Sunday Worship Gathering 11 AM @ North Community Lutheran Church
114 Morse Road Columbus, OH 43214 (Map)
One cannot underestimate the role of knowing a culture’s history before considering how to engage in the mission of God to those said people in the present and invest in the future. That said, we spent our first two full days in Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia, visiting two key museums. First we spent time exploring the National History Museum which primarily lays out the history of Hinduism and Buddhism as they have been woven into the monarchy over centuries. Then on day 2 we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, one of the numerous locations of mass tourture and killing during the hell on earth an entire nation faced just a few short decades ago when the Khmer Rouge regime decimated the country. To say that our time was exhausting is an understatement since the heat, humidity and physical energy it took to search the museums was tiring enough, it’s impossible to express how deeply exhausting visiting these keepers of a country’s history were for our souls. Which begs the question: How can a nation with such a bleak and tormented past have hope for the future?
To give you a glimpse of our experience the Genocide Museum itself was once a local high school campus that was converted into a death camp in the late 1970s. Walking through the campus you see pictures of the imprisoned men women and children, drawings from survivors revealing the conditions of the camp, and artifacts that show the story of how these classrooms that were meant to educate and build up a nation were converted to torturous interrogation rooms. Along the way you see what were once children’s swing sets converted to a rack to suspend victims with their arms pulled back behind their body and underneath them are giant basins that were filled with filthy water to drown the prisoners heads in after passing out from pain until they’d come to. As you keep moving through you see more classrooms converted to individual holding cells a fraction of the size of a twin mattress with shackles to hold down the hostages. After exiting the museum you cannot help but look around and realize every Cambodian man, woman and child around you is a miracle. You begin to see more clearly the layers of collateral damage, disfunction, and disarray the nation has experienced. As an outsider you wonder, “How could I, or how could anyone, find restoration and renewal in this?”
By God’s grace our team was able to take time to decompress, to process, and to pray after our time at the Genocide Museum. We spent some time lingering on some of the words of the prophet Isaiah. After God rejects and renounces his people’s empty religious activity he urges them to “learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, [and] plead the widows cause” (Isaiah 1:17). We talked about the twin truths of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. God is sovereign in all circumstances, and people will be held responsible for what they do (or don’t do for that matter). So agreed that we needn’t worry about whether we can “fix” the problem at hand, but by faith we can participate in God’s story of redemption through obeying his commands to radically love others as he described in Isaiah.
This is where I see much more clearly the role of Asia’s Hope in God’s redemptive story in Cambodia. By investing in leaders (all of whom are survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime), who display the gospel by rescuing, loving, educating, and unleashing the kids who were born into the collateral damage of a previous generations sins. And they speak the gospel into their lives through devotionals and discipleship as parents shepherding their children’s hearts, with the hope of a Cambodia that suffered devastation, but through the power of the gospel looks more and more like God’s kingdom come, where God’s will is done, on earth as it is in heaven. For 14 years those seeds have been sown, watered, and cared for, and fruit is being produced that is beginning to multiply for God’s glory and for the transformation of a nation.
Prayer: Father, we praise you that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We thank you that even when this world and our hearts are evil, you save, you restore, you renew, and you offer hope. Help us to take the salvation and the hope we have received and steward our time, treasures, and talents to bring your hope to the world. Amen.
(*All photography in this post is contributed by Danny Jackson.)
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