Our God is a God who cares about the story of each person’s life. Look at the scriptures: much of the book God prepared for us is stories of individual people’s lives. Because God cares about the story of each person, we care also.
As I was planning our trip to the U.S. last June, I wondered what I could bring from our community—an urban poor area of Cambodia where families will often rent a single room to house their whole family. I didn’t want to take pictures of my neighbors and just show them off without permission; but if my friends decided how they wanted to tell their story: much better! Perhaps it would be a way for them to begin to understand about Christians and Christ wanting to hear and know their story.
Here are two stories, from a mother-daughter pair.
I think I have the most difficult life of any of the people in this neighborhood. My husband and I lived here and had six children. After that, he stopped giving me his salary to buy food for our family. Our kids dropped out of school and went to work to help buy food. My husband moved upstairs and took a second wife, but she didn’t last long. She left him and took their kids. I have been cutting strings on blue jeans for 6000 per day ($1.50). I work all day to get this money.
My name is Nuon Srey Mom. I’m 29 years old. I’ve worked at a garment factory for more than 15 years now. I left school after grade five and started working because my parents were splitting up, and my dad stopped giving my mom money to support our family, including us six kids. When I was in school, my favorite subject was Khmer literature. I’m good at doing nails; I can even do my own nails with fancy designs. But since the money is not reliable, I work at the garment factory.
We have been here long enough to know that “believe Jesus” won’t be an immediate cure-all for this family’s problems—or any of the other families here. But we do believe that a turning towards Jesus in faith, combined with prayer, Christian community, and application of biblical principles can make a difference—a big difference. It can seem like a “one-step-forward, two-steps-back” kind of journey, but we’ve seen amazing transformation before!
For me, it can be difficult to “just” sit with neighbors, since I am a task-focused person. Hanging out doesn’t accomplish any concrete “task.” But when I’m with people, giving them an opportunity to tell their stories, I represent a God who cares about each person’s story and saves every tear in a bottle. Through spending time with my neighbors, I’ve learned about how Cambodians deal with the pressures of work and family, the sacrifices they make, and a little more about the Cambodian worldview. We continue to see the value of living alongside others in a way that befriends and shares. As we listen to and love our neighbors, we hope they will know God’s care for them.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Do you know your neighbors’ stories? Who is one person you can plan to connect with just to hear their story?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Smith has been part of InnerCHANGE since 1987. She has served on the Minnie Street Santa Ana team with Cambodian refugees and on the Cambodia team. Currently, Susan lives in Phnom Penh with her husband, Mark, and one daughter. Her vision includes seeing local believers working together with her team to reach out to those living with poverty.