Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

Jeremiah 29:12

People often say that a picture is worth a thousand words. As of today I’m convinced that a thousand words is gross undervaluing of the picture I saw today.

As of late I’ve been stressed over a couple of our boys. One in particular who tries so hard to be a tough kid, who tries to keep a face of steel, and wants everyone to be afraid of him. He has shown a lack of respect for our staff, he’s been aggressive, he’s been staying out late at night and possibly doing things that scare me. Every morning I go out to the slum and pound on the sheet metal of his house and call him out. I often need call again and again until he drags himself out of bed and crawls into the back of the truck. Every morning my biggest fear is that he will come out one day and say he’s quitting.

The last several days we’ve been struggling with him a lot and I’ve had to sit down with Sokly and pray and ponder, “Are we equipped to handle this boy?” I’ve been trying so hard to figure out how to help him and yesterday I almost came to the point where I was prepared to ask him to stop for a while. I dreaded that thought. It was horrifying to think about. It felt like it would be admitting defeat and failing this boy that we love.

This morning I went out to get the kids, and he wasn’t at his house. No one seemed to know where he was. I drove out to where someone had said they saw him sleeping. He wasn’t there. I asked his friends if they’d seen him, they didn’t know. I drove by his house a second time in case he came back. Still not there. So I went out to the main road and was about to turn to go to the office. I couldn’t keep searching, I had other kids to get to school. Just as I was about to pull away, the other kids in the back started shouting, “Greg, chob!” (Khmer for stop) I stopped and in my mirror I saw him, running at full speed to catch the truck. From where he came I didn’t know, but I was livid. I had to force myself to stay calm and not chew him out. I took him to the office and made him get ready, and took him to school.

The rest of the morning I kept thinking about what I was going to say. All our kids needed to be talked to. So when they came back from school, before they could eat, I made them all sit down and started telling them how I was disappointed. I scolded the boys who were late getting into the truck. I said, “We feed you, we put you in school, we pick you up. You can clean up at the office, we have clean clothes for you there. All we ask is that you get in the truck when we come!” I then went into a speech about everything that the whole group had been doing and gave them a lecture on showing respect for our staff, after all, it wasn’t I who picked these kids for school, it was Sokly and Viya. I laid out a new set of rules that I expected to be followed at Crossing Cambodia.

The whole time the boy was looking down. I could tell he was ashamed and upset. I tried to make sure to include how much we love them, and how we want them to have fun and be happy. But my fear that he was ready to quit just grew.

The kids then ate their lunch and I was going to teach a quick English lesson. I knew how much he loves drawing and so I asked them to draw pictures of their friends and I would teach the kids how to introduce them. Suddenly his eyes lit up and he raced over to his backpack and got out the sketch book we had given him as a birthday present not long ago.

And with a smile and excitement he opened it and said, “Greg! Look at what I drew!” And he showed me the first complete drawing in the book, then flipped to the next, and the next. But that first drawing was at that moment the most beautiful piece of art I’ve ever seen. His joy gave me hope that we still can do this. And I praise God for that hope, however small it may be.

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I asked if I could scan the picture and keep a copy of it, and I’m going to frame it, and keep it on my wall.

God knows when we are feeling overwhelmed by darkness. We may still have to wander across dark paths, not knowing where God is leading us or what the end may be, but we know He hears our prayers. And we take comfort in knowing that somehow, in spite of all the troubles of the world around us, He is acting.

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Mark 5:36

I still don’t know if this boy is going to make it through the whole year. But with God’s help I’m going to put every possible effort into helping him succeed. And even if he doesn’t finish this year of schooling, I have hope from Christ that this boy at least has a faint idea of what God’s love is.