Go Forth and Arise
Windowless frames in the wall allow for half of the classroom be lit by the sun as it works its way slowly up from the shooting rice fields of Cambodia’s Beanteay Meanchey province. The light allows the students eyes to easily trace the teacher’s complex Khmer script as it flows from his hand in chalk across the blackboard. As the sunlight splits the room, its power begins to draw dark beads of dirt-filled sweat from the hairline of each student it encounters.
I watch the kids on the sunny side pick their feet up from the hot earthen floor of the schoolhouse and rest them on the the wooden cross bar stabilizing the two front legs of each desk. The other half, bundled and huddled closely together, seem to wait in rest for the sun to reach their desks.
The elderly teacher’s hand leaves the board and he turns to face the children. Standing strong yet welcoming, he shares a smile common to the gentle nature of Cambodia and asks the students to read the words he has written on the board. In perfect unison they stand. With as much volume as their little bodies can gather they belt back the response then place their hands together as if to pray. Lifting their prayer-like hands to their mouths they offer a quick quarter bow of respect before they take their seats. It is another simple and beautiful morning in Cambodia.
Awe quickly becomes curiosity in my mind and then moves mightily into inspiration.
What did they have for breakfast? Where do they live and how did they get to this school? What do their parents do? What are they learning and how do they assess their success? I have so much. I have computers and phones. I have paper for goodness’ sake! Forget that, I have clean water and I’m sure I can get bars of soap from some hotel or something to give them. My God, there are hundreds, no, thousands of them. I have to talk to somebody and find out more about these children! I have to know who they are and what they want to be.
The teacher sees me standing in the window frame. His smile now welcomes me and with the same gesture the children ended their response to him: a bow to offer me respect. All of the children quickly turn to me giggling with hushed remarks to one another about my skin color, nose size, and nationality. I’m now welcomed into their world, and I have no idea what I’m going to do next!
South East Asia Prayer Center is now serving all 488 public schools in Banteay Meanchey province and each of the province’s approximately 150,000 students with English studies, STEM-based programs, vocational training, and a Christ-centered pathway for eliminating poverty within this generation. 10 short years ago, when we began working in these schools, just 10 percent of first graders would go on to graduate from high school, with 50 percent dropping out after fourth grade. And children were being thrust into horrible futures within the perpetuous post-war poverty cycle.
My heart beats so hard that I can feel its pressure behind my eyes as I enter the room. “Deep breaths, deep breaths,” I tell myself as I turn and look back through the door I just entered, wondering if I just made a mistake. Quickly I give the teacher my hand and meet his eyes, giving an awkward type of bow thing that I think for some reason I should do. I hear giggles. He smiles wide and then I turn back to the students.
I know that all success in the spirit realm comes from an atmosphere of praise and worship. I teach this stuff around the world! There is nothing to be afraid or nervous about. Right, these are kids. You’ll do fine.
The thoughts are so rapid and I’m trying to remember what it is I’m exactly teaching today, and what I should do if they don’t like the lesson or me.
PRAY! Yes, that’s it. I’m going to pray.
Then, by the grace of God, I offer a simple prayer, “Jesus please help me!”
I feel peace. I feel strength. I’m ready to go.
“Today, I am going to teach you personal pronouns.”
I can hear the teacher translate what I said and I can see the students rise in their seats.
This is when I know: it’s time for the word of God to go forth into the lives of these little ones that He loves so deeply who are emerging now from poverty through Him.