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Who Will Love Them?

31 Oct

We spoke on Sunday.
Showed this to our friends.
Stirred our hearts anew.
God keep us soft.






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. 

A Heart for the Homeless Part II

13 Aug

 I catch a glimpse of her on the sidewalk in front of me. Outstretched arm with tin cup intwined in fingers.
I have no other route and I must walk past her. And so I do what I’ve learned to do best.
I ignore her.
I pick up my pace. Shift my eyes to the very, extremely exciting other side of the street. Justify my cause by the fact that she should have a job, that she would only use my money for drugs, and that perhaps the next time I’ll have time to help. But I avoid her eyes.
Why? Am I guilty? And Of what? Lord show me what to do!

If I am to be Your hands then will I not at least buy her some food? Oh I don’t know!
If I am to be Your eyes then will I not STOP shuffling my shoe on the pavement and gaze into the eyes of the oppressed?
New York City. Philly. Lancaster. Phnom Penh. I cannot escape their extended hand.
I’m like the Pharisees, who gave so willingly…only when the world could see. I give out of my abundance.
Sure, I spent the morning passing out bananas to precious street children, but all the while knowing I’ve got a full meals security waiting for me at the base.
Sure, I give three months of my life in overseas ministry, but all the while knowing that my Lancaster security cushion is only a few weeks away.
Oh Smite me Lord! For Doing things only for the Approval of Man! For clinking my money a little harder in the tin. For casting a side gaze as I prayed for that woman. For all my worthless, fanciful speech.
Wretched soul that I am. And yet, it is For HIS Kingdom that I drive the hitchhiker, it is for HIS Courts that I bow the knee, it is for HIM that I pen these thoughts.
But here I sit. On my little blue mattress, 4 inches of the floor. Tile wall beside me covered in verses and prayers unanswered, but in the making. Perhaps i’ll add this one to the wall: My role in the lives of the Homeless that I come in contact with.
I could pray with them. I could give them that. But I cannot stop there!
Oh, but what will I do the next time? For that is the true test.

Last time. Lucky for me. Someone else in the group talked to the lady in Times Square with the baby in her arms. I got to shuffle my feet as He talked to her. And then I turned away.
Last time. Lucky for me. I turned my eyes away before the old man with cardboard sign in Washington DC caught my eye. As far as he knew, I never saw him in my rapture of the Washington Monument.
But I knew. Oh Yes. I knew.
But then. Glory Be. There was another last time.
 I drove thru Lancaster, sat at a traffic light, hurriedly handed out my lunch to skinny-man with the cardboard sigh. Traffic light turns green, but I have only three seconds to tell him Jesus is The One to thank. Horns blare behind me. Traffic is angry at the Menno girl wasting three seconds of precious time. I try to remember that before Coatesville Lady (who almost killed me with the heat machine) I would have perhaps had my hand to the horn as well. God Change me!
Life is not measured in seconds. And So I give.
But I cannot get over the fact that I give out of my security.
Like a trapeze artist who impresses the audience, all the while knowing the security net is only just below.
So. I give my lunch to skinny homeless man, all the while, knowing I can buy lunch in five minutes at Prince Street Cafe.
So. I drive Coatesville Lady an hour or two, all the while, knowing I can go back to comfortable home only miles away.
So. I give money to missions, possibly even time, all the while, knowing…knowing it all!
Maybe I’ll just go become a cardboard-sign-holder, or a tin-can-extender. Maybe not. I don’t know.
I only know this: That I am tired of casting down my eyes at the site of a beggar. I’m tired of letting it be someone else’s job. I’m downright tired of my Pharisee clinking of money in the box.
Oh God! If You love these tin-can-holding Precious People, then by all means, I want to love them too…
“…To Divide YOUR bread with the hungry…” MY BREAD?!
“…To bring the homeless into YOUR house…” MY HOUSE?!
“…When you see the naked, cover him…” MY CLOTHES?!

Perhaps. Perhaps this is the scandal of the Gospel. That WE actually go out and do it.
Boy, What If WE actually lived the Gospel?…

32 More days. Heh Heh.

.three articles I WISH I had written that I WISH you would read.

1. “…There’s not much more I can do, not tonight. And lucky for me, I don’t have to. I have the unfathomable luxury of walking away…” 
-Heather Coaster

2. “…If we have to read one more blog post or go to one more conference seminar or listen to one more sermon about the needy, we’re going to scream!…
-Matthew Paul Turner

3. “…And I’m still thinking about what it would look like if justice became a lifestyle for me…”
-Tanya Huyard

A Heart for the Homeless.

3 Aug

My memory recalls it all quite vividly.
Perhaps it was because I thought myself near death’s doorway.
I can still see her, sitting in the passenger seat as I drove her back to Coatesville. Eyes Gleaming with tears, muttering random words as she tried to piece her life together for me, occasionally a line or two I could understand.
This night Is important you see, because it is the night God changed my heart for the Homeless.
I recall that it was a late night at the Youth Center. I had stayed later than the rest, but I was awfully tired, and I prayed as usual, that “Oh dear Lord, Help me not to fall asleep on the wheel.”
Eleven PM. I heard the lock click on the door behind me, and began walking across the street to my car. Dim lights from the Shell pave my way.
But then I see her. She’s coming towards me. I tense up.
“Oh Please no. Not now.” A homeless person? In Honey Brook? Her claims of a fallen through court case and no money did nothing to me. All the usual thoughts ran through my head. I’ve been trained how to think through and justify ignoring people like this.
But tonight. I couldn’t.
“Coatesville,” She mutters, “I just need to get to Coatesville.” I avoid eye contact. Why, oh Why, Did I have to be the last person to leave?
I slam my hands into my jacket pockets.
I know. I know. I KNOW that I cannot drive home and leave her there.
My mission does NOT begin as I walk through the Youth Center doors, and my mission does NOT end as I usher the last child out and lock the YC doors.
My life is a beating heart ministry. My very heart beat is not my own.
“Oh! But I need my Sleep!” “Oh, But I need to drive her to Coatesville!” Good thing I didn’t know much of Coatesville.
I stick my head through Danielle’s front door. She’s still up talking with her bro. “I’m just…uh…taking some Homeless person to Coatesville…So uh…If I don’t ever come back…” A Nervous laugh. I shut the door. It’s a joke of course.
Uh. Of course.
I didn’t get home till after one that night. She didn’t know directions. Neither did I. She was freezing cold and kept the heat on HIGH for a full hour and a half.
I don’t think I cooled down for days after that.
But I heard her story. Heard how her friend got killed “Right there at that old hardware store.” Heard her heart. And God changed me. A girl who used to be afraid of The Homeless, into a girl who now has a Heart for The Homeless.

That was a year ago. Maybe two. I can’t quite remember. But it changed me.
Months later. I pick up another lady. I’m driving from the Youth Center to Gap park. We talk. We cry. And once more, I’m changed.
Over and Over since my First Coatesville run, God stops my tires for the cause of a Stranger. I’m not quite sure why they always seem to be on my route.
But I think God puts them there.
He puts them here too. In Phnom Penh. And this week. I read in the Book of Job, “Did I Not weep for him who was in trouble? Was not my heart grieved for the poor and needy?..” And I hear HIM ask me.
“You Remember Coatesville Lady? You remember Times Square Lady? You remember that man holding the sign in Lancaster City? That Old lady you didn’t stop to help in a New Holland side alley?…Did you weep over them? Was your heart grieved over them?…”
And I begin to See. And I begin to Learn. That I CAN do something for the needy. I CAN do something for the oppressed. I CAN stab to death my old mindset of: God help that Homeless Person because I can do nothing…
Because God Help Me, I CAN do something!
But Will I be willing? Will I have courage?
And So I begin. Now.
On a fresh page of my journal.
I label it: What I can Do for the Poor. The Hungry. The Orphan. The Homeless. The Beggar. The Sinner. and The Saint.
And I begin to write down what I can do…
I begin with: “I CAN! Make eye contact and acknowledge them.”
It’s not much. But it’s a start. And you can too.

My Friends. My Heroes.

20 Jul

Her name is Annie. She’s my Friend.
Yesterday she gave her shoes away. And I stood by and watched.
She hands her shoes to a shoeless child. A perfect fit. Crazy. “I feel so bad,” Annie whispers to me, “these shoes are falling apart.” YOU feel so bad? I’m the one with the gun of conviction on the back of my neck.
Annie left the slums, shoeless. But Annie left the slums a Better Place. For the life of a child was changed.
The heart of pure servanthood in action. She’s my friend, but watching her life has made her My Hero.

Her name is Martha. She’s my Mother.
She fills my Love Tank. Silly wording, I know. But it’s True, True, True.
A late night after Youth Center, I come home. Nicely folded clothes sitting on top of nicely fixed bed. I did neither, Mother did both.
An early morning HBYC meeting, I’m tiptoeing past her bedroom door, I see a faint light and hear her early morning prayers. For her children. For me. Oh Mother.
A handwritten note on my coffee table after a rough day. A phone call a few minutes after leaving home, “I just wanted to say I’m sorry…Will you be alright?” A biography sitting on my desk with a note on top. Oh Mother.
The heart of pure servanthood in action. She’s my mother, but watching her life has made her My Hero. 

Her name is Ervina. She’s my sister. 
And today she bought Ramon noodles.
Because she knew that somewhere along the lines of her Quality Time vs. my Acts of Service, it mattered. Strange, but I cannot even begin to describe how her simple act of buying-ramon-noodles is really a Massive Act of Love.
“I’m sorry they aren’t really good honey,” She says as we eat our ramon-noodle supper on our floor mattresses.
Not really good? Like I care! Oh Erv, don’t you realize it’s not about the food, go get fried worms for me and i’ll be happy for a whole week. 🙂 You donnneee filled my little Acts of Service cup. :]
But, Because I know that she would much rather sit down beside me and talk then go buy us supper, it matters. Oh, it matters.
Boy, i’m having a real hard time articulating this. But basically, she does what she doesn’t always feel like doing in order to bless others. Boy, that still doesn’t put it quite right. But basically, She sees the good in people. She loves me through my faults. She challenges my weaknesses. She reminds me that the world still has good in it, when I’m fed up with it all (which is perhaps quite often). She teaches me to pray. She teaches me tenderness of soul. She displays heroic unselfishness.
The heart of pure servanthood in action. She’s my sister, but watching her life has made her My Hero.

Time would fail me to tell of them all. Of the friend-turned-heroes; Danielle Beiler and my Thailand Missionary heroes, Cathie Gingerich, Abigail Weaver and Hudson Taylor (Ok. Ok. We would have been friends had we been born in the same era) and Ivan & Anna, Joy Smoker, Beth Mast and My Father and Cherie Barkman and so many other heroic lives that inspire my own…

Oh Lord. To be like You! Yup, It’s a pretty exciting life!…
And that is about it for now…

You just so happen to be My Hero too.

Will you dare to Uncover Your Eyes?

7 Jul

I ‘ooo’ and I ‘ahh’ over the Proverbs 31 woman.
I hear mothers pray these verses over their daughter softly sleeping in their rooms at night.
I hear mothers pray these verses over their small son’s future wife.
I hear Mothers pray this passage over themselves. Perhaps silently laughing at the irony of it.
But what of verses eight and nine? Do we forget about those?


How Long will I cover my eyes to the Enslaved? How Long will I cork my ears to the cry’s of the Desperate?

Oh Yes. I care about their souls. Oh Yes. I would love to be an overseas missionary.
Oh Yes. I care about the Proverbs 31 woman. Many times myself I have piously prayed these verses over myself.
But how long will I sit and Sip Coffee while the lives of thousands of young girls all around me are daily being sold into gut-wrenching slavery?
Here I live. In the city of Phnom Penh. Also known as the largest supplier of this devil child sex-trade. And what do I do about it?
Do I care for their souls if I care not for their bodies?
Daily, as Ervina and I walk these streets, are we aware of the vast amount of bondage around us. In the upstairs window of the yellow bakery we pass. In the third-story complex of the welding shop we don’t glance towards. Little girls. Huddled in rooms. Scared. Enslaved. Trapped.
Oh God! How you must be Weeping! I only begin to see Your pain!
Oh Yes. I care very much for My safety and My well-being.  I put up a fight if the tuk-tuk driver is ripping me off 50 cents. But I say nothing as the innocence of the world’s children in stripped away. 
Oh Yes. I want to be a woman who Considereth a Field before I Buyeth It. But will I also Stretch out my Hand to Feed the Poor and the Needy?
Oh LORD. How long have Your people closed their ears to the screams and covered their eyes to the tears of the afflicted? But Oh, we have
so much else to care about. We don’t possibly have time to fight for the cause of the child-slaves in Uganda. in Phnom Penh. In Lancaster City.
NO TIME? Only time to spend every other evening in the mall?? And every other day manicuring our freshly mowed lawns??
No time you say? Only time to put in that new addition and repaint that bathroom blue??
NO TIME? Really?! While we sit and read a novel that suits only to stir up sinful desires, or take pleasure in watching the lust of the world on the screen of our tv.
NO TIME? Oh How God must WEEP!
. Make yourself coverings of tapestries and clothing of silk and purple if you must. GO THEN. Visit Southern Italy and sigh as you think how romantic it is…even though it is the heart of the trafficking routes for the modern slave trade.
GO THEN. Visit Phnom Penh. Atlanta, Georiga, the number one city in the US for child sex trafficking. And even Lancaster City, a home to countless brothels.
God Forbid that I should tighten the shield around my eyes, and perhaps in doing so, the noose around my neck.
You may say that you would have stood up against the world with William Wilberforce.
You may say that you would have taken a death-stand against Hitler in Germany. But will you stand up now?
Slavery is not so far removed as we have made ourselves to believe.
RIP OFF the bandanna that covers your eyes!
Uncork the mouth that has too long remained silent!
Do not be afraid to 
Hear their anguished cries!
Fight For God’s Precious Children!

The Candy Shop from Whitestone Motion Pictures on Vimeo.

The Candy Shop is a parable about the child sex trafficking epidemic (although, it is also equally applicable to the pornography industry). Powerful. It was worth every minute of my time.

Is there Hope? For HBYC. For McDonalds. For Phnom Penh?

3 Jul

10 weeks ago. Honey Brook Youth Center Office. 

His feet don’t even touch the floor! Oh God! His feet don’t even touch the floor!
Benji and Jace sit beside me. Jace is stubborn. Hard. Angry. Such a simple matter. I didn’t mean it to become this big.
But fifteen minutes out back was too much to ask of him tonight. So here we sit. I listen to Ben’s wisdom, thoughts racing through my head.
I hear A line of child-speech.  I watch his feet kick the sides of the chair. I listen to Ben’s soft voice urging him on to obedience, to freedom. I see him contort his small face, angry words jumbled together.
I begin to fear. Fear the oppression that I feel intertwined around this poor child’s life. Bondage. No question.
“Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.” Silent prayers from a screaming heart. Deep burden for this child.
“Do you understand why I am asking this of you.” Benji asks him gently.
“NOO!” Small hands slam against small knees. Small eyes form into furrowed brow. Deep pain etched across his eyes. Is that…is that Bitterness?
Oh God I want the freedom of his soul!”Silent prayers. I turn my face towards the ground to avoid the tears becoming evident.
More pursed little lips. More clenched little fists. More angry grunts of childish rebellion. What controls this child? What force echo’s so loudly in his head? Jace. Jace. What darkness has conquered you.
Does the secret to your healing lie in prayer? Are we as Youth Center staff shirking our Call Of Duty?? Is deliverance for your soul, for your speech a mere weeks fasting away, a day’s agony in my closet, or a murmured command from Satan to flee??
How far, or how close, is deliverance? What must I do to claim it?
Is there Hope? Is there Hope for the precious enslaved souls of  those I’ve come to love in this small town of Honey Brook? 

5 weeks ago. New Holland Mcdonalds. 

My half hour break has just begun. It’s my last week here. I’ve been trying not to think about it.
I grab my Bible and highlighter and head out back. I see Bree sitting on the sidewalk.
When I first started at this job, she hated my early morning guts, and let me know constantly, finally after two months, she and I forged the early morning gap (We stopped talking for the first two hours every morning. It worked out well.) and become dear friends.
Now, I sit down beside her on the sidewalk.
She takes a drag of her cigarette. “Your going to miss my graduation you know,” she says softly.  She looks away, misty eyes, and breaths in smoke once more.
“Yes.” I say. I look away too. My mind is screaming at me. “How Can I leave this place?!
Who will show them love?!
Who will pray for them?!
Is there Hope? Is there Hope for the precious enslaved souls of those I’ve come to love in this small workplace?

Present Day. Phnom Penh Slums.

I’m walking down a dusty street.
Children running everywhere. Pain in my heart. Oh How I love them already!
I hear my name being called out in Khmi behind me, “Dee-ah, Dee-ah.” It’s a Glorious feeling. 
Before I can turn around,tiny hands grip my shoulders. I take a small child in my arms and feel another wrap around my waist.
Smile lines etched around dark brown eyes look up at me. I smile and laugh, and hold what little conversation I can as I continue walking.
I feel like the Pied Piper, walking down streets with a bundle of children trailing me.
Oh Dear Children who spend your days roaming the streets, how can I show you Love?
How can I show you Love, when you have seen so much pain already. How can I show you Love, I, who am only beginning to learn who Love is.
Is there Hope? Is there Hope for the precious enslaved souls of these dear children whom I have [already] come to Love in Phnom Penh?

     “Behold. I am doing a New Thing! Now it Springs Forth; Do not you perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the Wilderness and Rivers in the Desert.”