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Eye of the Tiger, Heart of the Lion
Hub #4 in Karen Hellier's Ten Hubs in Ten Days Challenge
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Honey, Sit Down
It had been an unseasonably warm and sunny February morning, the perfect setting for a long walk in the Walla Walla Valley.
The earth conspired with the silent staccato of wispy clouds in the azure sky. I imagined God donning an apron in His universal kitchen, busily immersed in His latest confectionery experiment--a huge batch of colossal S'mores with me as the treat in the middle.
Endorphins I hadn't experienced for some time due to my sedentary lifestyle were re-appearing during my long walks, and I was just chillin' and skippin' the light fandango, for those of you who enjoy cross-generational mixed metaphors.
After an hour and forty-two minutes--six miles, precisely--and not having anywhere else to return to, I returned home. Kona, our handsome cat with the coat of many grays, himself packing a few extra winter pounds, jumped down from his perch on a unique feline furniture made from wood and carpet that my wife had purchased last summer at a yard sale.
Kona lowered his head and rubbed against my sweatpants leg. I used to think that this unusual cat who sometimes presented like a feral lynx was actually growing quite fond of me and was inviting me to reciprocate the affection. My dear wife burst my bubble one day when she said that this was a cat's way of marking its territory.
Hmph...I'll continue living with my delusion, thank you. The cat loves me! End of story.
I dusted off my shoes and opened the back door. Kona followed me into the kitchen. I think he sees the opening of the back door as a Pavlovian cue to have another snack. I get that, because the opening of the refrigerator door has the same effect on me.
My wife, still dressed in her flannel nightgown, had a strange look on her face.
"Honey, sit down," she said.
And immediately I knew...
Something had happened to Amber.
Far Away from Home
The blood instantly left my face to shore up the strength of my adrenalized heart.
My wife must've seen my tan Hawaiian face turn a vanilla soy latte.
"Don't worry," she said. "Amber's okay."
I forced myself to sit down. My legs were suddenly rubbery, and not because of the long walk.
Based on an email our son had sent us, my wife recounted the recent events.
Our daughter and two other female student missionary teachers were en route to Choeung Ek, about 10-1/2 miles south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Choeung Ek is the principal site of several areas that collectively comprise The Killing Fields--sites where hundreds of thousands of people were executed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime during its tyrannical reign from 1975 to 1979.
The young women, just days away from ending their tour of duty as teachers at the Cambodian Adventist School, wanted to punctuate their time in the southeast Asian country by paying respects to the Cambodian people and taking photographs of the memorial.
They rode in a tuk-tuk, a vehicle comprised of a motorcycle with a cabin attached to the rear. The cabin is an open air canopy.
Apparently, a man on a motorcycle had been following them for miles, waiting for an optimal moment.
My daughter kept her purse securely tucked by her hand and forearm to her left side with the strap of the purse over her left shoulder.
At one point during the ride, she remembered feeling a sharp tug at her shoulder. Somewhat in shock, she turned and saw a man racing off on his motorcycle with a knife and her purse in his hand. My daughter called out that her purse had been taken. The clumsy tuk-tuk was in no condition to chase down a fast motorcycle, so the driver immediately called the police.
Meanwhile, one of the women said, "Amber, your leg!"
When Amber looked down at her left thigh, she almost fainted. Blood was gushing profusely from a wound. Apparently, the robber had used a sharp knife to quickly slice through the leather strap. In the downward stroke of the blade, he had inadvertently sliced my daughter's thigh.
Amber's companions found some tissue and had her compress the wound as best as possible. The tuk-tuk driver stopped at a clinic, but when the young women saw how filthy the floors were, they were reluctant to get off there due to major concerns that Amber's wound might get infected.
They opted instead to go to a shop where they purchased Band-Aids and rubbing alcohol. Hydrogen peroxide would have been better because my daughter experienced excruciating stinging pain from the alcohol. But in a pinch, you do the best you can with what you have.
Thankfully, they were able to stop the bleeding.
Later that evening, my daughter removed the adhesive bandages to allow the wound to air out and heal faster.
The next day, she could have stayed home to rest and recoup from the mugging. Instead, she opted to fulfill her teaching responsibilities at the school.
Have your children traveled overseas by themselves?
For the next twenty-four hours, I wrestled, like Jacob, with the angel of God.
Why, God? Why? What lesson could you possibly have for our family by allowing Amber to get hurt?
She went clear across to the other side of the world to serve You. Why did You give her THIS to bear? I swear, I don't understand You! Why would You allow this to happen?
I paced around the house and climbed up and down the stairs, not wanting to sit for fear the worry and anxiety and dread would drown me.
My wife and I prayed a lot that night, both together and separately.
But release wouldn't come...not until I dared yell out the very thing I had been trying to suppress for several hours.
Looking at my wife and then walking away from her, I shouted, "I hate the &#*@%!? Cambodians!"
And as soon as I said that, my heart was filled with grief and shame.
Almost immediately, I asked God to forgive me. What was I saying?
Our little girl had gone clear across the world to love and serve God by loving and serving the very people I was foolishly hating.
No, that is a cowardly thing to feel. That is a cowardly thing to say. That is a cowardly way to live.
My daughter has the warrior's eye of the tiger. She has the royal heart of the lion. She is God's instrument in fighting a war between principalities.
How can I hate? Hatred blinds the spiritual eyes.
How can I hate? Hatred is a coronary blockage of the spiritual heart.
How can I hate and be a man worthy of this family?
God, please forgive me. I know You understand why I acted out. You peel back all the layers of the onion to find the scared and hurt little boy crying in the closet.
I just feel so helpless, Lord. I want to be there for her, but I'm stuck over here.
So tonight, dear Lord, and tomorrow, and for all the days to come, You just gotta be there...for my wife, for my son, for my daughter, and for me...You gotta be her Daddy...and comfort her and heal her and bring her home safely to us. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Related Hubs of Interest
- Nine Long Months
God presents us with these beautiful gifts called children, but only for a season. A father writes with bittersweet sentiment about the difficulty of letting go.
- She's Only Happy in the Sun--A Cover Story
A good writer is well acquainted with the beauty and power of words. Imagine this penman's surprise, then, upon discovering that a simple word he'd mastered decades ago had suddenly sprouted wings with an altogether new definition.
Our God is a really bighearted God.
He takes all the blame we cast His way and loves us unconditionally in the face of all of our fallible human condition.
The same God who loves our daughter loves the Cambodian man who stole her purse--a purse containing $80 and a couple of personal items. On the very same day my daughter was robbed, she said, "He must've needed the money to feed his family. And I truly believe he wasn't trying to hurt me. In focusing on where to cut the strap, he accidentally cut me."
Not the words of a pushover. Not the words of a bleeding heart liberal. Not the words of a weak and passive Christian.
The words of a beautiful young woman who went clear across this big blue marble to find herself on the other side of the world.
The words of an American teacher witnessing to young Cambodian boys and girls with Buddhist traditions about a man named Jesus.
For five frustrating months, the youngsters were either disinterested or unable to grasp who and what Jesus was all about.
Then, a breakthrough. One day, a single student asked a question.
"Tee-Cha! What if I pray in Khmer? God no understand?" My daughter, pleasantly surprised to be presented with a question, looked around the room and was taken aback by all of the children focused upon and waiting for her answer.
"God knows ALL languages," she said. "He always understands." The children's eyes grew bigger.
"WHAT?! What about in Thailand, Tee-Cha? Or Chinee? Or Frenn? Or Japanee?"
My daughter answered all of their questions in the affirmative. They were simply amazed. And the questions kept coming. And with every question, my daughter, totally in awe, was silently thanking God for the breakthrough.
"Cha--" (short for Tee-Cha), "If I pray Jesus and my friend pray Jesus, who Jesus listen to?" In the best way she could find to teach the children, my daughter explained in pidgin English and broken Cambodian the concept of God's omnipresence. The usually long and painful class was unfortunately shorter than the list of questions that day.
In retrospect, we know that the enemy furiously attacks when God is making ground.
The children were so very, very happy when Tee-Cha showed up the day after one of their own people had robbed and wounded her. One little boy said that if he had been there, he would have protected her.
No, the mark of a young heart impressed with the enormity of God's difference in all of our lives. Tee-Cha loved them all the more.
Sometimes, the best sermons in life aren't delivered from a pulpit.
A Very Special Valentine's Day
On February 14, 2013, our daughter returned home to us.
There was something very special and different about her.
Eye of the tiger, heart of the lion...
Excerpt From My Daughter's Blog
Cambodia will forever be a part of me. Cambodia has quite literally left its mark on me, right on my left thigh. I promise myself that when I look at my scar, instead of thinking of the pain that once was there, I will think of all of the beauty this place offered me. I will think of my sweet students, the ones who wanted me to stay forever. I will think of how selfless and giving some of these people have proved themselves to be. I will think of the way it felt to see my Buddhist student walk into church for the first time in her life, because she wanted to be like her teachers. I will remember how God helped me accomplish something that from day one, I never thought was possible. Then, after thinking about all of those things and more, I will pray.
I will pray for Cambodia for the rest of my life, because this place has changed me. I will never be able to fully express how much this experience has meant to me, and I will never be able to fully express how much love I still want to give. Still, God’s sent His signs. I have to trust He has a different plan now.
With that said, America, I’m coming home.