By Dianne Kushniryk
This is part one of a series.
Cambodia is a country rich in history, culture and beauty; drenched in mystique, charisma and atmosphere. Cambodia is also a country ravaged, decimated and terrorized by two decades of war, genocide and civil war.
Once the home of one of Southeast Asia’s most powerful empires, this predominately Buddhist country is striving to pull itself from the darkness it encountered during the years of the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975-79) when one-quarter of the country’s population was murdered.
As our feet trod the dry, dusty, blood soaked paths of Choeung Ek, the most well-known of over 300 killing fields in Cambodia, the atmosphere of evil prevailed — and without prayer, was overwhelming. The guide on the audio tour asks you politely to pick up any bone fragments you may dislodge and carry them to one of the glass boxes along the tour and leave it for proper interment. Along the chain link fence that enfolds the site, Khmer children gather, hands pressed together in the traditional Sompiah greeting, calling out “Please, please” begging for 500 Reil notes (12 cents) that we’ve been cautioned not to give. The reality of what was and is and is to come takes hold.
Almost 70 years ago the world gasped in horror at the Jewish Holocaust and promised it would never happen again. But it has — over and over — and will continue to do so until Jesus finally comes to heal a fallen world. Meanwhile, as His representatives, as His ambassadors, we are called to go and show His grace and mercy to the survivors of what sin has brought into the world.
From the cold, snowy streets of Rimbey to the sweltering paths of Cambodia, from the homeless in our own cities to the starving in Africa we who are rich beyond belief are called to be salt and light to the earth’s inhabitants. Mission trips may not be what you are called to do but caring for the widows and orphans is. (Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us [turn us away from God’s command to care for others first). James 1:27).
Followers of Jesus must allow their hearts to be broken by what breaks His and not only allow it but celebrate and rejoice in that breaking because it is what allows us to sympathize, empathize and undertake for those God has called us to serve. As our plane lifted off from the rich red earth of this amazing country, I knew that I had been changed and I had left behind a very big part of my heart. In some mystical way that only God can formulate I belonged to this land and she belonged to me.
My experiences there had made me fully comprehend what it means to be part of the family of man, to be a part of the family of God.
Dianne Kushniryk is a Christian essayist who has been published in the Rimbey Review and the Red Deer Advocate. She now writes almost exclusively for her church Rimbey New Life Fellowship.