This post was written by Paula Swift, a Board Member of Freedom’s Promise, while visiting Cambodia for the first time as part of a Freedom’s Promise group trip.
Our team began the day with bright spirits despite the challenges faced upon our arrival to the hotel in Poipet the night before. While some slept quite well, others struggled with the dinner, the hotel conditions, the very dusty air (yet grateful to see minimal trash in the streets) and overall exhaustion as we reached our mid-week point. Upon gathering for morning worship, the cool breezes swept through our 7th floor space as we worshipped. Our hearts were inspired by words of wisdom to approach the day ahead, seeking for God’s presence in all that came before us and to give HIM the glory, knowing that every moment was of His will and in His hands. We were prepared for this to be one of our most difficult days with the heat, conditions we would see and endure, and the potential inhibiting mud creating a rather agonizing drive into the village we were serving.
With the rains the previous night, the breezes continued into the day offering periodic relief to the relentless sun. It was a situation where with clouds and rain there would be relief, but we also didn’t want the rain as the roads were already bordering travel inabilities. As we ventured off the main highway on to the red mud paths or “roads”, us newbies to the region quickly realized just how difficult the ride was going to be, and our leaders and veterans were smart enough to not let us know that we had a good 40-45 minutes of 5-10 mile/hour tossing equivalent to an amusement park ride. Most were able to focus on the incredible views of the countryside, allowing our stomachs to settle at every stop allowing moto traffic (or cattle, or tractors) to pass. And the land is beautiful surrounding the deep mud soaked roads. Lush jungle-type vegetation clustered amongst the marsh lands. We saw several animals, kids running and swimming in water holes, farmers tending to their land and fishing, and many more enjoying the community of their family and neighbors. Homes ranged from clean, cement built to the dusty and wooden. We prayed continuously for the many on our team that had suffered from car-sickness in the previous days…we could not imagine how those most sensitive were handling it. However, upon arrival to our destination, we discovered that only one individual fell victim to the relentless bouncing. Every other person – even the most sensitive – did not experience any motion sickness…prayers answered!!
Along the way, I couldn’t help but notice the large, white, puffy clouds. They somehow offered comfort in the anticipation for the day in combination with a slight bout of homesickness. Those clouds are the same clouds we have at home, the same clouds my boys will see in their day, the same clouds no matter what is on the ground around us. It was a little God whisper to me that though we may be on the other side of the world, we are under the same heavens. We are under the same skies that offer our hope. And there God gave me a little bit of connection to my home and my family…a little heartwarming and intimate moment with Him.
Our destination was the New Life of Hope church and school for VBS and medical clinic, a private residence for CHE (Community Health Evangelism) teaching and another church within the village for more construction to build a playground. Today was the first day for CHE and two of our team members were able to join the local Cambodians to educate the villagers on health and disease prevention.
After the long and muddy journey, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the property of the church for VBS and the health clinic was NOT muddy. It was shaded and cool (relatively) and we were spared the excessive dust as seen elsewhere. Clearly God stepped in to ensure a comfortable setting for everyone!
I personally had the opportunity to participate in the health clinic. As our second day, the teams fell into their rhythm with the process, communication with our interpreters and the spirit of the Cambodians. There was such synergy and flow to the entire day and as a result, we had the opportunity to see some incredible healing take place! Common ailments were digestive troubles & reflux, joint pain, back and neck pain and problems with legs and/or feet. The teams prayed with each patient and offered incredible care, including vision care. I do not believe that a single team member was not stretched nor was exempt from having their faith lifted by the many “small” moments throughout the day. And we were reminded regularly what may seem small to us was huge to those were were serving!
However, there was one big moment that I was incredibly humbled to be a part of. An older gentleman by the name of Say came in with back and neck pain. He was a little hunched over, carried the sweetest expression with the softest of eyes. There was something about him that drew my heart to him, perhaps it was because there was something about his spirit that reminded me of my own dad who passed a few years ago. I don’t know what it was, but there was just an overwhelming compassion impressed upon me for him. He waited patiently for his turn and when we were finally able to take a look, we noticed he had a curve in the middle of his back, approximately 6″ in length and up to just over an inch off center at the highest part of the curve. Prayer was abundant over him, with specific requests that Jesus would heal his spine and remove any compression, tension and pain that was associated. We then continued with the therapy, working with the energy of the spine. Upon reassessing at the end of the therapy, we noticed that his spine was completely straight – NO curve! We actually struggled to believe it at first, so we had him sit in more than one position to recheck. But there he was, straight as could be. When he stood to leave, he stood tall and was no longer hunched with pain. We were so excited that tears of joy were expressed! The man left but quickly returned with fruit to thank us…which felt a little strange as we were giving glory to our God, knowing it wasn’t our own doing.
For the rest of the day, I was on cloud nine…literally floating through, relishing in the joy of what He did for this man who somehow touched my heart. How amazing is it that God allows for us to be part of His miracles, that it’s not always just divine, but divine through our hands, our words, and our hearts.
After the groups reconnected, rested and refreshed back at the hotel, we ventured up the road – a mere couple of miles at the most – to the casino area on the border. This area is a shared land of both Cambodia and Thailand and is a hot spot for human trafficking. Everyone in the group could feel the strangeness (some would say the darkness) of this spot and the severity of contrast was evident crossing into this district. Passing through the border gate, we were surrounded by new, beautiful, clean and modern casinos, relatively large in size and grand in design all looking over the casinos on the Cambodia side which were consistent in architecture, vibe and nature of the rest of Poipet. There was a sense of desperation here, a seeking, a longing for something better. Even amongst the beauty, the sense of spiritual power struggle was real. We stayed only long enough to enjoy dinner, one that seemed a bit more suitable for most of our stomachs, giving our systems a bit of a rest.
Even though that was the end of our day, I still returned to our hotel with a great high from our miracle witnessed earlier in the day. Humbled, honored, and so very excited that God would choose me to be part of such work. But I know, too, that this is what He wants all of His children to experience. For Jesus commanded to the disciples, before ascending into heaven, to go and do as He did…to love, to serve, to feed and clothe, to deliver the miracles of our Father, and to heal.
How can I not be excited for what is next?