Saturday, June 16, 2007


I saw an elephant last Saturday. I've been waiting my whole time here to finally see one. Did you know they like to eat banana peels? Love them. I have an excellent picture of an elephant walking past a 4X4 coming the other direction. Talk about your dicotomy.

Samaritan Woman

I met the Samaritan Woman on top of Samaritan Mountain

Yesterday was our day to walk to the village, but I didn’t get very far. The first big hill we climb is a tourist spot nicknamed the ‘Samaritan Mountain’ by the orphanage. Some of us decide to climb up the steps to the pagoda instead of taking the more difficult road around. At the top of the mountain we heard a woman sobbing. Moses asks Sopheap and me to go see if she needed help. When we walk over, a woman is sobbing uncontrollably, and the man with her is trying to alternately comfort her, and keep her from writhing her way off the platform of the wat.

The Pagoda is a small hilltop affair, with a large statue of Buddha covered in garlands of flowers. In front of Buddha is a couple of steps covered in fruit, cooked chickens, and a few pots with incense sticks blooming out of them (this goes to show the panoply of beliefs in Cambodia all existing together. Buddhism doesn’t really do incense, but Hinduism and Chinese ancestor worship both do. Add a bit of animism in the mountains also). Several old ladies are there praying with their palms together touching their foreheads.

We begin to speak to the lady, and she is quite distraught. She’s lost $100. She’s pregnant. She doesn’t want to live. Sopheap talks to the man with her for quite a while, then suddenly the woman goes wild. She grabs her sweatshirt, and wraps one of the arms around her throat, strangling herself. It takes four of us to tear her hands away and unwrap the sweatshirt. I stroke her hair for about an hour while she lies, exhausted in the pagoda. Sopheap talks with the man, and also with the woman herself when she comes around a bit. The story begins to come out. She’s pregnant, but she’s only known the man for three months. She has four children from a previous marriage, two living with her, and she’s had three abortions. She needed the $100 to have an abortion tomorrow. She also has problems with her family, and they don’t know about this man. She’s 37. He’s 27. Imagine the scene, eight of us standing around telling a woman how much God values her life, and the life of her child, surrounded by people waving incense and setting up altars. The team prays for her in the background.

Eventually Sopheap goes with talk with her, and I accompany. The rest of the team go on their way to the village. The woman and man’s problems come out in full, and eventually they kind of talk themselves out. Sopheap councels them here and there, but mostly listens. At the end they exchange phone numbers, and Sunday they will come and talk with us again. That’s a few hours from now.

But the coolest part of the story, we were on our way somewhere else, but God put her in our path. And she’d never gone to a Pagoda before, but she knew she needed help, so she had her boyfriend take her there. And so God connected the dots. In a pagoda. On the top of the Samaritan Mountain.