She didn’t hold my hand for long, but she held it without hesitation. Her shoeless feet stood a few inches from the chain link fence surrounding the school we were working in that afternoon. She looked to be about 8 years old. Her yellow mustard colored shirt, what resembled a school uniform, pressed up against the fence as she took my hand and smiled.
I don’t know her name and I probably never will, but I know she was made for a specific purpose. She was formed in her mother’s womb just as I was formed in my mother’s womb. She runs, imagines, and plays just as I did as a little girl. My purpose is no greater than hers, and to be honest, my pride was telling me otherwise before I took her hand yesterday afternoon. That somehow I might be used in mightier ways because I have shoes on my feet and a college degree. This little girl was made to be loved by her Father just like me. She is worthy of a life of learning, loving, hoping, and dreaming.
Rewind to a couple hours beforehand, a few of our Freedom’s Promise team members took a Tuk Tuk ride to visit our construction team at a work site in the slums of Phenom Pehn. They call it “the tracks” which is an extremely impoverished area along an active railroad track in the middle of the city. The smell of fried rice searing in a large cast iron pan weaves itself into the air we breathe here in Cambodia. The people here carry everything (and I mean everything) on their small motorbikes. From live chickens to ornate rugs to crates of Coca Cola. The cars, motorbikes and Tuk Tuks here take part in a choreographed dance even the best of transportation experts would marvel at.
It took us about 30 minutes in traffic to arrive at the work site, with peanut butter sandwiches and helping hands for our construction team warriors. They were building desks and bookshelves for the school along the railroad tracks. Team members of Freedom’s Promise, Koy and Rin, started the school two years ago. The school is true divine intervention, a beaming light from heaven in the midst of extreme poverty. I saw the girl in the yellow shirt jumping side to side, in and out, of the greasy train tracks as we walked up to the school. A group of 20 children followed suit.
That same day we went to dinner with a group of our Cambodian friends, and I had the privilege of meeting a little boy named Moses. Koy and Rin adopted him when he was 6 months old from the same railroad tracks. He is a walking miracle, close to death when Koy and Rin adopted him. He is now a tangible example of restoration. After dinner we had a worship service, and I witnessed him sitting in the midst of us all singing to our God and thanking Him for His goodness. I imagined Moses, just like the girl in the yellow shirt, playing on the railroad tracks. His life looks different now, but God’s love and purpose for him does not.
Psalm 37 tells us, “The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.... for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land.”
I read this promise from the Lord this morning on our van ride from Phenom Pehn to Poi Pet. Before and even during my time here in Cambodia, I’ve asked for healing and peace for the people we encounter. That they would see Jesus and experience Him in undeniable ways. But I’m slowly realizing I am the one in need of eyes to see abundance. I tend to see the lack in my life before I entertain the thought of abundance. I worry if I will have enough— enough money in my 401k, enough time to rest, enough endurance to stay in my current job, enough patience to wait.
I’m asking Him to show me the abundance in the midst of what looks like famine. To actually believe that He could be and is enough. In my own life, and in the life of those I’m meeting here. I want to see the abundance He already has for that little girl who held my hand and gave me the sweetest smile.
Brokenness is not the end of the story for us, and it is not the end of the story for the beautiful girl in the yellow shirt. I pray today she would encounter a moment of deep hope and joy. She certainly gave it to me.
There is hope here in Cambodia. It is alarmingly alive. And although darkness is also present here, and questions on justice in my own heart have flooded in, I have never been so sure of His love and power for the lost and lonely. He is the ground we’re walking on. He is here.