We can’t share all the details of the lives of the children we work with. The Cambodian government does not want us to share many personal details about children in order to protect them. But there are some stories we want you -our donors, our prayer warriors, and our friends- to know about. Some information, like names and where they live, may be changed to protect the children we are serving.
I have known little Bob ever since I started working with the street children back in 2011. He was very small when I first met him, but he is perhaps one of the toughest kids I’ve ever met. He is the only child his mother has left, and he is perhaps her most cherished possession in all the world. She struggles daily to provide for him, but everything she does, she does out of love for him. I’ve lost him and found him many times, but the most recent time I found him was the most important so far because now he is part of our family at Crossing Cambodia.
When I first started picking him up for day programs back in 2011, he usually would be naked and would have skin problems from living on the sidewalks and often being amongst the garbage and refuse that most people throw away. I learned many of my most difficult lessons about street children with him. That we need to be careful what we give directly to families. We need to be aware of what the families will do with their clothes or anything we give to the children. I especially learned how hard it can be to take these children home every day. Every day I would pick him up for day programs I would still need to take him back to the streets. I would pick him up, I earned his trust, we cared for him, we fed him, we loved him, but then we still had to go back to the streets and put him back onto a sidewalk where he might be cold and hungry until the next time we saw him. Many times at the end of the day I would cry, just knowing that I had dropped off a toddler to uncertainty and a place that is far from safe and secure.
Through him I also learned about the transient nature of the street families. Sometimes he and his mother would just up and relocate with little warning. He could disappear for months at a time and all I could do was pray that he would be safe and that he would come back.
But when we opened the preschool, I knew we had a chance to make sure he stayed around and stayed safe. And when he began coming regularly to our center, I learned all about how much God can transform a child through love and compassion and I now have the greatest evidence ever to be found about how wonderful street children can be!
When we first started picking him up, he would cry and be upset, even though he knew us well. As any parent of a preschooler knows, that first week or so can be tough. He was used to wandering around by the river and spending all day with his mother. He didn’t know what we were doing, he might have thought we were taking him away from his mom like his older siblings had been when they went to the orphanage. One day he ran from me and grabbed hold of a steel pole. His mom wanted him to come with us so he’d be fed and watched over, but he clasped that poled and kicked and screamed as I tried to pull him away. I’m glad everyone living in that area knows me because otherwise someone might have thought I was abducting this child!
But when he started meeting his teachers and once the day began at preschool, he would always calm down and begin to have fun.
Now every day he comes and he is ready to learn. Each day when we have meals or lessons, he is quick to be the helper who gets the table out and ready. He is eager to earn his ice cream or milk as a reward. But he is still curious as ever and always willing to get in trouble somehow.
I have watched God work in his life though and watched the toughest little guy on earth soften up and share His love. Every day I feel grateful to God when I watch him hug his teachers goodbye and ask about the next day. I see hope and joy in his eyes and excitement when I check in on the iPad with the center while I’m away.
Like every one of our children at Crossing Cambodia, I dream of the day I watch him finish school and of the great things God may have in store for him. From the smallest and toughest of seeds, God will grow the most amazing trees!
Please pray for little Bob, that we will continue to remain connected to him and serve him and his mother for many more years to come. That God will continue to work in him and that God’s peace will spread from him to all those around him. Pray that our staff will continue to share His love with little Bob and be there for him.
Greg Holz is the Mission Director for Crossing Cambodia. He drives our vision and seeks out the resources necessary for the local staff in Cambodia to follow God’s calling as we serve the street children of Battambang.