Northern Exposure

Working with the Krung Tribe in North East Cambodia

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When helping Lazarus hurts

In Cambodia you will commonly see very poor families employed to build homes for the rich. Whilst doing so, they construct their own rough shelter on the building site and when the house is finished move on to the next. Always building homes for others, but never having a home of their own. A few months ago, such a family moved into my street. At first I took great notice of them, but as the days grew into weeks and the weeks grew into months I began to not even see them anymore. Possibly it was the same for the rich man in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). I used to think the rich man in that story must have been a particularly evil man, but putting aside his continued unrepentant attitude towards Lazarus when he was in hell, I now wonder if whilst on earth (parable or not) he would have looked just like you or me. Since reading the story again, I knew that God was prompting me to engage with this family, but I also knew that to do so would inevitably open a can of worms. Would it be worth it?

At 7.00 in the morning the first sound I now hear is Mee-sa and her little sister calling for me to come and open the gate. When I come back after visiting a village tired, hungry and in need of a shower, they are there at the gate waiting for me. Where have I been? Why did I take so long? Can we make a cake now? Since giving the family and their children my time, my attention and my food, they now consider themselves entitled to all three, all day long. Whatever romantic notions we may have about helping the poor, the truth is it is tiring and it hurts. And your Lazarus, whoever it may be, is not always easy to love. You don’t always get a ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’ or any kindness or thoughtfulness in return. So was it worth opening that can worms? Probably yes for two reasons, and maybe not the reasons we would normally think. It’s reminded me that a) I am sinful and in constant need of God’s forgiveness and b) in and of myself I am incapable of selflessly loving my neighbor. Only by depending on Gods strength to be patient, kind and loving can I open those gates every morning and welcome Lazarus in.

Please pray for a daily portion of Gods patience, love and kindness as I reach out to
Mee-sa, Mee-na and their parents and pray that I would continue to faithfully share Jesus with them. Please pray for Mee-sa in particular, who asked some really great questions when we watched the Jesus film together. Pray for her to know that, unlike me, Jesus loves her so perfectly He even died on the cross for her.

Pictured above: Mee-sa on the bicycle, Mee-Na eating jelly, making cakes with some of the other kids on our street, watching the Jesus Film in Khmer.

Visiting Grandma and Grandpa

Every Wednesday myself and either some other Krung ladies or Krung youth visit a elderly couple living fairly isolated lives in a forest. The wife had a stroke a number of years ago which left her paralyzed. Her husband, very weak and skinny himself, cares for his disabled wife almost entirely alone since their children abandoned them about eight months ago. The wife lays on a raised bamboo mat, wearing a sarong drenched in her own urine and often covered in ant bites. Every week we rinse out her sarongs, give the couple fresh food, bring them water from the well and pray for them. Although their lives are fairly miserable it’s been heartening to find them listening to a dramatized recording of Luke’s gospel when we visit. Please pray God would bless them with true saving faith, however simple, and that the hope of heaven would bring them much comfort.

Ochum Ladies Bible Study

Every Wednesday morning I study the Bible with 4-5 Krung ladies in Ochum Village. We have enjoyed seeing that our God is a God who loves to rescue; Naomi and her daughter in law in the book of Ruth, Daniel and his friends in the book of Daniel and the nation of Israel in the book of Exodus. To most of the women all three stories were completely new and it was an encouragement to see them excitedly retelling the story of Exodus when we had two new visitors to the group. I was never officially the leader of this study, but as the months went by it started to become that way. Last week we had a helpful discussion where the ladies confessed they had become too lazy and too dependent on my teaching them. Praise God that the ladies (and myself) were convicted of this and pray that God would help us as we try to pull back and once again share the teaching role more equally.

Thun Village Youth Group

Our weekly youth meeting in Thun Village continues to be both an encouragement and discouragement! Praise God that every week we have large numbers of youth and children attending. Please pray that Sovann, the youth leader, would take his teaching role seriously and study the lesson I have prepared for him to teach properly in advance. The youths reading and comprehension skills are very low, so it’s very hard for both them and Sovann. Please Pray the youth would go away with a clear understanding of the lesson and with hearts that have been touched.

Rivers of flowing Mud

Praise God that since my last prayer letter rainy season has begun and I no longer need to worry that my well will dry up! Its been lovely to see the dry, dead landscape become green and vibrant once again. However, rainy season also means many of our more isolated villages will become inaccessible as the roads become rivers of flowing mud! For me this means I will not get to meet with the youth at Thun village as much. Please pray that our believers in isolated villages would continue to be feed themselves by listening to our daily Christian radio show and by continuing to meet together despite the absence of missionaries.

Thank you for praying for us.

Love Joelle