Well, if the sabbath is supposed to be a day of physical rest, this one didn't quite hit the mark. If, however, the sabbath is intended as a day to reflect on God's goodness and blessings on us, this Sunday was one for the books. Xiu Dan, Pak, Chien and I got up early (leaving Kori at the hotel to recuperate from her intestinal difficulties), picked up our friends Zach and Eve, and headed to the main Battambang campus for a church service with the kids and staff from all six orphan homes.
We were engulfed by a sea of clamoring kids as soon as we stepped out of our car. Chien and Pak were each led off by a group of boys their age, and Xiu Dan was quickly found by Srey Neth, her best friend from BB1, who held her and watched her for the next few hours.
Teams from the Westview Bible Church in Montreal (sponsors of BB1) and the Western Reserve Grace Church in Macedonia, Ohio (sponsors of BB5 and BB6) joined the congregation -- it was certainly a full house. We barely fit in the large, open-sided multipurpose structure, even with kids sitting on the walls and in the aisles.
The service started with a couple of songs led by the band, and then continued for another 40 minutes or so with songs and dance numbers performed by each of the orphan homes. Even BB6, our brand new one, got in on the action.
Having found out only the night before that I would be preaching, it was not my finest moment, oratorically and expositorily speaking. I preached, nevertheless.
I spoke from Ephesians 1 about God's plan for their lives, which had been set in place even before their birth. This plan, I told them, was for them to be loved and adopted. I emphasized the permanent nature of adoption, and told them that they are no longer orphans: they are dearly loved children with a family and an inheritance.
After church, we grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then headed off to the water park. We rode in vans, on motos, in tuk tuks and in the back of trucks. When all the kids had arrived, we filed into the pool area, and had a baptism service. Savorn and I each baptized about 20 kids. It was a beautiful thing.
The kids and staff prayed and sang while Savorn and I did the dunking. After it was all finished, the signal went out, and all the kids jumped screaming into the pool. For what seemed like days (but was probably only about four hours) we played and played, riding the water slides, splashing, dunking and swimming. When it was all over, we lumbered our sunbroiled bodies back to our vehicles and returned home.
For my family, that meant going back to the Khmera hotel to change clothes, eat quickly and pick up mom, who was feeling some better.
We then headed out to main Battambang campus, where the older boys dragged out the brutally loud "Vutha" brand speakers, and all of the kids and staff began to dance to Cambodian hip hop and pop music.
The dancing started out slowly -- we all kind of walked around in a circle under a lighted pole, waving our arms in circular motions inspired by traditional apsara dancing. Over the next hour, the sky darkened, the rain drops started, and the whole affair was moved into the large shelter used for church.
Soon, the skies opened up, pounding the metal roof of our shelter. The obvious remedy was to turn the music up even louder. So, for the next three hours, hundreds of kids danced, jumped, shrieked and squealed. Potential for permanent hearing (and possible I.Q.) loss aside, the rain, the noise, the dancing was a recipe for a fantastic time.
At one point near the end of the evening, Savorn stopped the music and made another announcement which brought the screams to a new, almost unthinkable volume: the kids were told that it was time for... Ice Cream!
The dancing died down for a while as the kids received and ate their ice cream and grilled eggs (a combination you just have to try), but came back in full force to finish the evening. By the end of the night, many a child, staff member and visitor had run out of gas, and for the last two or three songs, there were more people sitting than dancing.
Those who stayed on the floor, however, were as frantic as before, but the dancing was also accompanied by tears -- this would be the last chance for the Westview team to see their kids before departing for home. I received an email from John DeWit, one of their team members about 24 hours later -- he still hadn't stopped crying.
Not exactly a day of rest, but we all went to bed exhilarated and exhausted, overwhelmed by God's love for us and for his kids. Wouldn't want to do it every day, but wouldn't miss the opportunity to do it again. Not for the world.