It’s the Cambodian faces that I cannot erase, even though our stay was only four days of last week. I sleep, but I still see them. I walk slowly through the IFL compound among those I love at our IFL home, but the home staff asks about the Cambodia mission trip, too. Part of the IFL team is still across the Indochina Peninsula in Thailand, because the team went there after leaving Cambodia. I see their faces, too. I can see Judith, Ross, and Edith working the medicines, Dr. John talking to each patient, Havier helping with the human video, and all the others doing their tasks. I still see (and pray) for the little Cambodian girl who had a hole in her heart. Her dad stayed with her through the check-up process and touched his little girl when we prayed for her.
The obvious tasks are pretty straightforward, but mission work is more about people than anything. Little conversations and contacts dot the whole time. there are a hundred stories a day. Some are simple, some are complicated, some are downright heart-wrenching. While all this goes on, the children play. The curious ones go in and out of the people to see what is happening. The really shy ones grin and turn away when you meet their eyes; others are right in your face and want to know who you are. The team stays focused but we laugh a lot, too. You get to know each other pretty well.
The team in Cambodia was well over a twenty people, not including hosts, helpers, village contacts, and staff from a ministry in Phnom Penh. Another part of the team is home, because half the team are teachers, so others at IFL had to take their place in classrooms in the Philippines. It takes a lot of people and coordination for a medical mission that goes several places in two countries.
I also had a telescope. It did not matter that it was cloudy and rainy. I set up pictures 10m from the scope and explained the wonder of creation, including the heavens. They lined up to see the effects of magnification. No one in two groups (about 80 people total) had ever seen a telescope.
During the four days Faylene and I visited four different classes or groups of children, one set of missionaries, and two teachers as we were assigned to talk about the context of the Gospel: biblical creation. I had the larger groups divide into teams, who were assigned the task of coming up with questions they thought were most important to them. The question were nearly the same ones I have heard before. So, there is plenty of chance to share about God’s creation, mankind’s origins, why he made us, what went wrong because of sin, and who is the solution to the dilemma.
Each of us on the IFL mission team sees a little differently, but when you add it up, the picture is quite amazing. Larger still, IFL community is about reaching people with Jesus. So it’s a medical mission one week, typhoon relief a month later, and maybe someone like me writing curriculum for the future generations. Meanwhile, the school of a few hundred stays in session through it all. In a few days it will temporarily end for us since we have to return to the US for a couple months of chores, work, and visits. It will be a brief Philippine good-bye. After all, we will be back. There are more faces to see, lives to touch, and pages to write. Some tears have already been shed by us or our friends.
The central core of it all is knowing the Lord who made it all. It seems he remains intensely interested in human affairs, wanting any one who to reach out and touch him. That is what we are about: to make that message clear and demonstrate his love. Sometimes it helps to take a telescope. Sometimes a stethoscope. Sometimes a touch on the arm and kindness.
It has been an honor to see the last part of this trip unfold. New countries and new faces as well as the ones we have grown to love marked the last couple weeks. I am amazed at what the Lord has done as he guides Faylene and I down the river.
Acts 17:26-27 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.”