Remember Nhu’s land here has three children’s homes on it, although they are moving soon and plan to open more. While we were there, there had been over 90 applications for children, not including the ones who come in from referrals through pastors and social workers and just word of mouth. They only had room to take about 10. It’s a big problem, and one they hope the new land will help with. The biggest problem is finding indigenous house parents who are Christians since the country is 97% Buddhist.
We heard a few stories of some of the children. One had come to them because when a house parent was shopping at the market, a couple approached her and offered to sell her their two-year-old daughter. They both had HIV and needed money for medicine. She talked them into a visit from a social worker and they signed their daughter over to R-Nhu and got medical help themselves as well. Another girl’s parents had been running drugs and were caught. They were immediately incarcerated, and no one checked their home. This little eighteen-month-old girl had lived for a year literally going house to house in the village begging food. No one took her in, and finally someone told R-Nhu about her. When they brought her in, they described her as a “feral child”. She has been with them a year and is doing wonderfully now.
Many of the stories were so similar. Extreme poverty, parents who had died and left their children at the mercy of grandparents or aunts and uncles who could not afford to care for them anyway, abuse, remarriage and the refusal of the new husband to care for his wife’s children. All I saw when we were with these children was their potential – they were amazing, and they deserved more than life had dealt them. There were a few girls in particular with whom I spent a lot of time, and they really touched my heart. How could anyone want to hurt these children?
I have to say, in this whole issue, people keep asking me, “How can someone sell their own child? Who are these parents?? Who are these grandparents??” That is a good question. I have seen how they live, though, and sometimes when you are choosing between starvation for your child and selling that child, there isn’t a good choice. I would say a better question is, “Who is buying these children? Why is there a market for child prostitution? Who is there to protect these children??” Most of them are sold, at least at first, to a particular person for a week or two weeks or whatever. Who is that person? Who is that evil? I cannot imagine it. Jesus, come soon.
During the week days, all the children were in school. So during the school day, we would go and see cultural things in the area, and then come back after school and hang out with the kids, play with them, have dinner, until they had to go to work on homework and bedtime.
Our first day out, we were taken to a Buddhist temple. They wanted us to understand the culture here. It was packed and very busy, I would say with about half tourists, and half locals who had come to worship. The architecture and craftsmanship were breathtaking. We ascended a massive staircase to the top of a mountain with carvings along the entire length to the outer and inner temple and it was stunning. I was taken aback in the temple to see so many Hindu gods as well – apparently there is a connection in the past that I did not previously know about.
For me, though, it was also heartbreaking. Here we were, surrounded on all sides by people who were praying to, and in some cases, literally lying on the ground in front of wood carvings that someone had made. It took me back to Isaiah 44: “Half of the wood [a man] burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, ‘Save me; you are my god.'”
This is a nation that needs to hear about what Jesus has done for them. They don’t know. Romans 10:14 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
That night the girls at the main house showed me a book of worship songs in Thai. Of course, I can’t read any of it, but the chord notations were the same, so I could play them (they thought I was brilliant, and when they realized I wasn’t actually reading the Thai, just the chords, they thought it was a great joke). I was listening to them singing praise to Jesus, and telling me that Jesus was the one who saved them, and it gave me such hope. He is our hope. And He is theirs.
The next day was lighter. We went to an umbrella factory, and then to a silk factory and a silver factory. At the umbrella factory, the process has been almost unchanged for 100’s of years. We got umbrellas painted for our kids and were so impressed with the artists. That night we spent the evening at the boys home, and Nathan wore himself out playing soccer (with quite a few very impressive martial arts moves thrown in by the boys!) and making lego towns with them.
The next day I went with a few others from our team and took a Thai cooking class. That was fun and interesting, and very, very spicy, even when I tried to make it less so because I am a wimp. Let’s just say that in one of her recipes, she called for 10 chiles a serving. At the class she said that because we were American, we should use 4 chiles. I used 2 chiles and I was dying. That night, we ate at the smaller girls home and I noticed that at every meal, the condiments set out were brown sugar (sweet), fish sauce (salty), and chile flakes (spicy). To watch a 6-year-old girl take a tablespoon of chile flakes and nonchalantly spread it over her meal is humbling. I would be crying.
The next day we went back to the home and took the littlest kids, who were not in school yet, out to lunch and for some playtime and the local mall. Then we went back to the home and distributed the things we’d all brought to the different homes. Nathan and I had brought a lot of school supplies and hygiene items and some toys, and the other couples had brought tons of clothing. We sorted it all with the house parents, and they keep a supply for new kids coming in as well. That night, we went to a different night market, this one a lot more crowded and touristy, and the people watching was pretty amazing.
Our last school day was Friday, and this turned out to be one of my personal favorite days just because I had never done anything like it. We went to an elephant camp and we all got to ride elephants. Then we watched them bathe in the river and I got generally mauled by one who was looking for bananas on my person which I did not have. Glad he didn’t eat my camera. Then we watched an amazing show where they played soccer and painted paintings and hula-hooped. They are so smart. That evening we went to a cultural dinner where we ate traditional food on the ground and watched dances from many different parts of the country, and they were beautiful. The English translations were pretty funny, though. One, in explaining the story of Hanuman said, “Meeting her, he intendance to make her died, but when he saw her, he decided not to.” Gripping.
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