9 Jan

Wow. There are so many thoughts swarming my head right now. I honestly cannot even focus on one thing I’ve learned or seen. There are too many things I want to write down, remember and share, but my mind literally is exhausted and overwhelmed. In the past three days I’ve seen awe-inspiring sights like one of the “seven wonders of the world” yet around the corner is corruption, poverty and the underdevelopment of a 3rd world nation. I’ve seen the royal palace and visited the prisons of the Khmer Rouge. I feel like I am seeing two very different extremes of Cambodia. Beautiful, yet pain filled Cambodia.

This week we are focusing on learning Cambodia’s context: culturally, historically and religiously. How can we help/serve a community, a people group if we aren’t aware, educated and understand why they do the things they do? How can we answer questions like: why do Khmer people only use their right hand? why do tuktuk drivers turn off their lights at night? why do Khmer fear modernization? why did a genocide occur- killing millions of people, a story that few Westerns have heard?? why is there still injustice in Cambodia? The pain and wrongs are so easy for us as outsiders, Americans and Christians to point out. But as I study the context of the situation here in Cambodia I realize just how complicated the situation actually is. I can’t even begin to explain Cambodia’s situation, but I will give you a little taste of the puzzle. Their main religion, Buddhism plays a huge role. Indicators of their religion are everywhere. Literally. Plants, geography, the temples, lifestyle, shrines, cooking, etc. Fear of their gods and karma drives how they live their lives. Karma is a concept I struggle to understand, especially in relating it to the genocide and injustices here in Cambodia. But here is an example: in the U.S. we believe that we deserve justice, basic rights and needs. We will strive for positive change no matter what. In Cambodia, there is no desire for change or justice because they believe that all is just already. They are getting what they deserve, no if/whats/buts about it… aka karma. This example of karma is only a little piece of the complicated puzzle here in Cambodia.

Sadly, this idea of karma relates to those with disabilities. In Cambodia, if you have a disability then it’s your karma, no need for medical help or treatment. The disabled become beggars or hidden in the back of homes. I think about my dear cousin, what if he was born in Cambodia rather than the U.S- how different would his life be. I keep wondering about Ghana and the disabled community I will be working with this summer. I know in Africa they typically shun their disabled. Is their reasoning similar to the Buddhist beliefs of the Khmer? This a question I am going to research before I go to Ghana, because once again it all goes back to context. How can we help/serve a community, a people group if we aren’t aware, educated and understand why they do the things they do? I am beginning to realize how important context is in every situation, especially events like short-term missions. I encourage yall to read the book “Serving with eyes wide open” by David Livermore before you go on a mission trip domestically or internationally. I attached a link to the book below. P.S. I am still baffled that very few people know this horrific story. Why didn’t I learn about this in my history classes? and I wonder how many other genocides, injustices and stories similar to this one are unheard of….


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