The “Show-Me” State of Southeast Asia

By David Rebok, serving in Cambodia

On my way to work one day, I needed to carry two large boxes on my motorbike. This could be accomplished only by placing them between my knees and resting my chin on top of them. Yes, it was awkward.

As I was about to take off, I heard the delicate but authoritative voice of my four-year-old niece, Srei Poa, claim, “Jih ot gaet,” which, if translated word for word, means, “Ride not happen.”

I figured I knew more than she did about the finer points of negotiating a 90cc motorbike, boxes or no boxes, and proceeded to tell her just that. Her smile indicated that she wasn’t interested in my explanation, nor were the other 20 kids standing off to one side in anticipation of my impending failure to deliver said boxes without damage to cargo and driver.

Talk Is Cheap

While my instinct was to ask where this large, stern-faced audience had come from all of a sudden, I saved my oxygen. At the age of four, my niece was already fully aware that in her culture, talk is cheap. “Show, don’t tell” remains the rule of thumb in this country. 

So, show them I did. I made it through the front gate and rounded the corner out to the street, with half of the neighborhood chasing at my heels with a victory cheer. So ended that brief but enlightening episode that could have taken place no other way in Cambodia—the Show-Me State of Southeast Asia.

Walking the Talk

Two minutes later, as I was stuck in the busiest intersection in Phnom Penh, it hit me that there was a lesson in that encounter with this culture. People in Southeast Asia aren’t going to believe anything they can’t see. This is especially true when something comes from outside their culture—like me, for instance.

Why should they believe anything I say unless I can back it up with reality?

People here are like people anywhere else. They have been hurt and they need love, purpose, and solutions. If we Christians can’t help others find those things, then everything we say is null and void.

Jesus Christ, our example of compassion, is looking for workers who will show compassion to others (Matthew 9:35-38). Verse 37 says that the harvest is plentiful. There is no shortage of people who are in great need of God’s love, and far be it from us to withhold it from them.

Learn More

Check out our work in Cambodia.

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