My team and I were in Cambodia to teach, but God knew we were there for more. When you travel with a purpose, you will not only have amazing adventures, but God will use you as His hands and feet for His good work.
Cambodia was our December destination to help teach English to local children. Each day looked roughly the same. Four of us taught English in an elementary school, and the other three of us taught English at a church to preschoolers. However, on Wednesday, December 20th, God interrupted our ‘normal’ routine.
Our host, we call him Pastor, drove his tuk tuk* into the front yard and four of my teammates and I hopped in. On our way to our respective locations, we were chatting about our lesson plans. Would we yet again go over the alphabet? Would the children understand if we tried to teach them something new? What if we tried more visual aids?
As we neared the school, I looked out to the left where I saw the fields of crop waiting for harvesters. Cambodia is absolutely breathtaking.
Moments later, I noticed something ahead on the side of the road. I could make out white cloth and what looked like knees. We passed the thing, and immediately I knew it was a ‘him’. I looked at the girls across from me in the tuk tuk and said, “Wait, that was a human.”
As I said these words, Pastor began to slow down. He parked the tuk tuk, and we both hurried to the man. He was an older man, gray and thin. His white beard twitched, and his tanned legs were crumbled under his body. He looked like he had been lying in the sun for hours.
“Is he alive?” I said grabbing his arm.
His clothes were tattered, and his skin was hot to the touch. I noticed a walking cane that had fallen a few feet to his left. He had no doubt collapsed in the Cambodian heat.
Pastor looked at me and said, “This man is a witch doctor. He is the ‘magic man’, and he walks all over the community practicing his beliefs.”
I immediately began praying, because I knew that this was not a coincidental encounter. Pastor began speaking to the unresponsive man in Khmer* as he lifted his pale face. One of my other teammates had ran up behind us and passed me her water bottle as the other three remained praying in the tuk tuk. I poured some for the man to drink as Pastor opened his mouth. The man sipped slowly as his eyes remained closed.
Pastor looked at us and said, “He is going to die here in this sun. Help me move him over to the shade.”
We lifted his frail body and moved him a few feet. Another teammate had walked up, removed her cardigan, and propped his head off the ground. I took more water and washed his face, legs, and arms hoping that it would cool his fever.
“Well, do we leave him here or what?” Pastor asked us.
The five of us looked at one another and decided that this was not an option. How could we leave a man to die? Collectively, we decided to find and deliver him to his home. We loaded him in the tuk tuk and propped him up on our shoulders. I grabbed his hand and one of my teammates stroked his silver hair. Each of us prayed over him as we tried to give him more water.
A few kilometers down the road, Pastor turned the tuk tuk into the man’s driveway. Two women, the older one gardening and the younger one sitting with her children, looked at us and were startled to see their loved one passed out. Pastor hopped off the tuk tuk to explain the situation to them, and they received the news with gratitude for our help.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” the younger woman said as we carried the man to a table near his tree house*.
We said one last prayer over him, and we left for our school sites. As we traveled down the road, I felt strongly that we needed to visit the man and his family again the next day.
The next morning we set out for the home. As we pulled up in the family’s yard, the two women invited us upstairs where the man was lying on a mat. We entered, and the man slowly lifted his head. He looked at each of us as we kneeled around him. He looked much more responsive today. Pastor explained in Khmer what happened yesterday, and why we were back. The man looked confused but nodded his head.
Pastor looked at us and said, “Everyone living in the community is afraid of this man, because he practices magic. What do you wish to say to him?”
“Well, have they heard about Jesus?” I asked.
“No, they have not. They believe in Buddha,” he responded.
My team and I looked at one another, smiled, and shared the gospel. We shared the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We shared our stories of living life with Jesus. We explained that God is relational, that He speaks to us, and that He desires to know us.
The younger girl (the man’s granddaughter) began to weep. We prayed over the family. We prayed for healing over the man, and we lead the girl in a salvation prayer.
As we were preparing to leave, the older woman grabbed my hand and showed me her right arm and leg. Pastor translated and told me that her right side was immobile due to high blood pressure and potentially a stroke. We laid hands on her and asked for God’s healing. When the prayer was finished, she smiled, moved her right hand, and said that it was better (praise God!).
She looked up at Pastor and looked around at us. She asked him how long he had known us. He told her he had only known us a few weeks, and we were leaving for Thailand soon. She responded by saying that she could tell there was something different about us that she had not experienced before.
“It’s all because of Jesus,” I said smiling.
*A tuk tuk is the ‘local transportation’ of Cambodia. It is a motorcycle that pulls a trailer with seats on it
*Khmer is the official language in Cambodia
*Most of the homes in the village where we stay are referred to as ‘tree houses’. They are typically one or two rooms (usually 10x10 with wooden walls and wooden floors) raised on beams for flooding purposes