Lessons from a Lizard

Learning to love Cambodia


One night last summer, I was sitting on a hotel veranda in the last place I ever expected to be: Cambodia. Writing in my journal, I looked up in a moment of introspection. There, on the ceiling and walls, were about a dozen small lizards. They reminded me of Proverbs 30:24–28:

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.”

Verse 28 grabbed my attention. Most lizards are small and insignificant—but fast. One night a lizard made its way into the hotel, and my roommate tried to catch it; that small creature had Josh running all over the room. But don’t we find ourselves feeling unimportant and hopeless at times, as we try to run from God? Darting here and there until there is no place to go, we eventually tumble back into His arms. This is when God can have His way, sending us to the most unexpected places.

In the months leading up to this short-term missions trip, I had acted like that hotel lizard; God had to grasp me and point me in the direction of Cambodia. Though I had grown up overseas, I had no desire to visit Asia. It wasn’t until I received an e-mail from our missions director at Bridgeway (now Clayhouse) Alliance Church about a short-term missions trip that I felt a nudge on my heart. I thought about that e-mail day and night—what an awesome opportunity! However, along with these positive thoughts came doubt and fear that nearly caused me to scamper off.

On my way to work one morning, I asked God to confirm whether I should pursue this ministry. In chapel that day, a coworker shared that before her missions trip to Africa, she had experienced the same misgivings I was having (see “Home Sweet Home,” alife, February 2010). If He can take care of her needs, I thought, certainly He can do the same for me.

God allowed the funds to become available, and I was off to Cambodia, a place I had never dreamed of visiting. My team members and I spent the first week with our international workers and their children at the field forum in the coastal city of Sihanoukville. One day I took the kids to the beach. As they were playing, I noticed members of a family taking sand from the shore and hauling it back behind their store. Before long, I got curious and asked if I could help. So there I was, hauling sand for strangers 5,000 miles from my home. Because of my willingness to help, the international workers’ kids and I were awarded a banana boat ride.

The best part of our time in Sihanoukville was the Communion and healing service. Pastor Danny (pictured below) from Bridgeway asked the team members to serve the elements to our new friends and invited us to recount what Christ did for us, whether in our daily lives or in saving us from a hurt or sin. Hearing these declarations from our workers brought me to tears. It was a hallowed moment.

However, the most moving day of the trip was when we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, once a school, in Phnom Penh. Our hearts broke as we staggered along the corridors, past former classrooms that had been used as torture chambers. We viewed portraits of thousands of lives extinguished in this place by the Khmer Rouge, one of the most gruesome regimes of the twentieth century.

Our guide that haunting afternoon was Alliance worker Syna Lao. She and her husband, Soeuth, were young children when they survived the horrors of that time. They found Jesus in refugee camps, and after they were educated in the United States, God brought them back to Cambodia. He is doing amazing things through their ministry in Poipet, where the short-term team spent its second week. This city rests on the border with Thailand and is an artery for sex trafficking. In an area known as “no man’s land,” casinos and night clubs cater to every depravity. This is where God has placed some of our most esteemed international workers.

Each day, we traveled from Poipet to the villages for a time of praise and worship in English and Khmer. With the help of translators, we shared our testimonies. On one such drive, I asked a teen how many brothers and sisters he had. I could sense the wheels whirling in his head, and he looked a bit confused. After a brief discussion with the international worker, they started laughing. The young man was about to tell me that he had hundreds of siblings—he thought I was talking about his brothers and sisters in Christ!

Once a month Soeuth and Syna host a weekend event for these youth, and more than 200 come to the Laos’ home for a time of worship and fellowship. We got to attend this outreach, and it was a blessing to get to know the young people, to hear their stories, to share ours and to play. I joined in a card game when a girl smiled at me. I spotted a diamond embedded in her front tooth—a reminder that God is using the Laos to bring these kids to Jesus, who polishes them like a gleaming jewel for His Kingdom.

What was Cambodia like? Sweaty, humid, crowded, dusty and muddy—yet, as I learned from my lizard friend, it was just like a King’s palace to me. Do you have a stirring from the Lord? Has He tried to grab your attention? Quit running and surrender to God—He has the perfect setting for you.

More images from Cambodia

Photos by Jim Kadle

Past Alliance Life Issues


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