(Ella) So imagine you’re walking down the streets of Cambodia. You’re having a pretty good day, sightseeing and being an annoying tourist. And then BAM. It’s like someone punches your heart. You see a starving, crippled child, begging for money. Your immediate response is, I have to help them. You think what’s the harm in giving them a toy, a pen, or a few dollars you find in your pocket. Well here’s the problem: Every year children are taken and forced to beg for criminal groups. They get none of the money they receive begging, they simply get to stay alive. So by giving to the begging children, you are actually giving money to cruel groups of people. You can’t really give them anything. Even giving them simple things like pens and toothbrushes can be harmful. These things can be resold and can be even stronger incentive for parents and adults to keep them out of school. Giving candy can cause tooth decay since there is no good dental treatment available for these children. So what can we do? Our idea is to travel with finger puppets, and when you see a child begging, play with them. Put on a little puppet show. Think of something you can do that will show love and not cause harm. Just because we can’t give doesn’t mean we can’t help. Share your ideas with us below please!
And I (Alison) want you to understand this is really hard, not giving them food while you are eating a meal is really hard and feels heartless, but logically I know better. But still, I end some days consumed with the thoughts of it. Adorable scruffy faces pressed to the windows, quick tiny feet running in when the door opens for a minute and grabbing leftover food on the tables since there is never a garbage to throw anything away, minute figures skipping and squatting among the garbage chattering together and still grinning from ear to ear even when covered in filth and little sores on their skin. This is all incredibly difficult to witness, but even more shocking that they still seem to exude child like happiness. They come up and hold your hand, and if you give them anything, they scamper away to share with their friends. You don’t find many of their parents around, but you do see the occasional scary, old mafia-like man around with gold dental crowns. The hardest so far for me was a mother, who looked very old but probably more life-worn, carrying her son with gigantism into the path of the main thoroughfare at Angkor Wat. He was as big as her tiny body, and his face was deformed from something else. She looked absolutely desperate. And you can not communicate at all here. Even your tuk-tuk driver communicates with only yes, no, and a few other words. And we walked by…
When we left, I thought, I should have just asked our tuk-tuk driver to come with me to her and try to figure out anything we could do that wouldn’t be taken from her. Something … anything. I have a bag full of hygiene products we got here to give away, but they say this encourages the adults to keep them out of school because then they can resell. And toothbrushes seem ridiculous when you meet them. And for this little guy with the gigantism, everything seems too little. So when I got to our hotel, I tried to find the local International Justice Mission field office. Maybe they could give me some advice on what to do and stop this feeling of helpless guilt. But then I realize supporting them is a first step. And they are making huge progress here in Cambodia, I have read about it. We may try to visit IJM in Delhi, but their office is too far from us here. Chris and Walden seem to handle it okay, but Ella and I are feeling overwhelmed. So please, remember how awesome child sponsorship is, and how needed. Any words of wisdom would be treasured below! In reference to Luke 6:30, remember God calls us above all to love Him and love our neighbor, not do what makes us feel best at the moment. Handing someone what we have in our purse may feel best or just avoiding these dear children in the first place, but is that the most loving thing I can do? Finding a good organization who is making a difference takes a lot more time, but it is worth it in the end.
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This post is in honor of my sweet sister Amanda, who died 2 years ago today. I miss her so much, these are the kinds of questions she would have always had insight on. She loved children. She worked as a sexual abuse counselor for kids with the Child Advocacy Center for many years and then taught kindergarten for several more. I can’t count how many little lives she impacted for the God. Praise God we had her for a least a little while.