I will never forget the sights, smells and sounds of this boat ride. Nor the heat. Seim Reap, Cambodia, and it was about 139 degrees (not really, it just felt like it). We were headed to the “floating village”. Little did I know that river trip would change me forever.
I had NO clue what that BIG dream would lead to. What started out as one thing–ended up as something that would show me much more than I ever believed I would see or experience…that’s what happens when we leave the choices to God. My part in all of it was a willingness to follow wherever His path chose. I will not kid you and make you think it was easy. It was hard. Letting go of one thing only to sit on the sidelines and see what He would do. It was supposed to be Egypt after all. Not Cambodia.
I remember sitting in my little praying spot in the living room and crying–asking Him–what are YOU doing?
The first miracle came with how God brought $2,400 in for the trip in less than 48 hours. After the excitement of realizing I was actually going to get to go settled in–Syria became a hot place. Egypt became unavailable for the mission trip. “What would you like to do, Angie? Wait and see? Or, be refunded?”
I held on to hope that God would turn things around. Then the call came that the trip was changed to Cambodia–did I still want to go? I knew in my heart that God knew all of this before we even began… Yes, I will go.
Once we had rested (after 23 hours in the air), we had our church service with the students at the Dream Center, which is where we were going to work (another blog). We went to lunch and then to tour a portion of the Angkor Wat temple. Click here to read more about the area. Originally built for hindu gods, but later was dedicated to buddhism (because apparently, the hindu gods failed [no duh, there is only ONE GOD–and to put it in my NW Florida/SE Alabama vernacular, it ain’t buddha either].
Anywaywhooo, this is about the steps. I just read that this tour is not for people with heart problems, pregnant women, but for physically fit people…uhm…I was not physically fit. Not by a long shot. But I flew all this way–and by George, I was committed to experience all the things so that I could share it with the precious people who had so graciously contributed.
I don’t have a picture of the front of the first climb of mountain of steps. It was straight up like the middle photo, but without any handrails. Our guide and mission leader explained that anyone who wanted to climb was free to go–however if anyone felt they couldn’t do it, they could stay on the ground with those who had either been before and was not about to climb it again–or those whose physical condition prohibited the climb.
This next part of the story is the most significant and what I really wanted to share–but you needed some background–right? As I began the straight up climb it was not initially difficult, despite the extraordinary heat. But after about 10 steps, my legs began burning. Soon I was having to press down on my wobbly thighs and try as best I could not to hassle like an exhausted dog when I breathed. Up-up-up we continued to climb. I, along with all our mission-mates were sweating profusely.
A little over mid-way, completely spent and borderline passing out, I paused and looked down to the ant-size people on the ground and I remembered Candi’s words, “you can stay here on the ground with us and wait if you don’t feel like you can make it”…and I thought how easy it would be to turn around and go back to safety. I think I even said as much to Vanessa who was the one nearest me. She was out of breath as well.
Red faced, sweat pouring, I turned back and heard a voice from the top level as he said, “the view is worth the climb”. My eyes climbed the steps even though my feet had not yet, and I saw a tall, white haired, elderly man as he stood at the top near one of the columns–no evidence of sweat stains on his shirt and he certainly wasn’t out of breath.
I pressed further on my thighs to pull myself up, almost willing them to keep moving, don’t freeze up. When the man stepped back around the column he seemed to disappear in the stones. There were not many people at the top when we finally, out of breath completely, arrived. My eyes scanned the few people stopped to catch their breath and sip lukewarm water, and I realized he was not among them. Anywhere.
As Vanessa and I began our duet of touring with limited conversation –because of the inability to talk and walk and sweat at the same time–I kept my eyes peeled for another sight of him. I never saw him again–even in seeing many other people, he was not among them.
Believe whatever you want–but I personally believe he was stationed right there to give me that message: “the view is worth the climb.” It was as if the Lord wanted me to know, life in general is tough. But I would face times ahead that it would take all I had to keep going. It would take perseverance to not find a shade tree to stand under while others climbed. It would take a constant focus and determination to not be tempted to just “wait it out”, while others did the hard stuff.
Friends, He calls us to the hard stuff. We– all believers and non-believers have life to plow through–and there are rocks and tree stumps in it for all of us. What believers in Jesus have that non-believers don’t have–is Someone to journey with them–to guide them and be with them every single step of the way; the hard days and the easier days. I would never want to began a journey anywhere without Him.
There was a heavy feeling of darkness there that day (in my spirit), I had one other trip years later to another country and tourist location where I felt this feeling of darkness. I kept whispering prayers under my breath as I walked–stopped –took pictures and felt the immense sadness that seemed to have permeated the thick walls of stone.
I’m not sure why this trip suddenly has come to my mind–but for the last several days–I’ve thought about it. Last Sunday, just before the mission service I shared the climbing portion with our pastor because he had said something in his morning message that reminded me of the climb. I think in the days we are living–the days that seem darker than my generation has ever experienced–we are going to NEED to push down hard to keep climbing.
My heart has stayed broken over things I hear that children and teens are being exposed to and how they are treated. There are those who God has called to become foster parents–and I cannot applaud them enough. Yes the system stinks. It is slow as molasses on a January morning in Canada–but we continue to pray for the safety of these who cannot speak for themselves.
Every mission trip God has blessed me with has widened my eyes and pricked my heart to pray more–give more and do all I can with the days I have ahead of me. My prayer is that He continues to widen my eyes. Enlarge the borders of Focus Forward Ministries and the church. My deepest desire is to make a difference for God, in the lives of others.
So if your climb has given you wobbly legs…. don’t look down or back… press forward. There are others right beside you, others following your footsteps, and the One ahead of you will lead you Home if you keep your focus on Him.