"Okay Lord, we will."
How can there be any other response than this?
A typical Saturday afternoon; thats what it was on October 16th when we walked into the Hand to Hand child outreach centre. Lying on the table asleep before us was the tiniest thing we had ever seen - two day old baby SaiRoong. You instantly fall in love, thats what you do.
Three weeks previous is when the woman who would give this baby life found out she was pregnant. There was no planning and certainly no celebrating for this twenty five year old meth addict. She left this tiny child in the hospital and called Pai, a woman she knows to have a huge heart for at risk children. Pai also happens to be the nursery school teacher at Hand to Hand. And Pai, doing the only thing possible, went and rescued this little girl. She was named SaiRoong, "God's Promise" - it seemed fitting.
SaiRoong's mother claimed all along that she did in fact want to keep her child, just not right now. After having a cesarean section, dealing with asthma, a heart condition, a drug addiction problem, and extreme poverty, taking a two kilo newborn into the slums of Pattaya didn't seem like the best thing. Thank the Lord for that moment of clarity; for just two and a half weeks after having SaiRoong, she was arrested for possession of crystal meth with the intent to sell. She was sentenced to Nong Palai jail for an undetermined period of time.
Now what? At two weeks old, SaiRoong had came to live with us full time. The first thought in all of our minds was to see her placed in a permanent home, being adopted, but the mother would not agree. She wanted someone to take care of this baby and then hand her back as soon as she was released. Back into a life of extreme poverty and uncertainty. Dean and I along with Baylee and Julia prayed and talked with our co-workers at Hand to Hand. None of us had peace with the idea of pouring everything into this child just to have it all ripped away in the end. Our family was ready to love her as our own for as long as God would have, but not to give her back to a drug addicted, selfish mother. She would have to agree to enter into a drug rehabilitation centre upon her release and also look for housing outside of the slum she was living in. This seemed like a reasonable and workable solution.
Last Monday, I accompanied Pai to Nong Palai jail. We sat across from SaiRoong's mother separated by a thick sheet of glass, talking to one another using the phones attached to the counter. She bowed me a greeting and I her, smiling at one another. "This woman could be my friend" I thought as I looked at her in her new home with compassionate eyes. She looked back at me with tear filled ones. Her first words to me were "thank you", to which I replied "we love this baby, and want only what is best for her. Please, can you want what is best for her too?" I asked Pai to explain to her that no one would be okay with caring for her baby for the duration of her sentence only to hand her back into the same situation. If she expected us to keep SaiRoong and give her back, then she would have to agree to drug rehabilitation upon release. Her response shocked me. She instead said that she would release the baby for adoption. I don't know if it was because God impressed upon her heart that this could be the one lasting gift she could give her daughter or if she just wasn't willing to give up her current lifestyle. We chose to believe she made that choice out of love.
Baby SaiRoong is still with us, for how much longer we really don't know. But she holds firmly within the tiny clasp of her palm all four of our hearts. She will hold them forever.
OUT FROM THE DARKNESS
My eyes were characteristically drawn to the lower darkened corners of the side streets. This is where you typically find children. They run along the shop walls in groups of three to five selling anything from birds to chewing gum. This night however, my eyes found ten month old Walee sitting on her 28 year old mother's lap. They were tucked away behind a parked car; out of the way of police officers views. Kneeling down to stroke the baby's cheek we start asking questions of the mother, Moo.
"Are you Cambodian? Are you safe? Do you have enough to eat? Are you part of a begging ring and is this your child?" Were questions that started us on the journey of returning Moo and Walee to Poipet and the rest of their family. We found that Moo had entered Thailand illegally after running out of money to feed her family. Her husband had left her with three children, two months after Walee was born. Feeling as though she had no other option, and hearing of the wealth in Pattaya she decided to leave her two older children with her mother.
Now her days were spent hiding in her shared apartment and her nights were spent hiding from police and relying on the generosity of tourists to earn not only enough to house and feed herself and Walee but also to send back to Poipet for the rest of her family. We told her that we would return to her spot shortly to talk to her more and see how we could help her. She was surprised to see that we held true to our word and returned with a sweater and milk for her baby and a hot meal for her.
Sitting right down on the sidewalk with her, we learned the conditions of Moo finding her way to Pattaya and how she was living and working. When we asked her if she wanted something different she started to cry and told us that really she just wanted to go back to Poipet to be with her children. When we offered her the opportunity to go back to Cambodia and enter into a training program where she would be taught to run her own business and then given the capital to actually start one, she was skeptical that we would actually follow through. When we assured her that we in fact would - one way or another - she then wanted to know why we would do these things for her.
What a way to share the love of Jesus! We told her Jesus loves her so much that he sent us to find her and help her. In the days that led up to her actually leaving for Poipet, I met with her personally on several occasions. Each time she asked more and more about Jesus and we never parted ways without praying over both her and Walee.
We sent Moo and Walee off with enough money to see them both safely on the other side of the border as well as for food for her entire family for close to a month. Dean was in Poipet a week later to meet up with a team and while he was there he was able to talk with the founder of CHO (Cambodian Hope Organization), the organization that would train Moo to run her own business. By faith, he left enough money for Moo's training as well as food for six months.
There are so many men, women, and especially children that need help and a hope, that at times it seems overwhelming. How can you walk past desperate pleas or hopeless eyes staring blankly due to hunger? But how can you possibly help them all? Someone I admire once said, "you show up, you just show up". And that is what we are doing here in Pattaya, we are showing up. And we will continue to show up and love them until they ask us why.
"All that it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing"