I left the corporate world to join the fight for justice. This sounds pretty exciting right? I thought it did. I didn’t do it for a thrill, but I sure thought that’d be an added bonus. I’ve been in Cambodia for 3 months and do you know what I do most of my days? I sit at my desk researching, writing, putting together reports, and tracking cases. This actually isn’t much different than my previous life. Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been some exciting moments. The office has had a few rescue operations since I’ve started (but I don’t actually go to those). We have had some trials, and very exciting verdicts come down in favor of our clients. But these are lightly sprinkled in between my days sitting at my desk researching the law. Research the issue of trafficking. Researching the issue of sexual violence. Trying to figure out where the gaps in the public justice system are, and what we can do to fill them to help those being lost in them. I write about my research. I write reports on the work we’re doing and status reports. I track our cases, and update the files.
I don’t regret coming here for a second, but I can’t deny I’ve had little waves of disappointment. I’ve been digging down and asking God to help me remain humble and diligent. I know I’m not some superhero who can save the world. I really did come out here to be part of the solution. So this is what that looks like. Then I remembered a speech I heard Gary Haugen (founder, President, and CEO of IJM) give at the Justice Conference this past February in Philly. The past few weeks I keep hearing him remind me “the book of justice is long and boring,” and I learned I wouldn’t have it any other way. My love for people, my love for justice, and my love for doing the work God has put me here for will always outweigh the temporary boredom from these labors of love. These long and boring labors of love show those, seemingly forgotten, just how loved they are. Here is an excerpt from the speech Gary gave and you’ll understand what I mean:
“The Book of Love” – Gary Haugen – The Justice Conference – Saturday, February 23, 2013
… you may have noticed around a song performed by Peter Gabriel called The Book of Love. All around the world, wives, daughters, husbands, sisters and sons are posting photo montages to the haunting beauty of this little song. Overwhelmingly these are pictures of old couples holding hands, of scruffy fathers being tender to their daughters, of unglamorous marriages that persevere.
“The book of love is long and boring,” Peter Gabriel sings.
“No one can pick the darn thing up.
It’s full of charts and facts and figures and instructions for dancing.
But I love it when you read it to me.”
The song is a simple tribute to the long, boring work of everyday faithfulness and fidelity to the ones we love. It is a tribute to the love we all yearn for and were made for – to be loved forever, to be loved in all our shabby everydayness, and indeed to be adored – to be known and found worthy of extravagant, long and enduring, work-a-day love.
Love doesn’t make sense, it’s unmerited and is disproportionate – but we love it when it’s extended to us.
Likewise, this work of justice is long and boring – it doesn’t make sense, its disproportionate, it’s hard. But what Raman and Mila say is – I love it when you extend it to me. The book of love is long and boring. Caring for the sick is long and boring. Raising children is long and boring. Fighting addiction is long and boring. Painting the Sistine Chapel is long and boring. Caring for a mentally ill spouse is long and boring. Sitting in a South African prison for 27 years is long and boring. The book of love is long and boring.
Likewise the book of justice is long and boring. It’s full of waiting rooms and signatures and oaths and instructions for persevering. Likewise the book of justice is long and boring. It’s full of waiting rooms and signatures and oaths and instructions for persevering. But I love it when you read to me. And I love it when we read it together, for others. Amen.
As you know from my earlier posts, Phnom Penh is a concrete jungle. Luckily there are loads of day trips and excursion locations outside the city. I’ve had the opportunity to venture out of the city a few times the past few weeks. I went to Oudong, the former capital of Cambodia. After trekking up 509 steps (without a breeze to be felt) I was rewarded with stunning views of Cambodian countryside and a whole slew of temples and stupas. It is currently rainy season in Cambodia, so the countryside is at its zenith with the emerald rice paddies and flowers in glorious bloom.
Other fun excursions have included:
Phnom Chisor, another 400 step climb that lead to even more beautiful views of Cambodia and a beautiful temple.
Phnom Tamaor Wildlife Rescue Center, like a zoo, safari, wildlife preserve merged into one. I don’t think I have ever been so close to such cool animals in my life. I was disappointed though that the elephants were the most removed from access (I love elephants). I did get about 100 feet away from a full grown tiger though, and that was incredible. I’m not a cat person, but I do love wild cats.
And Tonle Bati, I can’t wait to come back here! Apparently this is where even Cambodians escape from Phnom Penh to celebrate New Year and various other holidays. I could see why. It’s beauty was in its simplicity. There are bamboo huts built out over the water that are now calling my name to return to. We made it a little before sunset and I could have sat there looking out at the water for hours.
Tomorrow I leave for my first proper vacation. It is much appreciated. It’s been a rough few weeks at work. I’ve been diving pretty deep into some hard issues, labour trafficking, the rape epidemic, girls being trafficked into abusive marriages, the list seemingly went on. I’m so grateful travel is so cheap in SE Asia and I have a few friends who love to do it. I’ll cut out of work a bit early on Friday and head to the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia with a little day visit in Kuala Lumpur mixed in. The water is my happy place, so I can’t wait to snorkel, swim, and just relax on the beach. There is beauty in this world, and sometimes a gal needs a little step back to recharge in it.