Kirsten and I are back in Alaska now, after a whirlwind visit to Cambodia! Our first week we worked with the Asian Hope coordinators and faculty, and connected with several Cambodian families, both old and new to us, in their homes. The second week we worked with the Salaa Hope principals and faculty in Battambang, and then found time to reconnect with several of our Cambodian friends in the last days of our trip.
In this post I want to share a single story, recorded by Kirsten, of one of our VDP school families:
Tithi lives in a village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. She’s 29 years old, and has two children in the Asian Hope primary school. We met Tithi last January (2016) and have been able to visit her home three times since. It always feels like such an honor to spend time with her. She is HIV positive and has also recently been diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Her husband died of AIDS a couple of years ago. She washes clothes for a living and earns about $4-$5 a day, although some days it’s hard for her to work because of her illnesses.
The first time we met there were many tears as she felt alone and without much hope for the future. This visit had some very positive aspects though, despite the difficult circumstance. She was eager to show us that she has been able to obtain birth certificates for both of her children (previously they had been without documentation). This has allowed her to draw up legal paperwork, stating that her children will be raised by a small Vietnamese church (in the same village) when she dies. We asked if she thought she would die soon and she said she isn’t sure but that she has good and bad days, and wants to be prepared.
Tithi is one of the 2% of Cambodians who have accepted Christ as their savior. We asked how she came to know the Lord and she told us that some years ago a missionary had come and she had heard about Jesus. She did not accept Christ then but about four years ago she and her daughter (who was very young at the time) had been crossing the river in a storm. She thought that the boat would sink as it took on water and that they would be swept down the river. She said, “I called out to Jesus in that storm and he saved us.”
Tithi is mocked by other villagers for her faith, and her mother is actually somewhat antagonistic, which is why she wants the church to raise her children after she dies. She has never been able to attend school so she cannot read, but we brought her a Bible anyway, which she said her daughter could read to her. I can’t imagine how she stays so resolute in her faith with the opposition, and especially without being able to read scripture on her own. Still, she openly shares with her neighbors, even though many will have nothing to do with her out of fear that evil spirits will torment them if they befriend a Christian.
We all held back the tears this visit (somehow) as she told of the loneliness she feels and the concern she has for her children. Her greatest hope is that they will get an education and she expressed her gratitude for the presence of Asian Hope in the village, providing her kids with education and knowledge of God.
We are so blessed to be a small part of the work God is doing through Asian Hope. Prayers for Tithi and her children and all praise to our great God.