I said goodbye to Sreyian and her family a few minutes ago. I met her soon after I arrived in Cambodia, since her family runs the laundry where I take my clothes to be washed, as well as a shop for snacks, drinks and cooking essentials like chili sauce, oil, or soy sauce. I stopped by the shop one day wearing my school uniform, and she asked me in her broken English: “you teach Jesus school?” I told her that I did. We became friends of a sort after that. If she wasn’t at school, she would always come to help me, and recommend various snacks that were “delicious!” She liked practicing her English with me. She wanted to go to our school, at least for evening English classes. I gave her the school’s phone number, but she was never able to attend. I found out later that she had actually attended, when she was in Kindergarten and first grade, but her parents had pulled her out because she was learning too much about Jesus.
One December, I stopped by the shop to give her an invitation to the school’s Christmas program (in Cambodia, invitations are very important, and very fancy.) She was even more excited than I’d thought she would be. But she wasn’t able to go. She seemed depressed the next time I stopped by, and said that her grandparents had needed her at the shop and she couldn’t go. She asked again this year– two weeks after Christmas– when the program would be, and I had to tell her it had already happened.
I wish I could see her happy… But I rarely do. It would be a dream come true for her to be able to attend the “Jesus school”, but it would take a miracle. She asked me at one point to come and teach her English, but it didn’t work out. Well, I say it didn’t work out… I thought her parents wouldn’t be excited about the idea, and so never asked. I wish I had.
I stopped by this evening and said I had 3,000 riel ($0.75), and asked what was the most delicious thing I could get. After I paid, I told her and her parents goodbye, and that I’m going back to America. Her mom asked how long I’ll be gone, and I said that I’m going to school. That I want to come visit, but have no idea whether I’ll be able to. We took a picture together, “so I don’t forget them”, and I drove away. Sreyian seemed ready to cry.
What can I do for her? At this point, I think I can only pray. She is one of “my kids”, the ones I’ve committed to pray for as a Christian parent would. I am trying to remember the lesson that I’ve been striving to teach the students at our school all through this Week of Prayer: that there is a beautiful God who loves them, no matter what they do, and seeks the best for them. That they’re never alone. Never, ever, alone.
And I guess, that’s enough. Sreyian, too, is never alone. I will pray for her, and God will go with her, and He can do so much more for her than I ever could.
I end so many posts the same way, it seems– maybe because it’s the only comfort to the aches of my heart– and I’ll do it again here. I pray, and I trust, that Jesus will walk with Sreyian throughout all her life. That she’ll go on growing, holding his hand throughout, even if she doesn’t realize whose hand she’s clasping so tightly in her own. That somehow, I will be able to stand with Sreyian as she meets Jesus for the first time, and you’ll be there too.
Will you pray with me for God to make it happen?