The people of Cambodia know what it means to experience loss. Every Cambodian has a story about how their family suffered during the dark days of the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot and his minions will forever be remembered in the history of the Khmer people as the men who filled mass graves with the bodies of their own countrymen.
The Khmer Rouge illustrate what happens when those who do not value the sanctity of human life rule the day. All hell breaks loose! Life becomes a demonic nightmare. No one is safe. Trouble is always imminent and, when it comes, will forever damage and destroy the lives of those in its path.
As Christ-followers, we are committed to sowing seeds of life in this nation steeped in death and destruction. We continue to invest in initiatives that promote the sanctity of human life and offer the suffering the soothing balm of hope — the hope that is firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We concluded our time in Cambodia by washing the feet of the women who attended our conference. These women are among the poorest in the area around Poipet, a town regarded as the armpit of the nation. Life is hard for these women. They are unaccustomed to anyone doing anything at all for them. They live with little or no affirmation of their worth.
Kara, our team leader, shared with the women the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. I shared the same story with the men who accompanied their wives. The women listened and took notes. And then, in a move that cemented the lesson in their memories, Kara selected a woman in the room and washed her feet.
This was not just any woman. This was a woman who understands suffering and loss. In the waning days of the Khmer Rouge, she was escorted along with thousands of others to a place where they were to be executed. Miraculously, she survived. So, when Kara started to wash her feet, this woman was overwhelmed with emotion. Why would anyone stoop to wash her feet?
The women on our team spent the rest of the morning washing the feet of every woman in attendance and then praying for each one. There was no shortage of tears. This simple act affirmed to each of the women that they are indeed valued by God.
Many of the Cambodian women, who have a low estimation of themselves, were astonished that someone from the west, whom they regard as the highest of the high, would stoop to wash their feet. We explained that there is no caste system in God’s kingdom. He cautions His followers to not think more highly of themselves than they ought and to always regard the interests of others.
After the last prayer, it was hard to say goodbye. All of the women had bonded on a deep level and regarded each other as members of the same family. This was a band of sisters united by their common love for Jesus Christ and for one another. That is the beauty of the kingdom of God and what can happen when we follow the example of service set by Jesus. The simple act of washing feet enabled us to build bridges of love from one heart to another.