Reporting from the front lines

image

Sou praying a blessing over her kids, grown up from the homes, who visited her on a family holiday

It’s been a learning experience to work with an NGO, especially one that actually helps people. I’ve observed many throughout the years and I was dumbfounded by the amount of inefficiency and bureaucracy it involved to help someone. As a consultant, it drove me crazy. What made it worse was that it was accepted as the way of life. I’m sure this is a generalized statement that doesn’t affect every NGO but the many that I observed hadn’t quite differentiated themselves from this observation.

I feel as though I have seen many ups and downs while I’ve been here. Funding has been quite the topic, which I presume to be a headline for most NGOs. There are so many people to help and not enough money to go around. I think about my days in America, I considered helping but hadn’t always taken that extra step to do something about it. However, how was I really to judge whether or not to do it without any sort of investment in checking them out?

I love the heart of the leaders here because that’s exactly what they want you to do. The first place they took me after getting off the plane was their training center/church/orphan home/medical clinic/factory women’s dorm/etc. It’s a place for many things. Here, we not only got to see some of the coolest projects they are working on to step towards self-sufficiency but we got to meet some of these darn cute kids. I was surprised even on that day just how healthy they were, in all facets! I could see exactly where my money would go if I were to help and I wouldn’t have given a second look before I did it. Each day, I am more and more convinced of the legitimacy of this place.

Anyway, in a place like America, where our comforts are so convenient, it’s so easy to lose sight of the important things like helping the poor, weak and hopeless. Perhaps, we might go to a soup kitchen or something like that every once in a while. Here, on the front lines, I feel and sense the urgency of it all. It’s not just some kid thousands of miles away. It’s a kid that I’ve met and have gotten to know. It’s his/her life and care that depends on me to do my job to the best of my abilities. The sense of purpose is so much greater here than I’ve ever experienced before.

I realized the quality of a leader is often confirmed by his/her subordinates when trials occur. Recently, Ted has been on a trip to the states and Sou, his wife and co-leader, has been in charge of all the affairs here. A few days ago, Sou got sick and I realized just what kind of woman she is. I remember the days of being under a bad leader. A sick leader meant freedom and breathing room. Here, everyone congregated to their leader in a time of her trial. While on her sickbed unable to decipher what’s before her nose, I saw the boys who grew up in her homes standing watch on the porch in concern and intercession for Sou. People have prayed and visited. Two of her kids from the homes (who are now married and have 3 children, pictured above) even visited her on this holiday that celebrates families with gifts appropriate for a mother. This is all in a span of 24 hours or so… and I could tell you even more stories. The level of concern and care is truly family. It’s inspiring and gives you a new sense and value of family.

It’s one thing to “put your heart into the work” as Andrew Carnegie would say. But it’s completely something else putting your life into it. I have heard and seen their resolution to give up everything that has any value in the world, and they have, but especially sentimentally so that their children and their staff can be cared for. Such abandon!?

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:8

Advertisements

The secret to the happiest kids on earth

I have been privileged for the last week and will be for the next few months to be working with FCOP International (web redesign in the works). I’m astounded for all the things that are happening through this organization. Right now, they care for 3000 orphans and 600 local Cambodian staff. Talk about large-scale! They’ve had over 15,000 children come through their homes (there’s 106 of them)! Almost all of them are passionately following Jesus and are productive members of society restoring health and wealth back into the Cambodian nation. I love their model and desire to see each person healed in body, soul and spirit. Their love is absolutely extravagant and incredible.

What really surprised me was how they married the secular with the Christian. Oftentimes, there’s too much of one or the other. But really, when we consider “let Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, we have to remember that heaven is supposed to appear on earth. There are what seems like a million micro-enterprises and some greater enterprises (many in the works). I love how Paul recommends to the Thessalonians to be laborers and be a light to society. This is what they’re doing here. Each home has micro-enterprises that help sustain them when we don’t have enough donations come through. It’s a large scale operation that needs a lot of money. There are projects that need to happen to bring self-sustaining to be a reality here. We have large scale operations in the works that can produce enough revenue when up and running to support every home and not depend on a single donor barring any natural disasters.

I came here thinking, I have so much to give and I want to give it all. Yesterday, we visited some homes in the river (yes, in the river). I got to play with many children, and seriously, they are the happiest kids on earth. I have yet to visit a home that I haven’t felt that way about. Sure, you can tell which ones are newer. They’re a little bit shyer and perhaps a bit more aggressive. However, you look at the other kids and you know their fate. They will be so full of love that those things will not last in their hearts. I left the houses realizing that I came here to give but really, they have so much more to give than I do.

I was surprised at the authority and respect that the kids give to the organization leaders. They affectionately call the leaders, Ted and Sou, Big Pa and Big Grandma or Big Ma (I guess that depends on the age of the children). I have yet to see children in tattered clothing or famished beyond recognition. They are treated like normal kids but according to Cambodian standards, they are treated even better than that. They run each home like a real family having a caretaker for every five children. These caretakers are often widows who have nowhere else to go. Yesterday, we were handing out the apples but lovingly, Sou would correct the children as she desired each of her (yes, she considers them her own) children to have manners and respect their elders. They joyfully and lovingly accepted the correction. Wow, how many kids have we seen do that on the first try!

The impossibilities are a reality here and I get to live in that reality everyday. What a joy that is! What a joy to even participate in what they are doing here. Family really makes it a difference. Our hearts make a difference. Sometimes we focus too much on the objective that we lose sight of the people before us. But really, it’s the people before us that gives us parameters for the goals that we set and in the midst of pursuing their health, welfare and wealth, our goals become a reality.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Ventures into Cambodia

It’s crazy that I’ve only been here three days. I feel like I’ve seen so much and experienced even more.