Posted by: beattieblog | March 2, 2012

Post-Cambodia Dispatch #1: Exile

“How was your trip?” “So, how was Cambodia?” “Dad, did you bring back any fried tarantulas?” These have been common questions to me and ten other leaders and young adults from Bel Pres over the past few weeks. It’s always difficult to sum up in a 30 second answer the impact of 12 days in a place like Cambodia. There’s something about this country – these people – that gets under your skin, stretches your worldview and captures your affection. So I’ve asked a few trip members to help me tackle themes from the trip that we’ll share over the next several days.

As we enter the second week of Lent, a time for listening and for Jesus’ followers to reflect on their desperate need for Him, I’ll start with: Exile.

As a leader in a large suburban church east of Seattle who’s closest experiences to exile were 1) having to remain in Richland, WA for two years of community college while most of his high schImageool buddies went off to school, and 2) leaving his much-loved Seattle for (gasp) the suburbs of north Kirkland, the biblical experience of exile is foreign to me. Sadly, that’s not the case in Cambodia. Forced evictions lead to the exile of thousands from their homes. In 2008, according to Amnesty International, 283,000 people in Cambodia have been evicted or are at risk of forced relocation nationwide. As of 2004, it was estimated that 20-30% of landowners held 70% of the country’s land, while the poorest 40% occupied only 10%. In the countryside, 45% of families were landless or near landless (there’s a related film project you can read about here).

“This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. My children are destitute because the enemy has prevailed.” –Lamentations 1:16

Since 2009 the families of Oudong Village have twice been violently evicted (exiled) – the first from their homes in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh; the second from where they were initially relocated to. They are now quite isolated 38 km north of Phnom Penh. The dilemma is that for many families, one or both parents have to go back to Phnom Penh or other more populated areas for work. In the case of the woman with the child pictured, it meant her husband would be gone for weeks working construction in Phnom Penh. She must also leave for days at a time to work in a nearby town. This has left grandma to care for the five young children – all while suffering from difficult medical issues of her oImagewn, including being blind in one eye.

Amidst the brokenness of such exile, it was inspiring to meet Kevin and his wife who have been working, and soon will be living among, the families at Oudong. It’s incredible to hear Kevin’s story as a onetime well-off plumbing foreman from Vancouver, Canada who ended up as a homeless junkie living in lice and bed-beg infested spaces. The same God who’s heart broke for the people of Oudong was redeeming the experience of a drug addicted, homeless plumber from Vancouver to come and be Jesus with skin on there. What was also incredible was Kevin’s hunger for God and his thankfulness at how God had blessed and redeemed his life. He said to us: “I get to cry a lot in my work. When I was in drug addiction my tears were of despair. Now they’re tears of compassion and I let my years guide me.”

A friend of mine described Cambodia as a place where the hope and the hurt live side by side. Check out these videos and pictures; reflect on the hurt of exile taking place in Cambodia. But also look for the hope present in the lives of people like Kevin and the villagers themselves. Comment with your thoughts and reflections.



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