Equipped with a backpack full of camera gear and a sturdy raincoat, I had the opportunity to document some of the work that Samaritan’s Purse is doing in Kratie Province in Cambodia, including a campaign to build a number of community birthing centers in remote villages launched earlier in the year.
Many Cambodian women give birth at home with a traditional midwife, and they are far from medical help if anything goes wrong. To date, Samaritan’s Purse has built two of these centers, and there are plans to construct more. These facilities provide women with access to quality health care before, during, and after the birth of their children.
I traveled to these villages to help document the impact of the birthing centers. We traveled dirt roads, crossed bridges, and took ferries to meet with women who were either pregnant or had recently given birth. They graciously welcomed us into their homes and shared their stories. I took photographs, and heard stories about their fears, excitement, and dreams for their children.
For years, I have cared deeply about the plight of women around the world. You don’t have to look far to read stories and learn shocking statistics about the challenges that women face globally. When I saw the faces and heard the voices, two things happened for me. Their stories reinforced my firmly held beliefs, but, more importantly, they gave me hope.
I met a number of women who were expecting their first child, and most of them worried about being a good mother. They deeply desired to provide for their children and take good care of them. One young mother-to-be had been working with her husband for months in order to save money for their child. Her face lit up when she told us about how excited she was to have her baby.
I met some women who wanted to continue their education but had to get married instead. Once married, it’s common to begin having children right away. Although their lives may not have gone exactly how they had planned, these women are working hard to learn how to take care of their children.
Samaritan’s Purse staff members help organize and facilitate hygiene classes and cooking demonstrations, among other practical skills lessons. I attended a cooking demonstration, where the women were learning to prepare nutritious meals for their children.
It may seem like a small task, but it was one more reminder of how these women are working to do the best they can for their children. Simultaneously, I realized that sometimes things like cooking lesson can be what it means to serve others and love them like Jesus.
How Jesus treated women was revolutionary. When Mary of Bethany sat at His feet, she took on the posture of a rabbinical pupil. Although that was a place reserved for men, Jesus defended her right to do so (Luke 10:42).
When He met the woman at the well, not only did Jesus speak with her—a Samaritan—but He also spoke about theology. His disciples were shocked to see Him speaking to a female (John 4:27). Although a woman’s testimony would not have been sufficient proof in court, Mary Magdalene was the first to see the resurrected Christ and share the good news of the Resurrection (Mark 16:9-10).
As I reflect on passages like those and consider the work being done for the women in these villages, I’m encouraged that this is what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Although I’m still burdened by the gender inequality that exists throughout the world, I believe that God is bringing about change as His people remain faithful in even the smallest of tasks.
I see the time and energy that our staff pour into serving these women, and I know that I’m watching the Kingdom take ground a little bit more.
The Samaritan’s Purse internship program is an opportunity for college students and recent graduates to use their skills to impact the world in a tangible way. Find out more here.