We recently decided that in order to minimize the time stress in our lives, I should make solo trips to the grocery store (instead of all 6 of us going). Because I don’t drive, I have to take tuk tuks. This week, after I return home and pay the tuk tuk driver, he demands more. I call Jonathan to bring me the extra 2000 riel I need (that’s only 50 cents, but I’m out of riel). Before he can bring it to me, the tuk tuk driver sighs, trudges to his moto, and drives away (possibly because I have already given him a fair wage??). Jonathan suggests that I walk to the drivers’ loitering place to give it to him.
So I do.
But I can’t find my driver. The other drivers tell me that he has gone home. And I’m not sure, but I think they say I can wait for him. (I’m working in Khmer here.) As I stand on the street trying to decide whether to return home or wait longer, an older woman approaches me and begins shooting questions in Khmer. Am I a Christian? Do I go to church? Do I know Christina, who is Catholic? I try to answer the questions, but that only leads to more questions. Am I Baptist? When do I go to church? Who do I go with? Lok Dtah, over there, he speaks English well, can I go talk to him? (Lok Dtah is the word for Grandfather, and although this man is her husband, that’s the respectful way to address him.)
So I follow her to meet Grandfather. He says he has been a Christian for 4 years; he no longer goes to the pagoda. He speaks to me in both English and Khmer; I speak back mostly in Khmer. I learn that it is Lok Dtah’s grandson who invited Jonathan into his home 2 weeks ago (before viral meningitis took over our lives). He also says he is a Christian and even wants to go to church with us. I never do figure out if the grandmother is a Christian. I am, however, gone long enough that Jonathan worries and calls to check on me.
During this conversation I smile pleasantly and behave as if everything is fine. I appear to believe their confessions of faith.
But there is a war in my mind.
We’ve learned that the entire structure of Cambodian society – for a thousand years – is built on corruption. Bribes. Cheating. Poor people seeking wealth, and seeking to use people to gain more wealth. Even if those people are Christian missionaries. Our training with Team Expansion teaches us never to allow money to be involved in church planting. But these people aren’t asking for money — or a job. They are simply giving me confessions of faith. How should I treat them? Shouldn’t I believe them to be Christians? Shouldn’t I treat them as Jesus instructs us in Matthew 13:
Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.” Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels. Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”
I am determined to fight the skepticism planted in my heart. I am committed to believing confessions of faith. I refuse to allow money to be an ingredient in church planting. But I will love my neighbors as myself. I will accept their testimonies. And I will certainly leave the judgment in the hands of the Son of Man.