Sometimes You're Speechless

02 Feb


Sometimes You’re Speechless…

There are times when the life of a missionary can be ordinary and boring, just like any other kind of work. (Do people ever write about that part? I should write a book…) But today was not one of those days.

Today I found myself on the back of a motorcycle, helmet on, scarf around my neck to keep off the blazing Cambodian sun at mid-day. We scrambled up a dirt road on the outskirts of Kampong Cham, a smaller rural city hours from the capital of Phnom Penh. I am in country to visit our Cambodia team—my first ever journey to this country. Today we’re seeing Sunrise, an InnerCHANGE initiated hospice care project involving local Cambodian churches in the care of dying HIV patients.

But back to the motorbike ride…

There were no residential patients in the hospice on the day of my visit, so we got to accompany a caseworker and nurse on their home visits in the rural outskirts beyond the borders of the city instead. Our destination was a small stretch of dirt road where a row of bamboo houses stood tall over a green area, which had been made into a dumping ground. We were clearly visiting people who are so poor that their life’s work, when they could get it, was sorting other people’s trash and recycling.

On our first stop I am sitting on the floor of this bamboo hut, a floor so thin and fragile I am afraid my foot will break through if I step on it wrong. The heat and humidity is unbearable. We sit under the crushing weight of it and listen as an old man and his wife share their story. Their daughter had HIV and is now living with them, along with her daughter, a young girl less than four years old. Two generations devastated by disease, and in desperate poverty; and a third generation–the grandparents, smiling through their missing teeth and sunken cheeks trying to make life better for the family.

This is all happening in a foreign language I don’t understand. I am sweating with the oppressive heat. Wiping my forehead. Not knowing what to say, what to do.

Lord have mercy…

I am in this place smelling the burning trash piles nearby, looking at the scraps this family has for food, hearing the story of such tragedy and pain. And I am helpless to do anything but sit here and sweat. I try to pray. I want to believe I’m part of this thing, which is so much more about making disciples of Jesus among the poor, but here I am in the one-room home of a family who is simply trying to make it to the end of the week.

Lord have mercy…

There are times in this work when we are speechless. Our helplessness calls out for a strength that only God’s great love and mercy can tend to. All our best attempts to be peacemakers and good neighbors and workers for righteousness in a heart-broken world sometimes bring us to such places: where we realize our utter helplessness and scratch the edges of our human limitations.

I am glad that someone is here to bear witness to this pain. I’m glad that Sunrise workers are looking after this family: checking the mother’s blood pressure, monitoring the child’s diet and weight loss. I’m pleased that InnerCHANGE is here and that the team is strong and the work is prospering.

But sometimes I am speechless…

And also deeply grateful to the many people who partner with us in this work. Our supporters enable us to speak words of life, bring hope and healing, and bear witness to the pain and suffering in this world which often goes unnoticed and unnamed. God sees it. And together, we see it and long for a day where things will be different.

Until then…

Join an InnerCHANGE team this summer for 40 days of justice, living among the poor on summerXchange. Learn more here. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Darren Prince lives in London with his wife, Pam, and their three increasingly British-sounding children. Since 1997 Darren has served with InnerCHANGE, CRM's missionary order among the poor. Darren and Pam live in Tower Hamlets, a neighborhood in London's East End which is home to immigrant families from many nations. Darren currently serves as the general director for InnerCHANGE. 

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