Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #14: Day 5

Discovery-Trip
This is my 13th journal entry as part of the OCC Volunteer Discovery Trip. The material relates to the 12th journal day which was Sunday 7 February. The alternate-day publication schedule allows me to post this in full, after returning from the trip.

The other articles available for this series are:

  1. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #1: Introduction
  2. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #2: God First
  3. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #3: 7 Days Before You Depart
  4. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #4: 6 Days Before You Go 
  5. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #5: 5 Days and Counting 
  6. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #6: 4 Days – Not Long Now
  7. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #7: 3 Days Left
  8. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #8: Less Than 48 Hours!
  9. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #9: What Will Happen When You Return?
  10. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #10: Today Is the Day
  11. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #11: Day 2
  12. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #12: Day 3
  13. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #13: Day 4
  14. Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip #14: Day 5 [this article]

Journal Guide

READ 2 CORINTHIANS 12:10

That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

That is not a very fun verse. I hate facing up to my weaknesses, my inabilities, my limits, nevertheless considering that I should be content with them. The Apostle Paul was very well aware of his limits and in that condition he found great strength because he recognized he HAD to rely on the Lord. To be great in the eyes of the world is to have all the answers, to be the ‘go to’ person, to have it all together. To be great in God’s economy looks like humbly coming to God acknowledging our weaknesses so that He can do a great work through us.

When was the last time you considered your weaknesses, distresses and difficulties? Write a few of them down. How is the personality and character of Jesus taking shape in you so that you are experiencing His strength?

Journal Write-Up

The bible reading above is closely related to Luke 9 and the Day #3 journal which examines the topic of greatest. The last half of the verse reminds me of the Hillsong song All Things Are Possible, specifically the chorus:

When I am weak you make me strong,
When I’m poor, I know I’m rich for in the power of your name
All things are possible, all things are possible

For me, I personally went through this journey of submitting to God my life and relying on His strength a good many years ago. It was at some point in my life when the stress of work, church ministry and family life was getting too much to bear and I simply placed all the burdens at the feet of Jesus. He has since given me His God-centred burden to bear and through Him I find I am empowered to face each day and the challenges that come my way. Truly, I know and can identify with 2 Corinthians 12:10 – I know I am weak but that all that I accomplish is in God’s strength and according to His will. Since I adopted this mindset years’ ago, the challenge for me is to be mindful of it and not get arrogant or prideful.

The interesting thought about the journal guide and commentary is that the world may actually attribute some form of greatness to me in the workplace since I tend to have the ability to direct people and provide answers. In my job, I am generally a ‘go to’ person and on the surface it would appear that I have it all together. The reality is that all this is possible because I have God with me, constantly feeding me with positive thoughts and a healthy mindset. Generally, in the workplace, I offer a peaceful, relaxing attitude; a peace-maker, calm and with a good perspective on work issues. I have in recent years made people the focus of my work – this allows me to apply Christian biblical principles in the work place in addition to all the secular relational teachings. One of my favourite subjects from my MBA was Managing People for High Performance, where the tools and techniques discussed arm us with the ability to inspire and influence people who are already geared towards high performance and success. The parallels between the secular and biblical teachings combine well in my opinion to bring the Gospel into the workplace comfortably and in a non-threatening way.

My career has been influenced by the bible in that my worldly ambitious nature has been tempered by the Word. Instead of aspiring for self glorification, I have constantly kept my face down and focused on delivering the best results possible with God’s help. Historically I have let other people do the praising and talking about my (great) performance and I graciously accept it. I must be doing something right in adopting this approach because in recent years, my performance review outcomes have been consistently exceeding expectations and I have been rewarded appropriately.

Event Reflections

Sunday 7 February saw our team complete the final two Operation Christmas Child shoe-box drops. The first one was held out in a rural village area. When we arrived we had a quick review of the group size since the large carton boxes suggested we could  be short of shoe-boxes. As it turned out, we had exactly the 190 shoe-boxes required – praise God! The shoe-box distribution was fairly quick with the kids running off home quickly; the morning was fairly cool (low of 14~15 degrees) and some of the kids were visibly shivering! After the distribution, we spent some time in the surrounding area to walk over to the river shoreline where gardens were present. The scenery was very picturesque and with the weather noticeably cooler than the previous days, we enjoyed the temperate climate for a good hour. Some of the kids returned on bike, along with other locals who came to the river to do their washing.

After lunch, we proceeded to church, which was a very quick 5-minute drive down the road since this church was in Sisophon, on one of the main roads. The church, Way of Youth, has an interesting property layout, with the road frontage occupied by an original building, which had been converted into a walk-through garage area. It also doubled up as accommodation space for the young men who would stay overnight at the facility. One of the key ministries of this church was to offer accommodation services to the young Cambodians since a good proportion of the congregation would have originated from the rural villages outside of Sisophon. After the church service, I had a really in-depth conversation with one of the youth leaders who was typical of this profile. For this guy, he had full-time employment at a business in Battambang so Sisophon offered a good half-way point between his family in the village areas and his place of work. To further emphasize the point, this guy had taken three days as time off over the Chinese New Year period and was going to stay at the church on-transit to his home village.

When we arrived, as expected like the other OCC shoe-box drops, the kids church program was in progress. I was definitely becoming quite familiar with the scene and based on keywords like Jesus (Yesu), I had a very rough idea of what was being taught to the children. When all the kids repeated a very familiar chant in unison, it reminded me of the same thing that we witnessed the day before when the kids at the school were reciting as one voice John 3:16 in Khmer!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For this final shoe-box drop we returned to singing our original song choice – If You’re Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands which we performed complete with actions twice to the enjoyment of all. A fourth member of the team helped to share the short message on why we had come all the way from Australia/New Zealand (Canada) to deliver the shoe-boxes before we proceeded to unpack the cartons and distribute this final lot of ~100 shoe-boxes. Whilst we ended up with a few extra shoe-boxes, a similar theme emerged where the proportion of shoe-boxes across gender and age-groups was unequal and we had to give shoe-boxes meant for older kids to the younger ones. Mind you, this was a judgement call on our part since our ability to guess and gauge the kids’ ages was quite hard. Case in point, I was picked by our host Wayne to play the age-guessing game. The kid went first and started off with a guess of 21! We laughed and some of the team tried to hand-signal and hint that I was much older! The kids took about 7 guesses to finally there: 21 – 25 – 30 – 34 – 31 – 32 – 33! Playing along, it was my turn to then guess this kids age – 5 – 8 – 10 – 15 (intentional overshoot) – 12! If you saw this kid, from Australian standards he would be a tiny 12-year-old… This sadly is typical of the Cambodian kids where they are physically tiny because of undernourishment particularly in their younger years.

With the completion of the shoe-box distribution, the kids all scattered and dashed off home. The church staff then started to set up for the adult service which commenced promptly at 2pm. For worship, other than one song I half-recognised, the other two were very familiar songs: How Great Is Our God and Still. I was not the only person to recognise the two songs – other people in our group were trying to work out why the last song sounded so familiar, and one of the song stanzas was sung to a slightly different melody which confused us temporarily. The challenge with Still is that the name of the song and lyrics are not the easiest pairing – it is really only in the last line of the chorus where the word “still” is mentioned:

When the oceans rise and thunders roar

I will soar with You above the storm

Father You are King over the flood

I will be still, know You are God

After worship, one of our team members was invited to provide a sermon. As guest speaker, our team member spoke on Job and the trials that God allowed him to face. In spite of all the hardships, the lesson from Job was that no matter how much God gave and took away, Job still remained faithful to God. As part of wrapping up the sermon, the story of the Carrots, Eggs and Coffee was shared:

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft and mushy. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hardened egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its deep flavour and inhaled its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What’s the point, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity – boiling water – but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin, outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong? But with pain and adversity, do I wilt and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit but, after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water – the very circumstance that brings the adversity, the pain, the hardship – into something quite wonderful. When the water gets hot, it releases its fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you for the better.

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level? How do you handle adversity?

The other contribution our SP team had prepared for as part of this church service was to lead the congregation in a closing song/worship. Interestingly the motivation behind our selection of song also revolved around the theme/topic of God giving and taking away – and this was not intentional. The story behind the song selection was only hours old since it was over lunch that the waitress had brought one dish incorrectly to the end of the table and then, in realising the mistake, took it away. This action prompted one team member to joke that God gives and takes away. Arguably, there is one song that most of us will think of immediately, because the bridge lyrics are precisely that:

You give and take away.
You give and take away.
My heart will choose to say.
Lord, blessed be Your name!

Blessed Be Your Name is my #4 favourite song from the 2000s. We sang the whole song in a traditional arrangement:

  1. Verse 1 & 2
  2. Pre-Chorus & Chorus
  3. Verse 3 & 4
  4. Pre-Chorus & Chorus (twice)
  5. Bridge (2-3 times)
  6. Chorus (twice)

It was even encouraging to hear some of the local Cambodian congregation join in and sing along since they clearly recognised and knew the song.

Verse 1

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Verse 2

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Pre-Chorus

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Chorus

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Verse 3

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Verse 4

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Bridge
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

After this, Blessed Be Your Name became something of our team theme song. I knew I was definitely humming it for the next few days!