As we drove down the bumpy road, I wondered what this next visit would hold. For the last few days, we had been traveling throughout the province of Snoul, seeing the different projects, taking photos, interviewing beneficiaries, and writing stories. Each day we had journeyed out with staff members who showed us what they did through their programs.
We pulled to a stop, and I gathered my belongings, preparing for the interview ahead. The woman we were about to meet, Pan Sopat, had received training through the maternal infant and child health program. Through health campaigns, staff encouraged expectant mothers to have their babies at the new birthing centers and taught women how to cook nutritious food for their kids.
Sopat was going to walk us through cooking a healthy and nutritious meal for her family and explain how the training Samaritan’s Purse had provided affected her. As she welcomed us to sit down, porridge was already steadily cooking on a portable stove. Ingredients were laid out in pretty little dishes and carefully arranged on a tray. She had gone to special lengths to prepare for us.
During the next few minutes, she showed us how she made the nutrient-rich porridge. Rice was already simmering in the pot, and she began mixing in pumpkin and eggs. Next she added fish that had been properly deboned and then ground. Salt, morning glory, and coconut oil were added before the pot was left to cook.
Sopat told us that she had received some training from the local health center and had also attended a Samaritan’s Purse nutrition session with her friends. Through a simple test, she had discovered that her daughter was malnourished, so attending the training was important to her. She always knew that healthy meals were vital but didn’t know what to cook for her family.
The training taught her what ingredients she could put together for good meals and had provided nutrients for the food to help her daughter become healthier. She learned the importance of practicing good hygiene and how to create a hand-washing station in her home. We discovered that she was also five months pregnant with her second child. Since the training, Sopat had realized that getting enough sleep and eating the right food were important for her growing baby.
I asked her age. She was 23. I told the translator that we were the same age. Even then, my mind began reeling with thoughts. Our lives were so different. One of the only things we had in common was that neither of us could cook nutritious meals. (Well, she could now, and even before, I’m sure her skills far surpassed my own.)
Finding Peace in the Tension
Since being in Cambodia, I’ve struggled with this tension—why I’ve gotten to live the life I have. Why do some people get their water from a dirty puddle and others from a faucet that provides clean water? Why do some struggle to find work to provide for their meals while others sit in abundance? Why do some live under a tarp on the side of the road and others live in spacious homes?
At times this tension makes me want to weep and yell at the entire human race. Shouldn’t we be helping more? Shouldn’t I be helping more? What can I do that will make a difference?
Even though I would like to save the world from despair and poverty, the reality is that I’m powerless on my own. I’m a weak and sinful human being that is ultimately full of selfish ambition. It’s in Jesus Christ alone that I make any amount of difference, because of His presence and power in me.
So, in the midst of this tension, I find peace in Jesus. I’ve realized that all He asks of me right now is to love Him, love the people in front of me, and share the redeeming power of the Gospel with them. That is the only thing that will make any of us whole and the only thing that will last in the midst of hand washing stations, malnourished children, and needed shelter.
As I watched Sopat feed the nutritious porridge to her daughter, I felt love for this woman whom I had just met. I realized that she was the person put in front of me to love. So for now, I will be ecstatic for how the training has improved her life and the lives of her family members. I will pray for her to know the Jesus I know, the one who can handle each and every one of our hard questions, and the one who loves every human being that exists in this world and cares for them with a jealous and fierce love that we can’t begin to comprehend.