During last night's dance party, I turned to Teddy Dellesky, the Central Vineyard Church team leader and asked him, "So, do you think this beats begging on the street or scavenging for recyclables in a trash heap?" He looked at me, shook his head and smiled. "Dude," he said, "Everybody needs to come see this."
This weekend has provoked many such reactions. We've spent a fair amount of time hanging around the city, and we've seen what happens to kids with no one to care for them. We've seen the grubby scavengers fighting over a piece of wire or a water bottle. In fact, Teddy and Jamie went out yesterday morning to see the work of another excellent Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) among young mothers and their babies living on the city dump.
We've taken time as individuals and together over dinner to review the bios of the kids in Asia's Hope's care: "Mother died of HIV. Father died from land mine. Mother died of Dengue Fever. Father abandoned the family. Mother received life sentence. Father laid down on the train tracks and committed suicide..." "Child lived with three siblings with an uncle who provided no care. Child survived by stealing food. Child had to work in the fields tending cattle for a few spoonfuls of rice each day..."
These types of stories, each extraordinary are heartbreakingly banal, thanks to the sheer consistency. Death, disease, poverty, abandonment, danger, exploitation -- these were the daily features served up by life for the kids at Asia's Hope back when they were still orphans.
So, during our exhausting, yet exhilarating, weekend of fun activities with the kids and staff, I caught myself slipping down between two unfathomably high cliffs, falling momentarily into the chasm between heaven and hell, thrilled and at times nauseated to see the two kingdoms pulse and undulate, and times even intersect.
On Saturday, I whooshed and climbed both physically and emotionally as the realizations sunk in as to just what has happened here. God has allowed us to participate in a dramatic rescue mission, propelling us into action, empowering us to reach out and grab these children as they were tottering on the edge of the abyss, and blessing us to join in their restoration.
As my pastor, Jeff Cannell, has said, "The kingdom of heaven can be seen nowhere more clearly than among orphans enjoying a day at a waterpark."
And at last night's dance party, one of our team members said, "Now I've been to heaven." And I think she's right, in a very real and liminally tangible way. The angel told Mary and Jospeh, "Call him Emmanuel, God with us." And Jesus said, "What you've done for the least of these, you've done for me." Calling out -- in Khmer, I think -- we all heard Jesus whisper to us among the squeals of the kids and the "boom-ch-boom-ch-booom" of Cambodian dance music, "Thank you so much for throwing this party. My kids and I are having a great time."
Okay. I know I just got a little mystical, and may have lost some of my more cerebral readers, but, man, as Teddy said, "Everbody needs to come see this." So, will you all please continue to pray that God will give us more wisdom, more money, more workers and more opportunities to expand this party, to invite more of Jesus' favorite people until this rowdy racket of the redeemed reaches all across Asia? I don't want to expand just because it seems like the thing to do. I want to blow the doors off this Jubilee and welcome all who are thirsty to come drink, all who are hungry to eat, and all who are funky to dance!