Leaving Los Angeles International Airport, the plane turned from the California coast heading for Cambodia. Whether due to cloud cover or accident of route, between the time we left the coast until breaking through the clouds a few hundred feet above the Phnom Penh airport, not a single light shown. I thought it was strange. It turned out to be a metaphor. Going back to Cambodia was a reacquaintance with darkness.
Human trafficking is the darkest of all human endeavors. A family is loaned money at a rate they cannot repay. Usury. To settle the debt, a child is given to trafficking. Slavery. To beak the child’s will, she is placed in a cage and shocked with electricity or locked in a pitch-black room with spiders and scorpions. Torture. She is sold for sexual exploitation. Rape. Aged or ill, she is put out on the street to die. Murder.
Seeing the girls on the street peering into every car hopefully, but sadly, changes one’s perspective, especially one’s perspective of the church. I was once part of the leadership that planned a large campus for a church. Included was a reflection lake which cost over one million dollars to build. I used to look into the lake with pride for the small part I had in bringing beauty to the church campus. Now when I look into it, I can’t help but see the reflection of the poor girls which the money could have saved. What brought some beauty to the well-off could have ended much ugliness for the poor.
Isaiah 58:6-9 says:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Dr. Martin Luther King once wrote; “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I think his statement may be rewritten for today’s church, “In the end it is not the shiny bright campuses we remember, but the silence of the church in the face of darkness.” This year we hope to purchase seven acres and build a recovery center, supported by the United Pastors of Cambodia, for girls rescued from trafficking. A small light in the darkness.