For those of you who follow my prayer blog, you may have noticed I haven't posted in a while. Early June, I headed for five weeks in Cambodia with our teams. I had intended to post here before I left and then continue during the weeks I was in Cambodia and Thailand. That all went sideways the end of May when I got news of Naa.
A 12 year old little girl, Naa was one of the sweet daughters of a family pretty special to me and my family. If you've followed along, you may recall stories I've written or shared of Naa's family over the years:
- Her father Jod -- a one-legged, rat-catching farmer -- lives and works to provide for his family in the village. Having had one leg blown off by a landmine, his life is ridiculously difficult.
- Houng, Naa's sister, was a little girl severely burned back in 2009. We met her during our first-ever visit to the village. Jesus saved her life and healed her body. Since that time, this family has become pretty special to me and my family.
- Several years ago, Aun, the mom in the family, waited three weeks for me to come to the village so I could name their youngest daughter -- Mary (pronounced Mah-rie in khmer).
- Through gifts some of you gave many years ago, we were able to help Naa's family purchase building supplies to construct a new home in the village. The green tin, tall structure has become a vast improvement over the straw hut they once lived in.
The end of May, my husband Todd was in the village with a team. Like we usually do, Todd made his way to Jod and Aun's house to check in and see how they were doing. He then learned that Naa, their 12 year old daughter, had been bitten by a snake while climbing a tree to get fruit just a few days prior. Not wanting to anger her parents, she kept the information from them. By the time her parents realized something was seriously wrong, they couldn't get out of the village -- the road was too muddy and impassable from the torrential rains. They finally made it out a couple days later to a clinic where the cost for treatment was more than they had. Naa received no treatment and died on the clinic bed.
I'm not sure I can adequately articulate the impact of Naa's death. For her family, the tragedy is obviously all-consuming. Her parent's grief is as terrible as anyone can imagine. I may share more in future posts about them, but for now, would you please pray over their family? They are going through an unthinkable season of tragedy. Our prayer covering is so deeply needed. To describe the impact of Naa's death on her family is far too difficult and far too sacred to share here at this time.
What I can try and unpack is the impact upon me, as the leader of this organization. I don't write because I expect anyone to fix it. No one can. I write because I realize I need to write; I need to process. Honestly, it's a form of therapy for me, I think. If you want to sign off here, unsubscribe is a valid option and one I would certainly understand. If you want to walk this road of processing with me and pray, you are invited and welcomed.
Naa's death paralyzed me and has kept me from writing. I may be able to share some of it here; or I may not. But, I have come to realize I have been avoiding the writing of it because how do I write about something so terrible and not give appropriate sacred space for the grief of it all? How do I honor Naa's death and her precious family while also sharing of the struggles I have had in it? How do I invite you to join in and pray, when I can hardly delve too deeply before tears flow? I don't have those answers.
But, what I do have is the ability to write. What I do have is the freedom to be vulnerable and share. So, I will do my best.
I was still in the states preparing to journey to Cambodia, when Todd called to tell me of Naa's death. He knew it would hit me like a ton of bricks. Naa's family had become so dear to us. She was the little girl who was always around; always giving hugs; always holding my hand as I walked around the village. As Todd shared the details of her death, what he wasn't prepared for -- and neither was I -- was the weight her death carried to my heart.
Over the years, LightBridge -- this little organization I run -- has operated by some of the principles found in the book: When Helping Hurts. One of the principles was at play when Naa died. For years, the village has asked LightBridge to build a road in the village. The current one was built by us nine years ago. It is a dirt road far bigger than the little path that use to lead into the village. About a mile long, it serves as the thoroughfare by which villagers get into and out of the village. In the rainy season, the road becomes a sticky, muddy, terrible mess. Vehicles, motos, and tractors can't move in the slime of stickiness. I've walked in and out of the village barefoot countless times because the mud suctions off my sandals; being barefooted is the only way I can grab hold of the mud with my toes to navigate the slippery, slimy mess.
Every time the villagers have asked us to build a usable/better road, I've responded the same way: "We will help you build a road. We will raise funds to pay for half of the cost for a new road. The other half needs to come from you, villagers. This is your village. You live here. If you want a new road, we will meet you half way and get it built -- with you -- but not do it all for you." For years I've held tightly to this. It is based in one of the main principles taught in the book.
Then Naa's death happened. One of the contributing factors to her not receiving medical care was that her family couldn't get her out of the village. The road was too muddy and impassable. As Todd shared with me all that happened when Naa died, I sat weeping. He patiently listened as I cried over the Skype connection. Finally, words came to my lips and they were this: "Mae Culpa". He didn't understand so I repeated it through my sobs..."Mae Culpa".
A latin phrase meaning, "through my fault", Mae Culpa draped over me like a cold, wet blanket. I wasn't responsible for the snake bite, but the road. That road. Why didn't we just build the damn road? The village has been asking for it for years now. And my response has stayed the same. I've held steady to principles we had established. But, now. What good are principles when it has meant a precious little girl died, in part because of that road? A decision I made years ago played a part in how and why a little girl passed away. Mae Culpa. I indeed carried part of the fault and that reality has been a load I'm not entirely sure how to carry.
I want you to know I'm not sharing this for anyone to feel a responsibility to offer words, solutions, ideas, or pat answers. Today, I am making the decision to sit down and begin writing again for my prayer blog. I don't have all the answers. Much has been processed in my soul; much remains.
I also write and share the vulnerability of my heart because somehow God is working in it. While I struggle to unpack all that this is for me, God has brought this to my awareness: My writing -- my voice -- is not just for myself. I have the privilege to write about the mess in my heart because this same mess, somehow, can be a voice for those who have none. For Naa's family I can be a mouthpiece, even from brokenness, culpability, and confusion. For a village -- even a country -- in extreme poverty, I have the honor to cry out with my compositions. Could it be advocating for the poor includes writing about the realities of extreme poverty which have led to the death of a precious little girl? That reality has also led to my deep sorrow. Could my vulnerability be an influence? Somehow, I believe God can use it to be an utterance for those who can't speak for themselves.
I deeply desire you to pray with me over all of this. For Naa's family, oh please cover them...bathe them in your prayers to the God of all comfort. For me and my team, please pray for wisdom beyond grief. For clarity and God-leading beyond heart-ache and blame. For vision beyond ideas in books, even if they they seem like the best decisions.
And thank you. Thank you for praying. Thank you for reading. How desperately and deeply we cherish your prayers. Thank you too for journeying with me, even when my vulnerability seems off-kilter. It might be. But, it's where my heart is and where I covet your prayers to bridge to the throne room of Jesus.