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My hearts in the slums today.

27 Sep

Yesterday Afternoon:

I was in the kitchen yesterday. Finishing up a meal I was preparing for some dear friends from church. I open the fridge door. Thoughts pounding through head. I’ve had Cambo on my mind. I’ve had the Youth Center on my mind…I’ve had Holiness on my mind…I’ve been trying to shove it down. Perhaps just…you know…simplify my mind.
My hand robotically reaches for the butter. Top shelf of the fridge door. Mom had been trying to decide earlier if she should switch the shelves around…”Maybe the milk jugs could go somewhere else for a change…” We looked at each other and laughed. No. The milk and butter would stay exactly where they always have. Some things never change in the Barkman home.  But suddenly. Garlic.
My hand stops mid-air.
Garlic. 79 cent label plastered across it.
And Suddenly. Suddenly. Suddenly. Before I can do anything to stop anything, I’m taken back to the Phnom Penh street Market.
Sweaty bandana. Khmer Riel tightly wadded in my right hand. I’m the only foreigner in the entire place. I like it that way. I talk Khmer, smile real big. Life is so good! I am so Happy! We just got back from the slums, where we washed lice-ridden heads of at least a hundred children…myself included.
I’m running late. So I quickly buy my 5 cent garlic for our rooftop supper with Anun and Srey Leak.
I talk just enough Khmer so that dear lady selling garlic and potatoes thinks I’m fluent. I bid her farewell before she can figure out I only know enough to live on bread and water…and potatoes and garlic.
I walk the 15 minutes back home. Meet up with Erv. She’s not so fond of the market…Oh Erv. Too dirty I guess.
I love it. I want to live there.

—But Suddenly—I’m back.
Hand still outstretched. Big kitchen with custom cabinets– not ant cupboards. Garlic that’s American– not Cambodian. Life that is busy– not slow. Future that is Lancaster– Not slums…

“You’re home Claudia. Your’e home now. You’re home. You’re home. Get over it.”
I yank out the butter. Slam the fridge door shut a little too hard. I end up burning the butter in the pan. 

My mind is in Cambo today. My prayers are in Cambo today.

7 hours later:

It’s nearing eleven. My mind can’t seem to get a grip and fall asleep…
10:48 P.M. I get a text from Big Sister.
I wish we wouldn’t have to text each other. We lived every second of the summer side by side. But now we text each other to stay sane and hash our lives at every possible spare moment of time.
I’m sitting in Honey Brook. And she’s sitting in Bird-in-Hand. I flip open my good ol’ hand-me-down Samsung.

One of our kids drowned today.
I think it’s Bonya from a few houses down from the center.
Oh Honey!!”


No. No. No. No.

Seconds. My journal and Bible are out of my bag and the tiredness evades me and I flip on a light and I run to the door and undo the deadbolt I walk out where I can see the lights of the Shell across the street and I cry tears of anger and I pretend like nothing will ever change and I refuse to believe that precious Bonya with one droopy eye and puffed out stomach and daily hand on my arm and smile just for me…is gone. But…I loved him!!
I don’t reply to Ervina. Not ever. I just sit on the porch. I just rock on the chair. I just let the tears cry. I just realize.
I thought Cambo froze. I thought it all just stopped when I left. Ervina and I talked last week. Said we would return. All our kids would run down the streets again and we would hug them again and hold them again and they would teach us what Love is again…and now…can we go back if a face is missing?
No! No! Nothing was supposed to change. I thought. When I go back. Srey Bin will still be 6 years old. Sum Lawn will still have that innocent smile and carry around Mowgli on her back. The neighbors will still be in their same houses, the rice fields will still be green and knee deep in mud, the posters Erv’s hand made for the ministry building will still say “DO JUSTICE” and “LOVE MERCY” and…best of all…no one will have aged a day and no one will have forgotten us.
I’m still rocking on the chair. Fists for hands. Nothing was supposed to change!!...No one was supposed to die!!
But I’m here in America. It’s where God wants me. But I feel so helpless. My three-month children! Oh my children! How is it possible to love so deeply in so short of a time?…
I drove home from Honey Brook this morning. One of my contacts came out last night. So I drove Route 10 to 340 with one eye closed and blow my horn passing Smuckers Energy (Just because I can) and try not to let Cambo thoughts cloud my one sided vision…and I ask Him…
What must I do Lord? How can I serve Cambo from so far away? How can I pray? How can I fight?
Did I live with intention every day of Cambodia? Do I live with intention every day of Lancaster County?
Four weeks ago today I left Phnom Penh.
Yesterday I was jolted back.
I would have given Bonya a tighter hug…deeper love…If someone would have just told me… in a month he would be gone…
But Dear Lord. I must give people tighter hugs NOW. Deeper love NOW. 

God help me live with intention.

Death is at my doorstep. And I can’t do anything about it. But live in Complete Faithfulness to the Lord…

So Help Me God.