A reflection by Rev. Brandon Johnson- Pastor, First Christian Church of Lawton, OK on his recent visit to Cambodia
The shade of a tree is one way to provide relief in the heat of rural Cambodia. I found myself searching for similar relief while listening to a community leader share stories of development and transformation. It was those stories that eventually provided relief. As I listened, the heat of the day became the background, and the metaphor of planting seeds moved to the foreground.
Years ago, leaders of a community outside of Kampong Thom, Cambodia began to meet and organize with the aid of Church World Service, a partner of Week of Compassion. Together they identified key issues that affected the health and wellbeing of their community.
Chanthou, a community leader, began to tell us about the work of combating domestic violence in their small community. Instead of silence and shame, they sowed seeds of community accountability and honesty. Chantou and other women began meeting together to share their stories and exchange ideas.
The women, with the help of Week of Compassion and Church World Service, were planting seeds in the good soil of each other's homes. Eventually, their teams included men who would support accountability and honesty. This kind of work ensured that future generations would benefit from the trees of love and safety. Chanthou began planting seeds years ago and I, as an onlooker, witnessed the growth of a tree - a tree that extended branches of female empowerment and community leadership. Indeed, "seeds fell on good soil."
The following day we traveled to a classroom in which children were rehearsing the steps of proper hygiene as it relates to food and self-care. Again, it was a community leader who led the review of the basic steps of hygiene. The Gospel of Mark's words continued to ring true..."Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop."
We witnessed a tree growing the lives of forty children as they were participating in their own health and well-being. I can only imagine the trees that these seeds will become...trees of leadership and strength.
Week of Compassion allows us to be co-planters, which results in the growth of large and far-reaching trees. Over three days, I met individuals and communities that revealed how seeds, planted in good soil, will grow.
While our team rarely found physical relief from the heat of Cambodia, we did find relief and comfort in the stories of Chanthou and forty children. We learned volumes about the power of planting seeds, carefully and methodically tending the soil, while watching metaphorical trees grow.
Whether it's hygiene classes or women's empowerment, there are seeds being sown and trees growing in Cambodia.
My prayer: Thanks be to God for those willing to plant seeds of possibility and nurture God's compassion.