Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Helping me remember....

3 September 2015

The purpose of this blog is to help me look back.   I want to look back and feel again what I felt while here in Cambodia.   I want to remember what I saw, who I met, and those with whom I worked.  I want to be able to recall the goodness of the people and their stories.  The stories are incredible.  Just recently, one of the men that I work with from the Service Center told me about his beginnings on this earth and his mother.  

My friend is the manager of the Service Center.  He is a wonderful man.  A very diligent and faithful man.   He and I were discussing the Tuol Sleng Prison, which is in the middle of downtown Phnom Penh.   It was originally a school until Pol Pot and his regime of evil invaded Cambodia in 1975.
This is inside the prison looking at homes that now quietly line its borders as if Tuol Sleng and it's horrors never existed.   Those home could have been there in 1975, I don't know.   The Khmer Rouge took over the entire country and began to torture and kill any and all who had had affiliations with the former government and also anyone who had an education, or anyone who wore glasses (Pol Pot thought they looked smart ).  People lied about being able to read or write just to stay alive.
The last 14 people who died were buried here within the prison walls.   It is a very solemn place.   I felt sadness and grief.  I also felt like those that suffered and died here needed to be honored.   I have a hard time wrapping my head around "why".   I just can't see any purpose in this brutality other than to build evil.... and it did.  
When the prisoners were being beaten or given electric shocks one of the "rules of the prison" was that they were not to scream out.  If they did, more vigilant beatings or more shocks were administered.

My friend told me that he was born during this time of Pol Pot.   His mother and grandmother were forced workers in the rice fields.   This was hard labor.  The two women worked in a field of food yet they were starving.   His mother was pregnant with him as she labored everyday from sun up to sun down.  If you complain or let those with authority think you can't do your work, they would just kill you.  Sometimes they would kill them just because they wanted to.   Frail and starving she worked in the fields.  Quietly one day she gave birth to her baby boy right there in the rice field.  The grandmother held the baby in the palms of her hands.   They gave him a Khmer name which means "lucky".   Lucky to be alive.  She continued to work in the field that day out of fear that they would kill her and her baby.  She never skipped a beat.  This woman is a modern day Esther, Ruth, or Naomi. Her son became an educated man.  A kind and gentle man.  He found the gospel of Jesus Christ and now serves as a Bishop today.  I never want to forget him.

I never want to forget the children.  They are beautiful children.  
This is a family of 6 traveling through town on their family vehicle, the moto!
No seat belts, no helmets for the children, just hang on and don't fall out.
Sister Hollenzer at Trash Mountain. Trash Mountain is just that, a mountain of trash where families live.  The city dump is their home.   The entire family will all scrutinize through the daily trash that is dumped in their living space to find things to re-cycle to sell for their day's wages.  I never want to forget just how blessed I am.

I never want to forget the every day people that I see trying to eek out a living.  Most live on around $200 per month. 
I never ever want to forget how fortunate, privileged, blessed, and honored I am that my home is only 3 blocks from a temple.   I never want to forget that President Doung (member of the District Presidency) has been saving for 15 years to get to go to the Temple with no signs of that happening anytime soon YET he still has hope that he will get there one day.   I hope I get to see that happen when I am here.   I never want to forget the 5 local missionaries that just came from the Manila Temple beaming and glowing.   They were able to go to ONE session.   They will most likely not go to the Temple again until the Thailand Temple is built (aprox. 5 years). 

There are so many things I must not forget...