To Live in the House of Prisoners

This is the view out of our back window. The home we are staying in backs up to an open area that does not belong to the Borey (a gated community of twin and single villa houses, with full security services) in which the house is located. I noticed it one night while I was cooking dinner in the back area of our villa and I just stopped. I saw our windows were covered with barbed wire and my heart grew sad. Ok, so let’s start at the beginning…

As with many places, restrictions were implemented by the Cambodian government because of Covid19. Schools were closed first, followed by a 2 month long curfew, a zone map created by instances of the virus. (this allowed you to come and go according to the color you lived in) Then the almost month-long full-on lockdown. Well, there you have it. Can you say “Aaaaaaaaargh?” Words like ‘imprisoned’, ‘confined’, ‘held captive’, and, (well, you get the idea) came flitting thru out minds and were used often in our conversations.

Needless to say, once restrictions were lifted we were ready to Get Out of Dodge. That being said, when the kids in the Borey suggested a ride to see Phnom Baset, a small mountain north of the city we said, “yes please”. And off we went to “the hills” of Cambodia.

Wat Baset is an old temple located on the top of a small mountain. It is such a tranquil place. Birds chirping and flowers blooming everywhere. It is beautiful as the pictures below show. The buildings, the grounds, the carvings…..

I walked slowly around the temple itself, peeking in windows, admiring the carvings, and praying for those who were there to pray to Buddha, and praying to dispel the spirits that you can actually feel present in certain places. I always feel sad for those who for generations have known no better than to follow other religions. It may be a belief of peace and serenity, but deep down there is a darkness.

Across from these buildings were statues in grotesque situations. (we obviously steered the kiddos down a different path). The characters were being tortured and I won’t go into detail how. When I asked what this sort of imagery had to do with the Buddhism belief, I was told something that I had never heard of.

Here is the belief on death. ” the Death King, Phya Yom, weighs the record of each recently deceased human’s good deeds (which are engraved in his gold ledger) against their sins (which are scratched onto a piece of dog leather). If the bad overshadows the good, they are inflicted with the proper punishment for their crimes before being reincarnated and returned to earth. ” Just as Christians believe in the 10 Commandments, Buddhists also have their own list of rules to abide by. Consequently, the punishments’ received in hell (yes that is where you automatically go) are specific for each sin or rule they have broken. Imagine punishments for adultery, drunkenness, murder, theft, shall I type on?

As I sit here at my laptop typing this, my heart aches for the people of Cambodia. To have a belief that if they fail at anytime during this life they will suffer such torcher only to be returned to this world to live another life and try to “get it right” before they die again….and again….and again….. until, maybe they will achieve Nirvana. Yet most say only the monks truly achieve this, the most they can achieve is enough good karma to improve their next life.

They know nothing about the God who creates, Who loves, Who sent His Son to die so that we are made worthy only by accepting Jesus as our Savior and repenting of our sins. We who use phrases like “feeling imprisoned” cannot even fathom what it must feel like to suffer through a life of such hopelessness. That as you lay on your death bead, you experience such fear of a place of pain and torcher if you are deemed unworthy. And they have no idea the lie that really has imprisoned them.

Thankfully, Christianity is 2nd only to Buddhism in this country. And the prayer that fills our hearts daily is that the Truth will be heard by everyone. And so we try to be God’s mouth piece everyday. We pray each time we ride in the tuk-tuks around the city. We ask God to guide our words as we speak with the Khmer that enter our lives.

Getting back to the barbed wire making my heart sad. Cambodians are amazing people. They smile and laugh. They love and are very devoted to their families. They are very accepting of us, and laugh with us when we make a mistake but also quickly help us to get our point across. Yet having barbed wire on our windows is a constant reminder of the barbed wire that imprisons their very souls. I realize that using words like imprisoned and held captive are totally out of context. That when I am inconvenienced, I tend to use words that exaggerate what is the reality. I(we), in fact, are not living in a life of imprisonment. Not really…

We love it here and with the exception of not speaking more than a few Khmer words feel like we have always been here. We ask you to join us in this prayer. For the people of Cambodia to receive God’s Truth and accept it. That they can understand our words and that our Khmer lessons go well enough that we can be understood. And that they will be released from their imprisonment.

Thank you for your support & prayers, we love you all!

That you will open the eyes of the blind and you will bring out the prisoners from imprisonment and those who dwell in darkness from the house of prisoners. Isaiah 42:7 (Aramaic Bible/English Translation)


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