Being a part of a group so close to home in Operation Christmas Child came around this year in a different light for me, a more personal one that, as I look at the photo here, realize had been tucked away in my ‘file’ from the last year until now.
It was about a year ago when we were in Cambodia and had started to plan our schedule to visit churches all over Cambodia to share a Christmas celebration with each of them. As it went, our travels were divided up into sections of the country so we could make better use of travel time. Roads are not very good in most of the country, and since this is the end of the rainy season as I write this, the roads are probably at their worst, full of huge holes and muddy, slippery and at times scary, slowing down and making travel at a snail’s pace at best. Some areas had no roads at all, and we had to make our own. No, George and I never drove during these months, and we will remain in that stand. So we rode along.
It was mid December up in Pailin, a small municipality in the western edge of Cambodia very close to Thailand and at the base of the Cardamon Mountains. It is also unfortunately famous for the Khmer Rouge leaders who came from and retreated to the area from that era. It was as far west as we could go and not leave the country.
We had traveled two very long days to get to the church we were destined for. I soon figured out no one in the area had ever seen foreigners either in their village, or so we were told later. The locals, as usual, took very good care of us, making sure we were well shaded from the sun, and had safe drinking water. We had arrived early for the church celebration so we waited with everyone else from the van for the locals to finish their preparations, which included a meal of curry and rice noodles over a wood fire vat before the service.
As is my custom though, I always do some walking after a long ride. I certainly can’t get lost since everyone is alerted when I’m on my feet. At some point one of the elderly women invited me to come sit with her under her home next to the kitchen. That was easy, and I enjoyed seeing the world from their viewpoint. She pointed and talked quietly as we shared time together. I followed her hand gestures and sorted out their language as she talked. All of a sudden, here on the kitchen stand, is the obvious ‘Christmas Child box.’ I spotted it. It was all by itself on a bare piece of wood. It had a place of honor so to speak.
She also realized what I was looking at, which erupted in a fast expose of words and hand gestures and such (hands together in gratitude). The box was newish. The ‘girl’ sticker was still on it. Gone were the girl items, but evidently it now was used in the kitchen as a closed bin for whatever was not meant for the general bug population. I went over and touched it and realized an emotional connection of how this simple box had been packed and brought to this family, half a world away.
This also occurred three weeks later deep in the jungle where the Jarai people group reside in Ratanakiri Province. Same story almost to the details above, one more time. I had the same emotional gulp.
So as I helped at Immanuel Palatine as their American Heritage Gals and Trail Life Guys packed and I watched these boxes fill up on this side of the pond, I can easily say here and now that these simple boxes do make a huge difference half a world away. At least from where I stood last year in Pailin and Ratanakiri Province, they did. Humbled again ~ Thank you Father.