Lent Day 13: How to save the world

Save the cheerleader the most vulnerable, save the world

This week, the Lent Experiential Calendar calls us to “take up” a concern for Cambodia.  Today’s experience is to read through World Relief Cambodia’s website.

I went with my church to Cambodia last summer for a missions trip.  And we spent quite a bit of time learning about Cambodian history, its current struggles, and we got to see many of those things up close when we finally hit ground.  So nothing I read on the site was news.

But one thing struck me about WR’s approach this time around.  Their aid, services, and training are aimed almost exclusively at the most vulnerable half of the Cambodian population.  Now, it is nothing particularly noteworthy to send help to the neediest and most vulnerable.  After all, they are the ones that need it.  But what struck me was WR’s belief that the future of Cambodia depended on the uplifting of its most downtrodden citizens by Christ.  Allow me to let the Bunnath, Nareth, Nomroth, and Sokha, the WR Cambodia Directing Team use their own words:

The Kingdom of Cambodia still bears the scars of a troubled past.  Modern Cambodia has inherited a legacy of poverty, disease, and lack of education from a half-century of civil war, genocide, and political instability.

HIV/AIDS, poverty, domestic violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation especially of children and young women are today prevalent in Cambodia.  Many Cambodians face brokenness:  in their communities, in their families, and in their daily lives.  The loss of hope, opportunity, and recognition mar their identity.

To bring Christ’s healing, World Relief Cambodia has seen success in using a cell church model for local church growth – almost 10,000 new believers since These Christians now constitute over 2,000 local cell churches across five provinces.  We are investing in training these new cell church leaders.  These churches participate in other ministry opportunities in their communities, including outreach to others, sharing health lessons, and caring for the sick.

 In the future, we envision these groups of believers as agents of true holistic transformation in their communities.

The logical philosophy, the prudent philosophy, the dominant philosophy says something different:

save the cheerleader…
save the powerful…
save the influential…
save the educated…
save the well-resourced…
…save the world.

And don’t get me wrong, I think we need to see the humbling, heart-rending, and salvation of the movers and shakers of Cambodia (or any country, really; including our own).  Christians who have the privilege of power and access have the potential to do much good.  And yet at the same time, they have the grave potential of falling into the very same trap that has ensnared nearly all who’ve been given wealth, power, and fame.  Just think of the dramatic turn the Church took after the Roman Emperor Constantine “converted.”  Many of the most regrettable acts in Church history can be traced to that reversal of Christianity as the religion of the oppressed, to the religion of the powerful.

But more importantly, when we place our focus on the most powerful rather than the most vulnerable, we betray the story and the person of Christ, who made salvation possible, not through economic, military, or political conquest, but through his vulnerable defeat on the Cross.  Jesus recruited his most influential disciples from the most common of places.  He spent time with the powerful, but more often, he was associated with “the least of these.”  Through the weak and the foolish, he saw it fit to shame the strong and the wise, by using them as the bearers of his gospel.

So on this second week of Lent, I am reminded of the most vulnerable in Cambodia, and in the same thought, the power of Christ’s own vulnerability on the Cross.  There is hope for Cambodia, because the hope is already there, and it can be found in Christ

who walks the streets selling his body
who is daily lured into bonded labor
whose rice crop failed again
whose blood is filled with AIDS.

Save the most vulnerable.  Save the world.

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