Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 15, 2013

Where Jesus Would Be

Poipet, Cambodia

As we were driving to The Hope Center yesterday, we saw Western faces in another vehicle. Steve Hyde, our ministry partner, commented that they were likely another small missions team since Poipet is not a tourist destination. He’s right. There is little in this muddy border town that appeals to tourists. The only outsiders who come here are from the surrounding area and Thailand — drawn here by the gambling and the sex trade.

As we sat at breakfast this morning, we watched as a pimp picked up his girls from the hotel where we are staying. Because there are few lodging options in Poipet, every hotel has rooms available by the day and by the hour. There is a sadness that underlies life here. This is a hard place — especially for the poor and the weak. The difficulties of life here drive many young girls to do things they otherwise might never do. Others are forced into a life they never wanted.

IMG_1772
As we worked all day getting The Hope Center ready for opening day in December, I thought about the thousands who live with little hope within walking distance of the center. Leslie Joyce, one of our team members, took a photo of a little girl carrying her younger brother on her back. Like so many children in the area, her parents told her to take care of her brother while they searched for day labor across the border in Thailand — a typical scenario here. Kids like these are easy prey for predators who kidnap and traffic children.

Kids like these are also the reason why one of the next phases of The Hope Center initiative will be to provide a feeding program and safe haven for children who are left to fend for themselves while their parents are away looking for work, sometimes for more than one day at a time. These children are the reason why Steve Hyde was drawn to such a desperate place and why we have joined him in this work. This is the kind of place where Jesus would be, helping the least of these.

The poor in Poipet lack access to the gospel, to medical care, to good nutrition, and to opportunity — all things that we enjoy in abundance in our own suburban community. We can, however, make a difference in this place by helping to provide the most practical demonstrations of God’s love and concern for the poor. Steve commented that the vast majority of the people here not only lack access to the gospel, they have never seen any tangible expression of God’s love.

Poipet-Monks
Buddhist monks in their saffron-colored robes are a common sight in Cambodia. Every day they walk the streets and stand in front of homes and businesses, silently but expectantly awaiting a handout. I have seen them stand in front of the homes of the poorest of the poor in the slums of Poipet until the poor emerge with some morsel to place in their hands. But I have never seen them actually do anything practical to help the poor or to address their terrible plight in this place.

Worldview matters, especially when it comes to caring for widows, orphans, the alien, and the least of these. I find it interesting that the man who has found favor with Buddhist government officials in this province is Steve Hyde, a Christian who is addressing the urgent needs of orphans, the poor, and children at risk. He is helping people in need in personal, practical, and measurable ways. Lives are being saved from certain abuse and even death and many children now face a brighter future as a result. Steve is not here to take from the poor, but to give them a helping hand up.

As we drove to The Hope Center yesterday, I was reminded of one of my all-time favorite lines from the movie “On The Waterfront.” In the movie, Father Barry, played by Karl Malden, is called to the scene of the murder of a longshoreman on the waterfront. As dozens look on, a voice in the crowd calls out, “Go back to your church, Father.” Father Barry, standing beside the dead man, looks at the crowd and says, “Boys, this is my church! And if you don’t think Christ is down here on the waterfront you’ve got another guess coming!”

Poipet is Steve Hyde’s parish, the place where he incarnationally lives out his faith, the place where he is Jesus with skin on among people who have never heard or seen any expression of the gospel. Like the waterfront in the movie, it’s a hard place where ugly things happen. But as Father Barry reminded the crowd, it’s the kind of place where Jesus would be. I am thankful for our partnership with Steve and what our partnership in the gospel means to the people who live in one of the most desperate places on the planet.


Responses

  1. We miss you and your team Omar! God bless you and keep you safe in travels. Thank you for inviting Steve to our church this past year and thank you for sharing this story. Please check Steve’s feet for me. I have a feeling they are both very beautiful. : )

    • Thanks, Jeff. And yes, Steve does indeed have beautiful feet that bring good news.

  2. I love that country and the people. I’m so thankful for Steve and our church. This was beautifully written. Thanks Pastor.

    • Thanks, Kim. We all miss you and wish you were here.


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