I remember the first time I spoke to an audience on behalf of my employer. I remember being struck by the awesome responsibility that I’d been assigned — almost by default. What if I said something wrong? What if I, as the event’s sole representative of what is arguable the world’s largest software company, in front of 300 people, accidentally misrepresented or miscommunicated a feature of one of our products? I was presenting 3 different technologies, each the result of the hard work and careful leadership of 3 distinct teams, and I was just one guy, 3 months on the job, representing all of it.
That intimidating responsibility exists here in Cambodia. By virtue of having white skin, this people will listen to you. Whether you are there to exploit them, help them, buy from them, or teach them, you will be given the stage. Because of the genocide committed against this country, so hungry is the remaining young generation for leadership, that they will listen to whatever you have to say. That the Western world holds no small share of responsibility for the near destruction of this gentle, welcoming people is a fact that they seem to have forgiven us for — if only we’ll teach them how to rebuild. If only we’ll send disciplers to help them figure out how to re-create their nation.
Here the poor are so easily led that the most desperate of them post large billboards over their huts advertising allegiance to the Communist party, who’s ideals tore the nation apart so recently, simply on the promise that they will be helped. Their ignorance is rivalled only by their desperation…
But their desperation is rivalled by their ingenuity. While many lack even basic education, and many lucky ones can hope only for high school, this is not a simple people. They are creative and clever in finding solutions to problems, and I have seen hacks and inventions that put our own ideas of how vehicles, or electricity or irrigation should work to shame. And they are entrepreneurial in spirit, almost every one of them a salesman and business owner.
Last time we were in Asia we learned how the Old Testament tells not just the story of God’s love for His kids, but how it contains the details of how God used Moses to build a nation, providing principles, information, and practical instruction on not just religion, but everything from hygenine to child care. In Cambodia exists an opportunity to teach the Old Testament template for nation building, the New Testament instruction on Christ-like behaviour, and the whole Bible’s love story of God reconciling the lost to fellowship with Him.
Here in Cambodia are the lost sheep, so eager for the loving staff of a shephard to guide them, and help them grow healthy again. This is what God has His people on earth for: to reach and teach and heal and love. We are not sent to give them another religion — although most of them will happily trade what they’ve got for what we have. We are sent to teach them how to live. This place is breath-taking and awe-inspiring, these people are beautiful and wonderful, but this country is cloked in the darkness of sin. And whether in Cambodia, or elsewhere in the world, we are called to pierce that darkness with His Glory and Light.
The responsibility is an awesome one, but we are not given the option of turning it down.