P’Sah (Market)

I absolutely love photography as a tool to tell a story. Wandering my local market today, I hoped to do just that. These are technically not the best shots I have ever taken, but they reminded me of why I am here when I prayed and asked God for His perspective and heart for Cambodia. Enjoy!

(Photocopy property belongs to me. Unless you are in the photo, please do not copy or use without my permission)

 

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Dear Plastic Bottle Lady

NFSDTS-38The unrelenting, tropical sun bores down. The heat is oppressive. This is all she knows. Dust flies up from the pavement, gagging her as a moto carelessly passes too close.

Most would not notice her save for the obnoxious squeaky noise her homemade horn makes every few steps to alert them of her presence. Like an unconfessed sin, she drags her heavy burden, a metal two-wheeled cart. Her calloused feet shuffle in cheap, plastic sandals. Her thin, strong arms strain with each step. The broad-brimmed hat is sweat-stained and faded. It shields the still beautiful but worn brown face. Her face.

Her job every day is collecting plastic bottles and cardboard to recycle. In a city littered with plastic bags, she plays her role well. Sometimes the point of desperation leaves her rummaging through trash to find more.

Some are merciful and set aside their plastic for her, many others don’t care. She brushes food remains off the precious plastic and throws it in her cart. A pittance will be paid. But, she must eat.

A fancy, black Lexus maneuvers past choking her with dust again. A coconut cart stops in nearby shade. Her parched mouth yearns for respite, but she cannot afford to stop and buy the refreshing drink. Perhaps they will take pity on her. She has never known a full stomach. The growling belly ache a constant companion. The muscle ache a constant companion. When rice offers relief it vanishes a few hours later of walking the streets.

Her hands are worn and dirty, but she has one of the cleanest jobs in her slum. In a land where girls’ bodies sell daily for mere dollars, she works to avoid this horror. She might be one of the lucky ones. Or maybe she is just too old now to appeal in the sex market.

On a good night situated on the outskirts of town, a stuffy, dimly lit room offers her shelter. At the top of a wooden tenement, all she can afford is this veritable coffin for her soul. When it rains, the tin roof echoes a deafening noise. She is too tired to notice and drifts into exhausted, dream-filled sleep. Her child cuddles close making it even hotter.

It is the only time she can afford to dream. The days meld seamlessly into one and she dares not think of a life she might have had. She never really knew how to day dream.

Today. She must live to survive today. When Fate meted out her destiny, Fate was cruel. It is her place in the world to live as a destitute woman at the bottom. She plays this role well.

One painful occasion, her mind flickers to days past. How long ago, she has not tracked nor traced. From the day she was born, she was cursed. Given a harsh name reflecting her dark-brown skin, she was never wanted. Passed around the family, resentful they fed her. In return, she tried to keep out-of-the-way. If she did anything to be seen or heard, it usually ended in a beating. The same way her calloused hands are now raised to cuff the behavior of her own progeny. She never knew any different.

Fate and Karma. They tell her she must have done something wrong to deserve her life. They echo in her mind, “There is nothing you can do to change this life.” If this is what the Universe wants for her, then she gives it in sweat and unshed tears.

The ache deeper than any empty stomach is the promise of unfulfilled love. Her mind rarely goes back to the dark eyes that scanned her young body accompanied by his calculated and ruthless grin. His promise of love that played out in rough, sadistic sex. He told her she was beautiful. Then again, he told this to several women. She always knew what he really was but wanted to believe Fate had something better for her. Never again would she believe. The tiny, curly black head that pressed against her when she slept was all he left her with. She loved that little boy but hated him at the same time. He required so much but gave nothing. He reminded her of unfulfilled love. Would he become his shiftless father? She pressed down the fear.

That cruel man was gone, never to return. He was dust now. A drunken moto accident made sure of that.

Karma.

Her feet shuffle. The only reason to keep going is that little curly head. One day she will be dust. What will Fate do to her then?

I shed all the tears for her she will never shed. I see her leathered face and dark sad eyes. I see her and I think she is beautiful. She may never know I see her, but I try to catch her eye. I try to smile a warm smile.

My prayers do not waft up like incense. Instead the litany flies from my soul in a desperate urgency. I cannot speak her language, yet I desire for her to know that she is so much more than a toy of the gods whose life is cast aimlessly about. She is beautiful and seen. The dear plastic bottle lady, she is worth more than gold by a limitless and gracious God. His image she bears. She has purpose. She is loved.

I yearn to run to her, bringing her a cool drink and tell her all of this. I weep because a cool drink will only give her respite for a moment. I want to give her something that will fill her into eternity. I hesitate because I do not want to turn her into a charity case or someone who relies on aid (or a white person). I hesitate not wanting to strip her of any pride that may be left, pride that keeps her going one more day. But, I do not have the answers or capacity of understanding to know what to do.

So I pray. I weep. I seek an understanding. I lift her up to God because I know He longs to draw her close and love her.

I pray, “God, help me to best love the plastic bottle lady.”

This story is inspired by the women and men who spend their days walking Phnom Penh streets collecting recycling. It is not one specific woman’s story, but a combination of people I have met, heard from, and observed in my time here in Cambodia. Several of the details about her life are similar to many of the Khmer women and girls I have met. My prayers and heartache are all legitimate and real petitions I pray, desiring for answers and understanding.

Ugly, Messy Christmas: Beyond the Tinsel and Bright Lights

Tuscany2014-154As my tuk-tuk sputtered and strained past the River Front, I took in the rare sight of green grass and trees strategically placed and manicured for tourists. I also noted the glitter, bright lights, and tinsel that announced it was Christmas time. A moto with two orange-clad Buddhist monks passed in time to remind me I was a long way from my Judeo-Christian influenced native country. Santa suits of all sizes bedecked a street corner while people milled about the cafes.

Despite it being my third year enjoying a warm December, my sweat glands and brain struggle to connect this is Christmas time.

My heart sank a little. After Cambodia re-opened to foreigners and the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror ebbed, this was our influence? Tacky tinsel and Santa suits? So many professing Christians have moved their lives halfway around the world to work with street children or open safe houses, yet the most physically obvious reflection of our influence is commercialism.

I say this not wanting to undermine the hundreds of men and women who have left the sex industry, although it is still unfortunately thriving. I do not want to undermine the Khmer churches that have cropped up. Still, I was sad to see what most Khmer people probably see: Christmas is some bright, consumerist, glittery event.

The truth of it all is Christmas is messy. Really, really messy.

God. The God – who spoke and created the world – came to earth as a slobbery, pooping baby. He was born by an unmarried woman in a barn, no less. Despite the cleanliness of some barns, this does not seem a suitable place for a birth, let alone the God of the universe.

His tale does not end there. Sure people came and laid gifts at his feet and there was a bright star…. but then his family had to flee because the ruler of the land was intent on killing him. That same ruler massacred all the boys under that age of two. Can you imagine seeing that on the news?

Welcome to the earth, God!

He grew up in some hick town doing wood shop as an illegitimate child.

Then, in the end, just when he was becoming famous, his fans killed him. Not just killed, but brutally killed in one of the most painful possible deaths. One of the most shameful deaths. Even his closest friends denied knowing him.

Christmas is so messy.

And, why?

Because of Love. Perfect, incredible love. There is no grief or pain, we will pass through that our Creator and God does not understand. There is no price we can ever pay in our lives that will cover a fraction of the costs of what God did for us.

I felt led to share this with my Monday morning prayer group. It is a group made up of men and women with whom I work. Several of them spent years and years of their lives being used and sold for sex. Several of them are or have children outside of marriage, live in an obscure slum, and are acquainted with grief and hurt I will never understand.

If I, as an expat, leave one mark on Cambodia for Christmas, my desire is this: Christmas is not flashy or bright or pretty. It is a huge, ugly mess. Yet, it is the most beautifully glorious game-changer for the human race.

We could only offer him our worst, yet Christ gave us everything… to the point of death, even death on a Cross so that our big, ugly messes would be redeemed and made beautiful. That to me is worth celebrating, but not with tinsel, trees, and bright lights. It’s worth celebrating with an incredibly humbled and grateful heart.

Angkor 2013-1

Italy In Photos

For 5 weeks before heading to Cambodia, I spent time living out one of my dreams to see Italy. Starting in San G to Firenze, Milano, Castel di Sangro, Francavilla, ending with one day in Rome. It was amazing! Abruzzo was my favorite.

Wild Ride: My Daily Commute

TuktukAfter wedging the bulging contents of my bag into the straining front basket and wind my purse strap around the handlebars several times, I put on my bike helmet. False hopes of a good hair day are literally crushed. Wheeling my bike out the front gate, I balance the rear of it with one hand while closing the heavy gate with the other hand. Just inches from my front tire, a motor bike whizzes past, telling me it is now or never.

In a dress, no less, I take a running start and jump on my bike, and proceed down the road. If I slow, I tip to one side or the other. Even on tiptoe, I strain to put both feet on the ground from the height of my seat.

Dress tucked neatly between my legs, pedaling ensues. I dodge a huge pothole, within seconds of that a motorbike passes me on the left, another on the right, another is oncoming. All this while keeping a close eye on the stray dogs, a food vendor next to the road cooking breakfast for patrons, the gaggle of small children chasing the street dogs, and the construction workers on my left heaving loads of bricks and cement over their shoulders. They stop to point out the white girl on her bike. I am not sure why, as this is my daily ritual.

Vigorously I ring my bell to inform them I am coming. No one listens. I veer around one of the men who is casually lighting his cigarette in the middle of the street.

I need to turn left. Despite the “natural flow” of traffic being on the right hand side of the road, one cannot merely make a left from the right lane. So, I ease to the left side of the road, slow a bit, and turn the corner to face oncoming traffic. I am blind around the corner as a large umbrella over a push cart blocks all view. A car approaches from behind and honks. A bike and three motos approach from ahead. One passes on my right, the other two on my left. I ease over, while checking behind my shoulder simultaneously watching people headed into oncoming traffic from the next intersection. I dodge another pothole the size and depth of a small crater.

I ring my bell again as I enter the intersection. Traffic – all at different speeds – enters the intersection from all four directions. Left, left, right, straight, brake. Brake slowly, brake quickly. This is a split second of my thinking. It is all I can focus on.

Dust billows and I cough, blinking to overcome temporary blindness. A huge parked truck has taken up the right side of the road, so traffic moves into the left. My handle bars miss the truck by mere molecules of air, as an oncoming car squeezes past on my left. I can feel the breeze of the car, its mirror fitting neatly under my left handle bar grazes my leg. But, I am not fazed. This is normal. I brake as a tuk-tuk drives slowly ahead, heavy laden with white women in bright tourist clothing from the market talking and laughing within.

Since I sit so high on my bike, I survey the oncoming situation, quickly calculate speed and distance in my head, and begin pedaling with might-and-mane to overtake the tuk-tuk before the large SUV and three oncoming motos catch us. Head down, leaning in, I whip around the tuk-tuk and merge directly in front of him, but slightly faster just in time for the SUV to pass.

He honks.

Everyone honks.

I have learned to ignore horns. They can mean one of many things.

One, “I am coming.” Two, “You are in my way.” Three, “You cut me off.” Four, “I just honk every few meters for the hell of it.” The latter is the most likely.

Despite it being morning, sweat rolls down my back. It tickles my spine, but both hands on both brakes are necessary at all times.

I turn down a very rutted road. Jarring every bone in my body, I bounce around choosing the least disastrous pothole to dive into. Not hitting a hole is not an option. I raise myself off my seat a bit, bend at the knees, and ride the potholes. Some filled in with loose rocks and I struggle to gain control as a moto swerves directly ahead of me to miss a huge hole on his end of the street. I take evasive action, while trying not to slam into the vehicle on my immediate right.

To take a left onto the next busy road, I cut quickly into oncoming traffic, turn at the petrol station, and bike through people pumping gas, followed by several motos who do the same. We meet oncoming traffic, dodge left, dodge right, and eventually end up in our lane again. A small steep incline greets me. I have two options: slow and look for traffic or pedal with everything to get up this hill. If I slow, I will tip over and fall into traffic, so I stand up on my pedals again and go for it.

I wedge through a tight jam of vehicles all trying to turn different directions at this intersection. They are woven together in a barely moving grid lock. I try to bike on the shoulder, but there are too many oncoming vehicles driving down the wrong side, so I meld into traffic. One moto barely misses me as the man talks on his cell phone neatly tucked into his helmet. I pass a moto with a melancholic toddler dangling over the front handle bar, a woman clutching the driver’s midsection with another child sandwiched between them, and a load of groceries balancing on back. Her dark hair is streaming in the breeze; plastic flip-flops clad her feet. Silently, they watch me go by.

While this road boasts two traffic lanes in each direction, there are about seven vehicles wide going each way. I end up in group of motos packed behind a large dump truck but in front of a tourist bus. The flow quickly slows pace as a Lexus SUV decides to make a left turn from the right side of the road, blocking out everyone.

The only road rule here is the big vehicles win.

I am the only person on the road who seems to have a problem with this situation.

I try to balance on my bike without touching the ground as our pack of motos and bicycles grows tighter. More motos join from cramming in behind the bigger vehicles. I hesitate to put my legs down for fear of burning them on someone’s hot exhaust pipe, sitting mere inches from me. I tuck my face into my arm pit in a hope the black billowing smoke coming out of the truck will not go directly into my lungs.

While we wait, the nicely dressed moto driver on my right decides he should be on the left of me. He makes eye contact and then shoves his front wheel directly in front of mine. Despite the fact he will not fit, he seems to insist magic will happen. Rolling slowly forward, he moves closer and closer. I glare at him. He is unfazed. Traffic begins to move, but I am trapped until Mr. Moto can slide past and proceed to block out more people. I swerve behind him and start biking again. Looking over my shoulder while simultaneously checking my surrounding from every direction and watching oncoming motorists, I ease closer to the right side of the road. This time I slow to swerve around the metal cart, laden with coconuts, and is pushed down the road. Yes, a person is physically pushing this down a main street.

The vendor determined his coconuts will sell better on the other side of the road, so he precariously weaves his coconut cart through the dense traffic.

All the while, a car, three motos, and a tuk-tuk appear on my right. Without glancing in mirrors or over their shoulders, they shove me back to the left. I have no choice as they will not yield.

The immaculately clean Lexus ahead of me brakes without warning. How do I know it is a Lexus? The owners here find it a point to show their status by having the words, “LEXUS” printed as large as possible and painted on the side of their vehicle. A pale Cambodian woman with long painted nails and several large diamonds adorning her hands sits behind the wheel. She is also on her cell phone. She did not stop for any reason other than to gape at the buildings on the other side of the road.

I scrutinize oncoming traffic and proceed to pass her on the left while dodging more oncoming vehicles. Absorbing back into the lane, the vehicles slow again as a man steps into the road with his hand out and an orange glow stick. A truck reverses out of a business and onto the road. The man waves it back. Brave motos slide past from behind, as other vehicles squeeze around his front. I wait. After doing a five –point turn, the truck is now out and accelerating.

We start again.

Just as we pick up speed, a group of uniform clad school children are on the road. Some of them run. Some of them walk. Not one of them looks. Now they are in four different places on the road. My heart almost stops. I make eye contact with one directly ahead to determine if I bike around her on the front or the back since I have no time to stop. I decide to go behind her when she panics and freezes. I swerve to miss, cutting off a moto with three men on it who honks at me.

Crisis averted.

I am now stuck behind a moto with live chickens dangling by their legs off the back. The other moto ahead balances four natural gas bottles bungeed together. I hope and pray he does not crash.

I am sweating profusely at this point but do not notice.

Hitting more potholes and running over my one millionth plastic bag littering the road way, I merge again. This time. I need to make a left, but now there is a cement barrier down the road. I stop my bike, step on the barrier, lift the bicycle and contents, point it the other direction, and wait for traffic to clear before I set it in the lane, jump on, and start biking to match the speed of traffic. While doing this I weave right to take the next turn.

More honking.

It is now raining. Tuk-tuk drivers pull over to put on their plastic rain ponchos. I just keep going. The potholes quickly fill with water, so I can no longer judge their depth or location accurately. The dirty, wet spray from the vehicle up ahead hits my face; I ease my speed and turn my head to avoid it. Soon I am pedaling in six inches of sewage running down the side of the road. My feet are coated. My nostrils assaulted but stopping is not an option.

Eventually, I make it. I just cycled about three kilometers.

Welcome to my daily commute. An extreme sport in and of itself. I lived another day. Praise the Lord!

 

Weeping, Brokenness, and Learning to Love Conviction

IMG_0293Sometimes I enter His throne room, say, “Papa God, I need You,” crawl into His lap and let Him speak love over me.

Sometimes I enter His throne room in awe and reverence. Unable to speak at the pure wonder that is my God. I stand back. Unable to gaze upon Him, I fall to my knees. I weep. I weep. I weep. It is a cleansing process. I am broken but leave renewed.

I stood at my kitchen sink washing dishes and thinking about conviction. I had just listened to a sermon by Francis Chan. Or rather I should say – a sermon by God spoken through Francis Chan. Pondering the sermon and what is going on in our world I am broken. I am so, so broken for this world. I want to kick and scream and claw my way through injustice.

As I scrubbed away at my dishes I was in the latter instance of God’s throne room. I prayed the ever dangerous prayer, “God, convict me! I want Your Holy conviction over my life. I never want to grow cold for You. I never, ever want to stop growing in my knowledge of You. I know I am not there yet, so please, please pour out Your wisdom and conviction over me.”

I have learned to love dangerous prayers.

I have learned to love conviction.

Because my God is a righteous God! And the goal is to look like Christ.

1 Timothy 1:5: “But the real goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

My heartbreak for the world, however, came out of hearing 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.…”

I stood there thinking, this is the modern church. I look at the news and what is going on in my native country now. We preach love and love and love and mercy and mercy and more mercy but where, oh, where is the Fear of the Lord? And, can it truly be love if there is no correction?

Not condemnation, but Holy reverence for an Almighty God! A righteous God. A Just God.

Yes, heaps of people are screaming for justice now, but if we truly understood justice and getting what we deserved, I think we would all ask for less of it. What I realize is people want justice for the wrongs done to them but not justice to be poured out on them for the wrongs they have committed.

Oh, wait, but our ears are tickled, so we do not need to feel like we have done anything wrong. God is merciful, do what makes you feel good. Isn’t love all that matters, right?

Yes, a just, righteous, pure, perfect and Holy love is all that matters. You, my friends and me, myself, and I, have missed that mark.

The thought that followed, however, was, “How can I be sure I do not become one of them? How can I know the doctrine and words I am ingesting withstands the pounding of the world? Are from God? Withstand popular demand?”

I am about to become a salmon swimming upstream if I take on this dangerous prayer! Except all the other salmon are going out to sea.

In that moment I asked for a sharpening of conviction over my life.

Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Weeping followed. I fell to the ground. Dishes left half scrubbed. Face to the floor. Tears creating pools of water.

I was in the presence of God. The God!

It was painful but beautiful. He came down from His throne. Knelt beside me. Put His hand on my head. Knowledge came to me.

Last week a man prayed for me and spoke, “You hate injustice and will be a bully to bullies. You will have to stand against the world for what is right. You are a fighter, called to take up a sword.” He also spoke the word “wisdom” over me.

Everything He said I have heard over and over in my life. But, sometimes I am so, so tired of standing ground. Sometimes I just want it easy and it never is.

My father told me as a small child, “Your name means peace. You have come to bring peace to others, but that does not mean you will have peace in your own life.”

Awesome encouragement, Dad!

Alas, it is truth. Truth sometimes I wish was not put on me. Ah, but in that moment before God I know that I know that I know that it is not about being right. It is not about having rest. It is not about fighting windmills or pointless battles. I know that it is about God. Pure and simple. He is so mighty, awesome, righteous, good, and worth it!

Nothing else matters.

I want conviction. I love conviction. Why? Because, in the end, it’s about being like Jesus. And, when He put His hand on my head as I stained the floor with my tears I knew I was not alone in this.

I remember during my Discipleship Training School, we were in the Australian bush. The stars were a canopy above us in the night sky and a cross stood on the other side of the field. We finished off a week on Lordship with Mark Parker. He told us we were in a battle. My whole school linked arms and started walking to the cross. Then we broke into a run. 37 of us let out a cry, put our fist in the air, and sprinted to there where we bowed down in fear of the Lord and prayed.

I think of them now. They represent the ones who will endure to the end.

We are in difficult times. The people in the church are being sifted. Sin is wreaking havoc on the world.

Bring it on! I am not alone and I know who wins!

I pray I keep loving conviction. I pray you learn to love it too.

A Day In The LIFE

Selfie2014-1A rat the size of a small dog scurried past as I put down my kick-stand and removed my sweaty helmet. “That is a HUGE rat!” I exclaimed while no one was around to listen.

My landlords have a small dog with matted, tangled grey fur. His name is Tony. Tony has dreadlocks coming off of his rear end. Tony needs a good grooming. I can usually smell Tony before I see him. Sometimes, Tony loves me. Other times, Tony pees on my floor or lunges at me and snaps. I am pretty sure this rat could take Tony in a fight.

I saw the rat again today on my third floor balcony. Thankfully, he did not notice my open door. I am not sure who should be more thankful as I devised how to get rid of him. Poison? Trap? Or beating him to death with a broom if I find him in my home?

This comes in the wake of my battle with the ants. I find ants everywhere. I mean everywhere. I keep this house spotless, they still find the one grain of sugar that got away and send thousands to feast upon it. Ants actually destroyed the wiring to my hot water heater in my bathroom. I had to get the landlord’s “nephew” to replace my breaker. This is the same “nephew” who fixed my leaky pipe with electrical tape. Yes, it still leaks. Yes, I have given up on calling the landlord’s nephew and have decided to do support-raising for a tool box.

Did I mention I have a bat living in my bathroom vent? I named him Bartok. He’s pretty harmless except for the excessive amounts of guano he kindly bestows upon my back patio.

Then, there are the weevils. Some are still in white, wriggling larva stage, while others are now full-blown black-with-legs stage. I sift my flour several times to rid my meals of weevils. Extra protein, I guess. Thankfully, Papua New Guinea has prepared me well for life here in Cambodia. I am hardly fazed by these things.

Okay, the rat fazes me. I will crawl up on a table and squeal with the best of girly girls if that rat shows itself in my home. I keep this home too clean to allow him to reside here!

Phnom Penh is a city of about 2.2 million people. We all live within a few miles range of each other, however. I can bike across the city in a matter of 30 minutes. (30 very sweaty minutes). That is if there are not protests going on and riot police start barricading streets. Yes, that happened this week on my way home from work… no, it did not turn into a big deal.

I live within a block of an open sewage ditch. We all refer to it as the “stinky river.” Everyone in town knows exactly where I live when I reference it. Along that ditch is a market where I buy most of my fruit and veg. Don’t worry, it is not grown near the stinky river.

When it rains – almost daily – the sewage here backs up into the streets. I was biking home in the rain the other day enjoying splashing through puddles when it hit me, that’s not mud. Needless to say, I hosed off when I got home.

All-in-all, I am settling in, I won the flatmate lottery. Karen is awesome and we get along great…. when we actually see each other.

I really enjoy my job and co-workers. I cannot talk much about my work. It is intense. Some weeks we deal with women coming to work with black eyes from their “husbands.” Other weeks we deal with employees on the verge of death from AIDS or leukemia. Every day we deal with incredible brokenness. Thankfully there is grace. Grace for us. Grace for them.

There is also healing. Both of those sick women were healed from almost near death. I cannot express the joy that came when my coworkers rushed in to tell me the woman who a few days earlier was too weak to sit up from leukemia is now eating, moving, flushed with rosy color and praising God for her healing!

Every day we also deal with a new beginning. I am learning more and more about the power of God. I could never do what I do without God’s leading. Every day prayer is our biggest tool. Please join me in this.

I cannot emphasize prayer enough.

“Prayer is not flight, prayer is power. Prayer does not deliver a man from some terrible situation; prayer enables a man to face and to master the situation.” –William Barclay

Not About Me

Europe 2014-11Reiterated time and time again, Life is not about me. Erin.

It amazes me how often I have to learn this lesson.

Before I fly, I always pray about who I will sit next to on my flight. Being honest, usually because I still despise flying and want a distraction in the form of a riveting conversation.

Disappointed, I boarded my plane in Rome to see a 40-something, Sri Lankan man take his place next to me. After exchanging a few quick greetings, I realized he spoke little English.

*Sigh* “This is going to be a long flight,” I thought to myself and browsed the movie selection on the headrest in front of me.

As flight attendants served dinner, the man attempted to make friendly conversation. We both had to repeat ourselves several times. It had been a month since I had been around native English speakers and I grew weary of expressing myself in simple broken sentences while waving my hands madly about.

What I did learn, however, gave me room for pause. He was returning to Sri Lanka from Italy where he worked as a DJ in Naples. Michael was his name. Michael’s father, whom he hadn’t seen in four years, passed away suddenly from a heart attack. I offered my condolences as best I could and prayed, “God, I don’t speak his language, how do I help or comfort?”

The empty trays were cleared. He returned to his music; I to my movie but my heart was heavy, so I prayed for this man.

Less than an hour passed and I looked over, tears were silently streaming down Michael’s weathered face. He stared into nothing.

I was moving to the other end of the world from my family. I know no matter how old I get, no matter how far away I am, I love them. I asked myself if I had to fly across the world to their funeral, what would I want strangers to do for me?

Unclipping my belt, I slid out of my aisle seat and waited in line for the toilet. Grabbing a handful of tissues, I wave a flight attendant over and asked for a glass of water.

Returning to my seat, I slid the tissues onto Michael’s lap. When the flight attendant brought water, I wordlessly passed it to him. (I know how dehydrated I feel after a cry.) Grabbing a tissue, he wiped his tear-stained face and blew his nose.

He squeezed my hand. I met his eyes with a look to say, “You are not alone.”

This repeated a few times throughout the flight. I prayed, “God, I want so badly to tell him about a Father who lives and will comfort him always. I want him to know you hold him in the palm of your hand.”

God’s response was, “You are.”

After we arrived in Sri Lanka and deplaned, Michael waited for me. Tears in his eyes, he hugged me and gave me a European kiss on the cheek and walked away.

I was again reminded this life is not about me. God heard my prayer about who I would sit next to on the flight. I just wasn’t the one who would need comfort. I was again reminded that nothing I do is on my strength. Trust me; I’m not that selfless of a person without God.

It is not about me.

Rich Heiress

Swiss 2014-125Aimed at the Atlantic Coast, our bus covered the vast expanses of northern Spain. Scanning the dusty summer crops and dry mountains I focused my attention back on the conversation. Months of travel in Europe and here I was on a bus talking to some Aussies. It was glorious to speak with native English speakers. It was more glorious to hear the Australian accents again. One I missed since leaving Australia six months previously.

I was grateful for their unexpected company and a good conversation.

Hours into our talk, I shared about what I had been doing in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Then, we turned to what I was doing in Spain. I was currently headed to the Basque Coast to meet up with the Transform Tour and do some surfing. Okay, for me it was mostly to do photography of people surfing.

The older Australian man asked how I could afford all of this travel. How does one explain all of the doors opened for free food and accommodation coupled with generous people who felt led to donate to my life as a full-time volunteer in missions? For the past three years I have managed to live and travel and not bring in a single paycheck.

“What are you, some kind of rich heiress?”

I was about to argue that I came from a poor family and how hard I had worked through my life to pay for college and cover my needs. Before the words came out of my mouth, however, I paused.

I was a rich heiress. My father is God. He owns the earth and all that is in it. I have managed to live, fly around the world, eat, and even give generously myself as a full-time volunteer. Three years. Three years and I was rarely in want or need. How does one explain that? How does one even understand that? I am still in awe.

Incredible peace washed over me at the thought of my rich father God.

I am now in Cambodia. This month the donations are half of what has been verbally committed to me. It is half of what I need to pay my bills for the month. It is not a struggle foreign to me or any other person who is called to this life. Yet, I sit and reflect on the promises of God. Peace washes over me.

It’ll be alright. I am a rich heiress. I am rich in love, I am rich in relationships, and my needs will somehow be provided. I am rich.

Transform Tour 2014

I had the privilege to join the Transform Tour in Spain and France this year. Check out YWAM Freesports and Blessed to find out more about the Inspire and Transform Tours across Europe. Using Parkour, Surfing, Skating, and Sports to bring hope, a positive message, and love people!

Please remember all of these photos belong to me (Copyright). Do not copy or reuse in any form without my written permission. Thanks!