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“I’m Rich. She’s Poor.”

in Blog, Cambodia, Child-student ministry
Thoughts from a marketplace worker in Cambodia.

CAMBODIA — I sat on a grass mat on the tile floor of my carport, surrounded by neighborhood kids intently coloring a picture of Leah from the Bible. We’ve been following the redemptive storyline from the Jesus Storybook Bible, and Leah’s sad tale was up to bat this week.

Leah: The girl no one wanted.

I almost skipped her story because it’s sad and a bit strange. But as we read it together, the kids sat in rapture with eyes glued to the pictures. I think they resonated with it because many of them come from homes where their dad abandoned their mom for another woman. They could get behind a God who sees their mom and them and loves them still.

When we finished the story, I gave the kids pictures to color. Suddenly I heard one of the boys, Sann, tell one of the girls that her coloring page was ugly. (This was not an accurate assessment of the facts.) Before I could stop him, more hurtful things came out of his mouth.

“Focus on your own work, please,” I said. “Don’t say things that are unkind or untrue.”

Sann was quiet for a bit, but then he explained, “I’m rich.”

I looked at him and he repeated his words, this time more emphatically. Before I could say anything, he continued.

“She’s poor! That’s why I hate her and all her kind!”

“That’s evil talk, and I won’t allow it,” I said. “As someone who has more, you are to use it to care for those with less.”

I would have said more, but the little girl he had insulted finally piped up.

“When they hate me and hit me, I don’t hate them,” she said. “I don’t hit them back.”

A hush fell over the group as they put their heads down to focus again on their coloring.

“That’s exactly how Jesus taught us to respond,” I said to affirm her. “We are not to treat our enemies how they treat us.” (I know for a fact that this little one is scrappy and could have taken the boy, but she chose to respond differently than her normal go-to.)

The next week at our Bible study, Sann didn’t show up. We could see him playing and watching from across the street, but he pretended not to care that he was missing out.

A few days later, two different kids from the Bible study called my name from my gate.

“Sann has been cursing at us again,” they said in wounded voices.

So I marched straight over and confronted him, reiterating what I had said the week before.

The following week, guess who decided to come for Bible study?

As soon as Sann walked in, the other kids turned to me to object, but I told them we had talked about his behavior, and he understood what was appropriate and what was not.

“Isn’t that right, Sann?” I asked.

When everyone turned his direction, he looked down. And that was enough for us.

Sann was still my most ornery student that day, but God gave me grace to see past his behavior. Like many of the kids, his parents have left him to be raised by his grandparents while they live and work elsewhere. He is much poorer than he knows, and he needs Jesus as much as any of us.

Crossworld worker Soteria lives in Cambodia and makes disciples at her workplace and in her neighborhood.

The people in this story are real, but their names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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