After church on Sunday, we drove directly from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, a five hour and 5,000 cow journey through the Cambodian countryside. Since my first trip in 2000, the road has improved dramatically, but it was still basic enough in areas to keep my attention fully at the task of delivering our team of five without incident or injury to the 12th Century capital of the Khmer empire.
My friend and colleague Seth Earnest has done an excellent job describing the vast temple complex of Angkor; it’s a joy to read the observations of such an enthusiastic first-time visitor to what is indisputably one of the world’s most impressive monuments to ancient man’s architectural ingenuity and artistic expertise.
After a long and exhausting Monday exploring the rocky ruins of temples and tombs, we drove yesterday another three hours to Battambang. After visiting our nearly-completed Battambang campus and joining the team from Crossroads Church (Mansfield, Ohio) at an appreciation banquet for our Cambodian staff, my head has been filled with thoughts about what man builds and for whom.
Certainly the modern-day ministry of Asia’s Hope is almost entirely dissimilar to the medieval-era kingdom of Angkor. That hasn’t stopped me from drawing comparisons in my mind, though.
The former was built for the wealthy and the powerful and for the glory of earthly kings. Thousands of years after its construction, the great city of Angkor remains a powerful symbol of the rise and decline of a great human empire. The Cambodian monarchs that designed and demanded the amazing feats of engineering have long since died, their names mere legends, shrouded in the mists of history.
Asia’s Hope, on the other hand, is being built for the benefit of the poor upon the command and under the authority of a Monarch whose kingdom will never pass away. Our buildings will probably not last nearly as long as those of the Angkorian kings; certainly no one will be naming architectural styles or historical epochs after them. But the work we’re doing is eternal. The lives of the hundreds of kids currently in our care and those of the thousands of orphaned kids who will be served by the land and houses we’re investing in today are worth far more than the wealth of all world’s ruling families combined.
It’s late now. We’ve been running around and playing with kids for the last nine hours. Tomorrow holds more of the same. I’m tired, but encouraged by the words in Matthew that I’ll paraphrase here: “And Jesus said, ‘If you have not played Steal the Bacon with the least of these my brethren, you have not played Steal the Bacon with me.”