World Race team Refuge hits the streets of Cambodia to bring Christmas to 10 street kids.
After finishing out an amazing month of ministry in the slums of Cambodia, my new team, Team Refuge, was left without any plans for Christmas day. We envisioned a day of giving some children the kind of Christmas morning that we all have grown up with— filled with feasting and gifts and laughter. We wanted to redefine Love for a couple of unsuspecting strangers. After posting a facebook status about our hope for that kind of Christmas, we were blessed with $2,000 in donations to spoil the literal hell out of some street kids. So when Christmas morning arrived, we prayed and shouted declarations of a Savior being born on the rooftop of our hotel, put on our Santa hats, blew up an ATM, and hit the streets of Phnom Penh to find some kiddos with our translator and pockets full of cash. We quickly stumbled upon a group of little boys who spend their days begging for money and cleaning windshields of passing cars so their families can eat. It was clear that these were the kids the Lord had for us that day: We immediately fell in love with their sweet spirits and utter excitement. The day was filled with chicken wings, ice cream, feet washing, brand new toys/clothes/shoes, an endless amount of arcade tokens, and lots of excitement and laughter. We wanted to bless these kids, but as it usually works out, those 10 street kids ministered to our hearts in radical ways, taught us something more about the character of Jesus, and gave us the most joy-filled, memorable Christmas of all of our lives.
This month at our slum ministry, we taught the children to say, “When I give, I have joy.” And this Christmas, some little ragamuffin boys who don’t speak a word of English taught our words right back to us. With Santa hats on their heads and sacks of new toys thrown over their shoulders, we herded what looked like an army of little elves out of the mall at the end of the day. Their joy and pride to call something their own was written all over their filthy little faces; because they hadn’t owned shoes, these boys weren’t even allowed to set foot in the mall in the past. And now they exited that mall in glory, with new shoes on their feet and glances of admiration and envy from every middle-class child that passed by. The massive amounts of shopping bags and dirty children drew crowds wherever we went. For the first time in their lives, those street kids were in the spotlight. Not forgotten. Not ignored. Not swatted away. And man they were shining. As we escorted the kids home with their gifts, one of the kids stopped in the middle of the street, causing a traffic jam in our trail of Santa soldiers. Frantically trying to keep the line moving, I ran over to see if one of the kids was having trouble carting around the child-sized bag holding his new remote-controlled car. But no, he had stopped by choice. My heart about burst into a million pieces when I saw him pull out the small wad of bills that he had collected begging on the streets that morning, and gently hand it to an old blind woman sitting on the street corner. What a clear picture of the Gospel that moment was in my life! The poor looking after the poor. When we know we have what we need, when we know we have the endless Supplier of all of our needs, we are freed and empowered to give everything we have away… with joy! I pray those boys will remember this day for the rest of their lives, that their paradigms would be shifted and their faces turned to their Savior. I pray that they will be disciple-makers, story-tellers, and radical givers.
Our translator explained to every child, every cashier, and every dismayed stranger along the way why we were shoveling out money on “the least” of Cambodia: because our hearts were stirred to reflect to them the kind of value that Jesus finds in them. The kind of love He has for them. The kind of endless gifts He wants to bestow upon them. The kind of joy He brings to a life. The kind of compassion He can cloak any heart with. The kind of inheritance He has waiting for all of us.