Jeff, Ian and I left Phnom Penh for Battambang at about six this morning. That saved us about an hour’s worth of traffic. When I first came here a decade ago, the journey would have taken about 14 hours; driving on Road 5 had been, not long before, a war zone.
It’s nicely paved now, and with the exception of a close encounters with water buffalo or two, the trip was quick and without drama. We got here in a record-setting four and a half hours.
Pastor Jim Brown’s team was not so lucky going the other direction. Shortly after being dropped off at the Battambang bus station, they encountered a mob. Apparently, it was led by a group of thug police officers who were intent on disrupting service because the bus company had failed to pay the full amount of their bribe. Nice.
Unfortunately for the team from Goshen, Indiana, they were in a pretty major time crunch with a tight connection in Phnom Penh, leaving them very little time to spare. They were in danger of a very expensive set of missed flights to Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Fortunately for them, Savorn heard about the disruption, headed to the bus station, rescued the team and rented them a van to Phnom Penh. I just now heard that the team made it to the airport — just in time.
Anyway, it’s Jeff’s first time in Battambang (and Ian’s first time anywhere in Cambodia), and I’m really quite giddy. Most guys only watch movies about epic adventures with their buddies. I get to live it. Tonight, for instance, Jeff’s son Ian played pool with a Cambodian prostitute while Jeff and I talked to her “friend,” a 50-something Australian man with a wife and an adult son, about how sexual exploitation of poor Cambodian women forced into the sex trade by economic hardship is an unspeakable evil that is corroding Cambodia’s soul. We then got to explain to Ian that his new friend is going to be raped by that man tonight so she can provide food for her younger siblings…
Anyway. Deep breath…
After we arrived at our hotel this morning, I spent a couple of hours sending emails and Jeff and Ian worked on napping off their jet lag. I got restless and decided I couldn’t wait any longer to see the Battambang kids.
Well, “got restless” is probably not entirely accurate. I’ve been restless for the last few days. In fact, since my family left about a week ago, I’ve been fighting discouragement. I told Jeff on Sunday, “I really need a ‘reset.’ I have a lot of things left to do on this trip, but every day I wake up with less energy than the day before.”
On the drive from my hotel to our Battambang campus, I experienced a very real sense of the presence of God, and felt a fresh infusion of joy and anticipation for the days ahead. I can’t explain it, but I feel like God really did give me a “reset.” When I arrived at the Battambang 1 children’s home, it was pouring down rain, but I felt unusually light and refreshed.
Between then and now I’ve had a number of stressful emails to write and difficult logistical problems to address. I also found out that I had misunderstood the conference schedule – I’m giving a three-part, three hour talk, not giving the same one-hour talk three times as I had mistakenly believed. And right now, I’m dead tired. But I really do have high hopes for the next few days, and I feel encouraged, like I’ve gotten an extra infusion of mercy and grace.
Tomorrow all of the Asia’s Hope kids age 14 and older are gathering in Battambang for a youth conference. We’ve also invited some other Christian teens from the area. We expect more than 250 people to cram into Hope Fellowship Church to hear encouragement from Cambodian, Australian and American pastors. I’m speaking on false labels and true identity, borrowing more than a few themes from my friend Kary Oberbrunner’s book, “Your Secret Name.”
I’m tired. I’m not quite ready for tomorrow morning or for the weeks ahead. But I’m getting there.