“When you come back from Cambodia, you are going to be a different person,” she said. I looked at her and knew she was right. (Moms usually are.) But I wondered how. I still have a week before I return home, but I can already see that this journey has changed me.
In Canada, I never drank coffee in the mornings. Here I often do, because milk is extremely expensive. In Canada, I never drank Coke, because it’s unhealthy and not to my taste. Here I do because it’s given to me, and it’s an alternative to the excessive amount of water I need to drink. (I’m working on cup number thirteen of water for today.) At home, I would never have sat intentionally by a man. Here I need to ride moto while they drive. (Like one of the long termers said, “In this culture it’s perfectly okay. It’s like riding in the front passenger seat of a man’s car back home.”)
But all of those differences pale in comparison to the way God has pulled back the walls of my heart to let these people come close.
I let the little baby slobber all over my water bottle lid. Then, I screw it back on and take a swig out of it a few minutes later.
I laugh full stomach until I cry with people I’ve only known a couple weeks and let them tease me, and I tease them back.
For the first time in my life, I actually allow myself to miss the people back home. And when I don’t see the twins for a couple days, I am as elated as they are to be reunited.
I find pleasure in holding the sudsy head of the little one whose hair is getting a lice treatment. I offer to comb little girls’ hair even though I see that there’s still some eggs in there, because I want to.
When one of the team experiences a sudden, unexpected loss of the little one they expected to hold in their hands. I ask God to let me feel their pain, and I cry with them.
Cambodia with all it’s intricate beauty and gold veneer is a messy place.
Many of the shops offering cheap massages and restaurants with flashing lights are really the invisible prisons of sex workers. This city that I’ve called home these weeks always smells of garbage, roasting meat, wet concrete, baking bread and sewer. We take off our shoes outside the door because the street has coated them with dust.
And isn’t that love?
All beautiful and delicate, strong and miraculous.
All messy and fragile, complex and painful.
Oh, Lover of my soul, this love, Your gift, brings aching joy.