Monday, March 23, 2009

What Makes You Cry?

I've just finished listening to a sermon from my pastor and in it he was asking us 'what makes you cry?' Recently it seemed that CNN noted that Starbucks was now going to be selling instant coffee and one of their Ireporters commented that this news about Starbucks made them so angry they wanted to cry.' How sad it is, that something like this would make us cry? It's so easy for us as a society to focus on our trivial pursuits when there are far greater things that should move us to tears. My mind wondered to recent conversations I had had and an article that I had read---both of which made me cry. They both had exercised my anger as I sought God in prayer with the proverbial question of how long O'Lord? How long do you tolerate evil and the wickedness of moral depravity, how long?

The conversation that got me going was one in which a young friend who has been involved in development work in Africa shared about a seminar she went to. For the first time she heard about the atrocities done to women in the Congo. Innocent young women once being held captive and experiencing a level of evil that seem so hard to comprehend. One story my friend relayed was of a young woman who was strapped to a bed for 3 months and repeatedly gang raped on a daily basis. When she finally escaped her internal body completely destroyed. Now I am not a medical person but what was described to me was that her reproductive organs were deciminated as well she had no control over her bladder functions. This young victim commented that even now, the stench of semen surrounds her and she can't get rid of it. How long O'Lord do you tolerate this kind of dehumanization and degradation? My friend could hardly contain her emotion when she first heard this story. She went home and as she described it, cried so hard one night that she wanted to vomit. It was as if something inside of her needed to be expelled. The defilement she heard made her sick to her stomach.

What makes you cry? Is it the trivial? Or is something far greater or deeper? So often we may say Lord break our hearts with the the things that break your heart but do we really want that or is it just lip service? It is so easy for our hearts and minds to wander, to be distracted with the here and now, to be busy for the sake of being busy. I can't help but wonder if our busyness is just a protective cover that keeps our hearts from being broken with the things that break God's heart. My friend is back in Africa for a brief visit but I shared with her that when God reveals such levels of evil and brokenness in our world to us, it is a call to pray and seek His face. It is a treasure that He has deposited in us because He wants to show us what grieves His heart and to challenge us to respond. I don't want my heart to grow cold to these stories. I don't want to avoid them. For the day I ignore them, is the day I stop allowing my heart to be broken by the things that break God's heart. As hard as they are to hear them, I want to learn about them. This is the way of the cross. To walk the way of the cross is to enter into the suffering of the world. So often we want the 'crown of glory' but we don't want to wear the 'crown of thorns.'

The other story that made me cry recently come a bit closer to home. It is the calling that God has placed on my life to speak up for children who are sold into prostitution. Recently, I got a prayer letter from a missionary friend working in Cambodia. She works among the Vietnamese community, below is an excerpt from her letter:

On Saturday, December 20, 2008, at 06:15 I set out with two friends to help me visit the five NH schools that are under my care. At each school the individual classes performed a Christmas song together and several children read from Scripture. After the Christmas program was finished it was my turn to speak to the group. The children were very well behaved and listened well to my presentation of the gospel message. Starting with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I explained to the children with pictures how sin entered the world and that we are each sinners who are separated from God. God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us so that we can go to heaven to be with Him, and not have to pay for our own sins. I explained that only through faith in Jesus can we go to heaven.

At the end of my presentation I invited all the children who wanted to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour for the first time to join me on the stage and prayed. The numbers of children responding to the gospel were for a total of 140 children. At first when I saw so many children came up to receive Christ, I was sceptical about their understanding of my message because some of the children were very young about 4 or 5 years old. I asked the children whether they knew that they were sinners; that Jesus died on the cross for their own sins; and if they wanted Jesus to forgive their sins and to become His children. All of the children understood and wanted me to pray for them. I praised the LORD for drawing so many young Vietnamese children to Him so that they could embrace His love in their rough lives and know that they can call on God when they are in trouble.

"ML" is a grade 3 student in NH school at KM 11. She comes from a Buddhist family and is the oldest girl in the family with one sister and two bothers. I noticed "ML" about a year ago because of her faith in Jesus and her village. She walked to NH church almost every Sunday and carefully listened to sermons. She always greeted me with a gentle head bowing and a sweet smile. One Sunday, I went with her to visit her family who lived in a small hut in “NC” village. I saw some of our drop-out students (13 to 15 years old) who worked as prostitutes. Later on, I found out that all the girls above 12 years old in “NC” village were sold by their parents into brothels. This information broke my heart and made me fearful for ML’s future since she was 11 years old at that time.

I visited ML many times and met only her mother who was busy selling some snacks in front of the house. I asked for her parents’ permission to take ML to a place where she would receive scholarship to study even in a university. Her mother always refused my offer and said that they loved her very much and could not bear to be away from their daughter even for one day.

I saw ML on Feb 4/09 and felt that some bad things had happened to her. She acted differently than at the Christmas time I last saw her. She still went to school but not the church. She wore a long sleeve black sweater at noon with the heat over 30 C degree. She was quiet, sad and not interested in choosing gifts from a Canadian team. It seemed like nothing could comfort or cheer her up.

I went back to school a few days after to talk to "ML" privately. She still wore the same long sleeve black sweater in a hot baking noon time sun. She did not look at me or greet me with her usual sweet smile. I found out that her parents went to Vietnam for the Vietnamese New Year (Jan. 26) to build up her grandmother’s tomb and left her and her 9 years old sister alone in their house. Her father lost his job about 4 months ago and lost a lot of money in the cock fights. I asked her where her parents had money for the trip and for the gold chain they bought for her. She told me her parents borrowed money. "ML" did not tell me, but through our conversation and feeling her unspoken pain and suffering, I knew that she had been sold for her virginity before the New Year to pay off the debt. I cried for her loss of innocence and broken spirit. I cried also for ML" younger sister and the many other young girls in the “NC” village. They would likely be sold just as "ML" and many other older girls.

Every time I read this story about "ML", I cry. I ask the Lord many questions. 'ML' is not just another child sold into prostitution. She is not just another statistic in this horrible travesty. She is a 'sister in Christ'---she is my 'little sister', she is a child of God for whom Christ died. How long O'Lord do you allow this evil to continue? How long O'Lord do you allow your precious children to be treated as commodities? How long O'Lord?

It is easy to be discouraged in this battle, when the tears are dried up what next? WHen the questions remain unanswered, what next? How do you persevere? I think of my missionary friend who faces these situations day in and day out. This is the bitter sweet experience of this ministry. Seeing many children become followers of Christ and yet seeing one be carted off like a sheep to the slaughter. But I have hope, this is what Easter is all about, we are called to enter into the darkness of Good Friday but we are not called to stay there. For Easter beckons us with the call of hope that Christ not only rose from the dead but His resurrection power is in everyone of us. His resurrection power is in "ML" and I have hope and faith that He did not put His seal on her for naught. But that she will rise again and He will restore, redeem and repay every single one of the days that the locust have eaten from her and she will no longer be shamed.

Thank you Lord Jesus for giving us the privilege of weeping with you over the brokenness of your world. You who were a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief, know the pains and sufferings of the 'ML's of the world. Thank you that because you rose, ML can rise again. So while weeping may remain for a night, rejoicing comes in the morning.

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