“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Philippians 3:20-21
Do you enjoy a good story? I think it is safe to say that God has put in the soul of every person an ability to resonate with the plight of others. Scripture is God’s grand story and much space is given in the Bible to telling us about the lives of others, for better or worse in the form of stories. If you’re like me you tend to glorify the characters or perhaps the circumstances which of course is an idolatrous path! I want to tell you a story. It is true and ongoing but it is given to you not so that you can glorify the individuals described but so that you can give God the glory for His grace, love and mercy.
I regularly take on meetings with various people. Like many of you I am the first to admit that meetings are necessary but typically they are not exactly the best part of my day! Sometimes I need to find out what someone else is doing in ministry, other times to coordinate activity and of course other times just to cultivate healthy relationship with others. Today I just wanted to hear someone’s story. This unnamed Brother just arrived in Cambodia a few weeks ago from America. But he’s really not new to the country, having made several trips to SEA over the past nine years. Up until recently he had a successful business and previous to that he had served as a church planter and pastor in the States. His purpose for coming to Cambodia was not for “ministry” per say but to reunite with his family. You see for the past three years he and his wife have maintained two homes. One in the States and one here in Phnom Penh. In 2001 this family adopted a young Cambodian orphan boy just before the United States closed all adoptions coming out of Cambodia. Later they would adopt a beautiful little girl from Thailand. Not too long after that they decided as a family that they would visit SEA in an effort to allow their adopted children (and their biological daughter and son) to see their birth homes. As they were preparing to come it was discovered that their adopted Khmer son had a biological sister who was still in Cambodia. As they understood it she lived in dire conditions, being raised by extended family. They believed it would be good to at least meet her and the family members to see if there was a way to practically help and prayerfully share the Gospel with their sons family. They made plans to visit and in 2006 they made the journey from America to Cambodia. When they arrived, much to their surprise, their adopted sons sister was waiting for them with bags packed, ready to go home with her new family! This presented quite the dilemma of course! After consulting with a local law firm they decided that it was not only possible but needful for them to adopt this little girl into their family. They anticipated a potentially lengthy delay in getting the necessary paperwork that would allow this young girl to travel back to the States, but were assured that it could be accomplished. Much to their surprise she was issued a Cambodian passport quickly and soon thereafter a Cambodian court granted them a decree of adoption. During this same time they had taken her to Thailand to seek medical treatment for Malaria and Tuberculosis. Soon after returning from Thailand my new friend returned to the States because his vacation time from work was up and his wife took up temporary residence here in Phnom Penh. The plan was for her to stay with the kids and be here 2-3 months until the US Embassy granted them a visa for their newest family addition. So far so good but their first visit to the US Embassy was a foreshadowing of what would become a bureaucratic nightmare. The Embassy informed them that the US Government did not recognize the adoption decree granted by the Cambodian court and that they needed another set of documents that could only be procured from a different government agency (ministry). What followed was a series of detours that ultimately has left them marooned in Cambodia for the past three years! After going back and forth to ‘homes’ a world away they decided to liquidate everything in the States and settle here until either the door for a visa is opened for their kids or all their children are grown.
My new friend is quick to point out that they did not do everything right (though they did not cave in to the temptation of bribery which probably would have produced the visa) and they have wrestled with God along the way because of what they felt was injustice. In fact they hold out prayerful hope that they will be able to legally obtain a travel visa but at this time have no idea when that may (or may not!) be. In the mean time they have added yet another (Khmer) son to their family and face the same legal challenges with him that they have with their daughter. At the end of our time I asked him why they had done what they did. He didn’t hesitate with an answer. When faced with a young girl who was at great risk of being trafficked/abused or abandoned it was a ‘no brainer’ for he and his wife. He simply said it would have been morally reprehensible for them to walk away from the situation simply to avoid temporal discomfort (James 4:17). He is quick to say that they had NO idea what they were actually getting into, but the present trial has only steeled their own conviction that God is in control (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). They are sad (and yes frustrated) over their present circumstances at times but rest in knowing that God is at work for their good and his own glory (Romans 8:28)!
My new friends story is NOT unique. Our teammates, BJ and Andrea, may never return home with their Khmer children. That is a consequence of a righteous choice they made for the glory of God on behalf of their children, made knowing what it might mean and at peace with Christ’s perfect provision and comfort. Perhaps some of you have taken children into your home and they have totally turned your world upside down!! You don’t have to come to Cambodia for that to take place. But what act of love demonstrates God’s adoptive love for us (Eph 1:3-6) more than actually plucking a child from despair and seeing them grafted into your own family? I do know that we cannot make mind bending, Christ centered, God honoring decisions like this if we are only focused on what lies here on this earth. The foundation for such radical choices is in knowing that this planet is NOT our home and we truly are sojourners and aliens.
Keep pressing on with Christ my friends!
In His Bonds,
I John 3:1
“All things are ours by virtue of our adoption, because we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. There is a world of riches in this, to be the sons of God.” Richard Sibbes