With Christmas having just come and gone, new gifts are probably still scattered around the house. New toys, games and so many others given to our loved ones, friends, and the mailman. To those in Cambodia, gifts take on a different meaning. The newest technology or hottest toy are not even on the radar – most would be okay with a pair of shoes or a new piece of clothing to replace an older one.
On this trip, we have had the opportunity to give some gifts to the youth and children we have worked with this week. During our sessions of VBS, we talked about the fruit of the spirit and each child was given materials to make a bracelet. Each child thanked us for the cording and each bead they were given. The gift of a simple beaded bracelet was a blessing to them and to see their smiles when they got done making them was priceless. They were so proud to have them and could tell us each fruit of the spirit.
One of the little girls still sticks out in my mind. After going through the fruit of the spirit and what the bead stood for, for the 1st time (which was probably the 1st time she had ever heard them), she was able to name 5 out of 9. She continued to add another each time we went through them and her smile was so big when she got them all. She didn’t stop surprising me there. She ended up going through the trash as we were leaving to get a card that had been given to an older child, so she could have it. She seemed to cherish the gift we had brought to them and hungry the learn more. A small gesture made a difference for her, and that was just the beginning of the week.
At the beginning of the youth rally, we gave each one of them a kroma – which we planned to use during the week. We expected them to thank us, but none of us expected them to embrace this gift the way they did. They carried their kroma every day, all week making it extremely visible as to how grateful they were for a piece of cloth.
As the week continued, I realized just how much the simple things in life are gifts to the people of Cambodia. Something as simple as a kroma or a Bible is a gift that the youth we worked with this week would never take lightly. Our translator Soury (a 25 year old, student) picked up my Bible the last day of the youth rally. She was just looking through it and came to the back section which had small devotionals and she had some questions. I answered her questions and showed her some other little things about my Bible that were new to her. While we were talking she told me that she has never had a physical Bible of her own, that she uses an old phone with a Bible app (which most of the teens we worked with used IF they had a phone), and if she wanted to use a physical Bible it had to be at church. That was surprising to me and took me a little off guard. I told her she could have the Bible and she was speechless. She told me no and I countered, saying I had another at home so this was now hers and that it was the least I could do for all she had done for us.
A very simple gift that we give for confirmations, baptisms, or graduations is not a reality for the people in Cambodia. The idea of a gift here is a humbling notion and is not taken lightly. The cross necklaces we gave them at the end of the youth rally were accepted with grace and true thankfulness. Just sharing what we thought was a small gift made a bigger impact than we ever expected. To see a picture show up on one of the youth’s Facebook pages with their crosses in hand starts to paint the picture for those who supported this rally and the impact it made on these kids’ lives. For them to tell us that coming to the youth rally was the best thing to happen to them recently should help you understand the power of your gifts allowing them to be a part of this.
Gifts have a different meaning here and are appreciated to an extent I don’t think we can truly understand, but God has a plan for each gift given and received on this trip. He is still working through our team and will continue to work through those youth. The newest technology or hottest toys have nothing on that.