Service before self

  • Published
  • By Chaplain, Capt. David Leonard
  • 36th Wing Staff Agency
I felt like my teeth were about to rattle out of my head as I held on to the frame of the old Chinese truck that ferried us to the work site each day. My back ached and my hands were blistered. The scorching heat of the Southeast Asian sun beat down with little shade to hide us from it.

It was the most satisfying week of my life.

Three weeks ago, our chapel took nine members of the Protestant missions group to Kampong Tom Province, Cambodia. We brought a medical team that provided clinical care to 1,039 patients in seven days. We brought two orphanages up to United Nations Children's Fund standards by building a fence, painting, funding additions, wells and volleyball pits.

I was struck by the sheer poverty of the people we worked with. Most still live in thatched houses and work the fields with cows and hand plows. The work we did was very satisfying and it made a real difference for the hundreds who came through the clinic and for the 18 children who lived at our work site. We bridged the language barrier with hard work, smiles and a lot of laughs.

The orphanages we worked with take children without homes and pair them with widows. These orphans become families known as the Children of Promise. With a new home comes a new identity. They are not discarded anymore -- they belong. I have been to orphanages in Southeast Asia before. In the past I witnessed institutions where children have very little to attach to. In Cambodia, I found children who are loved, happy and have a future.

Children of Promise also teaches farming, tractor repair, English, computer and other vocational training. They have dormitories for women who work for factories as a means to lift them beyond the sex trade so prevalent in this part of the world.

As important as our contribution may have been to the people of Kampong Tom, the real changes could be seen in our team. A doctor, a nurse, a housewife, a chaplain, an engineer, a student, two teens and an aircraft ground equipment mechanic came back forever changed by what we encountered. You will never see God more clearly than when you serve hurting people. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade used to say, "Break my heart, O God, for the things that break yours." We all left a piece of our hearts in Cambodia. I encourage you to see God more clearly by helping those in need.