Every child at Crossing Cambodia comes with a unique story. In fact, most of them I’ve known in one way or another since even before we started this ministry. Now as June is over and July begins we’ve managed to make it through a second school year! 8 of our 9 kids older students managed to pass their grades and at least 3 of our preschool students will be starting 1st grade next year. When I set out to start a ministry, I never imagined that this is where it would be after only a few years! But today I want to share with you the stories of 3 of our younger kids who will be moving up from preschool to 1st grade.
Little Bob was one of the first street children I ever met in Battambang. He’s always been trouble if nothing else. He knows when he is doing something he is not supposed to do, and he has the most devilish grin possible to let you know that he’s going to do it anyways.
The first time I met him he was only 2 and had no clothes and always slept. At night he and his mother would walk up and down the riverside begging for money. I was close to his older brother and sister as well, however, about one year after meeting them their mother gave up the two older siblings to go live in an orphanage. She couldn’t afford to feed and clothe them, they slept on a sidewalk, she felt like she had no other choice, but she couldn’t bring herself to part with Little Bob.
Little Bob’s mother has lost everything, she lost her home to gambling, she lost her husband to illness, she lost 2 of her other children to illness, then she gave 2 more away to live in the orphanage. The only thing she has left in her life that is precious to her is Little Bob. She had an accident several years back that caused damage to her brain, at times she can barely even remember her other children, but the one thing she has that loves and strives to care for and always remembers is Little Bob.
We knew that if we did nothing, she’d lose him too, either to illness or that he’d end up in an orphanage like his brother and sister. So as soon as we started the preschool, he was first on our list to bring in. We can enact God’s love in his life and his mother’s life by feeding him and putting him in school. By taking part of the burden of caring for him off his mother, she can try to work and can know that in her life she will at least continue to have him with her.
We give so much thanks to God that we can see him grow from a quiet and scared little toddler into a rambunctious rabble rouser who is ready to start going to school!
When I first met Srey Pich she was only about 2 years old and completely terrified of me. She didn’t want to get close to me, probably out of fear that as a giant I might eat her. However, one day as I was out picking up children to bring them into church for a day program she came out of her house crying. Her legs were covered in some sort of white crusty material.
I asked what happened and soon the other children informed me that her parents had been arguing and knocked over the cooking stove and the hot embers had fallen on her legs. “Has she been to a doctor?” I asked. The reply was no. So we took all the kids to the church and while the assistant children’s minister watched the other kids, Sokly and I got on a motorbike and took Srey Pich to the hospital.
At the hospital they asked us to clean her legs off. They showed us to a bathroom and gave us the soap and we began washing Srey Pich’s legs. As the white crust softened up we noticed a minty scent and I realized that her parents has just covered her legs with toothpaste to treat the burns. She cried and screamed as we cleaned her legs off and slowly we began to see the extend of her burns. She had 2nd degree burns covering the whole of both her shins. The doctors then applied silver nitrate to the burns and dressed them with clean bandages.
Over the next 10 days Sokly and I would go every morning to pick up Srey Pich from her home and take her to the doctor so that her legs would be cleaned and dressed. Most days when we picked her up we would find that her dressings were filthy and no one had given her the Tylenol for her pain. But we kept picking her up daily and taking her to the doctor.
After 10 days the burns had healed enough that they didn’t need to be constantly wrapped all the time and we did our best to encourage her family to clean her legs with soap and water. And after those 10 days she never cried or screamed again when she saw me.
Now every time I see Srey Pich her face lights up with the biggest smile imaginable and she runs over to play or shake my hand. When we decided to start the preschool ministry, she was one of the first children on my list I hoped to have in our ministry. She loves to sing songs in preschool and listen to the stories. Now after one full year of preschool ministry she is ready to move on to 1stgrade, and I feel immense joy knowing that such small girl can understand the depth of God’s love for her. I hope and pray that through our ministry she will continue to grow and know God’s love, compassion, and peace in her life!
Sobai is the younger brother of one of our original students. I’ve known him for quite a while, in fact, it’s hard to forget him because he used to bite everyone. When my sister came to visit he took the first opportunity he saw and bit her squarely on the butt. Thankfully he grew out of that phase, but he is one of those children who when you say not to do something, just cannot control his urge to do exactly what you told him not to do.
When we first started picking up his older brother for school every day, Sobai would come out to the street with big wide eyes, just hoping that maybe we’d have a party so that he could come along as well. His older brothers both go to school and his mother works long hours as the cleaning staff for a local school. He is often on his own has little else to do besides look for trouble.
Finally when we started the preschool and we accepted him he was overwhelmed with joy that he finally was getting to go to school just like his big brothers! While many kids kick and scream and have to be dragged out of bed, Sobai is always ready and excited to leap into the truck and go. The first time we came to pick up the older kids on a Saturday for school he burst into tears when we told him that preschool was only Monday through Friday.
By God’s grace and provision we’ve been able to create a place where he has friends around him and people who care for him. A place where someone pays attention to him and acknowledges that he exists and is considered important. More so than any other of our students, Sobai shows so much joy at being able to come to our center. And now we get to add an extra day to his learning as we will send him into the first grade starting in August.
As we wrap up another school year we are overjoyed to be able to look back and see where God has brought us. To see how Little Bob, Srey Pich, and Sobai among others have grown and changed because of the effects of God’s love in their lives. We are amazed as our ministry has grown even beyond our wildest expectations! And we can praise God as we watch our students grow and mature and how every day that they are in school and come to our center is yet another day that we are able to continue sharing God’s love with them and making them know that they are valued and loved.
Thank you to so many people who have made this second school year possible through your prayers and contributions. We ask that you would please continue to pray with us and join with us in ministry as we now head into our 3rd school year and as we continue to be a part of these children’s lives. Turning the soil and making their hearts ready for the Word of God and His overpowering love!