I HAVE TO TELL YOU … what does it feel like when not one single word can describe what is beeping inside my chest, how it cannot contain the riches of His blessings that He allows me to witness from Friday, then Saturday, and today. Whenever I am invited to set up our Ratanak booth at different justice event, or to speak before different background of people, I often stop and ask myself, “how far the Lord could break my heart further again for these children? I thought to myself I had had the worst of a case of a child’s story, and I don’t think my heart could possibly be further broken again.” Yet and yet again, when I stood amongst these abolitionists especially today at this church service at the Sanctuary Church. As soon as the worship band strummed the first chord, not only it was not a typical worship song we would sing to on a Sunday morning, the song immediately became the soundtrack of the photo slideshow I put together to loop in our booth. I looked over my shoulder, smiled to my “little green dress”, singing along these lyrics. Moved.
As I remember that was what Paul and I prayed only a few nights ago. That “S” and “L” on our brochure and the “little green dress” are not a printed photograph on a blown up poster with a stand. That they are not “these people”. That they are not “third world country”. That they are not poster child, they are not poster Ratanak-funded program. That they are not a printed brochure for us to hand out to people to take home to take a read and put it down. That they are not pretty faces to our jaded eyes through which we don’t even remember their plight and their stories.
She is the precious one in the eyes of the King. She is created not for “cheap labour or cheap sex” (quoting Tara’s words of this morning). She is created not to be used as a desirable object to relieve one’s perverted desire.
I found myself shifting in my seat a lot as this was also the first time that I took “little green dress” with me to events like that. People stopped, people starred, people hesitated at first to come forth, people found themselves asking us questions, finally landing on questioning about “little green dress”. She asked how old is she? M answered, “she is 12.” She stopped and starred again and said, “I am 12.” Then she walked away with our brochure and newsletter in her hand, stood at a corner, starting to read through the entire newsletter. I remember her face, I remember her frowning at times. I remember I was praying for her silently for the Holy Spirit to move her heart.
I came out today’s sunday service at Sanctuary feeling my heart too tender to touch, like a gashing wound, which I haven’t had for a while. Have it held in my chest not easy to touch, still wet and slippery to hold, how many pieces of kleenex I need to wipe the unexpected tears. When Tara Teng re-told what she experienced in the Floating Village, how she described the smell of poverty, the use of the Mekong River, the bamboo houses rising up and down with the water, the sacrifice of the elder daughter in order to allow the rest of the family survive. I have to tell you — the smell of the river, yes, the smell of poverty. When it comes to poverty, they do smell the same. I remember the smell of her hair , I remember the smell of the Floating Village, I remember how someone was scared that the river water would spill up onto our boat. The smell of sewage water, yet also the smell of nearly 2 million “non existent” people’s livelihood and living condition. I remember the smell of the brothel district , the smell of a questionable sex tourist breathing next to me, the smell of that street with Christmas light stringing on the front door of a bar, the smell of knowing that would means underaged children are up for sale in the back of that very bar, the smell of that quiet and dark alley without one single activity, the smell of knowing that would translate to drugged up children being tranquilized waiting for her hours upon hours of long night of torture and violence.
When Tara said, “wherever you turn, wherever you go all around the world, poverty seems to have the same smell.” I nodded and agreed because I know what type of smell she was talking about, wherever I turned, wherever the tuk tuk took us all around Cambodia, poverty seems to have the same smell. The smell of her hair and the smell of the Killing Fields are the same. Yet it is exactly that smell of poverty that would translates into the love of Jesus, a unique fragrance that attracts me to go there, to places where normal people would not desire to go, to places where Expedia.ca would not advertise on its website, yet and yet that’s where He wants me to go and to be, to spend time, to simply breathe in that smell.
“instead, let there be a flood of justice, and an endless procession of righteous living, living.”