Well, if boys back home are supposedly made of snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails, you’d think little boys in Cambodia would be, too.
But they’re not!
They are incredible.
Let me tell you why:
For a few weeks now my own little boys and I have been playing at a shelter for little boys who don’t have a home, or don’t have much of one, anyway. It’s not an overnight shelter but it’s a place where kids can go to be loved. And they feel the love from people who care for them sincerely, teach them English, do crafts with them, and even sometimes give them a bite to eat or a shower when needed. These people are awesome. They help the kids when they need help, even if the kids don’t know they need it. And the boys are just amazing kids.
I’ve learned a lot from them. They ask me to teach science type stuff to them sometimes, since I have a background in that. But mostly I’ve learned a lot from them.
I wasn’t sure what playing with them would look like. The first day we arrived, the leader told us that many of them had never played with toys before and they didn’t know how. Didn’t know how to play with toys? Aren’t kids just born knowing how to play? I guess not. Not if you haven’t ever had a toy. Or, more importantly, haven’t ever really had time to play with a toy because you were working from the time you could walk! Wow. How humbling is that?
My boys were quick to jump in and play and those boys watched them. They were fast learners! They had the chance to play with so many toys and show off some talents they likely had never discovered!
In fact, that part made me a little sad and a lot more prayerful!
See, the first week I taught a lesson on the human body. I had to talk through a translator, of course, and he was great to know some body parts in English! When he didn’t know, he just said, “In English, they say it _____.” That was fun. Not sure if it was for him, but it was for me! Anyway, after the lesson the kids got to put together a human skeleton toy and play with one of those cool bodies that you take out the organs and have to put them back in just right. What a neat way to learn, right?
One kid in particular stood out to me that day. He was fascinated by the body. He kept pointing at parts and asking me to name them for him again and again. He was so smart and I found myself imagining him as a great Cambodian doctor someday. Then I realized that it wasn’t likely he’d ever have that chance, with the life he was born into. I pray for him a lot.
There are other kids like that, too. Some can draw beautifully. Others can look at directions of an elaborate building project and replicate it with ease. I see many trying to learn more about magnets with a magnet toy they have. There are kids who excel at puzzles, at learning English, at modeling with Play-Doh, at reading, or at writing. These beautiful children don’t even know how gifted they are.
Because no one has ever given them a chance to discover it.
But now they have one, thanks to the wonderful organization that is helping them. Instead of being sad about their past, which nothing will ever change, I pray for the future they are building day by day. I lift up their names and think of their faces even as I type this right now.
It isn’t always easy to be there. Besides making the universal sounds that cross any child’s language barrier when playing, I can’t do much else. You know those sounds... like “aaah” when I get shot by a toy gun or run over by a toy car, “mmmmm” when I am given a toy food to eat, “hahahaha” when I see something funny, or “roar” when I chase one dinosaur with another. That’s about all I contribute when I’m there.
But as soon as I leave until I arrive there again, I am praying. For the children. For them to know Jesus Christ right now. For their present circumstances to be better. For their future to be something they can’t even dream of it’s so good. For their children for many generations to have better lives because someone showed them a little of what Christ’s love looks like.
It’s what Jesus would do for every single one of them.
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14
Thank you to Hard Places, who doesn’t just play with these kids once a week but instead devotes hours upon hours every single day to loving them.