There are 2 things hanging on the wall of my bedroom at home in the US. One 24 x 36 framed black and white photo of Audrey Hepburn and a small 7.5 x 9.5 plaque that says “Great hope comes from faith in God.” Today I was thinking about the little one. Yes, I miss waking up and seeing Audrey look back at me. And I miss her little grin telling me to “put your lipstick on and go conquer the world” each morning. But today I kept hearing the words of the smaller, more subtle plaque I walked by everyday in my room for over two years.
This little plaque came into my life quite accidentally. I had just bought my first house, and was at a store buying some odds and ends. While walking by picture frames and small home decorations I noticed the word “hope” boldly written on a little wooden plaque. Those words made me freeze because they were speaking to the fears running through my head. I was scared about having a home to take care of. I was nervous about the responsibility for that big payment every month. Not to mention, this commitment-phobe was scared of being tied to something. Weighing most heavily on me was the fact that I was in the midst of several years of hurt, struggles, loss and disappointments and it was wearing on my spirit. Regardless of the struggles and regardless of the people who walked away, despair never entered my heart. Sadness- yes. Loneliness- yes. Anger- yes. But somehow God always showed up and reminded me He was in control and with me. I always had HOPE (ridiculous optimism as some have called it) no matter what was happening, because I knew there was a plan bigger and better than the moment I was in. As I stood in the middle of this store, staring at this little plaque, I felt the words leap off the board and remind me “it’ll be ok, because you’re hope is rooted in more than this crazy world.” Needless to say, I bought it to be reminded every day of this fact.
So this plaque hung on my bedroom wall. Most days I didn’t notice it, some days I noticed it and smiled, and a few times I saw it and was moved the way I was the day I bought it. It’s funny, though, how once something becomes part of your everyday life you notice it less. I guess we do that with a lot of things don’t we?
Here I am in Cambodia and haven’t been in my old bedroom in almost 7 months, but the words came flooding into my heart today. I may be personally struggling, but all is not lost for me. The work I’m part of here is a constant uphill battle. I see people who have lost so much faith in the organizations and people meant to protect them, because those very organizations and people are part of the problem. I see people who see no life better than their current circumstance, and see no reason to plan and work for a better future. I see people so guarded and fearful of others, they feel no duty to care for, respect, or love the people around them. Right here at my job we deal with seemingly hopeless situations all the time. Our investigations group plan for weeks, sometimes months and just before a rescue operation another tip-off to the perpetrators kills the whole operation. We have powerful perpetrators with powerful friends make victims refuse to cooperate. They make cases drag on, close without any resolution, or get convictions overturned. But we press on trying to get a broken justice system to work, as suspected perpetrators are free.
But here’s the thing: there’s more to my story and the world’s story than here and now. I know from the depth of my soul there is a God that is in control of it all, regardless of how it looks here and now. My hope is rooted in that faith. I know that my life is being taken care of and guided, so I can focus on doing my part in the grander scheme of things. There is hope for all of us, but we need to trust in something bigger than us in order to pull out of our own little world. The greater the hope, the greater the freedom to press for miracles. The bigger the hope, the bolder the life.
“Those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:23)
And this is why ‘hope’ is my second favorite word.
(Love is clearly the first, for those of you wondering)
Now I’m gonna go put my lipstick on and conquer the world 😉
6 months ago I arrived in Cambodia just in time for the final stretch of campaigning before the national elections. I was able to witness Cambodians taking to the streets and voicing their desire for change and support of a new ruling party. I wrote a blog post shortly after the elections when violence broke out and calls for a recount were made. My post was not the end of the fight for change in the streets of Cambodia, specifically Phnom Penh.
Since then there have been months of rallies, marches, meeting, and campaigns to get the current ruling party to work with the opposition and hear the voices of its citizens. I’ve seen marches filled with the youth, the elderly, the handicap, the poor, the middle class, the rich, the educated, the illiterate all with the same goal. The political protests have been joined with garment worker protests. The garment workers are now being joined by teachers and it’s becoming increasingly apparent the people of Cambodia are ready for big changes in their country. What kind of changes? Changes to end poverty, create democracy, instill hope that people can have a better life, fight back against corruption, create a safer place for children to grow up, and finally break out of the darkness that keeps Cambodia from being the free nation God wants it to be.
The past week things have especially heated in Phnom Penh and the government has responded with violence and fear. They have fired AK-47s at protesters, beaten protesters, barred injured protesters from receiving medical treatment, and summoned opposition leaders to court to answer for charges raised against them for their activities. Through all of this I stand in awe of the thousands of people willing to fight for their country, fight for their rights, and stand side by side for the sake of their homeland. For a good (quick) recap of exactly what is happening here, check out this video. An important thing to also note, is that while the companies responsible for using these factories can pay more for the items, corruption also plays a big part in why the workers are not being paid fair wages. The factories have to pay the government for the right to do business here. Instead of going to higher wages, it goes to the pockets of government official siphoning off the profits. That is why this is very connected to what is happening in the political arena. It’s important to note that in the 2013 Transparency Report Cambodia was ranked the most corrupt country in SE Asia and ranked 160th of 175 total countries.
So why do I care? I’m here fighting human trafficking, not a political activist. It’s simple- all these factors play into each other. When the poor have no voice, when the system doesn’t work as it should, when people have no hope darkness grows and exploitation becomes commonplace.
Having just come from a trip to Burma, I can’t help but compare. Burma recently opened its borders and is in the midst of a break-though. After 50 years of military rule, oppression, and blood shed; freedom is coming to the Burmese people. They never gave up and they still continue the fight for their country and people. Change can happen and the most powerful force is that of the people.
I’m in the NGO capital and devoting a year with one of them. I think they have collectively done a lot of great work and helped support the citizens and fill many needed gaps, but this next big step is in the hands of the citizens. I’m SO honored to be here during this time and support them by continuing the fight for justice. Please continue to pray for the people of Cambodia and this country. Pray for all those globally fighting for freedom and against dark strongholds.
“Look at the nations, and see!
Be astonished! Be astounded!
For a work is being done in your days
that you would not believe if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5
*For those of you concerned (mom) don’t worry about my safety. I’m playing it smart and staying away from all protests and rallies where violence may occur and otherwise the city is fine. I’ve also been briefed on safety measures if the violence increases.