Friday, December 19, 2014

Life in Community: Trauma Happens


(Insert inappropriate Khmer words, some of which I understood and some of which I didn't)

I was sitting on the curb nursing my baby beside my van filled with some extraordinarily patient children who I happen to get to live with every day. It had been an hour of madness. Now, this soldier was standing over me shouting even more angrily because I had made the cardinal mistake of calling my husband who called a government friend to come and rescue me.

"You just LET HIM COME!!! I've been a soldier for seven years." He kindly shows me his gun. "You foreigners (spits). A Khmer would be decent about this!!! You are so stupid I want to beat you up (fist in my face."

All the hoopla started when I had to bring some very sick kids into town an hour and a half away to see the doctor we trust. Two motos were driving beside me when the one on the far right veered toward the one directly to my right. They rubbed up against my car. I stopped to make sure everything was ok. The young man driving got in front of my car and started shouting at me while I was getting honked at for holding up traffic. Then I saw the lady that was on the back of his moto was pregnant. I pulled over and got out my first aid kit. She was barely scratched, but I put some disinfectant on her and bandaged the area. I checked her heart rate and felt the baby. Everything seemed fine. I bought her some Tylenol because she said she her scratch hurt.

Then, her driver blocked me in. They would not let me leave. I didn't know what to do. Finally, a car drove up with her husband. When he stepped out with his army fatigues on, I must admit that I trembled a bit. After he was done listening to the young man's description of what happened, he lit into me verbally.  I could barely make out what he was saying. Finally, I realized it all came down to money.

I had fifteen dollars for the doctor and a $100 bill for an emergency. I knew he would not let me change the $100 but would instead take it all. I needed the $15 for the doctor.

Looking at this man, I just couldn't give in to such corruption, such bullying. Needing the money I had to pay the doctor kept me to my principle. I was not going to let this man make me a victim.

"I won't pay. I need the money to take my son to the doctor."

He flew into a rage. A moto taxi driver, God-sent by all accounts, came over and started to negotiate as I tried to feed my now hungry baby. A local shopkeeper stood beside me and said "Don't worry."

Gently, ever so gently, the moto driver spoke on my behalf. The soldier, however, only lowered his voice and started taking pictures of me, my car, and the kids. All of the sudden, the shopkeeper came out with $10 and told me to pay the man.

When it was all over, I climbed into the car, told the kids thank you, and burst into tears. That afternoon, we went to pay the shopkeeper back. He refused us. We thanked him profusely. I cannot tell you what an amazing feeling it is to be on the receiving end of unprompted and unconditional help. I have always unconsciously written myself into the story of the Good Samaritan as the good Samaritan. Today, I became the man, or woman as it may be, on the side of the road. Being helped by those you have come to serve is a beautiful and precious thing.


A few weeks ago, I went to the local market. It is so crowded that you truly feel like you are wading through people. A man singled me out as the rich foreigner. He followed me around, grabbing different parts of my body and, at times, not letting go. No on helped me. Despite me shouting at him to leave me alone, he would not. Finally, I managed to get away.

Trauma on the mission field happens. Sometimes, as a missionary, I feel I need to be immune to such trauma. Surely I can just use it as a newsletter story. I feel I should be tough, almost super human.

The truth is that trauma is the same here as it is in the States. I started sweating this morning when I needed to go to the market. I couldn't bring myself to go. Our children have been incredibly sick, but I had to ask Chris to drive us into town. I just couldn't go by myself. 

Trauma.  Let's not sensationalize nor minimize these events in our lives. Let's pray for each other
and listen to each others' stories without expectation or judgement.

Finally, let's look for God's hand. Let's celebrate His provision, rest in His arms, and know He counts our every tear.

Have you experienced trauma on the field? How did you deal with the fallout?


  1. In Saudi Arabia I was not allowed to go anywhere without Bill or a large group of women. Maybe you should consider that for safety's sake. Yes, we don't like to give up our freedom but, even here, this is not a bad suggestion. It's the world we live in now.

    1. Right now, that sounds like a great idea, Aunt Sandra! =)