Monday, March 24, 2014

Show & Tell

When you were a kid and you got some special new toy, or maybe a fun new pet, weren't you just so excited for "Show & Tell" day at school to come around? Sometimes we just want to let other people in on the stuff that is meaningful to us. Being in Cambodia I have encountered that a lot. I love to be able to capture on camera or video many of my Cambodian experiences so I can "show & tell" my friends in America and other parts of the world.

Sometimes you just can't do that though. I was thinking about this last month, during a very challenging, emotional week. That Sunday a little one from our ABLE program died, and, later in the week, we received a referral for a sweet little guy who had some puzzling health issues and was extremely malnourished as a result. What does all of this have to do with "Show & Tell"? Well, there were a couple of poignant moments related to those events that I would have loved to capture so I could share them with you. The first was at the funeral of that precious little girl. She was not yet a year old, but she had already outlived her doctors' expectations. She had a number of strikes against her in terms of her health, in addition to being profoundly impaired, but seemed to be thriving in the care of her loving foster mom. And then, suddenly, she was gone. We had done our best to prepare this foster mom for the inevitable reality and, now that it had happened, we supported her in her grief. I attended the funeral along with many of our Khmer Children In Families staff. The photograph I wanted to take, but couldn't, was of our ABLE Community Rehabilitation Team member wrapping her arm around this grieving mother as she wept over her child. I have prayed (and I know many of you have joined me in praying) that the staff of the ABLE program would have not only the skill, but the heart needed for this special ministry. This "virtual snapshot" to me really captured how in this, as in so many other ways, God continues to provide "far more abundantly than all that we ask or think." (Eph 3:2). I was so thankful for a foster mother who loved and grieved her foster child as if she had been her own flesh and blood, and for our ABLE program staff who saw that this foster mother received the support she needed when she needed it most.

The second snapshot that I would have loved to capture was when I accompanied the family of the sick little boy to a medical clinic. This family had come to us in desperation. They had heard about our foster care program and wondered if we could find a foster family for their little boy because they didn't know how to cope with his mysterious illness. The doctors they had seen weren't telling them anything and the child was only getting worse. We encouraged them that we would come alongside them and help them so they would not have to relinquish their little boy. While we were waiting our turn at the clinic, I saw this sweet young couple interacting with their little boy with such love and tenderness. I thought of how often people in the West hear of families in developing nations "abandoning" their children and how little we know of what it is to walk in their shoes. In a country with rampant poverty and virtually no social supports or access to medical insurance, a serious illness can financially devastate a family. In many situations, relinquishing a child is a decision of last resort and often made with the hope that it will offer the child a chance at a future that the family feels they are unable to provide. When I saw this little boy with his parents I knew that the idea of giving him up had to have been a wrenching one for them. I'd like my friends and family to see in this "virtual snapshot" why our staff at Children In Families work so hard to do what we do.

In both of these instances the scenes were just too personal to capture in a photograph and used to "show and tell," no matter what the motivation might be. You may have noticed that, though I work with children here, you don't see a lot of children's faces in the pictures that I do share. We at Children In Families want to honor our families' right to privacy and to be a normal family. In keeping with that, I try to capture the essence of what we do without putting childrens' faces on display. Now that I've started my six month home assignment I'm looking forward to doing a lot of "show & tell" about the work that Children In Families is doing. Please send me a message if you'd like to have me come share with your church or other group!