Beyond the Smiles (Part II)

(For Part I, click here.) 

I remember him laying there. The bare white mattress in the Emergency Ward. The blanket stained with sweat and dirt wrapped around his waist. His ribs protruding from his thin, malnourished frame.

I remember him turning onto his side, obviously in pain. I remember his mother standing at the bedside, anxiety and fear written clearly across her face.

A group of American healthcare workers, part of a medical mission team I was working with, flocked around him and hooked up an ancient ECG machine to confirm a diagnosis of pericarditis—a diagnosis for which nothing more could be done in this rural Cambodian hospital. 

As they gathered around the bed adjusting ECG leads and talking among themselves, I stood in the back. Listening, observing, and praying.

I took in a deep breath, and I let it out. This young man was dying. There was nothing we could do about it. With all our knowledge, with all our experience, with all our compassion and good intentions, there was nothing we could do to prevent this man’s suffering and death. 

There was a time when seeing a patient like this young man broke me. It led me on a journey of desperate brokenness and incredible healing. It led me to face truths concerning what I believed about God and myself. Ultimately, it led me to rest in knowing I don’t have to be enough.

This time, as I stood near the patient's bed, everything was different. Outwardly, I was surrounded by Americans, and I was grateful to be with so many whose education and experience exceeded mine. Things had shifted inwardly, too; I found I had courage to reach out to this patient in a way I was too timid to do before but was incredibly important.

When I close my eyes, I am back in the hot, humid, Cambodian Emergency Ward. I breathe in deep, and I choose to rest in this truth: I don’t have to be enough, for Christ is enough. When I stop worrying about how much I can’t do because I am not enough, I hear Jesus’ quiet invitation to sit in His presence, even in the midst of such deep suffering. And I accept. 

I sit in His presence and bring this young man to Him, praying he would know the peace of Jesus’ presence, too. I sit in His presence and bring myself and my broken heart to Him, finding space to grieve and freedom to be sad because when I’m with Jesus, the lie that “I have to be the strong one” crumbles. Jesus is the strong one. I never have to act like I have it all together—because I don’t. Jesus knows this. He's okay with this.

The Americans clear out, and it’s just my dad and me left. With the help of our friend and translator, Dad explains why the American team is there, to teach and work with the local doctors. The patient’s mother looks up tearfully and asks if her son will live.

All our knowledge, all our diagnostic powers, all our education and good intentions—it means nothing in this moment. We have nothing to offer this woman and her son. Nothing except Jesus. So we ask if we can pray, and I reach out my hand to touch this patient’s dirt-smeared blanket and lift him up to Jesus.

And I know in all our heartbreak, in all their heartbreak, Jesus is enough, and He is with us. 

His presence is so strong. It always is, if we'll just acknowledge it. If we'll just accept His invitation and stop our striving to be everything, fix everything, and know everything. Perhaps this is the most important thing I’ve learned about poverty in the past few years. Poverty and suffering highlight our sense of helplessness, and so often our response is to push this uncomfortable feeling down and ignore it or to grit our teeth and take it upon ourselves to eliminate disparities. Yet I’ve found no freedom there. 

No, freedom is found in Jesus' presence, in trust. It's found in trusting God is enough, trusting He cares and is big enough for all the hurts in the world and my grief over poverty and suffering and death, and trusting God is, indeed, good.

He is good. Even when everything around us seems to be wrong and impossible and heart-wrenching and clouded with evil. He is, indeed, good, and He is enough.

Thanks for reading! Want to subscribe?

* indicates required

A Need and A Means

I have a friend who once told me about an experience she had in nursing school. A nurse she was working with for the day was caring for a patient with cancer. One of the patient’s parent’s had died from cancer, the couple had no money, and the patient wasn’t doing well physically. One nurse went down to the cafeteria and bought them chili cheese fries because the couple was craving them. Another nurse found her wallet and handed the couple a $20 bill—all the cash she had with her. Later, all she said to the student (my friend) who was with her was, “They don’t have. I do. So I give. It’s as simple as that.” In other words, “They have a need. I have the means to meet that need. So I meet it.”

It’s as simple as that.

A need.

A means to meet that need.


And the need is met.

There are many variables and a long story behind this decision, but at its core, it is a choice to follow the Lord’s calling to meet a need with the means He has provided. It is with great excitement I share with you this decision: my friend Amy and I will be moving to Cambodia for six months. She leaves in November, and I leave in January.

It is with great excitement I share this. And fear. And nervousness. And trust.

The process to move has been anything but simple. For those who have journeyed with me this past year, you know how I have struggled. How I witnessed suffering and death in the Cambodian hospital, how the trauma that happened to my heart and soul from seeing those things broke me, how I am relearning who I am and who Jesus is. This is not an easy decision to go back.

Am I scared? Yes.
Am I thrilled? Yes.
Broken and weak? Yes!

Yet the Lord says He uses the weak; He perfects His power in weakness. 

The needs in Cambodia are overwhelming: physical needs for food, clean water, clothing; system-wide needs for education, healthcare, justice; emotional needs for healing from genocide less than 50 years ago; spiritual needs for knowledge of Jesus, explanation of the Gospel, discipleship. In moving, we know our weakness, and we know we cannot meet their needs. We do not have the means. The truth is, we are just as broken as they are. 

Yet our God does have the means. He meets our needs daily, physically and mentally and emotionally and most of all, spiritually—bringing us out of spiritual poverty and reminding us that we are His. He wants to meet the Cambodians’ physical and mental and emotional and spiritual needs, too. For His love and His riches and His abilities are more overwhelming than the most overwhelming needs.

There is great need in Cambodia.

We have a God who has the means to meet all of their (and our) needs and more!

He has called us to action, to bring His name to the nations.

And their needs will be met. Not by me, not by my friend Amy, not by you, not by any missionary or NGO1 or visionary or strategist. Their needs will be met by Jesus. He is, as someone told me recently, the real power source. He is the One who transforms hearts and minds and communities and villages and systems and provinces and countries.

And believing this for Cambodia and all the world, we go.

I would love to share with you more about how the Lord is leading and moving! If you would like to receive updates, join us in prayer, or hear more about this journey, please let me know. I would love to chat with you!

1) NGO: non-governmental organization

Thanks for reading! Want to subscribe?

* indicates required