During my periodic morning runs this month, I’ve encountered two adorable little Cambodian twin girls. They are the cutest things EVER and they always shout to me kilometers before I even get close. At first, they were quite hesitant to come close to me, but after I taught them how to do “Hi-Fives” (which is ”Hi-Foon” in Cambodian) they quickly overcame their shyness and have become quite accustomed to the early morning visits from their white-skinned sweaty friend. (And let me tell you, Cambodia’s hottest month of the year sure is sweaty!)
One day, I brought my camera to take pictures, and was invited by the mother to sit with their family in their yard. Developing countries are very community-centered, so this was an open invitation for all other neighboring children to come as well. They were fascinated by my digital camera with the fancy red covering and many tiny buttons. I started a conversation with their mother, who spoke decent English, but we kept getting interrupted by the incessant cry from the girls to take more pictures. Really, who can say “no” to these adorable little children of God?
One day, I picked up two small polka-dotted headbands at the market and carried them to the girls on my run. Of course, when I arrived, this meant that we had another big photo shoot with the newest addition to their wardrobes (you can see their mother off to the right)
We then just sat and enjoyed each other’s company, speaking in broken English but having a good time…until the mother popped the question:
“Do you want to buy them?”
Everything in me stopped cold. Surely I didn’t hear right. Did she really ask me if I wanted to buy her children? I said, “Excuse me. What did you say?”
She said, “Do you want to buy my daughters? They eat a lot.”
Yes, my deepest fear was right. The mother was offering to sell me her children.
My mind raced. How do you respond to a question like this? What would have to happen to make selling your child ever an option? Somehow her explanation “They eat a lot” didn’t help.
Part of me wanted to judge her, wondering how much she really loved her children to give them away to a stranger. Part of me was curious, and I wanted to ask her how much she would sell them for. And yet when those emotions fell away, I was filled with compassion for a woman in poverty, living in a culture where selling your children is more than a common occurrence.
Cambodia is a poverty-stricken nation, with one-third of the population below the poverty line. This is due in part to the Cambodian genocide in the 1970’s where one-fifth of the population was wiped out due to starvation, disease or overwork. Decades later, it still has not recovered, and some families feel like selling their children is their only option. According to the documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, by the age of ten, 80 to 90% of all girls are sold, many into sexual slavery. It breaks my heart to hear about the way that young girls are treated not as people but as goods in this part of the world.
I realized that, to this young mother sitting in front of me, giving her children to me would allow them to grow up in America and give them a life that she always dreamed of giving them. In her mind, it was the most loving thing she could do.
So how did I respond? I said something like, “Wow, that’s really generous of you, but I’m not ready to have children” and I began to explain why I’m not married yet for about the hundredth time these past eleven months.
And as I type this, I’m just thankful that the love of Christ is the only sure thing in the world – it’s unchanging and unshakable, no matter the circumstances, financial or otherwise. It breaks my heart to hear about the millions of children that are sold every day…yet the only thing I can rest in is my confidence in the fact that nothing can ever separate me from my Father.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38)
If there is one thing I could recommend to all future World Race squads, it would be for each person to bring a paperback book. My squad (H-squad July 2012) has about a total of ten books, which are very well-read and have been passed along time and time again throughout these past eleven months. While kindle books are lighter (which is definitely key on the Race), I’m a firm believer that there is nothing like a paperback book in your hands, which can be written on and doesn’t need to be charged.
The reality is that if you’re a reader, you will probably read a lot on the World Race – there is plenty of downtime and travel days between countries to get lost in a book. Reading can really help you to understand the historical context within which your ministry takes place and is an incredible way to supplement the experiences you are having.
So here are some books that I recommend reading, with a few movies thrown in, separated by country. Feel free to add comments below of your favorite books that you read on the Race!
Kingdom Journeys: Rediscovering the Lost Spiritual Discipline by Seth Barnes. A classic World Race book about the innate desire for each of us to go on a “kingdom journey”
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett. A great read about poverty and community-development
Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff. A funny but challenging book giving personal examples of how we can be catalysts for Christ’s love
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book has real-life stories about the issues facing women all around the world. One of my squad’s favorite books.
Not For Sale by David Batstone. This book skillfully combines statistics and stories about the reality of slavery happening in many of the countries that the World Race travels to
One Thousand Gifts: Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are – by Ann Voskamp. A great book for the Race, where you definitely have to learn how to be thankful with what you have!
Nefarious: Merchant of Souls – A Christian-based documentary about the sexual slavery exploitation that is happening around the world. Produced by Exodus Cry, a branch of the International House of Prayer.
Culture of Honor by Danny Silk. A great book to help understand how we can prefer and honor others
The Little Princes by Conor Grennan – A gripping account of a young man reuniting boys with their families in rural Nepalese villages
First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung. A young girl describes her experiences during the Cambodian genocide – really well done.
Killing Fields, Living Fields by Dan Cormack. The story of the Cambodian church in the midst of the Khmer Rouge genocide. A thick book, but very interesting to see how God worked good in the midst of tumultuous times.
The Girl in the Picture by Denise Chong. The story of a young woman who was burned by napalm during the Vietnam war.
Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger. A biography of a young woman who moved to China by faith and saw many drug addicts and gang leaders set free.
The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun by Brother Yun. An autobiography of a young man who grew up in a rural village and was called to preach the gospel in China, becoming one of the leaders of the House Church movement.
The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. These books take place in Islamic countries, which will better help you understand the Malaysian culture, a largely Islamic nation.
Mother Teresa: In My Own Words by Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa offered so much hope and love to the children and adults in the slums in India – this book has quotes, stories, and prayers.
Six Bullets – A movie about a young American girl who was trafficked in Moldova.
Hotel Rwanda – A moving film about a family in the midst of the Rwandan genocide
Blood Diamond – A great movie about a man who mines diamonds in the midst of the Sierra Leone Civil War. Helps you to see the corruption that exists within the worldwide political and business systems.
The Boy Who Harnassed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. The story of a young Malawian boy and his dream to bring electricity to his village
–Add a comment below of other books you would recommend to read on the World Race-
On our first ride to the grocery store in Cambodia, a group of six of us piled into a tuk-tuk, which is a small covered cart pulled by a motorcycle, used by locals and tourists alike to travel throughout the city. We drove across a bridge, as blackish wastewater meandered by below us, and greeted brown-skinned Cambodian children who called out to us, “Hello! Hello!” We then turned right into a quadruple-laned road, and then pulled a U-turn straight into the traffic going the opposite direction. I cringed in the back of the tuk-tuk, my hands gripping the side of the metal pole and my eyes widening as the dozens of motorcycles in my view got bigger and bigger. Yet, each of them slowed down and yielded to us.
I began to notice that there is something incredibly unique about the traffic system here in Cambodia: there are very few street lights. We’re living in Phnom Penh, the largest city in Cambodia, with over 2 million people, yet even in most double-laned intersections there are no traffic lights. But somehow I haven’t even seen one car accident since I’ve been here.
How does this work? It’s simple. People simply yield to the person in front of them. If you need to do a U-turn, you just do it, even if there is traffic coming straight at you. I can’t help but think if this were to happen in America, there would be an abundance of beeping horns and middle fingers and road rage. But here in Cambodia, you just wait your turn, knowing that you will get there when you get there. Here’s the typical scene during rush hour:
I’m starting to realize that the way that Cambodians drive is reflective of their culture to prefer others above themselves. They are incredibly aware of their surroundings, because who is around you is more important than where you are going. The concept of the right-of-way is unknown to them…so different than America, where we’re engrained to be so time-driven that we need to get to our destination as quickly as possible and to run over anyone who gets in our way.
Jesus is the ultimate example of yielding – He came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Jesus’ eyes were continually open to the people around him who he could touch with the Father’s love. And we are called to live the same lifestyle – to yield and serve others rather than to insist in our own way.
So today, I want to encourage you to intentionally open your eyes to people around you. Do what you can to yield, rather than insisting on your own way. And if you get to your destination a few minutes later than expected, thank God for the people that He put in your path, because the journey is much more valuable than the destination.
This month, we’re working at an orphanage called Cambodian Hope Association. I’ve had so much fun playing with these kids. When you’re in foreign countries, with no Nintendo or computers, you have to get creative with the games that you play.
So today, I thought I’d share some of the games that I’ve learned in my time traveling across the world. The best part about these games is that you’ll be able to find everything that you need right where you are! Great for youth groups.
The Flying Ship (Moldova)
Duck-duck-goose gone wild!
Number of Players: At least ten, the more the merrier!
Materials: A large field
- Everyone joins hands together, forming a large circle.
- Two people hold hands outside the circle. This pair walks around the circle, then chooses another pair by touching their linked hands.
- These two people that they choose have to keep their hands locked and run the opposite direction around the circle (be careful where the two pairs cross paths!). Both pairs try to make it back to the open spot in the circle before the other.
- Whichever pair does not get there first becomes the pair who walks around the circle and chooses the hands of the next two people. A great game for big groups!
New School Tic-Tac-Toe
Equipment: Four pieces (usually rocks are used) of two contrasting colors
Create a board by making a square, then dividing the square in half horizontally and vertically. Then draw two diagonals to connect the two opposite corners. Boards can be made with pencil and paper, but to play like an African go outside and draw a Achi board in the dirt.
- Decide which colors to play and who will start first
- Each player drops one piece per turn on any vacant space on the board. “Spaces” are any of the intersecting points in the figure. Players alternate turns until all four pieces have been dropped.
- On your turn, each player moves one space at a time following the pattern. The first player who gets three of their pieces in a row – horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, wins!
Five Stones (Malawi)
A classic African game similar to marbles that you can play anywhere!
Number of players: 2 to 5
Materials: Five small stones
- Make a small fist-sized indentation in the dirt, then place five stones next to it.
- On your turn, hold one stone in your hand, then throw it into the air, then grab one stone from the pile and move it out of the indentation, and then catch the stone you threw into the air.
- If you do this successfully, repeat with throwing one stone in the air, moving two stones from the pile to the indentation, then catching the one stone again.
- If you do that successfully, repeat with moving three stones to the indentation; then three, four, five and then all the way back down to one.
- As soon as you are unsuccessful at catching the stone you threw or moving the right number of stones into the indentation, your turn ends.
Below, a young African girl is playing this game, looking upward to catch the stone that she threw.
The Spitting Frog (Cambodia)
Number of players: Five or more
- Form a large circle, with one person standing on the outside and one person sitting in the middle.
- Everyone closes their eyes, and then the person on the outside of the circle walks around the circle and taps someone on the back who becomes the “Frog.”
- The person walking around the circle then sits down at his/her original spot and tells everyone to open their eyes.
- The frog “kills” people by sticking their tongue out at them. When the frog sticks his tongue out at you, you must immediately groan and slump over, dead.
- The person in the middle has to figure out who the frog is, with only three guesses.
A fast-moving card game that is a lot of fun!
Number of players: 4
Materials: Deck of cards
- Deal everyone six cards, and the dealer gets seven cards, with the rest of the cards face-down in the middle of the table.
- Look at your hand, then put down any pairs that you have face up on the table.
- The dealer starts by laying down one card, face-up on the table in front of them (A king, for example). Then anyone who has that card puts it down (king), and then one other card of their choice (a 3) face-up on the table in front of them. Anyone who has that card (a 3) puts it down, and then lays another card of their choice face-up (a 7). Only the first person who puts that number on the table can play.
- If no one has the card, then the dealer deals a card from the middle stack face-up in front of one of the players, which becomes the card that everyone else must match.
- Once you are down to one card, it must be matched by a card that someone else lays down.
- The winner is the first person to run out of cards.
Before I went off to school, my dad always used to ask me: “Kelly, what’s the most important thing?” and I would always respond: “To have fun!” I’m excited to go home in a few weeks and teach these games to my family. Have fun playing these games – when you try them, comment below and let me know how it goes!