loss, we remain thankful that the death of these brothers and sisters in Christ is not the end. They are now in glory with their Heavenly Father in their Heavenly Home,  a place where there is no more pain and suffering. It is this hope in the resurrected power and life of Christ that enables all of us to persevere and endure the trials and tribulations of the visible reality of this situation. Thank God, death does not have the last word, but Jesus has the last word over our lives and He is the source of Hope. He was their source of hope. We rest in His faithfulness and unfailing love that such deaths, while they seem untimely to us, are never wasted. 

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