Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 7, 2013

An Outpost of Hope

The Slums of Poipet, Cambodia

The dedication of the first phase of The Hope Center is tomorrow afternoon. This morning, Steve Hyde, our partner and host decided that we should visit the slums of Poipet in order to understand the context of hope and why building The Hope Center in this particular location is so strategic. Context is always essential to understanding meaning.

Poipet Border Cart
We started our morning by going to the border crossing between Cambodia and Thailand to pray. Every morning as many as forty-thousand poor Cambodians leave the slums and cross the border into neighboring Thailand in search of day labor. Many of these are parents who leave their children behind, making them vulnerable to all sorts of dangers. In some cases, a parent or parents may not return home for days or ever thus putting their kids at considerable risk.

Sewing Family
The people who live in the slums of Poipet are resourceful. Those who remain behind do their best to look after the unattended kids whose parents are working across the border. Some have found opportunities to work for Thai merchants who recruit the poor in Poipet to sew garments all day for barely livable wages. Others do what they can to sell food and other items. Most food products are sold in very small packages because people only purchase what they can afford to survive for that day.

Slum Kids Sellers
Life in the slums of Poipet is unimaginably difficult. Existence here is measured in days and the future is a concept that many simply do not understand. Life in this place is about surviving one more day. The people here have no bank accounts or retirement plans. They have no access to reliable medical care. And there are simply not enough schools in the area to educate the poor even if they could get away to attend school. These factors and others keep the poor here tethered to generational poverty.

Slum Pastor Muthieng of Victory Church
We found one bright spot in the midst of the slums of Poipet in the person of a pastor named Muthieng. This dear and humble man has lived among the poor of Poipet for the past fifteen years. He is well-connected throughout the community and could live elsewhere if he wanted. He and his wife have chosen instead to live in the slums among the poorest of the poor where he can hear the cries and the heartbeat of the people. “A shepherd in Cambodia is not like a pastor in the West,” he said. “We are content to spend a lifetime in the hard places.”

I was deeply convicted by Pastor Muthieng’s words and example. His words reminded me of something that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, said about George Whitfield, the Billy Graham of that day. When asked if he would see Whitfield in heaven, Wesley replied, “No!” And then he added, “Whitfield will be at a level so close to God, that people like me will not be able to get close to him!”

Wesley’s words sum up how I feel after meeting Pastor Muthieng, a man who is committed to serving a Name but whose own name will never really be known beyond the slums of Poipet. When we get to heaven he will be so close to the throne of God that I will be unable to see him from where I stand. His home in the slums has become an outpost of hope. By living among the poorest of the poor, God is using him to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Chili Woman
Pastor Muthieng is glad that The Hope Center will also be an outpost of hope in a place that is not recommended by many travel guides. The Hope Center will be a haven of help and a refuge from the despair that adds anxiety to the hearts of the suffering poor. Women and children will have access to reliable medical care, pregnancy help and adoption services, and other resources that will give them a hand-up in a place that beats them down. The next phase of The Hope Center strategy includes building additional schools for the poor. This strategic initiative is an indeed an outpost of hope on the frontier of despair.

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